How & Why to Make Your Own Kombucha (+ FAQ)

  reading time: 25 min


Episode 10.
Last June, the summer that felt like everyone was baking their own bread, fixing something in their house, or going crazy with DIY projects, my boyfriend J and I made our very first batch of homemade kombucha! (we also built a guinea pig house and DIY-ed our very own barefoot sandals, lol)

Since then, we have been batch-making our own "booch" for almost 1 entire year now, and I hope my love for kombucha will get you excited too!

So what is kombucha anyway?

I'm sure most of you have heard of this popular health and wellness elixir by now – I myself have been a kombucha junkie for a good 5 years or so now. Kombucha is a refreshing, tangy and delicious fizzy fermented tea drink that is served cold. It has numerous health benefits, being both a source for prebiotic and a probiotic healthy bacteria. It is made from either a black or green tea base, white sugar, and filtered water, through a double-fermentation process (don't let that intimidate you!) with the aid of a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY, also known as the "kombucha mother", interacts with the sugar and tea, slowly "digesting" and transforming it into the tangy, slightly tart, slightly sweet finished beverage we all know and love.

Kombucha is said to originate in Northeast China around 220 B. C. where it was cherished for its healing properties. It contains a wide variety of probiotic bacteria which contribute to a healthy gut, helping us digest food, absorb nutrients and prevent infection.
It also contains various vitamins of the B-complex, which act as coenzymes in many metabolic processes and are especially important for healthy skin and blood formation. This makes kombucha the ideal alternative to sugary sodas and lemonades!

Homemade, fresh kombucha tastes much more aromatic and contains less sugar
than the pasteurised ready-made tea beverage from the supermarket. This is simply because the store-bought kombucha has to be stopped in its fermentation process in order to last weeks and months on the supermarket shelf. Fresh, biologically active kombucha would continue to ferment even when bottled – and would have naturally turned into vinegar within a few weeks.

Plus, homemade kombucha is waaay cheaper than store-bought kombucha which usually costs around $ 7 or 4 € per liter. After the one-time purchase of a SCOBY and a large jar, homemade kombucha will only cost you around 20 cents (for water, tea and sugar) per liter.

What You Will Need For This Method

>> for making kombucha / 1st fermentation:

  • a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast; homemade from previous batch of kombucha, given by friend, or purchased online from a reliable source)
  • starter liquid (either unpasteurized, unflavoured store-bought kombucha or leftovers from a previous batch)
  • organic tea (black tea is best for starters, but green tea, rooibos tea and even fruity teas work as well with a larger SCOBY; only use tea without aromatic oils, so no Earl Grey etc.!)
  • granulated sugar (e.g. white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar)
  • filtered tap water
  • a wide mouth glass or ceramic container (should hold between 1 liter and 1 gallon/3.7 liters; preferably with a spigot, either made of plastic or high-quality stainless steel! e. g. one like this)
  • a tightly woven cloth (e. g. gauze coffee filter, napkin or a kitchen towel; apparently cheese cloth is not effective at keeping fruit flies out!)
  • a rubber band
  • a large pot for brewing tea
>> for bottling + 2nd fermentation:

  • a sieve
  • a funnel
  • several airtight bottles, ideally with flip flop lids *
  • (optional) fruits, herbs and/or spices of your choice

* I re-used a bunch of old bottles from store-bought cider and other fruit wines that I sterilized with boiling water, dish soap and vinegar; another way to sterilize your bottles is to put them in an oven on low heat of 110 °C / 230 °F for around ten minutes – if it is too hot, they'll crack!

The Benefits of Kombucha
  • it improves digestion
  • it stimulates metabolic activity
  • it is high in probiotics and antioxidants
  • it supports the liver
  • it reduces gout and arthritis
  • it boosts immunity
  • it binds toxins and neutralizes free-radicals
  • it helps lower high cholesterol
  • it helps stabilize blood sugar and prevents blood sugar spikes
  • it supports healthy liver function
  • it relieves headaches and hangovers
  • it boosts your overall energy 
  • it keeps you hydrated
  • it is delicious!!

Plus, making your own kombucha is fun and kind of therapeutic as well :) I just LOVE making my own stuff! At the beginning of this year I also started making my own dairy-free yogurt and will probably make a blog post on that, too, in the future. After that, sourdough and pickled vegetables are next up on my list!

