How to Start Brewing Kombucha Without a SCOBY


How to grow your own kombucha SCOBY. So easy!

Folks: after years of wanting to brew my own kombucha, I’m finally doing it. I’ve been brewing my own kombucha successfully for a couple of months, and it has become my favourite beverage. I drink it every day.

Also? It’s easy! I can’t believe I was ever intimidated by this!

And I never even had to buy a SCOBY! Want to find out how you can make your own kombucha without the costly investment of buying a SCOBY? In this post, I’ll tell you how to grow your own SCOBY. Next, I’ll share  how to start brewing your first batch of kombucha. For the first step, all you need to begin is a bottle of ready-made kombucha and a whole lotta patience. Read on . . .

My Journey To Kombucha-Land

I’ve been interested in kombucha for years. A fizzy, tangy-sweet probiotic drink that’s good for you? Sign me up!

I started getting into Traditional Foods back in 2010 when I was trying to learn how to conceive naturally. I started soaking grains and consuming saturated fats and fermenting vegetables. But the one thing that continually stumped me was beverages.

Basically all conventional beverages are problematic — conventional pasteurized milk; pasteurized fruit juice; chlorinated/fluoridated tap water; and obviously, worst of all, SODA (or as we call it around here, POP). None of these drinks are anything like what our ancestors drank. I personally don’t care for coffee or tea. Wine and beer aren’t completely horrible, but you don’t want to make them staples of your diet, especially when you’re pregnant.

What is a gal to drink?

I eventually was able to source some raw milk, but otherwise we began to drink mostly filtered water in our house. I got used to it, but I often craved something a little more exciting.

Everyone in the Traditional Foods world seemed to be brewing and drinking kombucha. Everything I heard about it sounded great — healthful, tasty, and slightly effervescent like pop. It sounded like the perfect solution.

The trouble is, before I could start making my own kombucha, I needed a SCOBY (an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast — the thing that turns sweetened tea into kombucha. It’s sometimes called a “mother” or “kombucha mushroom”). You can get SCOBYs from other people who brew kombucha, but I didn’t personally know a single person who was into traditional foods (I only knew people online). You can also buy SCOBYs online, but they’re expensive (and shipping in Canada is terribly expensive), and I was hesitant to make the investment without having ever tasted the stuff. I didn’t know where I could buy it ready-made. What if it was gross? And what if I messed it up?

So kombucha remained a thing of my dreams.

Then, while my family was in the U.S. for the weekend, I found bottled kombucha available at the local Whole Foods store. Hallelujah! It was love at first sip. I had to have more of it. And I pretty much went ballistic when I discovered kombucha is super-high in B-vitamins — something I’m constantly trying to get more of, in an attempt to balance my hormones.

But at $3.50 a bottle and only available on the other side of the border, I wasn’t likely to be purchasing it in large quantities. (Note: I have since discovered a couple of Canadian suppliers, but it’s still expensive and hard to get your hands on).

GT's kombucha

Anyway, in a moment of serendipity, I posted a photo of my store-bought kombucha on Instagram, saying that I wished I had a SCOBY so I could brew my own. And to my great joy, LilyGirl explained that I could, in fact, brew my own kombucha with that very bottle! Woohoo!

I bought another bottle of kombucha, took it home, and got to work.

Growing Your Own SCOBY

To be clear: you do need a SCOBY to brew kombucha. But you can easily grow your own from a bottle of pre-made kombucha!

(Note: I had read from a number of sources that since 2010, it no longer worked to grow your own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. I wonder if that’s only the case if you try to grow your own SCOBY using the popular method of mixing kombucha with sweetened tea. Regardless, I’ve been brewing my own kombucha with my own homegrown SCOBY since August 2013 with great success. And in fact, the method I used is even simpler than any of the tutorials I’d read before.)

To begin, you’ll need a bottle of unflavoured store-bought kombucha. It needs to be unpasteurized/raw. I personally used GT’s Synergy Original.

