When you make kombucha at home, you soon learn of the importance of SCOBY in the process, but do you know about a SCOBY hotel? Essentially, a SCOBY hotel is a home to keep your culture safe when you are not using it.
Let’s start with the basics. What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, which comes together in a cellulose mat of sorts and allows your sweet tea to become kombucha during fermentation. Every time you make a batch of kombucha, a baby SCOBY is formed, and then eventually this baby turns into a mother, and has a new baby, and so on.
Your new SCOBY will grow on the surface of your liquid every time you make kombucha, and it will take the shape of the container you ferment in. Your SCOBY will look light brown, but may turn darker over time. However, don’t be afraid if your SCOBY looks different, as it all depends on the ingredients you use.
Here are the 18 things to keep in mind when you want to build a SCOBY hotel:
Fact #1: Creating a SCOBY hotel is the best way to keep your culture safe
Some people will have leftover SCOBY that they may not know what to do with. You may also want to save your SCOBY when you need to take a break from fermenting kombucha, when you want to store extra SCOBYs, and when you want to make stronger SCOBY for a better starter tea.
Either way, this is the best solution to keep your SCOBY alive and well for future use. You must take good care of the SCOBY since it will be the source of your future kombucha.
Fact #2: Keep your leftover SCOBY with kombucha
It is a good idea to keep your extra SCOBY in a container along with some of the fermented kombucha you may have leftover. This method can help keep your SCOBY moist, and it is what we call a SCOBY hotel for the long-term.
Fact #3: Don’t try to “clean” your SCOBY
Those yeast-looking bits at the top of your SCOBY are there for a reason, so don’t try to clean them off. The yeast is essential for carbonation, and while you can remove some of the yeast, don’t take all of it away.
Fact #4: You can also separate your SCOBY if you want
You can use your clean hands or scissors to trim SCOBYs and separate them from each other. If you think the SCOBY is too big, you can separate it into more than one and create a SCOBY hotel, or gift it to someone else. Once you cut it, it will take the shape of whatever container you put it in.
Fact #5: Use and re-use your SCOBY
While it seems weird, you can most certainly use and reuse your SCOBY before it gets old. It can turn very dark brown, but you can use it over and over again, until it becomes soft and loses its shape.
Fact #6: Place your extra SCOBY in a glass container to create your hotel
A good vessel to make your hotel is a 1-gallon glass jar that you can add your SCOBY to, along with some of the room-temperature fermented kombucha or sweet tea. Make sure to cover your SCOBY hotel with a breathable cloth cover to keep the airflow, but prevents dust, dirt, or any microbes from entering the hotel. While not necessary, you can also use an airtight lid to prevent any evaporation.
Fact #7: Keep the temperature of the SCOBY hotel constant
Your SCOBY hotel should be at room temperature all the time, which is usually between 65-85 degrees F. Still, an ideal temperature would be in the 70s, as it allows the culture to thrive. If it gets too cold or too hot, your SCOBY can quickly die.
Never keep your SCOBY hotel in the fridge, as this is too cold and will make your culture go dormant, putting it at risk from mold growth and damage. If you have already put it in the fridge, try taking it out as soon as possible, but keep in mind that it may be difficult for both the bacteria and yeast to wake back up.
Fact #8: Check on your SCOBY hotel often
If everything is working right and the temperature is set, your SCOBY hotel can last untouched for many months. In some instances, people keep their hotels for up to a year or more. To prevent any damage, it is always good practice to check on your vessel every month or so. You should especially check the temperature, particularly if you are keeping the hotel stored during the hot and humid summer months.
Fact #9: If the liquid looks dry, add more tea or kombucha
Sometimes, your SCOBY hotel will start looking a little dry, which means that the SCOBY is feeding and needs more fuel. You can quickly solve this by adding more sweet tea or unflavored kombucha.
If you decide to go the sweet tea route, all you need to do is add one teaspoon of any black tea you like dissolved in two cups of water, and then add two tablespoons of cane sugar. Be sure to allow your tea to cool down to room temperature before adding it to your SCOBY hotel.
Fact #10: Use your tea from your first fermentation too
For better results, you can use your tea from those batches of kombucha that have just undergone first fermentation and add them to your SCOBY hotel. By doing this, you are allowing your SCOBY to stay moist, but also creating a stronger starter tea that will then make even tastier and better kombucha in the future.
Fact #11: Be wary of mold
It is unlikely that your SCOBY hotel will develop mold, especially if you follow the instructions well. SCOBYs are very acidic and virtually inhospitable for other microorganisms, but sometimes things do go wrong. If you notice mold, throw out your SCOBY hotel immediately, and don’t even try to save it, as it can be extremely dangerous for your health.
