What is Water Kefir?
Water kefir is a probiotic culture, or more simply, sugar water that’s been fermented with water kefir grains. The water kefir grains are not actually grains; rather a culture consisting of a number of strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast forming a symbiotic relationship. These “grains” grow and thrive together, fermenting water, or coconut water creating a fizzy, healthy drink.
Caring for Your Water Kefir Grains
When you first receive your water kefir grains they will need to be revived before they start fermenting and reproducing optimally. It may take 2 or 3 brews for the grains to start producing at normal levels.
Fill a glass jar, at least a pint size, about 2/3 full with spring water or boiled and cooled tap water. If you have to use filtered, distilled, or reverse osmosis water you will need to add 1/8 teaspoon unrefined sea salt or 1 teaspoon unsulfured molasses to replace the needed minerals.
Add about 1/4 cup sugar to the water and stir until completely dissolved. Any sugar will work, though water kefir grains perform better with raw organic sugar, sucanat, or rapidura. Never use honey, it has antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that will kill the water kefir grains.
Add your grains to the sugar water; cap the jar loosely and sit in room temperature, not in direct sunlight. Let sit for 48 hours to ferment, the grains most likely will not fully ferment the sugar water with the first couple brews leaving a sugary taste. When the grains have fermented the water it should bubble when you move the jar, and have a slightly tart taste.
After the 48 hours, strain the grains from the water with a fine mesh strainer, like this one. Do not use metal, it will hurt the grains. You may choose not to drink the water from the first brew, due to it being more sugary, and just pour it down the drain. However, you can drink it if you want, it will just be more sweet and slightly syrupy.
Rinse the grains lightly with tap water and put into a fresh jar of sugar water. Repeat the process every 48 hours to keep your water kefir grains alive and reproducing.
The finished water kefir will have a slightly tart, beer-like taste. You can make your water kefir more flavorful by adding juice, chunks of fruit, and/or herbs and doing a second ferment. By doing a second ferment you can create your own flavored probiotic “sodas”, that’s where the real fun begins, I will go into more detail on this in another post.
The amount of sugar used should be equal to the amount of grains you have, so as your grains grow and multiply you will have to add more sugar to the water.
Minerals are very important to keep your water kefir grains alive and active. As stated before if you must use filtered, distilled, or reverse osmosis water you will need to add sea salt, molasses, or a few drops of liquid minerals.
If you need a break from brewing water kefir, you can store your grains in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Just dissolve 3/4 cup sugar into 2 cups water, add your grains and cover tightly with lid. You’ll want to burp the jar every couple days to remove built up pressure. You can also dehydrate your grains and store them in an airtight jar for up to 6 months.