Top 5 Other Uses for Kombucha SCOBYs

A thick ccreamy white Kombucha SCOBY culture is held close to the camera.

Big Baby Kombucha!

One of Kombucha’s many gifts is that of self-perpetuation. You can literally make a LIFETIME supply from one culture, if it is properly cared for. At first, this is a miraculous delight for the homebrewer, but after a few cycles, it can seem like you are in trouble with Tribbles. Many people are loath to simply toss the extra cultures, rightfully acknowledging that the SCOBY is a living organism with its own consciousness and intelligence.

The great news is that this is a win-win situation. Science has barely begun to grasp the full scope of Kombucha’s usefulness from functional beverage, to household cleaner, to skin & hair care product to vegan leather substitute.  This flexibility gives the homebrewer an excellent opportunity to experiment. Instead of dreading what to do with those extra cultures – I’ve included some great tips for other ways to use them, but first, let’s take a closer look at what the SCOBYis exactly.

BONUS TIP – First things first, set up a SCOBY Hotel so that you will have backups in case of mold, fruit fly infestation or to experiment.

SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast

Most commonly pronounced with a short ‘o’ (like the ‘o’ in the word ‘go’) but maybe you like to call it “Scooby” after your favorite cartoon dog. ;) It is also known as a biofilm, pellicle, zooglea (living skin), yeast mat or near lichen. The SCOBY is  a protective layer built by the bacteria – most often Acetobacter xylinium, but could also be any of several other strains – to prevent other non-friendly or pathogenic bacteria from entering their food source while dually serving to reduce evaporation.

The zooglea also acts as home for a large number of yeast and bacteria. Think of it kind of like an apartment building – the yeast live on one floor, bacteria on the next, and so on. They build this cellulose structure to make working together easier. Finally, the mat makes transfering the necessary bacteria and yeast starter from one batch to the next extremely easy, ensuring their continued propogation.

BONUS TIP – Keep 2-3 cultures together in the brewing vessel to jumpstart the fermentation process.

WHAT TO DO WITH EXTRA SCOBYS

Beauty is Skin Deep

  • Check out these recipes for making your very own beauty masque and toner from Bev Ferguson, owner of the Original Kombucha List.
  • I like to take a fresh culture and lay it across my face (no, it will not suck your brains out, though the thought has crossed my mind). Allow the culture to rest on your face for up to 15 minutes, using a towel to catch the drips. You may notice some redness on your skin but it will quickly fade. If you are sensitive, always test first on a small section of skin.

Why this works

  • • The culture pulls circulation to the surface of the skin which regenerates the skin cells
  • • The pH of the culture has the effect of a mild and all natural acid peel which sloughs dead skin cells and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth
  • Living Band-Aids

    • The Kombucha culture also has many topical uses. One of the terms for the SCOBY is zooglea, which translates as “living skin” and helps heal the skin from burns, wounds and other skin ailments. Biofilms are not new and have a wide range of applications from medicinal bandages, replacement blood veins, speaker diaphragms and more. BASYC is one such biofilm that is being tested and manufactured for such purposes. They have isolated an acetobacter xylinium strain – one of the bacteria native to the Kombucha culture – to create this biofilm.
    • You can use pieces of the culture topically to speed healing of cuts, burns and other wounds. Cut a piece to size and hold in place with a bandage wrap. It will sting a bit, much like iodine.

    Why this works

  • • The pH of the culture inhibits the growth of harmful organisms.
  • • The bacteria send out microfibrils which are filament strands that link up with those of other bacteria creating a nano-structure that thickens over time.
  • Acetobacter Xylinum sends out microfibrils which create a cellulose mat

    These nanostructures help the skin to rebuild

    Pets are People too!

    Why this works

  • • All animals benefit from a healthy diet and digestive system
  • Vegan Sushi?

    • With the oceans being poisoned by plastic, healthy fish supplies are running low.  Save a fish, eat a SCOBY! While many will feel disdain for the rubbery texture of the SCOBY, it is actually quite similar in texture to raw squid.
    • If you don’t want to eat it straight, try adding a piece to your smoothie.

    Why this works

  • Increasing the amount of cellulose in your diet can help ease elimination and improve colon health
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?

    • Many plants thrive in more acidic soil environments.  Grind up or coarsely chop a SCOBY and add it to your soil mix.
    • Adding extra SCOBYs to the compost pile is a great way to return the culture to the earth.  I throw them in my worm bin and boy, do I have a lot of happy worms! =)  I use the worm tea to nourish my garden.

    Why This Works

  • • pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions.  The higher amount of hydrogen ions present, the more acid the pH.  Soil acidity affects a plant’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients.
  • Do you have a use for Kombucha or SCOBYS that isn’t listed here? Leave a comment below.

    Still need MORE ideas?  Join us at the KommUnity discussion (already in progress) to talk about other uses for Kombucha & SCOBYs!

