Scoby Hotel: The Definitive Guide
by Susan Grey on September 30, 2019
What is a SCOBY hotel? This refers to a storage container that is used to house SCOBY after it has been removed from the kombucha. As you brew each additional batch of kombucha, the SCOBY will have reproduced, providing a new younger 'baby' SCOBY.
A SCOBY hotel provides the right environment for the continued growth of bacteria and yeast for any extra SCOBYs.
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Conditions Necessary For SCOBY To Grow In A SCOBY Hotel
Supply of ample nutrients
While the amount of liquid to add will depend on its volume, you can rely on the 3:1 ratio to prepare the liquid. Use 1 cup of freshly brewed kombucha for every 3 cups of fresh sweet tea.
A clean supply of air
As we shall see later on a hotel has to be covered with a thin cotton cloth to filter out the air flowing into the jar. This also allows the carbon dioxide produced to escape freely. The cotton cloth also stops dust and other contaminants entering, which might otherwise result in the growth of mold.
SCOBY grows well at 75-85 degrees F (23-29 degrees C). Do not store in the fridge as it will cause the yeast to go dormant. On the other hand, when the temperature exceeds the maximum limit, the yeast and bacteria will get denatured, thus killing off the SCOBY.
When To Use A SCOBY Hotel
To grow young SCOBY
If you began with a kombucha starter, then the chances are that this will produce a young SCOBY. This thin film will need to be stored in optimal conditions to allow it to grow.
To store mature SCOBY
As the kombucha SCOBY increases in size with each new brew, it might become too large to fit into the brewing jar. While you can cut it into 2, the best option is to transfer it into a SCOBY hotel for storage and production of younger SCOBY.
Brewing starter liquid
The extra sour liquid is full of yeast and bacteria spores, making it a perfect starter liquid. Using a starter liquid instead of a SCOBY produces much sweeter and mild kombucha.
Advantages Of Using One:
It ensures that you always have a constant supply of starter liquid
Makes it possible to control the amount of kombucha you want to brew on each batch by regulating the amount of SCOBY you use
Preserves the SCOBY for future use as well as multiplication
How To Make A SCOBY Hotel
1 cup prepared kombucha
3 cups sweetened tea
2L (or 1/2 gallon) clean glass container
Coffee filters or tightly woven cloth
To make the SCOBY hotel, we will be relying on a 2L (around 1/2 gallon) glass container, preferably one with a wide mouth. This makes it much easier when it comes to handling the SCOBY.
Thoroughly clean the container with water and soap, followed by rinsing. Set it aside to dry.
2. Prepare the fresh sweet tea
Boil about 2 liters of water in a jug and add 2 tbsp or 20g of loose-leaf tea. Allow the tea leaves to boil for 3 minutes after which you can remove the pot from the heat.
Add 200g of cane sugar and stir well until its completely dissolved. Filter out the tea leaves and let the freshly prepared sweet tea to cool down.
3. Put all of the SCOBYs into the container
Place all SCOBYs in it and try to lay them on top of each other. This makes it easier to extract them in the future without having to slice them.
4. Add in the liquid
Add 3 cups of the sweet tea into the container and top up with 1 cup of brewed kombucha. Use this 3:1 ratio to fill up the hotel until all SCOBYs are fully submerged.
If you don't have homemade kombucha, you can use store-bought kombucha too. The sweet tea helps to feed the SCOBYs while they are in the hotel, and the kombucha brew introduces an acidic environment that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
5. Cover the container with a cloth
Use a clean, tightly woven cloth placed on top of the container to prevent contamination of the SCOBY by dust and harmful spores. The cloth should be held into place by a lid or rubber band. You can also use coffee filters instead of tightly-woven fabric.
6. Store in a warm, dry, and dark place
SCOBY prefers a warm temperature (75-85 degrees F / 23-29 degrees C) and out of direct sunlight. This makes the pantry and kitchen cupboards an ideal location to keep the SCOBY hotel. The SCOBY should not be disturbed too often to avoid contamination.
7. Replace the liquid every two weeks
The sweetened tea will ferment quicker due to the multiple SCOBYs and should be replaced every two weeks. This ensures that the SCOBY always has a constant supply of nutrients. The kombucha extracted from the SCOBY hotel is slightly sour and should be used as a starter when making additional batches.
How To Maintain A SCOBY Hotel
Maintain a regular liquid replacement schedule
To prevent rot and mold growth, you should change the liquid in the SCOBY hotel every two weeks.