Here’s what you do:

  • Pour the bottle of kombucha into a clean mason jar. A quart jar is a good size.
  • Cover the jar with some cheesecloth or a coffee filter (or any cloth, really) and secure it tightly with an elastic or a canning ring. (This is just to keep bugs and junk out of your brew, while allowing it to breathe. It’s a living organism, after all!)
  • Let it sit on your counter for a couple weeks until a white film begins to form on the top. Don’t jostle it or it will sink and you will have to start all over again (I learned this the hard way). The film will continue to grow thicker as it sits on your counter. Once it’s about a quarter-inch thick, you’re good to go. In August, it took me about 3 weeks to get it this thick. Now in November, with the cooler temperatures, it takes closer to a month.


And that’s it! You have your own SCOBY! Time to start brewing!

In my next post, I’ll explain how to brew your very first batch of kombucha.

You’ll need:

  • a large glass jar or bowl — at least a half-gallon (2-liter) size
  • black tea (Ceylon, English Breakfast, or Darjeeling — even cheap Lipton will work for now)
  • white sugar

Any questions? Have you tried this? How successful were you?

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  1. I’m so excited by this post. I generally buy my own but would love to make it given the cost savings (and how much I can go through!) I have so many of my friends and family hooked on it. Looking forward to part II!

    Also, where have you found it in Canada? My mom has looked everywhere but can’t seem to find a place that sells it (my parents live in Amherstburg.)

    • Thanks, Sarah! I’m not sure if there are any other sources in the area that might be closer, but there’s a new store in Kingsville called Local Fare that sells Tonica kombucha. (You can see it listed here). Not sure if the brick-and-mortar store is set up yet — I attended a food party and joined the buying club. The kombucha is pricey — $5 a bottle — but delicious, and you could probably grow your own SCOBY with it! (Haven’t tried it myself, but it’s raw/unpasteurized, so it should work).

      Also: do they go into Detroit much? Whole Foods has a new location right in Detroit, just a few minutes away from the border. That’s where I got my first bottle!

  2. Yay! I’m so glad you’re posting about this! I’ve just ventured into kombucha land myself. I tried growing my own using the same method you did, and I haven’t fully declared it a failure yet, but it’s been 3 weeks and it looks pretty interesting at this point. There is a layer on the top, but it’s dark brown and lumpy and bubbly. I figured I’d keep it around and see what happened. About a week after I started that one a friend offered me a piece of her SCOBY and my first batch with that one is brewing now. The SCOBY has grown nice and thick. I’m going to test it to see if it’s done tomorrow! I haven’t looked at all into secondary brewing/carbonating/flavouring yet.
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    • Carolyn: your original SCOBY is probably fine. I have 3 now, and they go through all kinds of weird stages. I’ve seen brown and bubbly/lumpy, and it was fine. I think smell is your best indicator: if it smells moldy, chuck it; but if it smells fermenty, it’s almost definitely fine. Oh, and fuzz is a problem too. But SCOBYs can have all kinds of different colours and textures and still be fine. Let me know how yours turn out!

  3. Great idea! I had always wondered if this was an option. My favorite is the chia seed synergy flavor. I myself had always had problems with the flavoring. I would really like to come up with a mate tea flavor. On a side note: I have been obsessing over your blog for the last 2 weeks.

  4. Caroline H says

    I’m so excited to try this! This morning I bought a bottle of the kind you recommended. I’m wondering – the “mother” is settled to the bottom of the bottle. Should I gently shake it to make sure it’s included when I pour it into the mason jar? Or do you think the few floating pieces will be enough to produce a SCOBY?

    • Hi Caroline! I would probably shake it to make sure all the little bits end up in the mason jar. Just to be safe. I think it would produce a scoby regardless, but that might help make it grow faster.

  5. I have bought the store bought version several times. I love the grapefruit kind, made by the brand “Bucha.” I love that it isn’t too, too sweet. Good for you, finding some that you can stretch into homemade kombucha. I’m excited about the upcoming posts on this.Cool idea!
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  6. I’m on my second batch and growing strong! I had been wanting forever to do this too but didn’t even try kombucha until at a farmer’s market last year. I knew you could make your own but after my sprout fiasco years ago….but it was a friend in Cali that just up and made her own while I was over for a playdate that pushed me over the edge after ASSURING me that it was foolproof! And you know the rest of that ;) But yes, second SUCCESSFUL batch going strong and I even had my husband taste it (he really thought I was going to get sick so he waited a few days to see what happened to me).