How To Make Your Own Kombucha At Home


Troubleshooting FAQ

What is a SCOBY?

SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast,
and refers to a symbiosis of several bacteria and yeast. It is the gelatinous, jiggly-looking cellulose mat (like a vinegar "mother") that consists of a colony of various microorganisms, namely lactic acid bacteria (LAB), acetic acid bacteria (AAB), and yeast, which live in symbiosis. These microorganisms jumpstart the fermentation process while also protecting the kombucha from contaminants like dust and debris. They "digests" the sugared tea during the fermentation process, transforming it into a pleasant fermented drink with beneficial health effects.

Some people find SCOBYs to be kind of weird or even disgusting, but I actually think they are quite cute and very fascinating, and not disgusting at all! A SCOBY looks sort of like a jellyfish (granted, that sounds a bit gross) or a spongy mushroom or perhaps like an ugly pancake, with a firm, but slippery consistency. A SCOBY continues to grow and multiply indefinitely. It will live and grow for years on end, if treated with love :) Personally, I named mine Scoby-Doo, lol.

If you have a friend who brews kombucha, ask them if they will share a baby SCOBY with you. If not, there are plenty of trustworthy SCOBY sellers online, or perhaps even in your local health foods shop. I actually got mine from a German online classified advertising platform similar to Craigslist. Make sure they are properly packaged and come with starter tea.

BTW: You can totally name your SCOBY if you want, just like you do with your sourdough starter! I actually didn't do that in the beginning, but I recently named mine Mariechen (pet name for Marie), named after my great great great grandmother Marie Schindler (yes, like "Schindler's List"!) who had a large garden and was known in her area for being very well acquainted with all kinds of herbs and medicinal herbs. I love having her as a female role model and herb witch in my family :)

Is my SCOBY healthy?

First off, it's important to know that SCOBYs are living organisms which means that they are constantly changing, and no two SCOBYs look the same! Sometimes they take longer to grown, sometimes they grow and reproduce like crazy. Some will be thick, others thin, some very smooth, while others are lumpy. Some are beige or white in colour, while others are more on the brown-yellowish side. They might float at the top of the brewing vessel, or sink to the bottom – or even float right on the middle of the jug. This is all completely normal and fine, but makes it hard for beginners to tell the difference between a healthy SCOBY and a "sick", dead or moldy one.

Generally, as long as your SCOBY is rubbery-firm and replicates by forming thin cream-coloured layers aka newborn SCOBYs on the surface it's probably healthy. You can also check the firmness of your SCOBY by tearing on it with your thumb and first finger. If you can tear it apart easily, it most likely won't give you a very good brew.

You can tell if a SCOBY is moldy by the presence of mold! (aka fuzzy white, grey, green or black growths on the SCOBY). If your SCOBY has turned moldy, throw away both the brew and the SCOBY immediately, and start a new batch with a new SCOBY!

If there are brown strands or lumps hanging down from your SCOBY or accumulating on the bottom of your brewing vessel (kind of a murky sediment at the bottom), don't panic. That is yeast, and it's actually a sign that your SCOBY is healthy. You can remove loose strands when preparing your brewing vessel for the next round of batch brewing!

If you are noticing poor SCOBY growth over a longer span of time (say a couple of batches), and your kombucha turns out tasting flat or stale, this is probably a sign that there is an imbalance of bacteria and/or yeast in your brew.

Don't let your SCOBY get dehydrated. Always keep any unused SCOBYs in at least two cups of good, strong starter liquid (aka fermented kombucha) – see "SCOBY hotel" below. Otherwise they might get moldy.

What is starter tea?

Starter tea or starter liquid is finished, mature kombucha from a previous batch
that contains the living bacteria and yeast. It can be used to kickstart the fermentation process for a new batch of kombucha, or to store extra SCOBYs as backups.

Which tea can I use?

Kombucha is essentially made from just three ingredients: SCOBY (with starter liquid), sugar, and tea. For this reason the quality of each of these ingredients is very important. I highly recommend using (ideally fair-trade and sustainable) organic tea, either loose leaf tea or tea bags.

