SCOBY Hotel Maintenance

Long Term Maintenance SCOBY Hotel from Kombucha Kamp

The SCOBY Hotel is an important resource in every Kombucha brewer’s tool box. Since a healthy Kombucha culture reproduces with each batch, it would be foolhardy not to keep a few around in case mold strikes. Plus, with all the great uses for extra SCOBYs you never know when one will come in handy.

So you followed the instructions in our SCOBY Hotel video and made your hotel, but now your SCOBYs have been in there for awhile. What happens next? Can they just hang out in there forever?

Unlike other more delicate cultures such as milk kefir or water kefir which will disintegrate and disappear if not fed regularly, the Kombucha culture is a very hardy organism and can remain in stasis for extended periods of time. This is in part due to their very protective pH (2.5-3.5). It makes Kombucha one of the safest ferments to brew at home.  However, the SCOBY hotel does need to be maintained from time to time. This ensures that the cultures remain viable after weeks, months or even years!


As the name implies, the SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Although the bacteria and yeast live in symbiosis, they are also in competition. Our role as brewers is to maintain balance by nurturing the bacteria and removing excess yeast. This same principle applies to the hotel.

Perform maintenance on your hotel every 2-6 months or when you observe a build up in yeast to keep your cultures healthy, happy and ready to brew at a moment’s notice. Remember, never store your Kombucha SCOBYs in the fridge as the bacteria may go deeply dormant or perish, leading to flat, weak flavor and usually mold.

Hotel Maintenance

Yeast Removal

Yeast are a vital part of the Kombucha fermentation process as they provide carbonation and nutrition for the bacteria (and humans!).  They are the brown clumps or strands that hang from the SCOBY and ultimately accumulate on the bottom of the vessel once they’ve completed their life cycle. It is important to remove some of the yeast to prevent the symbiosis from getting out of balance.

As always, start with a clean space. Wiping down counters with (Kombucha) vinegar water and using clean towels and utensils is a crucial step to prevent contamination.

  1. Remove the cultures from the hotel into a separate bowl or vessel. Cover immediately with a cloth or lid to prevent fruit fly contamination.
  2. Filter the liquid of the hotel through a strainer, sieve or cheesecloth into a clean container. The yeast strands are large and will not pass through the sieve. But there is more than enough yeast in the liquid and SCOBY. (Bonus Tip: Save the filtered yeast to make Kombucha Sourdough starter!)
  3. Now you have potent starter to get new batches going (see below). Reserve a portion of this starter liquid to return to the hotel.
  4. Rinse the hotel jar with hot water to remove all traces of yeast from the bottom and sides of the vessel. If it has been a while, a good scrubbing may be needed.
  5. Once you have completed SCOBY Thinning & Trimming (see below), place the SCOBYs back into the hotel jar or use a clean jar. Add fresh sweet tea until the jar is about half full. Then top off with the potent starter to provide a protective pH and prevent mold. The mix of starter to sweet tea should be about 50/50.

KKamp does not recommend rinsing the cultures to remove all of the yeast as some yeast is required to obtain carbonation. We simply want to reduce their number to maintain balance.

Hannah Crum, the Kombucha Mamma!Kombucha Mamma Sez: **MYTH BUSTING** Kombucha is NOT harmed if it comes into brief contact with metal. Kombucha IS a powerful detoxifier. If brewed in inappropriate vessels (i.e. leaded glass, any metal other than 304 stainless steel), Kombucha will pull toxic elements into the brew. However, incidental contact with metal strainers, spoons, knives or scissors is not a cause for concern. There is not enough time for the KT to detox anything from them. Stainless steel 304 grade is safe for brewing Kombucha as it is highly corrosive resistant and is also used in the beer, wine and vinegar brewing industries. CLICK HERE for more about Selecting a Safe Vessel for Brewing

 SCOBY Thinning & Trimming

Kombucha loves to GROW! Even in the hotel, a new layer will form across the top. The longer it sits, the thicker the layer. If the SCOBY gets too thick, fresh oxygen cannot reach the liquid below. Thinning or trimming it down to a smaller size will keep the oxygen flowing and prevent stagnation.

