Water Kefir Grains Troubleshooting FAQ

 

Q: I misplaced my instructions.  Where can I get another copy?

A: Click here to download a copy of our water kefir instructions.  Click here for a step-by-step video on making water kefir.


Q: How can I tell if the water kefir grains are working?

A: Following the rehydration process, there are generally two signs that the kefir grains are indeed making kefir:

  • Color: The liquid will change color over the 48-hour culturing process. For example, if using white sugar, the plain sugar water will be yellow but finished water kefir will be a more opal color and less translucent. If using a whole sugar containing molasses (e.g., rapadura, Sucanat, etc.), the liquid will change to a different shade of brown (typically a lighter shade of brown).
  • Taste: After the 48-hour culturing process, the finished kefir should be less sweet than the sugar water you started with. Please note: finished kefir will still be fairly sweet as it does still contain fructose which is naturally very sweet. But it should be at least a bit less sweet than the original sugar water.

It may take a couple of batches before kefir grains function reliably. It is also common for the taste of the kefir and the activity level of the kefir grains to change over the first 6 to 8 weeks after the kefir grains are rehydrated. This is a normal part of the process of working with a live culture.


Q: What types of sugar can I use to make water kefir?

A: Water kefir grains are fairly versatile. While we do recommend using organic sugar if at all possible (reduces the amount of chemicals the kefir grains are exposed to), most sugars will work for making water kefir.  White sugar or organic evaporated cane crystals make a very mild kefir while sugars containing molasses (rapadura, Sucanat, turbinado, etc.) make a stronger tasting kefir. If you are planning to flavor your kefir with fruit or juice, white sugar normally makes a more neutral backdrop for adding flavorings.


Q: What type of water should I use to make water kefir?

A: Water kefir grains thrive on the presence of minerals in the water but have a hard time with chlorine. Ideally, you should use a water source where the chlorine has been filtered out (or otherwise dispersed) but where the minerals in the water are left intact. Here are some specific examples:

  • Tap Water: If using tap water, remove the chlorine. Provided standard chlorine is used by your water provider, it can be removed by either boiling the water vigorously for 20 minutes, running the water through a blender for 20 minutes to aerate it, or setting the water out overnight.
  • Brita or Pur Brand (or similar) Water Filters: These water filters generally do a good job removing chlorine but they also remove most of the minerals in the water. If using filtered water, add some mineral drops or a small pinch (no more!) of quality sea salt such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan sea salt. Do not use table salt!
  • Multi-Pure (or similar) Water Filters: No adjustments to the water are generally needed. If in doubt, check your user manual to see if minerals are routinely removed; if so, use the instructions for the Brita or Pur Water Filters.
  • Distilled and Reverse Osmosis Water: Use the instructions for adding mineral drops or salt listed for the Brita or Pur brand water filters.
  • Spring Water: Generally a great option as it's normally chlorine-free but does contain natural minerals.
  • Well Water: Provided the water is safe to drink, this is often the best option for making water kefir as it doesn't generally contain chlorine but is high in minerals.


Q: All of my strainers are metal. Can I use them with my water kefir grains?

A: While not ideal, stainless steel strainers are okay to use as the kefir grains will have limited contact with the metal.  Be sure the strainer is actually made of stainless steel and not a reactive metal.


Q: The kefir grains have been rehydrating for 4 days and they look rehydrated but don't appear to be doing anything. Should I wait longer?

A: Go ahead and transfer the kefir grains to new sugar water to start the first batch of water kefir. It's not uncommon for there to be little or no visible activity from the water kefir grains at this stage. However, it is important that the kefir grains not sit in the sugar water too long or they will run out of sugar to eat which can damage the kefir grains.


Q: Can I keep my water kefir grains in a bag instead of letting them float free?

A: You can keep the kefir grains in a cotton bag (like the kind natural foods stores sell as reusable tea bag). Just be sure to secure the top of the bag so the kefir grains don't escape. Also be sure the bag is submerged in the sugar water. If it floats it can attract mold.


Q: I've made a few batches of kefir and it tastes okay but it smells a little like yeast. Is that normal?

A: Yes, it is normal for the kefir to smell a bit yeasty particularly during the first few batches or when making water kefir during warm weather. In the beginning, the yeasty smell is just a sign that the yeast and bacteria that compose the kefir grains is still balancing itself following the rehydration process. Normally the smell will reduce significantly within a few batches. If the yeasty smell appears later after your kefir grains are well established click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.


Q: I've been working with my kefir grains for a few weeks and the taste of the kefir seems to be changing. It's more fermented than before, a bit less sweet. Is that normal?

A: It is normal for the taste of the kefir to change a bit, particularly in the first few weeks after the kefir grains have been rehydrated. This is due to the yeast and bacteria that compose the kefir grains rebalancing themselves following rehydration. Over the first few weeks you work with the kefir grains, there will likely be several changes including the kefir becoming less sweet and the kefir grains becoming more active. Often within 6 to 8 weeks, you'll also notice the kefir grains start to multiply. In the meantime though, the kefir grains are still making kefir, but as a live culture, there will be some natural changes as they adjust to their new home.


Q: I've been working with my kefir grains for a few weeks and they still aren't bubbling. What can I do?

A: Give them some time. It's normal to not see any bubbles for 6 to 8 weeks following rehydration. If it's been at least 8 weeks since your kefir grains were rehydrated, try adding a bit of molasses (1 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of white sugar) or using a whole sugar containing molasses (e.g., rapadura, Sucanat, etc.). The minerals in the molasses will feed the grains and often encourage them to be more active.