The best and safest tea options are
  • Black tea (Ceylon, Darjeeling, English Breakfast; avoid Earl Grey) – the most popular tea used for kombucha because of the high amount of caffeine and tannins it contains that feed your SCOBY; so if you are just getting started, I recommend using black tea; makes for a fruity, slightly earthy kombucha
  • Green tea (Jasmine, Gunpowder, Sencha etc.) – another great option which works especially well for young SCOBYs, but don't use for your first batch of kombucha; makes for a more mild, light kombucha
  • or a mix of black and green tea (e. g. 85 % black and 15 % green)

As you get more comfortable with brewing, you can experiment with other teas or herbal infusions such as 

  • White tea – best used in combination with green, black, red or Oolong tea due to high amount of essential oils in white tea; great for robust SCOBYs (I don't recommend regularly brewing with white tea as the new SCOBYs from this fermentation will not be as strong and healthy as from black or green teas); makes for a floral, lighter kombucha
  • Oolong – works well to feed a SCOBY; has a milder taste than black tea, but not as "grassy" as green tea; more complex flavour
  • Pu'erha fermented tea that your SCOBY will love (therefore works great as liquid in a SCOBY hotel); best combined with green tea for a less strong flavour; very strong woody, earthy, smoky taste
  • Rooibos aka red tea – best used in combination with black tea (at least 25 %) due to high amount of essential oils in red tea; only use as main fuel for your kombucha after you have been strengthening batches with black tea, e. g. 5 batches; great for robust SCOBYs; makes for a slightly floral kombucha; caffeine-free!
  • Honeybush – similar to rooibos kombucha, but a little lighter and with a sweet hint of honey; in both cases the SCOBY grows somewhat more slowly than in "real" tea from the Camellia sinensis plant; caffeine-free!
  • Yerba mate – can be used pure or mixed with black and/or green tea in equal amounts; make sure there are no additional ingredients such as mint; the SCOBY will grow more slowly, but steadily; mild flavour, similar to green tea kombucha, with a slightly bitter or smokey undertone (for a milder variation, use chá mate)
  • Herbal tea or fruit tea aka herbal infusions (Lemon Balm, Hibiscus, Rosehip, Raspberry Leaves, Blackberry Leaves, Black Currant Leaves, Strawberry Leaves, Fennel, Stinging Nettle, Dandelion, Chickweed, Sweet Woodruff, Elderflower, Chamomile, Lemongrass, Club Moss, Yarrow etc.; avoid mint, sage, eucalyptus, bay leaf, cumin, anise, citrus peels) – ideally in combination with green tea (I don't recommend regularly brewing with herbal teas as it lowers the chance of SCOBY growth); only suitable for very robust and healthy SCOBYs; taste will depend on herbs used; caffeine-free!
  • or even coffee – baby SCOBYs will look a little more irregular and turn a distinct brown colour, they may even be covered with small craters like a moonscape (to be on the safe side, coffee-grown SCOBYs should no longer be used to brew tea-based kombucha); strong, exceptional taste that some may find "takes some getting used to"; so far I haven't tried this, but my mom has, and she was very happy with the results!

Only experiment with small batches of kombucha in case something goes wrong, so you'll still have backup SCOBYs!

Also make sure not to use flavoured teas, so no Earl Grey tea – you can add flavour later during 2nd fermentation.

What does kombucha taste like?

The smell of kombucha is similar to that of apple cider vinegar, but fortunately it doesn't taste quite as sour (unless you allow it to ferment too long – see below). On the contrary, depending on which tea you use in the brewing process, it can taste anything from fruity and refreshing, like organic lemonade, to malty and tart, like malt beer.

Our homemade kombucha usually tastes like something in-between a freshly made apple wine or apple cider and a fruit tea. The (second) fermentation process also makes it slightly fizzy, which I absolutely love.

My kombucha tastes like vinegar. What do I do?

You let it ferment too long – or you have too many SCOBYs in your brew. If it's too tart to drink plain, increase the sweetness by adding double the amount of fruit you normally would use to flavour your kombucha in 2nd fermentation. Or mix the vinegary kombucha with apple juice, elderflower cordial or sugar/honey/maple syrup to make it enjoyable! Or just use it as a substitute for apple cider vinegar in recipes, e. g. vinaigrette.

