Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How to Make Water Kefir: An Easy Rhythm

September 29th, 2009 · 25 Comments · Do It Yourself, Recipes, What to Buy

kefirAre you brave enough to culture your water yet?

I can’t believe I’m saying this after my mediocre review last week, but this water kefir thing is really growing on me. I actually like it!  My husband thinks I’m crazy, but both kids are sucking it down like it’s a major treat, and I’m happy with all the probiotics we’re getting.  Read on for the rhythm I’ve discovered for keeping up with making kefir and the way we “flavor” it now so that I enjoy drinking it daily.  Plus a great freebie for you!

More Taste Test Dummies

My sister-in-law was brave enough to try some water kefir last weekend.   (She’s no dummy, I’m just punning away in the heading.)  She reads the blog, so when I offered, she said, “How old is it?” and then, “I hear Lovey Girl loves it but my brother thinks it tastes terrible.”  She had some mixed about 2/3 kefir, 1/3 blueberry pomegranate juice.  The verdict?  “It smells terrible, but it doesn’t taste too bad.”  Her husband said it’s not something he would order on purpose!

That being said, many “healthy foods” take some getting used to.  Shucks, a lot of people make themselves get used to things like beer and coffee after despising their first taste, so why not water kefir?  It’s grown on me…

What to Put in Kefir?

Juice.  You’ve got to use juice.

A few people said that they put a cup of blueberry pomegranate juice in a quart of kefir.  I thought, “I’ll never buy blueberry pomegranate juice.  It sounds exotic and expensive.”  Then I ran into some at Meijer.  It WAS expensive, but it was on clearance, so I sprang for it.

This little botle was still $3.00, even at 50% off!

This little bottle was still $3.00, even at 50% off!

I used to add it half and half with the kefir, but I’ve gotten so that I pour a glass of water kefir over ice and add – literally – just a splash of the juice, and it suffices.

I asked this morning at breakfast if anyone wanted cider-kefir for a beverage.  Poor husband nearly choked on his scrambled eggs.  “You kefired our cider???”  Apple cider is one of his favorite parts of fall.  :)  I assured him that his cider was safe; I just add it to the kefir glass by glass.  It tastes like watered down cider with a little fizz.

I was encouraged when a reader commented that only 20% of the sugar is left in the kefir.  Still more sugar than I’d consume in water, but a very tiny amount overall.

Other Water Kefir Recipes

A reader recommended this recipe (for a 1/2 gallon, I believe):

* 1/2 lemon (peeled if not organic, cut into chunks)
* 2 TB raisins
* about 2-4 TB chopped fresh ginger (not exactly sure of amount)
* about 4 fresh apple mint leaves

You put all this in while it cultures and strain out the solids when you take the kefir grains out.

Apparently it tastes a bit like ginger ale.  I’m excited to try it when I get my hands on some fresh ginger, although I doubt I’ll spring for mint leaves.

Kelly the Kitchen Kop, who is much more of a pro at making the “kefir soda pop” than I, has some cool photos of her bottles and her successful recipe.

Refined Vs. Unrefined Sugar

Kelly also says that the less processed the sugar, the more fizz you’ll get.  I bit the bullet and purchased my first “evaporated cane sugar” (that’s just organic white sugar) and “palm sugar” this week.  This is a serious commitment:  whereas I can get 5 lbs. of white sugar for $2, this stuff was $3 and $5+ for a pound, respectively.  Yikes.  I opened my first jug of kefir made with the new sugar last night: “Psssssst!”  It had some serious carbonation!  The fizz is a LOT closer to soda pop.  Admittedly, that’s pretty fun!

Here’s how the palm sugar makes the kefir look:

It looks like cider!  Palm sugar is dark stuff.

It looks like cider! Palm sugar is dark stuff.

Getting into the Rhythm

Here’s my process for making kefir, after you follow directions for rehydrating the grains.

  1. Leave a quart of water out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate.  (I have city water.)  You could also whiz it in a blender or boil it, but I’m all about lazy.
  2. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the water, cap and shake until dissolved.  (Again, you can use a bit of boiling water to dissolve the sugar, then add it to room temp water, but I choose simplicity.)  Sometimes I have to shake, then wait, then shake, but I’m always doing something else in the kitchen, so no big deal.
  3. Put kefir grains into the jar.  If you can get a muslin bag to hold your grains, it is so much less work when it’s time to take them out.
  4. Cover with something breathable:  I use a coffee filter, but you could use cheesecloth or a cloth napkin or thin washcloth.  Secure with a rubber band, or the ring of a canning jar.
  5. Leave at room temperature for 24-48 hours.

kefir in a row

See my lineup?  From left to right, there’s the finished kefir sitting out for a day, the fermenting kefir grains for 2 days, and the water evaporating the chlorine.  I get this water ready every time I move the grains, so I don’t forget.

