Yes, they look kinda scary at first sight, some even think they are alien, but once you welcome these funky little living things into your home you will love them forever. Yes, I am talking about kombucha scobies. Never heard of Kombucha before? No worries allow me to introduce you to this ancient fermented drink and my wonderful kitchen friends who make this for me.
if you haven’t heard about the importance of our friendly gut bacteria, then know that they are not only important for digestion, but they play a significant role in our immunity and overall health. Read my previous post “Probiotics 101” HERE.
Just as the beneficial bacteria in yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut, kombucha will give you the same benefits, but instead of fermenting milk and veggies, kombucha is fermented tea.
While you need a starter culture or little bit from your previous batch to make yogurt, or bacteria present on cabbage leaves to make sauerkraut or kimchi, for kombucha you need what they call a scoby. It’s the rubbery blob you see floating around in the kombucha fermenting jars.It’s these living things that will turn sweet tea into a tangy delicious fizzy drink.
Scoby? What The Heck Is That?
Please don’t judge this ugly living thing by its look. Scoby is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. And that’s what it is. A scoby is nothing more than the shared home of friendly lacto-fermenting bacteria and yeast that kindly live together while fermenting the sugar in the tea.
Next to fermenting tea, this floating rubbery mass will also seal of the jar from the air and prevent undesirable bacteria to enter and thrive.
Most people are scared of fermenting at home because of its living nature! Don’t be! It’s so good for you and things hardly go wrong!
During fermentation, the friendly or beneficial bacteria will produce lactic acid which will create a selective, acidic environment were these friendly bacteria will thrive and others will simply be disencouraged to grow. So next to fermenting tea, a scoby is also important to protect you from unwanted bacteria, good or bad, that are floating around in the environment.
Though some people like to sterilize their equipment and fermenting jar, this is not needed. An overall clean kitchen policy, washing your hands before touching the scoby and cleaning your tools/jars with hot water. should do the trick. I have been making yogurt, kimchi and now kombucha for so long and never had any issues with contamination. If hower molds start to grow. Remove them or start over if you feel more comfortable with that.
But enough talking, let’s get started!
Scroll down for the step-by-step scoby making process!
How To Grow A Scoby From Scratch
Before we can start brewing Kombucha or fermented tea, we need a scoby. It’s a vital part. Kombucha is coming… but let’s not think of that delicious homebrewed kombucha just yet. You will have to wait for another one to four weeks.
First things first…. make that alien-like creature that will help you create some magic in the kitchen. Without it, you are lost!
Step 1: Get a starter culture
If you have a friend who brews kombucha you could ask him for a spare scoby. But where is the fun in that? I love the process of making it myself and seeing my little babies grow. However, what you should ask him is a bottle of the finished kombucha tea. That’s all you need to make a scoby from scratch… well, of course, you need sweet tea too. But that easy to find, right?
You don’t have a kombucha-brewing friend. No worries you can still make your own. Raw, preferably unflavored, store-bought kombucha is as good to get you started. If you can see little blobby things floating at the top or bottom of the bottle, pick that one as these are little scobies and will speed up the process.
When selecting a bottle make sure it is unpasteurized as heat will kill all the bacteria and yeasts, making it unable to grow a scoby from the starter drink.
Step 2: Make Sweet Tea and FERMENT
This will make one scoby per jar. If you can find a jar big enough to hold 1.5 liter fine if not just divide the tea over two jars. Just like I did.
7 cups water (1.7 litter)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 bags black tea or 2 tablespoons loose leaf tea
1 cup unpasteurized (store-bought) kombucha (preferably unflavored)
FYI: A scoby grows best when using regular or raw sugar and black tea. Avoid using alternative sugars and other teas such as green, oolong, or white tea. You’ll have plenty of time to experiment with that once you have a healthy growing scoby.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Then add the black tea and steep until the tea has cooled down to room temperature.
- When completely cool, stir in the store-bought kombucha. If you see little things floating in the bottle make sure to add them too. Pour the sweet tea into the fermenting jar(s). though I originally started with two jars, they now have turned into 4 jars. Which is about the amount of Kombucha we consume before the new batch is ready.
- Cover the jars with a rubber band and coffee filter or clean cloth and store for 2 to 4 weeks. This will highly depend on the climate Though they don’t need complete darkness to grow, do not put them in direct sunlight either as it will interfere with their growth and might even kill them. Mine are on the counter.
- For the first few days, you will not see much happening apart from a few bubbles that start to appear on the surface. These bubbles are carbon dioxide that is produced during the fermenting process that uses up the sugar and transforms it into lactic acid. The bubbles are a sign that your tea and scoby are healthy and happy. After a few days, these bubbles will start to form groups and later a film. Do not disturb this process or break the film!
- The film will then further thicken into a rubbery disc and when it is about 1/4-inch thick, your scoby is ready to be used to make kombucha tea. Which we will talk about in my next post.
FYI: Your first scobies might look a little rough, but the surface will flatten out later in his life. Again, there is hardly something that can go wrong when making a scoby or kombucha tea. The fermented tea used to grow the scoby will have a strong vinegar taste and will not be suitable for drinking as it might hurt your stomach. Do not throw away everything as you will need some to start your first batch of Kombucha tea.
That’s it for today! In my next post, I’ll show you have to make kombucha tea!
Thanks for reading. I hope this information was helpful. Until next time!
Crazy cat lady, life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach.