Monday, January 9, 2012

Make Your Own Kombucha

fresh bottled kombucha

There are many tutorials out there on how to make kombucha, but I have had enough people ask me for instructions that I decided it would be helpful to post how I do it. If you regularly buy kombucha, making it yourself will save you a fortune.

When I started growing the kombucha culture (often called the "mother" or "scoby") for the first time, I was very careful to have everything sterilized by immersion in boiling water. This may be a good idea until your kombucha is established, but I can say for sure that by the second week I was much more relaxed about sterility, and the kombucha has done just fine ever since. I also used to keep two gallon jars of kombucha going, not because I needed that much kombucha, but because if something were to happen to one jar, I would still have the other one. Well, my confidence in the ability of kombucha to thrive, or my ability to take good care of it, has grown- so I've gone to just keeping one gallon jar going.


Things you do want to be careful of: Always have clean hands, jars, bowls, and instruments when handling kombucha. It's a powerful culture, and once it's established it doesn't let much else grow, but it's always possible for it to get infected with something foreign. Pay attention to the smell, which should be clean and a bit vinegary, not rotten or foul in any way. The scoby itself can look very different and still be healthy, but if you have actual mold growing on it, it would be prudent to throw it away and start over. I have never had this happen though.


healthy kombucha scoby
A healthy scoby
I like to grow mine in a one gallon glass jar; you can use a repurposed pickle jar or an iced tea dispenser so you have a handy nozzle on the bottom when it's time to bottle it. It's best to keep the kombucha away from plastic or metal for storage, though it's fine to use a stainless steel pot to make the tea in, and a plastic funnel when bottling. The kombucha is so acidic that it will oxidize metal with prolonged contact, and leech nasty stuff out of plastic containers. A nice ceramic crock would also be great if you have one.

kombucha brewing

The process is simple:

Make a big pot of sweet tea using 3 quarts of water, roughly 2 tablespoons of loose tea (probably the equivalent of 5 teabags) and 1 cup of sugar (in these pictures I had used sucanat, which gives it a darker color and stronger flavor than plain sugar- but I've found I prefer to make it with a lighter colored sugar). You can also make a sweet ginger tea if you like ginger kombucha. I have read that kombucha needs to be made from black teas, but I've had great success using all kinds of herbal teas, and have come to the conclusion that any kind of sweetened infusion will work. Bulk organic teas are available at great prices from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local health food store.

kombucha tea, cooling

The sweet tea needs to cool down until it's just warm to the touch, and then you can combine it with your starter scoby and a cup or two of the mature kombucha in a nice big jar or crock. A good rule of thumb is to retain about 10 percent of your mature kombucha liquid to help inoculate the next batch. If you are adding water to top the jar off, I recommend using dechlorinated water, which you can easily make yourself. Just follow the link for instructions. 


The scoby will float to the top of the jar, and over the course of the next week it will probably double in thickness. You can let it get pretty thick; I take mine apart about once a month, either sharing the extra scoby with friends or chopping it up for my chickens. One woman dehydrates her extra large scobies and forms them into clothing. I am not kidding. Click here to see the Ted Talk about it.

Keep your jar covered using a dish cloth and a large rubber band to prevent flies from accessing it. Fruit flies will hover around it during their season, don't let them in. Store the jar out of direct light. The warmer the room is kept, the faster it will  mature. We keep our kitchen fairly cool and make a new batch of kombucha every week, just because that's an easy schedule to remember. You might try your kombucha sooner than that to see if you like the flavor earlier. Too early and it will  be too sweet, but if you let it go too long it will be very strong and vinegary.


bottled homemade kombucha

I bottle our kombucha in German beer bottles, the ones with wire bound stoppers. Ours were purchased from a local brewery supply store. They form a nice strong seal, which helps the kombucha in it's final stage of fermentation: carbonation. Some people like to bottle their kombucha, store it at room temperature for 24 hours until it's fizzy, and then store it in the fridge so they can drink it cool. Storing it in the fridge keeps it from fermenting any further. I don't have a lot of fridge space, and find it easier to simply bottle it and stick it in a lower, dark and cool kitchen cabinet. I do store a bottle or two in the fridge so we can drink it chilled, but the rest keeps in a cupboard just fine for many weeks. In the fridge it might last indefinitely. If you don't have German bottles, screw top jars also work, though they'll only carbonate if you can get a very tight seal.


