SCOBYs are weird and magical and mysterious. The purpose of this blog post is to lift the veil and talk about what a SCOBY is and how it contributes to fermentation.
September 23, 2020
You already know all about kombucha, and you’re a fan. The bubbly tang nourishes and delights you. The probiotic potency empowers you. But do you ever find yourself wondering what’s actually transforming a few simple ingredients into a living elixir teeming with digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria?
It’s time to pay homage to the SCOBY, the living organism that powers the fermentation process. The SCOBY is the thick, slippery mass that forms across the top of raw kombucha. Made of cellulose - the same fibrous substance found in plants and wood - the SCOBY develops as a seal to defend the kombucha from contaminants. As it grows, it becomes a shelter for the colony of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that turn sugar and tea into kombucha.
Even though you may hear them referred to as pancakes, pellicles, or mushrooms, SCOBYs aren’t members of the fungus family. They’re communities of happily co-existing yeast and bacteria. This friendly co-existence gives the SCOBY its most common name, an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” Since it serves as both protector and home for the millions of cultures that reside within its layers, the SCOBY is also sometimes called the “mother.” The SCOBYs that Buchi stewards today can be traced back over a decade to our very first mother, the source of our heirloom culture!
SCOBYs grow quickly when they’re healthy. Each of Buchi's SCOBYs is currently the size of a twin mattress! For devoted brewers of kombucha, the question of what to do with extra SCOBYs has inspired plenty of creative solutions. Leftover SCOBYs have been turned into vegan leather, nourishing face masks, and pet treats, and they’re considered by some to be nutritious additions to stir-frys, smoothies, and soups. At Buchi, we haven’t eaten our excess SCOBYs - yet! - but we do use them as compost. This gives each SCOBY new purpose at the end of its fermentation journey, and supports our vision of a sustainable system that nourishes every step of the way.