Kombucha: Tips & Troubleshooting

Kombucha Tips and Troubleshooting | Phoenix Helix

“I approach cooking from a science angle because I need to understand how things work. If I understand the egg, I can scramble it better. It’s a simple as that.” ~ Alton Brown

Tips for a Successful Brew

So, you’ve read my first article in this Kombucha Series: Myths vs. Truths, and now you’re ready to make your first batch of home-brewed kombucha. Awesome. You need to gather a few things together:

  • First, you’ll need a SCOBY. Where do you get it? Ask around among your friends. If any of them are brewing kombucha, they can give you a SCOBY, because a new one (called the baby) is created with every batch. If you are the first in your social circle to brew kombucha, you have lots of options: (1) You can buy a SCOBY online through places like Kombucha Kamp. (2) You can join a fermentation group on Facebook and see if there’s a SCOBY source in your region. (3) You can try to grow your own SCOBY from a bottle of unpasteurized store-bought kombucha. Alexandra of the Creative Simple Life blog shows you how.
  • Next you need to choose your tea. Black, green or white tea all provide the chemical composition your SCOBY needs, because they are created from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). The difference is when they’re picked and how they’re dried. White tea is made from the earliest leaf harvest and the leaves are simply sun dried. Green and black tea are made from the later tea harvest, with green tea being steamed and black tea being fermented. Many kombucha enthusiasts like to use a blend of green and black tea, saying it creates the most beneficial blend of acids, combined with the best taste. However, people have had success with 100% black, green or white tea. If you would like to add one or two herbal tea bags to your blend, for added flavor, that’s fine, but you cannot make kombucha with 100% herbal tea. Also, be sure to read the labels on herbal tea blends and ensure that it’s pure tea. Many of them contain soy lecithin and “natural flavors” – a term which hides a number of ingredients that might harm you or the SCOBY.
  • Where do I get my starter tea? Starter tea is simply previously brewed kombucha. Usually, you’ll be given some with your SCOBY. You’ll need at least 1 cup. If you have a SCOBY and no starter tea, try to find GT’s Classic “Original” kombucha in one of your local health food stores. This is still raw kombucha (not pasteurized like most store-bought bottles of kombucha). It can act as your starter tea. If you can’t find that brand, look closely at the bottles and find one that is unflavored and clearly marked as being raw and unpasteurized.
  • What kind of sugar should you use? Refined white sugar is the easiest for the SCOBY to digest. Organic evaporated cane juice is second best for the SCOBY, and possibly best for you. Those are the only two recommended sugars. Raw sugars are too difficult for the SCOBY to digest and the SCOBY suffers over time. Raw honey can actually kill the SCOBY, due to its anti-microbial properties. Molasses creates a very unpleasant flavor, and stevia starves the SCOBY.
  • What kind of water do you need? You need clean water, free of bacteria and chemicals. Therefore, filtered water is best.
  • What kind of brewing container do I need? You need a wide mouthed glass jar. A gallon mason jar or cookie jar works well, but you can use a smaller or larger container, to suit your needs. Just don’t use plastic, because it will leach into the kombucha, and don’t use metal because it can corrode and harm the SCOBY. Bonus tip: the wider the diameter of the top of your jar, the wider
  • Do you need to sterilize the jar? No. There’s a difference between clean and sterile, and your goal is clean. Simply wash the container with dish soap, hot water and a little distilled white vinegar. Rinse it well. Never use bleach, and never use antibacterial soap. Similarly, when you wash your hands before handling the SCOBY, you want them clean, but not antibacterial. The SCOBY is alive and vulnerable to sterile potions.
  • Should the jar be airtight, or open to the environment? Somewhere in between. Your SCOBY needs to breathe, but it also needs to be protected. Cover the top of your jar with a tightly woven cloth, secured with a rubber band. This allows air in, but keeps contaminants out. Don’t use cheesecloth, because it’s too porous and can let things in that can harm your kombucha.
  • Where’s the best spot to brew kombucha? Someplace warm, out of direct sunlight, with plenty of air flow, away from your garbage can and away from plants. Why? Your garbage and plants can have mold or harmful bacteria present, and you don’t want those drifting over to your kombucha. Don’t put it in a cupboard, or it won’t get enough air flow. So, where do you put it? Some people brew their kombucha on top of the fridge, others on the kitchen counter, others in their living room. Find a space where you can leave it undisturbed during its brew cycle.
  • What is the best brewing temperature? Kombucha thrives between 72-85 degrees. Temperatures in the 90′s will eventually kill the SCOBY. Temperatures in the 60′s will put it to sleep. So, what do you do in the winter? One idea is to set your jar on a seedling mat. They raise the temperature by about 10 degrees. Alternatively, you can set a tall lamp over the kombucha, and a 25 watt bulb shining down will do the same thing. Make sure there’s about a foot between the bulb and the SCOBY, so you don’t risk overheating. Or, you can buy a heating system designed for kombucha fermentation, which keeps the brew at a perfect temperature year-round.
  • How long does it need to brew? This varies, based on temperature and the maturity and health of your SCOBY, anywhere from 7 to 30 days. Let taste be your guide. The beneficial probiotics and acids are rich when the drink is tangy sour, with a little sweetness remaining. This averages 8 days at 80 degrees and 15 days at 72 degrees. If you brew it the full 30 days, it will be completely sour; some people do this, and then combine it with juice to drink. Don’t brew beyond 30 days, though, because the SCOBY will start to starve.
  • What’s a SCOBY baby? With each batch of kombucha you brew, your SCOBY will reproduce. You’ll notice it getting thicker, and the layer on top is a baby SCOBY. For the first few batches, you can simply keep them together, to strengthen your brew. However, once they reach 2 inches thick, it’s time to separate them. Gently peel them apart. Keep whichever one appears healthiest. If they both appear healthy, keep one as a backup SCOBY (explained in the next tip below).
  • What’s a SCOBY hotel? This is the place you keep a backup SCOBY, in case yours develops mold or other problems. Just clean a quart-sized glass jar, and put a SCOBY inside. Fill the jar halfway with brewed unflavored kombucha. Cover the jar with a tight fitting lid and put it in the cupboard. Check on it every month or so, to see if it needs more liquid (you always want the liquid to cover the SCOBY, and it can evaporate over time.) You can also store more than one SCOBY in the hotel at the same time. Just be sure that you don’t refrigerate your SCOBY. That can kill it or make it prone to mold.
  • What do you do with your kombucha when you go on vacation? Since a SCOBY can safely ferment at room temperature for 30 days, just let it brew while you’re gone.
  • How much kombucha should you drink? Start off slowly, with just one or two ounces, and see how your body reacts. If you have no adverse reaction, slowly increase to 8 ounces. Once you tolerate that level, you can decide whether you’d like to have a bottle of kombucha a few times per week, or smaller amounts on a daily basis. Although some people drink a few bottles daily, that’s not necessary. Fermented foods are very effective in small quantities, and it’s better to diversify your fermented foods than overdo on one kind. In fact, many people say that 4 oz. daily is a medicinal dose.
  • When should I drink it? Advice on this varies. Some people like it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, allowing the probiotics to enter the digestive tract, and the detoxifying acids to enter the bloodstream, without delay. Others prefer to have it with food, because it aids digestion. There is no right or wrong here. Try it both ways, and see what works best for you.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes even when you try to do everything right, you run into trouble. Here are solutions to the most common problems:

