Fun with Fermentation: Grow Your Own Kombucha SCOBY

Grow Your Own Scoby

So there I was, happily enjoying a bottle of ‘buch when I realized there was something in my mouth. Something – stringy. Spitting it out into the sink I was horrified to see a fermented blob of nastiness glistening up at me and sliding slowly toward the drain.

What. The. Heck.

Panic set it. Had I been poisoned? Would I die? Would this bit of nasty, bacteria ridden sludge take over my body? And most of all, WTF was I actually drinking?

As visions of botulism danced in my head, Dr. Google was able to set me straight.  And after a quick internet search, I found that what I had accidentally almost ingested was nothing really to be freaked out about after all. Along with  probiotic goodness, the bits of congealed ickiness were actually part of the mother culture that had made my kombucha possible.  The SCOBY in other words. Aside from looking like an adorably disgusting mushroom, the SCOBY is actually a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast that floats on top of the brew, converting sugars and tea into a lightly alcoholic beverage bursting with probiotic bacteria.

Ok fine, you can stay little bits. Just next time, not in my mouth.

So you might be thinking, why yes, I too want a blob of nasty yeasty bits that I can take care of over the next four weeks –  how can I get my own?

Well that’s the big experiment today. In the past you could take a bit of the scoby left in your kombucha bottle and use it to  make your own starter scoby . Yet after the great kombucha-gate of 2010, where bottles of GT’s kombucha continued to spontaneously ferment in stores – giving under 21 year old health nuts tiny, baby buzzes and exploding bottle surprises – most commercial ‘buch recipes were reformulated to stop continued fermentation. This means a possible dead scoby. This means that this whole thing might not actually work.

But let’s try anyway.

Since the bottle I’m getting my potential starter from was actually alcoholic, and I had to whip out my ID to get it, I’m hoping this means that the bit of culture I scraped out of the bottom does have a little life in it yet.

So before I order a scoby online or from some shady hippie on Craigslist I’m going to try this first. Care to join? Here’s how:

How To Make Your Own Kombucha Scoby

Makes 1 kombucha scoby

What You Need

7 cups water
1/2 cup white granulated sugar (see Recipe Notes)
4 bags black tea, or 1 tablespoon looseleaf (see Recipe Note)
1 cup unflavored, unpasteurized store-bought kombucha

2-quart or larger saucepan
Long-handled spoon
2-quart or larger glass jar, like a canning jar (not plastic or metal)
Tightly woven cloth (like clean napkins or tea towels), coffee filters, or paper towels, to cover the jar


  1. Make the sweet tea. Bring the water to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar until it is completely dissolved. Add the tea and allow to steep until the tea cools to room temperature. Remove and discard the tea. (Alternatively, boil half the amount of water, dissolve the sugar and steep the tea, then add the remaining water to cool the tea more rapidly.)
  2. Combine the sweet tea and kombucha in a jar. Pour the sweet tea into the jar. Pour the kombucha on top — if you see a blobby “baby scoby” in the bottom of your jar of commercial kombucha, make sure this gets transferred. (But if you don’t see one, don’t worry! Your scoby will still form.) Stir to combine.
  3. Cover and store for 1 to 4 weeks. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of tightly-woven cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels secured with a rubber band. (If you develop problems with gnats or fruit flies, use a tightly woven cloth or paper towels, which will do a better job keeping the insects out of your brew.) Place the jar somewhere at average room temperature (70°F), out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Sunlight can prevent the kombucha from fermenting and the scoby from forming, so wrap the jar in a cloth if you can’t keep it away from sunlight.
  4. First, bubbles will gather on the surface. For the first few days, nothing will happen. Then you’ll start to see groups of tiny bubbles starting to collect on the surface.
  5. Then, the bubbles will collect into a film. After a few more days, the groups of bubbles will start to connect and form a thin, transparent, jelly-like film across the surface of the tea. You’ll also see bubbles forming around the edges of the film. This is carbon-dioxide from the fermenting tea and a sign that everything is healthy and happy!
  6. The film will thicken into a solid, opaque layer. Over the next few days, the layer will continue to thicken and gradually become opaque. When the scoby is about 1/4-inch thick, it’s ready to be used to make kombucha tea — depending on the temperature and conditions in your kitchen, this might take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks.
  7. The finished scoby: Your finished scoby might look a little nubbly, rough, patchy, or otherwise “not quite like a grown-up scoby.” It’s ok! Your scoby will start to smooth out and take on a uniform color over the course of a few batches of kombucha — take a look a the before and after pictures of a baby and grown-up scoby in the gallery above.
  8. Using the liquid used to grow the scoby: The liquid used to grow the scoby will likely be too strong and vinegary to drink (and if you’re not used to drinking kombucha or very vinegary beverages, it can give you a stomach ache). You can use it to start your first batch of kombucha, or you can use it as a cleaning solution on your counters.


