Encouraging Water Kefir Grains to Multiply


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 may be a bit of an adjustment period and therefore they 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 to 8 weeks to begin multiplying.

Feed Your Kefir Grains Regularly

Water kefir grains should be switched to new sugar water every 24 to 48 hours to prevent them from running out of sugar to eat. Once the kefir grains run out of food, the yeast and bacteria that 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 to 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. Kefir grains do best with the exact composition present in sucrose (table sugar). Honey is primarily fructose, and may not provide the best nutrition for the grains. Additionally, raw honey may contain additional organic matter that can compromise the health of the water kefir grains.

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  and 4 tablespoons will adequately culture 1 to 2 quarts of water.

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

The ideal environment for kefir grains is on the counter, at room temperature. being fed with fresh sugar water every 24 to 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, they will be 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.

Choose a High-Mineral Sugar

Whole sugars that 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.

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, you'll need to rely on your water source or adding minerals to keep your kefir grains healthy.

Choose a High-Mineral Water Source

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 Brita 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 you use 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.

Add Minerals if Necessary

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, such as Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt, etc.
  • A few drops of Concentrace (a liquid mineral supplement)
  • A small piece of eggshell, generally about 1/4 shell per quart. Keep in mind that if eggshell 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.


Bottled Water Kefir

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