Have you been brewing kombucha and getting a baby SCOBY with each batch? Are you being overrun by SCOBYs and don't know what to do with them? Check out this SCOBY hotel guide.
In this guide, we will talk about:
What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony (or Culture) of Bacteria and Yeast. It is the culture used to brew kombucha.
It has been called a mother or a mushroom (it's not a mushroom, by the way) or a pellicle. It's mostly made of cellulose produced by the bacteria and yeast.
Every time you make a batch of kombucha, you are most likely getting a new baby layer or SCOBY.
The baby SCOBY forms at the top of your brew and takes the diameter of your brewing vessel.
It can be thick or thin, depending on the temperature and other factors. Whenever you disturb your kombucha brew, the baby layer at the top will stop forming, and a new layer will form instead.
The picture below is a super thick SCOBY from a SCOBY hotel.
The SCOBY can look smooth or even bumpy. It might even look different from batch to batch.
It might be light or dark, depending on the type of real tea you used. Green tea tends to produce lighter coloured SCOBYs than black tea.
It can be attached to the mother SCOBY or not.
Regardless of how the baby SCOBY looks, the important thing is that your kombucha tastes good. That's how you know that your brew is going well and the SCOBY is still viable.
What are those brown stringy bits on the SCOBY?
The SCOBY might have brown stringy yeasty bits that hang from the side of it or at the bottom. That's OK, just remove these brown bits from the SCOBY with clean hands the next time you make a batch.
Tip: You can use the yeasty bits to make kombucha sourdough starter.
These brown bits are not mould. Mould is usually green and fuzzy and would appear at the top of the brew. If ever you do get mould, you'll have to toss the entire batch. Thus the importance of having backup SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel! So read on.
What do I do with baby SCOBYs?
You may have been brewing for a few cycles now, and are getting a new baby SCOBY with each batch. You now have a few options:
- Keep the SCOBY layers together. Just use both in another batch.
- Use the baby for a new batch. Throw away or compost the mother SCOBY.
- Start another brewing jar with a baby SCOBY.
- Give away a SCOBY (plus starter liquid, of course) to a friend.
- Make SCOBY fruit leather.
- Start a SCOBY hotel to store extra SCOBYs.
What is a SCOBY hotel?
If you want to keep excess SCOBYs healthy and in case something goes wrong with your main brew, I suggest starting a SCOBY hotel.
The SCOBY hotel is the place where your SCOBYs rest. Mine is usually full - no vacancy! 😉
A SCOBY hotel is just another jar with your extra SCOBYs stored in some kombucha or sweet tea.
How do I start a one?
I typically brew in a half-gallon mason jar. (My kombucha brewing guide is here.) So I have another half-gallon mason jar as my SCOBY hotel.
You can use any size glass jar that you have as long as all your SCOBYs would fit in it.
Place the extra SCOBY/s inside the clean mason jar, and add ½ cup - 1 cup of plain raw kombucha from your previous batch. Add more as necessary to keep all the cultures submerged.
Cover the hotel jar with a thick weave dishcloth and hold it in place with an elastic. I like doing this to allow the SCOBYs to breathe. (This means that a baby SCOBY layer would form at the top of your hotel over time.)
Place the hotel in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight. I just place mine right next to the other kombucha jars brewing.
I wouldn't refrigerate or freeze the hotel or the SCOBYs. This avoids the SCOBYs from going dormant and avoids them being susceptible to mould.
How do I take care of a SCOBY hotel?
Keep all the SCOBYs submerged in liquid. Since I use a dishcloth, some liquid will evaporate over time. Add some more plain kombucha if that happens.
If your SCOBY hotel is really full, you may find that you'll need to push down the SCOBYs from time to time. Don't let them escape! Hahaha. The SCOBYs still produce carbon dioxide and the air may push one or two up away from the liquid.
I also like to clean out the hotel jar every couple of months or so. I just get another clean jar and with clean hands, transfer the SCOBYs one by one, checking each and removing any brown yeasty bits as necessary.
