Kombucha SCOBY FAQ's


Frequently Asked Questions

You Asked, We Answered

I saw some of your products at my local health food store.  Are they legit?

We have many partners across the states who provide a variety of our products at their stores. Many times the product is co-branded with their stores to provide a unique experience.

How long can I store the SCOBY and starter tea in the pouch it came in?

As long as the SCOBY and starter tea are stored properly they will last indefinitely.  Store it in the pantry or in the cupboard away from direct sunning.  Do not refrigerate.

The pouch is inflated, is the SCOBY ok?

If the pouch is inflated the SCOBY and the starter tea are more than ok!  This is actually a sign that your Starter Tea is super healthy, active and ready to brew.  As soon as you begin making your kombucha the already active starter tea will get right to work.

I'm not going to be using the SCOBY and the starter tea for a few weeks.  Can I store it in the refrigerator?

Although some brewers refrigerate their SCOBY's while not in use, we always recommend keeping your SCOBY at room temperature even when not in use.  It will keep your SCOBY healthy and eager to brew at all times.

The SCOBY I got from you sank to the bottom of the brewing vessel.  Is the SCOBY bad?

Not at all.  The SCOBY you received from us may sink or float, this is 100% natural and has nothing do with the health of the SCOBY, starter tea, or batch.  On the other hand, the baby SCOBY will form on top of the brew.

Can I use different sweeteners to brew my kombucha?

Different recipes will call for different ingredients.  We always recommend you stick to the specifics of whichever recipe you are using.  All of our SCOBY's include customized recipes for each particular size and starter tea included.

What is the difference between black tea or green tea kombucha?

At the end of the day its all about taste.  Some describe the black tea kombucha as having a bolder taste vs a smoother taste when compared to green tea kombucha.   In our opinion, they are both delicious.

My batch is kind of vinegary, why?

It most likely brewed a little too long.  Next time try brewing for a little shorter time.

What does kombucha taste like?

Taste will vary drastically depending on the recipe and fermentation time, but a typical plain brew has a funky, slightly sweet and tart, semi- bubbly taste.

Its been 7 days and my brew is kind of sweet.  What do I do?

Let it brew for a little longer.  The longer it brews the less sweet / more vinegary the brew will be.

What type / kind of tea do you recommend to make kombucha at home?

We always recommend sticking to the recipe you are following to make your brew for a better success rate.  However, the two most common teas used to brew kombucha are plain green tea and plain black tea, with no additional flavorings or oils.

Brown stringy stuff is growing underneath my SCOBY. I’m freaking out! Is it mold?

The brown darkish stringy growths are yeast strands. Don’t worry, they are completely normal. Also remember mold will only grow on top of the SCOBY not underneath it. 

Does kombucha contain alcohol?

Just like most fermented foods, kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol which is part of the fermentation process. However, most kombucha commercially sold is not considered alcoholic by USDA standards because it has less than .05% alcohol content.  Your kombucha will be considered Non-Alcoholic since you would need a different recipe to raise the alcohol content.

I saw a vendor at the farmers market selling your SCOBYs and natural soaps.  Are they from you?

Yes :-) we have many partnerships with vendors who sell curated products at their local farmers markets.  Brindle Southern SCOBYs have a loyal and always growing fan base who get our SCOBYs at their local farmers market.

What is the largest size SCOBY you carry?

At BSF we grow a large variety of SCOBY shapes and sizes for a variety of different needs. From commercial kombucha brewers, SCOBY retailers, home brewers and jewelry makers, we grow them all.  Our largest SCOBY for home brewers is currently 12" in diameter.  Our current largest commercial grade SCOBY for commercial brewers is 36" in diameter.

On average, how much tea is recommended for a one gallon batch of kombucha?

This will vary greatly from recipe to recipe and we always recommend trying to stick to whatever particular recipe you are following.  However, in most cases one ounce of loose tea is a good average.  When using tea bags this translates to something between 10 to 15 tea bags depending on the size. 

What is the ideal brewing room temperature for kombucha?

