Water kefir is a pleasantly fizzy and sweet drink, that is more soda-pop-like than kombucha. It is also MUCH easier to make than kombucha.
I have to say that the hardest part about making water kefir was getting my hands on the water kefir grains. They don’t reproduce as much as milk kefir or kombucha does. And most online sellers were in the USA. In the end I got them through a contact of a friend, who gave them to my mom, who finally brought them to me.
Yes it was complicated.
But it was TOTALLY worth it!
Water kefir basics:
1. Beyond a shared name, water kefir is not at all the same as milk kefir, and you cannot use it to culture dairy (and vice versa). My water kefir is slightly brown due to the molasses in my mix. They are generally clear if cultured in straight sugar.
2. Water kefir basically needs to eat sucrose (sugar, molasses, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup). You cannot use high fructose sweeteners (agave, rice syrup) or sugar substitutes.
3. Later this week I will post on making sugar-free water kefir.
4. Like all SCOBYs (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) it needs to be cared for. You will have to follow all the Fermenting Basics, as well as make sure that you regularly feed your water kefir.
5. To keep your water kefir grains healthy and happy, you will need to culture water kefir at least once a week.
6. Water kefir can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks in a fresh culturing solution, but it is best to only store it for 1 week before finishing off the fermentation at room temperature.
- 3 tbsp water kefir grains
- 4 cups of filtered water (chlorine-free)
- ¼ cup of sugar (molasses, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar)
- 1 tsp of molasses (required mineral source if you are using white sugar)
- Flavour additions (see below)
- Bring ¼ cup of water to a boil, and use it to dissolve the sugar and molasses.
- Add in the remaining 3¾ cups of water, to cool it to room temperature.
- Place the sugar-water solution in a glass jar with the water kefir grains, and cover with a cloth to keep bugs out (I use a square of cotton fabric secured with my mason jar ring).
- Allow to ferment on the counter for 24-36 hours depending on your room temperature. The water kefir will become darker, and slightly cloudy. It will be a bit less sweet, though still quite sweet (not sour like kombucha).
- Strain the water kefir grains out, and flavour the water kefir for the second fermentation (see below).
- Store the finished water kefir in a sealed bottle in the the fridge. It should become fizzy within a few days. If you want it to fizz faster, then leave it out on the counter overnight. (This is considered the 2nd fermentation).
-Finished water kefir will build up carbonation. Store it in plastic pop bottles, or swing-top bottles that can handle the carbonation pressure.
Water Kefir Flavours (for 2nd fermentation):
Juice: Flavour the water kefir by adding 1/3 parts of juice to 2/3 parts of kefir. I don’t recommend acidic juices because they end up with weird floaty bits. Clear juices, like blueberry, apple and pomegranate make nice sodas.
Herbs and Spices: You can add spices directly to your second fermentation. Fresh ginger is particularly nice. Herbs are best added as a tincture. Make a tincture by brewing up a strong tea (like mint) then mixing it with the water kefir.
Dried or Fresh Fruits: You can use any dried or fresh fruits that you have on hand. Dried raisins or prunes will result in a soda that tastes like Dr. Pepper.
Direct mixes: Some flavours are best when mixed right before drinking, like citrus juices (lemonade, orangeade), vanilla extract (cream soda) or pineapple juice. However, you could add orange zest or a sliced vanilla bean directly to the second ferment without any issues.