    And just as a note, I know I didn’t have success the first two times, but the third time I choose a store bought bottle with a lot of gunk inside and followed the Food Renegade method and it worked perfectly, pretty fast too. My personal (cynical) theory is that the whole “you can’t grow your own scoby” warning is for the person selling them to dissuade the casual kombucha-er who doesn’t want to put the time in. Of course you should be able to grow your own! It will just take longer, like you said.
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    • Oh, you poor thing after that sprout fiasco! It’s so funny that your husband thought you were going to get sick from homemade kombucha. :)

      That’s interesting that the Food Renegade method worked BETTER for you. Good to know!

  7. Im just now trying to grow my own little SCOBY from a store bought bottle (same brand) but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. I put it in my cupard for lack of space, does it need light to grow?

    • Hi Mimii! How much time have you given it? It takes a while to get started, and doesn’t look like much of anything for the first week or so. the SCOBY doesn’t need light (in fact direct sunlight can hinder/damage it), but it does need a bit of air circulation. Perhaps the cupboard was too stuffy? Maybe there’s another area you could fit it, like on top of your fridge or something? Good luck!

  8. Oh man! The one I put in the pantry a few weeks ago looks nothing like yours. (I should have read this post before starting!) I think I might have moved it around too much. I also didn’t pour it into a different jar, I just kept it in the bucha glass.

    It’s time to get serious about this kombucha brewing!

  9. Hey,
    I have tried your method with a jar of GT’s original plain kombucha but it didn’t work. I think you have to buy GT or any brand that actually has alcohol in it, for GT’s it’s the bottle with the black cap? I am going to try to find it but I couldn’t get anything to grow and I have tried a couple brands! Any thoughts? :)

  10. Hi there! Great post. I’m making mine now but my original kombucha from the store is flavored. Do you think it’ll still work? Why does it have to be unflavored?
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    • Hi Sara! I really don’t know whether flavouring will be a problem. If you don’t mind potentially wasting a bottle of kombucha, you could always try it; I’m just worried the additional ingredients used to flavour it might interfere with the growth of the scoby. Good luck!

  11. Within the first week of trying this method it seemed like the stuff at the bottom on the bottle was growing. But soon after it collapsed and is now at the bottom of my jar. It’s been over two weeks and I still have no film on top. How long should I wait before trying again? If I try again any thoughts on what I might have done wrong?

    • You need sweet tea! brew some sweet tea, let cool to room temp and just dump the culture that you have into the the tea it will form fairly fast then. The K needs sugar to eat. without sugar, it will not work.

      • You absolutely hit the nail on the head! The store bought kombucha has only a small amount of remaining sugar so it’s not going to grow a scoby fast without any of its favorite food. You must add sugar or honey or some kind of sugar-containing fruit juice to get it growing quickly.

  12. jennice says


    I am in Australia and just bought a bottle of organic unflavoured Kombucha. I thought I would taste it to make sure I would like it and could have drunk the whole bottle immediately. I have now poured it into a big glass container, covered it and will wait impatiently to see how it goes. A litre bottle here costs nearly $12 so here’s hoping. Being the start of winter it may take longer?

  13. I was just clicking around when I found your post. I too had heard that starting a scoby from commercial was almost impossible these days. Almost still leaves room for success so I gave it a try. My first scoby is oddly colored and taking awhile to get thick – but healthy and making very good tea. It was my surprise scoby that made me think your idea is the best.

    I set the bottle aside in the corner and actually forgot about it. Found it tucked behind the espresso maker and when I went to dump the tiny bit remaining out I noticed that it wasn’t just leftover tea – there was a scoby in there. Tiny and clear like a 2 inch jelly fish. I named her Velma. I put her in some tea like I had done with the one I originally started. Velma has grown fatter and faster than the first one. I think just using the tea and covering it was a better way to start. I am going to get another bottle and do what you did to compare results. I didn’t have enough tea left in the bottle to do that with my surprise scoby, but she’s done well enough anyway. :-)

  14. I decided to give this a try. I live in Florida with lots of heat and humidity! A SCOBY started to form almost two days after I started he sunk to the bottom pretty quick and never really got much larger than a half dollar coin. Another SCOBY began to grow on the top of the jar and that one is the size of the jar and about as thick as a dime—he’s floated to the bottom, but this morning I noticed a third SCOBY forming at the top of the jar. It’s only been two weeks since I started and my store bough Kombucha is working on making a third SCOBY. I’m so glad you posted this how-to!!

