Though water kefir is healthiest and happiest when cultured in straight sugar water (see water kefir basics) it is possible to use water kefir grains with other sweet liquids. It is also possible to flavour water kefir during the first fermentation.
Rules for experimenting with water kefir grains:
1. Either only use your extra grains (in case they die) or refresh you culture in the sugar-water solution after every experimental ferment to keep your grains healthy.
2. Don’t expect the second fermentation to be as fizzy if you haven’t cultured in sugar.
3. Still follow the basic rules for water kefir.
Water Kefir Variations:
Honey: Heat 1/4 cup of filtered water, and 1/4 cup of honey on the stove, and bring to a boil to pasteurize the honey. Then mix with 3 3/4 cups of filtered water and cool to room temperature. Use this honey-water solution as the sugar-water solution for the basic recipe.
Coconut Water: Mix 2 tbsp of water kefir grains with 4 cups of coconut water and ferment on the counter for 24-48 hours.
Juice: Mix 2 tbsp of grains with 4 cups of clear juice (grape, apple, blueberry) and ferment for 24-48 hours. The fruit sugars will result in a slightly alcoholic beverage, so it’s not recommended for children (this isn’t as much of an issue when juice is added to the second fermentation). I don’t recommend trying other juices (orange, pineapple, etc) as they result in weird floaties, and may be damaging to the water kefir grains.
First Ferment Additions: In general it is best to flavour water kefir during the second ferment. Adding fruits or other herbs and spices to the first ferment may damage the water kefir grains. However, organic lemons, organic raisins (no oil) or organic figs can be added to the first ferment without hurting the grains.