by Olena

How to Make Kombucha Scoby

Olena's image
Olena Osipov
5 from 8 votes

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy.

How to Make Kombucha SCOBY from scratch using simple ingredients. Then once you have kombucha mother make your own kombucha at home 30 times cheaper than store-bought.

how to make kombucha scoby

What Is a SCOBY?

SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. It is this slimy looking “jellyfish” that I agree looks very unappetizing but it makes the most wonderful fermented tea – homemade kombucha. Without it, no kombucha unless you get one from a friend or these days you can buy SCOBY and starter tea online.

In any case, you need kombucha mother a.k.a kombucha starter a.k.a kombucha mushroom. I’m here to show you how to make kombucha SCOBY from scratch. Once you grow a SCOBY, just follow my kombucha recipe and make your own kombucha at home 30 times cheaper than store-bought. You can also flavor kombucha which makes it just like a store bought plus more chances your kids will like it.

Ingredients to Make Kombucha Mother

  • Store bought kombucha: You need to buy a bottle of plain (not flavored) GT’s original kombucha. Why GT’s? Because after “something happened in kombucha resale industry back in 2010” most store-bought kombuchas are too “clear” and “sterile”. You need to pick a bottle with brown and/or clear strands, and preferably even a mini baby “jellyfish” at the bottom of the bottle. Those brownish strands will become your SCOBY.bottle of plain GT's kombucha
  • Black Tea: To grow a SCOBY, you have to use black tea only! To brew further batches of kombucha, any caffeinated tea like green tea, white tea or black tea works. However, only black tea produces foolproof kombucha mother. Cost, taste and health wise I recommend to buy organic loose leaf tea, however you can use tea bags as well.a bag of black tea on a counter
  • White or Cane Sugar: Coconut sugar, raw sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia etc. do not work. I buy a 10 lb bag of organic cane sugar at Costco for kombucha making purposes. Now, do not worry about consuming large amount of sugar – we are just feeding the kombucha mother to grow and at the end there will be barely any sugar left in your fermented tea.cane sugar in a bag
  • Water: I use tap water. I know many other sources recommend filtered water but boiled tap water has worked no problem for me so far. pouring cold water into the pot

How to Make Kombucha SCOBY

  1. Make sweet tea: In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Turn off heat and add 1 tsp tea and 3 tbsp sugar, stir and let cool completely (place in a sink filled with cold water to speed things up).
  2. Combine with GT’s kombucha: In a quart glass jar, pour previously made tea discarding the leaves (use a mesh strainer) and 1 cup of store bought kombucha along with any brownish strands from the bottle.
  3. Cover and set aside: Cover with paper towel secured with a rubber band and set away from direct sunlight spot (counter or pantry) with temperature above 21C or 70F.
  4. Let ferment: It takes 2-4 weeks to grow a SCOBY. You can look but try not to disturb the jar as SCOBY disk is forming on top.

SCOBY Disk Growth Progress

Now let’s take a look at how SCOBY disk growth changes day by day (infographic below).

  • Day 1: Looks like tea with bubbles and possibly brown blob from store bought kombucha.
  • Day 3: No visible changes.
  • Day 8: Brown strands start “eating” the sugars in tea, white strands pulling to the top and forming thin white-ish film, more likely with bubbles.
  • Day 12: White film thickens into “a jellyfish” at the top of the jar.
  • Day 15: That’s your SCOBY aka kombucha starter. Easy peasy. That’s it.
  • Day 30: This is SCOBY after the first brew. See how it has thickened in 2 more weeks?!
infographic how to grow a scoby step by step

SCOBY is ready when it is at least 1/4″ thick and white in colour – a jellyfish like mushroom you can take out of the jar and hold in your hands.

How to Store and Feed Kombucha SCOBY

After your kombucha SCOBY is ready, you should be brewing kombucha with it. If you want to hold off for a few weeks, it is fine but you need to store it properly.

To store brand new SCOBY: Store kombucha SCOBY submerged in starter tea, in a glass jar, covered with paper towel and rubber band, in a dark place. As soon as mushroom has finished forming after day 15, you can leave it in the same jar without adding anything extra for up to another 2 weeks. It should thicken even further, which is good. Afterwards, you either have to use it to make kombucha or feed with extra sweet tea.

