As you may have gathered from previous blog posts and instagram postings of mine, I am a big proponent of culturing foods. I feel like some type of badass wizard when my ferments start a bubblin' and brewin'. I discovered water kefir when researching naturally containing probiotc foods. Water kefir is produced from water kefir grains which feed off sugar water. Once the first fermentation occurs, you can flavor the water kefir and bottle it to produce a carbonated probiotic-rich, dare I say soda-like, beverage. During the second fermentation the bacteria and yeast feed off of the fruit juices and release CO2 to create it's fizziness.
I sourced dehydrated water kefir grains from Cultures for Health, the same company I purchase vegan yogurt cultures from. Water kefir is fairly easy to make, when comparing it with other fermented beverages, like kombucha, for example. And you will be enjoying your first batch within a few days once you've hydrated your new grains. All you really need to get started are water kefir grains, some rapadura sugar, water, and a mason jar.
You can flavor water kefir with nearly any fruit you like or even coconut water. I suggest using freshly made juices whenever possible. But bottled juices should work if you're in a pinch. We've been using a lot of citrus for flavoring our water kefir batches lately, since it is currently in season and so prolific in the market right now. Blood orange and Meyer lemon-gingerade have been our go-to flavors, and are the flavors you see pictured in this post. A new flavor I would like to try this spring is strawberry-lime, and also pomegranate when it is in season again. You can get really creative with the flavorings. I would like to try incorporating herbal/root infusions into the mix too, think root beer.
A word of caution though, be careful when opening the bottled water kefir. It can become so carbonated that it pretty much explodes when you crack open the cap. The blood orange flavor seems to fizz more than anything. Burping the bottles daily will help release extra pressure. If you are not a fan of carbonation, you can drink it right after the first fermentation too, it's already full of probiotics at that point.
I would love to hear what flavors you've tried and like the best. And see your bubbling creations. Don't forget to tag your photos with #fareislerecipe so I can see them on instagram.
Detailed instructions after the jump...
Homemade Water Kefir Instructions
Ingredients: 1 quart water and 1/4 cup rapadura sugar (or sweetener of your choice).
Once you've sourced and received your water kefir grains, hydrate them in sugar water to activate them. Heat a quart of water to 68˚F-85˚F and pour into a quart sized mason jar. Dissolve rapadura into the water. If temperature of water goes above 85˚F then allow it to cool before adding grains. Add the dehydrated water kefir grains to the sugar water. Cover jar with a coffee filter or cloth and secure with a rubber band. Keep jar in a warm spot to keep temperature between 68˚F and 85˚F for 3-5 days. I keep it next to the stove. After that time the grains will be plump and translucent. Strain off the sugar water and discard. Your grains are now ready to make water kefir.
Ingredients: 1 part rapadura sugar to 16 parts water
To make a quart of water kefir use 1/4 cup rapadura to 4 cups water. To make a half-gallon, use 1/2 cup of rapadura to 8 cups water.
Heat water to 68˚F-85˚F and pour into a mason jar. Dissolve rapadura into the water. If temperature of water goes above 85˚F then allow it to cool before adding grains. Add the hydrated plump water kefir grains to the sugar water. Cover jar with a coffee filter or cloth and secure with a rubber band. Keep jar in a warm spot to keep temperature between 68˚F and 85˚F for 24-48 hours.
The first culture is now complete and you can drink it at this point if you wish. Strain off the kefir grains over a bowl to reserve the water kefir.
Prepare a new batch of sugar water and place kefir grains in it to repeat the process and start your next batch.
Flavoring and Second Culture
Ingredients: 1 part fresh fruit juice(s) or coconut water to 4 parts water kefir
Prepare your fruit juices. Use about a 1/4 cup of juice per cup of water kefir. Clean and rinse flip top wire bail bottles (see link where to purchase at good prices in Notes section below). Add juice to bottles and then fill the bottle with water kefir, leaving about 1" of head space. Secure lids on bottles. Keep in a warm place at 68˚F-85˚F for anywhere from 1 day up to 5 days or longer depending on the flavors you use. Blood orange is ready in 1 day. The lemon-gingerade takes about 5 days. When you see little bubbles rising up from the bottom it should mean that it is fizzy and ready. You can burp bottles daily to release extra built up pressure. Then place bottles in the refrigerator until consumption.
What I've found with using sweet citrus juice is that small "floaties" form in the finished kefir. They do not change the taste, but some people do not like the look of it. That said, sweet citrus juices do produce a lot of fizz. Just wanted to warn you about the "floaties".
To make lemon-gingerade flavor for 1 quart of flavored kefir juice 4-6 lemons. Blend a tip-of-your-thumb sized chunk of ginger with the lemon juice in a blender on high speed and strain off juice through a fine sieve. Dissolve 1/2 cup of rapadura into juice. Proceed with bottling. If you do not want to use rapadura in the second culture, try using apple juice and less lemon juice.
I strongly suggest using organic rapadura sugar to feed the kefir grains. Rapadura sugar is a traditionally produced whole cane sugar, in which raw cane juice is heated on low low heat to naturally evaporate the water content, and is then poured into brick molds, and hardens when cooled. The sugar bricks are then passed through a sieve to granulate the sugar. The molasses is never separated and removed, therefore the final product retains much of the high mineral content naturally found in sugar cane. Water kefir grains benefit from high mineral content waters. So if you are using distilled or filtered water, the high mineral content of rapadura will replace what has been lost from the waters.
Avoid metal utensils, except for stainless steel, when making water kefir.
Click here for a source for flip top bottles.
Before bottling water kefir, check bottles for cracks.
Remember that fermented foods should have a sour but clean smell and taste. Don't consume anything that tastes bad to you.
Need to take a break from making water kefir? Click here to find out how from Cultures for Health.
Want to learn more? Click here for a vast wealth of detailed information about water kefir from Cultures for Health.