Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Kombucha SCOBY: What It Is and How to Make One

Health + Wellness
Duy Truong Hai / iStock / Getty Images

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Kombucha is a fermented beverage enjoyed for its unique flavor and powerful health benefits.


Though it's widely available at grocery stores and health food shops, you can make your own using tea, sugar and a SCOBY.

A SCOBY is a thick, rubbery and cloudy mass that aids the fermentation process.

This article explains what a kombucha SCOBY is and how to make your own.

What Is a Kombucha SCOBY?

A SCOBY, which stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," is an ingredient used in the fermentation and production of kombucha.

Fermentation is a chemical process in which carbohydrates like sugar or starch turn into alcohol or acid (1).

The appearance of the SCOBY can vary, but it's typically dense, round, rubbery and opaque with a mild, vinegar-like smell.

Look out for mold or a strong cheese-like odor, which may indicate that the SCOBY is decaying and needs to be discarded.

The dish-like structure of the SCOBY is comprised mostly of a type of insoluble fiber known as cellulose.

It also hosts a variety of yeast and bacteria species that aid the fermentation process (2).

Other fermented foods and beverages—such as kefir, sourdough bread and ginger beer—require similar symbiotic cultures.

Summary

A symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY, aids the fermentation process of kombucha.

How It Works

Kombucha is produced by adding a SCOBY into sweetened black or green tea, then letting it ferment for 1–4 weeks.

The bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY break down the tea's sugars and convert them into alcohol, carbon dioxide and acids (3).

The result is a fizzy product with a tangy, sweet and vinegar-like taste. Its specific flavors depend on how long it's left to ferment, the type of tea used and the addition of other ingredients like fruit, juice or herbs.

Fermentation also increases the concentration of probiotics—a type of beneficial bacteria in your gut with many positive health effects.

In fact, studies have linked probiotic consumption to reduced cholesterol levels, improved immunity and enhanced weight loss, among other benefits (4, 5, 6).

Summary

A SCOBY, when added to sweetened tea, turns the sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide and acids. The resultant kombucha contains numerous probiotics.

Selecting the Right One

If you're interested in brewing your own kombucha, obtaining a SCOBY is the first step.

You can purchase starter kits or cultures online or in certain health food stores.

Be sure to look for an organic SCOBY from a reputable retailer to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure and ensure product quality (7).

You can also borrow a SCOBY from a friend who makes homemade kombucha or join an online community to find a local with a SCOBY to spare.

Because the SCOBY continues to grow with each batch of kombucha, it can be divided and shared by simply cutting off a 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece from the top and passing it on.

Although the risk of contamination is low when properly handled, be sure to discard your SCOBY immediately if you notice mold, an unpleasant smell or any signs of decay.

Summary

You can purchase a SCOBY online, find one at a health food store or borrow one from a friend. Though the risk of contamination is low, discard the SCOBY if you notice mold, unpleasant smell or other signs of decay.

How to Make Your Own

It is also possible to grow your own SCOBY.

You can do so by using raw, unflavored kombucha and 1 cup (250 ml) of green or black tea sweetened with 1–2 tablespoons (14–28 grams) of sugar.

Simply combine the kombucha and cooled tea in a jar and cover it tightly with a coffee filter or dishrag.

Place the jar in a warm spot—around 68–80°F (20–30°C)—and let it ferment for up to 30 days. As the SCOBY begins to form, it will gradually become thicker and less translucent.

Once the SCOBY is about 1/4-inch (2/3-cm) thick, you can use it to brew a new batch of kombucha using green or black tea and sugar.

Summary

Growing your own SCOBY is a simple process—you only need raw kombucha, sweetened tea and time to spare.

The Bottom Line

A SCOBY is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast used in the production of kombucha.

You can buy one from local or online retailers or make it at home using raw, unflavored kombucha and sweetened green or black tea.

The risk of contamination is low when properly handled. Still, discard your SCOBY if you notice mold, an unpleasant smell or other signs of decay.

Making or buying your own SCOBY allows you to brew your own kombucha, giving you constant access to a probiotic-rich, refreshing treat.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less