S.C.O.B.Y., the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast needed to produce kombucha, is a necessary by-product of the fizzy, good-for-you fermented tea that’s grown in popularity over the last few years. It’s not pretty: most scoby are disc-shaped (they grow to fit their containers, usually a large glass jar), rubbery feeling, and slimy looking, with the occasional grayish-brown strands that can result from yeast blooms. Every time a new batch of kombucha is prepared, a “baby” scoby is formed, which means that over several batches, you’ll have more scoby than you’ll know what to do with. Yes, it’s possible to compost or even throw away your scoby, but most kombucha makers understand when I say that you grow a bond with your “mother” and its “babies.” So, how can you best use your extra scoby without feeling like it’s going to waste?
While it is possible to create a scoby hotel, which is essentially a storage facility for scobies, I recommend finding other uses for your extra babies. Here are my top five favorite ways to use your scoby for the better:
1. Give it to a friend
If you currently brew kombucha, it’s highly probable that you were once someone who longed to make your own kombucha but didn’t have the scoby with which to start. Yes, it’s possible to start a batch with store-bought kombucha, but results are mixed and don’t often make for a strong batch. Your best bet is to buy a kombucha or get one from a friend. In this case, give back to the growing community of kombucha lovers by donating an extra scoby or two to someone in need! To ensure that the scoby survives the trip to its new home, seal it in a glass container with 1/2 cup to 1 cup started liquid (the sugar-tea mixture used to make your previous batch.)
2. Make a chew toy
Tired of buying rawhide, pig’s ears, and other less-than-appealing bones for your dog? Try giving them a scoby! Dry your scoby in the sun until the rubbery, slimy parts dissipate, then give to your pup as a fun treat. Just as humans can benefit from the probiotic-laden benefits of kombucha, so too can your pet. While it’s not necessary to cut your scoby, a large scoby can be a little overwhelming, especially if your dog is on the smaller side. Use scissors to cut your scoby into rectangular strips, then flavor with dog-friendly seasonings. Some ideas include chicken bouillon (like this recipe here), bacon grease, or beef or chicken bone broth. Once flavored, simply dehydrate for roughly 24 hours or until desired jerky tenderness. Some pet owners will even chop up small pieces into their dog’s food bowl. While its unlikely that your cat will take to gnawing on a piece of scoby, a variety of animals might enjoy the treat, including goats and chickens. As always, monitor your pet while introducing any new food into their diet.
3. Fertilize your plants
I’ve had success fertilizing some of my outdoor plants with extra scobies. You can use fresh scobies for this: simply cut your scoby into strips and bury around the base of your plant. I buried a scoby around the base of my gardenia plant earlier this year and, while I can’t say it was the scoby for sure, my blooms this year have been the brightest and most bountiful yet. The acidic nature of scobies can help balance the pH of the soil, resulting in happier plants. Another option is to make terrific soil by feeding a compost bin filled with worms. Here’s a handy guide for finding out which plants prefer a more acidic environment.
4. Use it as a mask
Scobies make terrific moisturizing face masks and while the idea might make you squeamish, give it a chance! Find a quiet place to relax, then place the scoby on top of your face. Yes, really. Similar to making your soil more acidic, the pH of the scoby can help balance your skin, having an almost acidic, peeling effect. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes, then gently rinse your skin with clean, cool water. Apply a natural moisturizer and you’ll be hard pressed to find smoother skin.
5. Create scoby candy
Maybe it’s not an exact replica of the cloyingly sweet candy treats you remember as a child, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a fun and tasty snack on its own. Making scoby candy is as easy as making scoby jerky for your pet, except rather than flavoring it with chicken-based broth, you’ll flavor with sugar or your preferred sweetener. This recipe calls for maple syrup, which is another great option, and also happens to be vegan.
What’s your favorite way to use up extra scobies? Happy reusing!