How to make water kefir
Posted on 26 February 2014
Do you make water kefir? Our grains are multiplying beautifully lately!
Sorry… I’ve got ahead of myself… do you know what water kefir is? Well, like our milk kefir, water kefir is a beneficial probiotic beverage that tastes delicious. It’s so simple to make. The flavour is like a ‘dry, slightly fizzy lemonade’. Like kombucha it is first cultured by introducing a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) into sugar water – the SCOBY in this case are called grains. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts present in the water kefir grains metabolize the sugar, turning it into an array of beneficial acids and infusing it with beneficial microorganisms, additional B vitamins as well as food enzymes. Water kefir, like most fermented foods, supports gut health, your immune system and overall health. The beneficial bacteria in the water kefir grains consume the sugar in the sugar water, which means that during the process of fermentation you also reduce the sugar content of the drink.
These small, translucent, gelatinous structures in the photo are the water kefir grains. You can get them either from a friend or by purchasing them online. It’s simple to make water kefir over and over.
So, how do you make it? We simply boil some water in the kettle and dissolve 1/4 cup of molasses (called chankaka, cane sugar, here in Bolivia) in it to make around 1L of water kefir. Water kefir grains need minerals so it is best to use unrefined sugar or add minerals with some sea salt or an egg shell. I prefer the taste by using molasses and the kefir grains seem to prefer it too… multiplying rapidly! I see online that many people use sucanat or coconut sugar with success. So, once your molasses has dissolved in the boiled water, let it cool and add it to an empty, clean 1L glass jar. Then, simply fill up the jar with cool, filtered water, leaving some head space at the top of the jar. You want to make sure the water is room temperature before adding your grains so that you don’t kill the cultures. Once cool you can add your kefir grains. Cover your jar with a coffee filter, cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Then, put your jar somewhere it will be undisturbed and away from direct sunlight for 24-48 hours. Et voila! Your water kefir is ready to strain and drink. You will notice that your grains continue to grow and reproduce indefinitely. You are making babies!
Like kombucha, the most enjoyable way to drink your water kefir is to second ferment it! This carbonates it and you can add all sorts of flavours with fruit. To second ferment your water kefir simply strain out the grains (which you will use for your next batch) and pour your finished kefir into a flip-top or Grolsch style bottle (or a jar with a tight lid if that’s all you have) and add some juice, fresh fruit or dried fruit. Then you simply let the kefir sit, with the lid on this time, for 24 hours at room temperature and it’s ready! Put your bottles in the fridge and enjoy it whenever you want a cold, bubbly, probiotic drink! Like kombucha, it depends on the temperature in your home as to how quickly your water kefir will ferment. If you have a warm place it may become very carbonated during the second ferment and so you should be careful when opening your bottles.
Water kefir can become a bit tiring to make as it needs to be fed every 2 days. So, if you need a break, simply put them in a new solution of molasses/water and put them in the fridge. This slows down the fermentation process. When you want to start up again you simply follow the directions as above but they may need a couple of cycles before they are back to normal again! Just give them some tender loving care and they’ll be fine though. 🙂
Lastly, it’s not recommended you use your water kefir grains to ferment milk. Milk kefir grains are different. You can convert your milk kefir grains to water but not in the reverse as apparently they lose their ability to consume all the sugars in milk, like lactose. Milk kefir grains have a different array of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that need milk to grow and reproduce. You often see online that people use their milk kefir grains to culture non-dairy liquids like coconut milk but it’s recommended you return them to milk at least weekly to ensure they don’t weaken with time. Water kefir grains, similarly, should be kept only for culturing water kefir.
Happy fermenting everyone!