How to Make Water Kefir: The Ultimate Guide
This is our ultimate guide to making water kefir at home. In this article, I cover absolutely everything you need to know about making water kefir.
This is a huge article (7000 words). To help you navigate, here’s a basic table of contents
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Kefir
- The Kefir Twins: Water & Milk
- Why Make Kefir
- Dairy Free Kefir
- Types of Kefir Grains
- The Benefits of Drinking Kefir
- Intro to Water Kefir
- Water Kefir Requirements
- How to Make Water Kefir
- About Sugary Kefir Grains and Water Kefir
- Equipment Needed to Make Water Kefir
- How to Make Basic Water Kefir
- Making a Second Fermentation of Water Kefir (Optional)
- General Water Kefir Brewing Tips
- Other Recommended Water Kefir Variations
- Coconut Water Kefir
- Ginger Beer Kefir
- Kefir d’uva (Grape Kefir)
- Kefir d’erba medica
- Water Kefir Brewing FAQ
Introduction to Kefir
The Kefir Twins: Water & Milk
Milk Kefir: Kefir traditionally refers to the fermented drink that originated across Eastern and Northern Europe where it has been consumed for centuries. Kefir usually refers to “Milk Kefir’ which is made by adding a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (called milk kefir grains) to milk from various animals – cow, sheep, goat, horse, or camel, creating a fermentation process on the lactose (milk sugar) within (read our guide how to make milk kefir)
In the farm houses of the Caucasus Mountains some years ago it was cultured in a goat skin hung by the home entrance so that it could be shaken lightly when passing to ensure even fermentation throughout the liquid. Goat shaped skins probably conjure up anything other than healthy drinks but the probiotic drink within, that required no refrigeration, was a godsend to meager diets.
Water Kefir: Water kefir on the other hand, is similar but not similar to milk kefir. Like Milk Kefir, it’s a fermented drink. And like milk kefir, water kefir is made by using special ‘yeast & bacterial’ grains. However, the bacteria cultures are a bit different, as is the texture and size of the grains. The mediums each type of grain lives in is different (water vs milk) as is the actual food the grains eat (milk sugar vs sugar in water).
Both water kefir and milk kefir are healthy drinks packed with beneficial probiotics, lactic acids, and vitamins. You can certainly drink BOTH.
Why Make Kefir
How can such a refreshing delicious drink like Sugar Water Kefir be so good for us? Because the simple brewing process carried out by the special kefir culture turns sweet water in to a delicious sugar reduced probiotic drink that improves our wellbeing and health.
Water Kefir vs Diary Free Kefir
Milk Kefir is now produced throughout many parts of the world and the healthy refreshing beverage can still easily be prepared at home, although the leather bag, once the coat of a goat, is easily replaced with a non corrosive container such as a large glass jar. The initial fermentation process usually only takes about 24 hours at an ideal room temperature of 68–77 °F (20–25 °C) after which you can decide to strain and use or kept for further fermentation.
Milk Kefir is usually drinkable by people who are lactose intolerant (there is far less lactose in kefir because the lactose is broken down by the microorganisms during the fermentation process). However, for some people who still can’t handle kefir or who simply want to avoid dairy completely, there are dairy-free kefir alternatives.
Adding probiotic foods to our diet is always going to be beneficial but some people prefer to avoid milk based foods therefore yoghurt, milk kefir and the like are not suitable. However all is not lost as delicious Water Kefir can be made very simply at home as a refreshing healthy drink as an alternative to people who can’t drink milk kefir (or simply want a different flavored drink).
Read our article Kombucha vs Water Kefir.
Dairy Free Kefir
For a variety of reasons many people are choosing to avoid dairy products in their diet, looking for healthy alternatives to common favorites. One of these alternatives is to drink Kefir beverages made without the usual animal milk base.
There are a couple of alternatives methods you can use to produce dairy free Kefir. That is, making kefir without any dairy at all (read our article, how to make dairy free kefir). You have the choice of using regular kefir grains or another species of kefir grains called Sugary Kefir Grains (SKG):
- Made with spring water known by the exotic name of Kefir d’Acqua, Water Kefir which can be flavored with various fruits or even herbs. Because there are no sugars to feed the grains, sugar has to be added to the Water Kefir. You can, however, substitute in juice instead of water to make variations on water kefir.
- Made with coconut water and Sugary Kefir Grains (SKG)
- Those utilizing dairy free alternatives such as coconut milk, soy milk, and rice milk while using the traditional milk kefir grains.
