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.Actually, the hardest part about making water kefir is finding the grains. They don’t reproduce as much as milk kefir or kombucha does, so getting them from a friend is difficult. However, you can always buy the grains online.
Water kefir basics:
- 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.
- Water kefir needs to eat sucrose (sugar, molasses, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup). You cannot use high fructose sweeteners (agave, rice syrup) or other sugar substitutes. However, here is how you can culture low sugar water kefir.
- Like all SCOBYs (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) it needs to be cared for. To keep your water kefir healthy and happy, you will need to feed your grains at least once a week.
- Water kefir can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks in a fresh culturing solution.
- 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 not as sour as 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.
- Second fermentation is when you take the fermented water kefir liquid and allow it to continue fermenting without the grains to build up carbonation. This is the best time to flavour your beverage.
- Water kefir will continue to build up carbonation for at least a few weeks. Store it in plastic pop bottles, or swing-top bottles that can handle the carbonation pressure.
- To prevent contamination, keep everything clean and follow the Basic Rules for Fermentation.
Flavours (for 2nd fermentation):
- Juice: Flavour water kefir by adding 1/3 part of juice to 2/3 part of kefir. Avoid acidic juices (like orange and pineapple) because the water kefir creates 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 an elixir. Mix herbal elixirs like juice, 1/3 herbal elixir to 2/3 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.