  1. Remove the thick top layer from the vessel.
  2. First, see if it’s possible to simply pull the layers of SCOBY apart with your hands. If it formed in thin layers, they may peel easily or even rip at times but you cannot hurt the SCOBY this way.
  3. If you cannot rip it apart, sanitize a pair of scissors or serrated knife with Kombucha vinegar or distilled vinegar.
  4. You can trim the culture with scissors to reduce the width/thickness. Or it’s also fine to slice the culture in half with the serrated knife. Hold the SCOBY flat on the cutting board with hand over the top. Work the knife horizontally through the thick SCOBY like a bread roll. CLICK HERE for more about Trimming SCOBYs
  5. Discard any soft, gelatinous edges or unwelcome bits as needed.

Freshly trimmed pieces of healthy SCOBY culture make excellent bandages for cuts or burns or can be tossed into the blender to make SCOBY face cream.

Using Your SCOBY Hotel as a Source for Potent Starter

With so many cultures in such a small space, the liquid in the hotel will become super sour. Go on, take a sip or a whiff – I dare you! Kombucha face is guaranteed.

One option for maintaining the hotel as you go is to use this sour KT as starter for your batch brews. This is an especially important tip for those batch brewers that prefer a short brewing cycle for their Kombucha. Using starter liquid that is only 5 or 6 days old for one batch is fine – doing that for multiple batches in a row may dilute the strength of the bacteria and result in dominant yeast and off flavor.

Consider letting an entire gallon batch go to vinegar, then converting that to your SCOBY Hotel and using 1 – 1.5 cups of liquid from the top of the Hotel as starter liquid for the next batch. You don’t have to add sweet tea back in each time, but after a few batches you will want to replenish the Hotel and give it a chance to convert that sugar, which it will do quickly.

This method allows you to use all of your batch brew at bottling time. Result: more Kombucha to drink (bonus!). Plus, keep your backup SCOBYs happy and ready to go on a moments notice.

SCOBY Rotation

Some brewers prefer rotating SCOBYs through their batches and Hotel, taking both the starter liquid and a SCOBY from the Hotel for the new batch and returning the previously used SCOBY (and maybe also the new baby) to the Hotel until needed. This creates a dynamic Hotel environment which keeps more cultures vibrant and active. Yet they still get rest periods which may benefit the cultures.

Other brewers prefer to keep one SCOBY going from batch to batch once they have found a balance and flavor they like. Each brewer must find their own rhythm and discover what works best in their environment and with their SCOBYs. Enjoy the journey & Happy Brewing! 🙂


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Responses to SCOBY Hotel Maintenance

  1. How long can you keep a SCOBY in a hotel and have it still viable to start a new batch?
    My hotel has built up over the last couple of years, but I don’t know if the SCOBYs are worth keeping.
    I feed it regularly with fresh tea I’ve made for a batch of kombucha.

    • Hello Angela! As long as you maintain it and you don’t see any mold present, your SCOBYs should be viable! However, the only way to know for sure is to try them out by making a batch of Kombucha with them.

  2. Hello! I’ve been neglecting my SCOBY hotel. I just made a batch and after 3 weeks it tastes like sweet tea, even though a baby formed. The PH is 2. I’m guessing the yeast is dormant. I used some the liquid to feed the hotel and put both scobys back in. A week later a new scoby has formed in the hotel. Should I try again with the new one? Will this cycle have reactivated the cultures?

  3. I have a batch of kombucha that is four months old. Can I use the baby and liquid to start a new batch? The mother is very thick so I was going to toss it, and the extra liquid.

    I did not “feed” the batch with sugar tea during the four months. Just want to make sure it is safe to use?


  4. A co-worker gave me a Jun scoby. I wasn’t sure about it because he kept it in the fridge at work and said that was the way to store them. Well, a couple months later, I have a monster Jun in my CB! As it is currently summer, I’m not concerned about the weather. However, it will be winter soon enough. How will 50F temperatures affect my hotel? I have a heating wrap for my CB, will I need one for my hotel? Or would moving it to the top of the fridge/freezer be enough?

    • Temps that get down that low can be an issue. Perhaps nestle it next to the CB for extra warmth or put on top of the fridge. Keep an eye on it and feed regularly to prevent mold.