Types of Kefir Grains
Kefir “Grains” is the name given to the bubbly looking SCOBY’s that actually produces the fermentation in your chosen sweet liquid. Kefir grains are what ferment a liquid with the resulting product giving you kefir.
There are ‘two’ types of kefir grains. Each type is a different species and ferment in completely different mediums:
- Milk Kefir Grains
- Sugary Kefir Grains
What are Sugary Kefir Grains
Sugary Kefir Grains (also known as Water kefir “grains”) are symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast living together in mutual benefit. Have a clear texture and ferment in sugary water.
What are Milk Kefir Grains
These are white cottage cheese looking grains that have a gummy bear like texture. These grains ferment milk.
Sugary Kefir Grains vs Milk Kefir Grains
Water kefir, sugary kefir grains [SKG] have a translucent, firm texture. Whereas SKG contain fewer strains of yeasts and bacteria than milk kefir, they do have far more than other cultured foods such buttermilk or yogurt.
Grains used for milk /milk substitutes kefir resemble white cottage cheese or cauliflower bubbles. This kefir is not strictly dairy free as it will have been grown in milk however it does not require lactose to reproduce to after a couple of your kefir batches it will be dairy free.
Both water and milk kefir grains produce kefir, but kefir of a different type. Milk kefir is similar to yogurt in taste and texture. It contains all the benefits of milk with the added benefits of fermented foods such as lactose acid and hordes of probiotics. There are also extra vitamins present, added to as the byproducts of the fermentation process.
Water kefir has the the texture of water and is reminiscent of lemonade. The flavor can be completely altered by adding in juice to the fermentation or replacing the water with juice, coconut water, etc.
Tip: Take care of your kefir grains and they will take care of you. They have an unlimited life span and can be used repeatedly. Healthy Kefir grains actually increase their amount rapidly so you can easily share extra with friends or start a different batch.
The Benefits of Drinking Kefir
This wonderful kefir contains probiotics (living organisms), both bacteria and yeasts, that are highly beneficial for health and well being. It may contain more than 25 different microorganisms in varying concentrations, making it a potent source of probiotics compared to other fermented products. For instance contains far fewer beneficial bacteria strains only. Kefir grains make-up can be highly variable in amounts of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts depending on culturing location and conditions.
Probiotics can help restore the amount of friendly bacteria in the gut so are highly effective to aid general digestive problems and help treat diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome.
There’s a lot of current research showing just how beneficial your gut health is. It’s a cutting edge of medical research right now and, until the past couple years, was almost completely ignored by the medical community. Kefir improves gut health because it contains probiotics — beneficial bacteria that existing in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies, living in the gut. This gut bacteria helps break our food down and has been linked to mental health, digestion, weight loss, sleep, and more. Basically, drinking kefir improves gut health which sets off a positive chain reaction.
Fermentation occurs where healthy bacteria and yeast take the first steps for digestion by breaking down food elements making them easier to digest. The body is able to assimilate this fermented food easier than similar chemicals man made into supplements, food additives and so on.
A healthy gut is critical to the well being of the rest of our body because of its direct relation to our nervous system, energy, hormones, and immunity. It is a complex system responsible for processing the foods we eat into useful products for our bodies as well eliminating what we no longer require. If the system becomes stressed through poor food choices, hostile bacteria, viruses, parasites, or antibiotics, our gut system suffers, unable to do an efficient job. Poor gut health is indicated in various diseases and illness including obesity, depression, leaky gut syndrome, celiac’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even autism spectrum disorder.
Kefir is chock full of yeasts and bacteria known as probiotics that have certain special properties. These probiotics are known to protect and improve our digestive system gut flora and fauna thereby protecting and improving gut health. The type and strains do vary in each kefir but there are usually about 30 different bacteria and yeasts in the grains. (Yogurt, also a renowned probiotic food, has far fewer and does not contain any yeasts.)
Kefir has anti-infection properties. Kefir specifically contains Lactobacillus kefiri which fights against infections from Salmonella, E. coli and Helicobacter Pylori and contains the carbohydrate kefiran, which is known to have some antibacterial properties. Consequently certain medical conditions like diarrhea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are improved by ingesting probiotics in kefir.
Kefir also contains all the nutrients of the original unfermented liquid which in the case of milk adds Protein, Calcium, Phosphorus, B Group Vitamins, Magnesium and Vitamin D. Nothing is destroyed by cooking.