Keep away from other ferments
SCOBY hotels should be kept away from the other fermenting projects you might have going on. This is to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination, which is caused by microbial organisms such as fungi.
Clean the containers every time you change the liquid
To avoid contamination, the SCOBY hotel should be kept clean; this can be done while changing the fluid. This ensures that containers equipped with spigots remain unblocked.
Keep covered and secured at all times
To avoid insects, specifically, fruit flies from damaging the hotel, keep it covered.
How large should the SCOBY hotel be?
The size should be determined by the number SCOBYs you want to store in it.
Do I need to keep the SCOBY hotel under special conditions?
No, SCOBY thrives well at room temperature so store your SCOBY hotel in the pantry or cupboard, away from direct sunlight. This is because direct sunlight can cause temperature fluctuations which might negatively affect the growing SCOBY.
What should I do with the blue spots on the SCOBY?
Blue spots could indicate the growth of mold. If it is mold, the entire jar should be disposed and the container cleaned well with soapy water and well rinsed.
Tips and Tricks
Always use glass containers
Glass is not only easier to clean out but also cannot react to the acidic kombucha. When getting large containers with a tap at the bottom, make sure they do not have any metallic parts as they would otherwise react with the kombucha.
Avoid using antibacterial soap while handling the SCOBY hotel
Antibacterial soap and handwash can kill the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY. Instead, use hot water and ordinary soap to disinfect the containers.
Use spirit vinegar to sterilize the SCOBY hotel
Spirit vinegar makes for the best sterilizer as it doesn't have any adverse effect. Its acidic nature destroys all harmful bacteria and fungi in the container preventing future SCOBY contamination.
Storing A SCOBY Hotel
While the most convenient way to store a SCOBY hotel is in a dark place within the room temperature range, there may arise the need to store it in the fridge
Fridge vs. Room Temperature
SCOBY can be stored in the refrigerator at 37 degrees F (2 degrees C) temperature range. The cold temperatures slow down the SCOBY's growth and can, therefore, be used to pause the fermentation process.
Short Term Method: How to store a SCOBY hotel in the fridge
The best way to store SCOBY in the fridge is by transferring it from the hotel and placing it into individual small glass jars or clean plastic bags. These are then topped off with fresh sweetened tea and kept in the bottom shelf or in the back corner of the fridge where the temperatures are consistent.
1. Remove the SCOBY from the hotel and transfer it into small jars
Carefully remove each SCOBY from the hotel and move it into an individual glass jar preferably 250 ml (around 1/2 pint).
2. Add fresh sweetened tea
Add freshly brewed sweetened tea into the glass jars until the SCOBY is fully submerged. The amount doesn't matter as long as the SCOBY is fully immersed.
3. Cover with a tightly woven cloth
While the SCOBY's growth will be slowed down considerably in the fridge, it will still require oxygen. The oxygen will flow freely through the tightly woven cloth which is held in place by a rubber band or a lid.
4. Store in the least cold part of your fridge
The SCOBY should be kept in the back corner or the bottom shelf of your fridge where temperatures are consistently cool.
Long Term Method: How to store a SCOBY hotel in the fridge
SCOBY can also be dehydrated and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. This method relies on first dehydrating the SCOBY and then storing it under constant temperature and moisture conditions, therefore, preserving the bacteria and yeast for longer.
1. Place the individual SCOBY on unbleached paper
Allow the SCOBY to dry on unbleached paper in a warm area. Ideally between 80 to 90 degrees F (26 to 32 degrees C). The rate the SCOBY dehydrates is greatly influenced by the temperature so continue until it gets leathery and dry with the texture close to that of beef jerky.
2. Place the dehydrated SCOBY in a plastic bag
The dehydrated SCOBY should then be stored in airtight plastic bags individually to minimize the exposure to moisture.
3. Transfer to the fridge
The plastic bags are then transferred to the refrigerator and stored under constant temperature for up to 4 months after which they can then be rehydrated using freshly brewed sweetened tea.
Can be used to control the brewing of kombucha by either storing the SCOBY for a short term or long term.
Does not require frequent liquid replacements; in fact, the dehydrating process makes it possible to store the SCOBY for up to 4 months without having to top up the liquids.
It's much easier to transport dehydrated SCOBY.
The process can kill off entire SCOBY microbial colonies leading to losses.
It takes some time before the rehydrated SCOBY starts producing kombucha again.
As we saw earlier on, SCOBY prefers a warm temperature so you can store the entire SCOBY hotel in the pantry. This way, the SCOBY will continue growing and also producing starter fluid which can either be collected via the spigot or when changing out the liquid.
