Hi, I’d like you to introduce you to happy, bubbly WATER KEFIR! A delicious, effervescent, fruit-infused water, full of healthy probiotics, that heal the gut, clear the skin and energize the whole body. AND THE BEST PART…..IT’S SO EASY TO MAKE at home! And in my humble opinion tastes WAY better than Kombucha, with so much less fuss.
I hadn’t heard of water kefir until a friend of mine, Bee (from H is For Love), introduced it to me a few months ago, and since then, I’ve been crazy, head-over-heels in love with it. Here’s a easy guide to help you get on your way to making this delicious drink at home!
It is similar to kombucha in that it’s lightly fermented, but it is made with water kefir “grains,” that actually come from a cactus. So not only is this a dairy-free probiotic, it’s gluten-free. And even the the grains are “fed” with sugar, very little sugar ends up in the finished product. The kefir grains actually metabolize it out!
There are so many versions to make….. the possibilities are endless! The first photo above was made with concord grapes. And here is Strawberry Water Kefir with Chia Seeds- energizing and refreshing!
During a normal day, right around 2 pm or 3pm, I get what I call “the sleepys.” I hit a wall and my brain shuts off. Normally I’ll make a cup of green tea and muscle my way through it, but lately I’ve been having a glass of water kefir, and I feel so refreshed and awake after drinking it.
It takes about 3 days to make, with only 5 minutes of prep time. You can flavor and infuse it how you like, adding your favorite seasonal fruits. During the summer, infuse with fresh strawberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums or peaches. During fall, I’ve been infusing this with pears, apples and concord grapes. You can add ginger, and other spice flavorings. It’s simple to make and actually a really fun process – most of all, a natural, healthy way to get your probiotics.
This is Bee. She came over a while back and walked me through the simple steps to make water kefir– which I’ll share with you here. It’s so easy! Beside the water kefir grains, which you can purchase here, you really only need a few things that you probably already have at home.
Three large mason jars
And just a heads up, this Yemoos site is a great resource for more detailed information on how to make water kefir. They also have sourdough starters, kombucha starters and a myriad of other interesting things.
To start, these are what the water kefir grains look like. They are soft and gelatinous and actually grow when healthy and fed, so you can give some to a friend, like how Bee gave me some of hers. They are thought to originate from Mexico where it thrived in the sugary water of the Ountia (prickly pear) cactus.
To start you will need ½ cup of these water kefir grains.
Then fill up two ½ gallon sized mason jars, half- way full with water.
These are the extra-large two-quart jars.
Here locally in the Northwest, our regular tap water works well and keeps the kefir grains happy.
Here are some facts regarding water from the Yeemos Site:
“Water kefir generally prefers a nutritious highly mineralized water (also called hard water, or mineral water / spring water if it’s from a bottle). Soft water, filtered water, carbon-activated, ionized or otherwise altered water does not seem to encourage the same amount of growth or vitality in our observations.”
“Reverse osmosis water has in most of our observations led to eventual kefir grain death even. It just doesn’t contain enough of the various and vital minerals found in normal tap, spring or mineral water. Also, chlorine can be an issue and should be avoided if possible. To remove some of the chlorine you can let your water set out (without a lid) and it will evaporate in about 24 hours.”
“Water Kefir grains typically love well water as it is usually high in good minerals – usually much more minerals than you find in a typical spring water bottle. ”
To the water, you will mix in ¼ cup of organic cane sugar into each jar. Bee likes to make a sugar mixture dedicated to kefir making, which increases the mineral content — mixing 4 cups cane sugar with 1 cup coconut sugar, and a tablespoon of Himalyan sea salt.
Now before you start thinking (like I did) that there is so much sugar in this, and how it must be so high in calories, remember, the kefir grains metabolize the sugar, which means they basically “eat” the sugar, (this is what feeds them) taking it out of the water. Once it’s done doing its thing, the water is only very mildly sweet, which I find completely and utterly fascinating.
“Kefir grains are an amazing symbiotic matrix of bacteria and yeast that work together to feed off the natural sugars (and sometimes proteins and fats too, especially in the case of milk kefir) found present in the sugar-water and dried fruits. The yeast and bacteria co-operate, making the nutrients that are inaccessible to one digested into accessible nutrients for the other. Yeasts break down the simple sugars like glucose and fructose, turning them into ethanol and acetic acid. Lactic and acid-producing bacteria (such as lactobacilli) convert sugars (such as sucrose) and complex carbohydrates (starches, etc) into simpler sugars and lactic acid. Lactic and acetic acids naturally preserve as well as stave off harmful foreign bacteria. The result is a drink that has had much of the sugar converted to simpler sugars, lactic and acetic acids, carbon dioxide and ethanol. It also contains millions of probiotics and is more nutritious in some regards because of the more bio-available and digestible nutrients from the sugars and dried fruits including an increase in vitamin C and many B vitamins.” From Yemoos
So, stir in ¼ cup organic sugar (or a mixture of organic can sugar, coconut sugar and sea salt) into each jar of water.
Here are other sugars/sweeteners you can use: Sucanat, Rapadura, Muscavado, Demarara, Panela, Jaggery, Turbinado, brown sugar , molasses, pure maple syrup, white sugar, sugar cane juice, whole cane sugar, raw sugar, powdered sugar, basic white sugar, and Piloncillo (evaporated sugar cane juice in a cone-shape found in Mexican markets).
Stir with a wood spoon until mostly dissolved.
Add the water kefir grains
Give a gentle stir.
Add a slice of lemon to each and one prune.
Cover with a thin kitchen towel. It needs to breath, but you want to prevent little fruit flies from getting in.