Do not refrigerate. You want your SCOBY to stay alive and keep growing.

To store a few SCOBies: If you have accumulated a few SCOBies, you can create sort of a small or large hotel for them. Store SCOBies in a jar, submerged fully in kombucha. To avoid fast growth, you can try to find cooler place and place the jar there.

Can it be refrigerated? Many kombucha experts say “no” because of the mold growth and flat fermented tea afterwards. And I agree to a certain extent. However, I refrigerate SCOBY submerged in kombucha for up to a few weeks if I want to go on “a kombucha brewing vacation”. But not longer.

Feeding it: Because kombucha fungus is a live organism, you have to feed it. Whether you leave it in a jar after brewing kombucha or create a SCOBY hotel, always make sure SCOBY is submerged in kombucha. Once a month or as needed, you will have to add a few cups of freshly brewed and cooled off sweet tea to keep the symbiotic organisms alive.

FAQs About Kombucha Mother

Where to buy GT’s kombucha?

Online, or look in the refrigerated produce section or natural foods aisle at your local large chain store, or in any health food store. US: Safeway, Fred Meyer, Kroger etc.. Canada: Save on Foods, Sobey’s, Thrifty’s, the Real Canadian Superstore, health food stores. It’s pretty much everywhere, it kinda is “a gas station kombucha”.

I live in Germany and have not seen GT’s kombucha in stores. Can I use different brand?

Yes, as long as it is raw, unpasteurized and you see brown and/or clear strands, and possibly even a mini baby “jellyfish”, at the bottom of the bottle. Many kombuchas will be clear without anything at the bottom, like a bottle of water. Don’t pick that one, won’t work.

Can I use plastic or metal container for making kombucha SCOBY?

No, for best results to avoid reactivity between the cultures and container, and possibly interfering with mother’s growth, please use a glass container. Basic large glass Mason jar for canning will work.

What is the best tea for making kombucha SCOBY?

Only black tea. The kombucha fungus doesn’t grow as well with green, white or fruity teas. Feel free to use other caffeinated tea to brew your fermented tea but to make SCOBY big and strong, please stick with black tea.

When to trim and separate kombucha SCOBY?

Kombucha mushroom will take the shape of the mouth of the jar and keep growing in thickness with every new batch. It is time to trim it when SCOBY is too thick and looks like a mothership, has many thin brown layers at the bottom and even holes. Remove weaker bottom layers, peeling them off by hand. You want to keep a few white thick gelatin top layers for next brewing session.

You can also use a pair of clean kitchen scissors to cut down the amount of SCOBY in half and in any direction, to allow room for more kombucha to be brewed and proper airflow. You can trim it every few months or every few brews, up to you.

Is kombucha SCOBY edible?

Yes, technically. I have seen “candy” recipes and have heard some folks feeding SCOBY to their dog. Also a reader suggested to cut it into appropriate size and offer it to your chickens.

What is a SCOBY baby?

Baby SCOBY is new SCOBY that grows on top of old one every batch. Peel top one (new) off and use it for next batch. Compost bottom one (old) or give away with some kombucha in a sandwich bag to spread kombucha love. Or start a SCOBY hotel.

What is kombucha SCOBY hotel?

SCOBY hotel is a jar with multiple SCOBies submerged in kombucha and stored in a dry dark place for months and months to come. It is like a parking for extra mushrooms just in case something happens to your existing one, or you want to brew extra kombucha, or give one to a friend.

How to tell if your kombucha SCOBY is bad? Can it go bad or die?

A healthy SCOBY is white and can have brown or black streaks from tea and brewing process. Your SCOBY has gone bad if it is moldy and there is no mistaking it when you see it. The mold will be white or colorful, fuzzy and dry. It can appear as spots or cover it altogether. A dead scoby will be black.

Can it be reused or do I need a new one every batch?

SCOBY is reusable. You transfer the fungus from batch to batch.

Can kombucha SCOBY be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze it.

