Kombucha Scoby Activation Troubleshooting

When activating a dehydrated kombucha culture or brewing your first few batches of kombucha, it can be difficult to tell how things are progressing.

Below are some guidelines for what to look for as your kombucha scoby cultures. Use these to check if you are on track and learn what adjustments you can make if you are not seeing the results you expect.


Every culturing environment and experience is unique. You may see no visible signs that your kombucha is culturing at first, or you may notice one or more normal signs of fermentation. These include:

  • The liquid has lightened in color
  • The liquid has turned cloudy
  • A haze has formed on top of the liquid, indicating the beginning of a baby SCOBY
  • There is sediment in the bottom of the jar
  • Brown yeast strings or blobs have formed in the liquid or on the original SCOBY

Keep in mind, it is perfectly normal for there to be no visible change to the tea or SCOBY for the first few batches.


Mold is visible as circular deposits that often look fuzzy or furry. Mold can appear in various colors: white, green, black, etc. Once mold has developed, it is very important to discard the whole batch, including the kombucha SCOBY. Please contact Customer Support if mold develops.

If you do not see any mold on the surface of the liquid or on the SCOBY, continue with the troubleshooting questions below to determine how your kombucha is doing.

download our kombucha guide and recipe book


The best way to tell how your kombucha is progressing is to test the aroma and flavor every few days. You should notice that the liquid becomes less sweet and more rich and vinegary in flavor over time. As the SCOBY rehydrates, the aroma should be clean but sour. The kombucha should not smell or taste unpleasant.

It is normal for the kombucha to not be fizzy or carbonated. Bottling the Kombucha in a second fermentation is often required to create a fizzy or carbonated kombucha.


If you are still unsure about the fermentation of your kombucha, check the following:

How was the dehydrated scoby stored prior to rehydration, and for how long?

A dehydrated SCOBY has a relatively short shelf life. If your SCOBY was stored longer than recommended, it may be expired. We recommend storing the dehydrated SCOBY, unopened:

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 9 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended

How long have you been rehydrating the SCOBY?

The SCOBY is expected to take 30 days to rehydrate. If it has been less than 30 days, allow the SCOBY to rehydrate for the full 30 days.

What is the temperature in the culturing area?

Kombucha requires a warm area, 68-85ºF, to culture properly. If your home is cooler than 68ºF, try some tips in this article for Keeping Cultures Warm in Cool Weather.

What kind of water did you use?

Water used for culturing should be as free as possible from contaminants. Please consult our article on Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha to make sure you are using the appropriate water for brewing kombucha.

What kind of tea did you use?

Kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis). There are a number of teas made from this plant: black, green, white, pekoe, oolong, Darjeeling, and more.

Consult our article Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha, for more advice on selecting a tea for brewing kombucha.

What kind of sugar did you use?

When you've picked up one of the kombucha mother cultures for sale at Cultures for Health, we recommend using white sugar to produce the most reliable results with kombucha. Unrefined sugar or brown sugar, which contains molasses, can also be used successfully, though the kombucha and SCOBY may become very yeasty.

Consult our article on Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha, for more information on choosing sugar for making kombucha.

What kind of vinegar did you use?

We recommend distilled white vinegar as the most reliable vinegar to use for making the first few batches of kombucha. Avoid apple cider vinegar or other types of vinegar, which may not be acidic enough to protect your SCOBY during rehydration.

Consult our article on Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha, for more details on what type of vinegar to use when brewing kombucha.

Were the correct proportions of ingredients used?

It’s important to get the correct balance of water, tea, sugar, and vinegar in the solution. The size of the SCOBY is not particularly important, as even a small SCOBY can produce a good kombucha.

Consult our Instructions for Making Kombucha for proper ingredient ratios for the activation and subsequent batches.

Still unsure about your kombucha? Please contact Customer Support for further assistance. We are happy to help!