Does SCOBY need to be refrigerated?

SCOBY, also known as a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, is an integral part of brewing kombucha. This thick, pancake-like disc floats on top of the fermenting kombucha and feeds on the sweetened tea, producing acetic acid, gluconic acid, ethanol, and carbonation in the process. Many kombucha brewers wonder if SCOBY needs refrigeration in between brewing cycles or if it can be safely stored at room temperature. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about proper SCOBY storage and refrigeration.

What is SCOBY?

SCOBY is an acronym that stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It’s a living colony of bacteria and yeast that work together to convert sugar into acids, gases, and alcohol. The cellulose produced by the bacteria creates the thick, jelly-like disc that floats at the top of kombucha during fermentation.

Some key facts about SCOBY:

  • A SCOBY is a symbiotic culture of both bacteria and yeast
  • The yeast converts sugar to alcohol and the bacteria convert that alcohol into organic acids
  • The bacteria also produce cellulose fibers that create the thick, pancake-like structure of the SCOBY
  • New layers of yeast and bacteria continually grow on top of the SCOBY disc
  • The SCOBY metabolizes the sweet tea into tart, bubbly kombucha

The SCOBY requires sweetened tea to eat and thrive. When brewing kombucha, the SCOBY feeds on the sugar and tea compounds, producing kombucha’s characteristic sour flavor, carbonation, and other metabolites.

Does SCOBY need refrigeration?

This is one of the most common questions from new kombucha brewers. The short answer is no – SCOBY does not need to be refrigerated in between brewing cycles. Here are some key points on SCOBY refrigeration:

  • Refrigeration will slow down or pause fermentation, but it is not required for SCOBY storage
  • SCOBY can be safely stored at room temperature for months at a time
  • Room temperature storage (68-85°F) allows the SCOBY to remain active and healthy
  • Refrigeration can be used as an option for long-term storage or for cooling down hot climates
  • Freezing is not recommended as it can damage or kill the SCOBY culture

The bacteria and yeast that comprise the SCOBY are accustomed to being stored at room temperature. As long as the SCOBY is healthy and conditions are kept clean, it will thrive at 68-85°F without refrigeration. Many kombucha home brewers successfully store their SCOBY for months between batches without any issues.

Benefits of room temperature storage

Storing SCOBY at room temperature offers a few advantages over refrigeration:

  • Maintains SCOBY activity: Room temperature storage keeps the yeast and bacteria active and alive, allowing the SCOBY to remain robust for the next batch
  • Prevents contamination: The microbial activity helps prevent mold or other contaminants from taking hold
  • Saves energy: Avoiding refrigeration saves electricity and energy costs
  • Convenience: SCOBY is ready to brew anytime without having to wait for it to warm up after fridge storage

As long as basic precautions are followed, room temperature provides an ideal environment for SCOBY between fermentation cycles. The SCOBY may even continue to produce small amounts of acid and alcohol at room temp over time, strengthening the culture.

When to use refrigeration

While refrigeration is not required, there are some instances where it can be beneficial:

  • Long-term storage: If batch brewing on a very infrequent basis, refrigeration slows SCOBY activity and preserves it
  • Hot climates: Storing in the fridge can prevent overheating in hot summer temperatures
  • Mold prevention: Chilling SCOBY can discourage mold growth in overly humid environments
  • Weaker SCOBY: Refrigeration may help weaker or stressed SCOBY cultures last longer

The optimal temperature range for SCOBY activity is 68-85°F. If environmental temperatures will be outside of this range for an extended time, then refrigeration can be helpful for maintaining SCOBY health.

How to store SCOBY at room temperature

Storing SCOBY at room temperature does require some care and maintenance. Follow these guidelines for room temp storage success:

  • Keep SCOBY in a glass or food-grade plastic jar – do not use metal containers
  • Cover the jar with a coffee filter, cloth, or breathable lid – tight sealing lids are not recommended
  • Store in a shaded spot out of direct sunlight
  • Make sure hands, utensils, and the jar are clean before handling to prevent contamination
  • Change out the liquid every 1-2 months to provide fresh nutrients and prevent mold growth
  • Remove any dried or blackened parts of the SCOBY disc
  • Watch for signs of mold and discard if contamination occurs

With proper handling, most brewers have great success storing SCOBY at room temperature for up to 3-6 months or longer. Keeping the culture clean and providing occasional fresh sweet tea will keep the SCOBY healthy until the next brewing cycle.

