how to make your own scoby from scratch (a step-by-step guide)

This is one of those topics that I was anxiously waiting to hit the 'Post' button for because a) I'm so happy I didn't mess it up, and b) it is friggen awesome to have success with something you are new to! I toyed with the whole idea of making kombucha from scratch for, let's see, a couple of months. So, I hope you don't procrastinate like I did and just do it! And hopefully my step-by-step tutorial will help make that possible, while showing you how easy it really is!

First off, let's get some facts straight about this whole scoby business and making your own kombucha. 

SCOBY actually stands for 'Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast'. Wonderful, right? So what this means is that we're actually growing good bacteria to create a wonderfully carbonated and slightly alcoholic beverage that promotes healthy probiotics to enter our gut and balance our flora. Fantastic!

The only downfall to this whole process is if you don't have patience, then you won't like growing a scoby because it can take up to four weeks to complete. The good news is that you can treat it like your baby (wait, was that just me??) and watch it's progression/growth each day. 

Let's get down to business so you can get growing that scoby!

Here is what you'll need:

  • 7 cups reverse osmosis/filtered water (that is non-chlorinated and preferably fluoride-free)
  • 4 organic Breakfast Time black tea bags (or 1 tbsp of loose leaf black tea)*
  • 1 cup of organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup store-bought kombucha (unflavoured/original)**
  • tea towel & elastic band
  • glass jar/bottle for storage (1 litre or more; I used 1 gallon)

* it is strongly suggested that you use black tea (vs. green tea) as it aids in the growth of your scoby the most.

** try to look for a store-bought kombucha that has a new 'baby scoby' in the bottle - like in the picture below; this is not absolutely necessary, but helps with the process. 

 
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The preparation:

1. Boil the water, then add in sugar and stir until it dissolves.

 
 

2. Add in tea bags and let steep until water has cooled to room temperature.

3. Remove tea bags and add tea to large enough glass jar/bottle to store it for duration of scoby making process. (I used a gallon, which was way more than needed, so choose smaller if you have it.)

4. Add your 1 cup of store-bought kombucha to the tea mixture (making sure that the baby scoby makes it's way into the mix if you have one!) and stir to combine.

5. Place tea towel over jar/bottle opening and secure with an elastic band (to keep flies and other pests out!).

6. At this time, you could also label the jar so you know which day you started your growth on.

7. Put your scoby is a location that isn't in direct sunlight, but easy enough for you to view it (mine was kept on my kitchen counter in the corner), and now you wait!

You want the scoby to form over the surface of the tea and be about 1/4 inch in thickness, somewhat uniformly.

Tips for watching your scoby grow:

  • Take the tea towel and elastic band off to peer in and see how it's progressing. (I did this almost daily.)
  • BUT ONLY do so with clean hands. (We don't want any other bacteria making it's way into the tea mixture; it's got it's own bacteria to worry about!)
  • Smell it! You know you're doing it right when it starts to have a 'vinegary' tinge to it (and should keep getting stronger the longer it sits - any other smells and you've probably done something wrong!).
  • Don't disrupt/move it a lot (especially in the early formation days), having it in a location that's easy for you to access/look at!

Ok, now let's see what it should look like throughout those few weeks...

The results: 

My scoby took 23 days to complete, and on the 24th day, I used it to start brewing kombucha. Keep in mind that this is just a guide; yours might take more or less days to form, but hopefully the pictures will help to understand the formation pattern.

Day 4 & 5

A lot of transformation happens early on. Day 4 is just starting to form bubbles, and by Day 5 it has already developed several new clusters. At this point you should also smell some vinegar.

Day 8 & 10

Just over a week and a thin film of bubbles is pretty close to covering the surface. Two days later, those bubbles have changed their texture into what the scoby will become.

Day 12 & 14

By Day 12, the surface is almost finally covered, and then by Day 14 it is completely covered.

Day 16

Looking down at the surface, not much has changed, but the scoby is growing in thickness and its texture is changing. (See how it's becoming more smooth compared to Day 14?)

Day 23

We have a (mother) scoby!

(Note: The darker patches you see in the picture below on the outer edges are actually tea that has come up from beneath the scoby and is now sitting on top of it, but the white you see more in the centre is what the scoby should look like.) 

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Remember, don't follow my days to success, but look at your own scoby and check it's thickness - that 1/4 inch is the magical number! Here is a look at mine from all sides of the jar.

 
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And now for the next and final step, which is also the most important step.

Now that you have your new mother scoby, you want to reserve some of the tea mixture/liquid that you used to grow the scoby (up to 2 cups of it), now called the starter batch, because you will need it to brew your first batch of kombucha. 

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But instead of storing the starter batch and scoby for later use (because that's a whole other process in itself, and a lot more work), the easiest thing to do is just start brewing kombucha when your scoby is ready. This is also what the next part of this post is for! 

And now for the quick recap: brew your tea, add your baby scoby/store-bought kombucha, let it sit covered for 2-4 weeks, and then don't toss the liquid that you used to grow your scoby- keep some of it!

Now stay tuned for part 2 of this process where I explain how to brew your own kombucha after growing your own scoby!

Was this step-by-step tutorial on making your own scoby helpful? Confusing? 

Please give me feedback so I know how to approach part 2/making your own kombucha!