  5. Hi! I recently brew a batch with a fusion of hibiscus and black tea, half and half. It tastes amazingly good. My question is that is it okay to store the new kinda pink scoby produced from this batch with the other scobys at the same hotel?

    Thank you for the help

    • If the SCOBY has been in contact with tisanes or flavorings such as hibiscus, we recommend saving it in a separate Hotel away from your main SCOBYs, to prevent any issues. There’s nothing wrong with saving them, but we don’t want it to negatively affect the main Hotel.

  6. have you ever heard of over carbonating with no F2 and a 3 day F1. After i bottle after the 3 day F1 I put directly in the fridge and within 7 days its carbonated and after 2 weeks its well over carbonated and way to foamy.
    What are your thoughts?

    • So many factors go into an individual brew that its difficult to know without more information. Typically over foaming is caused by too much yeast and high temps. We’d recommend pulling starter liquid from the top of the brew rather than use what’s left at the bottom of the jar. The carbonation page has more details about what to do with too much fizz.

  7. I have a question I was storing my scobys in the jar without about 2 cups of my starter tea. I got busy and wasn’t able to start a new batch quickly when I look at me jar it has hardly no starter tea left. What should I do? Thank you for your help in advance.

    • This is a toughy because if the SCOBYs dry out, even if we add starter liquid, they might molder. If at all possible, start a quarter batch of sweet tea and add it to the SCOBYs. Do you have any bottled homebrew around? Even using some of that is preferable to using a commercial brand to prevent the organisms from competing with each other. If you do, add a little to it and see if a new SCOBY forms. Good luck!

  8. Hi Hannah,
    On the best temperature for SCOBY hotels – I read above that room temperature is best compared to refrigerated. But what about colder ambient temperatures in the winter? Will it be better or worse at temperatures around 50-65F, or should I heat it to be closer to 70?

    • The hotel is prob best stored around 60-65F – it is typically very sour at this stage. However, if adding more sweet tea to refresh, you may want to get it to some warmer temps to ensure it doesn’t go to mold.

  9. Thank you for this post!
    I am going away for 2 weeks after my second brew and I live in a warm and mouldy environment (in Vietnam) so I would like to seal my scoby hotel to keep the mould out.

    Is there a chance that a scoby hotel could explode if it is sealed?

    Thank you!

    • The hotel is typically not prone to explosion because it mostly contains vinegar. If you fill it up with sweet tea, consider putting a cloth cover on it for a few days until the new layer forms, then use a hard lid. As long as excess moisture doesn’t condensate inside the jar, it ought to stay mold free.

  10. I have 2 scoby hotels that I neglected for 11 months. They are moist (barely any liquid) and no sign of mold. Is there anything I can do to save the any of them?

  11. I have just started a hotel for my Jun Scoby. You say to feed them occasionally with sweet tea using cane sugar but do you use sweet tea made with honey for your Jun hotel?
    Also can you use Hannah’s special tea with Jun Scoby as it has multiple color teas?

  12. Is there a way to tell if the old gallon jars I’m using is an ‘inappropriate vessel’? I’m worried about lead in the old jars.

  13. Thank you for all the information, as I’ve just started batch brewing my own KT recently. If I want to take a little break, and only have one large SCOBY, can I just leave it with the 1.5 cups of starter liquid in a dark closet for a few weeks to rest? I couldn’t find this answer in the threads here ?

  14. Hanna I have a 1 gallon glass jar with metal lid That I started a hotel in about 2 years ago. They have been in a very acidic bath of KT from 2 years to 6 months ago, as they’ve accumulated. I made a fresh batch of KT today (it has been several months since I have) and used the scoby from the hotel. They looked really good with nothing off putting smell wise. I also added some of the hotel KT as starter. Does anything seem out of place with this? And how long will a scoby hotel last in a sealed jar bathed in KT vinegar essentially?

    • Hi Nathan -it may be able to last indefinitely. We found over time that having a hard lid on the hotel, while it slowed evaporation, often resulted in “sick yeast”. Basically, whenever we’d open those hotels, a really strong acetone smell from the yeast. They need oxygen in order to stay healthy so we have found the best way to preserve the hotel is to cover with a cloth and allow a new SCOBY to form to act as the “lid”.

