Table of Contents
What is Water Kefir?
Water Kefir Grains, also known as tibicos, Japanese water crystals, California bees or sugar kefir grains, are made from fermentation of sugar water, coconut water or fruit juice to produce a carbonated lacto-fermented beverage. These “grains” are composed of clusters of bacteria and yeast living in symbiotic relationship held together by dextran, a polysaccharide produced by Lactobacillus brevis. The bacteria and yeast in the grains utilize sugar to produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide and a small amount of ethanol. Water Kefir Grains are easy to brew and the starter culture can be used to create a new batch of kefir every 24-48 hours. With proper care and precaution, the culture can be reused endlessly to create dairy-free kefir with live active yeast and bacteria. Extra water kefir grains may be used as a starter culture for fermenting vegetables. This can also be used as a booster for making gluten-free sourdough starter. Water kefir grains are gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free, thus a perfect choice for those who cannot tolerate dairy or those who are gluten-sensitive.
As compared with milk kefir, water kefir tends to have a sweeter, slightly fermented flavour although most people prefer it to be plain. This can be flavoured using dried fruit, flavour extracts such as fruit juice or vanilla. Kefir grains need minerals and unrefined whole cane sugar supplies a rich amount of minerals. Refined sugar may also be used but distilled water is not advisable unless liquid mineral drops are added.
Water kefir grains are usually delivered in a dehydrated state to reduce chances of spoilage during transit. Prior to making the first batch of water kefir, the grains should be rehydrated . This generally takes 3-5 days.
Although most grains come in with instructions, here are the steps on:
How to activate dehydrated Water Kefir Grains
- Dissolve 4-6 tablespoons of sugar in 4 cups of hot water.
- Cool the sugar water to room temperature.
- Add the dehydrated kefir grains to the cooled sugar water and cover with a towel secured with a rubber band.
- Leave it for 3-5 days until the grains are plump. Do not let the mixture stay for more than 5 days.
- Generally, we do not recommend drinking the sugar water used to rehydrate the kefir grains since this contains large amount of sugar because the kefir grains spent their time rehydrating leaving sugar behind. In addition, the sugar water may taste unpleasant as part of the rehydration process as the bacteria and yeast which comprise the kefir grains rebalancing.
- Never use tap water. Tap water contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluorine which damage and kill the grains. Use non-chlorinated, filtered water. If only tap water is available, boil it to remove the chemical and let it cool before using.
- Fresh, dried fruit can be added to add flavour to the water kefir, usually after the initial 24-48 hours of fermentation and after the grains have been removed from the liquid. Make sure that dried fruit doesn’t contain sulphur dioxide.
- Never use metal utensils when handling live cultures such as kefir grains.
- Coconut water or fruit juices can be used to substitute sugar water.
- Store this drink in a refrigerator to slow down or stop the fermentation process and reduce the possibility of bottles exploding from too much pressure.
- Removing water kefir grains from finished kefir can be made easy by using a plastic mesh strainer or a cotton muslin bag.
How to make Water Kefir
- Dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in1 cup of water in a pot on top of a stove.
- Remove from the stove, let it cool.
- Add 3 cups of water. Mix.
- Pour this mixture into a jar and add another 1 ½ cups of water.
- If the sugar water is at room temperature, add 1/3 cup of water kefir grains.
- Add 4 drops of liquid minerals.
- Cover with a towel or coffee filter and secure the bottle with a rubber band.
- Leave it in a warm place to culture for 24-48 hours.
- Strain out the grains by placing a plastic strainer over jar and pour the kefir through it.
- Store the grains in a sugar water mix in the refrigerator or you may use them to begin a new batch of water kefir.
- For second fermentation, you may add grape or cranberry juice for extra flavour.
- This time, use plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar instead of a towel or coffee filter. This allows the bubbles to form and keeps out the air.
- Leave the fruit kefir covered for another 24-72 hours. Then strain out any fruit pieces and transfer into a clean container.
- Store in the fridge.
To make Cream Soda: Add 3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract to 2 quarts of water kefir after straining. Adjust the amount of vanilla to your taste.