Generally speaking, once established Water Kefir Grains will multiply*. While at times they can be reluctant to do so, here are a few tips to give you the best odds of seeing your kefir grains multiply:
Give the Kefir Grains Adequate Time
If you just started working with your kefir grains, there tends to be a bit of an adjustment period and therefore the may not multiply immediately. This is particularly true if you are working with kefir grains that were shipped in a dehydrated state. Once rehydrated, kefir grains can take 6-8 weeks to begin multiplying.
Feed Your Kefir Grains Regularly
Water kefir grains should be switched to new sugar water every 24-48 hours to prevent them from running out of sugar to eat. Once the kefir grains run out of food, the yeast and bacteria which comprise the kefir grains can move out of balance making the kefir grains work less effectively. How quickly the kefir grains consume the sugar is a function of how warm the area is where they are culturing. In a warm house or on warm days, it's best to switch the kefir grains to new sugar water every 24-36 hours to prevent over-culturing.
Only Culture in Sugar Water
Juice tends to be very acidic and while it makes for delicious kefir, putting the kefir grains in juice can be a bit hard on them making it difficult for the kefir grains to multiply effectively. We've had mixed reports as to whether kefir grains will multiply in coconut water but if they do so, it will be very slowly.
Stay Away from Honey
We do not recommend culturing kefir grains in honey water due to the antibacterial nature of honey. Since kefir grains are comprised of yeast and bacteria, honey can slowly break down the kefir grains making it difficult for them to multipy effectively.
Use Proper Ratios of Sugar, Water and Kefir Grains
While it can be tempting to reduce the amount of sugar used to make water kefir, it is generally detrimental to the health of the kefir grains. We recommend using 1/4 cup sugar per quart of water when making water kefir to ensure that an adequate amount of sugar is available for the water kefir grains. It is also important not to have too many kefir grains in the jar. Somewhere between 3 tablespoons and 1/2 cup for a quart jar and 3 tablespoons and one cup for a two quart jar is best.
Choose a Warm Spot for Culturing
Within reason, kefir grains like to be warm. Generally ambient temperatures between 68° and 78° F will yield the best results. Be sure to keep the kefir grains out of direct sunlight though to prevent them from overheating.
Keep the Kefir Grains Out of the Refrigerator
Choose a High Mineral Sugar
The ideal environment for kefir grains is on the counter, at room temperature being fed with fresh sugar water every 24-48 hours. At times though, it may be necessary to take a break from making water kefir and when necessary they can be stored in the refrigerator but when doing so, kefir grains are placed in a state of hibernation. It can be difficult for the kefir grains to come out of a hibernated state repeatedly and so we strongly recommend limiting cold exposure only to times when it is absolutely necessary (e.g. a yearly vacation, etc.). Click here for more information on taking a break from making kefir.
Whole sugars which are less processed will generally have higher mineral content than more processed sugars. Therefore, whole sugars such as Rapadura, Sucanat, Molasses and the like will have higher mineral levels than white sugar. Keep in mind though that the type of sugar used will also effect the taste of the kefir. Whole sugars will yield a stronger tasting kefir than will white sugar.
What you can do: If possible, use a whole sugar or add a teaspoon of molasses to each quarter cup of white sugar. Either method will increase the mineral levels. If you are looking for a lighter tasting kefir and prefer to just use white sugar, keep reading as you'll need to rely on your water source or adding minerals to keep your kefir grains healthy.
Choose a High Mineral Water Source
Add Minerals if Necessary
Kefir Grains can also derive minerals from the water. Some water sources such as well water or spring water can be naturally high in mineral content and are ideal for making kefir. On the other hand, distilled water, reverse osmosis water and water which has been filtered through an activated carbon filter (such as a Britta or Pur filter) often have extremely low or non-existent mineral levels. If using one of these types of water, it is a good idea to either use a high mineral sugar or add minerals to your water (see below). If using tap water, we do recommend filtering the water to remove as many additives, chemicals and contaminants as possible. If filtering is not possible, aerating or boiling the water will generally remove at least the chlorine.
If it seems unlikely your Kefir Grains will derive sufficient mineral content from your available sugar and water sources, there are several options for adding minerals (choose one):
- A very small pinch of high quality salt (e.g. Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Salt, etc.)
- A few drops of Concentrace (a liquid mineral supplement available at many health food stores)
- A small piece of egg shell, generally about 1/4 shell per quart. Keep in mind that if egg shell is added, it is important to ensure that you do not share your kefir or kefir grains with anyone with an egg allergy.
- Every few batches, add one teaspoon of molasses for each quarter cup of white sugar used.
*Unfortunately due to the wide variation in circumstances, we cannot guarantee kefir grains will multiply. Even if they do not multiply, the kefir grains can be used repeatedly to make kefir.