How do I make a kombucha scoby from scratch?
Growing your own scoby from scratch using purchased kombucha is a pretty straightforward process, so long as you’ve got the basics right! Read on for the details of how to make a DIY kombucha scoby when you can’t find a fresh one.
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Although growing a kombucha mother, or SCOBY, is something that everyone can do in their own kitchen, there are a few traps and potential problems. If you get some of the basics wrong, then it won’t work at all. Here’s how to make sure that your first home-grown scoby is a success.
Most kombucha recipes start by assuming that you already have a kombucha scoby. They tell you to beg borrow or buy one, or to ask your friendly local kombucha brewer for one of their spares (it’s true, we always have spares and are always willing to give away our next one!)
But what about if you don’t know anyone who brews kombucha? What if you can’t find someone who will post a scoby to you? Or maybe you are a die-hard DIYer and want to start *really* from scratch.
Or maybe you’re a seasoned kombucha brewer who has just had an epic contamination disaster. Or you dropped your scoby hotel on the floor and all your precious scobys are now mingled with broken glass in the trash. (I’m so sorry if this is you!) Read this post to find out more about scoby hotels.
Whatever your reason, it is totally possible to grow your own scoby.
The first and most important ingredient you will need is a bottle of kombucha
It will need to be unpasteurised. Check the label carefully to see if it says anything like ‘raw’, or ‘contains live cultures’. Some commercial brewers even advertise on their websites or bottles that you can grow a scoby from their brews.
I’ll say it again because it is so important. You want a brew that is UNPASTEURISED. Quite a few commercial kombucha brewers pasteurise their brews. This has the advantage of keeping the kombucha in the bottle exactly true to its label, no matter how the shipping companies, distributors and retailers handle it. The disadvantage for us is that it kills all the microbes.
Dead microbes mean no new scoby, so check the bottle carefully. Just because it looks like an artsy craft-brewed kombucha bottle doesn’t mean that it has live cultures.
Once you’re sure that your bottle of kombucha is ALIVE, gather the rest of your ingredients and equipment.
Equipment needed for DIY scoby growth
You will need:
- Raw kombucha (If you’re in New Zealand, you can use Yeah Brew, the exact same brew that I did. The rest of the world should check out this brew instead)
- Tea – I used Dilmah tea bags
- A wide-mouthed jar. It only needs to be a 1 quart jar for this, not a full-sized kombucha-brewing jar.
Brew the tea and add the sugar
Boil water using your normal method.
I love my electric kettle and was astonished to discover that they’re not in every home in the United States! I honestly cannot think of anyone here in New Zealand who hasn’t got one in their kitchen. How do you even make tea??
(If you’re looking for one, get a glass or stainless steel one like these. They’re a bit pricier than plastic, but better for you and don’t make the water taste strange).
But I’m assuming that you have your ways … So. Boil your water and make tea with 1 cup of water, adding about a tablespoon of sugar. Leave the tea to brew for about ten (10) minutes and remove the tea bag.
You want to have either the same amount of tea as kombucha, or a bit less. If you add a lot more tea than kombucha then it will take you an eternity to grow your scoby. It will still happen but there’s no point making things pointlessly tedious.
The kombucha that I bought was in a 300mL bottle (half a pint), so I brewed a cup of tea (200mL to 250mL depending on your country’s standards – a little more or less won’t matter). I just judged it by eye. Approximately equal volumes, erring on the side of a bit less if you can.
I made the tea straight in the jar, but if you’re using loose leaf tea you should make it in another vessel. Strain the tea leaves out as you pour the tea into your brewing jar. Read this post if you’re trying to decide between tea bags and tea leaves for kombucha.
Remember to add the sugar. Give the tea a stir to dissolve it.
Leave your sweet tea to cool down. It doesn’t need to be completely cold, but it should definitely be cool enough for you to wrap your hands around the jar comfortably. If it is too hot you will kill the scoby before it even starts.
Pour the kombucha into the tea
All you need to do now is cover your brew with a tightly woven cloth or a paper towel to prevent fruit flies or other contaminants getting in there, and leave it to grow.
Waiting for a scoby to grow …
Now that you have you own scoby you can begin to brew kombucha using your normal recipe.
If you don’t already have a kombucha recipe or you’re new to this whole kombucha thing, I give a cute printable away for free when people sign up to my (mostly) monthly newsletter. Sign up to grab my Basic Kombucha Recipe, PLUS my Kombucha Sourdough recipe. (Green sign up box is to the right if you’re on a desktop, or keep scrolling down if you’re on mobile). I’d love to see you on email!