There are many things kombucha can be used for besides just a refreshing beverage. Kombucha works as a starter culture for many other fermentation projects. A bit of kombucha in some flour will kick-start a sourdough starter, for example (click here to see how). Kombucha can also be mixed with flour into a dough, and left for 12-24 hours to help the grains become more digestible. This can then be mixed up into pancake or muffin batter, or cooked as a hot cereal. Check out my recipe for a delicious, easy soaked grains breakfast cake, made with kombucha-soaked flour. I put about 2 cups of kombucha in our green smoothies as well.


The health properties of kombucha are beyond the scope of this article, but the information is widely available. To put it briefly, kombucha is one of many fermented drinks traditionally made all over the world to aid digestion, increase energy, and reduce sickness. You may prefer yours diluted with some water, since it can be pretty strong full strength. However, if you make it with a tea that you like, and find the right balance of sugar and fermentation time, you will end up with a drink that is not only good for you, but light and bubbly, and a pleasure to drink!


For more information on the benefits and history of kombucha, as well as a whole world of fermentation ideas, check out the original source of my inspiration, two books by Sandor Katz. Both probably available from your local library, but also definitely worth owning. If you buy either through my ad links below, Amazon gives me a tiny bit of cash. Thanks in advance!


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74 comments

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January 19, 2012 at 6:22 PM

I really want to try to make my own Kombucha! Maybe I just might finally give it a try :)

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June 18, 2012 at 6:47 PM

This is a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing on our "Strut Your Stuff Saturday". Hope you come back next week. -The Sisters

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July 14, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Great how to! Thank you for linking this upbat the Carnival of Home Preserving.

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Anonymous
July 26, 2012 at 3:45 AM

Where do you get the scoby? Your recipe simply says to add the scoby and some kombucha you get from a previous batch but I did not see anything about where the scoby comes from or what it is.

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July 26, 2012 at 7:23 AM

Sorry! That's a good question. The scoby must come from existing kombucha, so you can get one from a friend, from a free online source, or purchase one from online businesses that sell them for around $20. Or, I've heard you can buy a couple bottles of live, raw kombucha from the store, and pour them together, adding enough sweet tea to top off the jar, and a scoby will form.
We got ours from a friend, and I always give away my extras to anyone who wants to get started. Good luck!

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July 27, 2012 at 4:31 PM

I have two scoby's in the fridge waiting to be made into kombucha. I'm so excited to make it! Thanks for the extra info. I've been reading everything I can about kombucha hoping my first try will be a success.

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Liz
August 25, 2012 at 6:27 PM

I just read about continuous brew kombucha. Especially with an iced tea jar like you have, continuous brew would work. All you do is take out what you're going to drink each day or every other day and add fresh sweet tea. From what I've read, the healthy bacteria gets even better - some of the best stuff doesn't develop until the kombucha is at least 3 weeks old and it is so much easier! Just clean out your spigot as needed and divide the scoby as needed.

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August 25, 2012 at 9:17 PM

That's pretty much what I do, only I find it easier to bottle it all at once and make only one batch of sweet tea each week, rather than every time I drink some. The scoby stays put unless it's quite thick, and then I divide it and give some to a friend or the chickens. Very occasionally I clean it all out, basically when the spout gets clogged.

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September 16, 2012 at 5:01 PM

The sweet ginger tea you mention - do you achieve this with ginger tea bags (or loose ginger tea)? I'd like to make the ginger tea you mention, but am unsure if this is a function of the tea bag/loose flavor, or something you add to green or black tea. Thanks!

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September 16, 2012 at 8:16 PM

You could use ginger tea bags, but when I made it I used cut slices of fresh ginger. I would boil several ginger slices, then turn it off and add some black tea, then add sweetener and let it cool. I used to think kombucha needed some kind of caffeinated tea to grow in, but I've been using an herbal tea and it works perfectly, so I think you could use just ginger & sugar if you want.

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September 17, 2012 at 6:58 AM

Ah, thanks so much. I'll see if my non-caffeinated ginger herbal tea turns out. If not, I'll brew again with some black or green tea. Is my mother unusable if I need to throw out this first batch after a week and start over?

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September 17, 2012 at 11:42 AM

You should only have to throw out the mother if it actually gets moldy. I've never had this happen. When I was first making it I had two jars going at once, just to make sure I never lost the mother while I experimented. You can split the scoby into two pieces, and try a caffeinated batch and a ginger batch.

