It’s a common saying that kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) can last for as long as possible. That’s true, but when your SCOBY doesn’t get the right kind of care and you let it go for long without oxygen and food, it may start to die.
Similar things happen when the temperature becomes too cold. While chilly weather may not completely kill off a SCOBY, beneficial strains of yeast or bacteria may start dying, thus altering the fermentation process and ultimately the nutritional benefit and flavour of your brew. It is thus often better to store your SCOBY in a SCOBY hotel than in the fridge.
Whether your SCOBY is dormant or active, if you want it to remain in perfect health indefinitely, you need to put it in the right environment.
That means feeding it the right food and in the right amount, ensuring the environment has the appropriate PH level, storing it in a place that’s devoid of extreme temperature and protecting it from invasive organisms like mold spores and insects.
Read on to learn of ways to keep your SCOBY going strong for a long time.
5 Ways to Care for Your Kombucha SCOBY
1. A low-PH (acidic) environment helps prevent molds from developing on a SCOBY. Not only does it do that, but it also helps beneficial kombucha microbes to thrive.
You can either use a test strip or PH monitor, regularly check that the PH level of your kombucha is at 3.5 or lower to make your brew safe to drink, or if you leave your SCOBY in the sweetened tea it will constantly lower the PH level- it does this naturally. At this level, bacteria like Listeria, Salmonella, monocytogenes and E. coli that causes food poisoning won’t be able to survive in your brew.
2. How do you maintain a Low-PH Environment? Incorporate the right amount of starter tea from each previous batch when you begin making your new batch. Usually about 1/4cup to every 1L new sweetened tea.
3. Use Filtered Water: Tap water is normally treated with chlorine or chloramines to kill germs in the water. But the downside is if you use this same water for your SCOBY, the chlorine or chloramine content will also kill your good SCOBY microbes.
To dechlorinate your water, just boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Boiling releases the dissolved chlorine gas into the atmosphere.
While boiling removes chlorine, it doesn’t work that well in eliminating chloramine. The best way to remove chloramine from your water is to filter using a system that uses charcoal filtration.
4. Keep at Room Temperature: The best temperature for SCOBY is between 24-29°C. This temperature range gives the healthiest cultures.
If the surrounding gets too hot, your SCOBY may die and should it become too cold, your SCOBY could go dormant.
Besides that, ice cold temperatures make SCOBY cultures sluggish which lead to a less acidic environment that encourages the growth of pathogens.
5. Feed Your SCOBY Enough Sugar: Sugar is the food of the bacteria and yeasts that help SCOBYs to ferment. Sugar also influences the growth, flavour as well as the alcohol and lactic content of your final product.
Hence, when caring for your SCOBY, give it sufficient sugar. SCOBYs find it easier to metabolize white sugar, however they can be 'trained' to metabolize other sugars. A general rule of thumb is 1/4 cup sugar to 1L tea.