Troubleshooting

  • Kombucha SCOBY is thin. Cooler house temperatures and not enough tannins in a starter tea may result in a thin SCOBY. If your house temperature is below 70 F degrees, chances are SCOBY will end up on a thin side. And it is fine, you can still use it to make fermented tea, it will just take longer. Not using enough starter tea, or using the wrong ingredients or measurements, can also make your brew off. To thicken it, let it sit for another 7 days.
  • I have been trying to grow a SCOBY for a week now and it is not forming. Hard to say but more likely it is the temperature issue. Ideal SCOBY growing temperature should be at least 21C or 70F degrees. DO NOT place kombucha in a corner pantry that is by the external wall of the house. I had this pantry in my previous house and it is cooler and not warm enough for bacteria to grow. If it happens to you, move it to warmer place and give it 3-4 more days for changes to occur.
  • Kombucha SCOBY with mold. First of all, make sure it is mold. There is no mistaking when you see it – white or colourful, fuzzy, dry, in spots or complete coverage. In this case, you will have to discard the disk and starter and start over. Good news is mold is rare unless you have refrigerated kombucha mother for a very-very long time and moisture has accumulated. So, do not panic and make sure it is mold first.

What’s Next?

Now you can follow my kombucha recipe and brew some kombucha as soon as today.

More Healthy Drink Recipes

How to Make Kombucha Scoby

How to Make Kombucha SCOBY

How to Make Kombucha SCOBY from scratch using simple ingredients. Then once you have kombucha mother make your own kombucha at home 30 times cheaper than store-bought.
5 from 8 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Drink
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Cooling and fermenting Time: 14 days 1 hour
Total Time: 14 days 1 hour 7 minutes
Servings: 1 kombucha scoby
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Turn off heat and add 1 tsp tea and 3 tbsp sugar, stir and let cool completely (place in a sink filled with cold water to speed things up).
    How to Make Kombucha Scoby
  • In a quart glass jar, pour previously made tea discarding the leaves (use a mesh strainer) and 1 cup of store-bought kombucha along with any brownish strands from the bottle.
    How to Make Kombucha Scoby
  • Cover with paper towel secured with a rubber band and set away from direct sunlight spot(counter or pantry) with temperature above 21C or 70F. It takes 2-4 weeks to grow a SCOBY. You can look but try not to disturb the jar as SCOBY is forming on top. See my post for video and pictures what SCOBY should look like and troubleshooting.
    How to Make Kombucha Scoby
  • SCOBY is ready when it is at least 1/4″ thick and white in colour – a jellyfish like mushroom you can take out of the jar and hold in your hands.
    How to Make Kombucha Scoby
  • Now you can brew some homemade kombucha.
    How to Make Kombucha Scoby

Video

Notes

  • Where to buy GT’s kombucha? Online, or look in the refrigerated produce section or natural foods aisle at your local large chain store, or in any health food store. US: Safeway, Fred Meyer, Kroger etc.. Canada: Save on Foods, Sobey’s, Thrifty’s, the Real Canadian Superstore, health food stores. It’s pretty much everywhere, it kinda is “a gas station kombucha”.
  • I live in Germany and have not seen GT’s kombucha in stores. Can I use different brand?Yes, as long as it is raw, unpasteurized and you see brown and/or clear strands, and possibly even a mini baby “jellyfish”, at the bottom of the bottle. Many kombuchas will be clear without anything at the bottom, like a bottle of water. Don’t pick that one, won’t work.
  • Can I use plastic or metal container for making kombucha SCOBY? No, for best results to avoid reactivity between the cultures and container, and possibly interfering with mother’s growth, please use a glass container. Basic large glass Mason jar for canning will work.
  • What is the best tea for making kombucha SCOBY? Only black tea. The kombucha fungus doesn’t grow as well with green, white or fruity teas. Feel free to use other caffeinated tea to brew your fermented tea but to make SCOBY big and strong, please stick with black tea.
  • I have been trying to grow a SCOBY for a week now and there are no visible changes. What should I do? Hard to say but more likely it is the temperature issue. Ideal SCOBY growing temperature should be at least 21 C or 70 F. DO NOT place kombucha in a corner pantry that is by the external wall of the house. I have this pantry (newer homes) and it is cooler and not warm enough for bacteria to grow.
  • Is the SCOBY reusable or do I need a new one every batch? SCOBY is reusable. You transfer SCOBY from batch to batch. New SCOBY grows on top of old one every batch. Peel top one (new) off and use it for next batch. Compost bottom one (old) or give away with some kombucha in a sandwich bag to spread kombucha love.
See Recipe Post for more Tips, FAQs and Troubleshooting.
Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

Recipes and images are a copyright of ifoodreal.com. It is against the law to republish recipes anywhere including social media, print and all world wide web. Nutritional info is provided for informational purposes only and to the best knowledge.