    Hannah Crum, the Kombucha Mamma!Hannah Crum is The Kombucha Mamma, founder of Kombucha Kamp, Industry Journalist & Master Brewer, educating others about Kombucha since 2004. Connect with her on Google +
    Kombucha Mamma SCOBYs & Kits ship free in the US!
    57 Responses to Top 5 Other Uses for Kombucha SCOBYs
    1. Allison Burrough via Facebook

      Thanks for posting this! As a new brewer, I only have a few Scobys set aside and I have plans to give those to friends. But it’s great to know the other uses and I will def try some of these out in the future!

    2. What an AWESOME post!! Thank you!

    3. Jillian

      I like to take my SCOBY’s and blend them up until liquid and add honey. I apply a thin layer on my face and let it dry then wash off with a natural hemp soap like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

      I also add some Kombucha brew to a nice hot bath and it softens my skin.

      I also spread the love and have become an advocate for the benefits of Kombucha, educating my friends and giving them a free SCOBY to start out :)

      • Excellent suggestions! I’ve heard some use jojoba or other essential oils for the face cream. I’m a big fan of just laying it on my face ;)

        So glad that you are sharing the knowledge of Kombucha & your extra SCOBYs with friends! The more who benefit the better!

      • These are excellent uses for KT & SCOBYs – thanks for sharing your tips and for spreading the Kombucha LOVE =)

    4. wendy lister

      I have been using homemade kombucha for a few months but dont know how to keep my discarded scobys. Do I have to keep them in kaboucha in the fridge or what?

    5. brandi

      using the culture for the skin and hair is a bad idea the skin and hair have a pH of 3.4 to 5.4 and the reason your skin turns red is because of the acid making your skin a higher acid level giving you what is similar to a chemical burn that is why some times when cosmetologists get bleach on the skin they will put a pH balancer that returns the skin to its natural pH

      • kkadmin

        Vinegar has been used in beauty regimens for skin and hair for millenia. Kombucha is an acetic acid ferment similar to vinegar. If your skin is sensitive, dilute with pure water.

      • You’re both right.
        A chemical peel is a great way to force remove old skin cells and generate some new even healthier ones (because you drink Kombucha now!).
        Different acids are used such as lactic acid….

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_peel

    6. Simonette

      My SCOBY hotel has a SCOBY that looks like a balloon. Is that normal? And in the video says that you can keep the hotel for 90 days, but I started mine 6 days ago and it´s pretty potent., almost vinegar. Do I keep it like that for 84 more days? or should I make a new feeder for it? Thanks!

      • Sam Celia

        Im with ya here! I see so much potential it’s hard to choose a place to start! I am more and more believing those who have hypothesized that fungi are advancing consciousness and creating a culture for which their continuity is rewarded. I feel so blessed to be a part of their vehicle.

    7. Scott Batchelor

      I have been experimenting with my scoby batches for some time now, I have notebooks full of experiments relating to medical uses, bioremediation, use as a meat substitute, to produce a living battery (the vinegar created makes for a renewable electrolyte and the scoby keeps the fluid from evaporation) To use of different plant based teas to impart new qualities to the brew. I even grow giants for halloween use with light sticks to make a kind of alien pod. I would like to build up a form that follows the human form for use as a sort of bioelectric medium or to integrate minor homebrew cybernetic systems. I guess I’m sort of a garage mad scientist when it comes to the stuff, but when you can grow and test the limits of this great stuff, It really takes on a life of its own!

      • Kris Baker

        Hey! Love your mad scientist-ing! Are you posting your results/expiriments anywhere? Would love to keep track of your work!

    8. Jessica Sullivan

      Questions: What if each Scoby attaches to the original and you have one big Scoby piece? Can I cut it to separate it?

      Thanks!
      Jess

      • No worries! Cut it with scissors (sanitize with distilled (white) vinegar) or rip it apart with your bare hands!

    9. Sam Celia

      I havn’t tried this yet, but soon I will. For a long time now, I’ve been pondering making a sandwich without bread. There is just something about a sandwich that makes whatever is in the middle taste better, or seem more gratifying. In my raw food studies, I learned to sprout seeds in a deep petri dish, to create a tightly woven mass of sprouts resembling a slice of bread. I liked this, but still wanted alternatives. I’m thinking of using extra scobys to replace bread for sandwiches. Perhaps even as a sheet for wraps. I’ll experiment with fresh and dried scobys, and see which appeals most to me for this application. I’ve eaten many scobys before, and came up with recipes using them as vegan substitutes for jellyfish and squid. Hoping my sandwich will be as pleasing! Has anyone tried this?