Fermentation adds extra byproducts in the form of lactic acids and extra vitamins that were not present in the original medium. These byproducts are produced when the yeasts and bacteria break down the lactose (in the case of milk kefir grains) or sugar (in the case of water kefir grains).
Kefir is often suitable for those who exhibit lactose intolerance. Even in milk based kefirs most of the lactose is converted to lactic acid in the fermentation process so an important source of calcium to help prevent osteoporosis.
Kefir improves symptoms of allergies and asthma. This is indirectly linked to gut improvement as Kefir reduces and repairs leaky gut syndrome, which is linked to autoimmune responses including allergies, asthma and celiac disease.
Intro to Water Kefir
We’ve given a basic overview of ‘Kefir’, both milk and water versions above.
However, let’s focus specifically on water kefir now, as this guide is all about how to make your own water kefir (be patient, the tutorial is coming up in the next section).
Water Kefir Requirements
Basic Water Kefir requires a very simple process and few easy to acquire ingredients.
- Sugary Kefir Grains (SKG)
However the quality of those simple ingredients will affect the success of the SKG to ferment the available sugars in solution and to produce ongoing batches of health giving Water Kefir. Making great Kefir like much fermentation or brewing can be a mix of science and art – great kefir like great wine! If you are just starting your career as kefir brewer, keep these ingredients as simple as possible then start experimenting.
Sugary Kefir Grains
Sugary Kefir Grains (SKG) is a complete misnomer as there are no plant seeds at all, rather a symbiotic mix of beneficial yeasts and bacteria. SKG are similar to those used for milk kefir but instead of being white gelled clusters, SKG are translucent granules that do not clump together. They are firm to touch but are best treated with care as they may break apart when mishandled and then can be easily lost through the process of making the kefir. They do consist of fewer yeasts and bacteria than those for milk kefir however they contain more than any found in comparable foods such as yogurt or other probiotic drinks.
The best place to acquire SKG is from a friend or other enthusiast however they are available from good health food stores or over the internet form reputable sources. Just be sure they are SKG and not those for making milk kefir. I don’t recommend you make Water Kefir with a commercially available “Starter”. These will give some success for milk kefir but natural SKG is always best for sugar water kefir.
Healthy SKG will multiply with each batch of kefir that you brew every couple of days so there will hopefully be increasing amounts to share with other friends or perhaps to store for the future. They generally remain at the bottom of the liquid during fermentation due to their density, unlike milk kefir grains which sometimes rise to the surface. However, if they are growing rapidly, they may hold a small amount of CO2 inside which makes them rise then fall again as the CO2 seeps out.
The goal of the following ingredients is to keep the SKG happy, healthy, feeding well and multiplying so they keep producing delicious healthy Water Kefir.
Table sugar consists of the disaccharide sucrose, which is formed from fructose and glucose. Sucrose is broken down by the SKG as they feed and grow on the glucose in the sugar so that all that remains in a well fermented water kefir is fructose. The sucrose is predigested by the probiotic SKG feeding on the glucose and the remaining 20% fructose is easily digested by humans. A well fermented kefir will produce more SKG grains from the energy and end up actually containing less sugar than an apple.
What’s the best sugar for making water kefir?
It is roundly recommended that the best sugar to use to feed your SKG is turbinado raw organic cane sugar which has most, but not all of the molasses removed. Essentially the darker the color of the sugar the more molasses it contains.
Examples are demerara, jaggery, rapadura, muscovado, sucanat and Chinese red sugar. Some molasses ensures there are some minerals and trace elements in the solution to best feed the grains. However if normal refined white table sugar is all that is available then it should also be fine to use and it is also possible to add a small amount of molasses to white sugar to add the minerals back to nourish the SKG.
Other sweeteners are NOT RECOMMENDED like honey, maple syrup or palm sugar as these will not feed your precious SKG with the sugars that that they need. However, if you have extra water kefir grains to spare, you can experiment with these sugar sources as you can get some interesting (and delicious) water kefir flavors by using them.
All water is not created equal, well not unless it has been filtered purified, distilled, dionized down to pure H2O. However pure water is not actually the best for making kefir because SKG are living and growing and they need small amounts of nutrients. Of course any water used should be safe to drink from the outset, whether it is tap water or purchased bottled water.
Best water to use for water kefir?