Fact #12: Black is bad
Another important factor to look out for is black spots, or the color black at all. If your SCOBY begins to turn black, it is a sign that it has died, and you should throw it out as soon as possible.
Fact #13: Be careful with flavoring
Even though some people don’t believe this, flavorings, oils, and extracts can negatively impact your SCOBY. To avoid damaging it, stay away from flavored or herbal teas during the first fermentation of your kombucha, and certainly when you make the SCOBY hotel.
The flavorings can degrade over time, and while it may not show up in your first SCOBY, it can in the long-term. This process will in turn weaken your SCOBY and may lead the way for mold to grow on it.
As you know, your SCOBY needs plain tea, water, and sugar, but adding flavors or additives to the mix can become too complex for your SCOBY to break down. These added ingredients also make your SCOBY work too hard at acidifying, which means that kombucha may not happen.
No matter what flavored tea or infusion you use, they will affect your SCOBY. You may have a great tasting kombucha at first, but then find out that your third or fourth-generation SCOBY is weak and barely alive. There may be some exceptions, but overall, avoid using these added ingredients in your SCOBY hotel or first fermentation because it is not worth the risk.
Fact #14: Your SCOBY hotel can be your super-strong starter tea
To have your SCOBY hotel become a powerful starter tea, the best thing you can do is save a bit of your first fermentation cycle kombucha, and add it to the hotel. You will not have to make separate tea and feed your hotel, but instead, the kombucha will do the work.
You can do the same with your SCOBY. Every time you have a new SCOBY on top of your kombucha, add it to your SCOBY hotel, which will speed the acidification process up and results in very strong bacteria and yeast. The kombucha in the SCOBY hotel will be very acidic and vinegary, but it will be perfect for using as a starter tea when you want to brew new kombucha.
When you use your SCOBY hotel as a starter tea, all you have to do is steep the tea with sugar as you would normally, then take the SCOBY and two cups of the starter tea from the SCOBY hotel.
Fact #15: Having a SCOBY hotel gives you a lot of flexibility
By creating your SCOBY hotel at home, you can save your hard work and pause for however long you need. You can use it as often as you want, or as little as you want, as long as you keep it moist and healthy. Once your SCOBY hotel is ready, you can have a strong starter tea handy for the next round of kombucha you want.
Having a SCOBY hotel allows you to have multiple kombucha fermentation projects at a time, including a first and second fermentation.
Fact #16: You can gift some of your SCOBY to others
Sharing SCOBY is not uncommon in the kombucha community, but it is especially important if you want to save your SCOBY. An easy way to do this would be to put it in a Ziploc bag. While it is not ideal for your SCOBY to come into contact with plastic, for a day or a maximum of two, the SCOBY will be safe there. When you can, though, place the SCOBY in a glass jar or container. Cover this container with a cotton cloth and rubber band, just like you did your SCOBY hotel.
Another way to transport the SCOBY for gifting is by using a Mason jar, or one of your brew vessels. Your SCOBY can last for at least one week in an airtight container, but it should be able to breathe eventually, so make sure to change the cloth and rubber band as well.
Fact #17: You can also make a SCOBY hotel with SCOBY that you were gifted
SCOBY that was gifted to you does not have to be used immediately, so you can also use it to build a SCOBY hotel. If you keep your gifted SCOBY in a clean and airtight container with a lid, it can last for a few days. Still, you should consider changing the containers after a few days and covering them with a cloth. The best solution is to just add it to your existing SCOBY hotel, or create a whole new hotel for this new SCOBY.
Fact #18: If possible, avoid using commercial SCOBY for your hotel
Although you can get good quality SCOBY online, it truly is not necessary to buy it. The best quality SCOBY is the one that comes from your homemade fermentation, so make sure to save it every time you undergo the first fermentation. You can keep your SCOBY growing slowly, and soon enough, you will be able to gift it to friends and family.
In this same manner, you can ask other members of the fermenting community to give you SCOBY, as it will likely be healthier and more powerful than any you buy online.
Still, things happen, and sometimes, online stores are our only option. If that is the case, you will want to make sure that your SCOBY comes from a reputable source and that it is alive. Stay away from dehydrated SCOBY, this is not necessary, and it may do more harm than good. Dehydrated SCOBY is dormant, and waking it up can be very hard, if not impossible. If you want, try using the best kombucha kit to find the right SCOBY.
A SCOBY hotel is all you need!
Not many know the importance of a SCOBY hotel, but after reading this article you may be inclined to make your own at home and take advantage of all the benefits it offers. It is not a hard process, and when done right, you can use your SCOBY indefinitely, and even gift it to your kombucha-brewing friends anywhere.