Alternatively, you can use this vinegar-like kombucha to refill your SCOBY hotel
(see below), or use it as a strong starter liquid for the next batch of kombucha.

You can also use overly strong kombucha as a face toner or as a hair rinse, similar to an apple cider vinegar rinse. Lastly, you can dilute the extra strong kombucha and water/fertilize your plants with it!

My kombucha tastes "flat". What's wrong?

Usually your kombucha bottle should crack open with a satisfying "plop", and the kombucha itself should be bubbly and delicious. If your kombucha isn't fizzy, this might be because

  • you need to adjust your fermentation time, both for first and second fermentation (fermentation is what causes the carbonation reaction)
  • you're not using the right bottles for storing (which allows the carbon dioxide to escape); use flip top bottles that can withstand the pressure of carbonation and also trap air in; avoid decorative bottles and mason jars
  • your tea isn't strong enough (aka your SCOBY doesn't get enough food)
  • you're not using enough sugar (aka your SCOBY doesn't get enough food)
  • you're not adding fruit, juices, honey/sugar, or ginger for second fermentation (they spark carbonation)
  • your fermentation station is too cold (which slows down fermentation dramatically)
  • you leave too much head room in the bottles (which prevents the carbon dioxide to go into the liquid)
  • you're "burping" the bottles too much (which allows the carbon dioxide to escape)

To increase carbonation in your kombucha once the first fermentation is done, make sure to do a second fermentation (see below) and store your kombucha at room temperature (not refrigerated) in an airtight bottle.

How do I know when my kombucha is finished brewing?

That is a good question. Basically, you are the one who decides whether your kombucha has reached its "sweet spot" or not. It's best to begin tasting after about 5 days – this is where a spigot comes in handy. Otherwise, use a stainless steel spoon or a ladle to taste your kombucha (obviously, clean it before dipping it in again!). The taste you're looking for is a slightly sweet, slightly fruity, slightly tart with a mild vinegary hint, but far less than in apple cider vinegar for example. Some like it sweeter, while others like it more tart. It's your call!

In general, the shorter the fermentation time, the sweeter the kombucha; the longer the fermentation, the more tart and vinegar-like the kombucha. The duration of the fermentation process depends on the temperature of the brewing environment and the amount/size of SCOBY in your brew. Cold environment + fewer SCOBY layers = require longer fermentation. Warm environment + greater SCOBY layers = require shorter fermentation.

What is the difference between a continuous brew and a batch brew?

Like the name suggests, batch brewing (the method I use) involves making only one batch of kombucha at a time, which you harvest aka bottle all at once (leaving a little starter liquid and the SCOBY to start the next batch, if desired). This means the kombucha will turn out slightly different each batch, and it's easy to experiment with different teas and sugar/tea ratios. This method is great for beginners and people who want to take breaks in-between brewing.

Pros: 1 to 2 weeks of rest during batches; flavour control (by letting it ferment longer or shorter); consistently fizzy and flavourful; easier to experiment with; more flexibility; smaller vessel is enough (e. g. 1 gallon).
longer waiting time between batches; longer preparation time (fewer but more intense maintenance); more contact with SCOBY; more bottles are needed for storing the finished product.

With continuously brewing on the other hand you only have one "batch" of kombucha in a large vessel to which you continuously add liquid every few days, and always have fresh kombucha available. You don't take out the SCOBY during bottling, and therefore will need a brewing vessel with a spigot. Once you have established your brew, you simply add the same amount of sugared tea in as you take out. This is great for supplying a large household with homemade kombucha!

Pros: continuous supply of kombucha; lesser chance of contamination; wider variety of bacteria and acids; fewer bottles needed.  
Cons: need to tap and flavour smaller amounts more frequently;
more daily work  (lower but constant maintenance); lesser flavour control, turns sour/vinegary over time; yeast settles at the bottom; larger vessel with spigot needed (2-5 gallons).

Although I have been continuously brewing my own kombucha for a year now, I prefer the batch brewing method because I like the control and flexibility it gives me. Similarly to continuous brewing, I use a large brewing vessel (1.5 gallons) with a spigot, but instead of tending to my kombucha every day or every few days, I draw off all of the finished kombucha in one go every two or three weeks (except the starter tea for the next batch), then bottle and flavour it all at once. Every time you brew you also have the opportunity to remove older SCOBYs and yeast, and gently clean the brewing vessel.

