A SCOBY is an essential ingredient for brewing kombucha at home. It houses healthy bacterial colonies that add nutrients to your fermented tea. You can buy a live SCOBY online or make your own at home. Keep reading to learn more about the strange-looking ingredient!
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that has been consumed for thousands of years.
SCOBY is an acronym for the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It looks gelatinous and a little alien, but it is essential for making kombucha.
You can make your own SCOBY at home in just two to four weeks. To stay safe and reduce the risk of foodborne illness, you should thoroughly clean your equipment before starting!
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is lightly carbonated. It has been consumed for thousands of years, largely due to the perceived health benefits. The naturally occurring probiotic bacteria (health-promoting bacteria in your digestive tract) feast on the sugars in the drink, and many of them are alive upon consumption.
Unlike traditional teas, kombucha products are chilled to increase shelf life, and the beverage is consumed cold or at room temperature.
In today’s retail market, a bottle of kombucha can cost anywhere from three to five US dollars. This cost can add up over time, and if you drink kombucha daily, you may consider brewing your own version at home.
Health benefits of fermented products
Your gastrointestinal tract is filled with billions of bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy. The bacteria are linked to healthy digestion and bowel movement regularity, and scientists are studying the link between gut bacteria and mood disorders (such as depression and anxiety).
You can replenish your bacteria colonies through food, specifically fermented products. Kombucha is a popular option because it has a mild flavor and is easy to consume. A few other examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kefir (drinkable yogurt), sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh.
Kombucha starts with SCOBY
SCOBY is the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Sometimes it is referred to as “the mother of kombucha” because it is the essential base for creating kombucha. The SCOBY has recently been called a “kombucha mushroom” because of its similar appearance to a wild mushroom top.
You should not eat the SCOBY or directly consume it; instead, you use it to brew your own fermented tea. It will float at the top of your brew and create a seal that prevents undesirable bacteria from accessing your kombucha.
Getting your hands on a SCOBY
You can make your own SCOBY or buy a premade SCOBY online. There isn’t another food product that can compare to the texture and appearance of a SCOBY — it is like a yellowish blob, gelatinous in texture, and the smell is likened to fermented yeast (similar to beer).
Make your own SCOBY
A bacterial culture (like a SCOBY) needs a few key ingredients to grow: sugar, water, and premade kombucha starter that already carries some bacteria. Use a store-bought option for premade kombucha, or ask a friend to donate some of their own kombucha to your first brew.
To enhance the flavor of your kombucha, you’ll need to add a few bags of tea, which also offers a rich color to your brew.
Follow these instructions to create your own SCOBY:
- Wash a single-gallon glass container thoroughly. If you have access to a dishwasher, use that to sterilize the jar as efficiently as possible.
- Boil 8 cups of water and add 1 cup of fine granulated sugar. Stir the sugar until it is completely dissolved. Add 6–8 bags of black tea and turn off the heat. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Pour two cups of premade kombucha (at room temperature) into the jar. Add your homemade brew and top the jar with cold water until the water level reaches the narrow portion of the jar.
- Place two coffee filters over the opening and use two elastics to keep them in place. You don't need a lid, because the bacteria need oxygen to develop, and the coffee filter will prevent unwanted bacteria from entering your kombucha.
- Leave the jar in a cool, shady area, such as a pantry or cupboard. Avoid direct sunlight and jostling the jar. The bacteria need a calm environment to grow and ferment.
- Leave the SCOBY for 2–4 weeks. It is ready when it is ¼ inch in thickness. You can use the SCOBY to make kombucha. Any leftover liquid can be used as a SCOBY starter but should not be consumed directly.
Tips for safety
Growing bacterial cultures (and drinking them) is not for the faint of heart. There is a risk of foodborne illness, and you must be diligent in the kitchen.
- Clean your equipment. Always use sterilized and clean equipment when making your SCOBY.
- Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands with soap and warm water throughout the process.
- Avoid mold. Black and green fuzzy mold can be a sign of harmful bacteria, and you should never consume it.
- Perform a sniff test. Rancid smells overpowering your nose are a sign that something has gone wrong, and the batch should be tossed.
If you have any doubt about the safety of your SCOBY, you should throw it out. Follow up with your doctor if you suspect you drank a lousy batch of kombucha. They can monitor you and help if needed.
Be brave and brew
Creating your own SCOBY appeals to many who drink large volumes of kombucha. Instead of relying on store prices, you can make your own at home and save money. If you follow the steps and diligently maintain a clean workspace, you should see a triumphant return on your SCOBY efforts.
- Antioxidants. Kombucha Tea - A Double Power of Bioactive Compounds from Tea and Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY).
- Food Chemistry. Kombucha - An ancient fermented beverage with desired bioactivities.
- Journal of Food Science. Kombucha: A review of substrates, regulations, composition, and biological properties.