  • Too sweet; my kombucha doesn’t seem to be fermenting: Usually this just means you need to ferment longer. Continue to check it every few days. Other considerations are: (1) Did you add enough starter tea? For every new gallon batch of kombucha, you want to add at least 1 cup of fermented kombucha. (2) Are you using flavored teas? Sometimes these have essentials oils that harm the SCOBY. Use plain black, green or white tea instead. (3) Check your room temperature – it needs to be at least 72 degrees. If it’s not, try one of the heat boosting techniques listed above. (4) Your SCOBY needs to breathe. Make sure you have it in an open location and not stored in a cabinet or closet. (5) Did you accidentally add your SCOBY to the brewed sweet tea when the tea was still warm? This can kill the SCOBY. Make sure your tea has cooled off to 80 degrees before adding it. (6) If you’ve done all this and your kombucha still doesn’t seem to be brewing, you might need a new SCOBY.
  • Too sour: This just means it fermented too long. You can still drink it, by combining it with fruit juice to be palatable. In future batches, taste test it sooner. If you live in a hot climate and your room temperature is hot and therefore brewing the kombucha too quickly, try to find a cooler spot in the house to put your kombucha.
  • Not enough carbonation: The fizz of kombucha is part of the fun. If you’re new to brewing, it can take a few batches before your SCOBY is mature enough to produce this effect. Here are some tricks to enhance the fizz: (1) Green tea tends to produce more carbonation than black tea; (2) After you brew your kombucha, pour it into airtight bottles and let them ferment at room temperature for a few days before moving them to the fridge.
  • My SCOBY looks funny: The good news is that SCOBYs often look funny, and yet they’re still healthy. Here are some normal variations: (1) It looks like a jellyfish; (2) It looks like a pancake; (3) It’s bumpy instead of smooth; (4) It has holes in it; (5) It’s floating sideways in the jar; (6) It sunk to the bottom of the jar; (7) It’s dark brown; (8) It has brown sludge on the bottom and brown stringy things suspended in the liquid (this is the beneficial yeast ); (9) It has white dots on the surface (that’s a new SCOBY starting to form); (10) There’s sediment in the bottom of my container. With all of these variations, there’s no need to worry. They’re perfectly normal.
  • My SCOBY is fuzzy with blue spots: Ooooh, this is bad news. That’s mold and cannot be salvaged. Throw away the SCOBY and the kombucha. Clean your container thoroughly with soap, water and vinegar. Start over with a new SCOBY. Kombucha Kamp has an excellent page which shows the difference between normal healthy variations in SCOBY appearance and signs of mold.
  • How do I prevent mold? The good news is that mold in kombucha is rare, but there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility: (1) The 1 cup of starter tea you add to every new batch of kombucha is the key to preventing mold from forming; don’t skip this step. (Starter tea is fermented kombucha.) (2) You can add 1 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar to the brew, to enhance its anti-mold power. Don’t use apple cider vinegar, though, because it’s a living food that can take over the SCOBY. (3) Make sure your kombucha isn’t brewing near plants or garbage; both can be mold carriers. (4) Make sure the cloth covering your container is tightly woven; loosely woven cloth (like cheesecloth) is more likely to let in contaminants. (5) Don’t smoke near your kombucha. (6) When you clean your jar between batches, make sure there’s no food or soap residue left behind; both can lead to mold. Rinse very well. (7) Be sure your hands are clean when handling the SCOBY. (8) Is your kombucha brewing in a humid location? This makes it more susceptible to mold. (9) Do you heat the entire gallon of sweet tea when you start a new batch of kombucha? This takes longer to cool and there’s an opportunity for mold/bacteria to be attracted to the sugar during the cooling process. Instead, boil just a quart of water and add your tea and sugar to that. Then, once it has brewed, you can add the remaining quarts of cold water to cool your brew quickly. There’s less waiting time this way, as well. You can get a new batch going in about 20 minutes.
  • My SCOBY is black: Sadly, this means your SCOBY is dead. Dump both the SCOBY and tea, clean your container, and get a new SCOBY to start over.
  • I’m overrun with SCOBYs! This happens quickly, as every batch of kombucha creates a SCOBY baby. After you’ve put a few into a SCOBY hotel and given so many to friends that they run when they see you coming, what do you do? You can throw them away, or compost them, or check this out: you can turn them into art: Jewelry, Puppets, Monet Replicas, Sculpture, and Clothing.

Other Articles in the Kombucha Series

Kombucha Supplies

Update: After writing this series of articles on kombucha, a number of people asked where they could buy quality supplies. Not everyone has a friend to lend them a SCOBY and tutor them through the process. So, I decided to become an affiliate of Kombucha Kamp. Hannah Crum has been brewing kombucha for over a decade and sells everything from quality SCOBYs to continuous brew systems. Whatever you need, she’s got you covered, and she even offers a money-back guarantee.
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This post is linked to the following blog carnivals:
Real Food Friday, Make Your Own Monday, Natural Living Monday, Healthy Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Whole Food Friday, Healing with Food Friday, Simple Meals Friday, Paleo Rodeo,

205 thoughts on “Kombucha: Tips & Troubleshooting

  1. You state that it can’t be made with herbal teas, this is not true. I have made it with herbal tea for many years, using decaf black tea every 3rd 0r 4th batch, as the instructions I was given 30 years ago said. I’ve not had the fizz with herbal teas that I get with Black or green teas when I make it for someone else, which is disappointing but It still works. My favourite is chamomile but have used others. I’m making this comment for those like myself that can’t have caffeine but do want the benefits of kombucha. Other than that your article is very informative and I have learned new things, thank you!

    • Thanks, Carol Ann! I’m glad to know the herbal teas can work, with a black tea “reboot” occasionally. I love how creative people get with this beverage. I do the pre-steep method to decaffeinate mine prior to brewing, which removes 90% of the caffeine, but not 100%.

      • Hi Eileen…I am sensitive to caffeine, so what is the pre-steep method of brewing that removes 90% of the caffeine? I am currently using green tea for my kombucha.

        • I’ve since learned that pre-steeping to remove caffeine is a myth. Kombucha is automatically low caffeine because you only use 6 teabags for 1 full gallon of water (which is 1/2 the amount of caffeine in a normal cup of tea.) If you want it to be 100% caffeine-free, you’ll need to buy your tea already decaffeinated. Look for the label “CO2 method”. (Most tea is decaffeinated in a chemical process that leaves behind toxins. The CO2 method is safe.)

    • I have had some luck with herbal teas in the primary process but where they really shine is in a second fermentation.

  2. Question: I’ve just recently started to make my own kombucha. I couldnt find anyone locally with extra scobys, so I grew my own. I started with brewed green tea, sugar and about 1.5 bottles of GT’s. I live in South Dakota and it has been really cold, so I have my brewing jar on my kitchen counter, wrapped in a cloth to keep sunlight out, and then wrapped in a heating pad on low. It took a few weeks (2?) before I started to see the scoby forming. I now have a really good looking scoby ( I’m at about the 4 -5 week mark). I tasted my kombuca last night, and it is STILL very sweet, however I get a really tingly sensation on my tounge. Do I need to wait longer? Did I wait to long? what can I do to save it? It’s my first batch and I’m kind of attached!!

    • First of all, congratulations on growing your own SCOBY! That’s awesome. The kombucha you used to grow the SCOBY isn’t necessarily meant to be drinkable. So, my recommendation is to use some of it for starter tea for your next batch (which will be your first official batch fermenting with a full SCOBY. That batch should ferment at a normal & faster rate).

  3. In your picture above, what is the spout of your container made out of? plastic? metal? I have a container just like that with a plastic spout, will that harm my kombucha?

  4. My scoby is thin and sank to the bottom so has not gotten thicker but I do have a baby scoby on the top. This is okay? I was told that if the mother doesn’t float back to the top then something is wrong. I use a 50/50 of green and black tea.

    • Hi Stephanie. It’s a myth that a sinking SCOBY is a problem. It can live anywhere in the brew, and as long as a new baby SCOBY is growing on top, it’s proof that you have a healthy, active brew. Congratulations!

  5. I’m referring to the woman who started her own scoby from scratch, Question: What is a ‘bottle of GT’ ?

    • GT is the recommended brand of store-bought kombucha, because it still sells raw, unflavored kombucha. (Most brands are pasteurized and can’t be used to grow SCOBYs.) Here’s a link to instructions on how to grow your own, and here’s a link to the GT bottle you want to buy. (You need to be careful – a lot of the GT line is flavored or pasteurized. You want GT’s original.)

  6. I left my kombucha out fermenting too long. The scobys are fine, but the kombucha is too vinegary to second ferment. Can I make a new batch with the vinegary kombucha as the starter tea, or should I make a new batch, and not let it sit long and use that tea as the starter? Thanks!

    • Try a second ferment anyway, because it can often sweeten the kombucha and make it drinkable again. If you pour it into quart mason jars, try adding a couple of tablespoons of juice to one, and a couple of dates to another. As for your question, yes you can still use it as starter tea (2 cups of it blended with a new batch of sweet tea.) They say that vinegary kombucha makes the best starter, actually.

  7. I am making my second batch with a scoby my friend gave me. The first batch turned out really great, but this second one is doing strange things. I used genmai cha for the tea with sugar and had some starter from the last batch, but the scoby seems to be trying to escape the jar. Maybe it’s gas build-up or something, but is this normal? Do I need to throw it out and start over?

    • The problem is the genma chai. Kombucha should be brewed with plain black, green or white tea. Genma chai has rice added, which is affecting your fermentation. I suggest starting over. The scoby is probably still fine and can be re-used with your new batch; just be sure to brew plain tea with sugar, and use plain kombucha for starter.

      • My scoby (on it’s second batch) is doing the same thing, only I’m using an old and trusted recipe of plain black tea and regular white sugar which has worked fine in the past. Do I need to toss the batch? Or just push the scoby back in?

  8. My mother SCOBY did not have a baby. Is it dead? The Kombucha is fizzy but not too sour and it has been about 8 days. Should I throw that SCOBY out and is it safe to add a SCOBY from another batch to the batch with the sick SCOBY?

    • Is this one of your first batches of kombucha? Sometimes it takes a few batches for the mother to make a baby. It doesn’t mean your SCOBY is sick. It just needs to settle in and mature. I would let your batch brew longer. It’s a good sign that it’s fizzy. It probably just needs more time to ferment to get to the sour stage, and it might make a baby too, if you give it that time. My kombucha usually takes about 15 days to get to the sweet-sour stage that I like. And when I first started brewing, the babies were very thin.

  9. I had some pics of my scoby after 7 days, and I cant tell if it is safe or sick. I was hoping to email them to you for evaluation.
    Scott

    • Hi Scott. Did you read through the troubleshooting section above? There’s a paragraph called “My SCOBY looks funny” which describes all the ways a SCOBY can look odd yet still be normal. And directly below it is a description of mold (fuzzy with blue spots) and a black SCOBY (which means it died). If you still aren’t sure about yours, I’m going to refer you to someone who is a greater expert than me: Hannah at Kombucha Kamp. Here’s a link to her website that shows photos of moldy SCOBYs vs. ones that look strange but are still OK.

  10. I got two scobys from a friend and just bottled my first two batches of kombucha. I see I’m going to probably produce more than I can drink. Is it ok to leave my scobies living in just the 2 cups of starter tea I reserved for the next batches for several days? I think it would be good to wait before I refill the jars and start the next batches.

