Shortly after discovering how much I loved making Kombucha, I also discovered another probiotic home brewed beverage, water kefir. What I loved about the idea of water kefir was that it seemed so much less involved than making kombucha, but still had the carbonation that we love, as well as the great flavour. Some other great things about it: the brew time was shorter, the supplies needed were fewer and less expensive and the cost per batch was significantly less because there is no tea required to make it. I still love kombucha, but these days you’ll find me drinking and making water kefir far more often.
Water Kefir is made using ‘kefir grains’. The word ‘grain’ is actually a bit misleading though because it’s not, nor does it contain any actual grains. Kefir grains are basically gelatinous blobs of beneficial bacterial culture. The fermentation happens when you make a sugar water mixture and place the grains inside of it. Much the same way as a SCOBY survives off of the sugar when making Kombucha, these kefir grains eat the sugar in the sugar water mixture. The leftover liquid is a beverage is filled with all sorts of wonderful probiotics. The taste is slightly yeasty and oh-so-good for your gut.
Here are my step by step instructions to making water kefir. I’ve been making this regularly for nearly a year now with awesome success. If you have anything to add that I may have missed or if you have any questions, please ask in the comments section!
Step 1: Acquire Kefir Grains
I acquired my initial batch of water kefir grains for free from a lady who was giving them away on a local buy and sell site. Since these grains do multiply over time, anyone who makes water kefir should have some to share eventually. If you aren’t able to find anyone locally, some can be ordered from here on the Cultures for Health website.
Step 2: Collect your materials and ingredients
You will need:
– Water kefir grains (approx. 3-4 tbsp worth)
– One large glass Mason jar (I’m using a 1.9L size and it’s perfect)
– 4 or 5 flip-top bottles (I like Grolsch beer bottles – they’ve stood up well to TONS of use)
– A plastic or nylon mesh strainer (grains are not supposed to come into contact with metal)
– A wooden or plastic spoon
– A plastic funnel
– A large plastic or melamine mixing bowl
– 6 cups of water
– 1/4 cup white sugar
– 10-15 raisins, a pitted date or dried fig
– Apple juice or another pure fruit juice of your choice
– 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
– 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup (optional)
Step 3: Prepare your mixture
Begin by placing your water kefir grains into the bottom of your clean jar. Place 1 cup of water into a pot and begin bringing to a boil. Just before it reaches a boil, place your 1/4 cup of white sugar in the water, stirring with your wooden spoon to dissolve. Once fully dissolved, turn heat off. Place your remaining 5 cups of room temperature water into your mixing bowl. Slowly stir your hot sugar water mixture into that. Once all is combined, pour the contents of your bowl into the jar containing your grains.
Because kefir grains love minerals, feel free to switch up their food source. I often use raisins simply because they are inexpensive and we always have some. You could, however, also use pitted dates, dried figs, clean egg shell or any combination of these. I also add in a bit of lemon juice and pure maple syrup at this point as well.
Step 4: Let the magic happen!
Screw the cap on your jar lightly and place water kefir in a place where it can remain undisturbed for 48 hours (your kitchen counter is fine). During the 48 hour fermentation time, a few things might happen. You may notice that your liquid becomes a little yellowish in colour and the fruit and/or grains may move around and/or float due to the natural carbonation that’s occurring. It’s all totally normal. Just enjoy the show!
Step 5: Separating your liquid and bottling
Once your 48 hours are up, you are ready to bottle! Place your strainer over your mixing bowl and begin pouring your liquid through it. The strainer should be catching all of the grains as well as your raisins/fruit/egg shell. Using your plastic or wooden spoon, carefully remove your dried fruit/egg shell from the grains and discard. Place grains back into the jar. You can then follow steps 1 through 4 to complete your next batch!
For bottling, be sure your bottles are clean. I like to give mine a rinse with hot water and vinegar just before using them. Then using your plastic funnel, fill bottles about 1/4 of the way with the fruit juice of your choice. We find apple juice to be the best flavour for this but you could use any. Then using a funnel, fill the remainder of the bottle with your kefir. At this point I always add in 2 or 3 raisins. I once read that this helps to keep your beverage carbonated. I have no idea how true it is but I do it anyway!
Seal your bottles and store at room temperature until ready to drink. I recommend not waiting longer then 48 hours though since a) You’ll have a new batch to bottle in another 48 hours and b) The carbonation builds quite quickly and you could end up with a broken bottle and/or an explosion! Speaking of which, to open bottles for drinking I recommend doing so in a sink with a plastic bag over the lid. You’ll thank me for this tip later!
That’s it! That’s how you make this healthy, delicious natural soda! Enjoy!