A kombucha SCOBY is one of the five ingredients necessary for making kombucha tea. And like all the ingredients involved in brewing kombucha, you have several options for how to obtain a SCOBY.

What is a SCOBY?

If you're familiar with kombucha, you're probably also familiar with that leathery, pancake-like blob called a SCOBY. The acronym stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Due to its appearance, it is sometimes referred to as a "mushroom" even though it is not actually a fungi. Rather, it is the mother culture required to make kombucha tea.

Not all kombucha mothers contain the exact same strains of bacteria and yeasts, but they all generally do the same work.

SEE ALSO: The Complete Kombucha Brewing Glossary: Baby SCOBYs to Second Fermentation

1. Purchase a SCOBY

Cultures for Health sells kombucha tea starter cultures (SCOBYs) on their own or as part of their Kombucha Tea Starter Kit. These starter cultures are shipped in a dehydrated state and you have the benefit of knowing that they have been pathogen-tested for your safety.

We also include complete instructions for activating and making kombucha tea at home with the starter culture, plus you'll have access to our library of expert advice on making kombucha tea at home.

2. Get a SCOBY from an Acquaintance

Anyone who is making kombucha tea usually has more than enough to share. Ask around, or check for fermenting groups in your area. When you find a good source, ask for a SCOBY and at least 1/2 cup starter tea, enough to make your first quart batch.

When you are ready, let us help you make your first batch of delicious kombucha, with our complete instructions and helpful how-to video.

WATCH NOW: How to Make Kombucha Tea

3. Grow a SCOBY from Kombucha Tea

Many grocery stores now carry bottled kombucha tea. If you are up for a little experimenting and have a lot of patience, growing your own SCOBY from a bottle of raw kombucha is another option. It is relatively simple, just follow the instructions below.

Instructions for Growing a Kombucha SCOBY

  1. Purchase a bottle of raw, unflavored kombucha.

OPTIONAL STEP: Make 1 cup of black or green tea.  While the water is hot, add 1-2 tablespoons white sugar. Mix until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, then cool completely to room temperature.  While this step is not critical to the process, adding a cup of sweet tea to the bottle of ready-made kombucha gives the yeast and bacteria additional food to consume during the process of growing a new culture.  Learn more about choosing the best ingredients for making kombucha tea.

  1. Pour the raw kombucha and the cooled tea into a glass jar.
  2. Cover the jar with a tight-weave dish towel or a paper coffee filter. Secure the covering with a tight rubber band.
  3. Ferment the tea in a warm spot, 68-85ºF, out of direct sunlight, for about 7 days.  
  4. After a week, it is common to see a baby SCOBY developing across the surface of the liquid. A new SCOBY starts off as a clear film or blob and then slowly become less translucent, more white, and thicker as time goes on. If no signs of SCOBY development appear after 3 weeks, discard the batch and start over. We recommend waiting until the SCOBY is at least ¼-inch thick before using it to brew the first batch of kombucha tea. Reaching that thickness may take up to 30 days.
  5. Retain the kombucha tea and the new SCOBY for making your first batch of kombucha and then follow our instructions on kombucha tea at home.

What's Next?

Whether you decide to grow a SCOBY on your own or purchase a kombucha starter culture from us to rehydrate and maintain, we're excited you're considering adding a probiotic-rich beverage to your life!

For additional information on kombucha starter cultures or any of our other cultured food products check out our full collection of expert advice on making fermented foods and natural products at home.