It is also important to "feed" the SCOBYs to keep them healthy. I add some fresh sugar tea to the hotel to keep the SCOBYs happy. Or sometimes I just "top up" with freshly harvested plain kombucha. You can do this at the same time you clean out the hotel.
The older liquid that came from the hotel, I typically just store in a smaller bottle and use as kombucha vinegar. It is strong! It can even make for strong starter liquid for a new kombucha batch, but beware, since it is strong, your brew will probably ferment faster than usual.
How long does a SCOBY last?
The SCOBYs are very hardy and can last for a very long time given proper care. Feed the SCOBYs in the hotel regularly with sweet sugar tea or plain kombucha to keep them healthy.
I find that the longer the SCOBY is stored in the hotel, the darker it gets.
When a SCOBY looks really dark, I usually stop using it for active brewing. It can still be used though. This is just my preference to keep the amount of SCOBYs in the hotel manageable.
When you use a SCOBY and it doesn't ferment your kombucha anymore, then you know it's time to replace it with another one.
When would I use a SCOBY from the hotel?
You may want to use a spare SCOBY to:
- start an experimental brew - trying out a herbal blend or some other flavoured tea
- start another kombucha batch so you have multiple batches going on at the same time
- replace a SCOBY in use with one from the hotel
- start a new batch in the odd case that your kombucha got mould. Again, I can't stress this enough, when you get mould, the entire batch needs to be tossed, kombucha, SCOBY and all.
- give to a friend (with some starter liquid and brewing instructions)
- make SCOBY fruit leather
- toss in the kitchen compost bin
- compost in your garden, acid-loving plants like a SCOBY fertilizer
I hope these tips help you as you continue on your kombucha brewing adventures.
Tell me in the comments below, do you have a SCOBY hotel and what do you do with your extra SCOBYs?
Have more questions about your SCOBY hotel, please let me know below and I will try my best to answer them.
Want more kombucha recipes and information? Check these out:
- Kombucha Brewing Guide
- Kombucha Resources
- Online Kombucha Workshop
- Orange Cardamom Kombucha
- Strawberry Rhubarb Kombucha
- Watermelon Kombucha Shake
- Pineapple Kombucha Green Smoothie
- Kombucha Sourdough Starter
- SCOBY Fruit Leather
If you'd like a virtual kombucha workshop, let me know!
- Glass mason jar
- Tight-weave dishcloth
- 1-2 cups kombucha plain
- 1-2 cups sweet tea optional
For Sweet Tea
- 2 cups water filtered
- 2 green tea bags
- ¼ cup organic cane sugar
How to start a SCOBY hotel
- In a clean mason jar, add the SCOBYs.
- Pour enough kombucha into the jar to fully submerge all the SCOBYs. Add sweet tea if necessary.
- Cover with the dishcloth and place elastic to keep dishcloth in place.
- Keep in a cool, dark place. Do not refrigerate.
Maintaining the SCOBY hotel
- Keep the SCOBYs submerged in liquid. Push them down or add more plain kombucha.
- Every 4-6 weeks or so, clean out the hotel and "feed" the SCOBYs with kombucha or sweet tea.
- Use another clean mason jar and transfer the SCOBYs one by one.
- Clean the brown yeasty bits from the SCOBYs as they are transferred.
- Add enough kombucha and/or sweet tea to keep all the SCOBYs submerged.
- Cover with the dishcloth and elastic.
Making Sweet Tea
- In a small pot, heat water to just about boiling.
- Add green tea bags and steep for about 5 minutes or according to tea bag suggestion.
- Remove tea bags and add sugar. Stir to dissolve.
- Let cool before adding to SCOBY hotel.
- I use a 1.9L or half-gallon mason jar.
Hi! I'm a newbie making Jun scoby with green tea and honey. When storing my jun scoby in a hotel, can I use sugar, instead of honey, to feed them in? I can't keep up with all the jun fermented tea I'm making so I want to slow down and store them for a bit til I can drink what I have made. How often do I need to feed them? They are in a 1 gallon jar. Thanks!