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September 19, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Well, 5 days later it looks like the tea I added from the GT Bottle and the tea that came with my scoby might have helped, since I'm getting a nice daughter (?) forming on the top! Now, I did not have a glass vessel with a spigot - do you have any recommendations for bottling into my Grolsch-like bottles (when it comes time) without disturbing my scobies? I currently have the Kombucha in a large glass jar, from which I removed the wire-closure top ... the mouth of the jar isn't as big as the jar's diameter. The mother is chillin' on the bottom of the jar. I really appreciate your responses - thanks, again!

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September 19, 2012 at 8:06 AM

To make this easier, I would use a wide mouthed jar. I know some people make theirs in narrow mouthed apple cider bottles and things like that, but you want to have access to the scoby so you can divide it when it grows a lot, and a wide mouth makes that easier.
It does not have to be a spigoted jar. When it comes time to fill your bottles, you can just (with very clean hands) place the scoby in a clean bowl for a minute while you pour the kombucha (probably with the help of a funnel) into the new containers. Then replace the scoby and refill the original jar with cooled, sweet tea. Does this help? I hope I answered your questions. I like that you called it a daughter ;)

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September 19, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Definitely helps, thank you! The mouth of my jar is about 4-5" in diameter, so I think I'll be able to make it work! I'll ask Santa for a sun tea jar with spigot.

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October 2, 2012 at 10:13 AM

I'm really into sourdough but this is a new one for me! Thank you for this!

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October 2, 2012 at 7:10 PM

this is a very educational post for me...thank you for sharing at Fit and Fabulous Fridays! I always love your healthy contributions. :)

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October 4, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Wow. Thanks so much for sharing both the explanation of the how but then the what to do next... sourdough?! I had no idea. Alright, I'll search for a scoby.

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October 9, 2012 at 8:47 AM

Hi there, found your blog and have been reading for the last hour! I am a newbie fermenter and a Pac-Nor'wester. I would love to chat more with you about fermenting successes and flops and also possibly get a bit of your scoby?? please shoot me an email katies underscore calamities at yahoo dot com. p.s. currently fermenting watermelon juice!

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October 9, 2012 at 8:49 AM

Totally new for me! Thanks! Saw you over at the Tiny Tips Tuesday party! Happy Tuesday!

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October 9, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Glad you're enjoying it! Fermented watermelon juice sounds amazing! I'll email you...

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October 23, 2012 at 2:57 AM

I used to make this years ago I used to use herb teas and it tasted great, not sure why I stopped making it ..My friend gave me the starter as she used to make it ...I have a book on it that I bought years ago written by Harald W.Tietze. I also read his book on urine therapy very interesting reading. Where can one get a starter from as I don't know any one who makes it now ...After reading your post it's funny I spotted the book the other in my bookshelf , maybe the spirit world is trying to tell me something as I have been really unwell the last 2 and a half years, now thinking it may be Lyme disease I 'm currently having blood tests to find out...Sherrie from Simpleliving

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October 23, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Do you have a Freecycle or Craiglslist for your area? People are always giving these things away, and these sites can help you link up with them. Hope you find a way to feel better!
I've got to update my post because I have also been using herbal teas for quite a while now and it works fine. I'd read somewhere that it must be actual tea from the tea plant, but it seems any sweet infusion will work!

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October 30, 2012 at 8:54 AM

So cool! The tutorial is very easy to understand. I've actually never had kombucha but it intrigues me! Maybe I'll try it and if I like it I can make my own.

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October 30, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Thank you! I hope you like it.

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November 8, 2012 at 4:41 AM

I've never had kombucha before - but I'd be willing to try it!

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November 8, 2012 at 5:36 AM

It's so great, and can really vary. Some tastes light beer, some like ginger ale, some like sparkling soda. It depends what your base tea is and what you sweeten it with. I've even heard of people making it with juice instead!

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November 8, 2012 at 10:49 AM

I've never heard of kombucha -- sounds like an interesting recipe!

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November 8, 2012 at 12:12 PM

It's a traditional fermented food that's making a real comeback, because it's so good for you!

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November 8, 2012 at 8:37 PM

Thanks for sharing this at the ‘Or so she says …’ link party! Hope to see you again this week (link party runs every Saturday – Tuesday). We’ve also got a fun “Favorites Things” giveaway going on right now. Please check it out! www.oneshetwoshe.com

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November 11, 2012 at 3:11 PM

I love DIY! This is a wonderful idea!
Thank you so much for sharing this at Wednesday Extravaganza!

