Water kefir has been gaining popularity very rapidly for its immense health benefits recently. If you’re a health nut and are researching to add some healthy drinks to your diet list then Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard of water kefir. But what is it? And what are its health benefits?
Water kefir is a traditional beverage that is made by culturing water, sugar, and fruit with a starter culture. This mixture is then left to ferment for 24â€“48 hours. It’s a low-sugar fizzy drink that is rich in probiotics and aids in boosting gut health, energy, and immune function.
There’s a lot more to learn and love about water kefir, and in this article, I’ll give you a complete guide to the many facets of this magical home-brew drink. I’ll include:
- the many benefits of water kefir
- what it is
- how to make it yourself at home (recipe included!)
- other frequently asked questions about it
You’ll learn everything there is to know about water kefir and will be guided with enough knowledge to set your foot in the right direction.
What Is Water Kefir?
Water kefir is a fermented, carbonated beverage that originated in the late 1800s. It’s also known under the following names:
- California bees
- Japanese water crystals
Water kefir is produced by combining water kefir grains and sugar water, while regular kefir is made from cow, sheep, or goat milk.
FUN FACT: Although they are called kefir grains, they are not actually grains! They take that name due to their grain-like appearance.
Water kefir grains are a grain-like culture of bacteria and yeast. When these grains are mixed with sugar water, and fermented for 24â€“48 hours, it produces a carbonated beverage that’s rich in probiotics and beneficial bacteria.
Aside from being a tasty beverage, water kefir is also packed with probiotics and other health benefits, making it a great addition to a healthy and nutritious diet.
Probiotics are a type of good bacteria found in your gut. They play an important role in everybody’s immune function and overall health.
DID YOU KNOW? Water kefir is a better source of probiotics than yogurt because it contains a much more diverse range of bacteria and yeast!
Some research shows that kefir grains may contain up to 56 different bacterial and yeast strains, including:
To name but a few. All are friendly, and all are great for gut health.
How to Make Water Kefir at Home
Making water kefir is a very simple process that you can easily do in the comfort of your own home. Here’s a step-by-step detailed guide on making your own water kefir at home:
Step #1: Choose Your Kefir Grains
There are three types of water Kefir grains available in the market. These are; powdered, dehydrated, and live kefir grains.
- Powdered kefir grains – These have an unlimited shelf life and are ready to use but they do not multiply. So, their supply becomes limited.
- Dehydrated kefir grains – These also have an unlimited shelf life, they also multiply and can sustain themselves too. They need re-hydration before use. I like these dehydrated kefir grains from Amazon.
- Live kefir grains – Also known as hydrated kefir grains. They come in sugar solutions and are ready to use from the get-go. But they cannot be kept indefinitely so their shelf life is limited unless you plan to keep using them.
TIP: It’s best to get the dehydrated kefir grains, as they not only have an unlimited shelf life, but you can also maintain them and have them multiply. This is ideal if you are looking to keep making water Kefir.
Step #2: Activate The Kefir Grains
Activating the Kefir grains means rehydrating the dehydrated kefir grains. This gets their biological processes up and running again. This process takes 3 to 4 days to complete. After that, the revitalized Kefir grains are ready to use in your first recipe for water kefir.
1. You will need 1 liter of dechlorinated water that is warm.
2. Put that in a non-metal container. Plastic or glass is preferable.
3. Now you will need to put 100 grams of sugar in that water and stir until the sugar is all dissolved.
NOTE: You can use any kind of sugar, however, raw cane sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar are preferable to more processed sugars. It means your water kefir has a little more nutrition to work with, and it also adds better flavor.
4. After it has cooled off, put one tablespoon full of water kefir grains in it. Do not close the lid as your Kefir grains need to breathe. Cover the top with a piece of cloth or paper towel and leave it be for 3 to 4 days.
IMPORTANT: Warm water will kill the kefir grains so you need to wait until the sugar water solution is completely cool before moving onto the next step.
5. After 3 to 4 days, your kefir grains will be activated and will be ready to use. Strain the kefir grains and separate them.
6. Throw away the re-hydration liquid. You are now done activating your water kefir grains.
Step #3: The First Fermentation
Making water kefir requires 2 steps of fermentation. The first phase happens with the grains still in the solution. In this phase, the fermentation is faster. The first fermentation will be a lot similar to how you have activated your kefir grains.
