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 of 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!)
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.
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 (a local 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.
- GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals and Fermentation eCourses also have lots of ideas for other flavors.
- I recommend buying water kefir grains at Cultures for Health.
- An important note: 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.
A Little Background on Kefir
Water kefir and milk kefir are both probiotic beverages, fermented drinks that deliver healthy bacteria to your system.
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
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!
What to Put in Kefir?
When I first started making kefir, I learned quickly that juice is the best option.
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. Nowadays though, I usually use lemon.
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 pour the finished kefir into your storage container. If you don’t want your next batch to have the same ingredients, it might be worth experimenting exactly how to keep the water and kefir grains separate from the other ingredients.
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!
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. Buy milk or water kefir grains at Cultures for Health. 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.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Cultures for Health, Amazon and GNOWFLINS from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. Cultures for Health sponsored this post but all opinions are my own. See my full disclosure statement here.