What is Water Kefir and How To Make It
Kefir is a fermented drink made with bacteria and yeasts that dissolve sugars. Water kefir grains are colonies of such microorganisms that mostly feed on sucrose, fermenting it into lactic acid, carbon dioxide and ethanol. The translucent “grains” are actually composed of a polysaccharide biofilm produced by the bacteria.
Water kefir is an excellent source of probiotic microorganisms that can contribute to your gut health, and therefore the overall health. Except from probiotic bacteria, water kefir contains other substances that have a beneficial effect on human body, such as some vitamins from the B group, vitamin K and folic acid.
How to make water kefir at home?
To make water kefir at home, you will need:
- a clean glass jar
- muscovado or raw cane sugar
- coconut sugar (optional)
- kefir grains (living kefir culture)
- a lid or a piece of cloth to cover
Pour around 750 ml of water into a jar, add 3-4 tablespoons of dark muscovado sugar and stir to dissolve. You can use raw cane sugar instead of muscovado, and it also works great with cane sugar combined with up to 25% coconut sugar for some extra nutrition. Add around 4 tablespoons of kefir grains into this solution.
Cover the jar with a cloth, or put the lid on, but do not twist it. Let it ferment for two or three days (it really depends on the temperature of the environment; the fermentation can happen slower, but also faster than this!). When the liquid is bubbly, nicely sour and significantly less sweet, strain it and store in a bottle.
This is your fermented drink that you can enjoy just as is, or put for a secondary fermentation. But first, feed the grains! After straining the delicious bubbly drink that they made for you, make the same sugar solution and put the grains back inside. It will turn into kefir drink again in a couple of days.
If you want to spice it up and turn the basic kefir drink that you get after the first fermentation into a flavourful rhapsody, you can easily do it by adding some fruits, fruit juice (as described in this pineapple water kefir recipe), or even spices. There are many ways to be creative and make it taste super delicious.
The most basic way to do it (at least in Europe where I live, with apples and oranges being some of the most common fruits) is to add a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice or natural apple juice into 2-3 cups of plain kefir drink, leave it for one or two more days, and then close in a bottle and store in the fridge.
Again, the time required to get the preferred taste and fizzyness depends on the temperature of the place where you do the fermentation, so you can taste the kefir every day to see if you like it. Since the “finished product” is a living thing, keep in mind that you cannot store the drink at the room temperature without getting more and more sour and bubbly.
There is nothing wrong with kefir drink getting very sour though – it happened to me many times and I love to use it as a pickling brine or instead of vinegar. Those are some other cool ways to get some of those lovely probiotics.
But keeping the drink in the fridge will significantly slow down the fermentation and prevent it from getting too sour or even exploding from too many bubbles of carbon dioxide produced by the activity of the bacteria.
Where to get the grains?
There are usually groups on the Internet where people are giving away kefir grains and kombucha scobies.
Whenever I move to a new place, I just google something like “kefir grains exchange” in the language of the place where I live at that moment and it has worked really well so far. A lot of times people will also ship them from another town if needed. Nowadays you can probably also buy them online.
What to do with the extra grains?
Since growth and reproduction are a normal phenomenon among the living world, after some time (maybe really soon!) you will notice that the amount of the kefir grains increased. You can give away the extra grains to your friends and family, join a kefir grain exchange group, or simply eat them in a salad (Yes!! And they have really cool texture when you eat them) or blend in a smoothie.
Also, if you don’t feel like making kefir for a while, you can store the grains in the fridge in the sugar solution that you usually make. That will slow down the fermentation and you can keep them like that for up to two weeks.