Between brewing batches, I usually let the SCOBY sit in 500 ml of starter liquid (aka finished kombucha) for about a week before starting a new batch because otherwise J and I won't be able to keep up with finishing the bottled kombucha from the previous batch in time.

What is the difference between 1st and 2nd fermentation?

First fermentation or primary fermentation refers to the result of brewing your kombucha by combining sweetened tea, starter liquid, and a SCOBY and allowing them to ferment. This is where you have control over the taste (sweetness / tartness) of the kombucha. The result is matured, fermented kombucha.

Second fermentation or secondary fermentation is optional, but necessary for carbonation (aka a fizzy drink) and recommended for flavour. 

Once the first fermentation is done, fill the finished kombucha into clean, sterilized bottles using a funnel. Don't filter out those stringy bits of yeast yet, as those will help with carbonation and fizz. Leave about 1.5 inches or 4 cm head room at the top! Now you can add chopped or crushed fruits, fruit juices, herbs, honey and/or spices to your "first fermentation", aka your freshly bottled kombucha. This is a great way to utilize overripe or damaged fruit instead of composting it!

Store kombucha in a dark place at room temperature for 3 to 7 days for 2nd fermentation – you can tell it's ready when there is a noticeable fizzing noise when undoing the lid! Strain out any fruit or herbs (to prevent moulding). Place strained flavoured kombucha in the fridge to stop any further fermentation.

Can I still go on vacation / take a break from brewing kombucha?

Yes (for batch brewing). As will all fermented foods, be it sourdough, yogurt, or kombucha, their biggest advantage and disadvantage is the continuity in which new supplies are produced. However, being the "parent" of a kombucha and its SCOBY(s), you have more flexibility than e. g. with yogurt which has a much shorter shelf life.

If you plan to be away for 3 weeks or less, simply start a new batch before your departure. When you return, you will be greeted with
either a finished, enjoyable batch of kombucha (in winter) or delicious kombucha vinegar (in summer) which won't be very enjoyable to drink plain, but can be used like apple cider vinegar. Alternatively, discard most of the vinegary kombucha, reserving 2 cups as a starter, and start a new batch.

If you'll be away for longer than 3 weeks, place the SCOBY and 2 to 4 cups of starter tea in a sealed glass container in the fridge. This way
the SCOBY goes dormant and the fermentation process slows down.

What to do if my kombucha has brewed too long?

See "My kombucha tastes like vinegar. What do I do?".

What are the nutrition facts of kombucha?

After 6 days of fermentation, kombucha contains glucose, fructose, sucrose, 0.5 to 1 g alcohol, dextrorotatory lactic acid, glucuronic and acetic acid as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and folic acid. Depending on the residual sugar and alcohol content, 1 litre of the drink has 60-70 kcal.

How much / how often can I drink kombucha?

Generally it is advised to drink about 100 ml of kombucha 3 times a day, or 200 ml 2 times a day. However, many people drink 1 litre of kombucha daily.  Basically, drink as much as you desire. As long as it's enjoyable for you, and you feel good, it's fine.

The important thing is to start drinking kombucha slowly to get your body used to the fermented beverage. Try 3 shot glasses a day, and slowly increase the dose. If you have any health conditions or if you are pregnant, you should speak to your doctor about whether or not drinking kombucha is safe for you.

It is often recommended to drink some on an empty stomach and some when eating. That is because some substances in kombucha tea are better absorbed from an empty stomach, while others are digested more slowly.

As for me, I usually drink about 1 glass (250 ml) per day.

Is kombucha vegan?

Yes, kombucha is vegan! Kombucha does contain live bacteria, but so do pickled vegetables and vegan yogurt. The bacteria group Lactobacillus that produce lactic acid through fermentation has nothing to do with lactose in terms of its origin and does not stem from components of milk. These bacteria occur naturally almost everywhere in the environment, on vegetables, in the human intestine, etc. They are also used for the fermentation process of sourdough and the lactic fermentation of vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi).

Is there alcohol in kombucha?

