A home brewed kombucha expert, I’m often asked what is a SCOBY? And is it the same as mother in kombucha? Or kombucha pellicle? We’re answering everything you need to know about homemade kombucha SCOBYs here!
There’s a good chance if you show an uninitiated non-brewer your own kombucha, they’ll be instantly turned off by that thing growing on top. I mean, it is gross right?
What is a kombucha SCOBY?
SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. While you’ll most often see it referred to as a SCOBY, it also goes by “kombucha mother”, “kombucha mushroom”, or “pellicle”. But they all basically mean the same thing – the kombucha starter.
So how does a SCOBY work? The name says it all. Bacteria and yeast working together symbiotically n a fermentation process to transform sweet tea into kombucha. The yeast in the SCOBY eat the sugars in your kombucha, transforming them into ethanol. The bacteria feed on this ethanol, turning it into acidity and giving kombucha its distinctively sour taste.
The bacteria also feed on some of the sugar, producing cellulose as a result. This cellulose builds up to form the thick, rubbery SCOBY layer!
The kombucha mother is just another word for the SCOBY, because it is the catalyst to the fermentation.
As kombucha ferments, it will continue to make more and more SCOBYs, either making one large SCOBY or sometimes many small SCOBY babies.
Can you eat a SCOBY? Yes! The SCOBY is made if edible cellulose, and can be added to smoothies or used to make jerky or candy.
“I had always understood the concept of SCOBY as explained in this article UNTIL I started following several Facebook groups. They had convinced me that the SCOBY is actually the liquid, and the cellulose mat is a pellicle. So now I’m confused all over again.”
What should my scoby look like?
SCOBYs are like snowflakes; no two are the same! Room temperature, humidity, ingredients, brew vessels, and age can all impact how your SCOBY grows and looks.
Some SCOBYs will be perfectly white and round, while others will be brown and sludgy (the brown stringy bits on bottom are simply yeast – nothing to worry about, but you can double check with these pictures of kombucha mold to be sure). There’s no “perfect SCOBY”!
Did your SCOBY sink? That’s totally fine! Learn more about sunken SCOBYs here.
Can you grow your own scoby?
The pre-made kombucha (either from a friend or the store bought beverage) contains the bacteria and yeasts needed to get started, and will produce a SCOBY in 1 to 4 weeks. Just be sure to use a starter kombucha that doesn’t have added flavors! Get the full guide to making your SCOBY here.
How to use a SCOBY
Once you have a SCOBY, you can start brewing kombucha with it! You’ll essentially just mix together tea, sugar, and pre-made kombucha, then add your SCOBY. The SCOBY jumpstarts fermentation while creating a seal over the brew to prevent contaminants from coming in. Get the full guide to brewing kombucha here.
When your SCOBY isn’t in use (like if you have extras or need to take a break), plop them into a SCOBY hotel. Here’s how to make a five star SCOBY hotel!
SCOBYs don’t have a shelf life and can live virtually forever if fed and cared for regularly.
Feed a SCOBY by regularly placing it in a solution of sweetened tea.