  15. Hey! Any idea what the ideal temperature for sweet tea added to a SCOBY hotel should be? I wanted to wait until it was room temperature, but I had to get going so I put sweet tea that was around 90 degrees F in my hotel. Hoping it will work alright! But if there’s a strict rule for temperature, I’d like to know

  16. Thanks so much for this very helpful information. I wondered what was going on with my scoby and komucha. Now I know!! And I know what to do next. Hurray!!!

  17. This is a great guide on how to maintain your hotel! I have been scared to jump into the deep end on making my on Scoby.. I don’t really think I need to be, but its still sort of a fascinating unknown thing for me. Thanks again for sharing.

  18. Hi Hannah,
    great site, thank you. Friend gave me her kombucha before she went away with good instructions. I’ve made several brews and love it.

    Questions: 1) friend said that it’s ready to bottle (with flavours) when it tastes fizzy (using a straw poked under the Scoby to sip up a bit ). Is this correct? It’s not overly tart but it’s definitely fizzy. Should I leave it for longer for better probiotic build up?

    2) From a calorific point, how much sugar am I consuming when drinking half a cup (125 ml) or has the Scoby eaten all the sugar (even though it still tastes a bit sweet).

    3) another friend commented that drinking Kombucha (or eating other fermented foods) gave her a looser bowel movement. Would that be possible? Why?

    Thanks! Sally

  19. Hi, I have a question regarding a Scoby hotel I have. I have had a plastic lid on it, outside of the frig, and it keeps forming new, beautiful scobies. The liquid tastes like pure vinegar! Since they haven’t been exposed to the air, are they still good?

    • Definitely still good. We switched away from the plastic lid because if we left it too long and then opened it up – the acetone smell was overwhelming. It forms when there is not enough oxygen for the yeast and they start to “get sick” – those SCOBYs are still recoverable by simply switching to a cloth cover, topping off with fresh sweet tea and giving them some time to air out.

  20. Hello Hannah, what is the recipe for the starter liquid? we have recently moved and I have my mother scobi from you and scobi octuplets ready to brew (hah).They have been in the hotel for 4 weeks.

    Is it the regular recipe plus liquid from the hotel? Or is it something entirely different? Thanks, Catherine from Canada

  21. I just found my scoby hotel had maggots on top of the baby 🙁 the lid popped up, could have known, I will cover with coffee filter ect ) so I peeled off the baby (everything looked fine underneath) scrubbed out the container really good and put the mother in with some leftover kombucha in my fridge… Do you think it will be fine?

  22. I’m confused as to whether the SCOBY hotel goes in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, or does it just need to stay in a dark place, in an airtight container. If either work, is there anything that should be done differently, for one vs. the other?

    • We have found that the best way to store the SCOBY Hotel is at room temperature with a cloth cover. While we used to use a hard lid, we found that over time the yeast would go off if there wasn’t any airflow. Also, if they are left in the fridge for too long, the organisms will go dormant and may or may not revive when you try to use them directly from the fridge. Here are more details, including a video on how to start a SCOBY hotel.

  23. I have left my SCOBY hotel for a long time- I mean over a year. I kind of forgot about it and left it in a sealed jar at the back of my pantry. Today I pulled it out and it smells much like nail polish remover. Will I need to throw them all out?


    • To recover them, swap out the hard lid for a cloth cover and top off with sweet tea. That smell is “sick yeast” and once its had a chance to aerate properly, they will recover. Might also be a good time to filter to remove any excess yeast cells. For this reason, we prefer to use a cloth cover on the hotel and to top off with sweet tea from time to time rather than use a hard lid.

  24. Starting my SCOBY hotel this weekend. I have about 4 “layers” of baby SCOBY plus the original Mother. Should I continue to brew Booch with the mother or are the babies more viable since they are a bit wider? Just looking to see who should go into the hotel and who should brew.


  25. I’ve been buying a brand name Kombucha that I love. Thinking about ordering a SCOBY brewing my own. I want to flavor with raspberries. I also want to add chia seed. Do you have any idea how much chia and when to add it? I’m thinking that I will likely want to strain the rasperries off and then add the chia last to the 480 ml bottles. Straining won’t ruin the Kombucha, will it?

