As a live culture consisting of active yeasts and bacteria, a kombucha scobys will do best if it is allowed to sit on the counter culturing one batch of sugared tea after another. However, life can interfere at times and if you are facing the possibility of needing to take a break from making Kombucha, here are some guidelines for how to take a break without damaging the Scoby.
Short-term Breaks (less than 6 weeks)
While many people only brew their kombucha for 1 to 4 weeks (depending on personal taste preferences), it is possible to allow a batch of kombucha to brew for up to 6 weeks assuming it is not brewing someplace particularly warm. So for breaks of up to 6 weeks, we recommend simply allowing the kombucha to brew in a batch of fresh sugar tea and starter tea for that length of time. The resulting brew will have a very strong vinegar taste and can be discarded or used in place of vinegar to make salad dressing, marinade, etc.
Long-term Breaks (more than 6 weeks)
Longer term breaks tend to be a bit more difficult to manage safely but there are several options available.
Create a holding jar and feed the scoby every 4-6 weeks. A kombucha scoby can be placed in a jar of fresh sugar tea and starter tea (same ratios as would be used to make a normal batch) and allowed to sit in a relatively cool spot. Every 4 to 6 weeks, discard some of the liquid and add either some fresh sugared tea (up to 80% of the jar) or just some sugar (1/4 cup per quart of liquid). Stir to combine. (No metal utensils!) The fresh sugar tea is preferable as it provides all the nutrients the Scoby needs to survive and thrive during the break. If that isn’t an option though, adding just sugar will generally keep the scoby going until you can get back to it. Please note, if adding just sugar, you’ll likely only be able to do so for 2 or 3 cycles before the scoby begins to suffer. Also note that over time, liquid will evaporate from the jar and will have to be replaced.
Create a holding jar for the scoby and place it in the refrigerator. While not an ideal solution, a kombucha scoby can be placed in a fresh batch of sugar tea and starter tea in the refrigerator. The cold will greatly slow the fermentation process and place the scoby in a state of hibernation. Keep in mind that placing a live culture in a state of chilled hibernation and bringing it back out is not a guaranteed process and may cause some damage to the Scoby. However, most of the time it does work well. Please note: DO NOT FREEZE kombucha scobys.
Dehydrate the scoby. The final option is to dehydrate a few scobys to use in the future. Scobys can be dehydrated by placing them on a sheet of unbleached parchment paper and allowing them to dry in a warm spot (around 80° to 90°F) until they are the consistency of jerkey. Beware of fruit flies and other pests when leaving scobys out to dry. Please note, we suggest drying several scobys as the process isn’t normally very precise and there is a failure rate. Having multiple scobys improves the odds you’ll be successful rehydrating at least one scoby when you are ready to start making kombucha again. Once the scobys are dehydrated, place them in a sealable plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator (not the freezer). Dehydrated scobys will generally survive in the refrigerator for at least 3 months. Click here for instructions on how to rehydrate the scoby once you are ready to start making kombucha again.