The Complete Kombucha Brewing Glossary: Baby SCOBYs to Second Fermentation

If you are just getting started with kombucha, you are in for a tasty and exciting adventure!  All you need to make your own kombucha is a few simple ingredients and a SCOBY, an acronym for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, to initiate and control fermentation.  Let this glossary of terms be your guide as you explore the wonderful world of kombucha! You can do this!

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Activation Batch

The batch of kombucha made during the rehydration process. The purpose of this batch is to rehydrate and bring to life a SCOBY that has been put into dormancy. This batch often turns out too vinegary to drink, but it's great as salad dressing and marinades.

HOW-TO VIDEO: Activating a Dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY



A cloudy layer of bacteria and yeast that forms on the surface of a batch of brewing kombucha and is often attached to the original “mother” SCOBY. This SCOBY can be harvested to create successive batches of kombucha. Once a baby SCOBY is transferred to a new batch of sweet tea, it is considered the mother culture for that new batch.


Batch #1

The first true batch of cultured kombucha brewed just after the activation batch is complete.

JUMP TO: Kombucha Brewing Instructions



The process of creating air bubbles in a beverage such as kombucha in order to give it effervescence. Carbonation occurs in an airtight environment when a live cultured food is given sugar (a food source). During the consumption of those sugars, the bacteria present produce carbon dioxide which is where the term carbonation comes from. Carbonation must be done in airtight bottles designed specifically for carbonated beverages to ensure safety.

HOW-TO VIDEO: Kombucha Bottling & Flavoring

Continuous Brew Kombucha

A means of culturing kombucha in which sweet tea is added regularly and kombucha is drawn off regularly. Generally speaking, in the first batch of continuous brew, approximately 25% of kombucha is drawn off and then replaced with an equal amount of sweet tea. This is then repeated, as desired, up to three times per week. In this sense the kombucha is always brewing, always producing, and always being fed. This contrasts other methods in that it is not done in large batches in which all of the kombucha is harvested and bottled at once and then a full batch of sweet tea is then started over.

LEARN MORE: Setting Up a Kombucha Continuous Brew System

Culturing / Fermenting / Brewing

In relation to kombucha, these three terms are all used interchangeably to refer to the period of time in which the sweetened tea is being transformed through lactic acid fermentation into kombucha.

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Kombucha Mother

A kombucha mother refers to the original SCOBY or starter culture used to make a batch of kombucha tea. A baby SCOBY can become a mother when it is moved to a new batch of sweet tea to ferment.


Kombucha Mushroom

Another term for a kombucha SCOBY. This is most likely the result of the SCOBY’s gelatinous look and feel but in no way indicates a likeness in flavor or functionality to a culinary mushroom.

LEARN MORE: What Does a Healthy SCOBY Look Like?

Kombucha or Kombucha Tea

A tangy fermented beverage made by culturing sweetened tea with a culture called a SCOBY. The process can take 1-4 weeks and is performed at room temperature. By-products of the fermentation process are organic acids, B vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics, all of which are in the finished kombucha.

LEARN MORE: What's in My Kombucha?

Kombucha pH


This refers to the kombucha PH, or acidity, a critical component for those looking to standardize their kombucha brewing. The lowering of the pH (or the acidifying of the brew) is what gives kombucha its tang. It also helps preserve kombucha from undesirable molds and bacteria. The acidity of the kombucha can be monitored using pH strips.

Kombucha Vinegar

A batch of kombucha allowed to culture for an extended period of time will contain a deal more acetic acid, thereby becoming more of a vinegar than a beverage. This is known as kombucha vinegar and is achieved simply by allowing your kombucha to brew until it smells (and tastes) very similar to an apple cider vinegar.

LEARN MORE: Using Kombucha Vinegar to Replace Apple Cider Vinegar


Lacto Fermentation

The process of fermentation in which lactobacilli proliferate, creating lactic acid in the process. This is sometimes referred to as lactic acid fermentation in reference to the bacteria that beget the acids. This can refer to the process of fermenting vegetables, culturing kombucha, creating cultured dairy products, sourdough breads, and more.


Regular Kombucha Batches

These batches refer to any batch of kombucha after the activation batch.


The process of bringing moisture back to a dehydrated SCOBY. This process takes 30 days and requires a SCOBY, water, sugar, black tea, and vinegar. The vinegar helps keep the liquid acidic and avoid mold growth.

HOW-TO VIDEO: Activating a Kombucha SCOBY



An acronym that stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is the starter culture used for fermenting sweet tea to create kombucha. Also referred to as a "mushroom" or a mother. A SCOBY is gelatinous in texture, shiny in appearance, and may have a faint acidic fragrance due to the production of organic acids during the culturing process.


A term used to describe a holding jar for extra kombucha SCOBYs. SCOBY Hotels are often created if someone has several kombucha SCOBYs and doesn’t want to use them all for making new batches of kombucha. Creating a SCOBY Hotel is a way to preserve your extra SCOBYs without actively using them to make kombucha.

LEARN HOW: Making a SCOBY Hotel

Second Ferment / Second Fermentation

The process of allowing kombucha (or other cultured foods) to undergo fermentation for a second period of time without the starter culture present. When the kombucha is moved to a new container for bottling this is considered the second fermentation period. This fermentation is generally undergone in an air-tight environment to encourage carbonation. Even though there is not a SCOBY present during second fermentation, finished kombucha still contains live cultures that will continue to ferment and release carbon dioxide. If left long enough, however, a kombucha SCOBY or yeast strands may form spontaneously in a bottle of kombucha undergoing a second fermentation.

Starter Tea

This is tea that is left over from the previous batch of kombucha that is added to the new batch in order to create the proper acidity to safely brew kombucha. During the activation process, white distilled vinegar is used instead of starter tea. Starter tea is an absolute necessity to create successful batches of kombucha.

LEARN MORE: Kombucha SCOBY Activation Troubleshooting


Vinegar Eels

Not eels in the actual sense, these little worms are common pests in vinegar brews. Classified as nematodes, these are thankfully harmless to humans but very destructive to their food source – the kombucha SCOBY. Vinegar eels may be present in your brew due to the use of unpasteurized vinegar or an unclean batch of kombucha or SCOBY given to you by a friend. If vinegar eels are found the brew must be tossed, the SCOBY composted, and the equipment sterilized with soap, water, and pasteurized vinegar.


Yeast Strings/Strands

These are the small tendrils extending from the kombucha SCOBY or found in the bottom of the brewing vessel. Kombucha is comprised of both bacteria and yeasts and these little strands or strings, as they are often referred to, are a normal, healthy part of kombucha.


Now that you know a little more about kombucha brewing get started making kombucha the easy way, with one of our DIY Kombucha Kits! From ginger to pumpkin spice there are lots of flavors to tickle your taste buds with probiotic goodness!

Happy Brewing!