Most first-time kombucha brewers will never forget how cool it is to have your first SCOBY. Having it in your hands is a mix of amusement and wonder since it formed out of a liquid. Now, the next challenge after a successful brew is to know how long does SCOBY last and how you can store it.
The world of kombucha can be full of scientific jargon that might overwhelm new brewers. So, in this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about SCOBY and how it resembles taking care of a plant. Let’s begin!
The nature of SCOBY: Pellicles and starter cultures
SCOBY or Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast is a colony of good bacteria that forms during the fermentation of kombucha. It produces a white blob called a pellicle floating on the kombucha jar. SCOBY is an ever-giving culture since you can make another batch of booch using it.
How to use SCOBY for a new brew?
To re-use your SCOBY, you have to leave about a liter or 500ml kombucha to serve as your starter tea for the next brew. Then, add it to the new brew along with a pellicle as the starter culture. The amount of starter tea depends on how much kombucha you’re brewing.
Once your fermentation for the new brew finishes, another pellicle will be formed and the process will continue for your next batches of booch. Talk about savings! Once you’ve started brewing, you will never have to ask for another SCOBY because you can have it from every brew.
Q: How long does SCOBY last?
SCOBY can last for years if it is stored and fed properly. However, it can die too. Molds can kill your SCOBY. Old layers of SCOBYs may not also be as active in fermentation as the newly formed ones. So, most homebrewers with so much SCOBY give them to others, compost, or feed the dried SCOBY to chickens.
A SCOBY is typically a group of microscopic bacteria that you need to feed with sugar and oxygen and nourish with the vitamins found in tea. It’s like having tiny pets in one blob.
How to store a SCOBY
To store a SCOBY, you can either leave it at room temperature or put it in the fridge. Here’s what will happen with the two methods:
- Storing SCOBY at room temperature: Start another brew using your SCOBY to keep them active. Then, as soon as the pellicles start to pile up you may move them to a SCOBY hotel.
- Storing SCOBY in the fridge: Low temperature makes SCOBY dormant or asleep. You can keep a SCOBY in the fridge for 6 to 7 months to ensure its quality. If it’s longer than that, the SCOBY may age. However, long storage that reaches years may compromise the quality of SCOBY.
In brewing a new batch of kombucha, you have to ensure that the starter culture is of good quality. Bad starter culture will surely produce worse batches in the future. If your first brew failed, it’s best to use a new starter culture on your next brew.
What is a SCOBY hotel?
A SCOBY hotel is a jar of several pellicles and starter tea. It is used by homebrewers to store all the SCOBY they produce. When the jar is full, they start giving out the old SCOBYs to friends and family or even to pets to give space to newly formed SCOBYs.
To keep the SCOBY alive in the jar, a new batch of freshly brewed sweet tea is added to feed the ‘tenants’ of the hotel. The feeding is usually every 14 days.
Some homebrewers discourage the use of a hotel because the old SCOBYs at the bottom of the jar will not be able to access enough oxygen to survive. However, any homebrewer is free to choose whichever storage method works for them
How to know if a SCOBY is dead and what to do with them?
The evident signs that a SCOBY is dead or no longer viable for brewing are the presence of molds and when the SCOBY hotel or brew is placed in direct sunlight. The ultraviolet rays of the sun kill the bacteria and yeast in SCOBY.
Other than the methods mentioned, the only way to know is to test the SCOBY by using it as a starter culture. If the brew remains sweet after a few days, then the SCOBY is probably dead and can no longer ferment your brew.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does a SCOBY last in the fridge?
A SCOBY stored in a fridge can last for a very long time, ideally 6 to 7 months. It remains dormant and safe to use as long as you keep it in sterile storage.
Can a SCOBY get too old?
Yes. Though you can keep using the same SCOBY for several batches, they can also age. The ideal number of uses for SCOBY is around 4 to 5 times. After that, you have to get rid of it and use a new and active SCOBY for a new brew.
Can you eat an old SCOBY?
Yes. According to FoodPrint.org, you can turn your old ScOBYs into jerky, smoothie, trail mix, or addition to salads.