Water Kefir, an healthy and delicious probiotic drink
Water kefir is a delicious and super healthy probiotic beverage. It is made thanks to the fermentation produced by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts grains that can be easily purchased online. This article explains in simple steps how to make water kefir at home.
Water kefir is a slightly sparkling and slightly sugary beverage that is a great healthy alternative to sodas. It’s very refreshing and it is best to drink it cold. Water kefir can accompany well any meals or you can enjoy it a any time. It can be a regular drink as part of your healthy eating habits.
It may be an alternative to the more known milk kefir, for those who don’t like or can not eat dairy products.
Ready-to-drink water kefir it’s very hard to find and when available it can be quite expensive. So, the best option is to prepare it at home. It requires a bit of practice to start, and then it demands about 10 minutes of time every single day, because the kefir culture must be nourished every day to survive and grow.
I have been making water kefir every single day for many years now, and I drink it regularly with most of my meals: with breakfast, lunch and dinner. After a lot of experience with slightly different dosages and ways to prepare it, here I am sharing my optimized recipe and process to make the best water kefir at home with just about 10 minutes of preparation time.
What you need to make water kefir
For making 1 liter of water kefir you need:
- 50g of water kefir grains. If you know someone who is already making water kefir, then this person will have a surplus of grains, so you will have them for free. Otherwise, just search for water kefir grains on Amazon and you should be able to find them easily and a very reasonable price. Please note that when you make kefir for the first time, you may need a few “cycles” before the kefir culture is in good health and your water kefir becomes good. Many people use less grains when preparing kefir, like 30g or 40g. My kefir is better when I use 50g, that’s why I am recommending this amount. In any case, you can also buy a small amount of grains, for example 30g, because in any case the grains will increase in number very quickly.
- Tap or still water. If you normally drink tap water, then you can absolutely use it. Otherwise, you can use bottled still water.
- 40g white sugar
- 10g organic raw cane sugar
- 1 slice of organic lemon
- 1 piece of organic dried fruit at your choice
- A plastic spoon
- A plastic strainer
- A one-liter glass food jar
- A small cloth to cover the jar
- A one-liter bottle, that can be closed emetically and put in the fridge
How to make Water Kefir
Prepare the grains
First, you need to have the kefir grains.
If you have just purchased them, please follow the instructions of the seller to activate the grains for the first usage.
Otherwise, let’s assume you have the grains from the fermented jar of the day before, as explained in the last point of the process.
How to make water kefir: Mix the sugars, lemon, dried fruit and kefir grains with the water
Add 10g of organic cane sugar and 40g of white sugar into the glass jar and then fill it with water.
Mix the content with a plastic spoon as long as the sugar is completely dissolved, then add 50g of kefir grains, still using a plastic spoon, a slice of lemon and one piece of dried fruit.
It’s very important that you use plastic tools instead of metal, because water kefir grains do not like metal. Initially, I used metal tools and my kefir grains were clearly not healthy. Then after some research I found that these should be made of plastic and since I started using plastic strain and spoon my kefir grains are super healthy, and the water kefir delicious.
Regarding the dried fruit, I normally alternate one day with one dried apricot, and the next day one dried fig. Both the cane sugar and the dried fruits help give the kefir the minerals it needs to grow and be healthy.
The reason it’s best to use organic ingredients is because kefir may be sensitive to traces of substances such as pesticides that may be found in non organic food, even if only in small traces.
Use the right amount of sugar to make Water Kefir
For preparing water kefir you need sugar (50g according to my recipe). Please be aware that the sugar is needed for the kefir to grow, sugar is actually the nutrient that feeds the kefir. So when the fermentation happens properly, most of the sugar will be eaten by the kefir grains. The final drink will be slightly sugary, but don’t worry as the residual amount of sugar will be minimal. Don’t reduce the amount of sugar a lot, otherwise the grains will not be able to ferment your kefir.
Some people recommend 30g of kefir grains and 30g of sugars, but in my experience these quantities do not really work. In any case, you may try yourself until you find the right quantities that give you the final product you like. Just make sure not to reduce the sugar amount too much as this is what is needed by the kefir to activate a proper fermentation.
Cover the jar with a small cloth
Then, cover the jar with a small cloth in order to allow an aerobic fermentation.
Place the jar in a place that is not exposed to direct light and, very important, at the same time which is not too dark, because kefir needs a bit of light to properly ferment.
The place should be at room temperature, neither too hot nor too cold.
To make water kefir, let it ferment for 24 hours and then … enjoy it!
Let the jar and its content ferment for 24 hours, then take the jar and filter its content in the one-liter bottle using a plastic strainer. Remember that it’s important you use a plastic strainer and not a metallic one.
