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.
What is a SCOBY?
Now that we understand the health benefits of raw, unpasteurized, living kombucha, it’s time to learn how the magic is made. 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?
Let’s 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!
If you ever see small particles floating or lingering in your kombucha, don’t fret! These are likely just tiny bits of yeast and bacteria that prove your brew is alive and active with gut goodness. Not only are they okay to drink, but they often contain condensed forms of probiotic cultures from the mother.
How to Grow a SCOBY
Have you ever ventured into the world of brewing your own kombucha at home? If so, you know it all begins with the SCOBY. To launch your first homemade brew, you will need to either develop a SCOBY yourself, or get a piece of one from a friend or neighbor.
When getting a SCOBY from a friend, ensure that the SCOBY has never been refrigerated and comes with some starter liquid to speed up the process. Also, you can often find message boards or groups online where people are giving away their SCOBY discards. If none of these options are offered in your area, Kombucha Kamp is a great resource and sells single cultures or full home brew kits!
When growing a SCOBY yourself, you can start with a bottle of Buchi kombucha. Every bottle of Buchi kombucha contains instructions for starting your own home brew! Follow these step by step instructional videos to see the full home brewing journey.
Here are a few pro tips to keep in mind when you’re initially starting out:
- When pouring your kombucha into a clean jar, agitate it a bit to release some CO2.
- When adding black tea to jumpstart your brew, make sure it is cooled to at least room temperature before adding it to your kombucha.
- Store your jar out of direct sunlight during the fermentation process.
- Using a breathable cloth and purified water are key.
- Make sure your kombucha is fermenting in a warm spot - 80°F is ideal. Lower ambient temperatures may require longer fermentation times.
- Your SCOBY may sink to the bottom or rise to the top: both are normal.