Allow me to introduce you to my new-found love: flavored water kefir. Actually, I like it just as much plain, with no flavoring. And I am still in disbelief that I am able to make this delicious and probiotic-rich drink myself–quickly, easily, and very inexpensively–at home!
Here’s all you need to get started–a large glass container, a large mesh strainer (preferably not metal, as this can harm the water kefir grains), organic sugar, water, and a variety of glass jars (the more airtight the lids, the fizzier your drinks will be):
Oh, and the water kefir grains, of course! I was lucky enough to be gifted some of these little beauties (thank you, Sonja!), but if you don’t have a friend who is already using them, you can simply buy them online from a reputable company like Cultures for Health.
Cultures for Health also has a great video on How to Make Water Kefir, which I strongly recommend watching before you get started. I was lucky enough to have friends talk me through the process, but even so, this video came in really handy for me. Also, check out this excellent Water Kefir FAQ, again from Cultures for Health. I was thrilled to learn (from the FAQ) that I’ll be able to keep my kefir grains alive when I go to Canada next month. I had been really stressed out by the idea that they might die while I was away. Last but not least, check out this video on How to Flavor Water Kefir.
I’ve been experimenting like crazy for the past few weeks, and so far, my top 3 favorite flavors are:
1. Organic Hibiscus Sun Tea (mix approx. 20% hibiscus sun tea with 80% water kefir immediately after the first fermentation–love that vibrant color!)
2. Organic Grape Juice (tastes like fizzy grape soda!!) (same 20/80% mix)
3. Plain–no flavorings added!
Here’s a quick walk-through of how I make mine, but unlike some of my other posts, this one is NOT intended to be a comprehensive guide. I don’t feel qualified to do that just yet. So again, I strongly encourage you to check out the resources I linked to above before getting started with your own. My friend Lynn also has a great how-to on her blog with some wonderful suggestions for flavoring (thanks, Lynn, for being my mentor!).
HOMEMADE WATER KEFIR
3/4 cup organic sugar (I have also used sucanat, and it works well, but for this particular recipe, I prefer plain white sugar–always organic)
optional: 1 Tbsp molasses to increase mineral levels (I have not yet tried adding molasses)
3 quarts water
3-4 Tbsp (or more) water kefir grains
optional: organic fruit juice, tea, fruit peels, ginger, etc. for flavoring
1. Mix 3/4 cup organic sugar (and 1 Tbsp molasses, if using) with 2 cups of boiling water, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, combine with another 2.5 quarts of cool water to bring the liquid to room temperature (this is extremely important, as you can harm the kefir grains by using water that is too hot or too cold).
3. I use a continuous brewing method, which means that I am constantly brewing one batch after another. So for me, while the sugar water is cooling to room temperature for my next batch, I start by straining the liquid from my previous batch (which has just completed its first fermentation of 24-48 hours at room temperature) into glass jars. I use a large mesh strainer to capture the kefir grains and a funnel to pour the liquid into my jars.
Here is a close-up of what the kefir grains look like (Zander likes to talk to them every day and thank them for making his yummy drinks–so cute!):
4. Give your large glass container a quick rinse, then gently pour the kefir grains back in. You’ll notice that I am using waaaaaay more than the necessary 3-4 Tbsp, but that is largely because my grains are multiplying so quickly that I don’t know what to do with them, and I feel bad about the idea of throwing them away. Having more than 3-4 Tbsp of kefir grains doesn’t seem to harm anything, but at some point, I am going to run out of room in my glass jar, so I’ll have to come up with a solution fast!
5. Gently pour in your room-temperature sugar water mixture.
6. Cover with a cloth napkin and rubber band to keep out dirt and insects. Then store at room temperature for 24-48 hours. If you prefer a sweeter drink, ferment for only 24 hours, as the kefir grains will have eaten less of the sugar at that point. If you prefer a less sweet drink, wait the full 48 hours, and more of the sugar will be gone. However, do NOT allow to ferment for longer than 48 hours, or you will risk starving your kefir grains, who will be very hungry at this point for some fresh sugar water!
7. Now, back to the liquid you just poured off of the previous batch. You can either drink this as is (yum!), add some fruit juice (to taste) and drink as is (yum!), or add some fruit juice or other flavoring (see Cultures for Health video for suggestions) and set the bottles aside at room temperature for another 24-72 hours for a second fermentation. If at any point you want to stop the fermentation process, go ahead and place your bottles of liquid into the fridge. By the third day, you will definitely want to put them into the fridge if you haven’t already done so.
8. It’s very important to have a good, tight-fitting lid. The more airtight the lid, the fizzier your drink will be. (Adding more juice will also make a fizzier drink due to the sugar content of the juice). As you can see below, I learned by trial and error that this particular type of bottle does NOT work well for a second fermentation. The lids kept popping off due to the pressure build-up inside! So I wound up pouring my water kefir out of these bottles and into some bottles with more secure lids.
9. I love to re-use Wildwood garlic aioli bottles and have built up quite a collection over the years. These seem to work reasonably well for water kefir–definitely better than the ones above. Flip-top bottles are by far the best, though. I am considering investing in more of these, as I currently only have three.
I love that I can make my own refreshing and healthy drinks that are rich in probiotics, despite the fact that they taste like sugary sodas. The first time I gave one to Zander, he asked me why was I giving him soda and gave me a lecture on how the sugar in sodas would rob him of energy. It was hilarious. You should have seen his eyes light up when I explained to him that this was actually a GOOD drink for him to enjoy! 🙂
That said, things are getting a little out of control in our kitchen these days, as I am now making my own water kefir, almond milk, and kombucha (more on this to come…). What’s next??? 😉