Water Kefir FAQ
Q. What is kefir?
A. Kefir is a probiotic beverage made with either kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture. There are two types of grains, milk kefir grains and water kefir grains. Milk kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk, or coconut milk. Water kefir grains can be used with sugar water, juice, or coconut water. Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term kefir grains describes the look of the culture only. Kefir grains contain no actual "grains" such as wheat, rye, etc. Our kefir grains are grown in filtered water and organic sugar.
A. Generally speaking water kefir is slightly less concentrated than milk kefir and therefore some individuals find they consume more water kefir than they would milk kefir. However, due to water kefir's water (rather than dairy) base and great taste when flavored, it is easy to consume larger amounts of water kefir.
A. Our water kefir grains are grown in filtered water and organic sugar.
A. Yes! Water kefir contains no dairy. (Please note: water kefir grains are processed in a facility where dairy products are processed.)
A. No, water kefir grains do not contain gluten. (Please note: water kefir grains are processed in a facility where gluten-based products are processed.)
A. Yes, water kefir grains are reusable. Once your kefir is finished culturing, simply remove the water kefir grains and place them in fresh sugar water, juice, or coconut water.
A. With proper care, water kefir grains should last indefinitely.
A. Water kefir grains are added to sugar water, juice, or coconut water and allowed to culture for 24 to 48 hours, then the kefir grains are removed. To flavor water kefir (we don't recommend drinking water kefir made with sugar water without flavoring!) simply add fruit juice or flavor extracts (e.g., vanilla extract) to the water kefir. If a more fizzy water kefir is desired, once the juice is added you can bottle it up tightly and allow it to sit for a few days so the carbonation can build.
A. We strongly recommend against allowing the kefir grains to culture for longer than 48 hours as over time it will damage the grains by potentially starving them (particularly in warm weather when the culturing process is sped up due to the heat).
A. The primary indication of whether or not you have successfully made water kefir is that the finished kefir tastes less sweet than the sugar water or juice you've started with.
A. Finished water kefir will be fairly sweet. (See below for information about sugar content.) Depending on the type of sugar used, the amount of culturing time, etc., water kefir may also be slightly bubbly. We strongly recommend flavoring water kefir made with sugar water prior to consuming it as the taste of plain water kefir isn't particularly pleasant. Flavoring options include fruit (fresh or dried), fruit juice, and flavor extracts.
A. Water kefir grains are known to multiply, but at times they are reluctant to do so and therefore we do not guarantee kefir grains will multiply. Even if they do not multiply, with proper care, water kefir grains can be used repeatedly to brew water kefir. Click here for more information on ways you can encourage your kefir grains to multiply.
A. Theoretically food-grade plastic shouldn't cause any damage to the culture but we always recommend glass when working with starter cultures or food due to the potential of plastic to leach undesirable chemicals.
A. Water kefir made with sugar water can be flavored (after the kefir grains are removed) using fruit (fresh or dried), fruit juice, or flavor extracts. Fruit can be added during or after the culturing process (see below) but should be changed out regularly (daily for fresh fruit, weekly for dried fruit). A tasty lemonade-type drink can be made by adding 1/2 cup lemon juice to 2 quarts finished water kefir. Although just about any fruit juice can be used, we are especially fond of blueberry-pomegranate juice. To make a cream soda-type drink, add 1 to 2 tablespoons vanilla extract to 2 quarts finished water kefir. Click here to view a video and recipes for flavoring water kefir.
A. Yes, technically you can add fruit (fresh or dried) to the sugar water at the same time you add the grains. Some cautionary notes: 1) Not all fruit is compatible with kefir grains and over time, may damage the grains. Strawberries, mangos, and figs are popular fruits to add during the culturing process. 2) Be sure to secure either the fruit or the kefir grains in a cotton muslin bag prior to beginning the culturing process. Fruit (either fresh or dried), tends to disintegrate into lots of tiny pieces during the culturing process making it extremely difficult to separate the fruit from the kefir grains before brewing your next batch. Don't spend hours trying to clean your kefir grains! Contain either the kefir grains or fruit in a cotton muslin bag which is large enough to allow the kefir grains room to multiply.
