How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha

How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha
Last week, I typed about kombucha - the fizzy, fermented drink - and why you might want to make it. Some of you said you already drink it, but buy it in the store. But because it's about $3 a bottle, and because most store bought kombucha is pasteurized, thereby killing all the good-for-you-stuff in the drink, you might want to try making it at home. Thankfully, it's very, very easy.

But before you begin, you need a SCOBY (an acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," otherwise known as a "mother"). This is the "starter" that will make your kombucha ferment. There are three main ways to get one:

1. Get a SCOBY from a friend who makes kombucha.

2. Buy a SCOBY

3. Or make your own.

When I started making kombucha, I made my own. Here's how.

How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY

You will need:

4 cups water

1/3 cup of granulated sugar (cane is best)

2 black tea bags

One bottle of store bought kombucha (Read the label carefully; you need raw kombucha with live, active cultures or this process will not work. I used Synergy brand. Most other tutorials say to use unflavored kombucha, but I couldn't find this, so I used the flavored kind. It worked just fine.)

a large, nonreactive pot

a stirring spoon

a 1 gallon glass jar (or 2 half gallon glass jars)

1 piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter for each jar, plus a length of string or a rubber band for each jar

1. Begin by thoroughly washing everything (jars, spoon, pot) in hot, soapy water. Or run everything through the dishwasher. Wash and dry the cheesecloth, too. Wash your hands thoroughly. This prevents unwanted bacteria from contaminating your SCOBY.

2. Pour four cups of water into the pot. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until the water looks clear. Add the tea bags.

3. Allow the tea to brew until the pot and water are completely cool.

4. Pour the cooled tea into the glass jar. Add the bottle of store bought kombucha. Cover the opening of the jar with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, securing in place with a rubber band or a piece of string. This keeps bugs, dust, and debris from entering the jar. Keep the jar in an out of the way location, with a relatively steady temperature, and out of direct sunlight.

5. Check the jar every day. Within a few days, you should begin to see some scummy stuff growing on top of the liquid. This is part of your future SCOBY. Within 2 - 3 weeks, there should be a layer of rubbery stuff across the liquid in the jar. Your SCOBY is ready!

A Few Notes:

Don't remove the SCOBY until you're ready to make kombucha.

Don't touch the SCOBY, except with well cleaned hands. (It's better just to leave it alone until you're ready to make kombucha.)

When you are ready to use the SCOBY, you can discard the liquid it grew in. It's very acidic, and not suitable for drinking. I have, however, heard of using it in place of vinegar in a meat marinade.

Next week, I'll show you how to use the SCOBY to make kombucha.

More in this series:

What is Kombucha? And Why You Might Want to Make it
How to Make Kombucha


  1. oh, you brave one! :) Many, many years ago in Brazil, we used to make kombucha. It wasn't my favorite drink. I'm still thinking if I'm going to jump into this bandwagon again. Maybe you will convince me. :) PS. Are you missing your gardening? When do you guys move to the trailer?

  2. Tereza, if I were you, I'd probably buy some store bought kombucha - looking carefully for the unpasteurized type - and try it in a flavor or two. If you like it, then try making your own. If you don't like it - well, look for some other fermented food you DO like. I've already mentioned some good things about fermented food, but I'll mention more next week, when I give instructions on how to make kombucha. The list is impressive! As for me, I am loving the sweet/tart flavor of kombucha :) I do miss gardening, but it helps that I'm growing a few things in pots. Money is keeping us from moving immediately into our RV. We are just about ready to buy a container to store things in. Then, I hope, things will move along a little more quickly!

  3. thanks for updating us in your RV endevour. I think the entire country is on hold because of money. :( As for fermented food, we love sauerkraut that I make from scratch as well as fermented carrots and kefir. I'm trying to stay away from dairy so I consume kefir no more than once or twice a week. I will see if I can find some kombucha around here so I can try :)