Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How I Make Water Kefir, One Year Later {Video}

February 2nd, 2013 · 41 Comments · Do It Yourself, Recipes

I can’t believe I’ve been making water kefir for over three years already.

That’s a long time!

I’ve changed my method a couple times, and after I posted the how-to video for water kefir last winter, I got some new advice and quite quickly changed my method again. (My water kefir grains are Cultures for Health brand, by the way, and have lasted that long, more or less! You can get them at Wise Choice Market or Natural Leavening.)

For this fermented theme week, I thought I’d share a new video of how I make and flavor water kefir now:

If you can’t see the video above, click to see the how to make water kefir video on YouTube.

Video Notes

I always include a few notes for those of you who don’t have time to watch videos (although this one is really short, just over 2 minutes):

  • I have ditched the bag since last year – I just pour off the finished kefir, leave the grains swimming (no strainer or rinsing) and add 1/4 c. sugar, some mineral drops, and de-chlorinated water.
  • My Berkey takes the chlorine out; you can also just leave a jar on the counter, uncovered, for 24 hours to let it evaporate.
  • I used to “season” it only with concentrated cherry juice (looks just like this one on Amazon but a different brand, from Traverse City, MI) – now I alternate with organic lemon juice from Costco. It’s about $8 for two large bottles, which last months each, and there are zero added ingredients. I prefer the lemon; my daughter still loves the cherry. The cherry juice has the added benefit of a hefty dose of antioxidants.
  • I do a “second ferment” on accident most of the time, since I leave the finished kefir on the counter and we don’t drink it all right away. That depletes the sugar content of the added juice even further.
  • For full “how to” and more flavoring options, see the first “how to make water kefir” post. Here is last year’s video with the bag method. GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals and Fermentation eCourses also have lots of ideas for other flavors.
  • Buy water kefir grains at Wise Choice Market or Natural Leavening.

How to Make Water Kefir :: via Kitchen Stewardship

A Little Background on Kefir

Water kefir and milk kefir are both probiotic beverages, fermented drinks that deliver healthy bacteria to your system.

As Tiffany mentioned in yesterday’s dairy kefir post, kefir has quite a few more strains of probiotics than yogurt, which makes it a powerful tool for immune-boosting and digestive health.

As it turns out, water kefir has a similar arsenal:

  • 32 strains of bacteria from 5 different species
  • 12 kinds of yeast from 5 different species

You can see a list of all of them HERE…Try fitting THAT on the side of a yogurt container!

A lot of people ask me, voices literally dripping with curiosity, “But what IS water kefir? What are “grains?”

Here’s the explanation from Cultures for Health:

Originating in Mexico, water kefir grains (also known as Sugar Kefir Grains) allow for the fermentation of sugar water or juice to create a carbonated lacto-fermented beverage.

I usually say, “It’s fermented water,” which gets me more quizzical looks. I have to add, “I add sugar to the water, which gives the bacteria something to consume, and they ferment the water by adding good probiotics. Then I can flavor it with juice.”

Health Benefits of Water Kefir

How to Make Easy Water Kefir :: via Kitchen Stewardship

Ultimately, no matter how easy it is, WHY bother making kefir in the first place?

For us, it’s a way to offer choices other than “water or milk?” for our kids at mealtimes. Besides that, there are a lot of health benefits to water kefir source:

  • probiotics – more than yogurt
  • active yeast – which yogurt does not have and balances the system similarly to probiotics
  • B vitamins
  • folic acid
  • may boost immunities
  • may improve digestion

As far as “why are they called GRAINS,” I don’t know the answer, but they have nothing to do with grain, the food group, like wheat, oats, etc. The little globules are colonies of yeasts and bacteria. When I call them “the little guys” my friends kind of laugh uncomfortably, since it sounds like I am keeping pets in the kitchen. And I am, sort of. I feed them, they feed us!

Do you “kefir”? What kind? How do you flavor your water kefir?

Buy Cultures for Health milk kefir grains at Wise Choice Market or Natural Leavening OR water kefir grains at Wise Choice Market or Natural Leavening. Here are CFH’s instructions to make water kefir, if you’d like a second (and different) method.

As part of a detox diet, pair kefir with bone broth for super duper health benefits.


