Water kefir is a mild and sweet probiotic beverage. It is the most soda pop-like of all the fermented drinks. Here’s how to flavor water kefir using tea, juice, herbs, spices, and flavor extracts.
How to add Flavor to Water Kefir
Kefir grains need a mix of sugar, water, and molasses to be healthy and vigorous. While it is possible to brew water kefir with juice and other flavors, it is not recommended for more than one or two batches.
In addition, certain flavors, particularly citrus or pineapple, may harm the water kefir grains. That is why flavors are typically added during secondary fermentation.
Secondary fermentation happens after the grains are removed from the liquid.
In the case of water kefir, secondary fermentation happens because there is some yeast and bacteria that remain in the liquid after the grains are removed.
However, it is much less vigorous than primary fermentation. So it’s important not to dilute the liquid too much or it won’t properly carbonate.
Here are a few ways to flavor water kefir, either at the time of bottling or stirred into individual drinks.
The best way to flavor water kefir is with highly concentrated flavors so that you don’t have to dilute the brewed liquid too much. Sugar can also be added for secondary fermentation, however, it’s not necessary for carbonation. And really should only be added if you want a sweeter beverage.
Here are 6 ways of adding flavor to water kefir:
- Mix 1/3 juice to 2/3 water kefir at the time of bottling.
- Stick with clear juices, like blueberry, apple, and pomegranate. (See berry water kefir in photo below).
- I recommend avoiding acidic juices (like orange and pineapple) because you will end up with floating bits of yeast.
- If you want a citrus flavor add the zest of lemon, lime and orange instead.
2. Tea or Coffee:
- Tea and coffee can be added to water kefir at the time of bottling. Brew double strength cup of tea or coffee and let it cool to room temperature.
- Mix 1/3 tea/coffee with 2/3 water kefir.
- I recommend flavoring coffee water kefir with vanilla to add a bit of creaminess.
- Herbs are best added either as a double strength herbal tea or an elixir. This is the best way to ensure a really concentrated flavor.
- Mix herbal tea and elixirs just like juice, 1/3 tea to 2/3 water kefir.
- I really enjoy a mix of mint and lemon balm (see photo above).
- Whole spices can be added directly to the bottle. Use about 1 Tbsp of spice in a 3 cup batch of water kefir.
- Fresh grated ginger and turmeric can also be added to water kefir.
- Avoid ground spices, which lack the necessary intense flavor. They also tend to contain sulfites, which will slow down the fermentation.
- I like apple juice kefir with cinnamon, cloves and alspice.
- Dried or fresh fruits can be added to water kefir. Use about 1/4 cup of dried fruit and 1 cup of fresh fruit in 3 cups of water kefir.
- Personally, I recommend using juice (see above) over fresh fruit, because it’s easier to clean out the bottle afterward.
- Raisins have a natural Dr. Pepper style flavor. (See photo above).
6. Flavor Extracts:
- The simplest way to flavor water kefir is with natural flavor extracts. Think beyond vanilla! There are all sorts of flavor extracts, including peach, rootbeer, and lime.
- Add 1/4 tsp of flavor extract per cup of water kefir. So 3/4 tsp in a typical 3 cup batch.
- Alternatively, use a whole vanilla bean (see photo above). Slice it in half before putting it in the bottle for a delicious cream soda flavor.
- The best thing about using flavor extracts is that they can mixed in at the time of serving! Then everyone can choose their own flavor.