Water Kefir is a probiotic beverage with a base of sweetened water that is naturally fermented with the help of kefir grains, or tibicos. It’s a little different from the most commonly known kefir, which is made with milk and is kind of like an extra tangy yogurt drink. I had tried the milk kind before, and I have to admit, I hadn’t really liked it. But I had been interested in trying water kefir, which I had heard described as a ‘natural soda’, so when Jean Snow, urban farmer extraordinaire, called up our office to see if we’d like to try out fermenting our own batch, I jumped at the offer of her extra kefir grains!
When I dropped in to Jean’s house, she offered me a taste of her last batch of kefir, which she had brewed with maple syrup, ginger, lemon and organic raisins. It was so good…it tasted like an extra dry, fizzy ginger ale with almost a hint of rosewater. She supplied me with a jar of the same recipe that she had been given with instructions to brew my own and share my own grains once they started growing.
The grains are what make the magic happen. They are little colonies of bacteria and yeast that clump together, and they feed on sugar. If left in a dark spot at room temperature, the grains will transform sweet water into a mildly alcoholic, fizzy and refreshing beverage within 24 to 72 hours that’s full of beneficial pro-biotics. At this point, you can strain the grains out of your drink with a non-metallic strainer (a plastic strainer or cheese cloth works well) and start the process all over again.
The grains do grow a little with every batch. I was able to make three new batches from my original gift of grains after four days! If you want to put your project on hold for a bit, just refrigerate the grains (with some sugar water) and your grains should stay alive for the next time you want to brew up a batch, as long as you don’t leave them too long!
The most basic recipe for making kefir is a 1-1-1-ratio: 1 Cup of un-chlorinated water (If you have municipal tap water, let it sit for an hour or so before mixing it up with the grains so the chlorine can evaporate), 1 Tablespoon of sugar (raw, unprocessed sugars are great, including maple syrup – but DON’T use honey! The anti-microbial characteristic of honey can kill kefir grains), and 1 Tablespoon of kefir grains. This recipe will keep your grains alive and going, but might taste a little dull.
Here’s a slightly fancier recipe that was given to me by Jean, which I can testify is delicious!
- 3 Tablespoons Water Kefir Grains
- 10 organic raisins or 2 Tablespoons of another unsulphured dried fruit
- 1/4 cup maple syrup or sugar (but not honey!)
- 1/2 organic lemon
- 1 thin slice fresh ginger, peeled
- Enough chlorine-free water to fill your quart-sized mason jar
And here’s the instructions again – in easy point form!
- Dissolve sugar into water.
- Add water kefir grains, raisins, half a lemon and slice of ginger to the mixture of sugar water in a large mason jar. Don’t fill it up too far – you want some air space so there’s some room for the fermentation to happen.
- Allow your water kefir to brew in a lidded mason jar at room temperature for 24 – 72 hours depending on the strength you prefer and the temperature of your home. The warmer your home is, the faster water kefir will brew.
- Strain the water kefir grains, raisins, lemon and ginger from the water kefir with a non-metallic strainer and bottle the liquid into smaller containers.
- Drink right away, or allow the smaller bottles to sit out for another 24 – 48 hours to continue fermentation and produce natural carbonation.
- Serve cold over ice and enjoy!