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Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Wise Choice Market, Natural Leavening and Amazon and GNOWFLINS from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • Stacy @ Stacy Makes Cents

    Dairy kefir = love
    Water kefir = not so much

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    They’re totally, totally different beasts, for sure. I need to try making dairy kefir, even if every darn time I type it it turns out diary!! ;) Katie

    Stacy @ Stacy Makes Cents Reply:

    Ha! I thought I was the only one who did that.

  • mollyb

    We’ve been making and drinking water kefir daily for 2 years now. We have grown to love it au naturale… flavorings added. It’s as simple as can be that way and so refreshing. Even our 6 kids enjoy it without anything added. We like it so much that even when we travel…..we bring our kefir so we won’t have to go a day without it. :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That is awesome!!

  • Tina Savasuk

    Was thinking about trying this. I would love to know how the taste compares to kombucha.
    Any comments?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I haven’t had a lot of kombucha, but there’s that undertone “fermented” that is similar, for sure. If you like kombucha, you’d def. like water kefir. If you don’t like kombucha, there’s still a chance you would like kefir, flavored the right way! :) Katie

  • Karen

    Dairy kefir doesn’t appeal to me at all, but water kefir does. Problem is that I have not been able to find the grains in Canada. Cultures for Health can’t ship them here. I’m not giving up hope yet, though.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I just had a reader from Australia email about this place: because they would ship internationally. Worth a try! :) Katie

    Karen Reply:

    Thank you! I’ll check it out.

    Ken Reply:

    I live in Alberta and have Water Kefir Grains to give away.

    Karen Reply:

    How wonderful, I’m in BC. And I’m interested.

    Katie, can you put us in touch?

  • Molly

    I learned yesterday that the bucha at the farm market was much more vinegary than the “store bought” brands which are sweeter and would probably appeal to more people. We make water kefir at home and have for years. We drink a glass everyday with dinner. I don’t do much added flavorings but we fill a glass half full of kefir and top it off with sparkling waters.

  • Gabreial W.


    Does water kefir have little bits floating in it sometimes, like “baby grains”? My kefir is never clear there is always something floating around in it after the first day it is cloudy. Is this normal? Thanks!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Yes! You’re right, especially after that “second ferment” for 24 hours, there’s usually a film on the top. I think it’s just little pieces of kefir grains. Pretty typical in ferments of all kinds. :) Katie

  • Donna

    Perfect timing! I got some dairy kefir grains from the farm we get our raw milk from (it helps that my bro who lives with us works there!), so I will be starting that tonight.
    I’ve been talking about trying water kefir for over a year now, but hadn’t taken the plunge yet… I got online to go find the website and saw your blog, so I was able to get the discount too. Yay!

  • Wendy C

    Hi Katie, thank you for another great post! I would like to know how long these grains last. Same for the dairy kefir grains. Thank you!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Dairy kefir grains multiply, so you’ll have enough for you and your entire neighborhood for a really long time, maybe forever, as long as you take care of them. Water kefir grains can multiply but don’t always; I used the same ones for almost 3 years, then I think I killed them and just got some from a friend and started over. But with proper care, you’ve got a very long time on the same grains. :) Katie

    Wendy C Reply:

    Thanks, Katie. So what happens when you go on vacation? Do you have someone babysit your kefir grains?! ;) I just got my package from Cultures for Health, but I’ll be going out of town soon. I think I’ll start making kefir drinks afterwards.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    For a week, they stay in the fridge just fine, fed with sugar before leaving. Longer than that and I’m usually with family so they come along! :) Katie

    Wendy C Reply:

    Your kefir grains are well-traveled! Thank you for your help.

  • Andrea

    I’ve made dairy keifr before but have yet to try water kefir. I definitely want to give it a try. Cultures for Health has great products so I think I’ll head over to do a little shopping!

  • Stefanie

    Hi Katie :) Just curious, what minerals are you using, ie: what brand and where would I find them? Thanks!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hi Stefanie,
    I use the exact brand I linked to at Amazon, because that’s what Wardeh at GNOWFGLINS told me to use. ;)

    Right here:

    :) Katie

  • Kerri

    I am starting water kefir this week! They are hydrating as I type! Can’t wait. We are a booch family so I am excited for a change.

  • Lisa via Facebook

    oh, drat! was hemming and hawing, yes! the bone broth posts were enough to keep me overwhelmed as is! ; )

  • via Facebook

    Oh, shoot! sorry gals!