Water nutrients add additional components to the kefir. Water with high mineral content benefits SKG so if you are lucky enough to live in an area with “hard water” that contains high amounts of calcium sourced from a natural spring or well you should have a head start to producing great kefir. If you only have chlorinated tap water, boil it and leave to cool overnight before using to remove most of the chlorine.
Addition of small amounts of various minerals such or alternatively ground eggshell, limestone or pasteurized coral can help alter the mineral content. As the latter natural ingredients are made up of calcium and magnesium carbonate, they adjust the water acidity as they slowly dissolve. Not only do these benefit the growth of the SKG, they become incorporated into the water kefir to in mineral forms able to used by the human body as nutrients. These elements are important for health of our bones, teeth to help prevent Osteoporosis as well as improving our nerve and immune system, facilitating any healing process. What is good for the SKG is good for us.
Other options to mineralize what water is available to you include adding small amounts sea salt, bicarbonate of soda (1/8 tsp to 8 cups water), and blackstrap molasses (1/2- 1 tsp to 8 cups of water). The ideal optimum pH is slightly alkaline of 7.2 – 7.5.
Try adding one of the above supplements to your next batch of water kefir and see how your kefir and grains react. When using a mineral supplement, it’s important to start by using just one supplement to avoid overloading the grains.
So now you have sourced the best of what is available regarding sugar and water, your Sugary Kefir Grains are resting in the refrigerator and you are ready to get going.
How to Make Water Kefir
Tired of all the background information? Well we are now ready to start making water kefir.
The following is just one water kefir of a myriad of variations. Once you get your confidence you will be able to experiment and change flavours to suit. Don’t think of my basic water kefir recipe as ‘THE ONLY’ recipe. It’s not and the recipe can be drastically altered.
About Sugary Kefir Grains and Water Kefir
- SKG are similar to but different from milk kefir grains; they are translucent, not white, with gel-like appearance but not slimy or slippery like milk grains. Although firm to touch they are fragile and will break apart easily when handled roughly.
- SKG grow best in solutions containing 3 – 10% sugar flavored with fruits of your choice to improve taste and nutrition. For those scientifically minded, SKG consist of polysaccharides which are links of dextran consisting only of glucose and are symbiotic cultures of yeasts and bacteria as other cultured drinks like
- While refined white sugar can be used, better results are reached when using other forms of sugar such as brown, demerara, or raw to which one can add 1tsp of molasses per ½cup sugar of choice.
- Water quality can affect results too so it is best is to choose as natural mineral water if available. Even what is sometimes deemed “hard water” is a good choice because of its calcium content. Demineralized, distilled, and activated carbon filtered water are least suitable. In fact adding small amounts of bicarbonate of soda (1/8 tsp to 8 cups water) or alternatively ground eggshell, limestone or coral can help alter the pH to slightly alkaline ideal of 7.2 – 7.5. as these essentially consist of calcium and magnesium carbonate. These then become incorporated into the water kefir in forms able to be utilized by the body as nutrients.
Equipment Needed to Make Water Kefir
Most of the items you will need will probably already be somewhere in your kitchen. If not they are easy to purchase in local shops or for those living more remote or too busy to shop, all items can be purchased online. Fermenting kefir invites some innovation but in the beginning it is wise to stick as close as possible to tried and true recipes.
Always make sure you are working in a clean environment with clean dry containers and utensils as well as clean dry hands. Wild yeasts and bacteria are always in the air so minimise risk of contamination where possible.
General Items you will need:
- A container suitable for holding the kefir while it is fermenting. Clean, clear glass is the most easily obtained and recommended for its various properties.
- Some form of open cover that will keep dust and insects out yet allow the aerobic fermentation to take place.
- A utensil to quietly stir the liquid over the 48 hours of fermentation
- A sieve to remove the SKG from the Water Kefir
- A container in which to store the sieved kefir or to give it a second fermentation
General Product Recommendations on Amazon:
- 3 glass basic mason jar – check out Amazon for convenience and price
- A long handled spoon (wooden,plastic, bamboo or stainless steel)
- 1 fine mesh strainer (plastic, bamboo, wooden or stainless steel)
- A muslin, cheesecloth, paper towel, kitchen towel or coffee filter
- Any of the fruit or herb requirements for your chosen kefir
- 1-2 tsp of SKG (you can order these ones online from amazon if you don’t have any from a friend)
Recommended Water Kefir Making Equipment
Please see our Best Equipment for Making Kefir
How to Make Basic Water Kefir
This is your BASIC water kefir recipe. You can make subtle variations which will change up the flavors, such as substituting the type of sugar you use and adding in various sugary flavorings such as figs, raisins, and so on. For radical flavor changes, you can substitute the water with juice or combine the water with juice. If you start adding in juice to the water, we recommend you only do so when you have a some extra water kefir grains to burn, in case the grains die or suffer.
