{diy project} Water Kefir

I’ve been doing some pretty interesting kitchen chemistry experiments as of late. Glass bottles full of mysterious liquids topped with paper towels and rubber bands populate my kitchen counter. Lucky house guests get to try my creations, and most seem to like them. It all began when I got water kefir grains from a friend. These fermented drinks are good for you, tasty and, can revolutionize your intestinal health!

So, what is this kefir, you might ask?

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Kefir is a fermented probiotic beverage created by kefir grains feeding on a sugar source. Kefir grains are a bacterial yeast culture, similar to sourdough starter. Water kefir grains, which look like translucent crystals, feeds on the glucose in sugar or maple syrup.

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Kefir is full of probiotics, B vitamins, and minerals. It is inexpensive, and easy to make, though kefir grains are a bit like house pets, as they require feeding every 24-48 hours.

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The process for making water kefir is as follows:

  1. In a glass jar, combine a sugar water solution of one quart water to one quarter cup sugar (some substitutions can be made, such as maple syrup, brown sugar, or sucanat, but avoid honey, as its antibacterial properties could kill the grains) and mix well. I use filtered water, though the ideal water source has been debated, as tap water can provide minerals but chlorine can affect the grains.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of kefir grains.
  3. Dried fruit (I like to use 2 prunes) and lemon juice can be included to add minerals to the kefir.
  4. Cover the jar with a paper towel and rubber band, and leave the grains at room temperature for roughly 24-48 hours (the optimal time will depend on your kitchen temperature and humidity, though the fermented kefir should taste less sweet than the sugar water solution you began with).
  5. After the first ferment is complete, strain the kefir using a plastic strainer, and place the fermented kefir into another glass bottle, tightening it with a lid, and storing it at room temperature. Thus begins the second ferment, which will allow the kefir to become naturally bubbly. Juice, fruit, or other flavorings or extracts can be added at this stage. However, I like to keep my kefir bottled plain and then add a splash of juice when I’m ready to drink it, as I find it becomes vinegary if left to ferment with the juice, as the cultures in the kefir continue to feed on the sugar in the juice. The finished kefir can also be refrigerated or bottled using Grolsch-style bottles.
  6. With the strained grains, begin a new batch of sugar water solution.
  7. The kefir will become more fermented and less sugary over time, so if you like a less sweet and more vinegary taste, you can let the second ferment last longer. Water kefir is generally less than 1% alcohol, but the longer it ferments, the more alcoholic it will become. In my house, we don’t let it sit longer than a few days.

When gifting/swapping grains:

Package 2 tablespoons of grains in sugar water in a small glass or plastic container with an airtight lid. Since the small amount of sugar won’t be enough to feed the grains for more than a day, recipients should either stick the container in the fridge until they’re ready to begin fermenting or to put the grains in fresh sugar water that day

I swapped Christina for a jar of her mustard at Sunday's FSC Food Swap.
A Swap with Christina: a jar (2 TBS) of my Water Kefir Grains for a jar of her Black Pepper & Honey Mustard at Sunday‘s FSC Food Swap.

For more information:

Cultures for Health is a good source for more information about water kefir, and here are some good water kefir recipe ideas.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Jenna C. says:

    I got a wee jars of those babies at Swap too. Just started my first batch this morning! Thanks, Betsy!

    1. BETSY says:

      Your moose munch was delicious Jenna!

      1. Jenna C. says:

        Awesome!

  2. katienare says:

    I’m a new water kefir mom. I’ve had it for less than a week. my last batch i let let for more like 60 hours (bad mom) and it got almost cheesy smelling as well as FIZZZZZY.
    How much is ok to drink in a day? How can i slow down the process? fridge?
    Great post, Betsy!

    1. BETSY says:

      Thanks Katie! I’ve let mine sit for 60 hours before without consequence, so you should be fine – mine is usually fizzy as well. You can’t really slow down the process unless you want to take a hiatus and put the grains in the fridge, though I guess if there is a slightly cooler room in your house that might take a bit longer to ferment, but it is really meant to be fed every 2 days or so to keep the grains healthy. I don’t know how much is ok to drink in a day – I don’t really think there’s a limit unless your intestines tell you so :)

    2. Tony carl says:

      I drank 3 quarts a day to start with because I was so ill. I still drink 2 quarts a day, it keeps me out of pain from fibromyalgia and slows down arthritis pain, and IBS is gone. I was practically bedridden from pain for two years w my gut, and Dr s on my solution was surgery. Side isn’t healed all the way, but I’m improving daily, so I panic at the thought of no kifer…so I keep brewing it. 😊

  3. Tammy says:

    I have fallen in love with this stuff. My latest favorite is kiwi.

    1. BETSY says:

      Yum Tammy! Do you put fresh kiwi in – the first or second ferment? Exciting!

      1. Tammy says:

        I have done it both ways but my best batch is fresh on the second round.

  4. Natasha says:

    I’ve been enjoying making my water kefir with either white sugar and a teaspoon of molasses or 1/4 cup maple syrup with a small lemon wedge and a date. My whole family lives this stuff, even the toddler. I notice that on occasion I get a bubbly tummy and cramping associated with it so I slowed down my consumption but now I’m upping my consumption again and not having any negative effects.

    1. BETSY says:

      That’s great Natasha!

  5. Hi, Betsy! It’s important for people to know that this stuff can become explosive if left to sit unopened in a Grolsch-type bottle a little too long. I did this once, and ended up spraying the drink over every surface in the kitchen before I got the bottle to the sink. But I love using this kind of bottle, because I can drink just a half-cup over several days, while the drink retains its fizziness. I’ve found that the water kefir take a couple of weeks to go flat and sour.
    Linda Ziedrich, agardenerstable.com

    1. BETSY says:

      Good point Linda! I’ve not used Grolsch-type bottles, but it is always a good idea to burp it every couple of days if it’s in an air-tight container…

  6. Pingback: How to make Yogurt
  7. Jennie says:

    Can I use the same grains that I use to make dairy kefir to make water kefir?

    1. BETSY says:

      Jennie – sadly, you can’t. The grains are different, and feed on different types of sugars.

  8. Quick question. In step #5 above, should I cover it with a paper towel again or with a solid lid?

    Thanks!
    KK

    1. BETSY says:

      Cover the fresh sugar water and grain solution with a paper towel again, and put the strained fermented liquid in an airtight container so it can get fizzy…I hope that makes sense!

  9. Diana says:

    Hi Betsy, thanks for the article! Years ago I used to make dairy kefir, and am interested in getting back into it, but wanted to try water kefir this time around. I live in Albany and work in Saratoga – any recommendations on where I could get some starter crystals locally? Thanks! :) Diana

    1. BETSY says:

      Diana – people sometimes bring kefir grains to swap at Fromscratchclub food swaps, so you could try there. You also might check with friends – some of them might have some to share with you!

      1. Diana Matheson says:

        Ok, thanks! ;) Diana

        Sent from my iPhone

  10. anyakaramelka says:

    Just wanted to ask you guys, my kefir all the sudden has a bad smell, which makes the drink “undrinkable” ……I wasnt doing anything new with it, so I have no Idea what to do now!!! Use glass jar, purified water, sugar….
    Should I let the grains rest? Split them? Too hot for them?

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