What in the world is Kombucha?

Why is There a Jelly Fish in My Drink?

SCOBY Curiosity

SCOBY Curiosity

What in the world is Kombucha?

It is a symbiotic relationship between a particular yeast and bacteria or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria Yeast).  With oxygen present (aerobic), the yeast will eat the sugar in the tea and make alcohol, but the bacteria will eat the alcohol.  The resulting drink is low in both alcohol (%.5) and sugar (4.8 g/L down from the beginning 100g/L)  This all happens with oxygen, if you want an increase in both alcohol (at most %2) and carbonation.  After pouring the Kombuch into bottles, yet it sit on the counter with a balloon covering the mouth (or air-lock) for an additional 7 days.  You may want to add some additional sugar to help the  yeast to continue fermentation.

Why would anyone drink a concoction made from yeast and bacteria?

To understand the answer, I have to explain the modern discovery of Kombucha.  After Chernobyl exploded many people in the surrounding area got a variety of cancers.  Only a small group of people who drank Kombucha regularly were spared.  Apparently, Kombucha is a powerful detoxifier.  It also has many other wonderful benefits.  It carries fresh probiotics which can save you tons of money on digestive aids (including commercial probiotics with unverifiable amounts of product).  In addition, it has benefits for people with arthritis and other joint problems.  Kombucha is extraordinarily rich in anti-oxidants and is said to help with yeast over growth (You must allow it to ferment a few days without added sugar to decrease the remaining sugar content.)

How to make your own Kombucha

Many on-line retailers would be happy to sell you a “ Mother” or “mushroom” (developed SCOBY) for 15-20 dollars.  Though there are many people successfully growing their own.  Two of my friends and I have independently grown our own.  We have used slightly different methods, that have all developed into healthy cultures.


  • 1 gallon glass or porcelain jar (great if it has a spout)
  • 1 bottle Raw Kombucha (1 glass measuring cup to start with)
  • 10 cups distilled water
  • 6 organic tea bags (black or green tea, not artificially decaf) -I used organic green tea.
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 clean tea towel
  • 1 rubber band
Beginning SCOBY developing

Beginning SCOBY developing

Here is my method:

  1. Go to the store and look for a bottled Raw Kombucha drink ($2.99).  If you hold the bottle up to the light, you may find a jelly looking thing floating on the top.  Score! you got a SCOBY.  One of my friends just used the raw Kombucha and a SCOBY grew.
  2. Pour the raw Kombucha in a glass measuring cup.
  3. Cover the glass with a clean dish towel (block light and uninvited guests), secure with a rubber band, and let sit on top of the refrigerator (a warmer place) for 7 days.
Kombucha in bigger container

Kombucha in bigger container

What to do with the SCOBY?

  1. Make tea:  Mix 4 cups of distiled water, 6 teabags, 1 cup of sugar in a pot and bring to boil.  Remove form the heat and mix.  Let the tea steep for 3 minutes.
  2. Pour the remaining 6 cups into the hot water.
  3. Wait until the tea is room temperature.
  4. Add the SCOBY and liquid.
  5. Cover with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band.   Sit in a warm, dark place.  I cover my jar with the a large cloth and place it on top of the refrigerator.  It grows faster in 70-80 degree heat.
  6. Wait for 7 days.  Don’t get too curious and shake it.  It needs to be as still as possible.
Kombuch SCOBY

Kombuch SCOBY

What should it look like?

Mine was creamy white with fine hair like things hanging down from it and blobs of brown stuff on the bottom.  It was about 1/4 inch thick.  It should be solid.  You can actually pick the whole thing up with your fingers.  And it should never have mold growing on top of it! (throw it out if there is mold.  A healthy SCOBY will inhibit mold from growing.

Bottled Kombucha

Bottled Kombucha

What to do when it is done?

  1. Carefully pick up the SCOBY and place it on a clean plate.
  2. Pour out all but 1-2 cups of Kombucha into bottles, seal tight and place in the refrigerator.  (Unless you plan to sit them on the counter for several days to add carbonation and reduce sugar.  In that case, you should top with an air-lock or balloon.)
Gallon Continuous Brew Kombucha

Gallon Continuous Brew Kombucha

Continuous brew:

  1. Make tea as instructed above.
  2. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Pour into the gallon glass jar with the 1-2 cups remaining starter Kombucha
  4. Add the SCOBY on top
  5. Cover with a clean tea towel and rubber band
  6. Wait 7 day and repeat
Finished Kombucha and Pumpkin Cookies

Finished Kombucha and Pumpkin Cookies

What does it taste like?

It is slightly sweet, tangy and a little wine cooler tasting (especially if you add 25% fruit juice to it).  I started out adding fruit juice, then moved to enhanced hints of flavorings (like ginger), and have since moved to strait Kombucha.  If you are young enough (or old enough depending) to remember the first time you tried beer.  At first I hated it.  Then as I drank it more, I started to enjoy the flavor.  Well Kombuch is a taste that is worth getting use to.

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