Although usually unseen by consumers, the SCOBY is an essential ingredient in brewing kombucha packed with healthy, live bacteria. But how does this solid, gooey disc contribute to making the delicious fizzy, sweet and sour drink we love? To answer all your questions about this important gelatinous disc, here is our guide to everything about the SCOBY.
WHAT IS A SCOBY?
The SCOBY is a thick, rubbery mass that essentially turns sweet tea into kombucha. SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and it is the bacteria and yeast that break down the tea’s sugars and convert them into alcohol, carbon dioxide and acids. A SCOBY is like the mother dough or sourdough starter that bread bakers use. Like the mother dough or starter, the SCOBY needs to be fed and maintained live, but rather than feeding it flour and water (as you would a starter), you feed it with tea and sugar. You make a new or “baby” SCOBY each time you make kombucha, which you use to make more kombucha. Basically, the SCOBY is the means through which kombucha replicates itself. The bacteria create strands of cellulose that weave together, which give the SCOBY its gelatinous, mat- or puck-like appearance.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A SCOBY?
One of the great things about kombucha is that you can brew it at home. Commercial brands will brew their kombucha on a larger scale, with equipment, but you can easily have a countertop brewing operation going using only a large glass jar. The SCOBY’s ability to continuously renew itself is what makes it possible to produce one from scratch. All you have to do is combine tea, sugar, and some pre-made kombucha. If you know of a friend or family member who brews their own kombucha, you can take some of theirs -- or even take a piece of their SCOBY. If not, you can use a store-bought kombucha. If you look inside the bottle, you might be able to see a little blob-like mass inside. That’s a tiny, growing SCOBY. If you do use a commercial kombucha, just make sure it’s a raw, unflavoured variety.
PRESERVING THE SCOBY
If you look at a can of Gutsy kombucha, you might notice that it says “unfiltered.” There’s a reason for that. Filtration is an essential part of producing many of the drinks we love, like wine, which is filtered to clear out sediment, remove clouding and leave behind a more robust flavour. However, filtering kombucha effectively removes the SCOBY, taking away all of the healthy bacteria that can contribute to improved digestion and better overall gut health. At Gutsy, we find it important to keep our kombucha unfiltered, to ensure our kombucha retains all of the probiotics that are often among the reasons why people choose to drink kombucha.
Though not the most appealing in appearance or texture, the SCOBY is not only a necessary ingredient to making kombucha, but it acts as the living home to all kinds of bacteria and yeast as well as a barrier to outside, undesirable bacteria while it’s fermenting. If the kombucha stays unfiltered, the SCOBY contributes all of its gut-boosting properties to it. Want to know more about the benefits of unfiltered kombucha? Check out our blog post.