Q: Sometimes it floats, sometimes it sinks. What's going on with my SCOBY?
A: No problem. Both situations are okay. When the culture sinks, a new culture will start to form on the surface. It's important not to disturb the liquid during this period so that the new growth can complete its initial formation.
Q: My new SCOBY looks funny. Is there something wrong with it?
A: No. If you prefer a blemish-free SCOBY, weight the mother down with something, and the developing SCOBY will likely form with smooth surfaces. Either way, though, your SCOBY is healthy.
Q: What do I do with an extra SCOBY?
A: You could start another jar of kombucha. Simply repeat the original recipe. You could also keep it as a backup. If you choose this option, store the SCOBY and prepared kombucha to cover in a clean glass container. Cover with a clean swatch of fabric and place it in your refrigerator.
Q: When is it time to split my kombucha into another jar?
A: The mother scoby you started with was just large enough to support kombucha production in a 1 gallon jar - about 1 inch thick. When your SCOBY has doubled in size, it's ready to split. Gently pull them apart. They should split easily. If you're not ready or interested in producing multiple jars, you can leave it alone and the scoby will grow quite large. The larger the scoby, the faster it will produce finished kombucha.
Q: What will kill my SCOBY?
A: Scalding. Exposure to tea that is too hot may kill it immediately. Direct sunlight and frost may severely damage the SCOBY although a full recovery is possible.
Q: When is my SCOBY over the hill?
A: As the yeast around the culture begins to darken to a cappuccino color and tear easily while the surface of the SCOBY itself becomes withered, it's getting too old. As the SCOBY ages, it produces a kombucha that is more acidic and slightly acrid. By the time your SCOBY is too old to produce fresh kombucha, it should have yielded at least one or two offspring to replace itself. Discard your SCOBY in your compost bin.
Q: How do I store my SCOBY if I don't want to use it for an extended period of time?
A: Place your SCOBY in a glass dish and cover it with prepared kombucha. Cover the top with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. As long as the SCOBY does not become contaminated with food debris, it will be safe for many months. The yeast cells fall dormant in low temperatures and will revive when brought back to room temperature during the preparation of your next batch. The SCOBY must not dry out or it will die.
Q: There is a film growing on the surface of my kombucha. It kind of looks like mold. What is it?
A: If it's fuzzy – really fuzzy - it's mold. Discard the whole thing, SCOBY and all. If it starts as a clear film and grows larger and milky in color, you're growing a healthy daughter SCOBY. Leave it alone and let it develop in peace while you're waiting for the kombucha solution to ferment. Since the SCOBY needs air to grow, all new growth will occur on the surface area of the liquid. When pulling this new SCOBY and your previous SCOBY out of the solution during bottling, cover both with enough prepared kombucha to service your next batch(es) as starter. When placing the SCOBYs into the next batch, always place the developing SCOBY at the top of the nutrient solution to promote its growth. When the daughter SCOBY is large enough to support its own batch, you can separate it from its mother and allow it to ferment on its own.
Q: It looks like a little SCOBY growing at the top of my bottled kombucha. What's going on?
A: Awww…there is a baby SCOBY in the jar. If the cap to the jar allows for any air transfer, the kombucha strands in the beverage will continue to grow. Other than continuing the natural metabolism that occurs when the SCOBY is present in the tea – i.e. everything that occurs in the fermentation jar before you bottle - the tea should be just fine. You can pitch the little thing and drink it.
Q: How quickly should I expect the SCOBY to grow?
A: SCOBY growth is typically slow and the growth is even slower in colder temperatures. Ideal temp for rapid growth is 76-84F. Even at these higher temps, a SCOBY would barely start to form on the surface of the tea over the course of one week. Although the kombucha fermentation process takes approximately 14-21 days, the SCOBY daughter that grows is typically too small to be split from the mother and they need a few more cycles together before the daughter can support its own gallon. If/when your kombucha is ready to bottle and you make another batch, place the kombucha daughter above the mother in the tea. All new SCOBY growth happens on the surface area, so this will allow the new growth to attach to the daughter.
Q: Can I store my SCOBY in plastic?
A: For a short while. And no colored plastic. The SCOBYs will tend to leach out toxins from whatever they’re exposed to. Plastic breaks down naturally anyway and contact with a SCOBY will expedite its decomposition, which is likely to harm the SCOBY. At Goldfinch, once we pack the SCOBYs, we give them a 4 month shelf life. I've experimented with plastic storage up to 10 months with no apparent problems with the SCOBYs, but we decided not to push it past the 4 months. With the 4 month timeline, we've never had any issues. We're also really busy and the SCOBYs sell almost immediately after packing. Here's my advice - don't store them in plastic if you don't have to. A clear glass jar or container with a lid or wrapped tightly with plastic should be perfect(if the plastic wrap is not in direct contact with the SCOBY, that is).
Q: Do I need to keep my SCOBY refrigerated until I’m ready to use it?
A: Yes. If there is any fermentable sugar in the starter liquid the SCOBY is packed with, the yeast will continue to ferment it at room temp. It’s not harmful at all, but the resulting CO2 will bloat the bag. In refrigeration the yeast falls dormant.