What’s the Best Kombucha to Use for SCOBY-Growing?
The Winner! The Best Kombucha for Growing Kombucha Tea SCOBYs
The goal was to see if the quality of SCOBY differed when using different kombuchas. I’m judging “quality” here by the rate the SCOBY grows, its thickness and solidity and, later, its ability to make a tasty new brew in a reasonable period of time.
My main intent was to compare home-brew to store-bought in order to help people who want to grow their own SCOBYs at home make the best choice when obtaining starter kombucha.
So, I started by growing SCOBYs from kombucha, with no actual SCOBY bits in the mix (I had to strain my home-brew to ensure this, but the store-bought kombucha was not strained.
Going into this, my hypothesis was that my home-brew would surpass the others by a lot, and that the unflavored option would be the next best of the store-bought booch. I was right on one count and wrong on the other.
My home-brew kicked ass. Like not even close. No competition. With the naked eye, it was pretty clear by Day 2 that there was a superior brew on the table and it was mine. the take-away here is that if you have access to kombucha brewed by a friend who somehow doesn’t have a spare SCOBY, use that over store-bought.
My second supposition, that the unflavored option (Ciara’s) would take the silver medal proved quite false.
The Results of SCOBY vs. SCOBY Growing Competition
1st Place – Phickle’s Homemade Kombucha Tea: Produced a viable SCOBY in a week. More than twice as thick as the next thickest SCOBY and the color of the SCOBY and the smell of the brew were very “kombucha-y”. The SCOBY effectively reproduced kombucha in the normal window. It was sweet but drinkable after 5 days.
2nd Place – GT’s Synergy Strawberry Serenity – This wasn’t a great kombucha SCOBY, but it beat out the other two store-bought options by a lot. It never got thicker than a sliver, and a lot of the SCOBY was definitely composed of bits of what looked like strawberry seed and perhaps pulp and pectin from the strawberry juice that was added. It took quite a while to rebrew this into viable kombucha, but it did it.
3rd Place – Ciara’s Plain Kombucha – I was not familiar with this brand before purchasing, but since it was the only plain kombucha on offer that day (see above), I wanted it in my test. It produced a very thin SCOBY that did a poor job of making new kombucha. Since the SCOBY was so weak, I did a very small batch of kombucha to ensure that the acidity was low enough. This actually never produced anything very kombucha smelling, but the pH did drop to acceptable levels, so I’m saying that it did make kombucha.
Last Place – GT’s Enlightened Multi-Green – Even after 3 weeks, this produced just a small pile of break-apart slime. Not a great choice if you ever want to grow your own. This was a whisper of a SCOBY that fell apart the second I pulled it out of the jar. No go on the Multi-Green.
So, what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, not many, because it’s not science. But I would nonetheless, say that if you have access to a local brand of booch or a friends kombucha liquid, use that first!
This Isn’t Kombucha Science*
Here’s what science is: It is replicable and replicated. It is rigorous and methodical. It is best conducted by unbiased people (whether or not they wear lab coats and have degrees and fancy equipment) who like to pay close and careful attention to detail.
I like to play fast and loose with detail, which is why I’m a home-fermenter in first place (and not, say, a canner or a baker). Furthermore, any rigorousness I may have wanted to employ lost out to me not caring to spend any more money on store-bought kombucha than I had to, when I had/have my own, far superior (See? That’s objectivity, folks!) booch at home. So I just grabbed the 3 most different kombuchas that Whole Foods had in stock at the moment I happened to be there.
However, I would totally encourage any of you to replicate this and report your results. With a I may do a repeat in the summer to see if temperature changes the game, but I would be surprised if it did change the ranking in any way.
Limitations of this test
Things I totally ignored in my methodology – I did not research what, if anything, has been scientifically proven about the quality/strength of a SCOBY based on it’s thickness and physical appearance. This is because I have practical experience with cultures from all over that place that tells me the best brew (flavor, kombucha-ness, acidity, speed) comes from a nice, reasonably thick, sturdy SCOBY.
Local Kombucha Brands – I would guess that local brands in your community are selling the real deal and would provide excellent sources for SCOBY growing booch, but I didn’t purchase any local brands or try it with them.
Other flavors of kombucha to see how each flavor impacted SCOBY growth – I would totally consider this for another installation of Nearly Science, but my budget for such things is limited. Based on my conversations with GT on this topic, they would likely recommend the mango madness if the strawberry serenity isn’t a possibility, since it will also have higher sugar content.
*And neither, frankly, is so much of the fear-mongering “experimentation” that masquerades as fermentation citizen science on the internet.
PSSST- Wanna get your hands on some of my homegrown SCOBYs? Sign up for my kombucha class at Greensgrow on March 26th.