Where to Buy a SCOBY Culture, Plus a Few Tips For Keeping it Alive

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The first step of brewing kombucha is finding a SCOBY. Luckily, they’re widely available. You can buy a SCOBY culture online, get one from a friend, or make it yourself using store-bought kombucha. Look for a quality SCOBY to get the most health benefits from your homebrewed kombucha. 

Where Can You Get a SCOBY Culture From?

SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It’s what makes kombucha into a fermented tea full of probiotics.

You can get a kombucha SCOBY from several places:

  • Online
    • Fresh live cultures on Amazon
    • Dehydrated SCOBY culture—these aren’t highly recommended (especially for new brewers) and take longer to activate, but they do work
  • From a friend, maybe you know someone who brews their own kombucha
  • From someone in your community, post in your neighborhood group to see if anyone has a SCOBY to share
  • Make your own from unflavored, raw kombucha

Some sites even have kombucha starter kits that contain the essential materials to activate a SCOBY starter and brew your first batch of kombucha. Check reviews of any SCOBY product before you purchase. Look for customer reviews of people who have successfully homebrewed kombucha with that SCOBY for several months.

You can use a quality SCOBY forever or for as long as you want to brew kombucha.

How Much Does a SCOBY Cost?

The price of SCOBYs vary greatly. They are typically free if you get one from a friend or community member. If you order one online, you can generally find it for under twenty dollars.

Can You Get a SCOBY From Any Store-Bought Kombucha?

Yes and no. The sediment in the kombucha you buy in the store can eventually become a SCOBY, but you’ll need to nourish it. To grow a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha, the tea should be raw and unflavored. Kombucha that has added flavors or sugars could mold and become unsafe.

If you’d like to make a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha, look for a USDA-certified organic brand to ensure the best starter culture for your batch of kombucha. This store-bought kombucha will act as the ‘starter tea’ in your homebrewing process.

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Kombucha section in a supermarket

How Can You Grow Your Own SCOBY?

The process is simple but takes some time. If this is your first time making kombucha, you may prefer to buy a SCOBY from a reputable source.

To grow a SCOBY at home, follow these steps:

  1. Purchase 2 cups of raw, unflavored kombucha.
  2. Pour the kombucha into a glass jar and cover it with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
  3. Leave the jar undisturbed in a dark cabinet to ferment for at least four weeks.

After that time, you should see a baby SCOBY forming in the liquid. The liquid will begin to evaporate and become very concentrated. Once your new SCOBY is at least half of an inch thick, you can use it to brew your kombucha tea.

How to Take Care of a SCOBY

A SCOBY may look grungy, but that’s part of its charm. Don’t be afraid of how it looks—it is full of good bacteria that help your kombucha culture. SCOBYs are easy to care for and take very little maintenance.

To care for your SCOBY:

  • Keep your SCOBY as is. The stringy parts help carbonate your kombucha and fill your fermented tea with probiotics.
  • Re-use your SCOBY for batches of kombucha. Your SCOBY will mature, and your second batch of kombucha will be better than your first. As SCOBYS age, they typically turn darker. Keep using your SCOBY until it literally falls apart.
  • Use your hands to trim down or peel apart your SCOBY. Each time you ferment kombucha, your SCOBY gets a little thicker. After a few months, you may even be able to peel off layers of your SCOBY to give to friends.

Make sure you don’t add flavorings during the first brewing process. Flavorings may cause the SCOBY to mold and ruin the entire batch of kombucha. Instead, add flavorings after bottling your kombucha and let them second ferment for a few days.

Also, ensure that your hands and equipment are clean when handling your SCOBYs. It takes just a few germs to upset the balance of good bacteria and yeast on your SCOBY.

How Long Can a SCOBY Live Without Being Fed?

A SCOBY can live for up to six months without being fed any sweet tea. Some brewers have reported leaving their SCOBYs in the fridge for up to a year! If you need to take a break from brewing kombucha, you can set your SCOBY up in a SCOBY hotel.

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SCOBY hotels

A SCOBY hotel is simply a large glass container that holds extra SCOBYs. You can set one up in case something goes wrong with your fermentation process or to hold your mature SCOBYs. Add a SCOBY to the container and fill it with a cup of starter liquid from your finished batch of kombucha. Cover it with a coffee filter, store it at room temperature, and add to it over time. A SCOBY hotel also provides strong starter liquid for your batch of kombucha.

Sarah Pearce

Sarah first tried kombucha in 2015 and she was hooked. Her favorite flavor is ginger, but cranberry comes in a close second. She made her own for many years and loved experimenting with fruit flavors.

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