Water kefir is a fermented or cultured beverage that is very healthy for the digestive system. It contains a lot of friendly bacteria or probiotics that are needed by our gut for proper digestion and assimilation of the food we eat.
Kefir can be made using filtered water, coconut water, milk, or coconut milk. It is important to note that there are two different kinds of kefir grains – water kefir grains, which are lactose free; and milk kefir grains, which contain lactose. Water kefir grains can likely be found in your local raw food store and you can usually get milk kefir grains from a local health food store. If you know someone who brews their own kefir you could contact them. People who brew their own kefir usually have plenty of extra grains because the grains multiply or grow.. The Light Cellar (in Calgary) sells water kefir grains.
The kefir grains do not like metal, so it is best to use plastic, glass or wooden utensils / equipment. When brewing the kefir, use a paper towel secured with an elastic band to cover the opening of the jar. This will allow gases to escape during fermentation and keep insects out.
What about the sugar? The end product contains very little sugar (if any) because the grains live off the sugar, which uses it up. Ordinary white sugar and organic white cane sugar both work well. Coconut sugar is not recommended because it has a flavor of it’s own, it is high in mineral content and can over-mineralize the grains which can damage them. Honey is not recommended because it has anti-bacterial properties that interfere with the fermentation process. I have not tried using maple syrup because it is more expensive than white sugar, and I am quite happy with the results using white organic cane sugar. Here is a resource for the types of sugar that are best for water kefir: Cultures for Health
What is the finished beverage like? The brewed beverage will be slightly carbonated or fizzy and have a mild and pleasant (but not sweet) taste. The finished product should be less sweet than the sugar water you started with. Another sign of a good result is that the grains have increased or grown in number – sometimes they will double, and sometimes less than double. The grains are live and can be used over and over again limitless times.
What about the extra amount of grains? The grains can be refrigerated, without rinsing them first. I find it is best to add them to a water and sugar solution and store them in a covered glass jar in the fridge. I use 1 cup of filtered water with about 1 Tbsp of sugar. This keeps the grains healthy as they can still feed off the sugar, even though they are ‘dormant’ when in the fridge. When using the grains that are ‘dormant’: they can be used in exactly the same way as the grains that have not been refrigerated, except that it will likely take a couple of batches before the grains are totally back to normal.
Recipe updated October 9, 2017
Brewing time: 48 hours (2 days) at room temperature
Yield: 1.5 liters of water kefir
- 2 X 1.5 to 2 L glass jars (one to brew the kefir, and one to store the finished kefir in the fridge)
- 1.5 to 2 L glass or plastic bowl
- plastic fine mesh strainer
- wooden spoon
- plastic measuring cup(s) and measuring spoon
1.5 liters (just over 6 cups) of filtered water (bottled water is not recommended)
3 1/2 Tbsp white sugar – organic cane sugar, or ordinary sugar
1 slice of lemon, if desired (if the lemon is not organic – remove the skin but leave the white part)
3 Tbsp of water kefir grains
3-4 drops of liquid minerals
- In a 1.5 to 2 liter jar dissolve the sugar and liquid minerals in the water.
- Add the slice of lemon and the kefir grains
- Cover the jar with a piece of paper towel and secure with an elastic band.
- Leave it on the kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight, for 2 days. No need to stir the brewing kefir.
- After the 2 day fermentation period: using a wooden spoon remove and discard the lemon. Using a glass or plastic bowl and plastic strainer, drain the kefir and save the grains to use again. (the grains are alive and can be used over and over again). Pour the finished kefir into a glass jar.
- Refrigerate the finished kefir. It keeps about 5 days. Enjoy!
- Note: During fermentation, dried fruit can be added if desired. Not all dried fruit works well. These are the fruits that work well: 1 unsulfured dried apricot OR 1 small unsulfured slice of dried mango OR 1 dried black mission fig. Best to use a paper teabag or a small cheesecloth bag to hold the dried fruit – it becomes very soft and will fall apart when you are removing it from your kefir.
Bad smell: The kefir grains should not have a bad smell like something rotted or like smelly feet. This could be caused by using the wrong type of sugar, or by over-mineralization of the grains. If the grains do become smelly, they can be gently washed in a bath of filtered water (no additives) a couple of times. From there – they can be put into a sugar solution (same solution as used for fermentation) and put in the fridge to rest and rebalance / rehabilitate for 1 to 2 weeks. Or they can be used to make more kefir and they will regain their balance as they are used. Resources: Cultures for Health and the folks at The Light Cellar.
Syrupy kefir and/or mushy grains: Water kefir should not have a syrupy consistency. This can be caused by over-mineralization of the grains. The grains can be re-balanced / rehabilitated by gently washing in a bath of filtered water (no additives) a couple of times. From there – they can be put into a sugar solution (same solution as used for fermentation) and put in the fridge to rest and rebalance / rehabilitate for 1 to 2 weeks. Or they could be used to make more kefir and they will regain their balance as they are used. Resource: Cultures for Health and the folks at The Light Cellar
The Light Cellar – in Calgary
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