Now I’m treading on eggshells with this post for the mere fact that I haven’t been doing this all that long.. but, so far so good! This past week, I had an opportunity to get my hands dirty (literally) with a new class of culturing I haven’t tried before – Water Kefir!
Remember my post on kefir? Only, that was dairy kefir used with milk. And it was with the easy “kefir culture” packets you can find at the health food store. This is a new ballgame. This is using the actual reusable, live kefir grains! The benefit to using the actual grains is that you don’t have to continue to buy your cultures when you want to make your kefir – the trickier part, is that you have to keep the grains alive and thriving at all times. It’s like having a pet in your fridge – a pet that provides you and your family with good bacteria, and immune boosting qualities at all times. It can turn the simplest beverages into incredibly healthy ones. And how exciting is that?? So..here we go! DIY Water Kefir!
Here they are. Don’t look like much, do they? They look like little globules of gelatin – but they are so much more! What are we going to do with these guys to get the amazing probiotic water kefir?
Well, first, you need the grains. Pardon, I forgot that part. You can purchase them at www.culturesforhealth.com, as well as other health retailers, unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend that makes their own water kefir. You see, when you feed the grains and keep them alive, they begin to…reproduce. Yep, so if you keep them happy, you’ll find yourself with more than you started out with. Then you can pass the love along! A good friend of mine gave these to me (and has put up with my 1,001 questions since then) – I am truly, truly thankful!!
Now, I have about 1/2 C (or a little more) of kefir grains here, and that will be enough to culture about 1/2 gallon of water. So what you will need is:
Water Kefir Grains
Organic Juice to flavor it on the second ferment
So, drop your kefir grains into a (or a few) jar(s), add the sugar (1/2 C for the amounts mentioned above), and add the water. Cover the jar with a towel or coffee filter – your grains need oxygen to live. (Put a rubber band around the rim to keep bugs or dust out)
You are going to let this culture on the counter for 1-2 days, depending on how warm you keep your house. If it is cold (or just winter), shoot for 2 days – 1 for warmer temps. Note – this is not an exact science. There are many other variables that could determine finish time on first ferment. Your goal is for your kefir to taste sweet, but not like “sugar water” anymore.
After your “first ferment”, you will strain the grains out – their work is done. To store them – keep them alive – place in a jar with enough water to cover, and a few spoon fulls of sugar for them to snack on. You see, the kefir grains eat the sugar, so when you enjoy your end product, all the sugar you’ve been adding will not be the same as drinking actual juice. The sugar is, in essence, already out of the equation. And a tip to keep those grains not only alive – but thriving – is to use 1/2 C Sucanat in place of sugar every few batches of kefir water you make with it. The sucanat has much more nutrition to feed those grains than the sugar, and it will help ensure that the grains reproduce nicely. If you do not want to store your grains at this time – you can start a new batch of water kefir!
So now place your grains in the fridge if you are storing them – once you’ve covered them with a towel or coffee filter (remember, they need to breathe), and they’ll be happy for a while. Or, if you want to reuse them, rinse them off to get off any residue form your last kefir project. They’re good for another round!
Back to your strained water kefir. You will add some organic juice to taste – it adds a nice flavor when it’s all said and done. More “family friendly”. A good place to start is to add 1 C of juice for every 3-4 C of water kefir. So, using the amounts we have above, that equals out to about 2 C of juice (or a little less) for the full amount of water kefir you now have. I have mine split into a couple jars, as you see, so there is some math involved in the relative breakdown. Again, this is not an exact science. Experiment with what you like, and add more or less juice to your tastes!
And since the water is now a probiotic mixture, the “new bacteria” will feed off the sugar from the juice you’re adding. Awesome, isn’t it??
Since the kefir grains are no longer present, you can cover with an actual jar cover. But a word of WARNING – your kefir will have a carbonation effect during the fermentation. So do NOT put a lid on your jar that keeps all air from escaping. If you do, you may end up with a combustion effect – casualties, and a HUGE mess. So remember, whatever you top your jars with, keep it loose so air can escape!!
Let your kefir run a second ferment for another day on the counter, then move to the fridge. And there you have it – beautiful, great tasting water kefir that is good for the whole family! The above instructions are a great place to start, but use your tastes to tweak the culturing time to more or less. My first batch had an interesting odor to it, and I think it had actually finished culturing before the 1 day frame (our house was very warm). Luckily, it is hard to ruin your water kefir! Unless it tastes or smells outright bad, chances are it’s fine to drink anyway.
In a world where everything is processed and lacking enzymes, our guts really need all the help they can get, so this is an easy way to replenish some of that good bacteria!
I like to compare water kefir to kombucha – but much better tasting! Kombucha is a similar beverage that is amazing for the gut and digestion- and for detoxing; much like apple cider vinegar. It is tangier, and has more fizz to it as well (as well as a vinegar taste). But rather than grains, kombucha uses a scoby to ferment the drink – something I have yet to have experience with. Sorry guys, I’m a little overwhelmed by the size of some of the scoby’s I’ve seen lately. 😛
In comparison, water kefir is loaded with enzymes and vitamins, including B-Vitamins, – minus the caffeine present in kombucha. It is basically a franken-version of good bacteria. Www.culturesforhealth.com lists the beneficial bacteria of water kefir as follows:
L. casei subsp. casei
L. casei subsp. pseudoplantarum
L. casei subsp. rhamnosus
L. casei subsp. tolerans
L. coryneformis subsp. torquens
Amazing, right?? Now, I hate to do this, but let me remind you that I am not a doctor – and I can’t recommend this drink to prevent or cure any diseases. Fermenting your own beverages always carries risks of their own, so I highly encourage everyone interested in fermenting their own kefirs to do more research before preparing and consuming. Especially if you are pregnant, nursing, sharing with your kids, or have any underlying medical conditions. There, I said it. And I hated every word.
Next post, we’ll continue on with a quickie on the dairy kefir grains – and a recipe for coconut water kefir! Until then, drink up!