Did you try this recipe?

Follow @ifoodreal on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #ifoodreal. Show me what you are making!

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

63 comments on “How to Make Kombucha Scoby

Our “happiness” software automatically deletes any comments of racial, politicial, religious or any offensive nature without publishing, so we can keep on happily cooking delicious recipes for you. For substitutions please refer to extensive recipe post and recipe card notes. If you don't see an answer, you are welcome to try your version and let us know how it went as recipes are posted only as tested. Comments may take up to 24-48 hours to reply. Please see our full comment policy.:).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    1. I wouldn’t recommend that method. The method I have outlined is very straight forward, easy and I know it works.

  1. 5 stars
    Hi, I have only started to make my kombucha and the 2 times I have done it it’s tasted really good. But my question is if it’s normal that every time I put the ready kombucha into bottle or a jar a new layer starts to form. Is this a beginning of a new scoby and can I use this straight away as a new starter to a new kombucha or do I have to wait and grow it for longer before I start a new brew. Thank you, Merili

    1. Hi Merili. Yes, it is the start of a new scoby. You will need to grow it more before you can use for a full batch of kombucha. Hope that helps.

  2. 5 stars
    Can I use flavoured kombucha? I can’t find GT original, but GT flavored (GT Trilogy for example)? Also, is it enough if it just cloudy bottom to grow a Scoby? Thank you for the recipe. Would be great to start growing kombucha as we are not into store-bought drinks.

    1. Hmmm, I can’t say for sure GT Trilogy one will work because it has fruit juices added, so I’m not sure how diluted it is. You can try and worst thing that happens you wasted a bottle of kombucha. You will see in 4-5 days if it’s working.
      However, my SIL used GT Gingerade and it worked. So, if you can find that, you should be fine.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for the detailed and clear instructions you gave on how to grow a Scoby . Unfortunately we cannot buy raw unflavored kombucha in the supermarkets here. Luckily i was given a Scoby with a little starter liquid , which i successfully brewed to make kombucha . From that batch, i saved some kombucha to make a Scoby. After just a week inside a cupboard , i found a nice Scoby growing … i’m letting it grow a bit thicker before i will use it to brew another batch of Kombucha. Thank you!!!

  4. Why do you need the black tea to grow the Scoby? I understand why you need it later to make Kombucha.

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you for amazing detailed recipes for kombucha, growing SCOBY and also flavoring the kombucha.
    I have recently fallen in love with it and motivated by your awesome recipe, decided to make it myself. I started making Scoby this Monday and it’s growing well.
    Being originally from India, I love my masala chai which I make strong.. The only issue I have is that I may have made the tea to start SCOBY too dark and strong. Is that a problem?

    Thank you again for wonderful recipes. Recently discovered your blog and love it already.

    Stay safe.
    Love,
    Apurvi

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve tried to make a scoby twice, but both times, the white, strand-like growth is happening in the bottom of the glass jar. The top of the jar is clear. Is the stuff on the bottom the scoby?

    1. Yes, I think that is your scoby at the bottom. As it grows, it will make its way up to the top of your jar. Hope that helps.

      1. Thank you. My first batch is 6 weeks old, my second 4 weeks. No bubbles/signs of fermentation on the surface of either, but whitish strands forming on the bottom of both jars. I re-read your instructions and moved the jars to a warmer spot in the house (not near direct sunlight).

  7. What do I do with the liquid once I’ve successfully made SCOBY? Can I use it as kombucha? Can I do the second fermentation with it or does it have to be pitched?

  8. I’m not sure what you are saying to do with it once it made. Do you eat it or put it in other food and drink?

  9. Hi there just read you recipe and am excited to make my own …. Unfortunately I cannot find any store that sell kombucha ..as I am in Nepal …is there an alternative which does not require a store bought kombucha

  10. 5 stars
    Hi!!
    i’m just about to get all the supplies to start making my own SCOBY and Kombucha. I’ve seen in the Internet that the majority of the jars with built in plastic spigots have leaks and people replace it with a Stainless Steel spigot, so my question is: is it safe to replace the spigot? if not, what can I do if I have leaks??

    Many thanks!!! and greeting from Spain!!