The water kefir rhythm:

  • Day one: pour a jar of water
  • Day two:  add sugar and kefir grains, pour a new jar of water
  • Day four:  move kefir grains to new sugar water, cap finished kefir, pour a new jar
  • Day five: move finished kefir to fridge
  • Day six: repeat day four and so on!

I would recommend keeping a little checklist of the dates you start and finish the kefir.  It starts to get confusing as to when the stuff is done!

You can use the kefir grains for a half gallon or a quart, either way.  I think the grains I thought I killed with the Powerade have been revived, so I can make a half gallon at a time if we could keep up drinking it!

An important note that should be added to the water kefir instructions: When you don’t want to make kefir for a few days or are going on vacation, you can “hold” the grains in a bit of fresh (non-chlorinated) sugar water in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.  You could also put the finished kefir with the grains in it right into the fridge if you’re short on time to transfer grains.

Are you ready to take the plunge yet?  You can reuse the grains indefinitely, so in the long run, this is a pretty frugal investment and really stretches the juice, if your family drinks juice with breakfast anyway.  Find water kefir grains, sourdough starters, yogurt starters, and more at Cultures for Health.

This post is part of Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.  What ELSE is twisting in my kitchen this week, you ask?

  • We were blessed with an extra gallon of raw milk, so I made my first attempt at homemade mozzarella cheese!  It worked, but it’s really bland.  Suggestions?
  • Tried a homemade baked bean recipe.  So-so reviews, so I’m still looking for the family stand-by.  Maybe someone will link one to the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods this week!
  • Pizza on the Grill.  If you have one more warm weather day, you must try this!  I did 100% whole wheat and it worked great.  We made the last one with leftover refried black beans, homemade fresh salsa, jalapenos and Mexican cheese.  Seriously yummy.
  • Freezing and dehydrating lots of Farmer’s Market Peppers.
  • Roasted red peppers for the first time.  Those smell sooooo good!
  • Dehydrating tomato slices.
  • I captured yeast!  First sourdough recipe:  Whole Wheat Sourdough Crackers.  Hubby actually said they taste a little like Cheez-Its.  Total success!
  • Sarah is such an amazing chef:  we tried her Sourdough Focaccia, Best Ever Minestrone, and Fire-Roasted Pico de Gallo this week.  Oh, my.  Yum-a-licious!
  • Froze kale cubes for green smoothies.
  • Tried black bean brownies.  Awesome option without flour.
  • Roasted a pastured, organic chicken that was just slaughtered the day before.  I hit up the farm on the last day for “Fresh Chicken Saturdays!”  Mmmm…
  • Made a big pot o’ homemade chicken stock – three birds’ worth!  Finally figured out the trick to making it gel…More on that next week when the Super foods carnival theme is broth/stock!
  • Cultured butter…this stuff takes way longer than it should!  I need a better method!
  • A batch of homemade pesto for the freezer.

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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

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25 Comments so far ↓

  • Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS

    Great, Katie! I have not tried the blueberry-pom juice, but we have tried grape juice. Also, I really like doing date-vanilla or date-raisin. All in all, I agree that the WK has to grow on you, but we are loving it! Thanks for sharing in the Twister.
    .-= Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS´s last blog ..Peanut Butter Bites – Cinnamon Rolls – Cinnamon/Raisin Swirl Bread (Tuesday Twister – 9/29/09) =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Diann @ The Thrifty Groove

    I have not tried this yet. Interesting!
    .-= Diann @ The Thrifty Groove´s last blog ..Free Recipe Booklets from Gooseberry =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cole

    I had never heard of this and have to say that I am fascinated!

    Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Cole´s last blog ..Tuesdays At The Table – Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Bread =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jes

    I would love to get my hands on some Kefir to try this stuff! Right now we’re on a kombucha kick! Have to try mixing that with the blueberry/pomegranite! Sounds sooo good!

    Jes
    http://findingtrueserenity.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/homemade-pineapple-zucchini-bread/
    .-= Jes´s last blog ..Audrey’s Glass Willow Giveaway! =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jen

    I ordered the grains a few months ago, afer reading Cheeseslave’s post. They’re still in the package… must rehydrate! :)

    Recently I received milk kefir grains, and a beautiful kombucha scoby from a sweet blogger, who loves to share cultures with strangers. That is enough to keep me busy for now. Once I have my rhythm there, I’ll add in water kefir!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Melayla

    Thank you so much for all this first hand information! I keep rereading your posts and catching stuff I didn’t see the first time (like how your friend thinks it smells like sour milk! I was thinking the same thing and have been so scared to drink the kefir, even though it tastes good to me lol).

    Been enjoying your other posts as well – thanks for the great blog!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mary C.

