How To Grow A ‘Mother’/SCOBY From Store Bought Kombucha

May 6th, 2010 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


I’m *so* excited to share this tutorial! The hardest party about home-brewing kombucha is getting your hands on a SCOBY – it’s either too costly or too hard to find – and I think that’s what stops a lot of folks from getting in on the game. But this is really easy and it really works, which means homemade kombucha is accessible to all!

I’ve written about kombucha in the past, what it is and also how to brew it. I was an avid aficionado until I got pregnant, at which point I decided to play it ‘better safe than sorry’ and put my operation on hold. Unfortunately, during my ten month hiatus my poor SCOBY went kaput!

Now wee Waits is here and I’m ready to re-enter the kombucha arena. I missed it! I missed the DIY satisfaction of it, the mad scientist aspect of it, and the probiotic action of it. That enigmatic elixir does my body good, and I wants it! So here’s what I did :

1. Buy a bottle of RAW, unpasteurized 100% kombucha (no fruit juice added). You will also need – a glass bowl, caffeinated (green or black) tea, sugar, a small towel or wash cloth, a large rubber band, and a glass jar with a plastic lid.


2. In a large, clean glass bowl, place 2 tea bags and 1 tbsp of sugar. Add 2 cups boiling water and allow the tea to steep for 10 minutes.


3. Remove tea bags and stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool a bit, then add the entire bottle of store bought kombucha.


4. Cover with the towel and secure it with the rubber band. Place the bowl in a warm dry place (I put it on top of my fridge) and forget about it for 2 whole weeks. No peeking!

— 2 weeks later —

Take the bowl down and uncover it. OMG, you totally grew a SCOBY!



Store your SCOBY in the fridge, in a clean glass jar with a plastic lid and floating in the extra liquid. Brew kombucha according to these directions. ***Always handle the SCOBY with very clean hands!!!


Good luck!

  • Courtney

    This. Is. AWESOME! I was hoping there was a way to grow a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. Right now we don’t have the space for me to brew, but that will hopefully be changing soon. Between container gardening and brewing my own kombucha, I’ll be in heaven! Thank you!!!

  • Crystal

    ^ I agree!!! You are a genius Sayward :) I’m so excited to do this I think I might just have to scream!!!! My husband and I were JUST talking about brewing our own yesterday and I can’t wait to show him this, thank you so much!!

  • Carlie

    I need to grow another one since I killed my last. *sniff sniff* I actually have a bottle of that ‘bucha in the fridge waiting for me to get to it. Iced kombucha sounds like the perfect way to start summer!

    Good reminder to see your post here!

  • Minna

    This whole kombucha thing is totally new to me. I just read through the overview on Wikipedia and I noticed that in Russia they call it “tea kvass” which is a bit different from the traditional kvass usually made from rye with roots back to 5000 years. Have you ever tried that?

    It’s quite a traditional drink in Estonia as well, resembles just a liiitle bit of coke, but is without a doubt healthier and more natural. It’s usually up to 1% alcohol. I wonder if it tastes the same as kombucha?

    So you’re convinced that it actually has health benefits? I’m not all to sure about acidic foods and drinks right now (still needs more research), but I love kvass so I’d probably enjoy kombucha as well. How about the candida content in kombucha? Isn’t that bad?

  • Hope Hughes

    I LOVE this stuff! I’ll definitely have to try this! *Must release the mad scientist in me!! Bwahahahaha!*

  • amber

    score! i had considered ordering a scoby from etsy, since there was a seller in my state. however, this is even cheaper, easier, and faster! THANKS!

  • Amanda

    This entry is RAD! Glad you’re back and loving the pictures of your wee one! He’s adorable!

  • sarah

    Holy crap!!! I am so freakin excited about this! I’ve looked multiple times at buying a SCOBY (found online) but couldn’t bring myself to spend $20 or more. I AM SO DOING THIS. What a great re-entry post! You are awesome!

