Water Kefir

Rubbery grains of goodness

What is Water Kefir?

Water Kefir is one of the simplest methods of fermentation that you can use at home.

Water Kefir are mysterious, rubbery grains which transform sugar and water into a drink that is full of probiotic goodness. The grains are really colonies of microbes that eat the sugar and excrete carbon dioxide along with a whole bunch of compounds that are great for our health, especially that of our gut ecosystem This digestion is a form of fermentation and converts the sugar into energy for the microbes, carbon dioxide and a tiny bit of alcohol.

A healthy drop

How to farm Water Kefir

My way of fermenting with water kefir grains is simple.

I have a jar in which about 2 tablespoonfuls of the grains live. To start yours add 2 teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of bicarb soda and a pinch of rock salt or Himalayan sea salt to 2 cups of spring or filtered water. Don’t use chlorinated tap water, the chlorine is added to the water to kill microbes, which is exactly what we don’t want!

Sugar, bicarb soda and sea salt

Let it all dissolve, then add your grains. You can start with as little as 1 teaspoonfuls of these but as the saying goes, ‘the more, the merrier’ and that holds true for Water Kefir too! I’ve found that for my daily needs, 2 tablespoons of grains do the trick nicely.

Stir the grains around a little to make sure they all get a good wash and are fully exposed to the goodies in the water.

Start with at least a tablespoon
Start with at least a tablespoon

Let it all settle in and leave it somewhere that is out of direct light and at a constant, warm temperature. Your normal kitchen temperature is fine. Leave it for 2 days and then strain off and drink the liquid and replace it with another cup of water and 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Theres no need to add the bicarb soda and salt with every water change once the culture is doing its thing.

Every day in the warmer weather, I strain out the liquid and drink it. Then I replace the water and sugar and leave it overnight. The next day I repeat the process. What could be simpler than that? You’ll get to know when it’s ready by the taste – it will have changed from sugary sweet to fermenty fermented.

You can leave the kefir for a couple of days before drinking if you want a stronger taste.

Giving your grains a boost

If you’re using your grains for a long time, add a pinch of bicarbonate soda and pinch of mineral rich sea or Himalayan pink salt to the water to give them a bit of a boost. Not to much though, or you’ll kill off the microbes.

Every few ferments, I mix in 1/2 teaspoon of molasses to my mix. The extra nutrients in the molasses also gives the microbes a boost and using it regularly is a sure way to keep them healthy.

Resting your grains

Occasionally rest your Water Kefir culture by putting 2 teaspoons of sugar, a pinch of bicarb soda and a pinch of Himalayas pink salt into their water and put the culture into the fridge for a 2 or 3 days. Doing this will give your culture a bit of a break, they will have enough food to keep them alive but will take things slowly and rest up. Afterall, it is a colony of living things and we all need a break from time to time.

Possible problems

Little can go wrong with Water Kefir as long as you keep to the basic techniques of using clean, unchlorinated water, not adding too much salt or bicarb and changing the water daily once the culture is established .

As long as the temperature is an average room temperature and the culture is kept out of direct sunlight, its pretty indestructible.

The only other thing is that you cultute may attract some of those little Vinegar Flies. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that the Water Kefir produces. A good screen over your container is the answer to these.

As long as you stick to these tips, you’re fur will soon be shiny and you’ll have a wet nose…wait a minute, that’s for dogs!

Vinegar flies are attracted to the COs produced during fermentation.

No metal?

There is some superstition around Water Kefir. It is said not to let it come in contact with metal. This is only partially true. When straining and separating the grains from the Water Kefir liquid, it is OK to use a metal strainer and a spoon. The trouble with metal comes in when you are fermenting the mix or storing the liquid or grains. The acids and other substances created during the fermentation process can corrode metal and introduce metal compounds into the liquid, contaminating it and harming the culture. Of course, this only happens in microscopic amounts, it won’t eat a hole through the side of your favorite pot, but, we are talking about a culture of living microbes and a tiny amount can cause a lot of grief. Don’t ferment or grow in metal vessels.

Find out about other simple types of kitchen fermentation on our fermentation page

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