A. Yes, straight fruit juice (we recommend organic) can be used to make water kefir. Note: we do strongly recommend getting your kefir grains established using sugar water (for at least a few batches) prior to using juice. We also advise you to use separate sets of kefir grains for culturing juice and culturing sugar-water. Juice tends to be very hard on kefir grains and they do tend to break down a bit (it helps to culture them in sugar water every few batches). Unfortunately when you use water kefir grains in juice and then move them to sugar water, the resulting kefir usually tastes very unpleasant, thus our recommendation for keeping two sets of grains. (This can be accomplished by waiting for your kefir grains to multiply and splitting them or by purchasing a second set of water kefir grains.) To make juice kefir you will use 2 quarts of juice for the 3 to 4 tablespoons (rehydrated) of water kefir grains included in your packet.
A. Yes, coconut water can be used to make water kefir. We recommend getting your kefir grains established using sugar water (for at least a few batches) prior to using coconut water.
A. 3 to 4 tablespoons of hydrated kefir grains will culture 1 to 2 quarts of water kefir every 24 to 48 hours. Our packets of kefir grains contain 2 teaspoons of dehydrated kefir grains which will rehydrate to 3 to 4 tablespoons of water kefir grains.
A. Once the culturing process is complete and the grains have been removed, you can bottle up the finished water kefir with or without juice (15% to 20% juice is a good ratio) for several days to allow carbonation to build. Water kefir can be stored in a container with a lid. Options include canning jars, old wine bottles with new corks, and flip-top style bottles. Water kefir bottled in an airtight container with juice will generally be more carbonated than water kefir bottled without juice due to the higher sugar content.
A. Technically yes, honey will make a wonderful tasting water kefir. The problem with honey is that honey is antibacterial in nature and the water kefir grains are a mixture of bacteria in yeast. Therefore honey is very hard on water kefir grains and will cause them to weaken (and eventually die). If you really want to use honey, just plan on replacing your grains occasionally.
A. A number of types of sugar can be used to make water kefir. For example, evaporated cane crystals (organic white sugar) makes a very mild-tasting water kefir which makes an excellent background for adding flavor. Whole sugars where the molasses is still intact (rapadura, Sucanat, etc.) also work well for making kefir and are generally considered to be healthier for the kefir grains over the long term as the minerals in the molasses promote kefir grain health. (You can accomplish the same thing by adding a teaspoon of molasses per 1/2 cup of white sugar.) Whole sugars do tend to make a much more strongly flavored water kefir which you may or may not find pleasant. We do recommend using organic sugars to eliminate chemicals that may harm the kefir grains. We do not recommend using honey (see above). Click here for more information on choosing ingredients (sugar and water) for making water kefir.
A. No, there should be enough sugar in the juice to feed the kefir grains.
A. Yes! Making water kefir requires a balance of ingredients to allow the kefir grains to properly culture. We recommend using a ratio of 1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water when making water kefir. This ratio ensures the kefir grains are properly fed. Using less sugar (or culturing the kefir for longer than 48 hours) can cause the grains to starve. Over time, the grains will become less efficient and although you are using less sugar, you may actually end up with more sugar in the finished kefir than you would with efficient working kefir grains. (See below for information on how much sugar actually remains in finished water kefir.) Ultimately, using less sugar will result in unhealthy kefir grains and possibly higher sugar consumption for you.
A. While certainly variation will exist between batches, generally speaking approximately 20% of the sugar you start with will remain following a 48- hour culturing process and almost all that sugar will have been converted to fructose from its original glucose-fructose state. Therefore if you use our recommend ratio of 1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water, the finished kefir will contain approximately 1.4% fructose.
A. Generally speaking, the best water sources for making water kefir are clean well water or spring water. (Both usually have high mineral content). We do not recommend using distilled water or water filtered though a carbon-activated filter (e.g., Brita, Pur, etc.). Both these methods of purification remove a great deal of the mineral content of the water which results in less healthy kefir grains. If you do need to use one of these types of water, we recommend adding mineral drops to improve the quality of the water. If you use tap water, it is important to remove the chlorine either through boiling (15 minutes) or through aeration (i.e., placing the water in a container and allowing it to sit out overnight or running it through a blender). Click here for more information on choosing ingredients (sugar and water) for making water kefir.