    • Congratulations on your first batch! Yes, your SCOBYs will keep fine that way. That’s basically a SCOBY hotel. (Described above in the article). Since you’re finding you can’t keep up with the kombucha, though, you could always keep one SCOBY in the hotel (as a backup) and drop back to brewing one batch at a time.

      • Yay, thanks Eileen! I was hoping so but I didn’t want to kill them from neglect (as I’ve been known to do with plants.)

  11. I recently got a Kombucha starter kit from Eva’s Herbucha. The mother cultural is oval shape, smaller than my hand. It’s been brewing for 8 days and there are 3 very thin babies disk formed on top of the jar. 2 sink down to the bottom of a gallon jar. Is it normal for the baby cultural to be so very thin (1 cm thickness)? Is my mother Kombucha too weak or did I do something wrong? How do you know when the Kombucha drink is ready?

    • Hi Pei. Kombucha babies do start out thin and thicken over time. Most people just leave them attached to the mother through many brew cycles, only dividing them when the SCOBY gets to be 4-5 cm thick. The brewing time varies based on the temperature of your home. In hot climates, it might be ready in 8 days, but it usually takes closer to 2 weeks. Since your starter SCOBY was small, it might take even longer – up to 1 month. Do a taste test. It should be mostly sour with a touch of sweet, and be slightly fizzy.

      • P.S. Don’t worry about the sinking SCOBYs. Just leave them in the jar, too. They’re still helping with the fermentation.

  12. Hi Eileen,
    I’m proud to say that I successfully grew my own very healthy scoby but when I started my first batch of tea I encountered a problem. It appears that I have a few very small spots of mold on the surface of my tea. I don’t know what happened because I was so careful and rinsed everything in vinegar after washing with soap including my hands. My scoby sank to the bottom of the jar and is still there so I was hoping that you would tell me that I can salvage the scoby. Thank you in advance!

  13. I’ve been making my own kombucha since Jan 1 this year – drink at least a pint a day. I started my own mother with GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha Original. I flavor for the second fermentation with juiced ginger (1 tsp per pint) and/or 1 T frozen blueberries.
    I make 3 gallons at a time (in 1-gallon pickle jars that I got free from a Mediterranean restaurant). Since it takes all day for 3 gallons of tea to cool from boiling to room temp, to speed things up, I’ve recently started making a tea Concentrate: 1 qt of tea (7 tea bags and 1 C sugar) for each gallon jar, then add 2 1/4 C water for each gal, and the scoby and 2 C kombucha from previous batch. Is there any reason I should be boiling and making tea out of all the water rather than making this concentrate?
    another question: should one use the baby instead of the mother once it’s thick enough or just whichever seems “best”?

    • Hi Karen. Congratulations on growing your SCOBY from scratch! As for your brewing question, the concentrate method is definitely more convenient, which is why my kombucha recipe on the blog uses that method, too. As for the baby/mother question, they are both equally effective at making kombucha. Just keep whatever appears healthiest. You also don’t need to separate the baby from the mother every batch; you can leave them layered. Once they get to be 1-2 inches, it’s time to separate. (Although it’s OK to separate them sooner, too.)

  14. Question: I’m brewing my first batch, but I think I brewed it too hot and I worry that I killed my SCOBY. I used a heating pad and it got too warm; it was at about 100 degrees for about 26 hours. I’ve cooled it down now because I read online that 100 degrees is too hot and will kill the bacteria. How do I know if that’s happened? Should I throw it out and start over? I added about half a bottle of store-bought kombucha from my fridge in an effort to add more bacteria but will it be enough?

    • Hi Kate. It’s good that you caught it fast. If the SCOBY has been hurt, you’ll be able to tell. A SCOBY turns black when it dies. I recommend tossing the liquid and starting a new batch. If your SCOBY looks normal, it should be able to brew your next batch just fine. For future reference, the optimal brewing temp for kombucha is 72-85 degrees. Don’t feel discouraged. We all stumble a little when we first start brewing.

  15. Do you have a favorite tea store or brands? I wanted to get some loose bulk tea and Frontier co-op online seem to have good price for 1 Lb tea. I don’t really know the quality of their tea. There are different variety of black teas: Darjeeling, China Black, Ceylon Black tea. Which one create a light kombucha tea (KT)? I’m also wondering about if you have any experience about taste of KT using China Green Tea vs. Gunpowder Green Tea?

    • Hi Pei. As long as you use an unflavored black, green or white tea, kombucha isn’t picky. It will brew well with any of them. Frontier Co-op is a good company. Another is the Tao of Tea. If you’re looking for a lighter flavored kombucha, choose green over black, and I recommend china green over gunpowder, since the gunpowder has a smoky flavor. Another option is to try the tea blend from Kombucha Kamp; I haven’t tried it myself, but I hear it’s divine. Happy Brewing!

  16. HI i recently got a gift a nice big healthy scoby. when i got home (i live very remote and the nearest store is an hour away by boat) i had nothing to properly keep it in, and put it in a sterilized tub that is about 1.6 litres big. that was 3 days ago. I have found a nice 2 litre jar now and am wondering if i should move it now or wait till the week is up to move it? the tub its in is food grade plastic and i am not super worried about the plastic leaching, i am more worried about the scoby being unhappy. any advice is greatly appreciated and needed asap. btw the scoby is doing fine in there and looks to be doing its job so i am reluctant to move it but i also want it to be in the best environment for long term brewing! thank you in advance!

  17. Hi,
    I am a newbie at brewing Kombucha. I purchased a SCOBY and started my first batch of Kombucha. After a week it noticed that a gelatinous layer had formed on top of the liquid. I removed it, finished the brewing and my first batch was ok and quite good. Now my second batch had done the same thing. 1- Is this gelatinous layer normal? and 2- Should I remove it or leave it until the kombucha is ready?

    • yeah its normal. It creates a new scoby, I leave it until my scoby gets thicker, and the second one is for the most part fully developed. This usually for me happens after the second or third batch. I then peel it apart to split them up and make 2 batches, then 4, etc.

    • Hi Carol-Ann. Like Scott said, it’s totally normal. That is a new SCOBY forming and is a sign you are doing everything right. :-)

      • Thanks Scott and Eileen for that answer, I am relieved. I will not remove it from now on and watch my SCOBY multiply. However, I will add to my first question. I have also, at the same time, had a gelatinous layer floating covering of all the liquid. Unfortunately this second layer developed mold and I had to scrap everything and start from scratch but for future knowledge am I mistaken, on these layers? Are they all part of the SCOBY multiplying process? When it’s time to start another batch, do I keep all the gelatinous layers and add my sweet tea?

        • Usually the gelatinous layer covers the whole liquid. That’s the normal growth pattern for a SCOBY. If you brew in a square jar, if forms a square shape, a wide jar forms a wide SCOBY, a narrow jar forms a small one. Check out this page on Kombucha Kamp’s website. She shows photos of mold and then further down the page photos of SCOBY’s that are mold-free & healthy, but can look a little funny if you’re new to brewing. If you have mold, you need to throw everything away and start over (SCOBY and kombucha). If all you have are gelatinous layers, that’s normal SCOBY growth. As for when to separate, you can let your SCOBY get 2 inches thick before separating. You can also separate sooner. Either way is fine. We’re always tentative when we first start brewing, but kombucha is a pretty foolproof ferment overall. With practice, you’ll gain confidence. One final note: always include some brewed kombucha as starter tea to add to each new batch of sweet tea. That keeps the mold from growing. 1-2 cups starter tea per gallon of sweet tea is the norm.

        • Correct me if im wrong Eileen, please! Carol Ann, are you sure it’s mold? If it turns brown, that’s ok. If its furry, green or blue than that’s a red flag. Toss it for sure.

          Otherwise, the gelatinous layer is just the new scoby coming in. My understanding is you can start a new batch anywhere from 5 days bare minimum to 30. Almost everybody waits at least 7, depends on how sugary or vinegary you want it. Make sure though in your new batch you add some of the liquid with the scoby, as Eileen explained in her reply. Hope that helps.

          • Thanks Scott but yes it was definitely mold of the blue kind. I got rid of the liquid and washed the jar and the SCOBY with lemon juice and started again with new sweet tea and a tbsp of white vinegar as I had nothing else. So far (5 days) it seems to be ok, gelatin forming on the top with no unfriendlies and is starting to smell good.

          • For anyone else following this thread, don’t copy Carol-Ann. With mold, everything should be thrown out, including the SCOBY, and you should never start a new batch of kombucha without at least 1 cup of brewed kombucha as starter tea. That said, sometimes you can break all the rules, and it still works. So hopefully it will for you Carol, but be very careful. The point of kombucha is to introduce beneficial probiotics into the body; you don’t want to be drinking mold. Personally, I wouldn’t take the risk.

  18. i added some added apple cidar vingar along with the stater and scoby for my 2nd brew. do you think itll be ok? in 3 days the top has procedure a white film (im assuming a healthy scoby?) do you think the ACV would drematically affect this batch?