How to store SCOBY in the fridge

For those who want to use refrigeration for SCOBY storage, here are some tips:

  • Handle SCOBY gently and minimize temperature shocks when first chilling it
  • Use a tightly sealed, food-grade glass or plastic container
  • Pour fresh sweetened tea to submerge the SCOBY before refrigeration
  • Change out the tea every 4-6 weeks to replenish food sources
  • Monitor for mold, yeast overgrowth, or darkening/hardening
  • Allow SCOBY to come to room temp before brewing to prevent thermal shock

Chilled SCOBY may go dormant but remain viable for brewing again after warming up. Refrigeration can extend the shelf life to 6-12 months when handled properly.

Signs of a healthy SCOBY

No matter what storage method you use, it’s a good idea to periodically check on the health of your SCOBY culture. Here’s what to look for:

  • Creamy white or tan coloration
  • Smooth, circular shape with defined edges
  • Firm but gelatinous texture
  • Presence of new layers indicating growth
  • Pleasant, mild vinegary aroma
  • pH of liquid below 4.0
  • No dark mold, yeast ribbons, or foul odors

A healthy SCOBY will thrive in storage for months, ready to brew delicious kombucha time after time.

Troubleshooting problems

If you notice any issues with your stored SCOBY, here are some potential solutions:

Mold development: Discard culture and sanitize equipment. Review handling and storage conditions.

Weakened/thin SCOBY: Replace with a portion of healthy SCOBY from another batch. Provide fresh sweet tea.

Yeast overgrowth: The balance of bacteria and yeast may be off. Acidify the storage liquid with vinegar.

Drying or dark spots: Remove damaged areas. Ensure SCOBY is fully submerged and change tea regularly.

Foul, rotten odors: Discard SCOBY. Sanitize area thoroughly and start with a new culture.

Catching problems early allows you to take corrective action and get your SCOBY back into brewing condition. Seek help from other brewers or online sources if needed.

Storing excess SCOBYs

As SCOBY ferments batches, it often produces excess “babies” that can be removed. You may want to store extras for sharing, starting new brews, or having backups on hand. Here are tips for storing multiple SCOBYs:

  • Separate SCOBYs into different containers to prevent crowding
  • Label jars with dates to use oldest ones first
  • Change tea in each container on a rotating schedule
  • Monitor the health of each culture
  • Consider giving away, selling, or composting excess SCOBYs

Proper organiation will help you effectively manage multiple SCOBY cultures for an extended duration.


Here are the key takeaways on SCOBY refrigeration and storage:

  • Refrigeration is not required – SCOBY can be stored at room temperature 68-85°F
  • Room temperature storage keeps the culture active and strong for the next batch
  • Refrigeration can be used optionally for long-term storage or hot climates
  • Change out the liquid every 1-2 months at room temperature
  • Monitor the health, color and smell of cultures during storage
  • Discard any SCOBYs with mold, yeast overgrowth, or foul odors
  • Allow refrigerated SCOBY to warm up before brewing again

With proper handling, both room temperature and refrigerated storage can preserve SCOBY for months between kombucha batches. Use the method that best suits your brewing practices and environment. Trust your senses, watch for signs of trouble, and enjoy homemade kombucha often with a healthy SCOBY!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can SCOBY be stored in the freezer?

Freezing is not recommended for long-term SCOBY storage. The freezing process can damage and kill the bacteria and yeast cells that comprise the SCOBY. However, some brewers have had success freezing SCOBY short-term or freezing dried SCOBY backups. In general though, refrigeration or room temperature storage are the preferred methods.

How long can SCOBY survive without tea or sugar?

SCOBY requires food to sustain itself, so it cannot survive indefinitely without tea and sugar. Most sources suggest changing out the liquid every 1-2 months at room temperature to provide fresh nutrients. Refrigerated SCOBY may go 4-6 weeks without fresh tea before nutrient depeltion impacts health and viability.

Can SCOBY be stored in alcohol or vinegar?

It’s not recommended to store SCOBY long-term in alcohol or vinegar as the high acidity and lack of nutrients can damage the culture over time. Neutral liquids like plain sweet tea generally provide the best environment for SCOBY storage.

Should the SCOBY be rinsed between batches?

There is no need to rinse or wash healthy SCOBY between brewing cycles. Simply transfer it to fresh sweet tea for storage. Washing introduces extra opportunities for contamination. The acidic kombucha liquid helps protect the SCOBY from harmful bacteria.

How do you revive a dormant SCOBY?

To revive a dormant or sluggish SCOBY, first replace the old liquid with a fresh batch of room temperature sweet tea. Allow it to rest in the sweet tea for 1-2 weeks, changing the tea if any mold appears. The nutrients and warmer temperature should reactivate the culture. Examine for new growth before brewing again.

Can SCOBY be stored in metal containers?

Metal is not recommended for SCOBY storage as the acids can react with and corrode the metal over time. Glass or food-grade plastic are preferred materials. If using metal for brewing, transfer SCOBY back to a glass jar for storage.

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