Over the years of working with kombucha, on an at-home-scale as well as industrial brewery scale, I have learnt a lot about this very unique symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Also known as our beloved SCOBY.
I have somehow become the SCOBY Doctor for those who adopt a pet here and there and I get to evaluate peoples SCOBY health and wellness and check out how things are brewing.
As a beginner brewer, or even an advanced brewer, there are always things to learn in regards to how this clump of bacteria and yeast reacts to your environment, to the teas, sugars and waters you give it and also its immediate environment - plastic, glass, stainless steel...other.
So I’ve created this area for people to put in their pictures and questions regarding their fermentation adventures and also check out similar questions that have been asked about their SCOBY health.
Please add your pictures and Qns below to add to the FAQ if you are not sure how your SCOBY health is!
What do I do with my pets when I'm traveling?
SCOBY Kombucha / JUN: You don’t have to do anything and leave it at room temperature with an aerobic (open) opening so it can breathe and grow. When you are back the SCOBY will have grown and it will be a very sour (almost vinegar like) kombucha liquid. You may want to use this for salad dressings or cleaning or hair rinses, or a good gut shot… or just for starting the next fresh batch of kombucha! Kombucha is very low maintenance.
I need to send you a picture of Burkhardt (my Kombucha). Is it normal that he has this things flowing around the water isn’t clear...???
Totally normal! The are just yeast globs that basically accumulate with time and adhere themselves to the mother SCOBY. If there are many of these strings I sometimes even wash the SCOBY off or just filter the tea so there are less in the finished product. But nothing to worry about!
Q. My SCOBY looks and smells sad. Is it still okay to use? Ivan
Our eyes and our nose tell us a lot! If it is growing other colors and spots that are grey, blue, green or OTHER, then your SCOBY is not well and shouldn’t be consumed. This could be a result of oily teas that suffocated your SCOBY, not enough starter liquid for a sour environment to set up your SCOBY, a dirty vessel (old peanut butter perhaps??), using tisane (i.e. mint, chamomile, lemon-balm) rather than tea - black, green, oolong). You’ll have to get another SCOBY.
I was away on holiday and a lot of the liquid evaporated. Now the SCOBY is black and has some white growing. Is it sick?
It doesn't look too happy. Also the sign of white fussy mold is not good. Next time, when you go on holiday, make sure it will have enough liquid to survive your absence, as well as isn't placed in a hot environment like next to the heater.
Q. Funky Top Layer
I was at your kombucha and water kefir workshop.
I don’t know what I’ve done wrong but my kombucha is a catastrophe... a kind of layer formed on the top but nothing like the cellulose that was supposed to develop. And it smells like vinegar.
After the workshop I’ve left my kombucha open with a cloth on the jar in a corner of my kitchen and that’s it. What did I do wrong? 😱🙈
Can I still save it?
Thanks in advance for your help!!
Hey there Alice,
It looks like there is a bacteria-yeast imbalance here. I have too had this problem once in a while! This could even be a type of Kahm yeast growing on top - which if it is, it is not harmful but will contribute to that very vinegary flavor and sometimes a funky taste. What you can do here is peel off this top layer and allow a new fresh SCOBY to go. It might be that your jar wasn’t completely cleaned or that there was some oils in the tea. But I think you can still save it and get a new one growing on top! Try adding a bit more fresh tea and sugar and it should come back to life!
Q. Bitter tasting Kombucha
Thanks to your knowledgeable and easy to understand online videos I got hooked on fermenting!
With help from your kombucha-workshop video I tried fermenting my own tea. The first two times went actually quite well. But after bottling my last batch and leaving it on the kitchen counter for about two days my kombucha tea started to get a very bitter taste. It was undrinkable so I had to throw it out... I didn’t added anything. It was just the plain kombucha tea (made with green Darjeeling tea and caster sugar).
Do you maybe have any clue how that could have happened?
Keep on the great work!
Hmm bitter is a bit curious. Often the bitter taste comes from the over-steeping of the tea. The tannins released in the steeping of the tea may have been in there a bit too long. Darjeeling is often light looking but should only be brewed 5 mins max.
You had mentions that if questions pop up to ask you. As I’m brewing my first batch and went away for the holidays and came back to a white spot on the SCOBY I have done a little googling but am not 100% sure it’s normal. There was also a thin layer that was almost translucent like cling film surrounding the SCOBY. I have attached a picture. Can you just confirm that this is a normal part of the process?
To this picture I say “Congratulations” on a new SCOBY baby being formed! Sometimes SCOBYs can look pretty odd and funky and like yours, even bubbly. This is the carbonization that’s happening because of proper fermentation. So no worries here! Keep it going and the translucent area will become eventually opaque and the lump in the middle will become a part of it.