There are a lot of common misbeliefs when it comes to SCOBYs – the wonderful SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts) that makes our beloved kombucha! Here are some of the issues I get asked about the most:
My SCOBY is Moldy!
(which is almost never the case . . .) You see, every time you make a new batch of kombucha and add your starter tea and SCOBY, you will get a new SCOBY that forms on top of whatever vessel you are using. In days 1-3, when your new SCOBY is beginning to form, it begins by developing a thin film or spots on top of your brew. This is often mistaken for mold. Mold is very rare when it comes to kombucha. If you ever do develop mold, it will be fuzzy and on TOP of the brew. As the days go on, it will be become a very distinct spot and color – either stark white, blue, or black. This can only happen if something is majorly off with your brew such as using the wrong ingredients (or forgetting one). Or you added your starter tea and SCOBY while your tea was still very hot, killing the good bacteria. Or your brew belt is getting much too hot for your vessel, killing the brew itself. Essential oil diffusers in the same room as your brew and other ferments can kill off the good bacteria and cause an imbalance as well. The only other reason you would get mold is if you have mold somewhere in your house. So before you panic and throw out the whole batch, give it a few more days and allow what most likely is a SCOBY to finish forming on top.
There Are Brown Strings and Dark Spots!
Congrats! Everything is still okay. These are simply good yeast strings forming on your brew and are a normal sign of fermentation as well, especially after your first few brews. They will increase in numbers over time.
My SCOBY is Very Light!
Again, no worries here either! This comes from either your first batch or you are using green or white tea. The lighter the ingredients, the lighter the SCOBY.
My SCOBY is Lumpy??
There is no truly “perfect” SCOBY and not all SCOBYs look the same. They can differ dramatically due to different ingredients, temperatures, seasons, and from your very own unique bacteria that already resides in your house. We’ve seen a number of unique looking SCOBYs over the years and almost nothing surprises us anymore. Do you see this SCOBY? It has many different colors and is lumpy but perfectly normal.
Gnats Flew Into My Brew and Laid Eggs on My SCOBY!
ALWAYS make sure to use a rubberband and a tightly woven cloth like a napkin or fabric square, or even a paper towel or coffee filter, to cover your brew. Also make sure that your sweet tea is covered while it is cooling and you will never have to deal with this problem. If this does happen, you will need to toss your whole brew.
My SCOBY Has Bubbles On Top of It!
This is GREAT! That means your brew is so carbonated that some of the bubbles have started forming on top of your brew. While this is not the goal of your brew, it is fine and can be normal in warmer areas 🙂
My SCOBY is Sinking!
Don’t panic! The SCOBY you use to start your brew can do whatever she likes. She can float, she can sink, she can lay sideways, or she can attach to the new SCOBY forming on top. You will get a NEW SCOBY on top of EVERY new brew. The new SCOBY will grow to fit the size of whatever size jar you are using. If the new SCOBY sinks, it is because she got moved. If you move the jar or the SCOBY on top, then the brew will start over with forming another new SCOBY. This is okay as well. Always go by the taste of your brew and not the SCOBY. Keep in mind that your SCOBY will only grow during the fermentation of a new batch. The starter SCOBY you add into the jar will stay the same size as when placed in the jar.
My SCOBY Has a Hole
Congrats! You have a nicely carbonated brew! The holes in a SCOBY come from bubbles forming and then popping to release pressure! Your house is most likely on the warm side or your starter tea was extra strong. Either way, way to go!
My SCOBY is Trying to Escape!
Haha, this is my favorite! This happens when you fill your jar a little too full and don’t provide enough room for the new SCOBY. Or your batch is extra fizzy. The scoby will start to climb the neck of the jar and carbonation will push it upwards. It’s fun to see! This is perfectly fine as well, so enjoy the show!
By the way this is delicious Hibiscus Tea Kombucha – hence the red color.
My Whole SCOBY is Dark!
The color of your SCOBY doesn’t matter. The darker you brew your tea (or coffee), or the darker the sugar you use (like Sucanat), or the longer a SCOBY remains in the jar from batch to batch, the darker she will get. This is simply staining from ingredients, so no worries!
My SCOBY Has White Spots!
This can be bubbles forming on your SCOBY from carbonation! As mentioned above, this is NOT mold unless it is on top of the SCOBY and fuzzy and can be wiped off. If this is a white spot naturally formed on the SCOBY, then all is well!
Some Tea Leaves Got in and Attached to My New SCOBY!
This is okay as well. It happens from time to time. I have even had a whole tea bag escape my vision and wind up attached to my SCOBY! They are very hardy and it won’t hurt them or your brew 🙂
My New SCOBY Attached to My Old SCOBY!
Yay! That is perfectly fine! It doesn’t have to happen, but it’s fine if it does. No worries at all here. You can tear them apart to start your next batch or you can leave them together as well.
My SCOBY is Very Thin.
If you are able to see through your SCOBY, a few things could be going on.
1. It may not be finished forming. As always, taste test your brew to know when it is ready. This is much more important than the SCOBY. But most often if you allow the brew to ferment a few more days it will get thicker and the brew will get less sweet.
2. If the brew has been fermenting for a while and the SCOBY is still very thin, it could be that your house is very cool. In the winter, or in houses below 70, the SCOBY will not thicken up like it will in warmer temps or in different seasons. Your brew can also take up to 3-4 weeks to finish. If your house is very cool, or if you are fermenting in winter, you can do a couple of things to help. Try adding double or triple the starter tea. The more starter tea you add, the faster your brew will ferment. You can also get a heating strip to speed things along.
3. Now if you have established that the above reasons are NOT why your SCOBY is very thin, then something may be off. Make sure you are not cutting the brew time on your tea or using fewer tea bags than recommended. If there aren’t enough tannins in your water from the tea, this can make the brew taste weak Not using enough starter tea, or using the wrong ingredients or measurements, can also make your brew off. So in the beginning especially, follow our instructions to the tea (pun intended). 🙂 Once you have a good base going you can do more experiments with extra SCOBYs.
There is No New SCOBY!
If you have been fermenting for over a week and there is no sign of a new SCOBY forming on the top, and your house isn’t freezing cold, then something is wrong. You will ALWAYS get a new SCOBY forming on top. So either you killed your starter or you weren’t following instructions correctly.
What Do I Do With all these SCOBYs?!
As you know, after brewing for a while you will have dozens and dozens of SCOBYs. Even more if you make more than one batch or different flavors! We have a few options for what to do with them listed here: Scoby Dog Treats: Garden Scoby: But stay tuned very soon for a huge blog on fun and creative ways to use all those extra SCOBYs! So, don’t worry if your brew looks funny or your SCOBY isn’t a perfectly flat round pancake. SCOBYs are their own unique creation that adapt to your home. It’s all good.