    Okay, I have a question. I have some kefir I made last week with just cherry juice. There is stuff floating on the bottom, like sediment, but I don’t think it’s quite solid….is that ok to drink? normal? is it too old? It tasted great yesterday, so I don’t know….
    I had been making half a gallon, because that is what the people I got my kefir grains from said to do, but I think it’s too much, since only my daughter and I will drink it.
    Thanks!
    .-= Mary C.´s last blog ..Price Matching, Coupons and the importance of checking your receipt =-.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Mary C.
    That is exactly one of the Qs I asked Julie at Cultures for Health. It’s totally normal, a byproduct of fermentation w/ the grains. You refrigerate it, right? I switched to making only a quart, too. You use the same amount of grains if you’d like, no problem. I also have been just putting the finished kefir into the fridge, grains and all, if I haven’t finished the last batch yet. So far, no problems! It’s a lazy way to keep up with the grains when we’re not going through it quickly b/c we don’t have the right juice to mix in.
    Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • JulieVW

    I’ve been thinking about this kefir “thing” ever since you first posted, and have saved up enough grocery money to order some grains!

    However, I looked at the CFH starter kit and see that they have mesh strainers included (but as best as I can tell from your post, one doesn’t need a strainer if one has a muslin bag – is that correct?)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Julie,
    I didn’t use a strainer. I would recommend just buying the grains, seeing if you can get a bag (Julie at CFH would probably work with you on that!) and using jars you have on hand. Does that make sense? I’m always the frugal gal! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Brenda

    Hi! A friend gave me some water kefir grains earlier this summer and I just found your water kefir posts where you mentioned apple-mint and choco-mint plants. Where can I get some of those? Are they as easy to grow as the other mints? I’ll actually be coming to Grand Rapids, MI (from MN) this weekend (10-16-10 to 10-17-10) are you close to there?
    Oh, I was wondering if you’re still looking for a good baked bean recipe.
    BTW, your blog has been very helpful, Thank you!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Brenda,
    I don’t actually have those plants; another reader recommended the flavors. Mine is just “normal mint” but we’re liking the water kefir a lot with just mint and lemon. (I am in Grand Rapids, though.) :) Katie
    PS – yes, I never did tackle baked beans this summer. Too much going on!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Michelle Reply:

    Brenda,

    I have grown chocolate mint, and it’s extremely easy to grow! It actually tends to take over, so I would plant it in a pot or something that won’t let it spread. I believe apple mint is similar. I get my plants at an herb festival usually, but any good greenhouse should have these in spring.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Getting Organized – Fall Cleaning « Laundry on the Line

    [...] revitalized my kombucha and kefir, and prepared the ingredients for making sourdough muffins and fruit and nut bars tomorrow [...]

  • Ronnie

    Many cities have switched from using chlorine to chloramine to purify their water. Chloramine doesn’t evaporate when you let the water stand.

    I use a reverse osmosis filter to get rid of the chloramine, though there are drops that neutralize chloramine. They keep the water from killing fish, but adding more chemicals to my drinking/cooking water doesn’t sound good to me.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Ronnie,
    Thank you for the info! We really have to keep on top of things, eh?
    Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lorie

    I started using my grains with milk, do you think I could switch them to makeing water kefir now? Also, if I’m on a casein (dairy)-free diet, do you think my grains are always going to have casein in them now?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Lorie,
    There are actually different grains for water kefir and milk kefir…sometimes I’ve heard of people who have success in switching them over, but I have never done it myself. You’d want to consult more of an expert like Julie from Cultures for Health, or just buy water kefir grains to be sure. good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jenni

    I started with water kefir about a month ago. I am LOVING it! I make mine with sucanat so it almost tastes like tea. But a couple of days ago I dropped some fresh ginger slices in it after I removed the grains. YUM!

    I also shared grains with a friend who is allergic to tea and she’s VERY pleased to have an alternative. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jenifer Harrod

    I have really enjoyed reading this post and have learned some things too. God Bless!
    Come visit us at: http://www.gaarlicmom.blogspot.com

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Liz

    I have a very beginner question… you put the whole bag of grains in the new drink then take it out, rinse it and reuse? It was hard to tell from the video. I’m sure the instructions with the grains will help but I am perplexed as to how to reuse the grains right now :) Thanks! Love your site. ~Liz

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Liz,
    The whole bag goes in with the water and sugar, then wait 24-48 hours, and then the bag comes out, pour the finished drink into another container (or put the bag in another container) and repeat. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Adventures in Water Kefir | Modern Alternative Mama

    [...] Kitchen Steward on Kefir Making [...]

  • Stacie

    I wrote the abbreviations for the days of the week around the rim of the coffee filter on the fermenting water. Since I always let the water ferment for 48 hours, I have a very small clip that I place over the day of the week that it is done. So, if I place the grains in sugar on Monday, I place the clip on Wed. That way I don’t have to write anything down and never have to remember what day my kefir water is ready!

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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