For other more flavorful water kefir recipes, please see our other recipes below which include:
- coconut water kefir
- grape juice kefir
- ginger beer kefir
- Kefir d’erba medica (hibiscus tonic)
Ingredients for Basic Water Kefir
- ½ cup SKG Water Grains
- ½ cup of sugar
- 6 cups Quality Water
The Process of Making the Water Kefir
Step 1: Heat some of the water, say about a cup and pour into the container (not boiling as it may break the glass)
Step 2: Add the sugar (and optional ½ tsp molasses) Stir until dissolved
Step 3: Add the remainder of the water, test that it is tepid (body temp or slightly less)
Step 4: Carefully add the SKG which will settle at the bottom
OPTIONAL VARIATIONS for Recipe at this point
- SKG generally do not thrive in solutions that contain fruit flavorings but you can add some things to subtly flavor your Water Kefir as it ferments. Save the fruit flavorings for the Second Fermentation process explained further in this article.
- Try adding these individually or in combination to your water kefir in the jar:
- a) slice or two of a favorite citrus
- b) lemon or lime
- c) Dry fruits eg fig, apricot, raisins –
- d) Slices of fresh ginger root or
- e) 2 Tsp of ginger juice (my favorite)
Step 5: Cover and place in a shaded place where the temperature will be at relatively constant temperature. Optimum is 68–77 °F (20–25 °C)
Step 6: Over the following 48 hours, occasionally gently stir the solution to ensure all the SKG are being fed on the available sugar.
Step 7: After 2 days the fermented kefir will be ready to bottle off.
Step 8: Place a clean strainer over a clean bowl and strain out the SKG. Rinse them in fresh clean water and place aside.
Step 9: Take the liquid kefir and pour into a clean container either to chill to drink as you desire.
Step 10: At this point you can add flavorings just before you drink to your health – lemon juice for kefir lemonade, vanilla extract for creaming soda kefir or any other juice like cherry, apple, pineapple or orange.
Step 11: OR seal the container to allow second fermentation. Look at the section below for how to do the second ferment.
Step 12: Wash the container for fermentation and start your second batch of kefir with the rinsed SKG.
Notes of Note for the Brewing Process
- If you have extra SKG you can either 1) store these in sugar solution in your refrigerator, 2) give them to a friend to start their own healthy brew 3) start making an extra batch or larger amount of kefir
- DON’T make the mistake of thinking the brew will be improved by leaving the fermentation longer. 72 hours should be maximum as the SKG thrive in new sugar solutions and will eventually give up the ghost and die if not continually being given sustenance. If you want to stop brewing for any length of time there are methods to store the SKG for longer periods in your refrigerator or freezer or even dehydrated in a sealed container.
Making a Second Fermentation of Water Kefir (Optional)
You can also do what’s called a Second Fermentation on the water kefir. This is STEP 11 from above if you wish to do this.
How to Second Ferment
If you choose not to drink your delicious kefir immediately you can make a second fermentation process which must be done in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment so unlike the first ferment you will need a clean sealed container or bottle. This will produce a kefir with a slightly alcoholic content, the level depends on how many sugars remained in the kefir. Healthy growing SKG will have consumed most of the sugar as they grow.
Leaving the bottle at room temperature for a couple of days will produce more carbonated fizz period than storing in the refrigerator. You can drink it at any time but I find it is more refreshing if chilled.
The second fermentation is the time to add 2-3 ounces of your favourite fruit juice for flavouring. You could even try adding a brew of your favorite herbal tea. If you only want to add in extra carbonation but no existing extra flavors, you can just seal the bottle to do the second ferment and this will only add carbonation to the bottle (and slightly mellow out the original flavor).
We recommend you use the flip top latch style bottle for your second fermentation.
- Remove the grains from the fermented product (use the grains to make a new batch)
- Take the finished product you removed the grains from and put in a fully SEALED bottle.
- Add in extra flavorings such as JUICE, cut up fruit, spices, herbs, edible flowers, etc
- Let this ferment for 1 to 5 days (note: make sure your open the sealed bottle every day or two to release the pressure build up to prevent an explosion)
- Refrigerate finished product to ‘halt’ second ferment. Drink while cold for best taste. The resulting ferment should be fizzy with deep flavors of water kefir mixed with whatever flavor you added.
Because the second fermentation produces lots of bubbles the pressure inside the sealed container will increase, especially if left at warmer room temperatures. Take extra care with glass bottles as any weak point of the glass will be put under pressure. You may want to burp the bottle with care to release some pressure and over time you will become familiar with how long this takes and when is the best time to move it to the refrigerator.
General Water Kefir Brewing Tips
- You can ferment the water kefir with the jar sealed (anaerobic fermentation) or unsealed — either will work. The sealed version will give more carbonation and change the texture of the flavors but the kefir grains won’t reproduce as much. Fermenting in an unsealed jar (with a cloth lid) will allow your grains to reproduce more and frankly, we recommend this as the best method.
- We recommend only adding in extra liquid flavors to the water kefir in the second ferment, not the primary ferment
- You can change the basic water kefir recipe by using DIFFERENT sugar types (maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar, date sugar, sugar cane juice, raw sugars, honey, etc). We recommend you do these sugar experiments to see just how different you can make your water kefir taste!
- For more exotic kefir flavors, please see our water kefir recipe section next
- Use a flip top style bottle for your second fermentation. For your primary fermentation, you can use any mason jar (makes it easy to add in fruits or other bigger flavorings) with a lid or a flip top jar.
Other Recommended Water Kefir Variations
After you’ve mastered the plain water kefir (i.e. you’ve made it a couple times and are familiar with how to do it), you can start to experiment a bit with more advanced versions and flavorings. This is where water kefir really starts showing how delicious it can be.
Frankly, THESE RECIPES are why you will love water kefir in the first place. So if you only make plain water kefir and have NOT tried these other recipes, then you really don’t know how good water kefir can taste. Many people compare it to flavored kombucha…or better!
Even better, like Kombucha, flavored water kefir is both delicious and powerfully healthy!
- Coconut Water Kefir
- Ginger Beer Water Kefir
- Grape Juice Water Kefir
- Kefir d’erba medica
Keep scrolling down to see these amazing water kefir recipes.
Coconut Water Kefir
Another dairy free option is to make Coconut Water Kefir with SKG to create drink of a slightly different flavour and sometimes an acquired taste being “dry” and yeasty. Coconut “water” is the liquid found inside coconuts and it is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. There is some evidence that drinking coconut water helps to reduce high blood pressure.
It is essentially brewed by the same method as Water Kefir but because coconut water has natural sugars, it can be made with or without adding extra. At first try with about 25% of the water kefir recipes to see how you like it. The fermentation tends to more rapid so best to check often to see how it is progressing.
The Ingredients for Coconut Water Kefir
- ¼ cupSKG
- ¼ cup sugar of your choice, preferably unrefined organic
- 4 cups of coconut water
How to Make Coconut Water Kefir
Step 1: Dissolve the optional sugar in the coconut water in the jar
Step 2: Stir until sugar is thoroughly dissolved
Step 3: Add ¼ cup of SKG kefir grains to the [sweetened] coconut water
Step 4: Cover with a clean permeable fabric or paper tissue
Step 5: Let sit for up to 24 hours and check for taste, never longer than 48 hours. It will take longer to ferment with added sugar.
Step 6: Strain and bottle for second fermentation or drink straight. For second fermentation fruits, spices or herbs like ginger, strawberries, limes may be added, similar to Kombucha.
Note Coconut water doesn’t provide the best environment for SKG so the grains will not grow. In fact they may actually cease to produce fermentation so every few coconut water batches it pays to refresh the SKG with sugar water kefir.
Ginger Beer Kefir
Ginger beer and water kefir? Yes, you can combine these two delicious drinks into a single one…for something crazy good. Even better, it’s easy.
The Ingredients for Ginger Beer Kefir
- 2/3 cup SKG Water Grains
- 6 cups Quality Water – free of chlorine and fluoride
- ½ cup Cane sugar (avoid coconut sugar, maple sugar, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp Molasses
- 50g fresh ginger root
- Slice of lemon
- 1 dry fig or 2 Tbsp sultanas/raisins or combination
- Large lidded Glass jar or plastic container. (It should never be more than 2/3 – ¾ full to ensure space for gases produced)
- Mesh strainer
How to Make Ginger Beer Kefir
Step 1: Heat about ½ cup of the water and pour into the large glass/plastic jar (Not boiling or you may break the glass)
Step 2: Add the sugar and molasses. Stir to dissolve
Step 3: Top with the remaining water
Step 4: Finely grate the ginger root and tie in small muslin bag.