    • Oops. Nope, that’s a mistake. Apple cider vinegar is a fermented product itself and will be competing with the kombucha SCOBY to take over the brew. I would recommend throwing out all the liquid, rinsing the SCOBY, getting a friend to donate 1-2 cups brewed kombucha as starter tea and try again. You can add 1-2 Tbsp. WHITE vinegar to give it a boost, but not any other kind. Sorry. :-( P.S. Throw away the new SCOBY that is forming; it could be an apple cider vinegar mother.

  19. I am noticing that when I bottle up my kombucha for secondary fermentation, it gets nice and fizzy at room temperature. But when I put the kombucha into the fridge, it goes kind of flat, even when I haven’t opened the bottle to let the gas buildup out. Has anyone else had this issue?

    • That’s normal, Ann. The bottled kombucha in the store has carbonation added, which gives us unrealistic expectations for homemade kombucha. The fermentation won’t ever reach the storebought level. If you want to maximize your fizz, take your daily portion out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for 24 hours before drinking it.

  20. hi, im not sure if it was covered here but someone gave me a starter scoby and i have successfully produced a baby (which is now brewing me a new batch) but my question is: my friend told me to store the scoby when not in use in the fridge with a bit of the old kombucha. will that kill it?

    • Congratulations, Crystal! Your friend is right about keeping a backup SCOBY but wrong about storing it in the fridge. Instead, follow the directions for a SCOBY hotel, in the article above. You want to store it at room temperature (in a cupboard or on the counter).

        • If it hasn’t been in there long, it should still be OK. Just take it out and keep an eye on it. If it turns grey or black, let it go. If it stays white or brown, it’s still strong and healthy. By the way, your SCOBY will keep multiplying in the hotel. It’s pretty wild to watch the layers develop over time. Just make sure there’s always some kombucha with it, to keep it moist and healthy.

          • thank you. i really appreciate your time and expertise. this is all very new to me and i am super excited about it!

  21. Hi I am brewing my very first batch of kombucha I was told if it is on the bottom of the jar for 3 days that it has gone bad, the brew smells pleasant and still has another 3 days to go. There is a baby scoby below the mother and something growing off the side of it bit hard to see as tea is rather dark. And there are miniscule white bits in the brew could these be baby scobies?

    • Hi Anneke. That’s a myth that the SCOBY sinking indicates a problem. It’s absolutely fine. A new SCOBY will form on top of the liquid by the time your batch finishes brewing, and yes, it can start out looking like tiny white dots. If a SCOBY turns black, then it’s dead. (A very rare occurrence). Also, just a note – 6 days is usually not long enough to brew a batch of kombucha. Unless your house is very hot (80 degrees or higher), the typical brew time is 2 weeks.

    • Hi Joyce. As long as you follow these tips, you should be fine. I’ve found that kombucha is one of the easiest ferments to do! Thanks for inviting me to your blog hop. I’ll definitely link up.

  22. Since I started making kombucha from a friend’s SCOBY before I read this article, I’d actually read on another website that using raw, apple cider vinegar was ok. Since she didn’t give me any starter tea with the SCOBYS, I used apple cider vinegar per the amount recommended on another website. Everything looks normal in my containers right now, but I see where you said that this will create an apple cider vinegar SCOBY because it will compete (and from your info, win in the competition to eat the necessary sugars and ferment properly) with the Kombucha SCOBY. Why would someone who makes kombucha on a regular basis recommend using ACV, and is Kombucha with a SCOBY turned to a supposed ACV SCOBY unhealthy, nasty, dangerous, no longer considered Kombucha, doesn’t have the same benefits, etc? I’ve made huge batches, and I’d hate to throw them out, but if they’re not going to be healthy or beneficial, obviously I will. Can you give some more well-researched insight into this please? Also, I have jars (Mason jars, jelly jars, and pasta sauce jars) that I’ve saved over time and cleaned. Are these safe to pour my finished Kombucha in for me to drink it later? They all have metal lids. Does that make a difference? Thanks for your wisdom and insight.

    • Hi Monica. It’s frustrating when you get conflicting advice, isn’t it? First of all, don’t worry. Both ACV and Kombucha are healing foods, so if you’re drinking a blend of the two, you’re not hurting yourself at all. However, they’re also both living foods, so if you ferment them together, there’s no way of knowing which will take over. That’s why it’s recommended to keep ACV out of the mix. Here’s a link to an article that shows photos of an ACV SCOBY. You can see it looks a lot like a Kombucha SCOBY, which would make it hard to know which you now have: http://mossgrownstone.wordpress.com/tag/apple-juice. If I were you, I would enjoy drinking the batches you already made, but I would get a new SCOBY from someone who brews kombucha without any ACV added, and start your next batch with kombucha-only for starter tea. That way, going forward, you’ll know you’re drinking 100% kombucha. If you’re ever in a position of not having starter tea, you can often buy raw, plain kombucha from the health food store. If you don’t trust your SCOBY source, you can buy one packaged with starter tea online. As for your last question about the metal lids, over time kombucha can corrode the metal and cause the brew to taste metallic. That’s why plastic lids are best, but I think that would take a long time to happen, and there’s no reason not to reuse your jars until then.

      • Thank you so much, Eileen. So you do think it’s safe to drink what I have now, and as a probiotic as well? Yes, I will use what I have then, and get a new SCOBY from the friend that gave me the ones I have now. Thanks for the links as well.

  23. My kombucha comes out thick like egg whites. What am I doing wrong? I brew in a glass jar, covered, organic oolong tea, organic turbinado sugar….

    • It’s probably the turbinado sugar. That has molasses in it, and kombucha is designed to brew with white sugar. You can use organic evaporated cane juice, if you’re uncomfortable using conventional white sugar.

      • Thanks for your reply! I switched to evaporated cane sugar. By conventional sugar do you mean it does not have to be organic?

        • I use organic tea and organic evaporated cane juice, as a personal choice. But other people use conventional tea and white sugar, and the kombucha thrives either way.

  24. Pingback: Allergy-Free Wednesdays Blog Hop: Carrot Cake Cupcakes | Gluten Free Pantry

  25. Thanks for the great research and the time you are putting into all your answers. Very grateful! I’m super excited to begin brewing kombucha. I was messing around with a bottle of coconut water kombucha I bought and the sales person said you can use this to make your own. So I just added to fresh coconut waters to about half a cup of the store bought. It worked like a charm and was growing like nuts and got fizzy. Then 2-3 batches later it’s not so fizzy. Hence my research and finding this great website! So questions: can you make kombucha with coconut water? If I do use coconut water I’m presuming I don’t need tea or sugar. What would you say? I’m guessing I should have made a scoby mother from the source bottle rather than just brews, would you agree? Thanks for your wisdom!

    • Hi Bianca. Kombucha requires tea and sugar. I’m guessing the bottle you bought was brewed kombucha combined with coconut water after it was brewed. If you want to do that at home, brew kombucha like normal (with tea and sugar) and then add some coconut water for the second ferment. Check out my recipe for details on what you need for both steps.

  26. Love kombucha; been brewing it for a few years. I have had 1 batch with mold and had to get rid of it. Right now I have an interesting problem. I heated the water and sugar in a pot that had a burned smell and now the kombucha also smells and tastes burnt. So I had to dump that and use a scoby from my kombucha hotel.

  27. Pingback: Kombucha Recipe - How To Make It and The Benefits

  28. Hi there,
    Some helpful information here, thank you.
    However, I am confused about the sugar. You say raw sugars are too difficult for the SCOBY to ‘digest’, right after saying evaporated cane juice is the next best thing for it. Evaporated cane sugar would be the least refined ‘sugar’ and therefore the most ‘raw’. So how can this be better than ‘processed’ raw sugar?
    Also, evaporated cane sugar will have a different amount of available, fermentable sugar, so do you adjust the amount (would be more) you feed the SCOBY, or measure same as if you used refined sugar?
    I am coming from fermenting drinks using yeasts, and I know they can be very fussy about type and how much sugar; but I get the feeling this is a bit more like just adjust to one’s taste? But I don’t want to kill my SCOBY either :-)
    Thank you,
    Gemma.

    • Hi Gemma. Organic evaporated cane juice is simply organic refined sugar. It’s very similar to white sugar, which is why the SCOBY digests it just as easily. There’s no need to adjust the amount. Here’s an article: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/18/163098211/evaporated-cane-juice-sugar-in-disguise . Raw sugar = larger crystals that are sticky due to the additional molasses they contain, and that can interfere with the kombucha brewing process. However, if you want to experiment with different sugars, just keep a backup SCOBY, in case you damage the original. Some people have had success with other sugars, but many don’t. That’s why white sugar and evaporated cane juice are the recommended ones.

  29. Hi, What a great source this is! My question is can I add more starter to a batch that has just started to brew. It’s been about 4 days since I started my first batch. my friend that gave me the Scooby also gave me about 1/2 cup of starter. I’m making a two gallon container so I realize now it wasn’t enough starter. thanks!

  30. I left in the refrigerator a gallon of Kombucha tea with the scoby in it for 2 years…today I looked at it the Scoby is about 4 inches thick and about 1/2 inch of creamy white Scoby on top the rest is brown. I purchased 1 pound of Schizandra berries…and I do not like the taste as a tea…today I mixed the Kombucha with Schizandra tea and I was amazed I cannot taste the Schizandra at all, I used honey to sweeten it, now I cannot stop drinking it. My question is that the tea is nice and clear but I am sure is like vinegar by now…can the scoby be saved if I can remove the brown one underneat?

