Unlike coffee and non-herbal teas, water kefir is a caffeine-free drink you can easily make and enjoy day or night.
Similar to kombucha you only need 3-4 simple ingredients. Water kefir differs from kombucha, a fermented tea drink, in several ways but most notably water kefir requires less time to ferment. That means you’ll be sipping your first batch of this simple fermented, probiotic drink in no time.
If you’ve given up soda and have been lacking a carbonated beverage, you may enjoy water kefir as an alternative. It’s not super bubbly on its own but I have included a recommendation below for how to make it similar to soda.
Water kefir is a healthier alternative to the high fructose corn syrup laden soda and sugar filled energy drinks and fruit juices. You can sip on water kefir at night when you really shouldn’t be drinking caffeinated beverages, like coffee and tea which can keep you from sleeping soundly at night.
This dairy-free, grain-free and vegan friendly drink can also help populate your healthy gut bacteria. Kefir contains high levels of vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes and probiotics. To learn even more about the health benefits of water kefir, check out this article from Dr. Josh Axe.
How Do You Pronounce Kefir?
I was at the Good Food Festival this year and had a few questions for the people at the KeVita table about how they bottle their water kefir. I asked the guy if I could sample a few of their water kefir products and he looked at me sideways like I asked if I could try a taste of his beard. I rephrased my sentence and asked what non-kombucha drinks he had, and he went on to ask if I wanted to try a sample of the KEY-fir.
Not that it’s a huge issue to pronounce words correctly, because I say a fair share of words wrong every day, but if you’re working for a company who sells a product with what could be interpreted as a weird name, I would assume you know how to pronounce it.
For your own knowledge, Kefir is pronounced keh-FEER not KEY-fir. :)
What Is Water Kefir?
Let’s start with the basics. Water kefir is a probiotic beverage made with water kefir grains.
Kefir grains consist of a symbiotic polysaccharide containing both bacteria and yeast. Even though they’re called grains, they are not actual grains like wheat, rye, etc. The term simply refers to the look of the culture.
Water kefir grains ferment sucrose into a lightly sweet and bubbly drink that repopulates the gut with healthy organisms to balance the digestive and immune system.
Alternate Names For Water Kefir
Tibicos, tibi, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals, California bees, Tibetan Sea Bees, bébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees (source)
What’s The Difference Between Water Kefir & Milk Kefir?
If you’re looking for a bottle of kefir in the grocery store, you may first find milk kefir available in the refrigerated, dairy section. Dairy kefir and water kefir are completely different organisms. If you’d like to ferment milk, you would choose a different type of kefir grains.
At the grocery store you will find only one brand of water kefir on the market, made by KeVita. You’ll find it near the refrigerated & bottled kombucha, which is typically near the front of the store as a grab-and-go item.
Making the next batch of water kefir. I recently split my kefir grains so I could start brewing faster. Those little balls on the spoon are the grains. They're not actual grains, more like the SCOBY when you make Kombucha. You can get some from a friend or buy them from @kombuchakamp at http://paleoporn.net/loves/kombucha-kamp (affiliate) You may have made or seen dairy kefir in the grocery store. Water kefir is different. It's made from water, sugar and the grains do the fermenting. Similar to kombucha you do a second ferment to flavor it. Our favorites are cinnamon and fresh ginger but I'm looking for other flavor inspiration. Have you made water kefir before? How do you flavor yours? #Paleo #primal #fermentation #drinks #guthealth #paleoporn #kefir
Brewing Basics for Water Kefir
Making water kefir is extremely simple. Prior to starting you’ll need a quart size mason jar, cheesecloth or some type of kitchen towel and your water kefir grains.
I recommend you purchase your water kefir grains from Kombucha Kamp. They’ll be shipped to you in a bag and may need a couple rounds to become fully active but the papework that comes with your grains will explain all of that.
To make water kefir all you need to do is dissolve organic sugar in chlorine-free water (I use water filtered from our Berkey). Once dissolved, add the water kefir grains. Cover with a cheesecloth (which has worked well throughout the winter because there have been no bugs alive) but in the summer you’ll want a kitchen towel or something bugs that feast on sugar cannot penetrate and a rubber band to hold it in place. Store your jar at room temperature for 24-48 hours and allow the grains to feast on the sugar and ferment your drink.
The final step is the second ferment. Strain the grains through a non-metal strainer into a mason jar. I use wide mouth jars so I can easily add fresh, whole fruit and herbs. Add your favorite ingredients to flavor the water. Tighten a cap on the jar and transfer to the same room temperature location for another 24-48 hours.
Finally, transfer the jar to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process and drink your flavored water kefir cold, whenever you would like.
Grains can be re-used indefinitely so don’t throw them away after a single use.
For more information about the different water and sugar options which can affect the flavor and taste of your water kefir, see the table here on Cultures For Health’s website.
For even more information, continue reading about water kefir on Kombucha Kamp.
How Long Can Kefir Be Stored in the Fridge?
Flavored water kefir can be stored:
- At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 days
- In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 to 3 weeks
- In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 1 to 2 months or longer
Storing Grains Between Uses
If you pause your water kefir production for a long period of time you can dehydrate the grains and store them in a cool, dry place.
If you will only be away from your production for a short period of time, such as 1-2 weeks, you can store your grains in a glass dish, covered with water along with a raisin for them to feast on. Be sure to store them covered in the refrigerator.
Recommendations To Flavor Water Kefir
I started flavoring our water kefir with a single ingredient.
Our original favorites were fresh chunks of ginger root and whole cinnamon sticks. Mexican cinnamon provided more flavor than typical cinnamon sticks.
Once I got the process under control, and the kefir train was rolling smoothly, I started experimenting with combinations of flavors.
Our current favorites are:
- Star Anise: Add 2-3 whole star anise to the jar
- Mango Mint: 2-3oz fresh mango chunks with 1-2 fresh mint leaves sliced
- Strawberry Mint: 1-2 fresh strawberries chopped with 1-2 fresh mint leaves sliced
- Tangerine: A mild-flavored, refreshing drink flavored with 3-4 quartered fresh slices of tangerine
- Cranberry Ginger: 3-4 fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries with a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root
- Ginger: A couple slices of a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root
- Apple Cinnamon: One whole cinnamon stick with half a fresh organic apple cut into 2-3 slices
- Tropical: A mix of fresh squeezed lemon, lime, orange and pineapple juice
- Make It Bubbly: Combine your favorite flavored water kefir with carbonated water (we enjoy Topo Chico) to have your own flavored soda at home
Flavors we’ve tried and weren’t super impressed with include pomegranate seeds, halved apricots and mashed blueberries.
#Repost @jeffsarris with @repostapp. ・・・ We've fallen hard for our home brewed water kefir, but we couldn't pass up trying this Tonix Coconut Water Kefir. It's interesting. It tastes much more like a medicinal tonic, which I imagine is where they derived the name. I do like it, though I'm not sure the added expense of coconut water is worth the cost. #kefir #probiotics #paleo #primal #paleoporn
Fermenting in Coconut Water
Plain coconut water can be refreshing and enjoyable. You can use coconut water in place of chlorine-free water to ferment your water kefir but I haven’t wanted to spend the time to do that when water is regularly available.
Recently when Jeff & I were in LA, we came across a coconut water kefir tonic at the Whole Foods in Venice. It carried quite a hefty price tag but I wanted to try it because I had never seen it before. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. As you can see above, Jeff said it tasted much more like a medicinal tonic.
If you enjoy the flavor of coconut water, I would drink it as is and not use it to ferment. Though now you know that if you’d like to experiment further, you can use your water kefir grains in coconut water and/or fruit juice as well.