So, I’d heard that I could grow my own Kombucha SCOBY from a store-bought bottle of Kombucha – without needing a Kombucha SCOBY from a friend or mail order – to get started.  This was something I’d wondered about, but had never tried since I have my own SCOBY at home. The way this is supposed to work is: you take some raw, unflavored, store-bought Kombucha tea and set it out in a warm spot, either in a cupboard or on the counter, and after a few days, the tea (assuming is actually raw)should start to form its own SCOBY layer on the top. Then you can follow the process for making Kombucha tea, using this SCOBY and the tea it grew on.

Curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided I needed to give it a try, to see if this was really true.  So, I set up this little experiment where I pitted a bottle of store-bought, unflavored, raw Kombucha, against an equal amount of my home-brewed Kombucha to see what would happen.

Kombucha SCOBY growing in a brewing batch of Kombucha tea.

Kombucha SCOBY growing in a brewing batch of Kombucha tea.

But, before I tell you about my experiment, some of you may be asking, “just what is a Kombucha SCOBY?” It is a Symbiotic
Growing Kombucha SCOBY from above.

Growing Kombucha SCOBY from above.

Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It is a thick, fibrous layer that grows on the surface of fermenting Kombucha tea and is a necessary ingredient for making your own Kombucha tea. Some people call it the Kombucha “mother”, “pankcake”, or “mushroom”. And, admittedly, it is not a very attractive looking beast.

The Experiment:

I put each tea in its own pint size canning jar, labeled them and then covered them both loosely with lids. After a week I was beginning to think that it was a hoax. I still had nothing on the surface of the store-bought Kombucha. But, after a couple more days, there it was! It was very slight, but it was there. And after two weeks, it had thickened enough to look like it was ready to be used to brew a new batch. On the other hand, the jar that contained my home-brewed Kombucha took only 4 days to be ready to brew a new batch! I took this to be a sign that the home-brewed tea contained a lot more of the live Kombucha culture than the store-bought contained.

IMG_9225So, in stage two of the experiment, I used the two new SCOBYs to brew two new batches of Kombucha to see how well the SCOBY from the store batch compared to the SCOBY from the home-brewed batch and how long it took each of them to convert a new batch of sweet tea into fermented Kombucha. I followed this method for making the new batches (in half-gallon jars this time), and set them out to culture for one week. After a week, the store batch did not taste finished. It was still very sweet and it did not have any bubbles at all. The batch brewed from the home grown SCOBY was definitely tart and bubbly, but still not quite tart enough to make me think it was ready to be bottled. It took ten days total before the home batch was ready to drink and 14 days total before the batch with the SCOBY grown in the store tea was ready.

In the third, and final, stage of the experiment I, once again, made two more batches of Kombucha using the two SCOBY’s I originally grew from the store-bought Kombucha tea and the home-brewed Kombucha tea. So, these were the second generation batches brewed from those original SCOBY’s. This time, both batches were tart and no longer sweet tasting after 7 days.

Conclusion:

It took more than three times as long to grow the original SCOBY from the store-bought Kombucha than it did the home-brewed Kombucha. It took several days longer for the SCOBY from the store-bought Kombucha to ferment its first batch of tea than it took the SCOBY from the home-brewed Kombucha to ferment its first batch of tea. But, by the second generation, the SCOBY from the store-bought Kombucha caught up to the SCOBY from the home-brewed Kombucha in the amount of time it took to ferment a batch of sweet tea in to a mature Kombucha tea.

So, YES! You can grow your own Kombucha SCOBY from a bottle of store-bought, raw, Kombucha tea. It will take a bit longer for it to form and reach the same maturity as a SCOBY grown from a homebrew, but it can be done, if you have the patience to wait for it. This seems like a good alternative if you cannot get a SCOBY from a friend who is already brewing Kombucha or if you don’t want to mail order one.

I realize this was a very limited experiment in that I only did this with one brand of store-bought Kombucha tea. I may have gotten different results from a different brand. Perhaps a good experiment for the future would be to pit all the different brands against each other and see which ones form SCOBYs the quickest. None the less, at least I was able to show that it is possible to begin making your own, home-brewed, Kombucha tea just from purchasing a bottle of raw, unflavored, Kombucha from the store.

(Please note the warning about contamination at the bottom of this page link. And if you suspect any contamination, THROW IT OUT!)