Q: I've been working with my kefir grains for a few weeks and they still aren't multiplying. What can I do?

A: Give them some time. It's normal for it to take a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks before kefir grains start to multiply. Ultimately though, we can't guarantee they will multiply as there are simply too many factors that influence that process. Odds are very good they will multiply and even if they do not, you can continue to use the same set of kefir grains to make batch after batch of water kefir. Click here for more ideas on encouraging kefir grains to multiply.


Q: Should I add things like ginger juice, eggshell, and baking soda to my kefir grains to keep them healthy?

A: A number of kefir makers like to add things like ginger juice, eggshell, and baking soda to their kefir grains. Strictly speaking, if you are using a quality water and sugar source, additives should not be necessary. (For example, we grow large quantities of kefir grains using nothing but sugar and water). Ultimately we do not recommend additives as there is a danger in using too much (which is very easy to do) which can result in problems including slimy kefir grains.


Q: Can I add fruit, herbs, juice, etc. to the kefir while the kefir grains are still culturing?

A: Yes, technically you can add fruit, herbs, juice, etc. to your kefir while the kefir grains are still culturing but use caution. Adding anything other than sugar and water while the kefir grains are present has a number of risks including contaminating the kefir grains and potentially damaging the kefir grains. For example, acidic fruits can damage the kefir grains by breaking down the yeast and bacteria that compose the kefir grains. Ideally, we recommend waiting to add flavorings until the culturing process is complete and the kefir grains have been removed. While this will mean a batch may take a day or two longer to make, it is normally worth preserving the integrity and long term health of the kefir grains.


Q: My kefir grains have been working well but suddenly they've become slimy.  How can I get them working again?

A: Click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.


Q: My kefir grains have been working well but this last batch smelled funny.  How can I get them working again?

A: Click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.


Q: My kefir grains have become very tiny and mushy. What's wrong and how do I fix it?

A: Kefir grains can become larger, then break apart to be smaller, then grow larger again. This is nothing to worry about. One reason grains can become very tiny and mushy is if they stay in a solution that is too acid. If your grains are still producing kefir, but the tiny grains are becoming hard to work with, it may be that you need to shorten the culturing time and get them into new sugar water more frequently. You can also try adding a pinch of baking soda to each batch for a few cycles, to help reduce the acidity.


Q: My kefir was culturing well but then the last batch or two smell like yeast, but they tasted okay. Is this normal?


A: A yeasty smell can appear particularly during warm weather as the kefir will culture faster at warmer temperatures. The smell can generally be reduced by shortening the culturing period during warmer months. If a yeast odor appears during a time when the kefir would not have been culturing at a warmer than usual temperature, click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains..


Q: I forgot about my kefir on the counter and it's been culturing for more than 72 hours. What should I do?

A: The primary issue with leaving kefir grains longer than 48 hours is that at some point they will run out of sugar to eat and begin to starve. This can damage and even kill the kefir grains. If it's been longer than 72 hours, but less than 6 days, immediately feed the kefir grains by putting them in fresh sugar water. Change the sugar water out every 24 hours for the next 2+ cycles until the kefir grains start behaving normally again. If it's been longer than 6 days, the odds of saving the kefir grains go down significantly. Click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.


Q: Some mold has developed on top of the liquid. Can the kefir grains be saved?

A: Mold is generally caused by some form of contamination: often as simple as soap or food residue the dishwasher missed. While mold will generally infect the kefir grains to the point they can't be saved, if you wish to try, scoop the mold out, drain and rinse the kefir grains thoroughly and place them in fresh sugar water. Watch the next batch closely for any signs of mold. Do not consume any kefir if mold develops or if the kefir smells, looks or tastes unpleasant. Please note: a white scummy film on top of the liquid is probably not mold, but a yeast overgrowth. Click here for more information on rinse-rest-recover method for repairing damaged water kefir grains.


Q: I need to take a break from making kefir. How can I keep the kefir grains alive?

A: Click here for information on how to take a break from making water kefir (without damaging your kefir grains).


Q: My kefir grains are multiplying quickly. What can I do with the extras?

A: As your kefir grains multiply, you can split them to make multiple batches of kefir. (2 tablespoons of kefir grains is the minimum amount and will culture 1 to 2 quarts.) This is a great time to share the many wonderful benefits of making water kefir with friends by giving them some kefir grains to work with. If you'd like to preserve some kefir grains as a back up in case anything happens to your current set, just lay the kefir grains out on a piece of unbleached parchment paper and allow to air-dry in a warm place (75° to 80°F is ideal) safe from insects (watch out for fruit flies!) for 24 to 72 hours. Once they are completely dry with no moisture remaining, place the kefir grains in a zipper-style plastic bag and store in a cool dry place or the refrigerator. They will generally keep for a year or longer.

 

 

                                                
   
Bottled Water Kefir


Related Articles & Recipes:

 

Related Products:

Water Kefir Grains Water Kefir Grains (starter culture)
750 ml Flip top Bottle for Water Kefir 750 ml Flip-top Grolsch-style Bottle

Free eBook Library Access & Weekly Newsletter


Sign up today for free access to our entire library of easy to follow eBooks on creating cultured foods at home, including Lacto-Fermentation, Kombucha, Kefir, Yogurt, Sourdough, and Cheesemaking.
  • Library of eBooks for making your own cultured foods
  • Weekly newsletter filled with tips & tricks
  • Expert advice articles, recipes, and how-to videos
  • Join 140,000+ other health-conscious readers
  • We never share your information!
first name last name email address