    10. Sam Celia

      When I said extra scobys, I didn’t really do justice to my feelings about scobys. Scobys can be shared, bought, and most of all, grown. There is no such thing as an extra scoby, or too many. If one finds they have more than they want, it should be their ethical obligation to gift someone else with the health and happiness that this fantastic organism can provide. What I’m thinking of is in addition to brewing kombucha tea, I want to grow scobys as a food source, and experiment with ways to get the most from my idea.

    11. Missy

      Can one use the yeastie strings to start a sourdough starter? I’ve tried to start a sourdough starter but I never have enough yeast to produce the bubbles. hhhmmmm

    12. Andrew

      ANTI-FUNGAL SALVE – In a Blender, blend SCOBY with fresh rosemary leaves (or R. oil if you have) and virgin coconut oil. Put in jar and store in fridge. Use as an anti-fungal compress (eg. athletes foot, ringworm etc). Application great for animals, esp because they lick medicines off, so this works first from the outside and then the inside.

      • Thanks for the great tip Andrew!

        • Amy

          Andrew: Can you give some measurements for the anti-fungal salve? I have the mother of all scobys to use up and this sounds like a perfect idea for some of it.

    13. Monica

      Is it ok to add an extra scoby to my brew? I also accidentally added two cups extra water. Is that a problem?

      • No problem Monica! Yes, you may add a 2nd culture at any time.

    14. agstl

      Can I put the extra scoby through a blender and put spoonfuls into my beverages?

        • Brittany

          You can put blended SCOBY into any cold beverage. Similar to putting spinach into a smoothie; you know its there but there is hardly any taste from the SCOBY but the health benefits are still there. I specify cold beverages because if the drink is hot the culture will die.

    15. Victoria

      What about metal utensils? I know you’re supposed to avoid metal, plastic, etc and use a wooden spoon and clear glass container throughout the brewing process, but I have seen videos of others using scissors/knives to cut Scobys to size. And what the about the metal blades of the blender… does that not affect the Scoby and/or it’s next brew?

      • Kombucha isn’t “afraid” of metal. It is a powerful detoxifyer and if we brew in reactive metals, the culture will pull the toxins from the metal and put it in your brew. Incidental contact with scissors, metal strainer or blender blades will not have a long term detrimental affect on your SCOBY. Moreover, many kitchen utensils are stainless steel which is corrosive resistant.

        • Pam Rinas

          Thanks SO much for responding to this question. I love that the free and always will be part too. Learning, learning, learning. I’m on my third consecutive week. I’m thinking KT is helping me with ezcema on my hands. I’m going to apply topically today. Can hardly wait!!! That’s why to response about the medal blades was super helpful.

    16. maria

      is the scoby more beneficial than the liquard i see that it is getting put into food an drinks an food for animals which dosent surpise me it would be so alsum if the scobys work alot quicker than the liquard for healing im a bit hesitant to eat the scoby as it mite reproduce itslf inside of me just wandering is this possible it may happen

      • The bacteria & yeast & healthy acids are all present in the Kombucha tea itself. The SCOBY is bacterial cellulose and it is a great probiotic for animals of all kinds – human or otherwise!

      • Brittany

        There are not enough studies to conclusively determine which is more beneficial. However, it is my belief that the benefits are the same whether you drink the tea or eat the SCOBY. But I also believe that you do not have to eat as much SCOBY as you would have to drink the tea because the SCOBY is a “concentrated” form of the bacteria and yeast. Also the acid from your stomach does not allow any cultures to grow into a SCOBY, so have no fear in that department. Just like older siblings telling their kid brother or sister that eating watermelon seeds will produce watermelon plants in their stomach. There have not been any cases, that I know of, of plants (or SCOBYs for that matter) growing in stomachs that the medical world has talked about.

    17. Adel

      I’m a healer dealing with psychic stuff , the simple drinking of kombucha grants a naturals psychic defense against negative energies comming out and i dry it and use hang it in my medecine bag it protects me from evil thouths , Kombucha i love u

    18. Brian

      To expand on Monica’s idea of having more than one scoby in a jar at once, would that make it brew faster?

      • To a point, then it has diminishing returns. Experiment to find your ideal amt of SCOBY!

    19. jessie

      I tried eating a bit of it. After the chewy slimy part was gone, I was left with what felt like a wad of chewed up paper in my mouth that no amount of chewing would disintegrate. Is this normal? If so, how do you get that down? I can’t image using it as bread for this reason. I thought to chop it up and make “boba” for my kombucha with it but not sure if I want to swallow those fiber balls that are left after long chewing.

      • If you want to eat the culture straight, try cutting into smaller pieces. Marinating also makes it more flavorful. Putting it in the blender makes a light, fluffy texture which can be used in smoothies. Think of it as healthy chewing gum and spit out the cellulose after you chew out all the good bacteria!

    20. irth

      Scoby’s do well in unpasteurized milk at room temp.. apparently it’s the lactose the feed on. Not sure about tasting the waters.

