SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Your SCOBY should come with starter tea, which is alread-brewed Kombucha Tea, packed full of beneficial bacteria and yeast, and it will kick start your brewing process.
Kombucha Brewing vessel
I recommend brewing in a glass Kombucha container. Ceramic is also suitable, but it would need to be a lead-free, food grade ceramic. Any size container will work, but I’ve found a 4 litre container the perfect size for me, at least for a start. (*Edit 24/7/18 – Switched onto an 8 litre container!)
The wider the mouth of the container, the faster your Kombucha will brew. A SCOBY the size of the one in the picture is perfect for a 4 litre batch. Once your SCOBY grows, it’ll easily brew up a bigger batch.
What type of water should you use for Kombucha
I use plain rain water. Our rain water is very pure, and is run through a carbon filter before drinking. Some tap water contains chemicals like chlorine and fluoride, which might be okay for a while, but will eventually be damaging to your SCOBY.
If your water contains chemicals, you could look at filtering it, or using bottled water. Chlorine is removed by boiling, and then leaving your water to ‘breathe’ for 24 hours.
Check out Kombuchahome.com for some excellent tips on Kombucha water!
You can remove (some) of the chemicals with the following:
- Boiling tap water for +10 minutes can remove considerable amounts of chlorine.
- Letting tap water stand overnight in an uncovered container allows for chlorine to evaporate off.
- Filter jugs can remove a large percentage of chemicals present within tap water.
- Screw on filters for kitchen taps can remove the majority of chemicals present in tap water
- Distillation units will purify water completely.
Sugar & Tea for Kombucha
Just about any sugar will do, but pure white sugar is the best source of food for your SCOBY. There are a lot of teas you can use for your Kombucha brew, but black tea is best for your SCOBY. Use tea of the standard ‘Camelia sinsensis’ family, which doesn’t contain oils (not tea such as Chai Tea). Herbal teas also aren’t particularly successful.
I’ve been replacing some of the black tea with green tea; maybe a 1/4 or so. I’ve found this produces a really nice, mild Kombucha. It also doesn’t seem to harm my SCOBY.
Kombucha Starting Instructions
These instructions are for a 4 litre container like I was using. I’m now using an 8 litre jar, just adjust it to suit the size of your container. I would be doubling the ingredients below for my brew in the 8 litre jar.
- Heat 1/4 of your water (for a 4 litre container, that would be 1 litre of water) in a big pot. When it’s just about to boil, take it off the heat. You can heat the full amount of water if you want to boil the lot first. I’ve found with rain water that’s unneccesary, and you just spend a whole lot of time waiting for the water to cool down. Heating only 1/4 ensures the tea brews nicely, and when you add the rest of your water you have nearly perfect temperature.
- Add 6-8 teabags. I use 8, but Kombucha! (the book) recommends 6. Lately I’ve been using 6 bags of black tea and 2 of green tea. If you’re using loose tea, you can either filter them out, or use a tea egg. Stir, cover & let it steep for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the tea and add 1 cup of sugar. Mix through until dissolved.
- Add the rest of the water (in our case the remaining 3 litres) to the 1 litre of hot tea. This will cool the tea right down. Your SCOBY will die if the tea is too hot, so make sure it’s nice and cool before using. Temp should be below 32C.
- Pour the sugary tea into your kombucha jar
- Check that the temperature of the tea is below 32C. Add the starter tea & SCOBY.
- Cover with a breathing-type-of-something. I use a good quality paper towel (one that handles getting a bit wet) and secure it with a rubber band. Paper towel is cheap and you can change it every day if you wanted to. Another great option is cheese cloth. You can also use other types of cloth, but not one with a weave that’s too open, as it will allow little bugs to get through. The cover is to let it breathe, and keep bugs out at the same time.
Kombucha Fermenting stage
Your Kombucha is now fermenting, and you’ll see nothing much happening for a start. After between 1 and 3 days (can take a bit longer too, don’t worry) you’ll see a very light film forming on the top. This is a baby SCOBY and a great sign!
(See the little bubbles on the top of the Kombucha in the photo? And a tiny film covering the top? That’s your bubba!)
As your brew goes on, the baby SCOBY will grow thicker and will cover the whole top, fusing to the mother SCOBY.
After about 6 days, when the baby SCOBY has covered the whole top of your jar, have a taste. I use a straw, which you can poke in around the SCOBY’s, into the brew. If your brew taste quite sweet, leave it for a while longer. If it’s a bit tangy and sour, it’s ready to go!
You can leave it as long as you want, to taste, but eventually the brew will be so strong it’s
more like vinegar. My first batch took about 14 days (it was cold), and ever since then I like to bottle it at about 6-7 days for best flavour.
You can put the finished Kombucha straight into well-sealing jars or bottles and keep it in the fridge.
If you have a jar with a tap, you can tap straight out of the jar into a cup and drink it!
Make sure you keep some of your finished Kombucha (starter tea – I keep 1-2 cups) for your next batch!
I like to do a second fermentation to make it more bubbly. Basically, I put my Kombucha in bottles (I use 1 litre bottles, but you can use smaller bottles. Smaller bottles would keep more bubbles once opened) and leave them on the bench for a few more days (anywhere between 2 and 7 days). After those few days I put them in the fridge, ready for drinking.
You can flavour your Kombucha when you bottle it. There are millions of flavours you can use, like fruit, fruit juice, cinnamon, herbs, mint, berries etc. Too many options to list on these instructions! The book Kombucha! is a good source of ideas.
- Your SCOBY might sink, float or hover. All is fine! My very first batch had my SCOBY sink. After a few days it started to hover. Then, it started to float.
- It’s going to take some time before you see anything. Just leave it be and be patient, it will happen.
- Your SCOBY may have brown dangly bits. (see photo) They’re not bad! The dangly bits are yeast and are beneficial. You can either drink them or filter them out. You can also use them to make a Sourdough bread starter!
- Keep the brew out of direct sunlight.
- Cooler temperatures cause your brew to go slower. Ideal temperature is between 22 and 28 degrees. Mine’s just on the stove in the kitchen and it does fine even through our hot summers, so don’t worry about this too much.
- It’s a good idea to keep some spare SCOBY’s in your cupboard (in some starter tea/finished kombucha) to make sure you’ve always got some if something goes wrong with your brew. They happily lounge around in some tea in a jar (I cover with a paper towel secured with rubber band to stop fruit flies etc.). Just keep the liquid topped up so they don’t run dry. This is also known as a SCOBY hotel. A place for them to chill out, rest and relax until they’re needed for work.
Where to buy Kombucha SCOBY
You might find one of your friends or relatives has a SCOBY for you. Anyone that brews Kombucha will have extra SCOBY, it’s hard not to as they’re such good growers. If not, here’s some good places to buy kombucha SCOBY
Organic Kombucha starter kit comprises of 100 ml Kombucha starter tea with a piece of Kombucha Scoby and 2 organic black tea bags. Can be used to make 1 L of Organic Kombucha tea every 7 days. A cheaper alternative to purchasing a full Kombucha Scoby. Instructions and ongoing support included with purchase. $19.99
SCOBY – $19.95