Temperature is crucial for kombucha brewing.  If its too cold, fermentation won't occur. This is perhaps one of the most commonly (although unintentional) bypassed crucial steps in kombucha home brewing, at least for beginner brewers.  This doesn't mean your SCOBY and starter tea are unhealthy.  Comparing kombucha brewing to baking its similar to prepping the cake mix but never turning the oven on.  Your ingredients weren't bad, but they never baked.  A constant 75 to 85 degrees fahrenheit is a very nice zone.

Can I drink the starter tea that came with the SCOBY?

All brewing ingredients are for brewing purposes ONLY!  Do not consume the starter kombucha tea on its own. Use the starter tea as one of the ingredients to make your very own kombucha :-)

Can I use honey to brew Kombucha instead of cane sugar?

In order to brew with honey you need a different type of culture known as a JUN SCOBY, which is different than a Kombucha SCOBY. Brewing tea with honey is different than kombucha, its known as JUN TEA.

Can I use Decaffeinated tea to brew kombucha?

IF you are familiar with the kombucha brewing process, of course! IF you are a beginner brewer we suggest you stick to the ingredients in the recipe you are following until you familiarize yourself with the brewing process.  Once you know how to brew you will naturally gravitate towards experimenting with different teas and sugars.

What size Kombucha SCOBY and amount of kombucha starter tea do I need to brew a 1 gallon batch of kombucha?

The size of the Kombucha SCOBY is only ONE of the FOUR crucial elements needed in correlation with batch size.  Our suggested breakdown particularly for new brewers is:

  • 1/2 gallon batch = 3" SCOBY + 1/2cup of kombucha starter tea. 

  • 1 gallon batch = 4" SCOBY + 1.5 cups of kombucha starter tea. 

  • 2 gallon batch = 6" SCOBY (or two 4" SCOBYS) + 3 cups of kombucha starter tea. 

  • 5 gallon batch = 11" SCOBY (or four 4" SCOBYs / two 6" SCOBYs) + 5 cups of kombucha starter tea. 

My batch did not turn out.  who do i blame?

:-)

The natural instinct of some beginner kombucha brewers is try to find which one of the ingredients they purchased was bad and caused their brew to spoil.  

We always use the "baking a cake" analogy when describing the kombucha brewing process to beginners.  

We are all very aware that baking a cake is a lot more than placing something in the oven.  9.9 times out of 10 time it also means mixing a list of different ingredients in a very specific way, at very specific time, in a very specific order. Then placing that mix in a specif container, and baked at a very detailed time frame at a predetermined temperature.

If the cake doesn't turn out, a new baker understands there odds are they made an error somewhere in the process.  Very randomly will they place blame on the water, the butter, the flour, the oil, the salt, the sugar, etc.

Baking is as simple as following a set of instructions and correctly accomplishing them accordingly.  

Brewing kombucha is JUST like baking  a cake.  The more you understand the entire process from beginning to end, the better you will be at it.  Once you get it, just like our very own Master Pastry Chef - Mayra, your success rate will be 100%

What is the suggested pH level for my home-brewed kombucha?

Ask 10 kombucha brewers what is the correct pH for kombucha and you may get about a 100 different answers based on taste, but they will all agree it MUST be below a pH of 4.  
A pH of 7 is neutral.  A pH more than 7 is alkaline.  A pH less than 7 is acidic.  The lower the number, the higher the acidity.  Once your kombucha reaches a pH of 4 its ready.  However, some ferment it longer as a way of reaching a higher pH level making the Kombucha less sweet and more vinegary.  Somewhere between a pH of 2 and a pH of 4 seems to be a good spot but its all a matter of taste.

What type of bottles / jars do you suggest for second fermentation?

Glass bottles with plastic airtight screw caps are best.  If you are new to kombucha home brewing  try to avoid elements that may play against you such as plastic bottles and jars with metal lids.  Since the acidity in the kombucha will cause metal to rust over time this is one of the main reasons using mason jars with metal lids is a slippery slope for new brewers.  Use your best judgment.  If mason jars is all you have, make sure the metal ring and lid are both new and are not used again.  If you are planning on brewing regularly, get some glass bottles with heavy duty lids.  We particularly like 32oz glass growers.  They are durable, portable and very useful.