Yes, Kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol, from 0.5% up to 2-3%, about as much as a non-alcoholic beer (and is therefore marketed in stores as "non-alcoholic"). Pregnant or breast-feeding humans as well as young children under the age of 10 should probably stay away from kombucha (however, young kids shouldn't be given sugary sodas either, in my opinion). Personally, I don't notice the alcohol in kombucha, although I am quite sensitive to alcohol.

The trace amounts of alcohol found in kombucha are considered healthy, and kombucha is even said to help reduce alcohol cravings! However, alcohol consumption is a very personal matter, and if you are a recovering alcoholic or are currently suffering from alcohol addiction, you may want to stay away from kombucha for the time being. Yeabucha has a great article on this over here.

Is there caffeine in kombucha?

Most of the time, yes.

When using black tea or green tea or any other tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, then yes. It contains approximately 1/4 the amount of caffeine as the tea it is made with, so about 10 mg of caffeine per 225 ml of kombucha as opposed to 47 mg of caffeine in 225 ml of unfermented black tea. Again, I wouldn't recommend this to kids under the age of 10. You may also be aware of drinking kombucha in the evening if you are sensitive to caffeine.

When using decaf tea such as rooibos or herbal tea, then it doesn't contain any caffeine.

I want to make my kombucha sugar-free. Can I do that?

The longer you allow your kombucha to ferment, the more time the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY have to "eat" the sugars and turn them into carbonation and acidity. After a fermentation time of 14 days, the finished kombucha has only about half the amount of sugar content as before fermenting. The usual amount is 3-5 g per 100 ml.

As for substituting the mandatory sugar in the recipe: Organic granulated white sugar, brown sugar or cane sugar are most commonly used for making your own kombucha. Sugar substitutes  are not recommended, however, it is possible to use honey (this kind of kombucha is actually called Jun), or even maple syrup instead.

Personally I always use raw cane sugar for my kombucha, which works amazing, because I don't feel comfortable with white refined sugar.
Though in my humble opinion, the benefits of consuming kombucha greatly outweigh the very little residual sugar, caffeine, or alcohol content :)

How long does kombucha last?

Kombucha doesn't really go bad – unless it gets contaminated by mold or something. It just becomes more sour until it turns into vinegar. Refrigeration slows down that process.

What is that thin white film on top of my SCOBY?

That is a new SCOBY growing – a baby SCOBY! That's perfectly normal and a sign that your "mother" SCOBY is healthy! You can either leave it there (
that way your SCOBY will get bigger and more potent, and the fermentation process takes less time), or you can remove some of the older layers when your SCOBY is getting too big.

Do I have to sterilize everything?

Some sources online imply that you need to be very sterile when homebrewing kombucha. And yes, you need to make sure to work with very clean equipment, but unlike other more delicate cultures such as kefir or yogurt, the kombucha SCOBY is a very hardy organism and not as easily disturbed, at least in my experience.

When J and I first started out brewing we were very careful to have everything practically sterile. Now, however, we are more relaxed and experienced, and only clean our brewing vessel with hot water and vinegar, no soap (you can even use kombucha to "sterilize" the vessel!) every now and then.

When washing your hands, rinse them well afterwards before touching the SCOBY because soap disturbs your little jelly-friend.

Do I have to clean the brewing vessel for a new batch every time?

No. During the colder months of the year it's sufficient to clean the brewing vessel (by emptying it completely and thoroughly washing it out with hot water and then rinsing with vinegar) every 4 to 6 weeks or so. In the summer you should do this about every 3 to 4 weeks. Allow the water and vinegar to run out through the spigot as well to clear out any strings that might be impeding the flow of liquid.

Between batches – when you're not cleaning the vessel –, simply leave a good 20% of starter liquid aka matured finished kombucha in the vessel with your SCOBY. You can either leave it like that for up to a week, or you can immediately start a new batch by adding cooled sweetened tea. Remove your SCOBY only briefly to perhaps remove any discoloured parts or yeast strings, or to transfer some of the older layers to a SCOBY hotel (see below).

I have too many SCOBYs! What can I do?

Like I said, a SCOBY continues to grow and multiply indefinitely. With each batch you brew there will most likely be a new baby SCOBY forming on top of the old ones, so you will probably have more SCOBYs than you can handle after a short while!

