You may have heard of milk kefir, but have you heard of water kefir? Water kefir is a lightly sweet, non dairy, gluten free beverage that contains beneficial probiotics. It’s made by soaking water kefir grains in sugar water, fruit juice or coconut water for 24-48 hours. The crystal like grains are composed of yeasts and bacteria that ferment the sugar and make it nutritious.
To add more flavor, a second fermentation can be done by adding fresh or dried fruit, herbs and even vanilla or other extracts. Water kefir can also be used to make condiments, popsicles or other foods. It's an easy, cost effective and delicious way to get more beneficial probiotics into your diet and body.
It’s not clear exactly where water kefir originated. Some sources say it comes from Mexico while others say the Caucasus Mountains of Tibet. Water kefir has been used around the world, probably for centuries. Other names include: tibicos, tibi, California bees, African bees, balm of Gilead, Japanese beer seeds and Jack’s magic beans.
I was happily surprised to learn that multiple studies have been done on water kefir (and even more on milk kefir). Some of these showed that water kefir has anti-inflammatory, wound healing and even anti-cancer properties.
Fermented foods have been used to preserve food and promote health throughout history. We are just beginning to scientifically study and understand the extent of their benefits. I don’t think our ancestors would be surprised. It’s beautiful that something can be delicious AND beneficial to health.
If I could have it my way, I would replace all soda, which has no nutritional value and contributes to a myriad of health problems, with nutritious fermented options like water and milk kefirs, and kombucha.
How to make water kefir
You will need:
water kefir grains (I used these ones that I purchased at Natural Grocers)
small mesh strainer
large glass container, big enough to hold 8 cups liquid. I used a large jar.
8 cups water, without chlorine or fluoride
3/4 cup organic sugar
measuring cups and spoons
coffee filter or clean breathable cloth to cover jar
rubber band or string
flip top glass bottles or mason jars with lids
2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
Water kefir grains need to be re-hydrated before you can use them. Once they are hydrated you can use them over and over. Hydrating them is easy. This is how you do it:
1. In your large glass container, dissolve 1/4 cup sugar in 1/2 cup hot water.
2. Add 3 1/4 cups room temperature water (not colder than 68 degrees F) to the sugar water and stir.
3. Check the temperature of the water. You want it to be between 68 and 85 degrees F. If it is too hot, wait until it cools down.
4. When the water is the right temperature add your water kefir grains.
5. Cover jar opening with cloth or coffee filter and secure with rubber band or string.
6. Place in a warm spot that will stay between 68 and 85 degrees F for 4 days. I used the top of my refrigerator.
7. After 4 days the grains will be a little bigger and translucent. Strain out the kefir grains and discard the sugar water. Your kefir grains are ready to use!
This is what the hydrated kefir grains look like
Start your first batch:
1. In your glass container, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 cup hot water.
2. Add 7 1/2 cups room temperature water, measure temperature and adjust as you did in step 3 above.
3. Add your kefir grains, cover and place in warm spot as before for 24-48 hours. I like to let mine culture for 48 hours.
4. After 24-48 hours, use your funnel and strainer to transfer the water kefir to mason jars with lids or flip top glass bottles.
5. Start a new batch of water kefir the same way.
To make lemon ginger flavored water kefir:
1. Once the kefir is in the bottles or jars, flavor it by dividing 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2 inches of peeled and thinly sliced ginger root evenly among the bottles or jars.
2. Leave in a warm place for 24-72 hours. I like to let mine culture for 72 hours.
3. Transfer to fridge to cool, then enjoy! Open slowly as pressure and carbonation can build during the fermentation process. It will keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Once you get your kefir grains going, you will have a steady supply of water kefir for a minimal cost. This is just one of many ways to flavor your water kefir. There are many more delicious possibilities to get more healthy probiotics into your diet!