Hi Kathy, since the jun SCOBY is cultured to use honey and not sugar, you would have to feed it with honey. Feed the SCOBYs in the hotel every 4-6 weeks or so.
I have ordered a SCOBY online that will be quite large, so I will need to cut it in half for my 1/2 gallon jar.
My question is, how would I start a SCOBY Hotel for the other 1/2 of my SCOBY?
I know I should use some sweet tea (cooled to room temp), but I won't have any extra starter tea to add to the hotel. Is there something I can substitute for the starter tea?
Hi Marilyn, you can buy plain raw kombucha and use that as the starter tea. Or maybe just use the entire SCOBY to make your first batch of kombucha, and start the SCOBY hotel later. Hope this helps!
Thanks, Melissa! 😊
Great article. We left our scoby in a dark armoire for over year, we are trying to revive it. Scoby looked terrible but it did not appear to have mold. We just made a regular batch of komutcha, its been about week and it smells fine and a small scoby is forming on top. Can we drink this? Any recomendations?
Thanks Renee and Dave
Hi Renee and Dave, since there's no mold, it's probably okay but if in doubt, don't drink it! I would make a new batch with the newly formed SCOBY just to be sure.
I found your site and enjoyed reading it - I've been making Kombucha about 5 years, and constantly give Scobys away and share my "So Easy Kombucha" recipe. I was looking for your advice if the scoby hotel should have sweeter tea than the kombucha jar, as there are more scoby and ferments faster.
I do note one thing you say, "add between 1/2 c - 1 cup sweet tea to the hotel." Then later you recommend covering the scobys with tea - is a little confusing.
I also wanted to give you a suggestion to add to your suggestions to do w/ extra scoby. I raise chickens, and I ferment all their grain with kombucha - which is so good for their digestive system. It's a top hit with the girls and works wonderfully to ferment their grain. I keep a jar with the bottom of the former bucha and dregs to add to the fermenting jar of grain. Cut up older scoby into small pieces into the jar; keep refrigerated until I'm ready to ferment. The chickens LOVE scoby - funny - they will fight over getting the scoby! In San Luis Obispo, CA
Hi Janine! That's so awesome that your chickens love the SCOBY! Thank you for taking the time to write. I find that the SCOBY hotel is very forgiving as long as the SCOBYs are submerged in liquid. I add sweet tea or even just fresh kombucha to the hotel to top up the liquid, sometimes 1/2 cup, sometimes more depending on how much has evaporated.
When I feed the SCOBY with sweet tea, do I need to feed it with starter tea from the current SCOBY Hotel?
I add some fresh sugar tea to the hotel to keep the SCOBYs happy. Or sometimes I just "top up" with fresh plain kombucha.
Thank you for the guide 🙂 You explain everything so well. I just recieved some SCOBYs from my mother in law and I am about to make my first batch ever. Exciting!
Glad this was helpful. Good luck with your kombucha brewing adventures!
1. How can I tell the difference between dark yeasty bits and mold?
2. If I’m going on vacation for 10 days, should I refrigerate the SCOBY hotel?
Mold will look fuzzy/green/gray and it will only appear on top of the SCOBY. The dark yeasty bits are stringy and appear under the SCOBY. The SCOBY hotel does not need to be refrigerated. If you're going on vacation, just make sure there is enough liquid/kombucha to cover the SCOBYs so they don't dry up. Hope this helps!
Can I squish a large scoby into a small jar as a hotel?
Hi Sheila, yes! As long as the entire SCOBY is submerged, the jar size doesn't matter.
Thanks so much. That’s super helpful to know!
Nelcy J Maples
W h ere i can get one scoby
More information here: https://melissatorio.com/kombucha-resources/
How long will the scobys last when making acontinuous batch’s of kombucha? Also in the hotel?
As long as they are fed with sugar tea regularly, they should last a while. I've had SCOBYs in a hotel for months with regular maintenance.
Can you mix your green tea made Scoby's with black tea made Scoby's in your Scoby hotel? Thank You!
Hi Teri, yes, that should be fine!