How to Make Kombucha Without a SCOBY

There are SO many decisions to make when you’re moving, trying to decide what is worth packing and hauling and what is better left behind. When I moved to Texas last year, I made a last-minute decision to keep my kombucha SCOBY, not wanting to toss a faithful friend to the curb.

I put it in a quart mason jar with some sweet tea, screwed on a Tattler lid in case a metal one corroded, and stuffed it into our storage unit. By that point, making sure that my SCOBY was living its best life was hardly a priority. I didn’t know how long it would be in there or if it would survive but I thought it was worth a try.

When I unpacked it six months later, there was still some tea sloshing around in the jar and the SCOBY looked just like it should be, so I decided to get a new batch started.

To my surprise, a vinegar-y smell didn’t knock me over when I opened the jar. Actually, there was almost no smell at all. All I got was a faint whiff of plastic, probably from the lid. The fact that it didn’t stink to high heaven really bothered me. I wonder if the so-called climate control of the storage unit had actually baked it a little.

Maybe I could add it to some sweet tea and it would work beautifully Maybe it would work but maybe it wouldn’t and I’d get frustrated and waste a lot of time and ingredients. I decided not to chance it, but instead, try to make my own SCOBY. I’d done it successfully several years ago but couldnt remember the process. This time…success again! This is how I did it.

I made a quart of sweet tea (black tea with 1/4 c. of sugar) and when it was completely cooled to room temperature, I poured some out of the jar and replaced it with 1 c. of this commercial kombucha. I chose this brand simply because it was raw and didn’t have any added flavors.

A few days later my jar of tea and kombucha looked like this.

a little fungal action

And then a few days later…

I don’t usually get excited when my food resembles a scummy pond but this is one of those times.

I took the process slowly. I added the whole quart of kombucha to another quart of sweet tea.

When it developed an actual SCOBY, I transferred it and all the kombucha to a gallon jar with another quart of sweet tea. Since that batch fermented to my liking, I’ve resumed my normal kombucha-making cycle.

kombucha flavored with dried mango, tasting ever so much more elegant in a wine glass

All told, the process took about a month.

So there you have it. If you’ve killed your SCOBY through neglect or overheating and you can’t beg one off anyone you know, you can easily start over. You can even start your very first SCOBY if you dont have one. It will take some time, but very little effort.

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