Step 5: Add remaining ingredients including ginger to the tepid water
Step 6: Seal the jar if possible
Step 7: Stand in room temperature optimum, 68–77 °F (20–25 °C)in shaded spot for 2 days
Step 8: Agitate slightly after 1 day to mix the SKG, repeat as often as you think of it, just like passing the skin in the doorway in olden times.
Step 9: After fermenting 2 days strain the Ginger Kefir into sealed bottles
Step 10: Cool in the refrigerator 1-2 days before drinking.
Brewing Tips for this Recipe
- More fizz for your buck, to alter the old expression slightly.
- You can pour off your water kefir into airtight sealed bottles for a few days to instigate secondary fermentation before drinking. If left at room temperature it will acquire more fizz but chill before serving for best imbibing. This secondary fermentation will also give slightly higher alcohol content; the actual amount depends on the amount of sugars remaining when bottled.
- This secondary fermentation is also the best time to add fruit juices for flavors as SKG don’t take too kindly to some fruits, especially grape, pineapple, apple or such like.
Kefir d’uva (Grape Kefir)
This is a specialty from Italy using grape juice and water with optional extras of spices or herbs for a fresh aromatic brew. This is flavorful and gives somewhat of a water kefir version of a wine (though less alcoholic and less bubbly). It’s one the best tasting water kefir recipes you can try, due to using grape juice with the water.
Ingredients for Grape Kefir
- 2/3 cup SKG Water Grains
- 3 cups Quality Water – free of chlorine and fluoride
- 3 cups grape juice – red or white – fresh or bottled (no preservatives)
- Optional – fresh mint leaves, cinnamon stick, crushed cloves
- Large lidded Glass jar or plastic container. (It should never be more than 2/3 – ¾ full to ensure space for gases produced)
- Mesh strainer
How to Make Grape Kefir
Step 1: Add the water and grape juice to the glass jar
Step 2: Add remaining optional ingredients
Step 3: Add the spare* SKG or milk kefir grains
Step 4: Seal the jar if possible (you can also ferment unsealed too, just put a cloth over the top)
Step 5: Stand in room temperature optimum, 68–77 °F (20–25 °C)in shaded spot for 2 days
Step 6: Agitate slightly after 1 day to mix the SKG, repeat as often as you think of it, just like passing the skin in the doorway in olden times.
Step 7: After fermenting 2 days strain the Kefir d’Uva into sealed bottles
Step 8: Cool in the refrigerator 1-2 days before drinking.
Brewing Tips for Grape Kefir
- The sweeter the juice the higher the alcohol content so not suitable for children. Also the SKG will not grow in this medium so use only spare grains and understand they will eventually die if continually used for Kefir d’Uva.
- You can do a second ferment of the grape kefir to add in extra carbonation and deepen the flavors. We recommend this as you get a sort of champagne!
Kefir d’erba medica
A herbal tonic recipe made with fresh herbs of your choice – examples as given but these can be changed and experimented with. This particular method keeps the herbs uncooked and relies on the yeasts and bacteria of the kefir grains to extract the goodness from the chosen herbs. One could also brew a potent tea of them first and use that instead. Either way the result should be a powerful natural tonic for any ills that may befall you.
Ingredients to Make Kefir d’erba medica
- 1 Tsp Red Hibiscus flowers.
- 1 Tsp Moringa leaf
- 5 whole Rose hips lightly crushed
- 1 Tbs of either raw honey, malt extract, or molasses
- 2 Tbs spare SKG or milk kefir-grains
- 2 cups water
How to Make Kefir d’erba medica
Step 1: Heat about ½ cup of the water and pour into the large glass/plastic jar (Not boiling or you may break the glass)
Step 2: Add the sweetener of choice and stir to dissolve
Step 3: Top with the remaining water to no more than 2/3 of the jar
Step 4: Add the spare* SKG or milk kefir grains
Step 5: Add the herbs of choice
Step 6: Seal the jar if possible
Step 7: Stand in room temperature optimum, 68–77 °F (20–25 °C)in shaded spot for 24 -48 hours
Step 8: Agitate slightly after 1 day to mix the SKG, repeat as often as you think of it, just like passing the skin in the doorway in olden times
Step 9: After fermenting strain the herbal tonic and drink to your health
Brewing Tips for Kefir d’erba medica
- Use spare grains as the grains may not grow in these environments and eventually cease to work. Never “put all your grains in one basket”
Water Kefir Brewing FAQ
Here are some common questions and answers for water kefir brewing.
