How to grow & make water kefir

Kefir is one of the fermented foods that I drink every day (when I'm not traveling). It's really easy to make, and you can make just about any flavor you can think of! Water kefir is a delicious, probiotic-rich, dairy-free beverage your whole family will enjoy.

Here's an excellent web site with a video:
http://www.culturesforhealth.com/water-kefir

You can get water kefir grains from me, on Amazon, or from the web site above. They may come dry (dehydrated) or wet. If they arrive dehydrated, you need to rehydrate them first. To bring your grains 'back to life', just dissolve 4 to 6 tablespoons of organic sugar in about 4 cups of water. I use a quart Ball jar. Cover with a non-airtight lid (most screw-on lids are fine, not tightened) and allow to soak for 3 to 4 days until your grains are nice and plump. Don't let it sit for more than 5 days! Once the grains are rehydrated, you can begin brewing!

If you are not going to brew immediately, put the jar of grains with liquid in the refrigerator. When you are ready to make kefir, drain with a fine strainer (non-metal is best) and discard the liquid. Rinse the grains with filtered water (tap water can harm the grains) before starting.

It may take several batches before your grains get used to your environment. The first batch of water kefir might not have much activity (growth, bubbling), if any. This is completely normal. Keep in mind that your grains need minerals, so if you don't have a good alkalizing, mineralizing water filter, then add a dash of himalayan salt to each jar of kefir. Rapadura sugar is also excellent to add the minerals into your kefir (see my recipe below). These minerals help your grains function and properly metabolize the sugars you will be feeding them. Making water kefir is not an exact science, and it's best to experiment to see what works best for you and your grains. Water kefir grains function best on a combination of organic sugar and dried fruits, or a combination of organic sugar and less processed sugar (rapadura, molasses, black sugar). Three parts sugar to one part unrefined sugar is a good ratio to start with. If you add dried fruits (and I recommend this) such as apricots, dates or raisins, make sure they are unsulphured. A small handful per quart is all you need (a tablespoon is perfect).

NOTE: Never use tap water because it contains chemicals like chlorine and fluoride which will harm your grains. Most water filters will not effectively remove fluoride or other impurities. It's best to avoid contact with metal, as prolonged exposure will harm them. I recommend glass, non-BPA plastic or wood when handling your grains, to keep them safe.

Basic water kefir formula:

  • 4 cups water (filtered)
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar (I use 2Tbs rapadura, 2Tbs organic cane sugar; also, a combination of 2Tbs organic cane sugar and 2Tbs maple syrup works well)
  • 4 Tablespoons water kefir grains
  • Dash himalayan salt

For best results, boil the water first. Combine the hot water, sugars and salt and let the sugars dissolve (and the water cool to room temperature). Pour the solution in to quart jars or containers. Gently place the grains into the cooled sugar solution. Add raisins (or whatever dried fruit you prefer). Cover with a non-airtight lid, to avoid possible, but unlikely explosion as the carbon dioxide builds up, and allow to brew between 65 and 82 degrees for 24 to 72 hours. Cheese cloth or a non-bleached paper towel work great as a breathable cover. Place the jars on a counter, away from direct sunlight. When the kefir is done brewing, just strain the grains and fruit out and enjoy the beverage! Throw the fruit away. There is no need to rinse your grains between batches, but I usually do. Because you will be using filtered or distilled water, you need to add minerals. That's the reason for the himalayan salt. A small pinch of baking soda or calcium carbonate will help promote growth (although I've never used these). You can add a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses if you are having difficulties getting your grains active.

At final bottling (after brewing), you'll need an airtight bottle, like a swing top. This will help to finish the carbonation. Let it sit, bottled for 24 hours, then refrigerate it.

How do you know when it's ready to bottle? It will have a sweet, yeasty, slightly sour smell, like baking sourdough bread. If you have let it sit too long and it doesn't taste good, just rinse your grains and start another batch. When your grains become accustomed to your environment, they will start doubling in volume with almost every brewing! When the weather is warm out, it takes much less time to brew and carbonate - 24 hours to brew, and 24 hours or less sitting out after bottling. In cooler months, it may take 48 or 72 hours to finish brewing. Be sure to refrigerate before drinking, because it will be very fizzy, like champagne, and could explode upon opening! (Ask me how I know this!)

Other tips: Use coconut water instead of filtered water (you don't need to boil this), for all or part of the water in your kefir. When bottling, you can flavor it any way you like, with flavored extracts or juices. I usually add 1-2 ounces of grape juice or cherry juice, and some crystallized ginger. You can add fresh lemon or lime juice, mango puree, or just about anything you can think of! Experiment and see what you like best.

Have fun!