Amidst the information-overloaded, internet-driven, I’ll-just-google-it world that we live in, brewers still seem to have a lot of questions about SCOBYs. Is my SCOBY dead? Alive? Moldy? Sinking? Normal? We get it; it’s hard to know which sources to trust, especially when it comes to what we’re putting into our bodies! This is why we wanted to provide our brewer community with tried and true SCOBY information based on our own experiences over the years. At YEABUCHA we’re all about high quality booch!
Many of our brewers, like most new parents, are overly concerned about taking good care of their SCOBYs. When they encounter something unexpected, things can quickly turn to full on panic. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember SCOBYs are resilient, unique, and grow at their own pace-- kind of like babies. If you're following the YEABUCHA method to brew, chances are extremely high that you are doing a great job caring for your precious SCOBY. Even with our simple method, SCOBY growth and appearance may change from brew to brew. As with all living things, there is an ebb and flow to growth, and none of that should affect the taste of your kombucha.
Growth: SCOBYs are living organisms, this means that growth won’t always look the same every time you brew. That is FINE! Sometimes it may take longer to start growing, sometimes it will grow very quickly. You may grow thick, smooth, light SCOBYs for a while and then suddenly get darker lumpy SCOBYs. Seasonal temperature changes will likely affect your SCOBY’s growth by growing thicker in the warmer months and thinner in the cooler months, as fermentation slows with temperature decreases. Typically, 3 - 5 days into fermentation, you should see a thin new disc beginning to form on the top of your brew. As you approach 7-10 days, a healthy brew should give you roughly a ¼ inch thick SCOBY. But remember this is an average, every brew (and brewer) is unique!
If you are noticing consistently poor SCOBY growth that may be a sign that there is an imbalance of bacteria and/or yeast in your brew. Here are 3 quick tips to boost SCOBY growth:
- Swap out your SCOBY for a new one from your SCOBY Hotel and make sure you pull 2 full cups of starter liquid. Depending on how thick your SCOBY is you may need to put less water in your jar to allow enough room plus space for a new SCOBY to grow.
- Rebalance your brew with our green tea Brew your sweet tea with 2 parts black and 1 part green.
- Give your bacteria a little extra sugar. Pull your SCOBY to the side and drop in 2 tbs of sugar, but realize you should add a few days on to your F1 to make sure the sugar is fermented.
Location: Did your SCOBY sink to the bottom of your brew jar and you think it died? It didn’t. Did your SCOBY hang out in the middle of your brew and you questioned if it was giving up? It wasn’t. Did your SCOBY try to escape from your brew jar and climb up the top? Push it back down and don’t let it go anywhere. That is from the CO2 that is released during respiration. The location of your SCOBY does not signify health. Remember, it’s a living organism and is not going to be predictable 100% of the time.
A new SCOBY should always grow on floating top of your brew, but the location of the Mother SCOBY could be at the top or on the bottom, or somewhere in between. The starter liquid acts as your protective barrier the first couple days while a new SCOBY baby grows. This is why it is important to source your SCOBY and starter reputably (we do not recommend trying to grow one from store bought booch). Depending on the location of the Mother, the new SCOBY may not be attached as it grows. You can still put both SCOBYs back into your brew. In fact, we recommend keeping the Mother and all the babies together for at least 5 weeks. After that, you will want to separate them because too much SCOBY will cause the brew to taste vinegary before proper fermentation has occurred (and will take up too much room in your brew)!
Appearance: Each and every SCOBY has its own unique appearance. It can be lumpy or smooth, whitish in color or yellowish brown. It could be evenly thick all around and missing a hole in the center or ½ inch thick on one side and almost nonexistent on the other. Some SCOBYs look dry, while others appear wet. Some SCOBYS feel like jelly and turn into a blob when you pick them up. Some SCOBYs have bubbles of carbonation (on the bottom or top), others may have brown strands of yeast stuck in them. A mother SCOBY will turn darker shades of brown the longer it has been in tea and over time the old cellulose begins to break down and fall off. The more you get comfortable with how funky a healthy SCOBY may appear, the less intimidating and worrisome they become. If you don’t like the looks of your SCOBYs swap them out.
Strong and healthy SCOBYs
There you have it, SCOBYs are weird and won’t always grow the same, look the same or hang in the same spot in your jar, even if your brew method never changes. Don’t be worried or panic about your SCOBY, follow the YEABUCHA method and keep your home brew happy and healthy. If you already brew, but don’t 100% know what you're doing,we will help you repurpose your old supplies grab a kit and we will guide you every step of the way!