What does the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) in Kombucha look like? (BioE80 Spr2015)

Kombucha is an effervescent tea drink. It is produced by fermenting green or black tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (otherwise known as a SCOBY). We set out to discover what this SCOBY looked like at the microscopic scale. We purchased two different types of Kombucha—Botanic No. 9 and Guava Goddess—and examined their microbiological contents using the Foldscope™.

Image courtesy of http://synergydrinks.com/
Figure 1: Kombucha [Image courtesy of http://synergydrinks.com/]

We identified some substances in the Kombucha that could be yeast cells. We thought that the dark focused structure in figure 2 could be a yeast cell (to be compared with an actual yeast cell in figure 4). We observed that the bacteria in Kombucha was probably too small to effectively resolve with the limited capabilities of the Foldscope™. However, we did see unexpected organic substances which made us question whether or not to actually drink Kombucha. 🙂

Figure 2: Microorganisms in Guava Goddess
Figure 3: Microorganisms in Botanic No.9
Figure 4: Yeast Cells [Image courtesy of https://www.teachengineering.org/]
Figure 4: Yeast Cells [Image courtesy of https://www.teachengineering.org/]

According to the back label of the Kombucha bottles, we know that we are supposed to have “1 billion organisms of Bacillus coagulans and 1 billion organisms of S. Boulardii,” bacteria and yeast respectively. We were able to identify some microbiological organisms in the Kombucha tea drink, though it was difficult to successfully differentiate between the strains of bacteria and yeast.

Although it was interesting to see Kombucha on a microscopic level, in order to really identify the bacteria and yeast cells, we would have to fine tune our focusing and photo-taking skills because this proved the most difficult to do. Some future investigations may include, why these particular bacteria and yeast were used? Also, can we see complex systems within bacteria and yeast, if we increase magnification on the Foldscope™ and photo taking abilities? Furthermore, can we use different bacteria and yeast concentrations in the Kombucha to engineer different tastes and alcohol levels?

Explorers: Nate Hansen, Sayuri Sekimitsu

One Comment Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Bacteria are nice and clear in guava goddess.. those string like structures are it (Figure 2) and there are quite a few. You should see the yeast easily too, their cell wall gives them a regular shape. For example, see

    Hope you get it soon.


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