    21. Berkana

      Kombucha SCOBYs are great for pranks. Go up to a sleeping drunkard, make a loud sneezing sound while flopping a large fresh SCOBY on his face, then run!

      Side effects include exfoliation and faster healing of open acne wounds.

      • Donna

        Really? Find someone who is really troubled in their life and torment them? No doubt you are joking but sounds mean-spirited…

    22. Jessica McMorris

      I inherited a LARGE scoby hotel… and finally was brave enough to make my first brew a couple weeks ago. It’s going well. I have nice little pancakes on the top and its tastes great!

      My question actually relates to the topical applications of the scoby though. I have a yeast infection in my feminine area that has been resistant to all my past effective treatments. I have a gut healing from long term antibiotics as a child and 13 years of birth control use… have multiple food allergies. I had a little too much carbs/sugar over the past 3-4 weeks doing multiple test batches of a recipe…flash forward to this yeast issue I’m having now.

      My question is, can I use the scobys topically for the itching and inflammation (or is it TOO acidic)…and possibly internally to rebalance as well? I’ve been using raw honey and coconut kefir and it’s helped calm and rebalance some, but is not knocking this thing out this time like in the past… Tea tree oil has not been effective either. I’m a little too chicken to just do it and see if it works because I’m already hurting so bad already… Thanks for any input <3

      • Trust YOUR gut Jessica. If you think it might work, give it a try. Some women make a douche out of a little KV (Kombucha Vinegar) and water. The nice thing about the booch is that it is less acidic than vinegar so it is easier on your system. Give it a try and let us know if it works!

      • Cindy

        This does not have to do with kombucha, but yeast infection. I had it really bad one time and was told to lay in a very private place, with a lamp close to the area. Yeast likes dark and damp. I would do that a few times a day for several minutes at a time. Hope that helps.

    23. Nance

      I made kombucha jerky. When dried below 105F, the enzymes are retained. Here is the process, and the marinade I found here is yummy:
      http://holisticsquid.com/kombucha-scoby-jerky/

      • Yay! I made this video with my friend Monica – glad you liked the marinade.

    24. AAR

      I know Donna Schwenk! So cool to see you guys are friends!! My dog has been throwing up bile a lot. Do you think kombucha will help her digestion?

      • Donna Schwenk is terrific! She is a sweet person who really cares about helping others =)

        Here is a link to our Kombucha Poocha post – it helped our dog recover from mange & now she’s healthy & happy!

    25. Yvonne

      We’ve been brewing Kombucha for about 10 months now — really enjoying it and sharing it with family and friends. We even brew extra to pour on our horses grain, and they are thriving on it! The dogs love their Kombucha dehydrated Scoby and it shows in their shiny coats.
      Our dilemma – our baby Scobys used to be really thick and nice and separated easily from the mamma. The past couple of months, however,using our same methods, we have been getting very thin Scobys and can’t figure out why. They are hard to separate from the mamma as well. The flavor and carbonation are still there, but we are disappointed in the babies. We have tried various remedies (hot weather we turned the heaters off; tried cutting off a piece of the mamma for the next brew; rinsed the jar with vinegar before making the next batch) but still no luck producing a thicker baby. We’ve never had any problems with mold. Any suggestions?

      • Since they are living beings, they don’t always behave as we’d like them to. You might try shifting the nutrient solution (i.e. blend of teas or all black tea) or letting them ferment longer. There are so many factors, it is hard to guess without further inquiry. You are welcome to send a detailed account of your brewing process and photos to customerservice@kombuchakamp.com for further assistance.

    26. Forest

      this is very interesting however i was told to never eat the SCOBY. so you are saying it is safe to do so ?

      • kkadmin

        Yes, it is safe to consume if your body can digest cellulose.

    27. Forest

      ive read in someone elses instructions on preparing kombucha that they rinse the scoby under cold water to get the stringy stuff off and the dark parts around the edges. is this necessary to do ? rinse the scoby ? also, do you mean i should never use soap to wash out the container im going to put the new batch of tea in ? i generally use a dishwasher and it rinses things very well so there should not be any soap residue .. can you explain in detail the proper way to clean a container and utensils that are going to be used to brew and contain a batch of tea please ?

      • kkadmin

        It is not recommended to wash the SCOBY between uses. If there is an excess of yeast, simply remove it by hand. As for the container, the method you describe is perfectly acceptable. The main idea is that we don’t want to contaminate our brew with any soap residue. To ensure all traces have been removed, sanitize the vessel & utensils with distilled (NOT RAW) vinegar and water.

    28. Pauline

      Is it ok to use colored glass for brewing?

      • kkadmin

        Provided it is approved for food consumption, then it will be safe to use. If you are not certain, you can purchase a home lead testing kit to make sure it doesn’t contain any potential toxins.

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    Continuous Brew mini-FAQ

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