Let these sit on the kitchen counter for 2-3 days. Two days if it’s warm out (in the summer), 3 days if it’s cold. Right now in fall, I’m leaving it out for 2 ½ days.
So after 2-3 days your kefir water will have fermented slightly, but there is one more step which gives it flavor and makes it effervescent and bubbly.
Get your third mason jar and place 1- 1 1/2 cups fresh fruit in it — like fresh berries, peaches, apricots, pineapple, plums, concord grapes, apples or pears. You can also add fresh herbs. Then strain both jars of the fermenting kefir into the third clean jar with the fresh fruit in it, straining out the kefir grains (set them aside) filling the jar to a ½ inch from the top. Then cover tightly with a lid, and leave on the counter another 24 hours. Your kefir will start bubbling.
I will tell you that these metal lids like in this photo, are not ideal. Plastic lids are best.
The water kefir is creating gas and building pressure, which you want it to do – this makes it nice and bubbly, but with the metal lids, you must let out some of the pressure, “burping it” every 6 hours or so, so the lid doesn’t bend open (yes this happened to me). With a plastic lid, it stays on fine.
After 24 hours, the fruit will float the the surface and it’s time to refrigerate it. Once it’s chilled, give it a try. You can eat the fruit, it won’t hurt you, but I generally just strain it as I pour.
The kefir grains that you strained out earlier can be stored in a smaller jar, in the fridge in sugar water or the extra kefir water you will have after you merge the two jars into one. When refrigerated, you want to feed the grains at least once a week, to keep them healthy and alive. They are happiest when they are actually making water kefir, so I just make a jar a week.
“Water kefir needs to be fed at least every 48 hours (every other day). Kefir grains need to be strained every 24-48 hours (24 hours being hot summer weather, most of the time they can go to 48 or even another day in the cold winter months) and put in a fresh mix of water and sugar. If you or your grains would like to take a break, stick them in the fridge, refreshing them weekly with fresh water and sugar or simply put them in their finished kefir juice for up to a week or two. This can be done for a couple weeks, then they should be brought back out to room temperature. “ Yeemos Site
Bubbly, sparkling and raspberry infused – it’s seriously the best!!!
Give it a shot- you will LOVE it!!!
- ½ cup water kefir grains
- 8 cups water- divided
- ½ cup sugar (divided) organic cane, coconut, or a mixture ( this will be metabolized by the kefir grains, so it will NOT end up in the finished drink!!!)
- ½ lemon
- 2 prunes
- Tools- Three x 2 quart Mason Jars, plastic lids, strainer, kitchen towel - see notes!
- Fruit- 1- 2 cups fresh fruit or fruit juice. Optional additions- ginger, whole spices, herbs.
- Fill two, half gallon mason jars with 4 cups cool water in each.
- Add ¼ cup sugar in each, stirring to mostly dissolve.
- Add ¼ cup kefir grains to each jar.
- Add ¼ kefir water to each jar (optional--you can obviously only do this after your first batch of kefir, so just leave it out for the first batch.)
- Add ¼ of a lemon wedge to each jar.
- Add 1 prune to each jar.
- Cover both jars with a thin kitchen cloth and leave on the counter for 2-4 days. 2 days if warm out, 3-4 days if cold. This 2-4 day time period allows the grains "to eat" the sugar, so most of the sugar will actually be metabolized, and not end up in the drink itself. You want the water to get the point where it is not sweet anymore, but tastes a little tangy. So taste it before moving to the next step. If it tastes sweet, it's not ready. When it's cold this takes longer.
- After 2-3 days the kefir will have fermented slightly, taste tangy or lightly sour, but there is one more step which gives it flavor and makes it effervescent and bubbly.
- Get your third jar ready and place 1- 1½ cups fresh, ripe fruit in it-- like fresh berries, peaches, mango, pineapple, plums, concord grapes, apples, pears - I muddle them up a bit to release their juices. Add a few thin slices of ginger, or whole spices if you wish. Or add 1 cup fruit juice - especially nice in winter when fresh fruit is limited.
- Strain both jars of the fermenting kefir water into the third clean jar with the fresh fruit in it, straining out the kefir grains ( set them aside) filling the clean jar( with the fruit in it) to a ½ inch from the top. Then cover tightly with a metal lid, and leave this on the counter another 24 hours, allowing pressure to build up yet, burping them ( releasing the pressure), every 8 hours or so, especially if warm.
- I will warn you that these metal lids like in the photos above, have pros and cons. They allow pressure to build up, creating bubbly effervescent kefir, but they can explode if the pressure is not released occasionally. Plastic lids are "self-burping", which if you are away from home for over 8 hours, I would recommend using. The down side is the plastic lids do not let the pressure build quite enough in my opinion so kefir is not quite as bubbly. Sometimes I switch between both, depending if I am planning to be gone.
- To reiterate- During the 2nd phase, the water kefir is creating gas and building pressure, which you want it to do - this makes it nice and bubbly, but with the metal lids, you must let out some of the pressure, "burping it" every 6-8 hours or so, so the lid doesn't bend or blast open (yes this happened to me). With a plastic lid, it stays on fine, it self burps, but it's less bubbly.
- After 24 hours, the fruit will float to the the surface and it's time to refrigerate it. Burp it, place it in the fridge. Once it's chilled, give it a try. You can strain this and put it in a different pourable container, or just strain as you pour, leaving the fruit in for maximum infusion. Up to you.
- The kefir grains that you strained out earlier should be stored in a smaller jar, in the extra kefir water you will have after you merge the two jars into one. You can refrigerate them and feed with a teaspoon or two of sugar, every week --or if trying to grow more grains to give away, store the jar on the counter, feeding every couple of days. They grow faster at room temp, and grow slower in the fridge. They are happiest when they are actually making water kefir, so I usually make a jar a week.