    1. I never had issues with leaks and I have two jugs. The key is to tighten it properly and that’s when instructions help. When you screw it on a jug do it upside down and then tighten by turning spigot into upright position on the outside.

  11. Hi I’m very new to kombucha tea, just received my scoby yesterday. It had been in the car for at least 3hours, I hurriedly put the scoby, tea Bags, sugar and water into my earthenware jar, later that evening I reread the recipe!!!
    1. Is it okay to use earthenware jars. (I read should be glass)
    2. Will my scoby be okay having been mis used.
    I’m really looking forward to tasting my first brew.
    Many thanks.
    Tess

  12. Hi there, between making batches of Kombucha, how do you store your scoby? I had mine in a dish with plain kombucha but it seems to have died.

    1. In a glass container with enough kombucha to cover it, with a lid in the fridge. On the counter I feel like you would have to feed scoby with kombucha regularly because it’s warm and it keeps “eating”. In the fridge, brewing slows down.

      1. I am told by a wise forager friend that Kombucha also loves Nettles as they are also very high in tannin. You will need to steep the nettles in freshly boiled water (just like tea) and leave for a while. Worth a try anyway.
        Good luck.

  13. I used a Scoby that I kept in the refrigerator for 2 months to make a batch of kombucha but checked it this morning. I now see little white flecks floating on the top w/ the scoby. I wonder if I should discard it because it is too old. Thank you Gail

    1. Does it look like mold? I would rinse scoby and if you have fresh kombucha use it as a starter. usually scoby doesn’t go bad unless it stops brewing.

  14. Nice clear instructions. I have been making kombucha for close to 10 yrs. I was wondering if the scoby is the gelatinous disc with or without the liver like blob below it.What is each? I always pop both in a new brew. Do I just need one to start a new batch? Thanks, Keith

    1. On top of scoby grows new scoby. You peel off the bottom and keep the fresh one. That thin layer is just more scoby growth. Just need one. Bigger or more scoby, faster brewing.

  15. Once you have made your Scoby, how do you rebottle it and make flavoured Kombucha? Thanks, Robyn

  16. Saw the question from AC in South Africa – I made my scoby with black tea, then when brewing the kombucha, added an extra tablespoon rooibos to the black tea. Worked like a charm. Thank you Olena for sharing your success!

  17. I am still confused about the size of your Scoby. It looks bigger than the mouth of the jar you have in the video. Is it so? If yes, what kind of glass container did you use to get big Scoby? Is it possible to make “bad” Scoby by mistake? Thank you.

    1. So. I originally grew scoby in a mason jar. Then I transferred it to a gallon size glass container with a tap to make kombucha. It’s big, right?! New scoby grows on top of existing scoby with every new batch of kombucha you brew. And new scoby will take shape of a container new batch of kombucha is brewed in. Then I discard the very bottom scoby after a few batches and keep new scobies. Scoby is always multiplying. Like making babies. Got it?:)

      1. You said you used a gallon jar with the spigot. The spigot being plastic or metal won’t react with the Kambucha?

  18. Hi

    I live in South Africa. Home of Rooibos tea. It is a very healthy tea with no caffeine. Can I use this tea to make my own Scoby?

    “Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has low tannin levels compared to black tea or green tea. Rooibos contains polyphenols, including flavanols, flavones, flavanones, dihydrochalcones, aspalathin and nothofagin. The processed leaves and stems contain benzoic and cinnamic acids.”

  19. 5 stars
    Followed instructions exactly as stated. We live in a town house, so I left it on the counter side on the top floor (the warmest place in the house. Went away for a few days, and when I came back, boom, there was the scoby. Thank you so much for helping feed my kombucha habit and my wallet 🙂

    1. I forgot to save 1 cup of previous liquid to add to the new batch! I have the scobie and about 1/2 cup of the previous liquid. Can I still make it by adding the six cups of cooled water with the sugar and tea in it!

    1. Reusable. You transfer SCOBY from batch to batch, kombucha grows new one every new batch. You will have so many of them, you won’t know what to do with them. Just compost or give away.:)

  20. 5 stars
    You have no idea how much I appreciate this kombucha scoby video! Just made it, now let the waiting games begin.

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. You assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

This page may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy. ifoodreal.com is a participant of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep iFOODreal recipes free. Thanks for your support!