  • Eric Normand


    I wrote about this on my blog. I’ve been doing Yerba Mate kombucha for a while now. It was from store-bought kombucha, too!

  • Rebecca

    Gotta love accessible DIY…yet, and I know many “natural” folks would disagree with me on this..but I have to say that I honestly cannot STAND kombucha. The odd thing is is that I LOVE vinegar..but kombucha to me is what is your feeling on the sugar involved? Do you figure it is all “eaten” up by the process and then not so bad for ya? I have mixed feelings on sugar/fermentation and if it “burns off” so to speak…

  • Sayward

    @ Courtney – Yay! So glad you like it. And hooray for container gardens + kombucha. A diy urban homemakers heaven!

    @ Crystal – Don’t scream! Haha, but really, I’m so thrilled that you (and everyone!) are so into this. Kombucha for all! Let me know how it goes when you try it, yes?

    @ Carlie – Mmmm yes, icy kombucha is so nice for summer midmorning treats. =) Happy brewing!

    @ Minna – I’ve never tried kvass but I’ve heard a lot about it. I’ve mostly heard of the beet variety, and I’d love to try my hand at brewing it!

    I definitely believe that it’s healthful! Mostly because of the probiotics. From what I understand it’s full of the good bacteria that help to balance the gut flora, and actually keep candida overgrowth in check. Also, although kombucha is acidic, it’s an alkalanizing food because of the way it’s digested/metabolized. It’s like lemons in that way (both kombucha and lemons are big in the raw food/alkaline scene)

    If you’re interested you can read more about that here.

    @ Hope Hughes – Yes! Go mad scientist in the kitchen laboratory, muahaha!

    @ Amber – Yup, much cheaper and much faster. Happy brewing – luck!

    @ Amanda – Glad you like it, and thanks!

    @ sarah – Yay! I’m so glad people are so excited about this, and I’m so happy that people are going to be brewing their own stuff. I agree, buying a SCOBY always seems so pricy and ‘pita’. DIY forever!!!

    @ Eric Normand – Awesome, good to know others are already on this. I’ve never tried brewing with mate, it’s good to know that works. Thanks!

    @ Rebecca – I do think that the vast majority is consumed in the process (it’s what feeds the bacteria/yeast), and I feel like even with a little sugar, the benefits make it totally worth it.

    I understand it’s a tough taste to get used to. Have you tried mixing it with juice, maybe in a really diluted ratio?

  • Jen

    I have a question- I did this using regular tap water and then I read somewhere it has to be distilled! :( It’s on my fridge right now but doesn’t look like it’s doing anything. I made it on Wednesday. Do you think it will actually grow? Thanks so much!

  • Sayward

    @ Jen – As long as you boiled the water to make the tea, it will take care of impurities and you don’t need to use distilled. Boiled tap water is fine.

    It takes 2 weeks! Don’t worry about it. ”A watched SCOBY never grows” =D Just forget about it entirely for a few weeks!

  • linda

    Just wanted to say thanks….found this blog two weeks ago, me and daughter tried it, and yes we have a scoby! we made a small one in a quart mason jar and my daughter and i just started our first batch of tea last night. kudos!

  • Sayward

    @ linda – Oh yay! Good luck with the brewing!

  • Alex

    Do you slide the mother scoby from the large glass bowl into the mason jar with plastic lid or do you pick it up and put it in? Also is the tea left over from growing the mother and after transferring drinkable kombucha?

  • Alex

    Also, does it need to be a glass bowl for this process? Would ceramic be okay?

  • Sayward

    @ Alex – I make sure my hands are very clean and then handle the SCOBY with my hands. Do you mean is the starter drinkable? It’s all kombucha and you could drink all of it, but when you add the SCOBY you also need to add the tea it was sitting in. This is the ‘starter’ tea.

    I would not use ceramic unless it was specially made for fermenting (ie a crock) because of toxicity issues (ie lead)

    Hope that helps!