  31. Today is my fourth day of my first batch of kombucha and my SCOBY keeps floating to the top, suctioning to the rim of the jar, and rising above the tea (I guess from the carbonation?). I’ve already pushed it back into the tea twice. Is this normal? I got the SCOBY from my mom and hers always sinks.

  32. How long can it take to dry out (dehydrate) my scoby. I am overrun with them, but don’t wants to simply throw them out. I’m just looking for a guess on how long.

  33. I start my new kombucha batch with a thick healthy scoby. After two batches, the baby scoby came out very thin. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I followed the steps to make the kombucha batch.

    • You’re not doing anything wrong. New babies always start out thin and in spite of that can still brew a good kombucha. The thick SCOBY you received was likely many layers of babies naturally fused together. That will happen for you, too, over time.

  34. Hi there… thanks for the webpage and advises. I was given a couple mothers. small in sizes that I introduced to a large glass container. The tea was still very sweet after a month and I decided to add new tea thinking that most energy went into growing the mother’s size to fit the glass container. So my question is: Even when the tea is sweet, bottling it may still create carbonation and most importantly, does it offer any medicinal properties? Thank you very much :) Keep up the great site and work!

    • Hi Romain. If your brew doesn’t have a sour tang, it’s not done fermenting yet and it lacks the beneficial acids that make kombucha so great. Is it in a warm location? Kombucha thrives between 72-85 degrees, and winter can really interfere with successful brewing. I have mine on a seedling mat heating pad, inside a cooler, to achieve that temperature. Kombucha Kamp also sells heating systems designed to keep a perfect brewing temperature. Other problems might be weak tea, too much sugar added, not enough starter tea (brewed kombucha added to every batch), etc. If you haven’t doublechecked your method against my recipe, I recommend it.

      • I used 4Liters of water, 8 tea bags sitting for 10 minutes max, 1.5 cups of sugar, 1.5 cups of Starter tea + Mother. The mothers had to go from 16 OZ Jars to 8L Glass containers and they smelled like vinegar but still very sweet. I bottled without moving the mother and leaving almost a third of the tea. I then readded the same amount to both of my containers… a total of 2 container each containing 4L of brewing ‘butch. Now I have them on a table that sits on top of the heater and heat doesn’t exceed 80F but doesn’t go below that either. The mothers are very healthy and getting thicker by the day now… I read a little more on this and you are right, it needs to mature (the mothers I mean). The picture above on top of this page shows a container that is perhaps the exact same one I am using. Thanks a lot!… For the sake of not introducing contaminants to my brews, I will not put the bottled ‘butch back in and will let them carbonate as much as they can after maybe 4 days of sitting out, until fridged. My guess is, three weeks form now the mothers will focus on creating a little one as they have maximized their space a bio capacity.

        • I see the problem: you’re using too much sugar. You only need 1 cup of sugar for 4 liters of tea. Otherwise, everything you’re doing is perfect. Make that change, and you’ll get the sour taste kombucha is famous for!

          • Nice :) Thanks for looking into it. I cut back to 1 cup. I could always add more in case… So I brewed my first batch for over 28 days… it did get a little sour after two days bottled and sitting out in the kitchen table… way less sweet.. even after adding Pomegranate juice to it so that makes me happy. Carbonation looks pretty good too. Instead of taking the Mothers out I figured I could just do the ‘continuous brewing’ in those big jars… leaving some tea everytime and just refilling… What’s your opinion on that? I absolutely love the color of the Tea and everyday I project a ‘good intention’ to both mothers.. I found that in growing mushrooms, contamination was less likely to occur when my intentions were very positive… have a great week Eileen :)

  35. Hi there, I have left my scoby in the couple of cups the brew for just over 2 months now, 2 of the hottest months of the year, and a heatwave, the mother looks dark but not mouldy, I was wondering if I should rinse the mother but decided to just put the tea in and see how it goes…

    • Proceed cautiously. SCOBY’s are sturdy, so it might be fine, or it might have been damaged by the heat. A damaged SCOBY will have difficulty brewing good kombucha. If you’ve brewed kombucha before, you should be able to tell by taste and appearance whether all is well, or whether it would be better to get a new SCOBY.

  36. I am awaiting my first scoby to come in the mail. I tried to grow my own a while back using two bottles of GT but was not successful. After reading your articles I’m thinking the mistake I made was putting the bottle in a cabinet. I left it there and after a few weeks there was still nothing. I forgot about it and was cleaning the house two months later and still nothing. I figured it was time to get rid of it. I plan on letting this one ferment in one of my walk in closets upstairs as it is always warm up there and the door stays open. I’m a little concerned for mold because I live in a very very humid environment. I’ve seen mold grow on water in my house in a short period of time. Hopefully the acidity will protect it.

    Anyway my question is about scoby hotels. When I get to the point of needing one do you seal the hotel or should I put a cloth over the top just like in brewing? I wouldn’t want them to run out of air. Also if I put a sealed lid on it do I run a risk of the hotel exploding?

    I certainly want to make the hotel so I have back up scobys and once I have enough I want to experiment with coffee. I read an article on another site that said you could use coffee however due to the oils in the coffee the scoby and the baby both cannot be reused. It also said to watch the kombucha very carefully as well as the oils can go rancid. I’ve had coffee beans go rancid (for regular coffee) before and it was not something I would ever want to repeat drinking.

    • If you use a tight lid on your SCOBY hotel, the liquid won’t evaporate as quickly. If you use a cloth lid, it will keep making new SCOBYs, but you’ll have to continue to add more kombucha semi-regularly. They don’t need air, because they’re not actively brewing. A SCOBY hotel is like a safe place for them to sleep until you need them again. I use a tight lid, and have never had a fermentation explosion, so I think something about the SCOBYs being in the kombucha prevent that from happening. Also SCOBY hotels are usually kept in cool, dark places that slow down fermentation. Here are 2 videos showing you the different kinds of SCOBY hotels.

  37. I’m trying to grow my own scoby from GT’s original raw brew. I started with a bootle of GT’s and added 1 cup cooled, black tea with 2 tablespoons of sugar. My house is around 70 degrees and I put my loosely covered mason jar in a cabinet where there is a little heat from a fluorescent light underneath. I don’t see a scoby growing, only white, stringy spots on top and sediment in the bottom. Shouldn’t my scoby be formed by now? Should I throw it out and start over?

    • Hi Anna. The white spots are the start of a SCOBY, and it takes a long time to grow one from scratch. I do recommend making a few changes to help you along: (1) Get it out of the cabinet. A SCOBY needs to breathe when it’s in its active state, and putting it in a cabinet starves it of oxygen. If you have room on the top of your fridge instead, that’s a good place, because it’s in the open air, while also being a warm spot. (2) When you say loosely covered, are you using tightly woven cloth with a rubber band or simply a loose jar top? You want the tightly woven cloth – it needs to protect against other organisms and bugs getting into your brew, while still letting your SCOBY breathe.

      • Eileen-
        Thanks for your quick reply! Yes, I’m using a woven cloth that is gathered with elastic so that it fits tightly on the jar and I moved it to the top of the frig.

        I’m so glad I found your website because I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and I’ve been making some lifestyle changes. I’ve eaten pretty healthy over the past few years, but since being diagnosed, I’m really trying to reclaim my health.

        I’ve been making kefir for a while now, so I’m venturing out into more fermented foods.

        Thanks again for your help!

  38. My friend and I started our first kombucha batch 4 days ago with a SCOBY that had been in a hotel for quite some time (6 months or so). It was large, multilayered, but otherwise looked ok. Since it was so large, we ripped it into a smaller size, but still large enough for our half gallon batch. We used apple cider vinegar for the starter because we did not have anything else on hand. It’s been in a room around 71-73 degrees, and is fairly clear with lots of brownish flakes that have settled to the bottom. I got a bit anxious today with the slow results and added the last quarter cup of my store bought kombucha (GT’s) to it with the hopes that it would help. I didn’t think about how it was a flavored/pasteurized variety until now. Do you think there’s any chance we will get a new baby SCOBY? Perhaps we should start a new batch with more of the original SCOBY? Can we take the SCOBY out of our batch that’s been brewing for 4 days and use it to start a new batch with a better starter? Any advice is super appreciated, thank you Eileen!

    • Honestly, I would start over. Throw away everything from your recent batch. Use 1/2 cup of raw plain kombucha for your starter (not ACV) and a fresh SCOBY piece.

      • Thanks for the advice, as I’m sure it seemed not worth my time, but I decided to stick with it just for fun.

        I also moved it on top of my water heater furnace, and it has drastically changed as of 2 days ago. There is now a visible film on top. It’s light brown/gray/white in color, with an uneven thickness/spotty, but is nearly 1/8 inch thick in one spot already. Could this be the new SCOBY forming?

        • Given how you started, it’s impossible to know. It could be a kombucha baby, it could be an ACV baby, or it could be something else.

  39. Hi! Thanks for all of the great information! My question for you is how do you know if there is any alcohol in the batch that you brew? I understand there may be some, like 0.5%, but how do you stop the kombucha from making any alcohol in it? I am in recovery and don’t want to find out that I am making something that’s going to get me buzzed when I drink it! Also, I noticed when drinking this 1st batch that I made, it burns my throat a little. Am I burning my esophagus like apple cider vinegar can do? Thanks so much for your help!
    Amy

    • Hi Amy. Alcohol is a byproduct of the sugar fermentation process, so I don’t think you can make kombucha that’s 100% alcohol-free. That said, home brews usually contain a miniscule amount. Storebought raw kombucha is often higher because the fermentation continues in the bottles, and the bottles often take years between the time they’re sealed and sold. You might do better with salt-based ferments – like sauerkraut – if you’re trying to avoid alcohol altogether. As for the esophagus, I have never heard of esophageal burns with kombucha.