1. You will need a similar 1 liter of water and 100 grams of sugar.
2. Dissolve the sugar in warm water in a non-metal container and wait for it to cool off. Warm water can kill the grains so it is again a must for you to wait.
3. After it has done cooling off you need to add 1 tablespoon of activated kefir grains.
4. Now comes the flavoring. You can try many different types of fresh and dried fruits for adding nutrients and flavor to your water kefir. The kefir will ferment even without fruits but adding fruits will make it more nutritious and tastier.
NOTE: If you put more kefir grains, your water kefir will ferment faster. You will have to add more sugar and fruits but it will happen faster. So, if you want quicker results, you can try this out.
The amounts I am including in this guide are the most common and tested ones. Some common fruits added to water kefir are:
- fresh slices of lime or lemon
- apple slices
Dried fruits can also be added for more nutritional value. The following are all very popular options:
- dried figs
- dried plums
TIP: Putting a slice of lemon or lime, no matter what sort of flavoring you are going for is a great idea. The acidic properties of lemon/lime prevent the growth of kahm yeast, which is not bad for you, but can affect the flavor and make it bitter.
5. After youâ€™ve put all this together you will need to cover the container with a paper towel or a piece of cloth – I like this cheesecloth from Amazon. You don’t want to seal it because it needs to breathe, hence using the cheescloth or paper towel. Anything loose that covers the kefir from bugs and contamination, but still allows it to breath.
6. Leave the container for 2 to 4 days on your kitchen counter or somewhere similar. If the weather is warm, then 2 to 3 days is enough. But if it’s cold, then you might need to keep it for up to 4 days.
Step #4: Check for Flavor and Straining
Now that your first phase of fermentation is done, you need to check your water kefir’s flavor. The more fermentation that happens, the tangier and less sweet it gets. So there’ll be a sweet spot for you to stop the fermentation.
Ideally, you want it to taste only subtly sweet and tangy. Depending on your taste, you might prefer it a bit sweeter than tangier and vice-versa. If it tastes too sweet and you want it to taste tangier, then leave it out for a bit longer.
Once you’re satisfied with how your water kefir tastes, you can move on to straining and separating the water kefir grains from your water kefir liquid. You can save a bit of that liquid for when you store the water kefir grains.
NOTE: If your water kefir still tastes very sweet and not tangy at all after a few days, then this might be a sign that your kefir grains are not alive and healthy.
Step #5: The Second Fermentation
Water kefir requires two rounds of fermentation. The first, we’ve just mentioned. The second phase happens without the kefir grains through the bacteria present in the water. This step is where you would add further flavoring and carbonation.
You need to strain your water kefir liquid into a bottle or a jar that you can seal. This step does not require outside air so you would need to seal the container. However, there will be gasses building up inside so occasionally you will need to let them out.
In fact, it’s a good idea to leave a bit of space in your container rather than fill it to the brim, so that there is space for the gases to come out.
Some people leave the water kefir liquid as-is into the bottle while some decide to add more flavor. You can add bits of fruit and herbs or even flavored syrups into the mix for extra flavor and carbonation.
Inside the sealed container, the flavors will start to build up and so will carbonation. Carbonation is your main goal here. It will make the drink bubbly and fizzy, and pleasant to drink.
You will need to let the air out occasionally. Otherwise, the pressure can be too much and the lid might explode. Let the air out every 6 to 8 hours, this process is called burping.
After 24 to 36 hours, your water kefir should be ready. You can now store it, drink it directly, or mix it with other ingredients to create new drinks!
Step #6: Storing Your Water Kefir
If you leave your water kefir out on the counter top for long enough, it will eventually turn into something akin to vinegar. It doesn’t technically go bad. However, you do want to consume it in full before the taste becomes less desirable.
You can store water kefir in airtight jars or bottles. Some people prefer this drink chilled, while others prefer it at room temperature. Regardless of temperature preference, refrigerating does make it last quite a bit longer.
To properly store the drink, you need airtight jars or bottles. Glass jars or bottles are preferable to other materials because they don’t react to the acidic nature of water kefir. These are great from Amazon.