  15. What an awesome post! I have been trying to get a dehydrated culture of kombucha started all winter. Then I read this, bought a bottle at the health food store and 10 days later I already have a pretty thick SCOBY hanging out! I am so excited! I ended up buying ginger flavored at the store because they didn’t have unflavored. I hope it will be ok, I thought it was my best bet since I have fermented ginger before for homemade gingerale. Also, I just adore your blog!

    • Hi Meghan! Thanks for your kind words! And I’m so glad it worked out for you. Hooray! I’m sure the ginger flavour won’t be a problem; I just recommended unflavoured to be safe. Hope you’ll be brewing your own kombucha in no time!

  16. Another one…
    My kombucha is tasting great, but it smells bad. Is that normal? I want to make sure that is ok to drink it.
    Second, my SCOBY is getting huge. Is that normal also?
    Is normally ready after a week.

    Thank you again!

  17. Thank you for all of the details Kathleen. I followed your instructions and successfully grew my first SCOBY, brewed my first Kombucha and my first batch of flavoured Kombucha.
    Now, I need to know what to do as we will be going out of town for several weeks. How to I keep the mother SCOBY alive while we are away?

    • Hi Melissa! So glad it worked out!!

      How many weeks will you be away? The SCOBY can easily stay alive for a few weeks in some kombucha — even a month. The only thing is, your kombucha will keep getting more and more sour/vinegary. So you might come home to more kombucha vinegar than you’d want, but otherwise, it should be all right. If you want to keep brewing, I’d suggest keeping some fresh kombucha in the fridge while you’re away to use as a starter when you get home. When you get home, you can either use or toss your kombucha vinegar, bring your refrigerated kombucha to room temp, and use it to keep brewing. Cheers!

  18. Is there any way the kombucha tea can be made using spearmint, mint, lemon tree leaves or lemongrass teas? Has anyone tried that? Does it have to be a specific type of tea? I haven’t yet had any for myself but I’m gonna get my hands on some soon or later. I heard it’s a great detox for heavy metals that are present in our every day consumption foods and atmosphere. Anyone reading this, do let me know what’s the most intensive form to make the scoby aka mushroom, pores etc…Thanks!

  19. Hi: Im trying to find an unflavored kombucha bottle to grow my own scoby. ..but the only bottles I found are the flavored ones. Is there any posibility to grow a new scoby from a flavored bottle? Please let me know. ;)


    • Flavored will work in a pinch. The important thing is the culture in floating in the bottom of the bottle, the more the better! GT’s Original Raw Kombutcha is unflavored. I did a search on Google for just the right kind and that is the one that kept coming up. Don’t be scared by the new alcohol content warning. GT’s just went for the USDA Organic certification and were forced to put it on the label because there is a chance that it could contain as much as 0.5% alcohol by volume naturally. To get that high a content of alcohol though I think you would need to buy a bottle of raw, and let it sit out for a few days at room temp and another K to form at the top and start fermenting the bottle further. Like I said I would not worry about it. It’s just government sticking its nose in.

  20. This worked perfectly for me! I used a flavored GT kombucha, original wasn’t available. I started it back in January and have been making my own Kombucha ever since. I happy to have the savings of $3.50 a bottle but mostly I like saving the waste of all that packaging and bottling by making my own. Thank you for the great instructions.
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  21. I am looking for a “JUN” scoby to make JUN kombucha. Does anyone have one? I am in Massachusetts.

    • You can make your own JUN from a K. Just brew a batch of any kind of sweet tea, buy a bottle of raw K with lots of culture at the bottom. I prefer GTs Original Raw Kombucha. Then add the bottle of GTs to your sweet tea brew. ENSURE the sweet tea brew is room temperature when you add the GTs to grow your first K mushroom. once you have a healthy K mushroom going, in your next batch substitute about a quarter of the sugar with honey and see how your K does with that, and gradually work up the honey content with other batches till you have just tea and honey, they you will have your own JUN. There are lots of pointers to help you with this on the web through Google if you need more help.