  • Mikey

    Two pointers:

    1. Add a little vinegar (1/4 per gallon) to the water as it boils and you will not have any problems with contaminant bacteria.

    2. Eat the SCOBYs in smoothies with other stuff. Kombucha is exponentially good for you when you consume it in that quantity.

  • Cyndi

    I started my own Kombucha from this same method. It’s taken a few batches for my mother scobys to thicken up but they are looking great now. I use 1/2 gallon mason jars (they take up less space and I brew them in my closet near my water heater) After brewing, I put them right in the fridge and start over with 2 new jars. My Booch tastes every bit as good as the stuff I was buying. Good luck all. This really works.

  • Sandra

    I am going to be trying this here in a few minutes, but where can I get glass jars with a plastic lid? I’ve been stressing about that : /

  • Sayward

    @ Sandra – You can find them online, on sites like Amazon. But really I’ve used metal lids and as long as you keep the fluid volume low enough to that the lid doesn’t touch the starter/SCOBY, you should be just fine.


  • donna

    Has anyone used the already flavored GT tea to start a culture? That is all my health food store has

  • Sayward

    @ donna – I haven’t heard of anyone doing this, you’ll have to try it and let us know! =D

  • aleksandr

    How long can you store a Scoby in the fridge? I am thinking of putting one of the daughter scoby’s as a backup, with a cup or two of the original tea, but don’t know how long it lasts in the fridge if I don’t add new tea?

  • donna

    Sayward, I am on day 12 of the trial of starting the SCOBY with the flavored GT and I am seeing a quite promising white “film” and lots of bubbles. I am in the chilly northeast but I have it in a cupboard where the temp ranges from 70-72 so I think by week 3 I will be good to go. I’ll give you an update in a few weeks.

  • nava

    Hey Sayward! I’m just starting mine and worried about how cold my house is (I couldn’t even get my sprouts to sprout!) but I am going to wrap the whole shebang in a towel and hope for the best. (How do you keep your warm? I just moved up here and it is a fight!)

  • Sayward

    @ aleksandr – I’d say months, if not just indefinitely. As ong as the liquid is covering it, it should be okay.

    @ donna – ooh thanks! Any updates now?

    @ nava – Good idea with the towel. I keep mine in the cupbard above my stove. My kitchen stays pretty warm and it’s especially nice up there. =)

  • donna

    Hey Sayward my SCOBY did just fine. It is a little on the thin side so I’m going to let it sit for a while to thicken it up and strengthen it but totally doable with the flvored GT. I know of a few other people who have done it too. Thanks

  • Sayward

    @ donna – That’s great to know, thanks!

  • Ashley

    I know that GT’s changed their formula recently because of the alcohol content (blahblahgovernmentinterferenceblahblahnonsense). I tried to make one this way years ago and ended up with a beautiful and maggoty SCOBY. In the new formula just as good for making it as the old given that I keep the flies out?

  • Sayward

    @ Ashley – I haven’t tried it but I would expect it would be fine. Luck keeping those flies away!

  • Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble

    Thanks for the tips! I have a SCOBY that was given to me around Christmas but it’s been in a plastic container with only a little bit of liquid in my fridge since then and I wasn’t sure if it was safe to use. I’m going to try making a new SCOBY instead.

  • Becks

    Hey Sayward! I’m making my own SCOBY from the same storebought brand of kombucha that is pictured above. Quick question though, my fourth floor apartment is warm, and my dear lovely boyfriend likes to keep it that way. I currently have the mother nesting in a cupboard above our fridge, but after peeking through the sides of the glass bowl I’m growing it in, I’m worried that two weeks might be too long.

    How long is too long for a kombucha mother to grow? Can I overgrow? Especially in the potentially overwarm environment of my kitchen cupboard?

  • Sayward

    @ Becks – If it seems ready, I’d definitely say you can pull it early. Warmth really speeds up the process so it’s probably just done a bit faster in your warm kitchen! If you let it go too long, the scoby will run out of food (caffeine and sugar) and may start to die back, at which point you risk getting mold/bacteria. So yes – definitely err on the side of sooner rather than later. But I’d say just go by sight. If it looks ready it most likely is!

