This summer a friend gave me some water kefir grains, also known as tibicos, to try.
Ever since then I’ve been experimenting and researching and experimenting again to discover the perfect brew. For those of you who are new to kefir, it’s a rich pro-biotic source that has been around for centuries and has numerous health benefits.
So, this little journey has been an adventure! I won’t lie to you – not every batch has come out well. In fact, I’ve dumped half a gallon or more out at a time because it was down right terrible.
At first the results were very inconsistent, but I believe I’ve finally hit upon the trick to making good batches all the time that even beat the family favorite Izze drinks. I’m still rather nervous about sharing it with people outside the family – many think it’s just weird – but inevitably it gets pulled out of the frig, since the guys drink it all the time, and served up. Most people like it. It’s hard not to like…if you like fizzy drinks. And who doesn’t?!
I’ve passed along grains to friends (The ones I have multiple like crazy! I currently have 1 and 1/2 quart jars of kefir grains in the frig plus the ones that are out for brewing.) and have more to share if you live in the area and want to try your own. You can also find them for sale by searching water kefir grains or tibicos.
There’s a lot of info on the internet about making your own kefir water, but I found it rather confusing. Do you lightly cover it with a towel or screw the lid on tight? Plastic or no plastic? Dried fruit, or just sugar? Minerals, salt, calcium????
Here’s my own, simplified, version and what I’ve discovered makes a better brew – or doesn’t. :D
The tools you need for the first step –
- One gallon glass jar with lid
- plastic strainer
- measuring cup or spoons
- 1/2 c. Organic cane sugar
- 1/2 c. water kefir grains
- 2 c. 100% fruit juice
- 1/4 t. sea salt
Rinse the kefir grains.
Toss into the gallon container. Add 1/2 c. sugar,
2 cups juice of your choice and 1/4 t. sea salt. Many recipes call for dried fruit at this point. I’ve tried mango, figs, raisins and apricots and didn’t really care for them. They didn’t seem to do anything positive for the brew either, so I haven’t used dried fruit since.
Fill the container with water up to the half way mark and screw a plastic lid on tightly. Or, if you don’t have a plastic lid, like I don’t, put a layer of plastic wrap over the jar before screwing on the lid, like I do. Works like a charm.
You can’t use city tap water for this step as the chlorine and other garbage the city puts in the water will kill the grains. Isn’t that interesting… Well water works great. Reverse Osmosis or other filtered waters may need add minerals to keep the kefir healthy.
Shake it up and place in a cupboard or pantry for two days.
What you need for Step Two –
- Plastic or glass pitcher
- plastic strainer
- plastic funnel
- measuring cup
- glass bottles with airtight lids
- kefir brew from Step One
- 1 to 2 c. juice
Remove lid from jar. You should hear air escaping as you do since the kefir builds up pressure to create fizziness when it’s air tight. Here’s some of my brew after two days of fermentation using Cranberry Blueberry juice.
Strain liquid into the pitcher and add the one or two cups of juice. The more juice you add in this step, the sweeter the brew will be. I always use the same juice I used in Step 1, but you can mix it up, of course.
Now it’s time to bottle!
My brothers bought me these bottles when I started making them drinks they liked. :D I found them at a great price on Brew Your Own Brew. However, you can reuse glass bottles you have around. As long as the lid screws tight you’re good to go.
Leave some room in the bottle for pressure to build. Seal and place back in the pantry for 12-24 hours. Chill in the frig and open slowly. We’ve had some real sprayers!
To store extra grains, or take a break from brewing, place grains in an appropriately sized glass jar, add a few tablespoons of sucanat or rapadura sugar (the minerals in these sweeteners help restore the kefir grains), cover with cold water, shake to combine and refrigerate.
EDIT: A blog reader commented that using fruit in the first fermentation can be hard on the grains and left a great link to more on fruit kefir. I switch out my grains occasionally and give them a break in the sucanat water, but you may like using just sugar for the first fermentation and adding juice for the second. I haven’t noticed any ill affects using fruit juice in the first brewing – except that the grains multiple so fast I don’t know what to do with them!
About flavors –
The juices I have been using are either fresh squeezed or Knudsen brand 100% organic.
- Cranberry Blueberry
- Fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice (you have to use extra sugar with the tart lemon)
I’ve tried Cherry Vanilla, Cream Soda and Root Beer, but so far, the results have not been good. For some reason the vanilla extract gives it an undesirable syrupy consistence and flattens the fizz. However, I will be experimenting with these flavors again. Let me know if you’ve had success using vanilla!
UPDATE 3/5/13 : Ginger Lime Water Kefir
I just made a 5 – 16oz bottle batch using a mixture of mostly sucanat and a little bit of organic sugar as sweetener – 3/4 cup total. I also added the juice of one lemon to the first fermentation. For the second fermentation, after straining the kefir, I added shredded fresh ginger and the juice of one lime along with about 4 T. white grape fruit concentrate. It was extremely fizzy after a 12 hour 2nd fermentation and the taste is phenomenal!
Also, we’ve discovered that Welch’s 100% Grape Juice makes a fabulous brew, though I think this juice is harder on the grains than the organic juices. The grape juice creates more of a wine-like beverage, especially when fermented longer, and has the prettiest color by far. :)
UPDATE 5/2/13 : The Cost of Water Kefir and Vanilla Flavor
So, lately, I’ve been using a mixture of sucanat and organic cane sugar, plus 1/2 t. sea salt, for the first fermentation. For the second one, I either add juice alone to flavor, the ginger and lime described above, or 1/4 cup concentrated white grape juice and 1-2 T (per gallon) of vanilla. It’s pretty close to cream soda, folks!
I heard that Sprout’s Farmer’s Market was carrying water kefir so I took a look at the assortment of probiotic beverages for sale and noticed a brand called Kevita. They say nothing about it being water kefir, but I think that must be what they use. I bought a bottle to try – Strawberry Acai Coconut – and decided I need to make that flavor. :) They use stevia in theirs and I don’t like that after-taste. Besides, seeing the bottle cost over 3 bucks, I’m doing quite well making my own, thanks!
Would you like to know the cost of a 16 oz. bottle of water kefir made at home?
Knudsen’s Organic Cranberry Pomegranate Juice – 3.95 (32 oz bottle – makes 2 gallons (35.55 makes 18 gallons))
organic cane sugar – 4lb for 7.67 (9 c. – makes 18 gal.)
sucanat – 2lbs for 6.70 (4.5 c. – makes 18 gal.)
sea salt (miniscule)
water (hopefully, free)
Total – 2.78 per gallon
That’s 35 cents per 16 oz bottle!
I’m experimenting with honey sweetened water kefir, so check back here for more updates!
A Word about Fermented Foods –
I’ve been interested in fermenting foods for years and have tried several recipes from books like Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It’s all about going back to our roots and the way food was prepared for centuries before modern preservation methods took over. It’s about eating healthy foods that were grown or raised and have a visible link to the earth – the soil it was raised on or in.
There’s no life in boxed mac and cheese. No nutrients either. That’s why we’re seeing this epidemic of illness overcoming our friends, loved ones, and the people around us. We weren’t made to eat processed fake food and we can’t possibly be healthy doing so.
I believe fermented foods are one of the keys to good health.
So raise your glass of kefir water and let’s give a toast to the nutritional, traditional way of nourishing our bodies!