    • Straining Kombucha is perfectly fine. The chia seeds need to be made into a gel first by 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup of water, Kombucha or juice. After 20 minutes or so, they will create a thick gel that is then added to the Kombucha. We recommend consuming chia Kombucha immediately as it does not hold up the same as other flavors. You can grab chia seeds for your Kombucha here.

  26. i have just started brewing and my Scoby was in the fridge for two days accidentally (someone thought it needed to be refrigerated), I brewed the tea as instruction and thought the Scoby was suppose to rise to the top in a few hours – it’s been nearly a day and I have not seen it ;( is it ruined???

    • Sink or float – it doesn’t matter where in the vessel the mother lives, the new layer will always grow across the top. Provided there is no mold on the brew, then you are good to go!

    • We have found that cloth covers to better. A new SCOBY will grow in the hotel and act like a “lid.” Keep it topped off with sweet tea or Kombucha to prevent over evaporation.

  27. My husband has prostate cancer and he likes plus I think would benefit from drinking kombucha. My daughters have heard it could damage his kidneys and don’t want me to give it to him. He is not sick – is there any health risk?

  28. My continuous brew is now 2 months old. The kombucha has become very strong and vinegar tasting. I have to mix my glass of kombucha with juice or water in order to drink it. Do I need to clean the yeast out of my booch and thin out my SCOBY to return the booch to a milder brew? The PH of my brew is 3.0.

  29. We have been brewing Kombucha for 5 months, we just did our first SCOBY Hotel and our Scoby is very odd. Thick around the sides with hardly no middle. The original Scoby is intact and that is what we are putting back into our continuous brew crock. What is going on? What are we doing wrong?

    • The new culture only grows back to reseal the top so subsequent layers of the CB (or SCOBY Hotel) may only grow in areas exposed to oxygen since so much of the original layer remains at the surface. This is totally normal!

  30. I have a scoby from a friend. I used it once last fall and have kept the rest in a 2 quart jar, covered with paper towel and kept in a cool dark place in my home. I guess it has been a scoby hotel. 🙂
    Now, the scoby has grown a lot and there is about 1.5 pints of liquid still in the jar. The color of the scoby looks good but the top inch of the scoby is no longer covered by liquid. Can I still use it? What liquid do I add to the jar?
    Thank you!

    • Maybe. The only way to know for certain if it will succeed or fail is to brew with it. Typically once the culture is removed from the liquid, it loses its defense mechanisms. As such, we’d advise that you remove the portion that has been out of the liquid and only use the part of the SCOBY that is still submerged to prevent mold from forming.

  31. Hi Hannah!
    Just recently began brewing KT and enjoy it immensely .
    Please inform me as to how much yeast to cut off of the bacteria discs. I’ve begun a hotel for my little buddies and don’t want too much of the brown yeast. Please advise how much yeast is too much. Also for the hotel I see posted by you, none of them seem to have “hanging” yeast,and all of them are immersed. It is okay to cut or rip the discs to place in hotel? I just don’t want to hurt the little fellows.
    Thankyou so very much, as everything you have instructed on is very beneficial .
    Sincerely, Mitzi

    • No need to cut the yeast off, simply pull it off with your fingers. The cultures may be cut with scissors or ripped apart to fit in the jar. It doesn’t hurt them and it makes it easier to store them. As for how much is too much yeast, that is hard to say – if you notice that your liquid is cloudy, then it is time to filter it.

    • Those are called MOV or Mother of Vinegar and are created by acetobacter (there are many in the family all of whom produce cellulose). While it may have some similarities in appearance to a Kombucha SCOBY, it will not have the same microbial make up. They can be used to ferment other batches of vinegar but are not recommended for Kombucha as they may produce off flavors.

  32. I had been so busy and forgot to check on my mothers. Unfortunately they were dry. Will the sweet tea revive them?

    • Maybe or they might go to mold, it really depends on how dry and how long they’ve been neglected. It will become obvious very soon if they don’t work as they will mold. Best chance for survival = Add 1/4 cup distilled vinegar to keep the pH low and put it in a warm environment (75-85F)

  33. I was wondering where to store my SCOBY hotel? Is a pantry suitable or does it have to be in the open, and will other foods like potatoes, onions, apples and other counter produce affect my brew/SCOBY?

