Those jelly like substances that form on top of your kombucha, otherwise known as a SCOBY come in all shapes, colours, and sizes. Likely, you will never find one that is exactly identical to another; therefore, many first time kombucha homebrewers wonder "what should a healthy SCOBY look like"?
SCOBY are living organisms, and grow as they consume "food". During the fermentation process, the SCOBY will typically grow to the shape of the brewing vessel that you are using to ferment your sweet tea. We have grown SCOBY that are circular, square, and star shaped which makes them unique. Although your SCOBY may be smaller than the brewing vessel that you are using, as it continues to ferment your sweet tea, the SCOBY may reproduce and add layers to itself that conform to the overall shape of whatever it is being held in. For example, if we were to place our star shaped SCOBY in a round jar, it is likely that overtime it will grow a circular SCOBY.
You should also note that a SCOBY may not grow uniformly which should not concern you. In some cases, parts of your SCOBY will grow thicker in certain areas while others may be thinner. It can also have lumps and or have holes!
Many homebrewers wonder why some SCOBY are different colours or darker than others. As you can see in the photos above, the star shaped SCOBY is relatively darker than the circular SCOBY. The different SCOBY colour was the result of using different types of tea. We used Organic Ceylon black tea for the star shaped SCOBY, while we brewed with Organic Jasmine green tea for the circular SCOBY.
During the brewing process, your SCOBY may develop strings that hang from it or break off and sink to the bottom of your brew jar. These strands similar to the dark strings on the star shaped SCOBY above are yeast which is the by-product of the SCOBY fermenting your sweet tea. It is completely normal, so don't be alarmed! You can strain them out of your brew when you complete the first fermentation process.
If you have ever brewed kombucha, you may notice that your brew may develop a film on the surface. This is a new (baby) SCOBY which is the result of having a healthy SCOBY mother! As you brew you will see it grow in size; although, it may not grow to the same size or may grow larger than your original SCOBY. If you disturb your brew before the baby can fully form, it may not continue growing in size. You may decide to dispose of the newly formed SCOBY or you can use it to increase your brewing capacity.
In some cases, your brew may develop mold as a result of contamination from an outside substance. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens and you should immediately dispose of your SCOBY. Mold can be white, green, and/or black and will appear to be fuzzy. It looks similar to what you would see on old cheese. It may only appear as spots or may cover your entire brew. Once identified, it is best to dispose of your entire brew (including SCOBY) and sanitize your brewing equipment.
If you are concerned about the way your SCOBY looks based on the photos above, you can always contact us and we would be happy to help determine whether your SCOBY is healthy. You can also find out more information about your SCOBY, check out our blog post "Everything SCOBY - Be in the Know About Your Kombucha Mushroom". Remember, if your SCOBY is giving you great tasting kombucha, you have a healthy SCOBY.