How to get a quality SCOBY
All batches of kombucha require a SCOBY (a kombucha
culture) and some starter tea (some previously fermented
kombucha) to make more kombucha.
It’s like that old saying: It takes money to make money. In
this case, it takes kombucha to make kombucha.
But if you’ve never made kombucha before, where do you
get your hands on a culture and some kombucha “starter”
Reputable online SCOBY-sellers
- There are a number of online kombucha stores that sell kombucha cultures. Try to find a place that allows customer reviews, and the more positive the reviews the better! I got mine from Amazon (from here)*.
Avoid websites that sell dehydrated SCOBYs. I hate to throw shade, but people really need to avoid this site in particular. There’s absolutely no need to use a dehydrated SCOBY — for one thing, fresh SCOBYs are readily available and so affordable. Secondly, dehydrated SCOBYs take much longer to “wake back up” and start fermenting. Lastly, because they’ve been dehydrated, they’re pretty much guaranteed to be weak. If they’re weak, you put yourself at risk for mold. Even if you’re able to make a few successful batches with a dehydrated SCOBY, the long-term risk is not worth it.
Try to avoid sellers that instruct you to use vinegar as your “starter culture” for your first batch.
If you see instructions that say to use vinegar, regardless of where you get your SCOBY, ignore them. Instead, buy a bottle of store-bought plain, unflavored, raw kombucha and use approx. 1 cup of plain kombucha for every ¼ cup of vinegar recommended by their instructions.
The size of the SCOBY doesn't really matter as much as the strength + volume of starter tea. So even if you get a small SCOBY, as long as the starter culture is strong, that's really all that matters!
Try to make sure it comes with a good amount of starter tea if you can. A lot of online stores don’t give nearly enough starter tea, but the good thing is that if it doesn’t come with enough starter tea, you can always supplement your amount of starter tea with plain, unflavored, raw store-bought kombucha.
Reminder: As I mentioned above, you shouldn't use vinegar as replacement for starter tea. If your SCOBY instructions tell you to do that, ignore it. Just use at least 1 cup of plain kombucha for every ¼ cup of vinegar recommended by their instructions. Learn more here about why vinegar should never be used in kombucha here and here.
Get a SCOBY from a friend
If you have a friend who home brews, this is a great place to get a SCOBY!
Make sure they’ve taken good care of their SCOBY — that they’ve kept it in a clean container, never refrigerate it and never use vinegar in their process. If they need tips on sharing/transporting their SCOBY, send 'em here.
The upside here is that you can hopefully also taste their kombucha to make sure it tastes good to you. And you can ask them for tips on their brewing process!
Growing your own SCOBY
Check out this post for instructions on how to grow one yourself!
*On this page, you’ll find some affiliate links to sources where I’ve purchased my ingredients/materials that I use. I may get a small cut of Amazon's profit for finding + recommending them to you. It won't cost you any more than you’d normally pay for them. I went through a lot of trial and error to find low-cost, high-quality options to save us all money. But feel free to purchase from wherever you like!