  • sara thomas

    @sayward-our grocery store finally started carrying kombucha!! (the same exact kind you have pictured) i am in LOVE with it and am now so excited about making my own. but i just wanted to know, you are supposed to drink the weird slimy monster(s) floating around in it, right?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    The little threads of sliminess, yes! (unless it squicks you out too much. you certainly don’t *have* to drink it, but there’s tons of probiotic goodness in there!)

    The big solid mass that grows when you culture it as home, no. That’s the mother/SCOBY and you’ll want to save that. ;-)

  • Sara Shumway Thomas

    thanks so much sayward!! i am so excited. i *just* transferred my very first home grown SCOBY into a jar & it is sleeping peacefully in the fridge until tomorrow when i recruit it to make me some komucha. thank you so much for this kick ass tutorial. i think my husband will kill me if i keep buying kombucha (it’s $3.69 a pop here). besides, it is so much more gratifying to make it yourself. yay!!

  • Amanda

    Where on earth did you find a jar with a plastic lid that’s large enough to fit a SCOBY in? I’ve been looking everywhere and the only wide-mouthed glass jars I can find all have glass or metal lids! I’m going crazy!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It’s just a regular Ball brand jar with one of their plastic caps – you can find them here –

    It’s not even wide mouth (though they do make those so if you’re ordering one, you might as well get it) and it’s only like a 16oz jar or something, but the SCOBY actually folds up pretty easy, haha. Luck!

  • Elle

    Do you know how long a scoby takes to grow? And if possible, how much time per square inch?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It takes about 2-3 weeks, but I have no idea of the time/inch. Sorry!

  • Anonymous

    My project for today is starting a Scoby, and I must say I am very excited! Thanks for the great post, I will let you know how it works out here in a few weeks!

  • Leighgraham Design

    I got this pointer a while back and thought it would be helpful to all you enthusiastic kombucha brewers…. Bottle the kombucha when the sweetness just about matches the acidity. Add a few berries or a small amount of fruit juice to the bottle. Wait a week (in the summer, I had to wait 3 or 4 weeks in the winter), then enjoy the highly carbonated kombucha! When you add more sugar (fruit) the kombucha continues to ferment in the bottles, and when you seal them up the carbonation has no where to go, making it super fizzy. —A tip to the wise, open these bottles outside until you get the hang of it, I’ve had some explosive situations in my kitchen doing this. Also I’ve found that berries work the best, about 10 blueberries per 8oz bottle, but when using juice or extremely sweet fruit use a tiny amount and “burp” the bottles every day or every-other day to avoid over carbonating them and ending up with a kitchen covered in the brew.

  • Trevor Kemp

    You could always just cut up a scoby with scissors (it’s okay — either they can’t feel pain or their screams are out of our hearing range)

  • Guest

    So G.T.s no longer has their regular Kombucha… or at least not here in Boulder, CO. There is an “enlightened” version which as far as I can tell just means they made it weaker due to concerns about the alcohol content. The original flavor still claims to be 100% raw kombucha – has anyone tried growing a SCOBY with the “enlightened” (cheapened) line?

  • Guest

    I am trying it, so I will try to remember to share how it goes.

  • Things3give

    i am so new to this, and a bit nervous, yet excited to try. my question is in step 3 you say ‘cool a bit’… how long do you mean, or do you mean it should get to a certain temp? thanks!

  • Dethstyl

    It worked out fine. I even started growing a second SCOBY in the starter jar, so I left him in with more tea to grow stronger and moved the bigger (but not huge) mother to the gallon batch.

  • valleygirl

    am about to try this and was searching bc my once floating in my store bought kombucha is now dredge at the bottom….and i drank half of it already. i was told to use 1/4 of the bottle and brew it into a quart of tea. so that’s the route i am going and hoping it works!!!! i will let you know!