The SCOBY grows optimally and can be used anytime
A SCOBY hotel stored is an excellent source of starter liquid
The SCOBY hotel will require your attention every two weeks to change the liquids
There's no way of slowing down the fermentation
Rotation Of SCOBYs And Starter Tea
Using different SCOBYs for each new batch is a great way to rotate them from the hotel into brewing and then back. This ensures that they retain the required balance of bacteria and yeast. This also makes it possible to filter out the excess yeast, which usually gathers at the bottom of the hotel.
As the yeast ferments the tea, it becomes acidic and is populated with microbial. These can be used as a starter for the next brew instead of a SCOBY.
The starter tea should be switched out of the SCOBY hotel every two weeks to provide a constant supply of nutrients for the growing SCOBYs.
How To Switch Out Starter Tea:
1. Remove the SCOBYs from the hotel
To replace the liquid, first, remove the stored SCOBYs and place them in a clean glass bowl.
2. Drain all the liquid from the SCOBY hotel
Place a sieve on a large jar and proceed to empty the starter tea while running it through a sieve to filter out the yeast that floats at the bottom.
3. Start a new batch of sweetened tea
The SCOBY hotel should then be refilled with freshly brewed tea and kombucha in the ratio of 3:1. This should provide enough nutrients for your SCOBY.
4. Place the SCOBY into the hotel
After mixing in the fresh tea and kombucha, gently place in the SCOBY. Start with the mature ones and leaving the newer ones on top so that they can be used more often before getting cycled out.
How to Trim and Cut SCOBY
There are various reasons why you would need to cut or trim a SCOBY; these include:
It's become too thick
After brewing several batches, a SCOBY may become too large to use, especially if your brewing jars are small. In such a scenario the SCOBY should be cut into half and each half used to brew a separate batch of kombucha.
Share your SCOBY
One of the best ways to introduce a friend into the wonders of kombucha is by helping them set up their first brew, which will require a slice of your SCOBY.
Brew multiple batches
Cutting up a SCOBY and placing the individual pieces into separate jars will double the volume of SCOBY. Each fermentation jar will have grown a new SCOBY.
To remove dead parts
You can trim off dead parts of the SCOBY, and the color will have turned to an aged greyish mass.
How To Trim SCOBY:
1. Place the SCOBY on a clean flat surface
Gently remove the SOCBY you want to work on from the hotel and lay it on a flat plastic cutting board. Spread it evenly to make it much easier to cut without causing too much of a mess.
2. Use a stainless-steel knife to cut and trim the SCOBY
Using a clean food-grade stainless steel knife cut the SCOBY into halves or as required. You can also use a pair of kitchen scissors as long as they are made of stainless steel and have been rinsed with white vinegar.
3. Place individual pieces in separate brewing jars
The cut pieces of SCOBY should be transferred into jars and fully submerged with fresh sweetened tea.
When yeast dominates a SCOBY, it ends up producing overly bitter kombucha with either too little or excess carbonation. To fix this, you will need to decrease the yeast population. Read the next section for how to.
How to remove yeast
1. Filter with cheesecloth
Majority of the mass that sits at the bottom of the SCOBY hotel is in fact yeast. Run the liquid through a cheesecloth to filter out the yeast.
2. Remove the yeast strings from the SCOBY
When the yeast population blooms, it tends to grow in strings along the SCOBY surface. If your SCOBY is covered in the brownish strings, you can gently pull them off or rinse it over the sink. However, this should only be done once. Otherwise, it will lead to continued unbalancing of the symbiosis.
How many brews from 1 SCOBY?
There's no limit as to the number of times you can brew kombucha using the same SCOBY as long as its well-taken care of.
Should a SCOBY hotel be airtight?
No, the SCOBY still requires oxygen supply as well as the ability to expel carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation. However, the jar should be covered to prevent the entry of foreign matter, including dust and insects.
Should SCOBY hotel be refrigerated?
No, transfer the SCOBY into individual jars when you want to keep them in the fridge.
Does a SCOBY hotel have a lid?
Not an air tight one, it should be covered with a tightly woven cloth which can be held in place by a rubber band or open lid.
Can you refrigerate SCOBY?
Yes, depending on its state SCOBY can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks or up to 4 months when dehydrated.
Can you store different types of flavors/SCOBYs in one jar?
No, it's recommended to use a different SCOBY hotel for each distinct flavor.
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