Can you eat kombucha SCOBY?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Can you eat kombucha SCOBY?”. We will also elaborate on what kombucha SCOBY is, what are the possible uses of kombucha SCOBY, and how we can prepare it.

Can you eat kombucha SCOBY?

Yes, you can eat the kombucha SCOBY. in fact, kombucha SCOBY is so delicious to eat with a large number of health benefits. 

What is kombucha SCOBY?

Kombucha is a fermented drink of Asian origin. However, it has gained popularity in the West due to its therapeutic effects, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant,  anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, treatment for gastric ulcers, and high cholesterol. It has also shown an impact on the immune response and liver detoxification. The traditional drink is made from fermentation, originally, of sweetened black tea (Camellia sinensis). However, other teas can also be used for its preparation (1).

SCOBY is a short form of Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. A SCOBY is usually a component that is used in the synthesis or fermentation of kombucha. Fermentation is one of the chemically treated processes where ingredients like starch or sugar are being transformed into an acid or alcohol.

Kombucha is made by decaying sweet tea in the primary fermentation process while the SCOBY is formed in bottles or jars in the secondary fermentation process. While osmophilic yeasts ferment sugar in tea and produce ethanol, bacteria oxidize alcohol, and make acetic acid. Other organic acids are formed in addition to acetic acid, such as gluconic, lactic, malic, citric, and tartaric (1).

The physical shape or appearance of SCOBY can be different, but typically it is the round, cloudy, thick, soft, and porous component that gives a light smell similar to vinegar scent. Kombucha is slightly acidic and slightly carbonated, which provides greater acceptance among consumers. It can be a low-alcohol substitute for sparkling wines or soft drinks due to its high carbonation degree, constituting a healthier alternative. Kombucha can be found in non-alcoholic and low-alcohol versions (less than 0.5% (v/v) of alcohol) on the market, or even alcoholic versions (1).

But when you observe the strong smell that resembles cheese, that will indicate that SCOBY is almost destroyed, which should then be discarded.

The main ingredient of SCOBY is an insoluble fiber– cellulose. It is also a host of some microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast which helps in the fermentation mechanisms.

How to choose the right kombucha SCOBY?

Kombucha SCOBY is available ready-made at the stores and can also be prepared at home. 

If you want to make your own kombucha, then firstly obtain a SCOBY that can be available in-store and also online. It is mostly present in health stores. Ensure which you are getting is organic and also be sure about the product quality. 

You can also obtain a SCOBY from your nearby friend who made it on his own or also from a local community.

In general, for kombucha production, a tea base is prepared, and then sugar is added, which will serve as a substrate for tea fermenting bacteria and yeasts. After preparation, the tea should be cooled to room temperature to avoid microorganisms’ inactivation. The SCOBY is only added together with 10–20% (v/v) of already fermented kombucha (1). 

SCOBY carries on its growth procedure along with every bunch of kombucha. It can be differentiated by making it cut from the top surface and then passing it for further growth.

The contamination factor can be reduced when it is being handled properly. The hygiene of utensils and the environment is essential in drink preparation to prevent undesirable microorganisms’ growth. Other food safety methods include pasteurizing the product to avoid the overproduction of alcohol and carbon dioxide, adding 0.1% sodium benzoate and 0.1% potassium sorbate as a preservative, and maintaining the kombucha under refrigeration (1).

How to synthesize your own kombucha SCOBY?

It is also a good option to make your own kombucha SCOBY. But to prepare your own, you need to have some of the components such as sweet tea (that could be black or green) in 1 cup, sugar should be 1 to 2 tablespoons (or 14 to 28 grams), and the main ingredient kombucha that should be unflavoured.

To prepare it, combine all the above-mentioned ingredients in a bottle or jar by making it cover perfectly with a dishrag or a coffee filter. The container in which the kombucha is produced must be covered only with gauze and never completely closed to allow contact with the air but avoid contamination by flies and spores (1).

Once the growth of SCOBY crosses almost 1 to 4 inches or 2 to 3 cm thickness, then it can be used to make a new bunch or batch of kombucha by using all the ingredients like sugar and tea that could be green or black tea.

Regarding the temperature and fermentation time used for kombucha production, studies indicate temperatures between 20 and 22 °C for 7–10 days, or even longer, depending on the inoculum state or the desired result, depending on the initial culture (1).

The health benefits of kombucha SCOBY 

Kombucha is a perfect drink that also consists of a large number of health benefits that are inserted during the fermentation process. It contains Vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12, Vitamin C, Proteins, Polyphenols, and Minerals: Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, and Zn (2).

It is perfectly healthy to eat kombucha. Primarily, it is made of cellulose material which is present most abundantly in plants’ cell walls. 

Cellulose is the same organic compound that is also found in veggies. Cellulose is not a degradable compound in the human digestive system, due to the absence of cellulase enzymes that break down the cellulose component. So, it passes as it is through our digestive tract and moves down as an unwanted waste of the body. 

In western culture, the diet lacks fibrous components. So, eating kombucha SCOBY is a good option in terms of fiber. It can be used as a rich non-conventional source of microbial protein. Some other health benefits that can be acquired by this insoluble fiber are described below (3):

  • It averts constipation, moves down the digestive tract, and also helps other unwanted waste to move down to excretory organs.
  • kombucha SCOBY helps to emit metabolic wastes, these metabolic wastes are excreted from the bile component.
  • kombucha SCOBY regulates the level of cholesterol in the body by absorbing the cholesterol content in the digestive tract.
  • kombucha SCOBY is also capable of binding with sugar molecules that aid in the reduction of sugar moieties in the body that directly leads towards lowering of blood sugar. High levels of dietary fiber intake are associated with significantly lower prevalence rates for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease; major risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and dyslipidemia, are also less common in individuals with the highest levels of fiber consumption
  • Due to the high fiber amount in kombucha SCOBY, it also improves the health of body organs such as the colon and heart.
  • The fibrous compound also helps in lowering body weight.

A study showed that after 21 days of kombucha fermentation, the cellulose composition was the following: dry matter (97.35%), crude protein (23.1%), crude fiber (14.79%), crude lipid (5.4%), and ash (3.9%). Among the other essential amino acids studied, tea SCOBY has higher concentration of isoleucine and leucine. Phenylalanine and valine were also found to be present in tea fungus. Methionine, threonine, and tryptophan were present in lower concentrations. In nonessential amino acids, glutamic acid, alanine, aspartic acid, and proline were present in higher concentrations than other non-essential amino acids (2).

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question “Can you eat kombucha SCOBY?”. We will also elaborate on what kombucha SCOBY is, what are the possible uses of kombucha SCOBY, and how we can prepare it.

References

  1. Coelho, Raquel Macedo Dantas, et al. Kombucha. Int J Gastro Food Sci, 2020,  22, 100272.
  2. Jayabalan, Rasu, et al. Biochemical characteristics of tea fungus produced during kombucha fermentation. Food Sci Biotechnol, 2010, 19, 843-847.
  3. Anderson, James W., et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr rev, 2009, 67, 188-205.