Online Q&A: How to Grow Your Own Kombucha or Vinegar SCOBY

Our workshops and YouTube videos can spark some questions that take a little extra time to address. The blog is a great way to answer and to share with a wider audience. Send your questions via email and they might just end up here (with your permission, of course.)

QUESTION: How do you grow your own Kombucha or Vinegar SCOBY?
(this question was sparked from watching “Introduction to Vegetable Fermentation” with Meredith Leigh)


Hi from Cape Town South Africa. Just a quick question. Could you please do a video showing us how to start a Kombucha mother from scratch, as in real scratch, without using Kombucha tea as a starter.

The reason for this is that the health industry here has become fully “hipstered” and they charge stupid amounts of money for scoby “starter kits.”

Also, Kombucha tea have been made expensive to the point where it is not even something you would want to support by buying it (I’m talking the price of a decent, high quality organic burger for a 200ml bottle of KT.)

Also, they try to not sell the raw, unflavored tea, because they know people can starts scobys from that.
I, for one, think this information should be “opensource” and not ruined by hipster-ized commercialism (it is a big problem here – everything that is seen as “good” or “natural” or “alternative” is soon taken over by people with beards and wooden glasses and tweed and priced to the point where normal people can’t afford it.)

Would really appreciate your expert knowledge on how to safely start a proper Kombucha Scoby from scratch.

Regards and best wishes



Hello Jacques,

Great question!

The easiest way to develop your own kombucha is to have pieces of a SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts) either from another bottle of kombucha, or from a friend. I understand your concerns about cost and dependency, for sure. Usually, community is the solution, as people who are brewing kombucha already have more SCOBY than they know what to do with. Is there a forum on social media, or even a meetup in your area where you can ask other like-minded fermenters if anyone has a piece of SCOBY for you?

If the answer to all that is definitely no, then you are looking at developing a SCOBY all by yourself. That requires a phased process. Start with some fruit, cut up (not citrus). OK to leave the peels on if it is organic fruit. Apples, plums, pears, etc. Place the fruit in a bowl with sugar to coat and stir well. Transfer to a jar, and add enough non-chlorinated water to cover the fruit, and then add a generous splash of vinegar (best if it is unfiltered). Cover with a towel, label with date and contents, and remove to a cool, dark-ish place (pantry, cabinet) to ferment. Stir it every once and a while. What you will likely find is that over time it will develop a very alcoholic smell. This is normal. Continue to ferment and eventually you should develop a SCOBY. This process will be VERY slow, so be patient. I did this for the first time as an experiment to see if I could develop my own apple cider vinegar SCOBY, and luckily, I kind of forgot about the jar. When I came back to it I said to my friend “I think I made apple alcohol by accident.” Rather than clean it up, I left it there. Then, again, by accident, I came back to find it had eventually developed a SCOBY.

An even faster way to do this is to take whole organic fruit (not citrus) and vacuum seal it completely, and then place it in a warm place (up to 80F). As fermentation begins, the fruit will release ethanol and begin to inflate the vacuum bag. It can take 3+ weeks. Let it inflate as much as you can over time, until it looks like it may burst. Then, carefully open it at one corner, and let out the CO2 that has inflated the bag (it will smell sour, don’t worry). Then, transfer the entire contents of the bag (fruit and juices) to a jar, cover with a thin cloth, and refrigerate. Slowly, a SCOBY should begin to develop. Give it time, and taste the liquid to see how tangy it is. You can use the fruit vinegar that you’ve created, and then you can remove the SCOBY to a jar of sweetened tea to work up continuous batches of Kombucha.

The reason the second approach works faster is that you are intentionally providing two very distinct environments: 1st, a fully anaerobic environment that produces alcohol, and then the aerobic environment that encourages acetobacteria and yeasts to produce the SCOBY.

If you’re growing a SCOBY for kombucha, I have found it works great to use apples or pears. I have put many other fruits through this process, but have usually not used the resulting SCOBYs for kombucha in those projects, but have instead used them to perpetuate distinct fruit vinegars. So, I cannot speak to a persimmon or plum SCOBY in a black tea kombucha. Feel free to experiment! Keep in touch!

Thanks for your question,