What is Water Kefir?
Water kefir is a fermented, cultured drink made using kefir grains and water. Kefir grains are living organisms consisting of a combination of bacteria and yeasts. Their origin dates back to the Northern Caucasus mountain region where shepherds discovered that fresh milk left in leather pouches would ferment producing a tasty, carbonated drink. The grains (which grow and multiply just like any real living organism) were treasured as they could preserve and enhance milk. It is even thought that the longevity of Caucasian people was due to kefir; the word 'kefir' even comes from the turkish language and means 'long life' or 'good life'. This is why I want to share with you how to make water kefir!
There are both water kefir grains and milk kefir grains - mixing the two is not advised as each strain of microorganism has its own requirements i.e. milk kefir grains need dairy milk and water kefir grains need water (and sugar).
I am yet to explore the realms of milk kefir making so this post focuses only on water kefir, which is quick and easy to make!
How it works
The water kefir grains, which resemble frog spawn, are mixed with water (ideally dechlorinated water) and sugar and left for 24-48 hours at a warm/ambient temperature. The bacteria and yeast, which make up the grains "feed" off the sugar through fermentation. Fermentation is the breakdown of sugars by bacteria and yeast in the absence of oxygen producing organic acids (such as lactic acid), organic gases (carbon dioxide) and alcohol.
Kefir produces a probiotic rich (fizzy) drink which is why regularly drinking kefir can have a positive impact on your gut. The fizz comes from the fermentation process as carbon dioxide is produced. The end result is a light and delicious gut-friendly beverage.
How to make Water Kefir
- 1 litre jar
- Elastic bands
- Non-metal sieve
- Screw top/flip top bottles (I use an old flip top one I acquired from a restaurant)
- When you receive the grains, use within 24 hours as they are alive and need feeding!
- Add the grains to a clean, dry mason jar
- In a separate jug mix the water and sugar (the coconut sugar gives the grains much needed minerals to stay healthy)
- Pour the sugar water mixture into the jar with the grains
- Add any extras (e.g. 1/2 organic lemon and slice of fresh peeled ginger)
- Place the cheesecloth over top of jar and seal with elastic bands
- Leave for 24-48 hours (the warmer the environment, the faster the fermentation process)
- Test after 24 hours, if it is still sweet - leave longer, if it has that delicious, tangy taste then it is ready. You should also see bubbles emerging from the bottom of the jar.
- Remove any extras, such as the lemon and ginger, then strain the mixture through the non-metal sieve into a jug
- Decant the liquid into the screw top/flip top bottle, close the top and leave out for another 24 hours to let the fermentation process continue (this is where more carbon dioxide gas is produced giving the drink that delightful fizz)
- "Pop" the bottle after the 24 hours and either place in fridge or enjoy over ice!
- Repeat process adding more sugary water solution to the grains and have a continuous daily supply of delicious water kefir.
This guidance comes from Happy Kombucha who sell fermentation kits and give lots of good advice! The grains and other fermentation products are all hand grown and quality assured.
Tips to keep your kefir happy
- The grains will grow and multiply so you can gift some grains to anyone who wants to start making water kefir, or blend up extras in a smoothie for an extra probiotic kick. Keep the ratio to 4 tablespoons grains : 1 litre water : 1/4 cup of sugar for happy grains
- You can use any sugar, organic is preferred, but those 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar give the grains the minerals they need to stay happy.
- DO NOT use honey as it has antibiotic properties and will harm the grains.
Have any extra tips to make water kefir? Or have you decided to try your hand at the above recipe? Please share all with us @wildenest using #wilde4theworld :)