  40. I love your site- Thankyou for your time and efforts on our behalf-
    I have three Kombutcha Questions-

    First Q: I have been wanting to do a black tea/ Yerba Mate brew. Do you have a recipie and any experience or resources I can glean from?

    Second Q: I have been flavoring my second fermentation with R.W. Knudsen Organic Concord Grape, juice from concentrate, 100% juice no sugar added, I purchased from the health food store. Does a pasteurized juice harm or inhibit the beneficial cultures in the Kombutcha?

    Third Q: Ive read about using decaffeinated tea. Does the scoby need caffeine to stay healthy? Does decaf effect the taste?

    • Hi Dawn. Some people have success brewing a combination of black tea and other teas, while others find their SCOBY suffers. So, just be sure you have a backup SCOBY in case something goes wrong, and have fun experimenting. As for your juice question, it won’t harm the second fermentation of your kombucha at all. Last Q: a number of readers say they successfully brew kombucha with decaffeinated tea. Just be careful about the type of decaf tea you buy. Most tea is decaffeinated in a chemical process that leaves behind toxins. Look for the label “CO2 method”. (The CO2 method is safe.)

      • Thank you for your reply. Yes I am having fun! My most recent amazing flavor that I’m in love with is, 1 tsp homemade jalapeño jelly. Compliments the slight Vinegar flavor. Yummm

  41. Hello,
    I have been making my own kombucha for almost a year now. After I bottle it in airtight bottles it grows a brown stringy gooey culture at the top. As I’m sure it is harmless and probably normal, I would like it to look more like the store bought now as I have friends and family asking me for some but it is the one thing they are not used to after buying the store bought. Please help! Jenn

    • Kombucha in the store is pasteurized, whereas yours is alive and full of probiotic goodness. The culture is proof of that, so be proud and use it as an opportunity to educate your friends. When you serve it (or they do), just strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a glass, to make it more palatable.

  42. My scoby has a tea leaf in it! I noticed this morning when I went to put more tea solution in the crock! It’s just one small leaf piece. Is this going to hurt it??

  43. I’m new to kumbucha but I am fortunate to have a customer give me a starter scoby. First few batches have turned out great but I have one question. Is it expected to have baby scobys in each finished bottle? I don’t like getting a mouthful of scoby! It feels like a jellyfish in my mouth. I check my bottles and usually there is nothing visible but a few sips in, there it is! Jellyfish mouth! Is this just part of kumbucha? Thanks!

  44. Pingback: Kombucha Recipe- Jen's Easiest Process (New Deli Style) | Grateful Table

  45. I left a bit of kombucha with the mother in a jar for many months. I just went to drain it to start over and there was blue mold on top of the mother scoby which was floating on the top. But there are two babies underneath. Are the babies useless now too?

  46. Hi there! Thanks for this its super helpful!

    I have a question. do you think a kombucha brewing jar will ferment twice as fast if it has two scobies in it? Like 3-4 days rather than normal 7 days? :)

    Ideas welcome though I shall test in any case.

  47. Eileen- first, thank you for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions- it’s appreciated, and we take in a lot of knowledge based on others’ experiences.

    I just brewed my first batch with a scoby and starter tea donated from a friend. I followed the standard recipe (and did not use any vinegar of any type). After letting it ferment for 28 days, it was quite piquant (which is how I like it!). However, is it at all possible that the socby and/or the tea turned to vinegar, of any type? I’ve drank storebought but only homemade once or twice, and it certainly didn’t ferment as long as mine did, so it’s hard for me to know by taste. I didn’t sample along the way so not sure how long it had been since all the sugar had been consumed. Is it safe to continue brewing with the original scoby and it’s baby along with starter from the batch?

    Thank you!

    • I think a 28 day brew is essentially kombucha vinegar. It’s not a matter of cross-contamination. Acetic acid is part of every batch of kombucha, including shorter semi-sweet fermentations. It’s just a higher concentration the longer you brew, and acetic acid is the primary component in vinegar, which is what gave it that familiar flavor. It’s all good! It’s perfectly safe to continue brewing with the SCOBY and starter. In fact, long brews like that strengthen your SCOBY.

  48. The Second time I made my Kombucha, I made a mistake and put in 2 cups of sugar, it’s been a week and it is still sweet. is it going to take longer to get sour?
    thank you for all the information you’ve posted.

    • Hmmmm. Interesting question. It makes sense that it would take longer to get sour, just because that’s a lot more sugar to convert. However, if it was me, I would start over with a new batch of kombucha (use the same SCOBY but dump the sugary brew). My reasoning is that the double-dose of sugar is going to shift the probiotics created during fermentation, not necessarily in a good way. My guess is that the extra sugar will create a yeast-dominant brew. However, I’m just guessing here. I’ve never personally tested doubling the sugar.

  49. Hi. I just finished my first ever batch of Kombucha. I bought a scoby from a woman through Craigslist a week ago. Everything seemed fine, but after only 6 days, it’s already extremely sour, almost like vinegar. I’ve removed the scoby, reserved some of the sour tea for the next batch, and have added honey, sugar, water and apple juice to the rest of it hoping to re-ferment it and have it be drinkable. If I lose that batch, it’s no big deal, but what I’m really hoping is that my scoby is OK (paid $10 for it and don’t want to lose it if possible). I’m going to start another batch and see how it goes, but I was wondering if this has ever happened to anyone here (too sour after only 6 days) and what the reasons may be (not enough sugar? the fact that I live in Hawaii and it’s warm here? or…?).
    If you have any insight, I would definitely appreciate it. Thank you so much!

    - Geoff

    • Warmth does speed up the brew time. The diameter of the container makes a difference, too. Wide containers brew quickly, narrow containers brew more slowly. To slow down the brew time (which is better not just for palatability but for a more balanced brew in terms of probiotics), move it to the coolest location in your house, and transfer it to a narrower jar if you can.

      • Hi Eileen. Thank you so much for the quick response. I’ll try a narrower jar this next round and see if that does it. As for cool spots, there aren’t many, so I’ll just plan on a shorter brew time. Thanks so much again!

        - Geoff

  50. How long does Kombucha last stored in cool to cold in sealed flip top bottles, once it is brewed?
    How long do scobies last in sugar tea? I’ve had some stored for about 10 months in my pantry. They look fine and healthy and I want to start brewing again.

    • Hi Rick. I recommend refrigerating your bottles after brewing. Otherwise they’ll keep fermenting, increasing the alcohol content, and if left long enough, the bottles might explode. They’ll keep in the refrigerator a very long time – often years. As for the SCOBY being left in sweet tea, the way you describe it is a storage method called a SCOBY hotel. That keeps them healthy indefinitely, so long as there’s always some tea in there (which by now has converted to kombucha). As long as there’s no sign of mold or other contamination, go ahead and use them. I have a hotel like that on my kitchen counter, with healhty SCOBYs that have been in there for over a year.

  51. I’ve been drinking store-bought kombucha for months now but I am brand new to brewing it myself. I’ve made a SCOBY from a store-bought bottle since I know of no one who had one to share with me, and I’ve made ,my first batch and am moving on to my second. My question is concerning the first batch. I’ve already bottled it and am on my 3rd day of second ferment, but before bottling and still now, it tastes alcoholic. Not largely so, but some. I’m wondering if it would be OK to put the bottles back out on the counter to ferment a little longer (though there’s no scoby in it anymore) so the bacteria can eat the alcohol sugars to make it more vinegary/kombucha-y, or if it’s too late for that, having been in the fridge, and just enjoy it as kombucha wine?

    • Actually, the longer it ferments, the more alcohol it will contain (not less). My guess is that you’re just not used to the taste of homemade kombucha, and are associating its unusual flavor with alcohol, when that’s not actually the source of that flavor. Home brews rarely contain more than 1% alcohol.

      • That is interesting.. I did end up setting it out on the counter for 2 more days just to see and the alcoholic flavor did go down. It didn’t taste very good though.. I’m still working on getting my flavoring ratios right lol. Glad to say, though, that I just had my second batch yesterday finally and it was great! I had let my added flavors sit in it for 3 days and when I tasted it last night it was awesome! Very, very lemony, but still awesome! I think I’m getting the hang of the brewing part, if only I could get my flavors right! I don’t really follow recipes… experimenting is more fun ;) I grew 2 really small blobby jelly babies in the second batch and they are now chilling out in their brand new SCOBY hotel. Will they continue to grow in there, or should I use them to brew, along with the bigger ones, and then store them once they’ve grown more? Not sure if they’re big enough to replace my bigger ones if anything happened to them…

        • You’ll be a kombucha expert in no time. Your babies will grow in the hotel. I leave my hotel on my counter and pretty much forget about it. I glance at it once in a while, just to be sure there’s still kombucha liquid keeping it moist. It’s now thick with SCOBYs. I need to start foisting them on my friends!

