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When I first started making water kefir about 7 years ago, I had no idea how it would change my life. To be honest, I don’t remember where all I researched about it from, because making it has become second nature to me. I was searching for a replacement for sodas and fizzy drinks, water kefir fit the bill, and my health began improving the more I drank this wonderful concoction.
So, what is water kefir?
Water kefir is a probiotic, fizzy drink made from the fermentation of sugar by water kefir grains (also known as tibicos grains, sugar grains, or Japanese water crystals). The grains are made from cultures of healthy bacteria and wild yeast strains that hold together in a polysaccharide matrix the bacteria create. * These yeasts and bacteria work together to break down the sugars (glucose, sucrose and fructose) and carbohydrates turning them into ethanol, acetic acid and lactic acid. The acetic and lactic acids naturally preserve the water kefir while killing off harmful bacteria. The millions of probiotics present in the drink also help to make nutrients from the fruit flavoring more bio-available and digestible, increasing vitamin C and B vitamins. * Basically, the bacteria and yeast work together to form the grains, which also helps them fight off bad guys (bad bacteria or yeasts) that would threaten the culture as a whole. They love each other, and because of that love, our gut loves when we drink the probiotics they supply.
According to one study (see here) the diversity of the microbes in water kefir include (but aren’t limited to):
L. nageliiSpecies Leuconostoc
L. mesenteroidesSpecies Acetobacter
A. orientalisSpecies Streptococcus
That’s a lot of probiotics!
So, here is how you can make your own.
I use a 1:1:1 ratio for measuring – 1 tbsp. water kefir grains, 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 cup filtered water. Do not use metal to measure, strain or stir your kefir as it can react and kill the probiotics and grains.
What equipment you will need:
- Nylon Mesh Strainer
- 2 1 Gallon Glass Jars (or 1 glass jar and Swing Top Glass Bottles With Stoppers for the second ferment)
- Water Kefir Grains
- Organic Turbinado Sugar (Do not use honey or sugar substitutes!)
- Spring Water
- Fruit or juice for flavoring
- Measure your kefir grains.
- For every tablespoon of water kefir grains you have, add 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 cup of filtered water in your glass jug. Dissolve the sugar in the water.
- Add your water kefir grains to the glass jug.
- Cover with cloth, unbleached cheesecloth, towel, or coffee filter, and secure it with a rubber band or string to keep insects out.
- Leave on the counter (preferably in a place around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit) for 48 hours to ferment. Don’t leave it longer than that without adding more dissolved sugar or it can starve your grains.
- After 48 hours, strain the water kefir grains through a nylon mesh strainer, nut milk bag or cheesecloth into your second gallon jar or your glass bottles. Don’t use a metal strainer.
- Restart the process with your strained grains by measuring your grains, dissolving sugar into water and adding it all to your first glass jar. (See step 1)
- To flavor your kefir or make it carbonated, add fruit or juice to the filtered batch in your second glass jar or glass bottles from Step 6. I have found that adding grapes or dates helps to carbonate your drink the most. Once you have added your flavorings, cover your jar or bottles with an airtight lid and leave on the counter for an additional 24-48 hours before drinking or moving to the refrigerator. You can drink it before 24 hours, however, if you do not want to wait for it to be carbonated.
- Repeat the process, drink up and enjoy!
Flavor Ideas (fruit and juices to add to your water kefir)
- Pineapple, mango, dates.
- Cranberry juice, cranberries, lime juice, mint leaves, raisins
- Apple juice, apples, strawberries, blueberries
For more information and recipes, here is a great book:
Image by Image By Simon A. Eugster (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons