Forget your fancy, expensive water filters. Kombucha SCOBYs are free and do a better job!
People invest hundreds and thousands of dollars in water filtration systems to remove all the toxins in our modern water supply, but according to a new study, an ancient fermented beverage may do a better job.
If you’ve ever brewed kombucha tea, you’re aware of the big jelly-fish-textured creature that floats on top. It’s called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). A new one forms each time you pour in a new batch of sweet tea (in my case about once a week).
Brewers may give these away, sell them, or in my case compost them when we get a surplus. But it turns out they are valuable not just for fermenting tea, but for purifying our drinking water!
The study, published by the American Chemical Society, finds that SCOBYs are up to 40% more effective at filtering pollutants than commercial water filters.
Unlike synthetic water filter membranes, the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast acts as a living filtration membrane.
The pores of polymer filters eventually become clogged, making them less efficient, thanks to the accumulation of clays, oils, minerals, and bacterial biofilms, the study says. Bacterial biofilms are especially difficult to remove once they adhere to the filter.
While the SCOBY membranes eventually become clogged as well, they take much longer to do so. That’s because the dominant bacteria in kombucha, Acetobacter, has been shown to reduce or even remove biofilms.
In addition to clogging more easily, polymer membranes are expensive and require lots of synthetic chemicals to produce.
“Living filtration membranes can overcome some of these problems by being inexpensive and sustainable to produce while still treating water effectively,” the authors of the study wrote.