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November 12, 2012 at 5:29 AM

I love making my own kombucha! I have some brewing right now! Thanks for sharing with Natural Living Monday! I hope you will join us agian this week! http://mexicanwildflower.blogspot.mx/2012/11/natural-living-mondays-10.html

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November 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Great tutorial. I started making my own kombucha over the summer and couldn't believe how easy it was! I've made a few flavours now, like blueberry mint, and ginger. I found the flavour a bit strong at first, so I mixed it with juice (or wine ;) but am getting used to it straight up now!

Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and hope to see you back next week :)

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November 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Yum! Please tell me how you make blueberry mint kombucha!
I changed the amount, and type, of sugar I use, and now my kombucha is much easier to drink straight. We used to drink it like medicine, but now it's really enjoyable!

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December 5, 2012 at 11:02 AM

GREAT instructions, I always learn so much from you! Got this tweeted and pinned!

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December 9, 2012 at 12:30 PM

I made my own apple cider vinegar this year for the first time, using a kombucha SCOBY from a friend. Thank you for you DIY tips for kombuch and for linking up with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

Cheers,
Kathy Shea Mormino
The Chicken Chick
http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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December 9, 2012 at 1:35 PM

I have a batch of kombucha cider going right now! I'm planning on seeing if it turns into sparkling cider, but if that's a bust it can always go to vinegar ;)

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January 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

I pinned this post. Currently I am buying the kombucha I drink. I love it with chia seeds.

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January 4, 2013 at 12:00 PM

I've got to get some chia seeds and try that!

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January 15, 2013 at 12:06 AM

Great post! Thanks for sharing your tutorial with the Hearth and Soul Hop. I’ve pinned this to myPinterest board.

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January 16, 2013 at 4:59 PM

I have tried it, but wasn't sure I could get used to it. I know it is very good for you, however!
I would love to have you join The HomeAcre Hop at:
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/1213.html

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January 16, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Kombucha can taste very different. I've had so many varieties, some that taste like beer or ginger ale, some that are more like blackberry soda! I think it's great, but I have also had some not so great ones, so I understand... but I do think if you experiment with additions and ingredients, you can make a kombucha that you will really like!

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January 22, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Hi Mellow, I think I'm becoming a convert to this miracle drink- thanks so much for sharing at Wednesday's Seasonal Celebration! Have a good week:-)Rebecca@ Natural Mothers Network x

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January 24, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Great article! :) Fermented drinks are so good! Thanks for sharing the directions on Wildcrafting Wednesday! :)

~ Kathy
http://mindbodyandsoleonline.com/herbal-information/72nd-wildcrafting-wednesday/

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January 31, 2013 at 9:29 AM

I haven't heard of it, but I'm intrigued! Visiting today from the Adorned from Above hop. :)

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February 1, 2013 at 4:08 AM

Making clothes from the mother?! That is awesome! Will definitely be watching this later today :-) Thanks for linking up with what i am eating!

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Linda
February 5, 2013 at 5:17 AM

Hi! I love, love, love your site and your purpose. However, I feel compelled to comment on the suggestion that making kombucha in a ceramic crock would be a great idea. Specifically, if ceramic pots are used for brewing, lead poisoning might be a concern since the acids in the tea may leach lead from the ceramic glaze. So...probably not a good idea.

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February 5, 2013 at 6:50 AM

Hi Linda. That's a great point. I don't think all ceramic glazes have lead, but that would be an important thing to look for in a brewing crock. I use an old crock pot to make my sauerkraut, and can only hope it's lead free. Great reason to stick with glass!

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Linda
February 6, 2013 at 8:22 AM

It's true. There's greater awareness of lead in glazes these days which is why we now see some crock pots advertised as being lead-free. But I agree, stick with glass unless you're sure about the glaze on a crock pot.

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March 12, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I have alwasy been interested in how this is made.

Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday!! Hope you stop by again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/03/nifty-thrifting-at-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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March 17, 2013 at 12:12 AM

you have a wonderful blog site here. great information. thank you for your contribution to the raw natural world where true living is abundantly unlimited and all around and within us.

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March 18, 2013 at 6:11 PM

This is interesting, I've never heard of it before. Thank you for linking up at Fluster's Creative Muster. Hope to see you next week!

Robin @ Fluster Buster

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April 13, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Your Komucha looks awesome, great recipe! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you again soon!
Miz Helen

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April 15, 2013 at 1:17 AM

Wow! I didn't know I could use kombucha to soak flours. I let my kombucha making fall by the wayside over the winter because I couldn't find juice I liked for the second fermentation. Time to get back into it!

Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday.

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April 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Good clear instructions. I'm enjoying our Kombucha -- but I'm intrigued by your comment that you take your SCOBY apart once a month and give half of it away. Can you elucidate, please, on the "take it apart" part? Do you pick it up with your hands and rip it? Do you put it on a cutting board and slice it? Just how fragile is the SCOBY.

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April 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM

We've been making it successfully for a few months now, thanks mostly to your beautiful blog. Now I have a batch that tastes rancid. We don't mind the taste (we're very open and laid back and weird) but I am wondering if you think we should not drink it. Thanks!!!!!!

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April 24, 2013 at 6:35 AM

I love kombucha and need to venture into the world of making it! Thanks for another great post for Fabulously Frugal Thursday.

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May 3, 2013 at 5:38 AM

You can grow your own but it does take awhile, several weeks.

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May 6, 2013 at 5:50 PM

I haven't tried kombucha before. Thanks for sharing your directions on how to make it on Tuesday Greens!

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Anonymous
May 10, 2013 at 4:42 AM

can ginger bug, or natural soda starter to replace or produce the komucha scoby?

from ruth

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May 15, 2013 at 11:11 PM

I just wash my hands clean, then reach into the jar and pull the scoby apart. It grows in new layers each week, and it's pretty easy to separate along these layers. It might stretch and break, but it will still be alive and grow more kombucha for you ;)

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May 15, 2013 at 11:13 PM

Ha ha, I like your self-description. If you don't mind the taste, it must not be that bad for you, right? I have no idea, really. Some time has passed since you sent me the question (sorry!)- how is it going now? Is it still growing? Kombucha scobies can die- maybe the tea was too hot, or maybe it was contaminated by something. Hopefully it would be obvious if that happened, and hopefully you are all still in good health after drinking possibly rancid kombucha! ;)

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May 15, 2013 at 11:16 PM

They are different- ginger bug doesn't grow a scoby... but they do make similar products. Plenty of people use kombucha scobies to make flavored sodas from juices or flavored teas, just like I do with my ginger bug. They might even have the same health benefits, since they're so similar, but they're not exactly the same. They develop different microbial lifeforms ;)

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June 7, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Whenever I want a scoby, I look on craigslist. Always someone offering one, or, you may place an ad that you want an organic scoby.

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June 7, 2013 at 9:49 AM

do a search on craigslist. Also can place an ad requesting an organic scoby.

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July 20, 2013 at 10:19 AM

I've actually never heard of this before... how cool! I'm so glad you came to share at Super Saturday Show & Tell last week... this week I'm co-hosting a HUGE bash with 2 other bloggers! Come on over http://www.whatscookingwithruthie.com and share again! xoxo~ Ruthie

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February 26, 2014 at 11:34 AM

I've tried making Kombucha in the past and sometimes it was good and other times it was too sour/vinegary. So I kind of gave up, though I have two mothers stored in glass jars in my fridge. Don't let people tell you that you can't store them in the fridge. They still work and I have never had a Kombucha mother go bad on me. If you do store it in the fridge, make sure you have some of the liquid in with it.

Anyways, I may try and start making Kombucha once again. I used to experiment with all kinds of flavored teas and found some worked and others didn't. It's all a matter of taste.

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March 9, 2014 at 6:25 AM

A good health food store has scobie drinks. just pick one that has a lot of sediment in it and pore the whole thing in your gal of tea. The one I used was pink, so my mother was pinkish the first two times I used it but I pealed the top off and was good to go all of it was good and it is time to start up again. The scobie drink was $3. A good investment Id say.

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March 23, 2016 at 11:58 AM

I think we trashed it. Can I order a scoby from you or can you reccomend best place to get an inexpensive organic scoby? Thanks! Are you still writing? Your blog is my favorite. Do you make any money from it? I would love to do similar (not in any competition, but I have learned so much over the years and am now pregnant and have a seven year old so I feel like I could help so many people), but can only do if I make a little money, due to time-constraints.
Thanks again for your awesomeness!

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April 1, 2016 at 8:18 AM

I don't sell scobies, but you can find them online if you can't find one for free within your community. There are also facebook groups where people share these kinds of things :)
Blogging pays a tiny bit, from passive ads, but not enough to make up for all the time I put into it! Only do it if you love it :D

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