    • The hotel may be stored in a cupboard, since we are not using it to ferment Kombucha. We prefer to leave a cloth cover on them so they can build a new layer. Don’t forget to top off with sweet tea from time to time so that the cultures don’t fully dry out.

  34. Dear Hannah…I just bought the new Kun…..scoby…and did my first batch with honey…it looks quite different than the regular kombucha…a lot of yeast floating and dark spots on scoby, but I did use very dark honey….it tastes good after 6 days…but will leave it a little longer….can I store it hotel the same way as I do the kombucha scoby?

    Thanking you in advance..Rita

  35. I think I messed up. I stored my SCOBY in the fridge for a day before realizing that I wasn’t supposed to. Do I need to throw it away and start over?

    • A few days won’t be enough to hurt it – prolonged storage in the fridge can cause the cultures to go dormant. Get it out and get a’brewing!

  36. I would like to know if I can make a hotel and leave it unattended for 7 months. I would place several SCOBYs in a 2-qt jar with kombucha and cap with a plastic lid. This will be in a very dry environment (stored in our motorhome which will be housed inside a building over the summer in Arizona), so I’m thinking a tight lid would be important.
    Questions: Would it be better to have more kombucha or less because of the duration? Also would be be better to have a more mature/sour kombucha or freshly made?
    Is an explosion with a lidded jar a possibility?

    • Explosions are always possible if left in hot conditions with a lid on unattended. Either store in a cool, dry location or use a cloth cover. Add a blend of sweet tea and starter and fill it to the top. A new layer will form which will slow the evaporation process, but it should have enough liquid so it won’t dehydrate.

      • Thanks, Hannah. This is very helpful.
        Your site is THE go-to place for kombucha.

        One more question: Will I find a strong fermentation smell when I return 7 months later?

        • The ferment will be strong tasting but the smell won’t be any stronger than usual as the cultures will go into stasis after a prolonged period of no feeding.

          • Hello Hannah.
            Can you tell me how to avoid a build up of C02 in my continuous brew.
            My SCOBY’s have been rising up above the fluid line for the past several months. I have occasionally pushed it down, but when it is paper thin, I like to leave it alone til it is bigger.
            I also find that when I add the new tea to the vessel, which I ensure is the same recipe and temperature, the SCOBY does not rise to the top immediately and when it does, it floats vertically. Can you tell me what is causing this please? The brew is very good in every other way.

          • When is the last time you cleaned out your brewer? If the SCOBYs are thin and the carbonation is too much, then it could be a case of too much yeast in your brew. If you’ve recently cleaned it, then a quick poke will push it back into the liquid.

  37. My SCOBY hotel has grown a pretty impressive scoby of it’s own. Is it fine to use the new scoby (produced in the ‘hotel’ with some very potent starter tea) for a new batch of kombucha?

    • Yes! As long as the culture is firm and doesn’t easily tear, then it is fine quality to use for fermenting new batches of booch.

  38. My SCOBY keeps pushing himself up out of the brew in my just started hotel. He is the first SCOBY in there and there is a lot of liquid for him. Just worried the top is going to mold or dry out.

  39. Thanks for this article! I was wondering how I should maintain my SCOBY hotels. I got my original SCOBY from your Kombucha Kamp in October 2012, and my brew is still going strong without any problems!

  40. Hello,

    I received a scoby purchased through amazon from you, it has some brown stringy stuff attached…is this mold?
    this is my third try!! on the batch it was recommended to start it by today, and I did that.
    thank you for your help.
    Pam Bell : )

  41. Excellent tips Hannah. Learning how to keep the SCOBY hotel happy seems to be key to good brewing. I plan to try rotating the batch/Hotel SCOBY’s and institute a regular schedule of cleanings. Ian.

  42. I was unexpectedly given a continuos brew setup, it’s been six months. I’ve used the spigot for exiting KT, and added new into the top. Today I finally dared pull out SCUBY, it was huge! I filled my dehydrator with cut pieces to be treats for my dogs as per your suggestion. My next concern is the SCUBYs. There were two that looked white and young, one back into brew and one to start a hotel. I’m thinking to make two brewing vessels instead,as I have little understanding of the difference for now. Never would have thought I was this excited about playing KT!

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