At Cultures for Health, we are often contacted by customers who are worried about the health of their kombucha cultures. While it is possible for a scoby to become contaminated by mold or insects, or to die, in most cases a scoby is quite robust and will maintain its health for a long time.
Since a scoby is an accumulation of bacteria and yeast, the appearance can differ quite a bit from one culture to another. We took some photos of healthy scobys that our staff are using to make their own kombucha, and also asked customers to submit pictures of their kombucha cultures, both pretty and ugly!
Here are a few healthy scobys outside of the brewing solution. Notice that some are smooth, some are lumpy or have holes in them, and some are ragged and mis-shapen. All these scobys are producing quality kombucha and healthy baby scobys.
A scoby in the brewing solution can sink, float, or hover. Often it will produce strings of yeast that hang down into the solution.
A new, developing scoby (baby) will expand to fill the surface of the brewing container. It can be smooth or lumpy, and even have dry patches.
A moldy or dead scoby is quite distinctive, and there is no mistaking it when you see it. The mold will be white or colorful, fuzzy and dry. It can appear as spots on the scoby, or cover the scoby altogether. A dead scoby will be black.
If the appearance of your scoby has you worried, compare it to these pictures. There are many additional variations in size, color, texture, and shape, but even the oddest-looking scoby is capable of making good kombucha as long as no mold is present. If you need help assessing the health of your scoby, please contact our customer support staff, or get more kombucha troubleshooting advice and information on our website. We are happy to help!