  22. You mentioned hearing that people are no longer able to grow their own K from store bought KT? I am doing that right now and not having any difficulties. I did however approach the purchase very carefully. I searched Google for the best raw unflavored K and was shown GTs Orginal raw KT. When I got to a store that had it I look at the bottom of most of the bottles looking for a good solid amount of culture in the bottom, and bought the one with the most. Brought it home and added it to my Gallon size glass jar with already brewed green sweet tea. I covered it with a washcloth and a rubber band within a few hours all the bottom floaties of culture were coming together at the top and forming my new K mushroom.
    You also mentioned moving it and the mushroom culture sinking and having to start over. Why? I have had this same thing happen to me before where the K sank part way or all the way down into the tea, When it did I called a friend of mine that has been growing her own for years and has a cow share dairy farm. She told not to worry about it, it happens just leave it alone for a while and it will perk up again. I did and the KT was fine, no problems. That particular K went on to give me a few more baby Ks before I retired it. You just need to keep an eye out for mold. If you see mold then yes the K mushroom is dead, but until you do keep it, it’s still in good shape.

  23. You lied to me. You said you would tell me how to brew kombucha without a scoby. You started with a scoby. You had a bottle of kombucha, that has little bits of scoby in it, from that you grew your own scoby. You grew a scoby from a scoby, then lied about it so i would read your article.

    You are a liar, write it again.

    • The point is that you don’t have to track down a scoby before you can brew your own kombucha. For years I was interested in kombucha but I thought I couldn’t brew my own because I didn’t know where I could buy a scoby. When I learned that all I needed to get started was a bottle of pre-made kombucha, it was a revelation. I’m sorry the post wasn’t what you expected. I don’t consider those little strands of yeast in store-bought kombucha a scoby.

      • Im using no kombucha and no scoby. I couldn’t find the non cheating way online so i got one jar and put about 8th pearl barley, normal tea and about 6th/8th sugar and orange peel and its starting a scoby at the top after no more than a week. I got another jar with rice and about half the amount of sugar and there’s no scoby but bubbles at least and its a bit sour but not bad. Lastly I just drank a pint of another jar of attempted white tea, banana skin kumbitchass because It had bubbles but no scoby and it was still just sweet with a hint of fizz hahaha

    • Nobody knows how to do this without any starting culture. The original conditions for the SCOBY are unknown.

    • For what it’s worth:

      I am with Mike, this isn’t how to grow a scoby from nothing, but I’m not disappointed. About a year ago, I researched how to make a scoby from nothing…as Mike is/was looking for. I didn’t really find anything. The best I found was to brew some tea with a bunch of sugar (6c water, 4 teabags, 1/3c sugar? I forget exactly. It’s been almost a year). I added vinegar…a cup maybe?…and this mixture has been sitting on my kitchen table, in a sun tea jar, topped with paper towel secured by rubber band, away from direct sunlight for 11 months now. All that’s happened is the tea has evaporated.


      I’m considering trying again by making more tea, adding some bottled kombucha I got for free (chia seeds, but no yeasty strings) and also some of this tea that’s been evaporating. I’m thinking the original had too much vinegar? Nothing could grow in the acidity? I dunno.

  24. Given the cost of buying a scoby online, I decided to try to grow my own from store-bought kombucha, knowing that with the new regulations I might fail. Nope. It worked beautifully! I even used flavored kombucha, which no one recommends. However, that was what I had, and now I have a happy, thick, beautiful scoby.

  25. I just finished brewing my first homemade Scoby from a bottle of GT’s original kombucha, which took about 2 1/2 weeks to ferment. I’m ready to begin the 2nd fermentation w/sweetened tea. My Scoby looks like there’s almost 2 cups of juice, but only 1 1/2 cup is needed for the second ferment. What do I do with the extra 1/2 cup of juice? Do I throw it away, or do I feed it more sugar and start a second Scoby?! Thank you for your help and the recipe.

    • I’m going to take a stab at this one and say just use it all. I used to make kombucha myself a few years ago and never measured the amount I saved for my new batch. Always worked out fine!

  26. Hello! Thank you for these great articles! I used to brew my own kombucha years ago and gave my SCOBY mama to a friend when I moved out of state. I miss it so! I found a mother in a big bottle of GT’s I bought recently and figured I’d give it another go.

    The only thing is, I drank too much of it and now there is only about an 1/8 of a cup of kombucha. Woops. Do I need to buy another bottle or can I still make kombucha without having the 1 1/2 cups kombucha with the mother?

