Scoby Doo – The Gnarly Side of Kombucha

My neighbor, Linda, called me out of the blue to tell me that she is bringing over her “Scoby” for me to take care of while she is on a business trip for a month. I thought Scoby was one of her parakeets. I was surprised to learn we will have a quiet, bubbly guest floating in a tea and sugar mixture contained in a large open-mouth jar. A piece of cheese cloth on top of the jar was held in place by a stretched out rubber band. Linda handed me the jar and written instructions on how to harvest Kombucha (it will be ready in about ten days), and how to start the new batch.


Scoby is a gnarly-looking gelatinous-like mass that feels awkwardly slimy in the hands. It is cleaned with vinegar and water once a month between batches. What is Scoby? It is a colony of naturally-occurring bacteria and yeast that aid in the fermentation process of tea that creates Kombucha (a somewhat sweet and slightly vinegary tasting drink that has been around for over 2,000 years). It’s kinda like the special live yeast revered and warmly protected by Alaskan families to continue to make their favorite sourdough bread.

How to Make Homemade Kombucha

A recipe for making Kombucha can be found here. It appears that one can purchase on-line both Scoby and other  supplies for making Kombucha, or your neighbor may snipe off a piece of her Scoby to share with you.

Of course, my recipe spin is to use  two-liter bottles of Watt-Ahh® in brewing the tea as the first step in making the next batch. When harvesting (about ten days later), Linda told me to have fun experimenting with adding different flavors. One of her favorite combinations is blueberries and ginger spice. Rob and I enjoy adding cloves and cinnamon. We pour the flavored Komburcha into empty Watt-Ahh® liter bottles and place the filled bottles into our refrigerator (unscrewing the caps once or twice the next day or so to release any gas caused by the fermentation). Kombucha is a perfect ingredient for our elixir that both Rob and I enjoy each morning.

Commercial Kombucha

Interestingly, the fermentation process can frequently cause the alcohol content to rise above 0.5 percent. This triggers regulations on commercial Kombucha which are enforced by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco and Trade Bureau. No wonder our homemade elixir with Watt-Ahh® and Kombucha sparks us into action each morning … it rivals caffeinated coffee without the jitters!

Bill Moses, former brew master of the KeVita brand, was an outspoken proponent for advancing standards in both testing and reporting alcohol content for all commercial Kombucha brands as well as full disclosure to the consumers on the amount of calories from the added sugar. His research demonstrated that the various commercial Kombucha brands on the market dramatically vary in alcohol content. In 2016, Moses left KeVita following its acquisition by PepsiCo.

Recently, BevNET reported on a class action suit against PepsiCo over the recent addition of a pasteurization process for its KeVita Master Brew products. One question in the lawsuit is whether or not the Bacillus-based probiotic quality of Kombucha can survive pasteurization and meet the live probiotics advertised on the label. Although the lawsuit acknowledges that shelf-stable probiotics are added to KeVita following pasteurization, the central concern is that the consumers may be misled about KeVita’s label content that it is still the traditionally raw and unpasteurized Kombucha they expect….or is it simply, Kombucha-flavored tea?