Let me just start by saying: Water Kefir is awesome! I love it. I am a carbonated drink girl. I used to drink tons of soda and wanted to stop. I tried tons of different options, but always missed soda. Even if you aren’t interested in the health benefits of water kefir, think about the expense. The cost of water kefir is a fraction of the cost for soda!
Water kefir is a probiotic, which means its full of healthy goodness. There are tons of whole food probiotics out there: yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and miso are just a few. Check out Wise Geek’s page for a complete description on what is a probiotic and what foods are probiotics. We try to eat at least one probiotic food a day (the more the better). When we feel run down, I amp that up to a few a day. It’s not hard for us to have yogurt in the morning, a pickle for lunch and miso or kimchi with dinner. If people around you are sick, one of the best preventatives is to eat probiotic foods. Yes, you can take a probiotic vitamin/pill, but usually those only contain 1 or 2 probiotic bacteria; whereas, foods contain multiple ones.
Water kefir are microorganisms that form grains and is one of the best probiotics because it contains so many different probiotic bacteria. It’s high in vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. It’s particularly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, B2 and B12 vitamins, vitamin k, vitamin A and D. For more info on all the benefits, check out . It has cleansing properties, can help aid digestion, and keep you regular. All from drinking something that’s similar to a soda!
The most well known probiotic drinks are milk kefir or kombucha. Lately, I’ve been seeing milk kefir pop up in supermarkets near the yogurt/milk section. You can use milk kefir grains to make water kefir, but it will not be casein free. The grains will not propagate – whereas, water kefir grains almost double each time you make a batch. Kombucha is often available in the refrigerated juice section. It’s becoming more readily available and I know people who’ve even grown mothers from store bought kombucha. For the most extensive info on kefir, check out Dom’s water kefir website. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of milk kefir or kombucha. They are just a little too tangy for me. I wanted a drink that I found refreshing, plus subtle enough to be able to give to my kids. I have a step son and tons of friends that are gluten free/casein free and I also wanted them to be able to drink it.
These are directions to use a gallon jar. I use a gallon jar – as I like to make 1-2 big batches each week, instead of smaller batches. A gallon jar of water kefir will decant into 3 bottles. The advantage is less time, but continually using your grains will give you a much fizzier drink. Even our one batch a week has plenty of carbonation, but there are those that want super fizz! If you want a smaller batch, use a 1/2 gallon jar and half the recipe below.
12 cups filtered water – (no tap water, can’t have chlorine)
1 cup water kefir grains
1 cup sugar – brown sugar, raw sugar or refined white sugar, or non-refined dry sugar-cane juice such as Sucanat, Rapadura, Demarara or Jaggery etc. or a combination [Important, if using brown, raw or white sugar, include 1 Tsp black strap molasses]. I use Sucanant or Rapadura.
dried fruit (most recipes suggest a dried fig and a few raisins, see below for more ideas)
1/4 tsp baking soda (must be sodium bicarbonate- not baking powder that contains aluminum)
1/4″ piece of eggshell (or 1/4 tsp coral calcium) – do not half this, if making a smaller batch
Pour water and sugar (again, I prefer Sucanat or Rapadura), and baking soda into the jar. Stir until dissolved. Pour in the water kefir grains. I put all of the dried fruit and eggshell in a stainless steel tea strainer for easy cleanup, but this isn’t necessary. Otherwise, you’ll be picking out fruit and eggshell out of the kefir grains when you decant. This is not rocket science. You can mix it up a little. Try different fruit – I’ve used raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, figs, dried apricots, etc). Some recipes suggest adding a slice of organic lemon (do not use conventional – the pesticides will kill the kefir grains). Water kefir is very forgiving. Just don’t sub or change out the sugar. It’s the sugar that causes it to ferment and grow. I have also forgotten the baking soda and/or the eggshell…it doesn’t get as fizzy, but it’s still good – and I don’t recommend omitting them…just know that it does work!
Leave the jar on the counter, in room temp for at least a day. I prefer leaving it out for 2 days. I know mine is ready because of the amount of grains that have multiplied and there are grains floating at the top. The color is also much lighter, as most of the sugar has been “eaten” by the grains. You can taste the beverage, it will already be sweet and fizzy.
At this point, you decant. I use a strainer that fits in my funnel. I decant into pretty glass bottles that you can buy at container/kitchen type stores. But we have been known to get a 6 pack of beer with the pop tops, too. When I decant, I add “flavors” to mine. I love, love strawberry and just recently tried peach. For easy bottle cleanup, I only use the juice from fresh fruits (you can use 100% fruit juice to make it easier). I fill the bottle about 1/4″ full of juice, then add the water kefir liquid. When I use strawberry, I puree the strawberries then strain it into the bottle. You can mix juices, but I tend to stick with one juice per bottle. I have used lemon, peach, strawberry, and orange…and they were all yummy.
When you decant, do not fill the entire bottle! You must leave room for it to expand. It’s a carbonated drink and you don’t want it to explode or fizz up when you open the bottle. I usually stop about 3-4″ from the top of the bottle. Some people leave the bottle on their counter for an additional day to continue brewing, but I put mine in the fridge at this point. You can technically drink it immediately, but I like to give it a day to rest and mellow out.
The grains will have doubled at this point. You can store them in a jar with filtered water and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar (better to use Sucanat/Rapadura/Demarara or add a little molasses to the sugar) in your fridge. The grains can stay in the fridge unused for weeks. I’ve stopped making water kefir for a month, gone back to it and the grains work fine. If it’s been awhile, the first batch is usually a bit weak, but the next batch is back to normal. I have also heard the longer it’s been since you used the grains, when making the next batch – just leave out on the counter for 4-5 days and it’ll be just fine. You can also freeze or dehydrate the grains, though I haven’t done this.
When I decant, I make several jars with a cup of grains in them. If you are like me, you will try to find people who want your extras. After hitting up all your friends, consider posting them on freecycle, I’ve even seen people seek out grains on there. You can also compost the grains, too. The grains are great for your compost and will even help keep the fruit flies away!
If you’re near San Jose, come to one of our HMN San Jose meetings, I’m always there with jars of water kefir grains to give away!
This is truly one of the best beverages I’ve had and I hope you try it.