Introduction: Water Kefir
Like Kombucha but want something different? This follows similar properties of Kombucha, but is a tasty alternative.
Never heard of Kombucha? What is Water Keffir?
Water kefir is made from kefir grains, also known as sugar grains, tibicos, tibi, or Japanese water crystals. The grains make up a cultures of various strains of healthy bacteria and yeast, held together in a polysaccharide matrix created by the bacteria. The symbiotic relationship of the microbes produces a stable growing culture. The microbes feed on sugar and produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide, yielding a fermented carbonated beverage. (Source: ZoveBlog )
It is a simple beverage to make, and has all the health benefits of including scores of probiotics that are healthy for you and your gut. Best thing? With a little maintenance the grains will last you a lifetime!
I bought my grains from Cultures for Health, but are widely available just a search away.
Step 1: Making Your Own Kefir Water!
Kefir fermentation is a simple process, and doesn't require much in the way of ingredients. To make Kefir Water, you need:
- A Quart Jar, with Ring (lid not needed)
- Coffee Filter
- Sugar (Plain sugar is great)
- Water (Filtered is preferred)
- Kefir Grains
Additional equipment that makes life easy:
- Canning Funnel
Step 2: Sugar
Many industries love to hate on plain old white refined Sugar, but our Kefir grains love it!
To a quart jar, add 1/4 cup of *sugar.
*Some notes on sugar. While our grains love refined sugar, it doesn't have all of the nutrients to be kept exclusively on a exclusive diet. For optimal happiness, every few cycles (4 or 5) change the sugar to a less refined sugar like brown sugar, or turbinado, or add a Tablespoon of Back Strap Molasses to your cycle. It'll change the colour, but your grains will love you for the added minerals!
Additionally, any sweetener will work save Honey. While Honey will work, the antibacterial nature of honey could damage your grain's health, and it's suggested to avoid it.
Step 3: Additional Food (Optional)
To your sugar, add some unsulfated raisins. Optionally, you could do a few slices of ginger root, or a Tablespoon of Molasses. Not necessary, but will add minerals as food.
Step 4: Grains
Add your grains to the mix. 1/4 cup is apparently the optimal ratio, but a little more or less is fine. Too many grains will change your timing, as will too few. If you have too much, start another batch, or split some off for a friend!
Step 5: Water Them Down!
Now, add filtered water to where the jar starts to narrow (6 - 8 cups). Mix gently to allow the sugar to dissolve in the water. Optionally, you could add the water first, stir and add the grains; whatever suits you.
Step 6: Time to Batten Down the Hatches!
So you could allow this to do it's thing without a covering, but all kinds of curious bugs and stuff could get it. The mix does need to breath, so I use a simple coffee filter closed with a ring. Alternatively, you could close it down with a cloth, cheese cloth or anything that allows it to breath but not allow anything in. Put this out of direct sunlight somewhere about 70F or 21C and wait! If your space is colder it may take a little longer, and if it's hotter it may take less time. Your results may vary!
Now the waiting game.... Actually it's a pretty quick process.
In a day, check the jar, you should see either tiny bubbles (CO2 being produced by the grains), or you may even see the grains themselves moving up and down (CO2 bubbles causing them to lift up). This is good news and means the grains are eating and happy!
In two days, your water is good to go, and ready to be drank. Simply filer out the grains and put your kefir water into a container of choice, and voila you're done, and ready to start your next batch. If you want to take a break, you can make a batch and put it in your refrigerator for up to 3 weeks before changing the water, or up to 6 months frozen (I've not tried that, just from reading).
Step 7: Carbonating and Beyond
While Water Kefir is great to drink freshly brewed, if you add some additional food, you can get the cultured water to ferment and carbonate! I use used soda/pop bottles as they are plastic and are designed to hold some pressure.
Per bottle, I add a Tablespoon of sugar, and fill till the bottom of the label (if the batch made more, I would fill until the bottle starts narrowing). Seal them up, and shake. Put into a room temperature space, and wait! I give a shake daily, and squeeze the bottle. If I feel that the pressure is too much, I'll quickly open and close the bottle to let the extra CO2 escape. Generally, I feel that 2 days of letting it sit in the bottle allows the cultured water to eat the sugar and carbonate. Too much longer, and it starts getting a bit too tangy and a little over carbonated for my tastes. Though it's good at room temperature, I put mine in the refrigerator to cool off before drinking.
To focus on reproduction, make a batch of 1/4 cup Turbinado Sugar, 1 Tablespoon of Back Strap Molasses, 1/8 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate Soda. The results aren't all that great to drink, but the Kefir loves it and should be sizably larger.
I hope you enjoy, and if you experiment beyond this, I'd love to know! Thanks for reading.