Kombucha Scoby Activation Troubleshooting


It’s been 30 days since you started rehydrating a kombucha scoby, or maybe this is the first batch after rehydration, and you don’t think it’s working right even though you followed all the instructions exactly.

Here’s a quick troubleshooting guide you can run through before you call Customer Support, to see if you can figure out what’s going on.

Is there mold in your kombucha?

Mold is visible as circular deposits that often look fuzzy or furry. Usually it is blue or green, or sometimes black. If you have mold, you will need to throw out the kombucha culture and the solution, and start over again. Contact Customer Support for assistance.

If you don’t have mold, continue with this checklist.

How long have you been rehydrating the scoby?

  • Less than thirty days. The scoby is expected to take thirty days to rehydrate. Let it work until it has reached thirty days.
  • More than thirty days. By this time you should be seeing some action. Continue with this checklist.


What does the scoby look like right now?

  • It is fatter than it was to start with, and it has brown globs of stuff on it. This is a good sign. The brown globs are yeast accumulations. Your scoby is probably active.
  • It is fatter than it was to start with and it has some brown stringy things hanging off it. This is a good sign. The brown stringy things are strands of yeast. Your scoby is probably active.
  • It is thin and flat and has no discoloration or markings on it. The scoby may or may not be active. Continue with this checklist.
  • It is fatter than it was to start with, but it is plain and clean with no discoloration. The scoby may or may not be active. Continue with this checklist.


Is there any sign of a new culture (baby) forming? Note that a new scoby will not always form in the rehydration process, or even in the first batch or two. This is not necessarily a sign that the culture is inactive. The production of a new scoby is a byproduct of fermentation, not the end result. Here are some signs of a new scoby:

  • There is a cloudy haze or film on the surface of the liquid. If left undisturbed, this haze will thicken and become a new scoby. 
  • The scoby has developed what appears to be an extra layer of substance on its top. This is a piggyback scoby. The new scoby has attached itself to the old one. When the batch is finished fermenting, this new scoby can be peeled off from the old one to leave two scobys to work with.
  • There is no sign of a new scoby. This is not conclusive. The scoby may still be actively fermenting kombucha.


If you have investigated all the possibilities for activity and still believe there is a problem with your kombucha, continue with this checklist.

What kind of water did you use?

It is important that the water contain no chlorine or fluoride, as both are toxic to the kombucha culture. Chlorine can be removed by letting water stand for 24 hours, or by aerating the water in a blender for 20 minutes, or by boiling the water for 20 minutes. If water was boiled for 20 minutes to make the tea, the chlorine would have been removed. If cool water was added to the tea, and it contained chlorine, that could be a problem.

If your municipality uses chloramines instead of chlorine, they cannot be removed as easily. Check with your water supplier to learn if your tap water has chloramines added. Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling or aeration, but must be filtered through charcoal.

Check with water supplier to learn if your tap water has fluoride added. If water is fluoridated, it cannot be easily removed with standard filtration. Reverse osmosis filtration will reduce fluoride, but may not remove it completely. If fluoride must be removed from the water, inquire with a local garden supply store or nursery regarding specialized filters, or use bottled water that does not have fluoride added to it.

If you suspect that you have a problem with the water you used, contact Customer Support for assistance. If water is not an issue, continue with this checklist.

What kind of tea did you use?

Kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis). There are a number of teas made from this plant: black, green, white, pekoe, oolong, Darjeeling, and more.

While herbal teas derived from other plants will not nourish the kombucha scoby, they can be combined with black tea. However, avoid herbal tea combinations until your scoby is fully activated. Avoid teas that are flavored with fruits, flowers, or oils, as they can weaken the kombucha culture.

If you suspect the tea you used could be a problem, contact Customer Support for assistance. If tea is not an issue, continue with this checklist.

What kind of sugar did you use?

Any kind of cane sugar is acceptable for kombucha. White sugar produces the most reliable results with kombucha. Unrefined sugar or brown sugar, which contains molasses, can also be used successfully. Honey, rice syrup, agave, maple syrup, and coconut sugar are not ideal for kombucha production and should be avoided. Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, aspartame, etc.) or non-caloric sweeteners like stevia or xylitol are absolutely useless for kombucha production.

If you think you have used the wrong sugar to make your kombucha, contact Customer Support for assistance. If sugar is not an issue, continue with this checklist.

What kind of vinegar did you use?

The most reliable vinegar to use in your first batch of kombucha is distilled white vinegar. We do not recommend using apple cider vinegar or other types of vinegar.

The purpose of adding vinegar to the solution is to create an acid environment that is hospitable to the scoby. A vinegar that is too weak can inhibit the growth of the kombucha culture. A vinegar with additives and flavorings can weaken the culture.

Raw vinegar, in particular, can cause problems. Raw vinegar contains its own culture, which is very similar to a kombucha culture. If the vinegar culture is too strong, it can overpower the kombucha culture and turn it into a vinegar culture or just make it stop working.

If you have used a vinegar other than white vinegar, contact Customer Support for assistance. If you have used white vinegar, continue with this checklist.

What is the acidity of the kombucha?

Kombucha should have a pH between 2.5 and 4.0. Lower than 2.5, the brew is too acid to drink. Higher than 4.0, the brew will not support the scoby, and can encourage the formation of mold.

Test the acidity of the kombucha with inexpensive pH strips, available from Cultures for Health, a home-brew supply store, or from a pharmacy.

If the pH of the kombucha is out of range, contact Customer Support for assistance. If the pH is in range, continue with this checklist.

Were the correct proportions of ingredients used?

It’s important to get the correct balance of tea, sugar, and vinegar in the solution. The size of the scoby is not particularly important, as even a small scoby can produce a good kombucha.

To make the tea, steep a minimum of 10 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on how strong you like the kombucha.

The rehydrating solution should consist of about 3 cups water, two teabags or 1½ teaspoons of loose tea, and ½ cup vinegar. Subsequent batches should use the same proportions.

If you have used different proportions of ingredients, contact Customer Support for assistance. If you used the correct proportions, continue with this checklist.

Is your kombucha finished?

Taste the kombucha, using a plastic spoon or straw, and judge for yourself whether it is finished. Kombucha should taste rich and vinegary, and possibly slightly sweet, depending on how long it has fermented.

If the kombucha fermented too long, and it has used up all the sugar, it can starve. Most scobys will rehydrate in about 30 days. Some may take longer, especially in cooler temperatures. About 45 days would be the outside limit. If the kombucha is completely non-sweet and has been fermenting for 30 days or more, it may be done!

The kombucha is unlikely to be fizzy at the end of the ferment. To get carbonation, decant the solution, bottle it, add flavoring (if desired), and let the sealed bottles sit at room temperature for up to 14 days, for a second ferment.

Click here for additional troubleshooting information for subsequent batches of kombucha.


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