At our January meeting, Marina was kind enough to bring along some Water Kefir grains to share with the group. She sent us through some instructions on how to care for your grains and how to create healthy and tasty fermented drinks using them.
What is Water Kefir?
Water Kefir is a yeast/bacteria hybrid which feeds on sugar and produces carbon dioxide which we can use to create a bubbly drink similar to softdrink.
Because the Water Kefir feeds on sugar, the end drink is actually fairly low in sugar. It also contains various yeasts and bacterias (up to 56 different strains according to one study) which may be helpful for improving gut health.
The yeast/bacteria hybrid organism forms little colonies that resemble grains of rice, which is why they are called Kefir “grains”. Treated well, these grains will continue to reproduce meaning you will quickly have enough to give away to friends and family.
How Do I Make Water Kefir?
Water Kefir is a double fermented product, which sounds scary and time-consuming but really isn’t. The first ferment is to get the grains working. After that, the second ferment is for adding flavour and getting it nice and bubbly.
Because Water Kefir is a yeast/bacteria hybrid it is important that you use chlorine-free water. You can use either filtered water or allow your tap water to stand uncovered for 24 hours before using to allow the chlorine to off-gas.
The fermentation time will determine the taste of the finished product, so experiment until you find the fermentation time you like best.
- Combine 1/4 cup of sugar with 1L of water and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Add 2 Tbsp of Water Kefir grains.
- Cover and let sit for 24 – 48 hours. If you leave it more than 72 hours your grains will start to disintegrate so make sure you don’t forget about it.
- Strain through a cheesecloth to recapture your grains.
- Add your preferred flavourings (see options listed below).
- Cover and let sit for another 24 – 48 hours depending on how fizzy, tangy, etc you want the end product to be.
*Note – Water Kefir is not compatible with metal bowls or utensils as the acid produced by the Water Kefir can react with your utensils causing an unpleasant taste.
Second Ferment Flavourings
You can add almost any flavour you like, however we’ve put together a couple of options to get you started:
2 – 3 slices of ginger
1/4 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp honey (for fizz)
1/4 lemon, juiced plus 1/8 tsp zest
1/4 lime, juiced plus 1/8 tsp zest
*Note – If you want a fizzy drink, you must add sugar to the second ferment in some form.
Water Kefir grains don’t like to go hungry, so make sure you keep them well-fed with sugar water. If you are on a steady production schedule, this shouldn’t be a problem.
If you need to go away, you can “store” your grains as follows:
1 – 7 days – Place the grains in a glass and cover with water. Place in the fridge.
7 – 14 days – Place the grains in a glass with no water. Add 1/8 tsp of molasses. Place in the fridge.
14+ days – You can dehydrate Water Kefir grains, however, be careful not to let the temperature go above 38 degrees or the bacteria will start to die. Once dehydrated, place them in a freezer.
Stored grains may be a bit slow once you revive them, so you can refresh them by just covering them with water and adding 1 Tbsp of sugar.
Check every 12 hours for signs of fermentation. If no evidence is visible after 3 days, you can add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 tsp of molasses. Stir gently and check at 12 hours and 24 hours.
If there is still no sign of fermentation, your grains are dead and you will need to source new stock.