    Not sure if this comment thread is still active, but any help here would be so appreciated!

  27. I use this same method and it WORKS! I was making my own kombucha but it grows so fast and rapid I could not keep up. I stopped but I starting it again today! YEAH!

  28. Bishwa Basnet says

    It is said Kombucha is made from tea, and generally tea bags are mentioned. But it is said tea bags have their own health risks. So why can’t we just use loose tea leaves and strain it afterwards?

  29. Dianne Morales
    I used the flavored Kombucha with ginger and carrot to make the Scoby, will I get the same results.
    Can I get the full recipe.

  30. David Reynolds says

    We say “of” bacteria and yeast
    We don’t say “ove” bacterial and yeast
    SCOBY is pronounced “scubby”
    Pls help us all gain credibility

  31. Kombucha Joe says

    I just recently made kombucha, without a scoby , only a bottle of GTS Enlightened RAW Gingerade Kombucha, and some fresh sweet tea. A scoby formed while I fermented this batch… So, two things… Scoby is more of a byproduct of the things that grow in Kombucha ( yeast and bacteria )… as long as your raw kombucha has some of those yeasts and bacteria in it when you start, you can make Kombucha… without initially having some thick scoby before hand.

  32. I just started my first batch of K 1 day ago with a homemade bottle given to me by a Kombucha pro. She told me the SCOBY will for on its own after 1-2 weeks. I see bubbles on top…Thanks for all the great tips on this site!

  33. I was definitely intimidated to make my own kombucha / SCOBY. But after reading this, it gives me a wave of confidence! Thanks for sharing!

  34. psflanagan says

    December 2017/January 2018 GT Synergy Original (the label says it’s “Raw”) still works to grow your own SCOBY … my guess, whomever is publishing that it cannot be don e, is probably trying to sell SCOBYs, lol

  35. I also concur with psflangan. I used the same raw kombucha and grew my own SCOBY. I am very happy because I was not successful with the dehydrated one I bought at the store. I used your instructions today to make the next batch with my newly grown SCOBY. In fact, this one is so healthy it had already started a new baby on the surface because I let it sit longer than the initial two weeks! Happy. :)

  36. Hi:
    I’m just getting ready to use GT’s Original Raw/Organic (unpasturized) Kombucha to form a Scoby. But I have a question.

    I have my own Probiotics that are in powdered form. Would it help to put some of them into the Kombucha that I am making a Scoby with?? Thanks a bunch

  37. Hello! I’ve attempted growing my first scoby. I let it sit for over a month, waiting for a thick scoby to form. (FAIL!) What I ended up with is…..really hard to describe! lol (see pix: or ). And there is no liquid remaining with what is there. My question is……can I save what DID (scoby) form and use it as an addition to grow another scoby, or should I just trash it and start all over? Thanks in advance!

  38. I don’t recommend using cheesecloth to cover your jar, it can let fruit flies in!

  39. Hiya. I’ve finally planted my scoby on a heated mat, and hopefully it will keep me self-sustained for the rest of my life. It’s too expensive to purchase bottles of it on the regular. Thanks for a good starting point, really excited to watch my scoby develop in the coming weeks.


  1. […] As happy as I was to be able to purchase these delicious treats in our home town, they are expensive and I had read that you could make your own. I looked into ordering a scoby online to get myself started but the shipping costs to Canada seemed a bit ridiculous. Then I came across some posts on Kathleen’s blog Becoming Peculiar: Adventures in a Backwards Kingdom about how to grow your own scoby from an bottle of GT Kombucha. So off I went to purchase an original flavor GT Kombucha. I’ll briefly outline the steps here for you but for more detailed information head over to Kathleen’s blog on how to grown your own scoby. […]

  2. […] more about and foster a continuous brew kombucha. I followed this method to grow my own SCOBY, and then I read about continuous brewing, and the lazy foodie in me thought […]

  3. […] you want to grow your own, here’s a great tutorial on how to do that. Simple, people. Very simple. Otherwise, shoot me an email and I’ll share […]

  4. […] Figure 4: SCOBY ‘pancake’. Source: The Kitchn           Figure 5: White growth of new SCOBY. Source: Becoming Peculiar […]

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