Water kefir is my new favorite thing to drink. It's so light and naturally bubbly, and can be made into any flavor with the addition of fruit juices. Plus it has the health benefits of living cultured foods. In less than a week and with minimal effort, your kefir grains will transform a small amount of juice and sugar into an amazingly tasty, versatile, and healthful beverage.
There are two stages of fermentation for your kefir, the first ferment and the second ferment. I will describe them both here. When you are given water kefir grains, they will look like this:
I scrawled a line on my jar to mark the optimal level of kefir grains. When they multiply and go over the line, it's time for me to share them with someone!
Here is how to feed and care for your kefir grains, and produce a delicious tonic in the process:
First of all, they need sugar. Simply mix sugar into warm water until it dissolves. I heat about two cups of water in a pan on the stovetop, just until it's steamy, and then stir in the sugar. There's no need to boil it. More cool water will be added, to bring the total liquid up to about a quart. I loosely measure 1/4 cup of rapidura or sucanat sugar, and stir it to dissolve. This is then poured into a large glass jar with about 1/4 c of water kefir grains. That's it.
1/4 cup Rapidura sugar, loosely measured.
Choose the least processed sugar you can find, since the kefir grains benefit from the minerals. If you only have processed sugar, add a dollop of molasses to give back some of the minerals that the kefir needs to thrive.
This jar contains 1/4 cup sugar dissolved in about a quart of liquid, along with the kefir grains.
Once the grains & sugar water are combined, cap tightly. To be sure fruit flies can't get into it (and they would really like to) I cover the lidded jar with a cloth, rubber banded in place:
Let this ferment, undisturbed and at room temperature, for 24-48 hours. Cooler temperatures will slow down fermentation. You don't want the kefir grains to run out of sugar or they will die, so don't let it go too long.
After two days, it's time to strain out the liquid into a bottle or jar, and add some fruit juice. Use whatever flavor you fancy; we've tried fresh apple, grape, elderberry, and orange, and they've all been really good. For the elderberry, I used a small amount of homemade elderberry syrup in place of juice, and it worked great. I tend to use about 1/4 to 1/3 for my ratio of juice to kefir liquid.
While you can use a tightly capped mason jar for the second ferment, I prefer the spring loaded bottles shown above. They have a firm seal and are easy to use, as well as a pretty nice presentation. These two bottles of orange kefir are in their second ferment, alongside the "mother" jar of kefir doing its first ferment.
These upcycled bottles of storebought kombucha that a friend saves for me also work great for doing the second ferment. They have very tight fitting lids, which is important for building up carbonation in the water kefir.
Orange water kefir, nicely bubbly!
Once your juice and kefir blend has fermented for 2 or 3 days, place bottles in the refrigerator. They'll last a long time in the fridge, but they're ready to drink as soon as they're cold! Open with caution. Sometimes a lot of pressure can build up, particularly if they've fermented for too long or been kept in the fridge for too many weeks (where they slowly continue to build up pressure). If this happens, drink your water kefir sooner!
Do you have a favorite flavor of water kefir, or a different way to make it? I'd love to hear ideas and feedback from you!
For more on traditional sourdough, as well as a whole world of fermentation ideas, check out the original source of my inspiration, two books by Sandor Katz. Both probably available from your local library, but also definitely worth owning. If you buy either through my ad links below, Amazon gives me a tiny bit of cash. Thanks in advance!
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How To Make Delicious Water Kefir
4/ 5Oleh Mellow De Tray