Where To Get Kombucha SCOBYs
To brew your own homemade kombucha, you need five ingredients:
- a couple of quarts of water (filtered or distilled is the best water for kombucha)
- a few tablespoons of tea (unflavored black or green tea, loose-leaf or in bags)
- a cup or so of sugar (use organic white sugar for the most consistent results)
- a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY)
- a week or so of brewing time
“Time” is one of the ingredients on this list because it will take you at least a week, and sometimes a month or more, to make your first batch of kombucha after you get your starter SCOBY. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding where to get a SCOBY, because the type and quality of the SCOBY will affect your brewing and fermenting time. For example:
You can get a large active SCOBY with plenty of starter liquid from several trusted online kombucha retailers, but you may end up paying a little more. However, this will usually give you the quickest fermenting time for your first batch, and the most reliable results.
You can often buy a dehydrated SCOBY more cheaply, but because it takes time to rehydrate a SCOBY this will slow down your first batch by several weeks to a month. In addition, dehydrated SCOBYs sometimes have quality issues.
You can ask a friend for an extra SCOBY or part of their SCOBY “mother” and since this generally comes for free, it’s the cheapest option, and if the SCOBY is healthy you can get started brewing right away. You’ll want to taste their kombucha tea first, though – if you don’t like the way it tastes, you might not like the tea that SCOBY makes at home for you. And if they don’t really know how to take care of a SCOBY, the one they give you might not be in very good health.
Buy Your SCOBY From an Online Retailer
For many people, online shops are the 21st century solution to shopping. Prices are often lower, bargains are everywhere, and shipping is sometimes free (though not often). But just as in any other marketplace, the “buyer beware” rule holds true. In fact, with online retailers, it seems that you sometimes have to be more careful, since you can’t actually see or examine the product until after you’ve paid for it and it arrives at your doorstep.
When you’re purchasing any kombucha supplies on line, whether that’s your first SCOBY or a pH meter so you can refine your kombucha brewing process, there are some things you should do before handing over your credit card number:
- Read through the customer feedback and comments. If other people have had a good experience with this retailer, you probably will as well.
- Check their shipping times and prices. Sometimes what looks like a real bargain can turn out to be twice as expensive due to added shipping costs. In addition, you’ll want to get your SCOBY through the mail as quickly as possible to keep it in good health. Avoid any retailer who says that it will take more than a week for your SCOBY to arrive.
- Compare their return policy and customer support services to other online retailers. It’s good to have a place to turn when you have questions about kombucha brewing or if there are problems with the culture.
Buy Your SCOBY From a Brewing Supply Shop
Having someone local to ask questions from is even better, and when you go through a local brewing supply shop to buy your SCOBY, you’ll be dealing with someone who knows what they’re talking about. Most people who own and run brewing supply shops – whether specific to kombucha or including other fermentations like beer and wine – have their own home brewing setup, and they’ll know the answers to your questions. And if they don’t know the answer to a specific question, they’ll probably know someone in the area who has that answer.
Link Up With Local Brewing Groups
Brewing supply shops are good places to start your kombucha contact list. You can also find contact information to regional and local groups focused on kombucha and fermentation in general by doing a quick internet search, or looking for Facebook pages that have keywords like “fermentation” or “kombucha” or “SCOBY.” Because these groups are made up of people who make their own kombucha, they’ll know the best place to buy a SCOBY in your area, and they’ll be able to give you advice on where to get your other ingredients and equipment.
Get a SCOBY From a Friend
In the unlikely event that someone in your local brewing group hasn’t already offered to give you a SCOBY for free, check with your friends to see if they’re making kombucha at home and have an extra SCOBY they don’t need. There are so many people making kombucha these days that even if your immediate friends aren’t into home brewing, there’s bound to be a friend of a friend who’s willing to divide a SCOBY to supply you with your starter culture.
Grow Your Own SCOBY
Although this isn’t really the last resort, growing your own SCOBY from scratch may not give you the best results. It’s easy to make your own starter culture and grow a SCOBY using raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized kombucha, but it’s not always easy to find kombucha like that in the stores. Most bottled kombucha sold in the retail market has been pasteurized, and pasteurized kombucha is sometimes slower to culture, or culture unevenly
However, you may be able to find a good source for raw kombucha in health food stores, or even at a restaurant or bar where they make their own, or get it directly from the brewer. You can also get fresh kombucha from someone who’s brewing their own at home, and use that as a starter. You’ll need about half a cup of kombucha tea (unflavored) to grow a SCOBY in a quart of liquid, which is the minimum amount required to get your own home-brew cycle going. With two cups of raw kombucha tea, you can grow a healthy SCOBY, have enough kombucha to start a new batch, AND have enough fresh kombucha tea to drink while that batch is brewing. What could be better than that?