What to Do When the SCOBY Grows Too Big

Being well cared for, the SCOBY generates new layers around it, known as «children», which will end up being absorbed by the mother, causing the compound to grow, which can end up generating some problems when storing it, so we have created this article so you know how to solve it.

What to do when the SCOBY grows a lot? When the SCOBY grows a lot, the best thing to do is to divide it, in order to facilitate its storage. Splitting SCOBY is not something that affects its later use with kombucha.

Now that we have explained a little what happens with the SCOBY when it grows exponentially, let’s explain in more detail what you can do in this situation.

When to split the SCOBY?

Typically, a layer of SCOBY takes 20 days to reach 1/4 inch thick, and it needs to be split when several layers with similar measurements are glued together.

It is necessary to reduce the number of layers arising from the SCOBY every 6 months maximum, in order to maintain a good kombucha. Otherwise, the layers at the top of the hotel would thicken and release a liquid that would leave the rest of the crop in the same state.

The mother of the SCOBY has a lifetime that decreases with each fermentation. It is not that it dies, but that the quality of the kombucha it produces in terms of flavor begins to decrease, so it is important to separate the children and save them for the future.

The above is based on homemade terms, since in industrial processes, such as containers are much larger, the growth of the SCOBY is a little slower and does not usually require a division after 6 months.

The useful life of the SCOBY is not completely defined, and, with good care, it can last several years, during which, logically, it will continue to grow.

How to divide the SCOBY?

The process needed to cut the SCOBY is quite easy to do and you don’t need much time.

If the layers of SCOBY you are going to separate are very thin, then you can use your hands. If, on the contrary, the SCOBY layer is very thick, then you have to do the following:

  • Step 1. Disinfect utensils.

To divide this procedure, it is necessary to disinfect the tools you are going to use with vinegar. The utensils that will be used are scissors, or a knife if you prefer, and kitchen tweezers.

  • Step 2. Take out the SCOBY.

The SCOBY is a cologne that is created from tea and stored in it to prepare kombucha, so if you want to remove it without damaging the drink, you need to use kitchen tongs and wash your hands when you go to touch it.

  • Step 3. Trim the SCOBY.

With scissors you can bite the SCOBY in half to reduce its width or thickness. To use the knife, then you need to chop the SCOBY in half, as if you wanted to open a loaf of bread.

  • Step 4. Discard parts that don’t work.

You can take advantage and remove the yeasts that have impregnated the SCOBY. I do not know if this really helps the useful life of it, but in my case, it has been something that has had positive results.

No matter how you cut the SCOBY, keep in mind that these layers will grow back over time, but the more similar the size of the split layer to the original piece, the less time it will take to grow.

Tips for splitting the SCOBY.

Now that you know in depth how to divide the SCOBY and what this entails, we will give you some tips that you can use when dividing and saving it:

  • You can use the same kombucha vinegar to disinfect the tool with which you would cut the SCOBY.
  • Constantly removing and inserting SCOBY from tea can damage it, so if you are going to do this procedure repeatedly, try to do it several months away.
  • Leave them in a dry place where the sunlight does not hit directly and under no circumstances put the hotel in the fridge.

Where to store the SCOBY, you split?

The piece of SCOBY that you have separated has the same properties as the original, so you have to store it in a different hotel so that it grows with the same naturalness.

It doesn’t matter if you’re only storing a single piece of SCOBY, as it will eventually reproduce. Just be sure to frequently change the tea that feeds it, so it doesn’t die and wash your hands every time you come into contact with the crop.

Does there be any benefit to splitting SCOBY?

Yes, although the division of the SCOBY is something necessary for the preservation of it, dividing it and storing it in different hotels can bring several benefits, such as those explained below:

  • Replacement: Although having several SCOBY hotels is a greater responsibility, keeping more than one at the same time allows you not to have to start the whole procedure from the beginning in case one is damaged.
  • Gift: It may be a good thing to have several SCOBY hotels, but if these exceed your own capabilities, you can always give one to one of your close friends, or you can even sell them if you have a large amount.
  • Other uses: Not only can SCOBY be used to ferment kombucha, but you can also use it to heal wounds, eat it in sauces, give it to dogs, use it as a mask, etc. [1]

What to do with the remains of SCOBY?