You can leave your water kefir out at room temperature, and it will stay good for about 3 to 4 days, while in the fridge it can stay good for 8 to 10 days.
NOTE: Water kefir does not last for months on end so you should be careful when making it. Don’t make so much, that you are unable to finish drinking it all. It’s best to make water kefir from the fresh ingredients you have to enjoy new flavors continuously.
Maintaining Water Kefir Grains
Water kefir grains are very much alive and they need to be fed and kept alive for maintenance.
Water kefir grains need to be fed with sugar water frequently so they can be alive and ready for your next batch of water kefir.
The ideal situation to maintain live kefir grains is to keep them at room temperature, submerged in sugar water. You will need to feed them with a bit of sugar every 3 to 4 days. However, if you go away or forget to feed them, they have the risk of dying.
You can put them in the refrigerator for a slower fermentation process. The cold temperature will slow down the rate of fermentation and a fresh sugar water solution can last them even longer.
TIP: If you need an even longer-term storage option, then you will need to strain them and put them in a plastic bag or plastic container, and put them in the freezer. They can last months in this hibernated state.
Another thing to note is that kefir grains will definitely multiply so you might end up having too many grains!
At that point, you could easily dehydrate them for later use. Use a dehydrator or spread them out in a tray and place them somewhere with good air circulation. As long as the temperature doesn’t go over 130 degrees Fahrenheit, they will not die.
Once dry, they can simply be stored away in an airtight container, and re-hydrated at a later date!
Benefits of Water Kefir
Many studies show that water kefir is one of the best sources of probiotic strains. It contains over 50 strains of good bacteria and yeast. Here are just some of the many benefits that you can get from regularly drinking water kefir:
- Wayer kefir contains friendly bacteria and yeast that boost the health of your gut and immune system.
- Water kefir is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects. It helps your immune system better regulate itself; the probiotic strains help restrain any negative immune responses and therefore prevent viral infections and allergies.
- Some of the common families of beneficial bacteria found in water kefir are Streptococci, Lactococci, Leuconostoc, and Lactobacillus. They boost intestinal functions and help gut health.
- Studies have shown that there is a chance that water kefir may even help prevent cancer cells from growing. A lot of tests have shown that kefir grains reduce the growth of many kinds of cancer cells including breast cancer and colon cancer.
- Water kefir is also helpful to people who are trying to control their diet. The amount of sugar used to make the water kefir is not present in the final product, making it a low-calorie beverage that can help with weight loss.
- In general water, kefir fits into all sorts of dietary plans. It is a completely vegan and vegetarian beverage that is low in calories.
- It tastes good and it has no lactose or gluten. And even if you are allergic to some fruits, you can just use other fruits and herbs for flavor so there are absolutely no restrictions whatsoever.
Other Probiotic Drinks Similar to Water Kefir
There are many other probiotic drinks that are garnering popularity recently such as milk kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and coconut kefir. Here’s a quick summary of each one:
- Milk kefir – This is the richest in probiotics from all of these options, but it also has the most calories. In addition, some people are lactose intolerant, which means they may not be able to consume this, (depending on how sensitive they are to lactose).
- Coconut kefir – This one is much more similar to water kefir and also contains a lot of key vitamins, although it is still a bit richer in calories that water kefir.
- Kombucha – This is actually the biggest â€œcompetitorâ€ to water kefir when it comes to popularity. It’s made by brewing green or black tea with a culture of bacteria and yeast. Just like water kefir, it can also be packed with a variety of tangy and fizzy flavors, and of course, many probiotic strains.
- Apple cider vinegar – This probiotic solution has a lot of health benefits (in its raw, unpasteurized form), but packs a bitter taste and strong smell. It’s best to take this one in small diluted shots rather than as a pleasant beverage on it’s own.
Frequently Asked Questions About Water Kefir
How Long Do Kefir Grains Live?
Without adequate care, they can die off quite soon. But if you take good care in maintaining them, they can live on forever by reproducing.
Does Water Kefir Contain Alcohol?
Yes, water kefir does contain a bit of alcohol. Studies show that water kefir can contain 0.038% to 2% alcohol. But usually, it is around 0.08% alcohol so you do not need to worry about it so much.
