A simple guide to making Water Kefir-a refreshing probiotic fruit-infused drink made with water kefir grains (cactus grains) that is bubbly, effervescent and so healthy!
- 1/2 cup alive water kefir grains
- 8 cups tap or well water- divided
- 1/2 cup sugar (divided) organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or a ***mixture-see notes. ( FYI this will be metabolized or consumed by the kefir grains, so it will NOT end up in the finished drink!)
- 2 lemon wedges (optional)
- 2 prunes (or dates, or or dried fruit) optional
- 1 –2 cups fresh fruit- berries, stonefruit (peaches, plums, nectarines), apples, pears, mango, pineapple, etc.
Optional Additions- fresh ginger, whole spices, herbs.
- Fill two, half-gallon mason jars with 4 cups cool tap water in each.
- Add ¼ cup sugar in each, stirring to mostly dissolve. ( Feel free to make sugar mixture first)
- Add ¼ cup kefir grains to each jar.
- Add ¼ cup 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 just slightly sweet, and nicely tangy. So taste it before moving to the next step. If it tastes very 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.
- FLAVOR: Get your third jar ready and place 1- 1 1/2 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), tossing the lemon and prunes, filling the clean jar (with the fruit in it) to a 1/2 inch from the top. Then cover tightly with a lid, and leave this on the counter another 24 hours, allowing pressure to build up yet, burping the lids (releasing the pressure), every 8-12 hours or so, more often especially if warm. Keep in mind, not burping may cause the jar to explode. If you must leave them for longer, either loosen the lid and place jar in a bowl to collect runoff, or place the jar in the fridge, to slow the fermentation down, and continue fermenting on the counter when you have more time.
- WARNING: These metal lids like in the photos above, have pros and cons. They allow pressure to build up, with their tight seal, 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 downside 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 on if I am planning to be gone.
- To reiterate- During the 2nd fermentation 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 6-12 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 surface and it’s time to refrigerate it. Burp it, place it in the fridge, lid tight. 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 tablespoon 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. See notes.
Sugar Mixture: (optional, but highly nutritious to you kefir grains)
Yes, feel free to halve the recipe.
It is OK to use frozen berries or fruit.
YES, you can get by with two 2-quart mason jars ( instead of 3). Strain one of the kefir jars into a pitcher, temporarily, rinse out the mason jar, add the fruit to this one, and pour in strained kefir water form pitcher and 2nd jar. Get it? 😉
Adding the lemon helps prevents kahm yeast, and the prune really adds flavor and helps with fermentation.
Kahm Yeast: If you see a white yeast on top of your second ferment, it is most likely kahm yeast. It’s harmless but can affect the taste. If you have Kahm yeast, make sure to rinse your kefir grains in pure clean water before storing in a clean jar with no soap residue. Cover with clean water and feed. This should hopefully prevent it from coming again. Make sure to add Citrus to your kefir water. Make sure all jars are clean. Leave less headroom at the top of the jar for oxygen to get in, during the second fermentation. Rinse your fruit before using, this can introduce the yeast. Sometimes it can grow if the environment is too warm.
How to maintain/grow your kefir grains:
The kefir grains that you strained out earlier can be stored in a smaller 8-ounce jar, in the fridge in the extra water kefir you will have after you merge the two jars into one. Add more water to fill and 1 tablespoon sugar.
- 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 one jar a week.
- If you want to make kefir water more often (or grow the grains faster so you can give some away) you can leave them out on the counter, feeding every two days.
- Feed 1 cup kefir grains with 1 tablespoon sugar, in 2 cups water, in the fridge once weekly. Feel free to change out the water every 2-3 weeks.
- The colder they are kept, the slower they will metabolize the sugar. The warmer they are, the faster they will metabolize the sugar- and will need to be fed more often.
- You can tell if the grains are “hungry” by tasting the liquid- if it is not sweet, but tangier, they are probably ready to be fed. If the water is sweet, they are not hungry and do not need to be fed.
- Calories: 85
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