  • Your scoby is forming normally and is healthy if… You see bubbles, clear jelly-like masses, opaque jelly-like masses, stringy or gritty brown bits. Also if the tea smells fresh, tart, and slightly vinegary (this aroma will become more pronounced the further into the process you go).
  • Your finished scoby is normal and healthy if… It’s about a quarter-inch thick and opaque. It’s fine if the scoby is bubbled or nubbly or has a rough edge. It’s also ok if it’s thinner in some parts than others or if there’s a hole. Your scoby will become smoother and more uniform as you brew more batches of kombucha.
  • There is a problem if… You see fuzzy black or green mold growing on top of the forming scoby, or if your tea starts to smell cheesy, rancid, or otherwise unpleasant. In any of these cases, bad bacteria has taken hold of the tea; discard this batch and start again with a fresh batch.
  • If you can’t tell if there’s a problem… Continue to let the tea ferment and the scoby form. If it’s a problem, it will get worse; if it’s a normal part of the process, it should normalize (or at least not get any worse!)

Recipe Notes

  • Covering for the jar: Cheesecloth is not ideal because it’s easy for small insects, like fruit flies, to wiggle through the layers. Use a few layers of tightly woven cloth (like clean napkins or tea towels), coffee filters, or paper towels, to cover the jar, and secure it tightly with rubber bands or twine.
  • Using Other Sugars: Scobys form best if you use plain, granulated table sugar. Organic sugar is fine, but avoid alternative sugars or honey.
  • Substituting Other Teas: Plain black tea is the best and most nutritious tea for scoby growth. For this step of growing a new kombucha, use black tea if at all possible; you can play around with other teas once you start making kombucha regularly.

Recipe pulled from thekitchn archives: because I’m hoping for some reliability here.

Eats, Wellness

Sweet and Sour Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Quick Sweet and Spicey Pickles

Quick Sweet and Spicy Pickles

Since January got off to such a smashing start, with me buying more produce than we could ever hope to consume, this morning I found some sad cucumbers languishing in the back of the fridge. Now I like a cuc as much as the next girl, but since the Man doesn’t, I find myself struggling to consume the whole bag. Sure, I could make them into my Aunt’s delicious cucumber salad, similar recipe found here on my other favorite blog, the Smitten Kitchen, or I could pickle them.

Pickles it is.

Beacause just like when you give a mouse a cookie, pickles lead to other delicious things. What can I put them on? Does this call for meats? Smoked meats? Perhaps even a smoked brisket sandwich? I think so. So while these little buggers are getting all salty and sweet, filling themselves with probiotic goodness, I’m finding more excuses to evade the dreaded January slimdown. I worked hard for these extra holiday LBS, don’t try and take them away. But alas, that’s just an excuse. But pickles unto themselves don’t have that many calories, so there you go, it’s a win win for all.

Choosing the freshest cucumbers available will ensure a good crunch. Since theses are quick pickles, they cannot be processed for long term storage, so don’t even try.

What you’ll need: 

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp black peppercorns
1/8 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/8 tsp dill seeds
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbs brown sugar (sweeten to taste)
5 pickling or thin skinned cucumbers, ends trimmed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 sprigs fresh dill

1. Boil: Bring vinegar, water, garlic, turmeric, peppercorns, dill seeds, brown sugar, and mustard seeds to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Toss in the chili flakes at the end.

2. Pack: Meanwhile, place one 1‑pint jar under hot running water until heated through, about 1 minute; dry thoroughly. Pack cucumbers and dill into hot jar. Using funnel and ladle, pour hot brine over cucumbers to cover. If your brine does not reach the top, feel free to add a bit more water. Leave some headspace at the top of the jar. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. Store: Cover jar with lid and refrigerate for at least 2 1/2 hours before serving. (Pickles can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks; pickles will soften significantly after 3 weeks.)





