Congratulations, you are the proud owner of a Kombucha SCOBY! You are wondering how to use your scoby and how to care for it? You will find in this article some dos and don’ts as well as some quick tips on how to make sure your scoby lives a long and happy life!
What is a SCOBY?
A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) is an essential element in brewing kombucha. It looks like a flat disk and its color can range from white to brown depending on its age and ingredients used (tea and sugar).
It is basically a cellulose mat that houses the bacteria and yeast cultures that turn sweet tea into kombucha.
A new or “baby” scoby is produced each time you make a kombucha batch. It naturally grows as a thin layer at the surface of the brew. This scoby layer will multiply and will eventually become thick.
View from above of a kombucha scoby
Why a healthy scoby matters?
If your kombucha starts to change in taste or doesn’t brew correctly, you may have a problem with your scoby.
Just like in everything else, the quality of the ingredients used makes a huge difference in the final result.
A healthy scoby means that it will brew happily and will create some delicious kombucha.
Don’t forget, kombucha has live bacteria, your brewing jar is hosting life! You want to make sure you take great care of it and feed it with quaility nutrients. A healthy scoby will replicate itself (growing new layers at the surface) and will produce delicious Kombucha.
A scoby that isn’t fed with the correct ingredients or doesn’t have the right environment will weaken and will impact the quality of the brewed kombucha. In certain situations it can even grow mold.
Pro tip: Make sure your get your scoby from a reliable source. Ask about the ingredients used (type of tea, sugar…) to assess its quality.
Kombucha scoby: thin layers that create a thick scoby
Not ready to brew now? How do I store my scoby?
So, we have just received your Kombucha starter kit, including a scoby but are not ready to start brewing yet? No problem, scoby can wait a few more days until you are ready.
If you already have your brewing vessel, simply place the scoby with the kombucha tea starter in the jar. Cover with a cotton cloth and secure with a rubber band. You want to make sure the scoby is fully immerged in the kombucha starter.
If you don’t have your brewing jar yet, you can empty the starter kit content (scoby and kombucha starter) in a glass or small glass jar. Cover with a cotton cloth and secure with a rubber band.
Whether in the final brewing vessel or temporary glass jar, leave it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
Never, I repeat: NEVER, put your scoby in the fridge as it will make it prone to growing mold.
Depending on how long you leave the scoby in the jar before brewing your kombucha, it might develop a new layer at the surface, that’s a tiny scoby baby!
Pro tip: a scoby should always be in kombucha. If you are given a scoby, make sure to get plenty of kombucha starter liquid for a successful first brew.
Taking a break from brewing kombucha?
You have being brewing kombucha regularly and are going on holiday or simply want to take a break from brewing? Make sure to care for your scoby so that it stays healthy during the break and is strong when you will resume brewing.
The most important is to keep your scoby moist. It needs to be immersed in kombucha at all times. If you are away from brewing for a long period of time, you will have to leave plenty of liquid to compensate the natural liquid evaporation.
My recommendation for taking a break is to fill your brewing vessel with sweet tea, just like you would do for a new batch. This way will there will be enough liquid and the scoby will not starve as it will have sweet tea to feed from. If you are only taking a break for a few days then a little sweet tea will be sufficient.
Another alternative while you are away is to ask a friend to scoby sit! If you have friends experienced in brewing kombucha they might be happy to help and care for your scoby.
Young scoby with small yeast attached underneath
How to handle a scoby?
Avoid touching your scoby as much as you can. By touching your scoby you might contaminate it with harmful bacteria.
If you need to handle it, make sure to thoroughly clean your hands. I rinse my hand with vinegar to ensure there is no soap residue. Either air dry your hands or use a clean kitchen cloth.
Pro tip: Make sure to place your scoby back in kombucha as quickly as possible. Being outside of this environment creates a risk of bacterial contamination.
Should I clean my scoby?
A scoby doesn’t need to take baths or showers. It naturally grows its own ecosystem.
You will see that it might have some brown bits and pieces hanging from it. This is yeast, you want to keep it balanced as it is an essential part of successful kombucha brewing. Remember, the Y of scoby stands for Yeast!
Pro tip: scoby likes peace and quiet. Avoid touching, rinsing or cleaning it, it will create unnecessary stress.
Yeast attached to a kombucha scoby
What is the best environment for a scoby?
To keep a scoby healthy and well fed, you only need a few things:
- A glass jar
- Kombucha tea / starter
- Sweet tea (water, tea and sugar), organic if possible
- A cotton cloth and a rubber band
- A quiet place at room temperature, away from direct sunlight
- Use a glass jar
- Keep your jar and scoby at room temperature away from direct sunlight
- Always keep your scoby immersed in kombucha.
- Anticipate natural evaporation and add more sweet tea or fermented kombucha if needed
- Clean your hands thoroughly if you need to touch your scoby
- Use high quality ingredients, organic if possible (water, tea, sugar)
- Keep reusing your scoby and baby scobys
- Never place a scoby in the fridge
- Using a poor quality scoby
- Rinsing, showering or bathing your scoby
- Letting you scoby dry, not enough liquid
- Placing your scoby in direct sunlight
- Adding vinegar to your brew or using a scoby that has been in contact with vinegar
- Adding flavoring in your brewing jar
As you will have noticed, keeping a scoby healthy is low maintenance. By following those simple advices you can keep your scoby healthy and use it for a very long time, which will convert into many delicious kombucha brews!
If you would like to start making kombucha at home, you can get your starter kit, including a healthy organic scoby from our store.
Happy kombucha brewing!