Water kefir is a pleasantly fizzy and sweet drink, that is very soda-pop-like. Here is everything you need to know to make water kefir at home.
Water kefir is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts that feeds on sucrose (white sugar). It is the sweetest of all the fermented beverages. It’s also extremely easy to care for.
Probably the hardest part of making it is finding the grains. They don’t reproduce as much as milk kefir or kombucha, so getting them from a friend might be difficult. However, you can always buy the grains online.
How to Care for Water Kefir
It is really easy to make water kefir. And it is ideal for anyone who wants to break free from a soda pop habit. Here’s everything you need to know about caring for your grains.
What kind of sugar
Water kefir grains feed on sucrose. However, they also need minerals and nutrients to thrive. Here are a few notes about the types of sugar that can be used:
- Don’t use high fructose sweeteners (agave, rice syrup), honey, maple syrup, or other sugar substitutes.
- Brown sugar and panela both contain the necessary nutrients to feed the grains.
- If you’re brewing with coconut sugar or raw sugar, then you’ll need to add molasses or dried fruit (as indicated in the recipe) to provide the necessary nutrients. Using a mix of coconut sugar and raw sugar will result in a sluggish and overly sweet ferment. This is probably the #1 reason why most people struggle with making water kefir.
- Avoid using regular white sugar. It contains preservatives to keep it bright white. Unfortunately, these will also slow the fermentation.
- It is possible to make low sugar water kefir, as long as the grains are occasionally fed sucrose as well.
How often do you need to brew?
Since water kefir is bottled every 2 to 3 days, it is very easy to end up with a lot of pop. Luckily, it’s easy to take a break.
- The grains can be stored in a fresh mix of water and sugar in the fridge for up to three weeks.
- However, to keep the grains healthy and happy, it’s best to brew kefir at least once a week.
Here’s a method that works well for me:
- After bottling, place the grains into a fresh sugar, molasses, and water mixture.
- Cap with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 7 days.
- After 7 days, take them out of the fridge and exchange the lid for cloth. Leave the grains to ferment for another 2 to 3 days, until it is ready for bottling.
A few more details
- Milk kefir is an entirely different culture. While both grains are symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast, water kefir cannot be used to culture diary.
- There’s no need to rinse your grains between brewing. In fact, it’s quite likely that your tap water is chlorinated, so rinsing the grains is likely to harm them than help them.
- Unflavored water kefir can be used as a culture for other ferments! Try sweet cucumber relish or fermenting strawberries. Or make a quick sourdough starter.
How to Make Water Kefir
Water kefir is a pleasantly fizzy and sweet drink, that is more soda-pop-like than kombucha. It is simple to brew at home for a zero-waste and probiotic beverage!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 cups 1x
- Category: Beverage
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- 3 1/2 cups of water (chlorine-free)
- 1/4 cup of raw sugar
- 1 tsp of molasses or 1 Tbsp raisins
- 3 Tbsp water kefir grains
- Flavors for the 2nd ferment
- Measure the sugar, water, and molasses or raisins in a quart-sized (1 L) jar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add in the water kefir grains. Cover the jar with a cloth or coffee filter held in place with a rubber band or jar ring.
- Allow to ferment on the counter for 24-36 hours. The speed of the ferment will depend on the temperature. The water kefir is ready for bottling when it has started to bubble. However, it won’t be as bubbly as other ferments.
- To bottle the water kefir, strain the liquid into a bottle that can handle the buildup of carbonation (see notes for details). I find this is easiest with a funnel that has a strainer built-in.
- Place the grains in a new batch of sugar water to brew. See the section above for details on how to take a break from water kefir.
- The bottled water kefir should become fizzy after 24 to 48 hours at room temperature. If you find it too sweet, allow it to continue to ferment for up to 7 days. Just pop the bottles every 2 days to prevent over-carbonation.
- Store finished water kefir in the fridge and consume within 4 weeks.
- Water kefir will continue to build up carbonation, even in the fridge. Store it in plastic pop bottles, or swing-top bottles that can handle the buildup of carbonation.
- Water kefir can be flavored at the time of bottling. Feel free to mix water kefir with juice, brewed tea, or other flavors. To carbonate properly, it needs a mix of 2/3 water kefir to 1/3 flavor.
Keywords: probiotic, simple, soda pop, summer, spring, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, caffeine free
Hi, I have bee using coconut sugar with black strap molasses to make my water kefir, without a problem.
I am researching whether or not I can use just molasses, or just maple syrup. A couple of sources claim that either of these could “damage” the grains. Have you any experience that can shed some light on this?
Hi Tamara, Water kefir feeds on sucrose. Coconut sugar is about 80% sucrose, so that is why your water kefir is healthy and happy. Honey is low in sucrose (about 5%), so not ideal. Maple syrup is around 90% sucrose, so it should be fine. Molasses alone is only about 50% sucrose, so you probably will need to occasionally feed your water kefir with sugar to keep it healthy.
As for damaging the water kefir grains, I don’t think maple syrup will be a problem, unless it has preservatives in it. There are even organic preservatives that will harm cultures. Unfortunately, small amounts of “natural preservatives” aren’t required to be labelled on an ingredient list. However, the label “Preservative Free” does REQUIRE that the product be preservative free. (My son is allergic to sulfites… so I’m well informed about preservatives!)
how to produce low alcohol water kefir bcs many studies reveal that alcohol is damaging to liver?what we can do to reduce or produce non alcohlic beverage from kefir
Water kefir is very low alcohol. At best, it’s only about 1%, which probably won’t harm your liver as much as drinking alcoholic beverages. However, if you want to avoid alcohol all together, then you probably won’t be able to make a sparkling beverage. The sparkle is made when yeast converts sugar into CO2 and alcohol. If you want to avoid all alcohol, then I recommend sticking with bacterial cultures, like yogurt and vegetables for your probiotics.
This is amazing! Though the grains were a little hard to find.
Do you know if it’s ok to use distilled water for water kefir or is dechlorinated tap water better because of the extra minerals? Also, the ph of my water is about a 9 or higher, do you know if that would affect the fermentation? Thanks very much for your help!
Hum… this is the first time anyone has asked me this. I think that distilled water is fine as long as you include molasses or raisins to provide some minerals (not just coconut sugar or panela). Try brewing a batch and see how it goes! Water kefir is not a very vigorous ferment (meaning it’s always a bit slow) so be sure to give it a week before deciding whether it worked. I would LOVE to know! So if you test it, please share your results.
In general, ferments do better as they acidify, which is why I think distilled water is probably better than alkaline water. Cheers!