Water kefir grains can easily be infused in lightly sweetened water or fruit juice to make a healthy beverage full of probiotics–they are fizzy and refreshing drinks–flavored with any fruit, herbs or fruit juices that you like. Watch this video to learn how-to-do-it! These are way better than any soda pop, they taste great and are good for you.
I started purchasing water kefir at the healthfood stores and now all my grocery stores sell it. It generally costs between $2.99 to $3.99 for a 15-ounce bottle. When I found out I could make it myself–I ordered the water kefir grains (WKG) online and they came with instructions. The way that I learned to make water kefir was by experience and it is fairly easy. Two sources that I have used to acquire WKG are Cultures for Health and Florida Sun–they have directions and videos that you can watch. I would also recommend fermented foods for vitality & health by Dunja Gulin, published by Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, which is an informative book about the goodness of fermented foods and beverages with easy to follow recipes. Foraging and Feasting by Dina Faconi (Botanical Arts Press, 2013) has an excellent section on Water Kefir Sodas, which she subtitles Elixir of Life, Manna from Heaven.
Basically, water kefir grains are a starter culture or SCOBY, which are Symbiotic Colonies of Bacteria and Yeasts. There are other kinds of starter cultures used to make dairy kefir, the popular tea-based drink Kombucha, and even sourdough bread, though these are whole different processes. When yeast and bacterias are given something sweet like sugar or fruit combined with water, they feed on it and turn it into carbon dioxide, alcohol, acetic or lactic acid. The resulting liquid turns a little bit sour-tasting, loses much of its sweetness because it has been consumed by the SCOBY and is fizzy and rich in probiotics.
WKG are small granules that are sort of rubbery in texture and translucent in color. They arrive in a sealed container and need to be attended to right away–once you have them–you will have to tend them regularly by feeding them, straining off the liquid and combining it with fruit or fruit juice to drink and then starting the process over again. The WKG do increase in quantity, so I’ve been double-batching it all summer and have grains to share. I have enjoyed these fortifying beverages throughout the hot weather in every flavor of seasonal fruit and herb combos.
The basic recipe I learned to follow is: 1 quart of water that has been sweetened with 1/4 cup (or up to 1/2 cup if you like it sweeter) of organic sugar, when the sugar is dissolved add 1/4 cup water kefir grains, cap, shake and leave on the kitchen counter for 24 to 78 hours. Once you get them going you can vary the sweetener using coconut sugar, rice syrup, maple syrup, agave, and even some molasses if you like the taste. A small amount of honey can be used along with another sweetener though all honey tends to inhibit the bacterias and yeasts. The amount of time on the counter depends on the weather and the temperature of your kitchen–if it is hot out, it can ferment in less than 24 hours–if it is cold it could take 3 or 4 days, or longer.
Cover the jar loosely or cap the jar, when sealed it gets fizzier faster, however in hot weather, you will have to open it 3 or 4 times a day to release the gas (often called burping) because you don’t want the pressure to build and have an explosion–so you might want to just cover it loosely if you aren’t able to do this. I shake the bottle a few times a day and bubbles indicate the fermenting process. I smell the ferment daily and when it smells somewhat sour then I taste it. It should taste a bit sour, so if it is sweet, leave to ferment longer. Once it is ready, pour through a strainer to catch the WKG, and pour the strained liquid into a quart jar or bottle.
Flavor this water kefir with 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh fruit cut into small pieces, or fruit juice and add a few herb sprigs or flowers if desired. I let this sit on the counter for another 12 to 24 hours and then refrigerate it (you can strain off the fruit and eat it or let it stay in the bottle and enjoy some with each pour. Take the strained kefir grains and repeat the process for the basic recipe. This cycle repeats itself 2 to 3 times a week–so there will be enough for the family to enjoy regularly.
Note: if you do not have well water and have chlorinated city water, it is best to use bottled spring water. Here’s to you health in a most delicious beverage!