How Much Water Kefir Can I Drink in A Day?
Due to the probiotics in water kefir, it’s best to start off with a small amount (1 cup maximum) a day to see if you face any unpleasant effects. You may find you need to slowly increase the amount you have over a few days on weeks. After a while when your body is used to the probiotic strains, you can drink as much as you like without worrying about any side effects.
Where Do Kefir Grains Come From?
They can be both cultured and derived from nature. There are prickly pear cactuses found in Mexico where kefir grains form as hard granules on the pads of these cactuses.
Do Kefir Grains Reproduce?
Kefir grains are not grains, but organisms living in a symbiotic relationship. As they are living, they do reproduce. Your batch of kefir grains can keep indefinitely, multiplying if fed and kept healthy.
What Is Water Kefir Known As?
Water kefir is technically known as Tibicos. Some other names are California bees and Japanese crystal water. But the most common name for them is Water Kefir.
What Kind of Water Should You Use for Water Kefir?
You can use any clean water as long as it is not chlorinated. Chlorine can kill the grains. You should use water with more mineral properties as that will provide the grains with additional nutrients.
What Kind of Sugar Should You Use?
Any kind of sugar can work as long as it is organic. Some batches of kefir grains will have an affinity towards some specific sugars but you will be fine with whatever you have. You can use sugars such as molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, sugarcane juice, etc.
Today in this article we went through all the different important aspects of water kefir. We learned about water kefir’s benefits and what the drink contains. We also discussed how to make, store and maintain the grains easily at home. I tried to provide a complete guide that will help you know all there is to know about water kefir.
I hope have fun with this amazingly tasty and healthy drink. If you’re new to it, check out the recipe I’ve given below for a basic water kefir. Along with the information above, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the great health benefits of water kefir!
Learn more about water kefir:
- 2 liters warm non-chlorinated water, divided
- 200 grams of sugar, divided
- 1 Tbsp dehydrated water kefir grains
- Fruits and herbs, to taste
Activate the Kefir Grains
- Pour 1 liter of warm dechlorinated water into a non-metal container. Plastic or glass is preferable.
- Add 100 grams of sugar to that water and stir till the sugar is dissolved.
- After the water has cooled, add one tablespoon of water kefir grains to it. Do not close the lid as your kefir grains need to breathe. Cover the top with a piece of cloth or paper towel and leave it be for 3 to 4 days.
- After 3 to 4 days, your kefir grains will be activated and will be ready to use. Strain the kefir grains and separate them.
- Throw away the rehydration liquid. You are now done activating your water kefir grains.
- Again, combine 1 liter of warm water and 100 grams of sugar.
- Dissolve the sugar in warm water in a non-metal container and wait for it to cool off. Warm water can kill the grains so it is again a must for you to wait.
- Once the water is cooled, add 1 tablespoon of activated kefir grains.
- For flavoring, you can try many different types of fresh and dried fruits for adding nutrients and flavor to your water kefir. The kefir will ferment even without fruits but adding fruits will make it more nutritious and tastier.
- Then cover the container with a paper towel or a piece of cloth. Again, you do not want to seal it because it needs to breathe.
- Leave the container for 2 to 4 days on your kitchen counter or somewhere similar. If the weather is warm, then 2 to 3 days is enough. But if it is cold, then you might need to keep it for up to 4 days.
- Strain your water kefir liquid into a bottle or a jar that you can seal.
- Add bits of fruit and herbs or even flavored syrups into the mix for more flavor and carbonation. Inside the sealed container, the flavors will start to build up and so will carbonation. Carbonation is your main goal.
- You will need to let the air out occasionally. Otherwise, the pressure can be too much and the lid might explode. Let the air out every 6 to 8 hours, this process is called burping.
- After 24 to 36 hours, your water kefir should be ready. You can now store it, drink it directly, or mix it with other ingredients to create new drinks.
- Store water kefir in airtight jars or bottles. Refrigerating will make it last quite a bit longer.
- To properly store the drink, you need airtight jars or bottles. Glass jars or bottles are preferable.
- Leave the bottles out at room temperature and they will stay good for about 3 to 4 days. In the fridge they can stay good for 8 to 10 days.
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