Water kefir is my first love in the world of fermentation and is where my journey with fermentation began. When I started my first fermentation kitchen trials, it was water kefir that I most enjoyed crafting, and gave me the most energy. It was also such a thrill to so visibly watch the liquid transformation and hear the bubbling and fizzing that water kefir makes while it ferments.
I drink water kefir every day and am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my health depends on having this elixir in my life.
Water kefir is a beautiful looking culture – it looks like lots and lots of clusters of gel-like transparent cauliflower florets that are shiny, bouncy and light. Almost like wobbly jelly.
The water kefir culture itself is a collection of bacteria and yeasts, held together in a polysaccharide matrix (a web, if you like, to keep the collection of yeast and bacteria together).
Water kefir ferments a sugar and mineral rich liquid, transforming the sugars into a probiotic rich elixir. They contain many different strains of living bacteria and yeasts, which, when you employ them to work in your sugar-water factory, will give you a beautifully refined light and refreshing taste. It’s easy on the belly, not acidic or strong like a kombucha.
The actual process of fermenting water kefir is simple – the tricky part can come with how temperamental the culture is. Unlike a kombucha SCOBY which is very hardy, easy to manage and copes well in an acidic environment, water kefir needs a delicate balance of sugar water, minerals and frequent care.
Water kefir is known by many names: tibi, tibicos, SKG (sugar kefir grains), Tibetan crystals, Japanese water crystals, bees wine, water kefir grains, California bees….. for the purpose of this book, we’ll use the term water kefir. Although they are called water kefir “grains” there is nothing in them that isgrain-basedd – the term has come about because of the way they are shaped – like a grain.
Water kefir can only be used to culture coconut water and sugar water – you need to source specific milk kefir grains for culturing milk kefir.
So, where did water kefir originate?
Water kefir and milk kefir grains are totally different in appearance, function and makeup. Milk kefir originated in the Caucasus Mountains and is used to ferment milk kefir.
According to reports, water kefir grains appear on the fruit pads of the Mexican cactus Opuntia. They appear as hard granules, which can then be propagated effectively in a sugar water solution. There was a report published in 1899 in the“Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society”that describes the water kefir grains and says that: “(the tibi grains) ferments sugar-water and produces a light agreeable beverage”
Although this is called “basic water kefir” in my mind, there is nothing basic about it. Think about the complex arrangement and symbiosis between the water kefir cultures transforming a plain sugar-water mixture to a bubbling, living probiotic drink.
1 x 1.5 litre open mouth glass jar
1 litre bottle with tight fitting lid
Sieve with large pores
1 litre jug or container to fit the sieve
1 x elastic band
1 x piece of muslin cloth or clean chux
Type of Bottle:
I recommend a sturdy glass bottle with a narrow neck and a tight fitting lid. This allows the carbonation to develop and gives you a lovely refreshing bubbly drink.
1 litre filtered water
¼ cup water kefir grains
pinch sea salt
¼ cup raw sugar
1 x organic dried fig
1 x organic dried date
Around 10 organic sultanas
¼ teaspoon organic molasses
Put the sugar into your glass open mouth jar. Add a little hot water to dissolve. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for water kefir culture.
Stir well to dissolve.
Add the water kefir culture to the mixture. Put the muslin covering over the opening and secure with an elastic band.
Place out of direct sunlight at room temperature for between 24 – 48 hours, temperature dependent to ferment.
Place the funnel in the opening to your bottle. Place the sieve on top of the funnel.
Scoop out the floating dried fruits from the water kefir and discard.
Slowly pour the water kefir liquid through the sieve, and into the bottle.
The water kefir grains will end up in the sieve. Place these to the side.
If you are adding any secondary fermentation ingredients, do that now.
Then, screw the lid on tight and leave in a warm place to build carbonation. This could take anywhere from 12 – 72 hours, temperature dependent. Burp occasionally to release pressure. Store in the fridge when fizzy enough and enjoy cold.
Storing/re-using the water kefir grains:
After bottling, you have two options:
Re-use the water kefir grains in your next brew immediately if you are ready to start brewing again OR
Place them in a container with enough sugar water solution (recipe in the introduction) to cover them with a loose fitting lid or muslin and rest them in the fridge.
If you’d like to know more, I wrote an entire book devoted to making these drinks, come check it out!
How to know if your water kefir is ready for bottling?
It should have a slightly sour smell – you will notice the change from sweet sugar water to sour and a little sharp. You should be able to smell a distinctive brewery/yeasty smell.
You will notice the active fermentation happening – there should be lots of bubbles furiously peaking. It’s a miracle to watch!
There should be an audible, vigorous bubbling and fizzing sound as the kefir ferments.
The taste will change from sweet sugar water to tangy, a little sharp, a little sour. There should be some bubbles on your tongue.
This blog is based purely on the author's experience. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. The author is neither a medical nor health professional and cannot guarantee that the information in this blog post is accurate, reliable or complete. If you use this information, you do so at your own risk and should consult a qualified medical or health practitioner before relying on any information contained in this blog.