  • Heather

    I really appreciate your blog and all the helpful information you provide and inspiration to move our families towards natural health, thank you!
    I just started my water kefir last week and have my second finished batch in the refridgerator. I was wondering if you have had any experience with (or your readers) with very stinky gas when starting kefir on an otherwise non-probiotic tummy? Thanks so much!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That’s very interesting…I would not have noticed on myself, BUT gas can be a sign of bacteria “die-off” which is actually a good thing, but a sign that your body is detoxing a little, which means you had/have some imbalance. Hopefully it won’t continue indefinitely though… ;) Katie

  • Lovie

    I have been making water kefir for almost a year now. My grain seem to be doing fine (and even survived a move). However I haven’t been able to get them to multiply. There is just a small batch sittin gin the bottom of the jar. I recently moved to making a half gallon at a time, 1) because we drink so much and 2) to see if that would encourage them to grow. Any suggestions?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mine never multiply either – water kefir grains don’t as much as dairy kefir, I understand. You might not be doing anything wrong! :) Katie

  • Ken

    My kefir grains double in about 4 days. What I use is hard well water and raw organic coconut sugar.

  • stephany

    Katie, I am working on my 2nd batch of water Kefir and am wondering I use Berkey water do I need to add minerals?
    I can’t find an answer anywhere:)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I don’t think you’d need them, no, but I ended up using some because I don’t always use sucanat, so the grains were happier. Berkey water should be fine for water kefir grains without additional minerals.
    :) Katie

  • Caitlin

    Hi Katie, Thank you for the video- this def makes the water kefir process much easier for me. I must be over thinking the process making it more complicated than it really is. I am ready to start culturing again after having the grains in the sugar water in the fridge for a very short time. Do I now dispose of the water they’ve been sitting in and culture them in a fresh batch of sugar water? When you add your water to the sugar covered grains, are you using room temp water? I have well water from the tap or filtered out of our fridge- what’s the best way to go? Thank you for baby stepping me ; )

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’ve found the grains to be very resilient – for example, we just got home from a full 8 days away. I had made fresh sugar water and put it in the fridge the whole time, so I figure it’s probably at least half fermented. I’ll either just drink it or leave it at room temp overnight and then drink it – no need to toss the liquid. I use room temp water just because that’s always what I have, but I doubt the grains will mind either choice. Maybe try one for a week, then the other and pay attn to see if the fermenting is any different (although room temp may change a lot and impact it, too). Have fun with it and good luck! :) katie

  • Susan

    Katie, I know this is an older post, but I know you’ll have an answer to my question! I’m trying to incorporate kefir water and other cultured/fermented foods into my diet. Unfortunately, I can’t stand the taste of kefir water (even with flavorings). Do you have any suggestions for incorporating kefir water into other foods? I would think that heating/baking it would destroy its beneficial organisms. Can I use it to inoculate homemade yogurt (I’ve seen info about using milk kefir to make yogurt but I’ve just got water kefir grains)? Can you recommend any cold-prepared recipes that would benefit from water kefir? Thanks so much for your help!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    You’re right, you’d kill it if you bake with it. Some folks go as much as 1/3 or 1/2 juice, but I know, there’s still a certain taste to it. I really don’t know about the yogurt, but what about fermenting things like guacamole and mayo with it? A Tbs. in a batch should work, then 7-12 hours or so on the counter. Or honestly just incorporate it into a smoothie. I don’t think you’d be able to taste it there…? :) Katie

  • Beth

    How is the taste? I can’t stand dairy kefir or the good belly probiotics juices.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    It’ll all depend on how much juice you add – you might dislike it if you don’t like other fermented drinks. My kids love it, but my husband recoils visibly if he smells it. :) Katie

  • Stacia

    I have to share how my family drinks kefir so fast. I’ve been drinking the water for a couple years but my family didn’t care for it unless I put it in a smoothie to disguise it. Everyone loves it as kefir pop. After the water kefir is done I mix the water with a juice concentrate then let the quart jars sit on the counter for 18 hours, then refrigerate it for a few hours. It becomes just like a pop with all the fizzy goodness. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it but I don’t smell or taste the yeast now. It’s delicious and a treat for the kids since we don’t drink pop.

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.