  52. I forgot to wash my jar out for my new batch of kombucha. I got busy, left the mushroom and starter in the bottom of the jar and left it there for a day and a half. (Never done that before, I always refrigerate the scoby if I’m not able to get to it right away.) Then, I without thinking dumped the new tea/sugar mixture in the jar and realized I hadn’t washed it and the scoby sat all that time at room temp. Should I pitch the whole thing? Think this once it’s okay? Thanks!

    • I think it should be fine. Keep a close eye on it for any unusual signs. You’re actually not supposed to refrigerate SCOBYs anyway, because it makes them more prone to mold. The way to store a SCOBY between batches is at room temperature with enough liquid to keep it moist. It’s called a SCOBY hotel. As long as yours didn’t dry out, it should be okay.

      • Hi! I’m on my first attempt at brewing kombucha. I received my mother and starter from a trusted friend’s hotel. I put my kombucha in a (very well cleaned) old apple cider gallon glass jar and just slid the scoby in with clean hands. It’s doing great (yay!) and I just poured the kombucha into smaller plastic bottles for the second ferment/carbonation (i used peaches and ginger – about 1 T total). As is typical with gallon jars like that, it has a very wide body and a small ‘mouth.’ As such, my baby scoby is very large around and my mother is smaller, like a typical mason jar. They are attached and the baby is still pretty thin but is visibly healthy (bubbling, etc). I am ready to make a new batch of tea and start again. I have left the scoby and about 1.5 cups of tea in the gallon jar. However, I’m concerned about pouring out my scoby to clean the jar and then trying to get it back in. I know scobies are hardy, but I’m more worried about the size. Can I just brew another gallon of tea and add it into the jar with the existing scoby and liquid without cleaning it? How should I get it out of the jar when it’s thick enough for me to start saving babies and making a hotel? It’s definitely too big to go in mason jars… but I could probably cut it in half like you mention above. I’m just not sure what the next step is. Since my scoby is doing so well right now I don’t want to do anything to mess it up in my second batch but I also want to be sure to clean my jar and set myself up for saving future scoby babies. Thanks in advance for your help!

        • I don’t wash my jar every time myself, but rather once every few batches. At that point, you’ll have to experiment to see how to get your SCOBY out of the jar – tongs, maybe? Although people have cut SCOBYs into smaller pieces, I don’t recommend it. It’s OK if the SCOBYs bend or fold a little bit in a SCOBY hotel. Enjoy your first batch of kombucha! Peach ginger sounds delicious.

  53. My kombucha has been invaded by a few fruit flies. What can and should I do, to resolve this. Cant seem to find much information online regarding this.
    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Respectfully,
    Scott

    • Oh, what a drag! The cloth covering your jar must be too porous. It needs to be cloth, so it can breathe, but closely woven enough that fruit flies can’t get in. Cheesecloth isn’t recommended. I use pieces of old flannel sheets or T-shirts. You can also buy a cover online. Unfortunately, if you have fruit flies in your jar, you have to throw everything away and start over, because they will have laid eggs already. Wash the jar thoroughly with soap, hot water and white vinegar, and start with a new SCOBY and starter tea.

      • I was using super thin holed tea bags (you can’t even see the holes, they are so minuscule), but because I have to use two of them to fill the mason jar, it sometimes created an opening. I had a long run with my kombucha, I was up to 14 mason jars, and it started to become too time consuming, along with being busy working, that I became neglectful (letting the batches go for a month or more).
        Some of the mason jars were effected with fruit flies others weren’t, so I would toss the ones that became a nuisance with several flies (maybe 5 – 10), but eventually they made their rounds to all the jars, and after leaving my scobys in for too long, they really started to smell a bit rancid and vinegary (not sure if this is a sign of Scobies going bad?). They still looked fine, no mold or any other signs, based on my limited knowledge, seemed to be an issue.

        I finally gave up on all of them though, thanks to your reply, and have to agree with you, once this happens there is not really anything you can do to mend it. It was a good run for almost two years.

        Thanks again Eileen for your time and help. Know that it is very much appreciated. We shall see if I attempt to start over, but its hard enough sometimes to take care of myself. This is why I refuse to have pets and try not to be responsible for anybody or anything else.

  54. Great article! Thank you for sharing all of this. I recently started brewing kombucha and have a question about the baby scobies forming. My first baby that grew from my starter was a nice sized thicker pancake but the second two babies have been very thin and have just attached to the thicker one. They are large in diameter but very thin…even after 2 weeks. Is this normal or should all baby scobies grow to be thick pancakes?

    • That’s perfectly normal Kate. It’s actually more unusual for your first baby to have been that thick. Usually they thicken over many batches.

      • Thank you for getting back with me! So, you’re saying that future babies will be thicker over time? Just as the brew gets stronger? From everywhere else I am reading I seem to find that most people get thick babies and thin ones are signs that the brew is too weak. I’m glad to hear this can be normal. I think I read that they should be 1/4 inch thick but mine are definitely nowhere near that size!

        • My first scoby pancake was really small in comparison to the mother Scoby. yes they will grow over time. It also can depend on how long you let your batch go for, so the longer it goes the more time your scoby has to grow. There is good info on the different varied lengths and how you’re kombucha fluid is effected. You’re totally fine. Eileen is extremely knowledgable and resourceful. We are very lucky to have her as a teacher.
          Thankyou Eileen!

          • Thank you, Scott! And thank you, Eileen, too! I was surprised my first scoby was so big, especially considering I used just a tiny piece of a mother scoby. I didn’t realize that may not be as best as using a large scoby to start…but it seems to be brewing okay.

      • Hi again! Okay, I took a picture of my first scoby and my last few and wanted to post it on here but it won’t seem to let me. May I email it to you to see what you think? I just want to confirm everything is brewing okay. Thank you!

        • Hi Kate. Check out these pictures on Kombucha Kamp’s website. The ones at the top of the page show mold (bad). The ones at the bottom of the page show all the ways SCOBYs can look funny and still be perfectly healthy. I think you’ll find it reassuring.

  55. I made a wonderful first batch of Kombucha but then, as life got crazy, I never made a 2nd batch so my scobi (now with about 5 thick babies) has been sitting for about 3 months (covered with cloth at room temp) in about 1 cup or so of Komb. My question is…can I still use that to make more or has it been too long and now this Komb starter liquid would be too strong/over fermented for the next batch to taste right?? Thanks so much for any input!!! Also, is it normal for the scobi babies to be white in color versus tan/brown??

    • That’s totally fine. It’s actually called a SCOBY hotel, and your SCOBYs should be fine to use. As for the starter being “too strong” that’s not really possible. The stronger it is, the better it works. As for color, SCOBYs start out white and only get brown as they absorb the color of the tea, so it’s normal for the top layers to be white, since they’re above the tea line. Happy brewing!

  56. I just read on your site that you can’t make kombucha with just herbal tea bags. Unfortunately, I read this after I have had my SCOBY sitting for almost 7 days in Celestial Herbal Lemon Zinger tea. Is there any way to salvage this batch? Will it harm my SCOBY? Thanks!

  57. Hi, Eileen.

    I’ve had trouble with my last two batches. The SCOBYs in the hotel are fine, but then the kombucha brew turns moldy, no mistaking it. Gray-green hairy mold. Blech! I’ve never had that problem before, but we’ve moved and I changed where I kept the brewing vessel and hotel. They’re both in a cupboard to keep them away from strong sunlight. Reading your do’s and don’t's, you mention that they need good airflow, and a cupboard is bad. I’m perplexed as to why the hotel is fine but the brew molds, in the same environment. Those last two batches also didn’t get vinegary smelling at all. They smelled like sweet tea even after a week, using some of the hotel liquid to get it started. I’ve got tea cooling right now for a third batch. If this one molds, what would you suggest?

    • The hotel and an active brew are quite different. An active brew has a lot of sugar (which attracts mold if given the opportunity.) The hotel is essentially pure kombucha vinegar, which repels mold. Find a spot outside the cabinet for your active brew. It sounds like you’re starting with a fresh SCOBY each time (which is good), and I’m assuming that you clean the vessel really well and sterilize it with white vinegar before adding the new brew (to get rid of any mold). You’ll want to throw away whatever permeable cover you’ve been using and choose a new, clean one. Lastly, you’ve already guessed it, but you’ll want to get your active brew out of the cabinet, and ideally in a different room altogether since there is obviously a source of mold somewhere near that cabinet. Good luck, Shirley. I hope you can brew kombucha happily in your new home.

  58. Hi there,
    I made mine with too weak of tea. I used half of what I was supposed to. Could it be unsafe to drink or would that affect future batches too? I’m worried now about the PH balance and don’t have any PH strips. I’m not sure what I should do — this is my first time brewing. Hoping for some guidance as I haven’t been able to find any information on this.

  59. i drank some of my new kombucha before ready. Is it unhealthy?
    now i am very bloated and my stomach is sore. was my scoby not good? am i reacting to the whole thing?
    i had previously some store bought kombucha without ant problem

    • Kombucha that’s not fully brewed isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but it is high in sugar. How much did you drink?

  60. I got a new 2 gallon glass jug with a spout and tried to brew my first batch of kombucha in it with healthy scobies. There are copper metallic flakes in the brew- do you know what they are?? I noticed that when I heated the water in the hot pot, some of that white stuff that forms in it (I think it’s calcium carbonate) went into the brew. Could that have done it? Have you ever heard of this? I’m not sure if I need to throw everything away and start over or if this is ok. thanks!!

