Recently Sarina Smith asked, “Can I refrigerate the kombucha culture when not in use? like in between brew.”
This is an excellent question as many people have been told to store their cultures in the fridge between uses. While fridges are useful for storing other items, Kombucha cultures are simply not one of them. Their ubiquitous presence has trained us to think that everything needs to go into the fridge in order to prevent spoilage. However, the refrigerator was invented in the mid 1800’s but didn’t gain popular use until the late 1920’s. So how did we keep food fresh for the thousands of years we’ve been on this planet? Fermentation!
Kombucha is a fermented food (fermented tea in fact) and therefore need not be placed in the fridge. It’s pH is low enough to prevent other microorganisms from invading the culture or Kombucha. Kombucha will never technically “go bad” but the flavor may continue to change the longer it is stored. I personally like some of my oldest bottles of Kombucha best.
The Kombucha culture is a living organism – called a SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. As such, it is temperature sensitive. The ideal temperature range for brewing Kombucha is 72-85F. The culture will go dormant around 50F but if it goes much lower than that for an extended period of time, it will not be able to protect itself. Since most fridges are set to 40F or lower, it does not make for a good storage location.
That’s not to say that it is impossible to revive a refrigerated SCOBY but why risk losing it? Instead, make a SCOBY Hotel! What’s a SCOBY Hotel? Check out this video to discover how to make one.
SCOBY Hotel Maintenance
From time to time, add sweet tea to the Hotel to feed the cultures. You can also use the liquid as starter for other batches. Since it will be more concentrated, you can use less (1/2-3/4 cup instead of 1 cup).
Got questions about brewing Kombucha, fermented foods or traditional diets? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org