Water kefir grains are known to grow and multiply, but at times they can be reluctant to do so. Because of wide variations in culturing conditions and ingredients, we cannot guarantee that the grains will multiply, but when cared for properly, they should make good water kefir indefinitely.
Ways to Encourage Water Kefir Grains to Multiply
1. Give the Water Kefir Grains Adequate Time
Newly rehydrated water kefir grains sometimes need time to adjust and mature before they will begin to multiply. When acquiring grains from a friend, there may be an adjustment period as the grains get used to their new home. This adjustment period is normal and may vary widely in length from a few days to a few weeks.
2. Feed the Water 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 food. Once they run out of food, the yeast and bacteria that comprise the water kefir grains can move out of balance, making them work less effectively. The speed at which the water kefir grains consume the sugar is based on how warm the area is where they are culturing. In a warm house or on warm days, it's best to transfer the kefir grains to new sugar water every 24-36 hours, to prevent over-culturing.
3. Culture in Sugar Water
Juice tends to be very acidic, and while it makes delicious water kefir, putting the water kefir grains in juice can be a bit hard on them, making it difficult for them to multiply effectively.
Coconut water can have the same effect which is why we recommend alternating between coconut water and sugar water batches when making coconut water kefir.
4. 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, this can be quite detrimental to the health of the water kefir grains.
We recommend using ¼ cup sugar per quart of water when making water kefir. Only 3-4 tablespoons water kefir grains are required to culture 1-2 quarts of sugar water.
As the grains grow and multiply, remove excess grains to keep the ratio balanced. If you have extras, gift them to a friend or blend them up in morning smoothie for an extra probiotic kick!
5. Choose a Warm Culturing Spot
Within reason, water kefir grains like to be warm, but out of direct sunlight. Ambient temperatures of 68°-78°F will yield the best results, though water kefir grains culture well even up to 85°F. If your home is a bit chilly, try one of these ideas for culturing in winter months.
6. Keep the Water Kefir Grains Out of the Refrigerator
The ideal environment for water kefir grains is on the counter, at room temperature, being fed with fresh sugar water every 24-48 hours. While taking a break for vacation or unexpected emergencies is necessary from time to time, avoid refrigerating the grains too frequently to keep them at their healthiest. (It can be difficult for the water kefir grains to come out of a hibernated state repeatedly.) Consult our article on taking a break from making water kefir, for more details.
7. Adjust Water Kefir Ingredients for Mineral Content
Water kefir grains prefer a mineral-rich environment, but it is possible to over-mineralize them. Minerals may come from the sugar or water used, as well as additions such as raisins, molasses, sea salt, or eggshell. Consult our article on Choosing the Best Ingredients for Making Water Kefir for tips on adjusting the mineral content of your water kefir.