Water Kefir (pronounced keh-FEER) is not as well known as milk kefir. But it is the same concept - symbiotic grains of bacteria and yeast that ferment a specific liquid - in this case, a sugar-water-fruit liquid. It produces a mild, light and refreshing, slightly carbonated beverage. The basic flavor is likened to a weak cola or apple cider, but most people add molasses, fruit, vanilla beans or other flavors. With so many options the final flavor is really up to you (our favorites being lemon-ginger, dark cherry and concord grape).

What's the difference between water kefir and kombucha? Both have excellent probiotic value, but water kefir has a much faster ferment and more mild flavor. Just like kombucha, it can be bottled to increase carbonation, and flavored. Kombucha takes about 5-14 days to ferment, whereas water kefir is ready within a day or two.

Water kefir is simply sugar-water that is fermented at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24-48 hours. It has many wonderful health benefits and can be better tolerated than a soda for diabetics because of its lower GL (due to its acidic nature). It's a wonderful alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to casein in dairy. Water kefir is full of probiotics and can have just as many (if not different) benefits than traditional yogurt or milk kefir. The affordability of sugar and water makes it not only healthier than most beverages, but cheaper too. The reusable, sustainable grains also make it more economical.

Kefir has gained in popularity lately, due to interest in local, economical and responsible eating, combined with a greater awareness of the health benefits of probiotics.

But with that popularity has come a load of misinformation and deceiving products on the web. Authentic kefir can only be made by real kefir grains, not from any kind of packet or powder. Kefir available at the stores are simply imitations. This is due to regulations to ensure consistent products, ingredients, bottling procedures and to comply with packaging and shipping standards. As with most nutritious foods, real kefir can only be made and experienced at home.

Water Kefir's origins are a bit obscure, pointing towards either Mexico or Tibet (or possibly even Russia). Regardless, it has been around for centuries and has gone by many names including Tibicos, California Bees, and Japanese Water Crystals, amongst others. An old popular beverage in Mexico called Tepache is traditionally made with 'Tibi' (ie water kefir grains), pineapple and cinnamon.  If you have more questions you can check out Yemoos Nourishing Cultures to see photos, FAQ's, health benefits and other information on water kefir.

Now, lets get started!

Step 1: Supplies and Ingredients

Water kefir is pretty simple to make, you may find you already have most of what's needed:

A. First, you will want some basic measuring cups and spoons - stainless steel or plastic is best.

B. Second, you will want a strainer on hand - fine plastic/nylon or stainless steel. Aluminum and other metals can leach when coming into contact with acidic liquids such as water kefir. Stainless steel is considered safe for short term contact. 

*Strainers with large holes (like pasta strainers) don't work well - the smaller grains may pass right through into your kefir drink, rendering it somewhat unstorable - it will continue to ferment quickly in the fridge. Though its not a health hazard to drink them, you will lose part of your culture (and over-ferment your drink).

C. As for the jars and bowls, you will need a bowl to capture your strained kefir, a jar and breathable lid to ferment your kefir in, and a jar or bottle for storing your strained kefir in the fridge.

D. You will need a sterile wood or plastic spoon to help stir in the sugar.

E. You may want to have an unbleached muslin bag (or tea bag) that can hold any dried fruit you may be using (more on dried fruit in step 2). This is optional, as is the lemon and dried fruit.

F. Some sugar - White, brown or whole cane sugar (or a combination of these) - about 1 tablespoon sugar per 1 tablespoon of grains. Water kefir grains function best on a combination of white sugar and dried fruits, or a combination of white sugar and less processed sugar (brown, whole cane, molasses, etc). There are truly a variety of combinations you can try. Experiment and see which one tastes best to you! To familiarize yourself more with all the kinds of sugars available and what works for water kefir, read our section on sugar types in our Water Kefir FAQ.

