How to Grow a Kombucha SCOBY From Scratch
In the age of an ongoing global pandemic with many of us (hopefully responsibly??) sheltering-in-place/wearing masks and keeping ourselves and others safe and healthy, we’re finding ourselves with a lot of extra time. You’re probably indulging in some new hobbies like homemade bread, gardening, DIY everything, etc. Well, I guess this is just another one of those DIY’s. You love kombucha? You’re not able to go to the store everyday to get a fresh bottle? Maybe you’re realizing kombucha pricing can reaaallllly add up after a while. Or you’re curious/have a completely different reason. Either way, I’ve got you.
In this post I’ll go over how to grow your mother (SCOBY) from scratch! Yes, it’s really called a mother - it makes sense but also a little bit yikes haha! Firstly, I’m going to address some FAQ’s about Kombucha, the brewing process and all of that stuff. If you’re wanting to get straight to the step-by-steps, keep scrolling! Oh - and in another blog post, I’ll go over how to brew your kombucha at home.
What is Kombucha?
Well, put simply it’s fermented tea, that is sliiiiiightly alcoholic because of the unpasteurized process. Usually kombucha is made using black or green tea. Booch drinkers revere kombucha for it’s healing qualities, which is arguably the same as tea and maybe more through the fermentation process and the kind of bacteria that is formed. It’s been proven that kombucha derives lactic-acid bacteria, which have the possibility of yielding probiotics. In short, kombucha/booch is a carbonated fermented tea drink!
History of Kombucha
Kombucha is fermented tea, and tea is an ancient plant that’s been cultivated and drunk from for centuries, originating from China. It’s no surprise that fermenting tea was adopted, but it’s origins remain controversial. From what I’ve been told and read, kombucha originated in China, used as a healing drink known to cure disease/illness. Definitely something to read up on more!
What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY means symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Which sounds. DISGUSTING. And it looks, like, a giant floating mushroom pancake. It’s not the cutest thing buuuut it kind of grows on you? Oof. Anyways, having a SCOBY is what allows you to brew kombucha every batch. This culture “eats” from the batch you create and in turn, creates the fermenting process. Having a healthy and happy SCOBY is vital for the health and safety of your booch batches. If there is any sign of mold, dump everything out. Get rid of your SCOBY. Sterilize everything and start from scratch.
Sooo, now I’ll touch on a couple more things and then we’ll jump straight into the directions! Kombucha is revered for its cleansing and purifying benefits, literally healing your gut through probiotics. It’s a better option than soda and your body will thank you for it. It can smell like vinegar initially (personally I don’t smell it but I know for some people this smell is potent, so if you’re sensitive to smells and are interested in brewing your own kombucha, that is something to keep in mind) and the taste is pretty acquired, but you’ll grow to love it or maybe you won’t. That’s okay ;)
Okay, so now, instructions on how to build a scoby from scratch. Here’s what you’ll need:
1 bottle of store bought kombucha
Two tea bags (black, green or both)
½ cup of sugar
12-16 cups of water (or to whatever quantity you’d like to fill)
A sterilized jar to fill your batches and grow your SCOBY. (to sterilize jars, boil water and place your container in the water for 20+ minutes and it should be good to go).
A cheesecloth or paper towel to place at the opening of your glass container to ventilate
Step 1 - Boil water.
Step 2 - With your sterilized container, pour the water you’ve just boiled into the container.
Step 3 - Place your two tea bags in the boiling water and time your steep so that you don’t over-steep your tea.
Step 4 - Pour ½ cup of sugar into the jar and stir with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 5 - Add the starter kombucha (store-bought bottle) to the brew.
Step 6 - Cover the container’s opening with a cheesecloth or paper towel and secure with a string or rubber band.
Step 7 - Keep your container out of direct sunlight and at room temperature. This could be in a kitchen cabinet that is opened regularly, or on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight. You need your batch to be well ventilated to acquire healthy bacteria and avoid mold.
Step 8 - Leave your batch alone for the next 3-4 weeks. You’ll start to see an evolution of the Mother establishing. In the beginning it’ll look kind of weird or mysterious, but eventually it’ll form a pancake that is kind of an off-white color.
And that’s it! Once you’re SCOBY has formed, you’ll be ready to start brewing. Main things to remember:
Make sure your materials are clean/sterilized before you start making your SCOBY from scratch.
Wash your hands
Keep your growing culture (and this also applies when you’re brewing) out of direct sunlight and in a well ventilated area.
If you’re interested in learning how to brew kombucha each week, this blog post is what you’ll want to read next! Thank you for reading.