If you’d like to try your hand at brewing your own kombucha, you’ll need a starter culture called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). Most home brewers are happy to give away their extras, but if you aren’t fortunate enough to know anyone who brews, you can easily grow your own SCOBY. In this post, we will discuss how to grow your own SCOBY and then once you have one, see Kombucha Brewing Basics for instructions on how to brew it.
Here is what you will need to get started:
- Glass container with a wide mouth (a quart mason jar would do nicely)
- Clean linen napkin, handkerchief, old t-shirt, or paper towel to cover the mouth of the jar
- Rubber band to secure (if using a mason jar, you could use the ring instead)
- One cup of sugar-sweetened plain black tea, cooled (do NOT use decaf, flavored tea, or honey)
- One 16-oz. bottle of store-bought kombucha—MUST be raw, unflavored, and organic! (I used GT Dave’s Original flavor.)
Prior to growing your first SCOBY, it is important to ensure that all surfaces, equipment, and hands be as sterile as possible during the process. The introduction of unwanted, unintended bacteria can spoil your batch and potentially cause serious illness. For additional information, see this article “What is kombucha tea? Does it have any health benefits?” from the Mayo Health Clinic.
Pour the cooled sweet tea and the entire bottle of kombucha into your glass container. Cover the top with a clean napkin, scrap from an old t-shirt, or paper towel and use the rubber band to secure it tightly at the neck, or screw the ring on over the cloth. (Note: I would NOT recommend using cheesecloth. Your SCOBY needs to breathe, but kombucha attracts fruit flies, and cheesecloth has too loose of a weave to keep them out.) Let the mixture sit about two to three weeks in a warm (but not hot) area, out of direct sunlight.
After about five to ten days, you should notice a film forming over the top of the brew:
This film should “firm up” into a slimy pancake in two to three weeks, depending on temperature:
Now you have your very own SCOBY “mother” to use to start home-brewing kombucha! Every time you use it, a “baby” SCOBY will grow on top, which you can pull off and use for another batch. You’ll double your SCOBYs with each use, so you may want to either invest in a second container or give them away to your home brewing friends.
SCOBY Care and Handling
Your SCOBY should never come into contact with anything metal. You can use plastic or wooden utensils to lift/carry it, or you can even use your own clean hands.
When your SCOBY is not in use, it should be stored in a wide-mouthed lead-free ceramic or glass jar at room temperature. Add enough kombucha to cover the SCOBY, and then cover the jar with a cloth/napkin/paper towel secured by a rubber band. When you brew, you should always keep a few cups of plain kombucha set aside to refill your “SCOBY hotel” to start a new batch later. If you’re storing your newly-grown SCOBY, you can use the liquid from which it grew. Do check every week or so and add more liquid if necessary (if you don’t have any spare kombucha, you can add one cup of distilled white vinegar).
Note: Claims regarding the health benefits of kombucha have not been evaluated or substantiated by the FDA or any other regulatory agency or medical authority. Please seek the advice of your own health care practitioner before discontinuing any medications and/or using kombucha as a treatment for any medical condition. We do not endorse the use of this beverage for any purpose other than as a tasty refreshment. Drink kombucha just because you like it!
- Trendy fizzy drink is mushrooming — from NBC News
- A Strange Brew May Be a Good Thing – from the New York Times
Reena is a widowed mother of two young adult daughters, a farm laborer turned vet tech turned statistical programmer, and an aspiring homesteader. Having discovered herbal teas as a teen, she became interested in herbal remedies and other natural complimentary healing methods, such as homeopathy, EFT (a “tapping” technique that works much like acupressure), and Reiki (which is a type of energy healing, similar to the Christian ritual of the “laying on of hands”). As her interest in a more natural way of living grew, she learned to make many of her own beauty and hygiene products and household cleaners.
Reena embraces the values of the Essene religion: peace, simplicity, and vegetarianism. She is an ordained minister, Reiki master, kombucha home brewer, and farmers’ market addict. In her spare time, she spends time with her children, runs an online radio station, and tends to her numerous pets: two cats, two dogs, a horse, and a potbellied pig.