By cutting the SCOBY into very small pieces, they take much longer to grow in the hotel, and could be damaged faster if you have a part of the original SCOBY attached to it. However, when the SCOBY has a very small composition, it can be used for other things:

  • According to animal studies, SCOBY has several healing properties that you can use to treat cuts or burns. For this, place them on the skin, as if it were a bandage, until the wound heals. Be sure to change the SCOBY on a daily basis. Check out our dedicated article on kombucha and skin irritation at the link.
  • Many people like the taste of their SCOBY and can eat it without any problem. Of course, it is very difficult to incorporate this crop into any recipe, so it is better to do your research.
  • You can get rid of it. This process is not that simple, but my recommendation is that you use it in the form of compost. The post on how to remove kombucha may be interesting in this regard.

It should be clarified, regardless of the use you want to give the SCOBY, you must make sure that it is alive, otherwise, this could bring unwanted consequences. If you can’t identify when the SCOBY is bad, keep reading the article.

How do you know when the SCOBY is bad?

Before answering this question, you should know that if you find that the SCOBY is in fact bad, you should immediately discard the entire crop and start again. Now that we have made the situation clear, we will explain some signs with which you can know the status of your SCOBY.

  • Mold: Without a doubt, this is the most obvious sign with which you can tell if the SCOBY is good or bad. Mold is usually dark blue, black, or green with hairs, in addition to appearing, normally, in the SCOBY located at the top. Many SCOBYs have a weird color many times, but if you don’t have hairs, your SCOBY is probably pretty healthy.
  • Taste: The SCOBY has an extremely acidic taste similar to vinegar after a short fermentation and also has a somewhat spicy taste, are conditions that may indicate that the SCOBY is not in the best possible state.

In addition, a common mistake is to think that the fact that the SCOBY is floating or not, indicates if it is bad, but the truth is that this happens due to certain external factors, such as temperature or the weight of the SCOBY.

How big should the SCOBY be?

A layer of SCOBY can only reach a thickness of 1/4 inch and about 5-6 inches wide. The SCOBY will then release a new layer, which will do the same when it reaches 1/4 inch thick.

It will be necessary to divide the SCOBY when more than two layers have reached their maximum measurements and are glued. Of course, the time needed for the SCOBY to reach more than an inch thick can vary depending on how it is cared for.

How much does the size of the SCOBY matter?

It is important to divide the SCOBY from time to time, although, the size that the layer has at that time is not something relevant, since it can grow if it is stored in a new hotel.

However, if the SCOBY becomes too large it can release a liquid that damages the entire hotel, leaving the entire crop very thick, making it impossible to use in kombucha.

On the other hand, to ferment a kombucha, you need to use a single layer of SCOBY that is 1/4 inch thick and 6 inches wide, maximum.

Can the SCOBY die by splitting it?

The SCOBY does not depend on its size to survive, this means that it does not matter if you accidentally chop part of the other layer when you are dividing them. But, even so, it is preferable that you manage to separate the SCOBY mother from her child, since the latter is much more recent and thus will take much longer to be damaged.

Although SCOBY cannot die when chopped, this can happen if it is placed in the refrigerator, the layers are not divided in time if it is handled without washing your hands or if the tea where it is stored is damaged prematurely.

How do you know which is the SCOBY mother?

SCOBY is a mixture of bacteria and yeast, good for the body, which coexist. Therefore, when a layer of SCOBY is well cared for, they are able to generate a smaller layer, known as SCOBY children. Natural duplication is an indication that you have taken good care of them.

Although many find it difficult to identify who is the SCOBY mother and who her children are, there are certain very clear characteristics by which they can be guided:

  • The SCOBY mother usually makes her duplicate from above, so she will always be under the child.
  • The child that grows from above is much thinner, of course if it has been a short time since it was created.
  • The new growth of SCOBY is much clearer than the mother, but this difference can only be noticed if black tea is used as a substrate for kombucha.

Why is it important to split the SCOBY?

Although it seems that the main reason to divide the SCOBY is to prevent it from growing too much, the truth is that this process is so important because it allows to decouple a much newer SCOBY from the old one.

Although, we have already explained that the life time of the SCOBY is not completely defined and this may vary depending on the care that is given, the truth is that these must be newly created, since the more time passes the less capacity they will have to give the appropriate fermentation to the kombucha. Thus, by dividing the SCOBY you can make new kombucha to drink.

It should be clarified, although kombucha is no longer «fresh» it can be used for other things, as long as it is not damaged.

We hope this information has been useful to you. Stay with us and enjoy these contents that may be equally or more interesting than the one you just read.