The Easiest Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Chicken pho...and EXCELLENT reason to make and have stock on hand. Recipe to come soon.

Because as beautiful as a simmering pot of chicken stock is, chicken pho made with stock is prettier. Recipe to come soon, as soon as I can tear my mouth away from my spoon. 

There’s something to be said about the power of chicken stock. It’s warming on a cold day, comforting on a sick day and delicious almost every other day. After years of buying boxed stock and ultimately being disappointed every time, I started making my own and never looked back. It’s easier than you’d ever imagine, especially when you own a slow cooker and can leave the puppy simmering overnight for the best possible effect.

As someone who also hates to throw things away, DIY stock also offers the best options for using up all the leftover bits I’ve accumulated during the week. Carrot peels, onion bits, and celery tops all go in the pot, along with any chicken bones or the remains of a picked apart chicken carcass we may have dined upon earlier. If you find you don’t have enough bits by the end of the week, just throw it all in a gallon ziplock and pop it in the freezer for later. My favorite stocks of course are ones that go all gelatinous by the end of the cook. Adding a splash of vinegar can help extract the collagen from the bones. Rich, hearty, with deep flavor that adds just a little something extra you’ll never look at boxed stock the same way again.

Chicken Stock:  Makes about 2 1/2 quarts

Bones from 1 or more roasted chickens, meat picked clean
2 medium yellow onions, sliced into quarters
4 stalks celery, chopped in large pieces
2 medium carrots, chopped in large pieces
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp whole peppercorns
Herb Bundle of any of the following: thyme, parsley stems, garlic cloves, fennel fronds, leek tops

Veggies can always be a combination of scraps, bits and new produce. This is just a guideline.

6-quart or larger slow cooker
Fine-mesh strainer
Large bowls
Coffee filter or cheesecloth, optional
Small containers for storing the stock


  1. Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker: Place the chicken carcass in the middle of the slow cooker (if you have more than one chicken, break the carcass into pieces so it all fits). Loose bones, like drumsticks, can be tucked inside the chicken carcass to save space. If you have the time, I highly recommend charring the outside of the onions before adding…no one ever complained about extra depth of flavor. Add the roughly chopped vegetables and scatter them around the chicken. Add the bay leaf, vinegar, salt and any other herbs.
    **About the salt: Personally, I like adding salt to stock. Some people prefer not to because you have to adjust for the salt concent when you’re cooking. But since I’m really the only one using the stock in our house, I get to do what I want. And that means salt. I feel like it brings out the flavors a bit more and makes for stock that’s more “ready to go” at the drop of a hat.
  2. Cover with water: Add enough water to cover the chicken bones. It’s fine to fill to within an inch of the top of the slow cooker, this isn’t going to be bubbling over.
  3. Cook for at least 8 hours: Set the slow cooker to “low” and cook for at least 8 hours, or longer. If your slow cooker has a timer, you may need to reset it once or twice during cooking. Usually after dinner, I’ll put the crock together and let it go overnight. Waking up to the smell of chicken stock in the morning isn’t half bad. Especially when it means you can make a quick cup of chicken miso soup to-go.
  4. Strain the stock: Set a strainer over a large bowl. Use tongs to transfer the big bones and vegetables from the slow cooker to the strainer. When only small bits remain, pour the stock through the strainer and into the bowl. If you’d like a cleaner, clearer stock, clean out your strainer, line it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and strain the stock again. Don’t feel bad about discarding the veggies. They’re done their part and given up just about all the flavor they possibly can.
  5. Store the stock: Divide the stock between several small jars or storage containers. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
  6. A Note About Gelling: Depending on what type of chicken bits you’ve used, (bones, necks, feet, etc) you may find to your surprise that refrigerated cooled stock has turned into chicken jell-o. This is perfectly fine, great even! It means that you successfully extracted mucho collagen out of those bones, plus extra calcium. Once the stock comes up to room temp it will re-liquify, turning into velvety, mouth-coatingly fine, chicken-y goodness.

**Recipe adapted from