I got two BSF SCOBYS at my  local health food store in Austin, TX.  I just noticed a "black/brown substance" on top of the two vessels (which I also got as part of the brewing kit), Is this mold?

More often than not this "black/brown substance" on top of the jars is actually the new baby SCOBY as it begins to form. It is normal for this new "mass" that is forming on top to contains small bubbles and "stringy" black or brown things floating around. All of these elements are completely normal in the brewing process and are actually a good sign of proper fermentation. By day 7 of the fermentation process that black substance on top will be larger, thicker and will change color. If you allow it to ferment up until day 10 the baby SCOBY on top will have developed into something that looks closer to the SCOBY you received from us. The good news is that is sounds you have successfully starter brewing your kombucha :-)
Wait until day 7 and take another look at it.  If its mold you will must certainly know by then because it will be fuzzy / moldy.

My brew didn't turn out.  Did I get a bad SCOBY and starter tea?

Not if you used one of our BSF SCOBY's.  Brewing is very similar to baking.  There are very specific steps to take, at specific times, for specific times in order to successfully bake a cake.  Mixing all the ingredients at once and putting them in a cold oven won't accomplish much.  The same is true with kombucha brewing as a successful final brew will only be achieved if each one of the crucial specific steps in kombucha brewing have been accomplished successfully.

My baby SCOBY doesn't look anything like the SCOBY I received from you.  Is my batch bad?

Not at all.  All SCOBY's are different, although they perform the very same tasks.  If your new baby SCOBY is still too thin, you can toss it aside and reuse the BSF SCOBY for your next batch.  The more you brew and re-use your own brewed kombucha as your starter tea, your batch will produce nicer baby SCOBYs.

How do I know if my kombucha is brewing properly?

During the fermentation period you will notice plenty of activity in the brewing vessel: many little bubbles, ugly, darkish stringy growth, then a thin light skin will form on top. This new layer forming on top is a brand new SCOBY known as a “baby SCOBY.” There will also be a musky, vinegary aroma. These are all signs that your kombucha is brewing properly.

What is second fermentation and how do I do it?

The second fermentation process adds a good amount of effervescence to your kombucha. To second ferment, bottle your kombucha leaving a 1⁄2” gap between the kombucha and the top of the bottle. Place it in a dark, warm area (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to three days. Then place in the refrigerator until you are ready to drink it. The second fermentation process will cause pressurization in the bottle. You should only use high quality glass containers with airtight lids. Never shake bottled kombucha as it could cause the container to break.

Do I need to do anything different for brewing in the winter vs. summer?

Keep an eye on temperature. If it’s too cold the kombucha won’t brew, or will brew at a significantly slower rate.  This will keep your kombucha on the sweeter side.  It will also be more vulnerable to contamination if the pH level is unable to reach a pH of 4 within the first week.

 If it’s too hot, your kombucha may brew way too fast, turning it vinegary faster. Temperature should remain constant during the entire fermentation process! Once you are experienced brewing through a few different seasons you will naturally develop your own brewing temperature preferences.

What kind of container or brewing vessel should I use to make my kombucha?

A clear glass food grade container works best. You should avoid plastic, metal, and ceramic containers, unless they are specifically made for brewing kombucha. For smaller batches using half gallon mason jars work great.

How do I know if my kombucha is contaminated?

The safest thing to do with your kombucha if you are unsure is to discard it. When in doubt, throw it out! However, if your kombucha smells normal, looks good, has no signs of fungus or any other abnormal traits, the odds are your kombucha is not contaminated. If there is fungus, or any other signs of potential contamination such as fruit flies or a rancid smell, discard your brew and the SCOBY. Never use a SCOBY that has been compromised. You can also check the pH balance of your kombucha. If after the seven to ten day period your pH levels are not between the 2.5 to 3.5 range, your kombucha may not be safe for consumption.