Too much SCOBY will cause your brew to taste vinegary (and it will take up too much room in your vessel), so you'll want to remove a few layers of SCOBY every few weeks or months. Keep in mind that when you reduce the amount of your SCOBY, the fermentation time slows down.

Luckily, SCOBYs aren't only great for making your own kombucha, but can also be used in the household and the garden, and even on and in your body. Here are some ideas on what to do with extra SCOBYs:

  • Use them for small batches of risky brewing experiments such as using fruit tea or a sugar substitute (such as Jun kombucha made with honey and green tea!)
  • Give it to friends and family to start their own kombucha batch
  • Feed to your pets (e. g. dogs, cats, chicken, rabbits, guinea pigs ...)
  • Use it as fertilizer in your garden (blend with water and pour into a small hole in the soil, near the base of the plant; especially great for acid loving plants like roses, hydrangeas, rhododendron, marigolds, and daffodils) or add it to your compost pile
  • Use it as a face mask
  • Put it on sunburnt skin
  • Spruce up your compost – the microorganisms will speed up the decomposition process and increase the soil's nutrient value
  • Eat it! Yup, you can actually eat your SCOBY – they are very nutritious. Put it in your smoothie (recipe) or in your homemade sushi (recipe), or make gummies (recipe), or fruit leather (recipe) or even raw cookie dough (recipe) from your SCOBY. Cultured Food Life has a lot of great suggestions for using your SCOBYs!

Pictured: A SCOBY smoothie, using the linked recipe. I used 1 larger SCOBY (about 1 cup or 3/4 cup), 1 cup of frozen raspberries, 1/2 cup of homemade raspberry kombucha, and 1 tbsp of agave syrup. Yum!

What is a SCOBY hotel?

If your "mother" SCOBY has produced too many "baby" SCOBYs to fit in your brewing vessel, you can simply remove some of the older layers of SCOBY by peeling off the bottom layers and place them in clean glass jar, making sure they are fully covered in starter tea aka fermented kombucha tea. This is called a "SCOBY hotel". Here you an store your surplus SCOBYs for weeks, months and even years. In the low PH value of 2.3–3.5 of the starter liquid, the SCOBY is virtually immune to foreign germs.

It's always a good idea to keep a SCOBY hotel for backups and extras in case something goes wrong. If you have several different kombucha batches (e. g. green tea, black tea and rooibos tea), I suggest keeping your extra SCOBYs and their starter tea separate from one another, so putting the green tea "team" in one glass, the black tea "team" in another, and so on.

Some sources say to not refrigerate, as this can cause the SCOBY to go dormant. Best store your SCOBY hotel in a dark and dry place (so not like in my photogenic picture – I just did that for aesthetics, lol. our SCOBY hotel usually sits in one of our kitchen cupboards).

To give your hard-working SCOBYs a break, you can also rotate them by swapping the previously used SCOBY from your brewing vessel with a "rested" and potent SCOBY from the hotel. This creates a dynamic hotel environment which keeps more cultures vibrant and active.

What else can I use kombucha for?

Not only the SCOBY is versatile in use, but also the kombucha tea itself can be used in many ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Make kombucha ice tea or lemonade, e. g. with peach and thyme, or with elderflower cordial, fresh mint and lime
  • Make kombucha yogurt (recipe)
  • Make kombucha sourdough (recipe)
  • Make kombucha sauerkraut (recipe
  • Make kombucha vinegar – simply allow your kombucha tea to ferment for 4 to 6 weeks until it turns into vinegar, similar to apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar! (use in salads, dips, dressings etc.)
  • Make kombucha ketchup (recipe)
  • Use as face toner – mix with equal amount of water
  • Use undiluted as hair rinse (instead of the more common ACV rinse)
  • Put about 2 cups / 500 ml or more of kombucha into your bathtub to stimulate blood circulation and tighten the skin
  • Use as face mask – mix 3 tbsp of kombucha with 1/2 cup of yogurt and 2 tbsp of olive oil, apply to face, and rinse off after about 15 to 20 minutes
  • Use as a foot bath – add 1 cup of kombucha or 1/2 cup to 1 cup of kombucha vinegar to a bowl of hot water and soak your feet for at least 5 minutes
Have you ever experimented with making your own kombucha? What are your favourite flavours for 2nd fermentation? Let me know in the comments!