A. As with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in the finished product. Although the amount will vary from batch to batch, the amount should be quite small (usually significantly less than 1%). Using the prescribed ratio (1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water) there simply is not enough sugar to result in an intoxicating drink. The exception to this general rule is when brewing 100% juice (rather than sugar water). The higher sugar content can result in a higher alcohol level. If you do not desire a higher alcohol level, we recommend limiting the fermentation period to 24 hours when working with straight fruit juice.
Click here for more information on the alcohol content of water kefir.
A. Yes. Culturing water kefir grains in 100% juice (especially with added sugar) for several days will result in a higher alcohol content. Also, it is possible to make a type of beer using water kefir grains. Click here for more information.
A. The easiest way to get started making water kefir is to purchase one of our Water Kefir Starter Kits. However, if you would prefer to use items around your home, here is a list of water kefir supplies:
A. To take a break from making water kefir simply prepare a sugar water solution (1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water), place the grains in the sugar water, place a tight lid on the container, and place it in the refrigerator. The cold will greatly retard the culturing process and they can keep this way for up to several weeks. If at the end of that period you require more time, simply repeat the process with fresh sugar water. If you desire a longer break period, you can also dehydrate your water kefir grains by placing them on unbleached parchment paper in a safe location (room temperature) for several days until they are completely dry. Then place the dehydrated grains in a secure container (a zipper-style plastic bag, glass or plastic jar, etc.) and in a cool dry place. They should keep this way for at least 6 months.
A. When items are being actively cultured (and don’t have lids), we suggest keeping a distance of at least several feet (and preferably more) between items. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them.
A. Yes. Although water kefir is characteristically bubbly, it can take a number of batches before bubbles are clearly viable. (See below for tips for improving carbonation.) At this initial stage, any bubbles are likely to be too tiny and too infrequent to be noticed. To determine whether the grains are “working”, simply taste the liquid before and after the fermentation process. Although finished water kefir will still be sweet, it will not be as sweet as the original sugar water. Also, the color of the liquid will change over the 48-hour fermentation period (generally will become lighter in color). It can take a few batches before your kefir grains effectively remove sugar from the water. This is a normal part of the process.
A. You can but we don't recommend it. Since the kefir grains spent their time rehydrating rather than consuming the sugar, the resulting solution will likely contain a large amount of sugar. Also, the sugar water may taste unplesant as part of the rehydration process is the rebalancing of the yeast and bacteria that comprise the kefir grains.
A. We strongly recommend moving the kefir grains to fresh sugar water after 3 to 4 days. Leaving them for a longer period could result in the grains being deprived of food (sugar) and result in damage to the grains.
A. The ultimate test of whether the kefir grains are working properly is that the finished kefir is less sweet than the sugar water or juice you started with. The resulting kefir will still be quite sweet (due to the presence of fructose; see above for information on the amount of sugar remaining in finished kefir) but should be less sweet than the sugar water or juice you started with. Also, the kefir will generally change color over the 48-hour fermentation period.
A. There are several ways to increase the amount of carbonation/fizz/bubbles in water kefir:
A. In rare circumstances, a bottle might explode, although lids do occasionally fly off, particularly when being opened. We recommend keeping your whole hand over the lid of the container as you open it to prevent being hit with a flying lid. We also recommend opening the container over a sink in case the carbonation causes the water kefir to bubble over. To reduce the amount of carbonation that can build up, either use less juice in the second ferment, or "burp" the bottles daily to let some gases escape.
A. If you believe your kefir grains have been damaged, click here for more information on a rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.
A. While only 3 tablespoons of water kefir grains are required to culture up to 2 quarts of water kefir, more grains will not harm the process (and we don't recommend using less than 2 tablespoons of grains even when making less water kefir). However, at some point, you will likely have so many grains taking up room in your brewing container that you must remove a portion of them as a practical matter (or you simply won't have much kefir available). You must also be sure to maintain the correct ratio of sugar for the amount of grains. Extra kefir grains can be dehydrated (see above for instructions on taking a break from making water kefir) or given to friends and family. (Please be sure to pass along the instructions or a link to this website so they can familiarize themselves with the culturing process).
|Water Kefir Grains (starter culture)
|750 ml Flip-top Grolsch-style Bottle|