Why Kefir Can Turn Alcoholic And What To Do

Water kefir fermenting in a large jar with netting on top protecting in, resting on a light wood surface.

Water kefir has such a mild taste that any alcohol in the water will be far more apparent than the alcohol in other fermented products such as kombucha. Water kefir does not contain more alcohol than other naturally fermented drinks; it may only taste that way due to this mild taste. However, many people find themselves asking if kefir can turn alcoholic and what to do if it does.

Water kefir can turn alcoholic if it is left to ferment for long periods of time or if it is left in the fridge. The yeast in it creates more alcohol as it breathes less in colder temperatures. Avoid leaving it to ferment for too long to prevent higher levels of alcohol.

Water kefir is a simple beverage to make, but it can be a fairly complicated process to oversee. It can be tricky to determine when it is done and if it was done well. Let’s take a look at water kefir, its alcohol levels, and what to avoid in the fermentation process.

Why Does My Water Kefir Taste Like Alcohol?

If your kefir water already tastes like alcohol, it is most likely that the natural fermenting process has produced naturally occurring levels of alcohol.

All fermented drinks will contain some level of alcohol in them. However, if it is done correctly, these levels will only stay around the range of 0.2% or 0.5%. Many alcohol-free beverages still contain these levels, but they are so low that they are considered alcohol-free.

Your water kefir will likely not contain levels of alcohol any higher, especially if it has only been fermenting for a couple of days in the recommended fermenting conditions. However, it may taste like there is more alcohol in it than there actually is, because water kefir has an extremely mild taste, whereas alcohol has a taste that is:

  • robust
  • distinct
  • noticeable

If there is any level of alcohol present in your water kefir, the chances are high that the alcohol will be the only thing you taste. It might seem like the alcohol levels in your water kefir are very strong when in reality they are not.

NOTE: If you need a refresher on how to make your own water kefir from scratch, read my full guide here!

2 Things To Do If The Alcohol Level Is Too High In Kefir Water

If you do not want any alcohol levels (higher than 0.2% to 0.5%) present in your water kefir because you do not wish to consume alcohol, here is what to do.

For example, if the water kefir is for children or for a woman who is pregnant, it may be safer to start the fermentation process from scratch if you can taste a fair amount of alcohol in it.

A cocktail glass with orange liquid in it and a rosemary sprig, on a gray surface with orange slices surrounding.
Enjoy a kefir cocktail on a warm day!

Something may have occurred in the fermenting process that increased the amount of alcohol being produced in your kefir water. If there is a high enough alcohol level in the water, it may even be considered an alcoholic beverage.

If you are okay with your kefir water now containing alcohol in it, you can turn it into a tasty drink and enjoy it.

Start by removing the kefir grains from the water. Add some dried fruit to it and let it sit in the water kefir for one to seven days. This will add a great fruity punch to your now-alcoholic beverage.

You can then pour this mixture into a glass with some ice, and enjoy it on a hot day! The great thing about this is that water kefir is still a great source of nutrients and good gut bacteria, so it will still be healthy even with higher levels of alcohol.

If you are not happy with higher levels of alcohol in your water kefir, you can do one of two things:

#1: Start From Scratch

You could start the fermentation process of your kefir water again, making sure that it does not form high levels of alcohol in it this time. Try leaving it in a warmer environment than you previously did (not too warm, though), and leave it for a shorter period of time before consuming it.

#2: Dilute It When You Drink It

When you drink water kefir which may have higher levels of alcohol in it, simply dilute it by adding one to two tablespoons of kefir water to a glass of water or another chosen beverage. This way, you will still get all the health benefits of the water kefir, but with very low amounts of alcohol that may be present in it.

A glass of mint water with a spoonful of kefir in it, and a wooden spoon laying down next to it with kefir grains in it.
Dilute kefir if you are worried about the alcohol content

What Causes Alcohol In My Kefir Water?

Water kefir is made with a mix of kefir grains and sugary water mixture which starts a natural fermentation process that produces excellent gut-health-promoting bacteria. But, as with any natural fermenting process, it will also produce alcohol.

The alcohol produced in this process is just a natural by-product of fermentation that happens in the water kefir, but if you manage the fermentation process correctly, you will be able to avoid large amounts of alcohol being produced.

What causes high amounts of alcohol? Well, one thing that is known to cause the levels of alcohol to be higher in your water kefir is higher levels of sugar.

HOT TIP: The more sugar you use in your sugar-water mixture, the more alcohol you can expect out of your kefir water.

Another contributing factor that causes more alcohol in your water kefir is the temperature. The colder the environment, the more alcohol. If you left your water kefir in the fridge while it was fermenting, the colder temperature would cause the yeast to respire less and produce more alcohol

In the end, the fermentation process that causes the good stuff in your water kefir is the same process that will cause alcohol, so manage the fermentation process wisely. Monitor it closely to ensure the alcohol levels stay at a minimum.

Can You Drink Kefir Water That Has Alcohol In It?

Given that you have not just found a bottle of kefir water that you made six months ago, and had forgotten about that now smells like pure vodka, you can usually drink your kefir water if it has alcohol in it without a problem.

Fermented products should always be consumed with caution and should not be consumed if left for longer periods of time than have been recommended. There are still bacteria in these products, and if they have not been managed well, they could be harmful.

With this being said if you have managed your kefir water well and have been maintaining it and keeping a close watch over the fermenting process, but it now smells like alcohol, this kefir water is usually still perfectly safe to consume.

As we have discussed in length, there are certain factors that can contribute to water kefir having higher levels of alcohol, and as long as the fermentation process was handled safely and correctly, you can definitely still drink it.

Water kefir grains in a wooden spoon on a dark wood surface surrounded by loose water kefir grains.


All kefir water contains minimal amounts of alcohol in it due to the fermentation process, although it will generally not be considered “alcoholic” due to it having such a small amount.

Water kefir can turn alcoholic when exposed to:

  • higher levels of sugar
  • cold temperatures
  • sitting for long periods of time

If having alcohol in your water kefir is not something you want, try to avoid these situations when fermenting.

Always be cautious when working with fermented products, and if your kefir water ever smells incredibly strongly of alcohol, or does not smell right in general, instead discard that batch of kefir water and start from scratch. When it comes to bacteria, always stay on the cautious side and rather be safe now than sorry later. 

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