I think it’s time to tell you about one of my other favorite probiotic packed beverages: WATER KEFIR.
You’ve seen me talk a lot about kombucha, but the truth is I’ve been making water kefir longer than I’ve been making kombucha. I was first introduced to water kefir during our time in Guatemala as the local fermented food and beverage company produced a peach tibicos that I loved. It was yummy but definitely tasted different from kombucha. After a few bottles, I figured it was time to Google to figure out what the heck I was drinking. Turns out tibicos is another word for water kefir which didn’t really answer any questions for me because I had never heard of water kefir either.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir (or tibicos) is a cultured beverage. It’s made by adding water kefir grains to sugar water and allowing to culture for 1-2 days. Water kefir grains are little symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast that feed on sugar water. I should note that they aren’t really grains in a traditional sense and there is no gluten involved. The word grains simply refers to their size and shape.
Why should I drink water kefir?
Water kefir contains probiotics. Probiotics can aid in digestion and boost your immune system as they help your body improve the health of your gut microbiome. Plus, water kefir is a fizzy and tasty beverage! It might just be the key to help you kick your soda habit for good!
What does water kefir taste like?
Plain water kefir doesn’t have much of a taste. I would describe it as slightly sweet with an earthy and yeasty finish to it. While it’s totally fine to drink as is, it’s much more fun and yummy to flavor it. You can flavor with fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, juices, herbs or spices. Let your imagination run wild.
Why drink water kefir instead of kombucha?
Personally, I drink both. However, I tend to notice more of a digestive benefit from drinking water kefir. Here are a few reasons why you might prefer water kefir over kombucha:
- It’s a shorter process. Water kefir takes 1-2 days while kombucha generally takes 10-14 days.
- No caffeine. Kombucha is tea based so it contains caffeine. People who avoid caffeine or are sensitive to it cannot drink kombucha. Water kefir is water based and does not contain caffeine. This makes it a good choice for kids, water kefir is said to be nature’s soda!
- It’s not tart. Many people do not care for the tart or vinegary flavor of kombucha. Water kefir is completely different; it’s slightly sweet and generally tastes like whatever you flavor it with.
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How do you make water kefir?
To make water kefir, you’ll need:
- Glass jar
- 3 tablespoons water kefir grains
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 cups spring or filtered water
- tight-weave cloth cover or coffee filter with a rubber band
- fine mesh strainer
1. Add 1 cup hot water and all of the sugar to the jar
2. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved
3. Add 3 cups room temperature water and stir to combine
4. Check to make sure water temperature is between 68-85 degrees F. If too hot, allow to cool before adding grains.
5. Add in 3 tablespoons of water kefir grains
6. Cover with coffee filter or other tight-weave cloth and secure with a rubber band
7. Allow to culture at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Mine tends to take 48 hours as I live in a colder climate.
8. After the water kefir is finished culturing, remove the grains from the liquid by filtering with a fine mesh strainer over a glass measuring cup. You’ll want to prepare another batch of sugar water as described above and add your grains to start the culturing process again. You’ll have finished water kefir every 24-48 hours!
At this point, the liquid in your measuring cup is water kefir and it’s ready to drink! Alternatively, you can flavor and bottle it (my preferred way to drink it).
My favorite way to flavor is by adding fresh raspberries when they are season.
However, I often use organic cherry juice as it’s easy to find at my local Super Target any time of the year. I add approximately 3oz of juice and then fill the rest of a 16oz bottle with water kefir, cap and allow to sit at room temperature for 48 hours. During this 48 hours, the water kefir will feed on the sugar from the fruit juice resulting in carbonation. Water kefir can become explosive very fast so I recommend ‘burping’ the bottles a few times during this 48 hours. To do this, simply open the tops briefly and close them back up. After 48 hours move the bottles to the refrigerator for a cold, fizzy and refreshing drink.
In the beginning you may start to feel overwhelmed by needing to attend to your water kefir every 48 hours. If you feel like you need a break, you can prepare the sugar water, add the grains, put a lid on the jar and store in the door of the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Just don’t do this too often as it may cause your grains to weaken and go dormant. I usually save this for when I am going to be out of town.
A few more notes about making water kefir
The grains don’t like metal so this is why I recommend using a fine mesh plastic strainer.
Your grains may multiply over time. To maintain your 3 tbs grains to 1 quart water ratio, simple measure out 3 tbs and eat the rest. I usually blend them up in a smoothie but I’ve also just eaten them with spoon. They don’t taste like much of anything but give you a nice punch of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.
I prefer to reuse store bought kombucha bottles for bottling. Like I mentioned, water kefir can be REALLY fizzy as it carbonates quickly. When I use the swing top cap style bottles I often get too much carbonation and it takes a few minutes to slowly and carefully open the bottle (or if I forget, I have an explosive mess). So if I have the option, I use old screw cap kombucha bottles as they make opening much easier (and cleaner).
Like other fermented and cultured food and drinks, spring water is the best choice. Spring water contains minerals which make the water kefir grains happy. If tap water is the only option, be sure to remove the chlorine by boiling before using.
Where to buy water kefir grains?
If you know someone who makes water kefir, ask them if they to share their grains with you. If not, they are available purchase online. I actually just had my mom purchase these water kefir grains and she has reported they are working great for her.
Have you made water kefir? What is your favorite way to flavor it?
Can you re-use the kefir grains after the batch is ready or do you start with new? Thanks!
Hi Lorene- You can reuse the kefir grains over and over again. Just be sure to try to keep an approximate ratio of 1/4 cup grains to 4 cups water. Your grains may multiply overtime so you’ll want to rebalance the ratio from time to time. Let me know if you any other questions!
Having a job to work out the ratio of water to sugar – how many millilitres in a cup? (I am in the UK)>
Hi Rosemary!My conversion table is telling me approximately 236 ml in one cup. Hope that helps you.
When I purchase kefir I look for lemon/cayenne. I really like it for keeping me awake on a long drive–pretty hard to get bored on a trip with that drink. However I cannot find that flavor anymore and have had to settle for lemon/ginger, which is okay, but once you get your heart set on one, it’s hard to switch. Where can we purchase the grains? Would a health food store sell them, maybe? (Hope! Haha!)
Hi Katharine, Yes! I have seen them at health food stores in a dehydrated form. You can also get them on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Dlj608
Can we make a bigger batch,like 2 gallons container?I make 2 to 4 gallons of kombucha every week and would like to switch to water kefir,as I am getting a bit tired of the sour kombucha taste. I am pretty sure my kids would like it too. I love fizzy drinks and I believe that the 2 bottles of kombucha I drink every day is a bit too much.Thank you.
Hi Ann! Yes, it is possible to make larger batches, but the amount of grains may need to be increased based on the amount of liquid being used. I agree that switching up drinks helps with keeping things fresh! And based on the taste, flavored water kefir is definitely more palatable for kids from what we have heard. Good luck! 🙂
Do you use spring water from the store along with white cane sugar? Also, is it necessary to add some sort of mineral source everytime (ive seen some recipes where they add raisins and prunes)?
Matt & Alana
We have used fresh spring water, spring water from the store and boiled tap water. All will work just fine for you. For sugar, we use organic cane sugar. We have not found the need for a mineral source though we have read the same info as you. So far, our grains work as normal. If they were to slow down, I would look into adding a raisin in.
Wondering if alternative sugars would work for this kefir.
Do you know? Have you heard? Did you try any other alternatives yourself?
I’m considering an AIP diet for myself while helping a friend prepare to reinvolve herself with her AIP efforts that got detailed during a move…