Kombucha FAQ

Over here at Nourish to Flourish, we've been talking about kombucha. Since kombucha is not an exact science, there tends to be a lot of questions that arise during the brewing process. My husband and I have had our own questions, and have sought out those answers. Others have been asking questions, too, which I hope to be able to answer. Here are some of the most popular questions asked when it comes to brewing kombucha:

What does a healthy SCOBY look like? SCOBYs do not look exactly alike, but they have similar qualities. The top of a SCOBY is smooth and has a white/light beige hue. The underside is generally darker and more stringy.


The top of the SCOBY

The underside of the SCOBY

How many times can I use the SCOBY? A SCOBY can be used many times. Since it naturally multiplies, you can eventually compost or throw out your mother SCOBY and use the baby - which then becomes the mother. Theoretically, however, with proper care you should be able to continue using the original SCOBY indefinitely.
If I can't find a friend who will send me a SCOBY, can I grow my own SCOBY instead of purchasing a dehydrated one? I have heard that this is possible. I haven't done it myself, but these are the directions: mix 1 cup org. black tea, 1 tablespoon org. sugar, and 16 oz. of plain kombucha (this can be purchased at your local grocery store or health food store). Cover with a tea towel and rubberband, let it sit for a couple weeks, and your SCOBY should grow.
How long does it take for a "baby" SCOBY to grow? The time varies, so don't be alarmed if you don't have a new SCOBY with every fermentation. It can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months. Also, wait until the new SCOBY detaches itself from the mother; do not pull them apart. If you do, you risk detaching it when it is not yet fully formed. 
My SCOBY sank. Is something wrong? No! A SCOBY generally floats, but there is nothing wrong if it sinks to the bottom, or floats somewhere in the middle.  
My SCOBY looks cloudy or foamy. Is something wrong? When the SCOBY looks cloudy or has a whitish foam on top, it means the baby has started to grow, which is actually a sign that your kombucha is fermenting properly. 
How do I know if my SCOBY is bad? If you see black, fuzzy mold growing, then you need to toss the SCOBY. With most fermentations, if it smells gross, don't eat it. But, if you follow the directions you shouldn't have an issue with this.
I'm going on vacation. Can I store my SCOBY? How long can I leave it? The best idea is to start another batch. My husband and I visited family for two weeks over Christmas. We started a batch right before we left, and it was ready for drinking when we arrived back home. If you are going to be gone longer than two weeks, place the SCOBY in a glass container and cover it with brewed kombucha. Place it in the fridge until you're ready to brew again. 
Can I use plastic to brew my kombucha? I generally don't recommend this. Even though food-grade shouldn't cause any damage to the culture, plastic has the potential of leaching chemicals into your kombucha. Glass is best to use.
Where is the best place to brew kombucha? It is best to keep the brew out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures. It also does best if given plenty of air, so don't stuff your kombucha in the pantry or a closet. You can keep it out on the countertop, or in an area where it won't be disturbed and is able to breathe. The ideal space will maintain a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.
What is the best type of sugar, tea, and water to use? Check out this page for excellent information in regards to this question. 
Do I need to strain my kombucha? No! Actually, the little strings you find in your kombucha are good for you to consume. It is just yeast that was part of the SCOBY.


The tiny strings have detached from the mother,
but are fine for you to consume.
I feel a bit strange after drinking kombucha. Is this normal? If your body is not used to consuming probiotics, then when you begin eating/drinking them you might experience a die-off reaction. Probiotics naturally kick out the bad bacteria from your gut. If this is the first time it's happening, it might be somewhat of a jolt on your body and the bad bacteria is suddenly starting to be cleaned out. Some people experience headaches, bloating, cramping, and/or other symptoms. If this happens to you, reduce the amount of kombucha you are consuming daily until your body adjusts to taking probiotics.

Can kombucha be consumed while pregnant or breastfeeding? If you started drinking kombucha prior to getting pregnant, then it is perfectly safe to continue drinking throughout pregnancy. It is not a good idea to start during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to your chance of experiencing a die-off reaction.

If I'm making other fermented foods, how far away do I need them from the kombucha?  When you are fermenting different things (without lids), it is important to keep a distance of several feet (more, if possible) between the cultures.  The kombucha should also be kept at a great distance from any garbage or compost bins as transient bacteria can be harmful to the SCOBY.


Do you have any other questions about brewing kombucha that were not answered above? 
Please share!

6 comments:

  1. I'm due in a couple weeks, does this mean I should wait till I'm done breastfeeding??? (close to 2 years) Or can I start off slow after birth?

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    1. Sara, my knowledge is that if you start drinking kombucha while breastfeeding it could cause fussiness in the baby. I have heard that when you're breastfeeding only part-time it is safe to start drinking kombucha if done slowly - and then to watch for signs of die-off. Perhaps you may want to do a little further research to decide what is going to be best for your situation. I hope this helps! And congratulations! :)

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  2. Is it possible to drink too much kombucha?

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    1. In my opinion, yes, it is possible to drink too much kombucha. Kombucha ferments the black tea yet still contains caffeine, so it is best not to have too much of it. Additionally, if you are just starting to drink kombucha, it can be harmful to drink a lot and cause a major die-off reaction in your body. Other than that, it's like most other beverages, and best done in moderation, and not to the exclusion of other healthy drinks like fresh milk, filtered water, kefir, and kvass. Great question, Anon! :)

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  3. My kombucha has tea particles in it. Should I throw it away?

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  4. My mom drank Kombucha decades ago and she told me she gained weight due to the hormones in it. Has anyone experimented this?

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