Close the bottle hermetically and leave it at room temperature. If you close the bottle hermetically, so that no air can enter, the kefir will continue with anaerobic fermentation, slowly becoming a bit more sparkling. You can place the bottle in the same place where you normally keep your fermentation jar. After another 24 hours, put the bottle in the fridge and, once the kefir is cool enough, enjoy it!
I am recommending a 24 hours aerobic fermentation, and than wait at least 24 hours before drinking your kefir. The fermentation time, however can vary between 24 and 48 hours, you can experience what works best for you. Fermentations longer than 48 hours may weaken the grains so are not recommended.
In theory, you can drink the kefir right away after the fermentation, however in my experience it’s best to bottle the kefir and then wait at least 24 hours more to give the water kefir some time to slowly continue its fermentation and become a bit more sparkling.
The bubbles are produced by the kefir healthy bacteria that eat the sugar and produce the gas. The more you wait, the more the water kefir becomes sparkling and less sugary.
Your water kefir can stay in the fridge for about one week, but it’s still good after a few more days. The longer it stays in the fridge, the more sparkling it becomes. I really like when water kefir is very sparkling, so I tend to keep the water kefir resting in the fridge for a few days before drinking it.
How to make water kefir on an ongoing basis: prepare your grains and jar for the next fermentation cycle
Let’s go back to the starting point: you have filtered the grains with the plastic strain. Now, put the strain with the grains under running cold tap water to clean the grains. It should be a quick cleansing, let’s say around 10 seconds or so.
Now, for convenience you can transfer the grains into a container (nonmetallic) so that they are ready to start a new fermentation cycle.
How to understand if your kefir grains are healthy
Consider that when your kefir grains are healthy, you can expect that they significantly increase in volume in 24 hours. My grains can even double their weight in 24 hours. For example 50g of kefir grains can become 90-100g the day after. So when you restart from the beginning for the new fermentation cycle, you have to throw away some grains. For example if you use 50g for fermentation but you have 90g, you will have to throw or give away 40g of grains.
You will probably notice that during the summer, when also indoor you have an higher temperature, the kefir grains will grow more than in the winter, when it’s colder and darker.
Having said that, don’t panic if your grains are not growing at the rates I am indicating above. It is normal that at the beginning or in certain periods, the grow rate may be slower. However, if you notice that the grains grow very slowly or do not grow at all, this may mean that your grains are unfortunately not healthy and that maybe it is time to replace them.
If your grains are healthy, however, they can last forever. So you don’t have to plan for replacing them.
Now, before starting a new fermentation cycle, check the glass jar. If you notice that your glass jar looks opaque or dirty from the inside, then clean it with a clean cloth and rinse it under running water. You don’t have necessarily to use soap in the process, but if you use it make sure you rinse it very well so that no traces of soap remain.
At this point, you can start a new fermentation cycle restarting the process from the beginning.
Water Kefir double fermentation with fruit juice
Learn how to make Water Kefir with an optional second fermentation with fruit juice
For this option you need to have an extra glass jar. Start by pouring about 100ml of an organic 100% fruit juice of your choice in it. I normally go for cranberry, pomegranate or acerola juice, but you can use any juice you like.
Then take the jar were you have the fermented kefir that you have set for fermentation the day before. This time, instead of bottling it you can go for a second fermentation with fruit juice. I have done it for years and, although it requires a few minutes more, can add very nice extra taste to your water kefir.
So, take the jar with the fermented kefir and filter its content in the second glass jar, where you put the fruit juice, as always using a plastic strainer.
At this point, rinse the grains as described previously.
Assuming that you used 50g of kefir for the first fermentation, then now, after at least 24h, let say you have 90g of kefir grains because your grains are healthy and grow well.
Of these 90g, use 50g to restart a new fermentation jar as explained in the steps above, and add the remaining 40g in the second jar where you have the fruit juice and the kefir from the first fermentation.
Now, hermetically close the second jar and proceed with the first jar with a new fermentation cycle following the steps above.
Place both jars in the same location.
Enjoy your super delicious double-fermented Water Kefir
On the following day, after 24 hours, filter and bottle your jar with the kefir and juice following the usual procedure. In this case, however, you don’t have to clean the grains that fermented into the fruit juice jar because you can throw them away.
Water kefir made through a second fermentation with fruit juice can be super good and, as I do with the single fermentation kefir, I do like to let it rest for some days in the fridge to make it extra sparkling.
What to do with your grains if you can’t make kefir for some time
If you are not able to make water kefir for a few days, for example if you are travelling, then you can store your kefir grains for up to a couple of weeks.
Take a glass jar and dissolve 15g of organic cane sugar and 85g of white sugar with 200ml of water in it. Then put 50g of your kefir grains in it. Mix with a plastic spoon. Hermetically close the jar and place it in the fridge.
When you are back, you will have to run a few fermentation cycles before your kefir grains return healthy as they were before.
In my experience, with this method kefir grains can survive for a couple of weeks.