How To Make Kombucha And Grow Your Own Scoby

Kombucha is a fantastic beverage. Naturally fermented, it contains large amounts of gut-friendly microbes (bacteria and yeasts).  In essence, it is a slightly effervescent drink made from fermented, sweetened tea.

While you can purchase kombucha from health food stores, this can work out as a very expensive option, especially if there are large amounts of people in your family.

For example, to purchase a 500ml bottle of GT’s Original Organic Raw Kombucha from Community Natural Foods in Calgary costs $3.87. Even if I were to share one bottle between 2 people, that would still mean buying 3 bottles at a cost of $11.61 to supply my family of 6. And if I were to do that every day, it would run to a cost of $81.27 a week!  $4226.04 a year!  Just for a healthy drink. I don’t know about you, but I can think of plenty of other things that I could spend that money on,

But Kombucha is very easy to make. All you need is some tea (black or green, your choice), a fermentable sweetener, you could use pasteurized honey (Raw honey is not recommended as it has an antimicrobial action that can affect the growth of your scoby),  coconut sugar, raw cane sugar or even regular sugar as the sweetener  See this post by the Paleo Mom about using sugar. And the final thing you need is a Kombucha Scoby, which contains all the bacteria and yeast cultures that will ferment your drink and be so good for your gut-health.  Scoby stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts….  Essentially, a scoby looks a little bit like a lump of jelly.

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You could use a scoby saved from your previous batch of Kombucha, but if this is your first time making this drink you will need to obtain one from somewhere.

You could consider buying one over the internet from sites such as Cultures for Health or KombuchaKamp.

Occasionally I have seen people offering scobys on Freecycle, and I have also seen them offered for sale on Kijiji.   You could also try craigslist.  But it is also possible to grow your own Scoby from a bottle of raw Kombucha.

Growing a scoby is as simple as picking up a bottle of raw kombucha, tipping half of it into a mason jar and adding the tea and fermentable sweetener of your choice. Make sure that the Kombucha is raw. If it does not specifically state “RAW” on the label, it may have been pasteurized which will have killed all those active cultures that will ferment your beverage and grow your Scoby.

I grew the scoby pictured above from a bottle of GT’s original unpasteruized (raw) kombucha.

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I used 2 green tea-bags that I brewed in 1 cup of boiling water and added 2 tbsp of sugar.  I covered this with a cloth held in place with an elastic band and left it on the kitchen counter until it was almost cold.  Then I poured in my kombucha (I used half a bottle and drank the rest).

Then I covered the mouth of the jar with a cloth to keep out any beasties and bugs, and I then stashed it in a cool, dark place to ferment. I kept mine in the pantry.

After a week or two, you will notice a jelly like mass in the liquid in the jar.

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This is your new Scoby. Once the scoby is about 1/4 inch thick and more white than clear it is ready to use.

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Carefully lift it out of the liquid and place it in a clean jar with a small amount of the Kombucha you have just fermented – just enough to keep it moist.

When you come to make a new batch of Kombucha, you take your Scoby and add it to a jar with some tea and fermentable sugars (I use 2 green teabags and 2 tbsp of unrefined organic cane sugar to a quart jar filled ¾ full of boiled water that is then allowed to cool to room temperature) , cover it and leave it to ferment.

Don’t worry if your scoby floats, sinks like a stone or even lies sideways in the liquid – I have had scobies do all of these, although mine mostly float (they seem to have some trapped airbubbles in them).  No matter what they do, they all ferment the sugars in the tea to kombucha pefectly well.

This time it won’t take as long. After about 7-14 days, you will notice a few bubbles in your mixture and there will be 2 scobies in the jar – the original one and a new “baby”.

Carefully lift these out and store them in some of the Kombucha. The remaining liquid can either be drunk as it is, or it can be sealed in a spring clip glass bottle for a few days. If you do this, it will become slightly fizzy.

You can also flavour it using fruits or fruit juice in a secondary fermentation.  This is more likely to make it develop fizz, and will add extra flavour.

To carry out a secondary fermentation, I transfer the brewed kombucha to a clean mason jar and I then add some fruit or fruit juice.

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Favourites of mine are:

  • mixed frozen berries
  • sliced citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit – either individualy or as a mixture)
  • pineapple and mint
  • individual berries (saskatoon berries taste wonderful!)
  • stawberries, mango and mint

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Try all of these or come up with your own combinations.

After carrying out a secondary fermentation in the mason jar at room temperature for 24-48 hours, you should strain your flavoured kombucha off the fruit (you may notice a substantial increase in the fizziness).  At this point I like to store it in a fliptop bottle in the fridge, but you could use any bottle that has a good seal or even another mason jar.

This is the kind of bottles I like to use – the one on the left is a flip-top one, the one on the right is an old GT’s kombucha bottle.

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Store your ready made Kombucha in the fridge and drink it within a week or two.

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At this point, you can now make 2 batches of Kombucha, resulting in 4 scobies. And they will keep doubling up in this fashion.

The scobies can be stored in the liquid in the fridge for a few weeks. But if you notice an unpleasant smell, your Scoby may have died, so throw it out and start again. If you keep a constant batch of Kombucha on the go you shouldn’t run into this problem most of the time, although I have had the odd batch where one Scoby has died for no apparent reason.

When you have more scobies than you can cope with, you could consider offering them on Freecycle, so that others can benefit from this healthy, delicious drink.

But an alternative use that I came across the other day is to dry the scobies out to use as dog-treats….that way your pooch can also benefit from some gut-friendly bacteria.

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Happy fermenting……

Shared at Real Food Wednesday 7/2/2014

Shared at Allergy Free Wednesday

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thehomeschoolingdoctor
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 22:31:49

    Awesome post. Thank you!

  2. Rebecca
    Jul 07, 2014 @ 13:19:20

    Hello there,

    I’m very interested in this post, as I love kombucha. I just had a question about the fermentation…You mention that when you are fermenting to get the scoby, you should keep it in a cool, dark place. After you have your scoby and you want to actually make kombucha, does it also need to ferment in a cool, dark place, or would leaving it on the kitchen counter be alright? Thanks for the info!

    • salixisme
      Jul 09, 2014 @ 15:03:01

      You can ferment it on the kitchen counter as long as the room is not very hot – if it is too warm it might go too fast and end up very acidic. The other thing you need to do is to cover the ferment or use an opaque jar as UV light from the sun can harm the scoby. I just throw a tea-towel over mine.

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