    • That doesn’t sound good Julie. It almost sounds like rust. I imagine it’s either from your pot or your brewing container, but it’s not something I would want to consume.

    • Is the spout metal? Kombucha gets pretty acidic and can corrode metal. The metal also dissolves into the brew fouling it. Flakes could quite possibly come from a degrading metallic coating either over plastic or over another metal.

      In any event is is definitely not something you want in the batch. I would pull the scoby in hopes of saving it and dump the brew but that’s just me.

  61. Hey! I apologise if you’ve already covered this in the previous posts, i read most of them.

    I’ve brewed using a friend’s scobi and tea base, but I used organic panella (unrefined cane sugar) as food for it.

    After a week (in a pretty cool climate) i had at least 2 more healthy looking scobis, but there seemed to be a folded-up sludgy dead scobi in the bottom. Do I need to ditch it all, given that there are several healthy looking ones in there?

    Thanks, Seb.

    • Are you sure that SCOBY is dead? Sometimes SCOBYs fold or sink, and that’s not a sign of distress. They can actually still ferment the brew from that position. A dead SCOBY turns completely black. As long as your SCOBYs all look normal, your brew is fine. If that one is indeed black, then I would throw it all away and start over.

  62. Hiya,
    I was wondering if you can help I’m newish to Kombucha have done 2 brews and decided to start up a second batch with the new scoby. This one however is looking very odd, it doesn’t appear to have mold on it but it is very very bumpy and looks nothing like the other scobys, nothing! Could I send you a photo and get your feedback on whether this has gone bad and needs to be discarded please? :-)
    Thank you so much for your time.

  63. Oh no! I think my Scoby is dead! I ordered it on amazon and it looked “okay” for a scoby but when I started my brew it now has black fuzz on top of it. I guess I need to pitch my brew and find a new scoby. UGH!

      • Thanks! I actually read about your recommendation for Kombucha Kamp. Unfortunately I had already bought my SCOBY and started my brew before I found you blog. I have suscribed to their page, I’m reading her ebook and will buy a SCOBY from her. Thanks so much for the work you do! If I hadn’t read this I may have thought all was well with my Kombucha and may have ended up sick!

  64. i’m not sure if my scoby is dead, or just very tired. it isn’t black, but it also doesn’t seem to be doing anything. it’s been a few days now (3?) and the started teas still smells like sweet tea. the previous batches were already turning by now. i haven’t seen a baby forming yet. how long should i wait before i give up on her?

    • 3 days isn’t long at all. Fermentation time varies from batch to batch. Has it cooled down a bit in your house? That will slow things down. My batches take 2-3 weeks on average.

  65. Hi there! I am a newbie to the Kombucha brewing world. I love the GT’s brand. Okay…so my brew has been brewing for 2 weeks. As of one week ago I have not seen much happen. Seems the baby scoby is kind of just floating on top of mom. It still looks like gooey blob. Brew is very cloudy. There is no fuzz at all. Is my brew ready or bad? I’m not sure where to go with it now. I would like to bottle it with some fruit but not sure when. I see some white stuff with little brown particles accumulated at the bottom of the jar, is this okay? Also, I didn’t realize that the brew shouldn’t be moved until after I had already taken it in and out of the cupboard to look at its progress. Is this bad and did I ruin it? Thank you soo much!

    • That’s a lot of questions! I’ll do my best to answer. (1) Your baby SCOBY sounds completely normal. Brews are often cloudy as a results of the yeast and bacteria content; same goes for the particles. (2) The way you tell if your first fermentation is ready is by tasting it. Traditionally you want a flavor that’s sour with a touch of sweet. Long brews become completely sour. Short brews stay sweet. (3) You will rarely notice much fizz during the first fermentation. That usually happens during part two (the flavor fermentation). Also keep in mind that it’s very rare to achieve a high level of fizz in home brews. Here are some tips on increasing the fizz if it’s important to you. (3) Your kombucha shouldn’t be in the cupboard. It needs to breathe. Kombuch brewed in a cupboard is more likely to brew very slowly and also to develop mold. A good place to brew your kombucha is on top of your refrigerator, if there’s room. The heat from the fridge provides an ideal brewing temperature. Enjoy your first batch!

  66. Hi Eileen, I just finished bottling my second brew and I’m a tad concerned. The first batch scoby baby was probably 1/6th of an inch thick after 17 days (bottled on). The second batch brewed 21 days but it produced a very weak scoby baby… paper thin. It smelled more like yeast than vinegar. I covered it with paper towel. No discoloration. I used regular granulated sugar and tea from starter kit. It brewed upstairs in 76 – 80 degree room. Any ideas y the scoby wasn’t thicker? Should I bother using my original scoby for the next batch?

    • When you’re new to brewing kombucha, it can take a while to form a thick SCOBY. It’s not at all unusual to have thin SCOBYs on some batches, and it’s not a sign of a problem. I let my SCOBYs build up from batch to batch, only separating/removing them when they get to be 1-2 inches thick.

  67. hey
    for some reason my first brew came out too acidic( in only 20c deg and after 7 days ) and when bottling it no carbonation after 3 days?
    what could be the reason?
    i had a very storg starter. souled i use less next time ( 1 gallon jar)
    adam

    • Hi Adam. 20c is too cold to get the right balance of yeast and bacteria, so I recommend putting it in a warmer location (like the top of a fridge), or on a seedling mat. As for carbonation, that’s challenging to do at home. Most storebought kombucha actually adds carbonation, setting up false expectations of how much fizz to expect with kombucha. However, there are some tricks that help. Here’s a good article.

        • SCOBYs don’t need to be reset. Fermentation is really an ongoing experiment, where you can try different things over many batches, until you get the perfect kombucha for you. If you want more guidance, I highly recommend the online video class Fearless Fermentation. It comes with a coaching group where Sarah Ramsden, the instructor, answers ongoing questions you might have, and it can also be helpful to compare your results with the rest of the group.

  68. I just grew a scoby from scratch with store bought GT. It took a good 3 weeks, and the scoby looks great. Do I HAVE to throw out the kombucha tea from this first scoby making batch? It is sour, but I don’t mind too much. I just don’t want to waste it.

    • Why would you think you needed to throw it away? You’ll need some of it to use as starter tea for your next batch, and it’s totally up to you what to do with the remainder. If you like the sour taste, drink it as is, or you can add a little juice to sweeten it up. Congratulations on growing your own SCOBY!

      • great- most of the info i read online about growing a scoby said to keep 2 cups for the next batch and throw away the rest. if i do a second ferment with fruit, will it be more sour or pick up the fruit flavor and be a little more sweet? (I’m guessing more sour) and thanks for responding!!

        • I recommend doing the second ferment for just one day, which is enough time to infuse a little fruit flavor into your kombucha, without it becoming more sour.

  69. The last 2 brews I’ve had a problem with what I assume to be yeast strands. I know some are normal, however these are thick like a web and fill the jar from top to bottom. Also the brew didn’t smell right. Not sulphury, but like it was spoiling so I poured it out. I’ve had several successful brew before this, now 2 bad ones in a row. I use English breakfast tea(12bags), 1 cup white cane sugar, 1 cup old brew, and the scoby. I recently moved the jar from my bedroom to the linen closet for warmth, as it’s getting cooler here. Thank you.

    • Hi Greg. Do you take your starter tea from the top or the bottom of the jar of brewed kombucha? I have heard that the yeast settles to the bottom of the jar, whereas the bacteria hovers on the surface. Try taking it from the top of the jar from now on, to limit yeast dominance in future brews. As for putting it in a closet – I don’t recommend that, and it might be the cause of the odd smell. Kombucha needs to breathe. I recommend using a seedling mat or kombucha heating system during the winter instead. Lastly, you can strain those yeast strands out of your brew between batches also, if they’re becoming too thick. Just pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

      • Thanks Eileen, great information, so much to learn. Ordered my seedling mat and new organic mushrooms to start fresh from scratch. I will give it another go. thanks again.

  70. hi eileen, i brewed my first kombucha 3 days ago. orderd my scoby online and was healthy and big so used 6 tea bags with 3 litres and roughly about a cup of sugar so left it to cool down for 6 hrs. the following morning i put my scoby in with the tea starter and wrapped with a cheese cloth. 3 days on and the scoby is sitting near the bottom. it still looks healthy and seems to be developing a thin baby underneth the mother. not sure if this is right as some people have said it should of risen to the top. has it anything to do with it being winter and is sleeping sort of? my first time and am new to it all. should i start again or be patient how long should i give it to rise before trying again? many thanks

    • Hmmmmm. First let me correct a few mistakes: (1) Cheesecloth is too thin a cover for brewing kombucha. It will let bugs in. Use a tightly woven cloth like cotton instead. (2) You don’t want to let the sweetened tea sit out that long to cool. The sugar will attract bad bacteria. Instead, check out my recipe for a fast cool process. (3) Babies don’t grow under the SCOBY. They grow on the top of the jar, on the surface of the liquid. At this point, I recommend getting a new cup of starter kombucha from someone (or buying GT’s Original Unflavored Kombucha from the store), and starting over. I don’t know if your SCOBY is fine or not. Sinking to the bottom of the jar happens when there’s a difference in the temperature of your SCOBY vs. the brew; it isn’t necessarily a sign of a sick SCOBY. However, I would throw out the tea that was left exposed to the air so long and start a new batch.

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