Water kefir is a delicious ferment. Much like kombucha, this versatile brew has endless flavour options. Unlike kombucha, water kefir has a mild taste, making it a nice introduction for someone who's new to fermented drinks. Once you get your water kefir grains established, you can also experiment with fun things- like fermenting coconut milk to create an incredibly delicious, effervescent coconut yoghurt. One of my all-time favourite ferments!
Unlike our other fermented drinks, for this recipe you will have to get your hands on the starter culture. Water kefir grains can be found online through Upaya Naturals or Cultures for Health. Before you buy, ask around to see if you know someone who is brewing who can share extra grains. If you are buying dehydrated grains, follow the instructions for rehydrating.
Please note, water and milk grains are not interchangeable.
The ingredients you use will impact the health of your grains. They don't like chlorine and they LOVE minerals. Ideally, you would use spring water since it has not been chlorinated and it is naturally high in minerals. If you don't live near a spring, filtered water is best, but you will need to add minerals from time to time to keep your grains healthy by using a mineral concentrate or by using mineral rich sugars and/or dried fruits.
Mineral rich sugars are the best options for water kefir. Choose from whole evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, coconut sugar, Demerara or a combination. You can also add molasses, but this will change the flavour of the kefir. If you like the taste, use 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp molasses in the recipe below.
Dried fruits can also be added for their mineral content. The best choices are apricot or fig and make sure they are unsulphured. (Note: unsulphured apricots are brown, not bright orange!)
As with most ferments, equipment can be simple. A large glass jar, wooden or bamboo utensil for stirring, cheesecloth or natural fiber napkin, rubber band and a nut milk bag or stainless steel sieve are all you need. Water kefir grains don't like metal, so try to minimize contact. If all you have is a metal sieve, just try to minimize length of contact.
Water Kefir Recipe
1/4 cup water kefir grains
1/4 cup sugar
optional: 1/4-1/2 organic lemon, adds a lemon taste and a favourable pH
optional: small handful of dried, unsulphured apricots or figs
4 cups filtered water or spring water
Add kefir grains to a large glass jar. Add water, then add sugar and stir with a wooden spoon or bamboo chopstick to dissolve. Add dried fruits and lemon if using.
Cover with napkin or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band and set in a warm place in your kitchen out of direct light.
Water kefir ferments faster than kombucha and will be ready in 24-48 hours. Taste it along the way, when it is less sweet, has carbonation and is slightly tangy, it's finished.
Strain into small glass mason jars and reserve the kefir grains for your next batch. Compost (or eat!) dried fruits. I like to squeeze the lemon into the kefir to make it taste like a lemonade. You can put a lid on them and place in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy them or you can add flavour and fizz by adding some fruit juice and fermenting a few more days. To do this, add roughly 1/4 cup fruit juice per 500ml jar of kefir, seal with a lid to trap the carbonation and leave on the counter for another 1-3 days, then transfer to fridge. Some of our favourite flavours are pomegranate, cherry and raspberry.
NOTE: If you are using rehydrated grains, it may take several weeks for your grains to become established. Don't be discouraged if nothing seems to be happening for your first few brews. If it still tastes sweet after leaving it for 48 hours and there's no sign of fizz, then just keep repeating the process until your grains become active. Simply dump the sweetened water, reserving the grains and start your brew again. You may need to do this several times. You'll know your grains are active when they begin eating the sugar and producing carbon dioxide. You'll note the taste difference in the sweetness and you'll start to see carbonation bubbles, grains may start to float. Grains may reproduce, sometimes doubling with every batch! You can give extra grains away or add to a compost pile. Water kefir grains can be stored in the fridge in sweetened water with a lid on it for up to 3 weeks.