G. And of course, some water - roughly 1 cup of water per 1 tablespoon of grains.

*Non or low-chlorinated, high mineral water is preferable. Minerals help your grains to function and properly metabolize the sugars. Filtered and distilled water are low in minerals and usually don't work well; if this is your only source of water, additional minerals may be necessary (more on this below in the guide). Tap water can work if the chlorine level is low enough. Letting it sit out (open, no lid) 24 hours allows chlorine to evaporate. Chloramine (another form of chlorine sometimes used to treat water) does not evaporate though. We recommend starting out with spring or mineral water and then testing on back-up grains with your tap or filtered water before using one type exclusively. Hold off on experimenting with other liquids such as juice or coconut water until your grains have become established and balanced in your home.

<p>Thanks for this! :) Just a quick question, wouldn't honey kill the good bacteria, making the kefir 'just' a drink instead of a probiotic?</p>
Honey may kill some of the flora in the kefir but not most of it, because the drink still is viable and ferments after the addition of raw or pasteurized honey. Hope that helps!
<p>I was looking for a way to make my own actual kefir grains, without buying them from someone else?</p>
There isn't any way to replicate kefir grains. They have been passed down through the generations and cannot be re-created. Hope that helps!
<p>in making kefir milk I use whole milk and fermented for 2 days to get better results. here the parents we like the water of mineral water kefir fermented algae seed crystal japan mine. Indeed, the efficacy of water kefir has been felt by the parents we like to help lower the body's sugar, acid stomach, constipation. use of sugar just sprinkle not boiled with the addition of raisins will produce water kefir fresh flavors such as coconut or like the taste of cola. This is a way of taking care of my Japanese crystal algae. http://goo.gl/4dCN3Y</p><p>thank you for the opportunity in the article on this Japanese crystal algae.</p>
There is a cheap simple solution to the chlorine/chlorame problem. Adding a small quantity of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to tap water reacts with the chloramine in with a half life of about 4 minutes. It is employed in dialysis processes for this purpose. I have used it on my own water kefir grains and have seen a ten-fold increase in grain volume. This confirms that the technique not only works, but produces no observable suppression of colony growth over time.
In the interest of, as you say, &quot;local, economical and responsible eating&quot;, I'd like to try and find Kefir grains here in Tulsa. We have a number of Indian groceries and a large Asian market. Am I likely to find them available in these kinds of places? It sounds like the process is very similar to how I make ginger ale at home. I'm excited to try making this new drink!
Fresh Kefir grains can be bought on eBay from reputable sellers who are not commercial companies and probably 'sharers'. Be sure they are selling fresh not dried. I am trying out my first batch and everything looks as should according to the long list of tips and recipes that came with the product. Good luck with yours.
Hi yoyology, I would check out kefir_making yahoo group. In their files section they have a database of users by location who are willing to share their grains (many are out-dated, but you can try posting and asking around on the forum, too!). I am sure you will find someone in Tulsa willing to share.
I am trying something similar that would be healthy for diabetic patients...<br><br>Without using sugar and without using kefir...<br><br>I boil in water some dried prunes. and a bunch of stevia leaves. Stevia leaves are a natural sugar substitute. But with an added feature: it seems to transform the sugar in the fruits or any other sugar into alcohol and because of that, to carbonate the drink in a week or so.<br><br>The drink I gues should be considered inside the same spectrum as this beatifully exposed by you.<br>I never knew that kefir could be used in such a fashion!<br><br>Thank you!<br>Alberto
Mexican tepache do not uses kefir (or tibicos, as we call them here). it is made usually by leaving pineapple (normally leftovers, like center and skin) in water with brown sugar (called piloncillo when comes in cone shaped chunks). <br> <br>Another comment is that the kefir water tastes like a very soft tepache, while made from very different sources.
where did you find your resealable drinking bottles?
You can find these by googling 'flip cap bottles' - Amazon and other major online retailors have many choices. You can sometimes find them locally too at specialty wine and beer shops, or sometimes even kitchen supply stores.

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Bio: We grow, research, photograph and offer nourishing, time-honored organic cultures such as Milk Kefir, Water Kefir, Kombucha, and Sourdough. We enjoy drinking (and eating!) the ... More »
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