How to Increase Your Supply of Water Kefir Grains
It’s simple: brewing Water Kefir makes more SKG
Because making kefir drink is continually feeding the active grains you will also continually growing more grains. Healthy grains will actually increase as much a 100% or even more per brew so this allows you to
- Start a new brew
- Give some away to friends and family to encourage them in the kefir habit
- Store grains because you never know when disaster may strike and you will need them.
Should your SKG slowly begin to cease to multiply it is most likely due to poor water and refined sugars. Refer to the earlier section concerning SKG facts. If you repeatedly leave SKG in the same sugar solution for too long (1-2 days is optimum), especially in warmer temperatures the SKG will eventually atrophy and die.
Should You Ferment Your Water Kefir Sealed or Unsealed (Anaerobic vs Aerobic)
Your kefir grains will ferment in either a sealed environment with no oxygen (anaerobic) or an open environment (aerobic). So either works. However, there are some differences that will affect your kefir grains…and your water kefir. First, if you ferment in a sealed environment, you will get a carbonated fermentation (i.e. fizz) while you won’t get fizz if you ferment in a non-sealed container. Your grains will NOT reproduce as readily in a sealed environment, however. As such, kefir grains prefer the presence of oxygen.
We recommend you ferment in an open container with the lid off but cloth sealing top with a rubber band around holding it in place. To build up the carbonation, you should do a second ferment after the ‘main fermentation’ has been completed. This allows you to 1) give your grains the healthiest environment to operate in and 2) lets you add in the carbonation afterward in the second ferment with the grains remaining unaffected.
Why Should You Second Ferment Water Kefir?
This is where you take the finished product (remove the grains first from the liquid), mix in extra flavorings such as juice, fruits, nuts, etc, then seal the bottle completely for 1 to 5 days. If you do an unsealed primary fermentation, we do recommend you do a SEALED second fermenation to build up carbonation, or you won’t have any fizz. You can do a second fermentation with or without extra flavorings.
How to Store Extra Kefir Grains
It’s like backing up your computer, don’t leave it too late. The best method for storing SKG is to actually freeze them. Wash the grains in cool pre-boiled water and allow to dry between layers of sterile fabric. To sterilize at home you can heat the fabric briefly in a microwave or use a hot iron and COOL. The dryness is to ensure that water molecules don’t expand when they become ice and destroy the grains. Place the dry SKG in a jar or a ziplock plastic bag and freeze until needed. It is a good idea to replenish this frozen supply every couple of months. This is something like making a SCOBY hotel if you brew Kombucha, except it’s a lot less work — simply freeze your grains and that’s it!
Can I Eat the Kefir Grains?
Sure! They are quite tasty (milk kefir grains especially). You can eat them for an extra probiotic boost, though be careful you only do so to your extra grains. You can also give your extra grains to you dogs, who love them!
Where can I buy Sugary Kefir Grains to get started?
If you can’t find a friend who has any they want to share then searching the internet should give the closest place to purchase suitable SKG.
Can I mix in Kombucha and Water Kefir?
You can! My mom has experimented with this, taking both water kefir and kombucha and combining for a combined second ferment. Don’t add water kefir to your primary kombucha ferment though!
Why are my sugary kefir grains not multiplying at all?
They are most likely being affected by the quality of the sugar or the water. Non refined sugars are best for SKG growth, aided by the addition of 1 tsp of molasses per each 1/2-cup refined sugar. Hard mineral or spring water with a pH 7.2 – 7.5 is preferable. Adding 1/8 tsp of Sodium Bicarbonate per 2 litres [8 cups] of purified water is a suitable substitute.
Never leave the grains longer than 72 hours in the same solution or they may start dying.
I have been told I should rinse my grains between brews. Is this really necessary?
So long as your equipment is kept clean and you use fresh quality ingredients for every brew there is no reason to rinse your grains.
Can You Use Milk Kefir Grains instead of Water Kefir Grains to Make Water Kefir
Yes, there is a process you can use to adapt milk kefir grains to be used to make water kefir (i.e. using water with sugar). These do a fair substitution for water kefir grains, though there are some differences and the flavor may not be ‘exactly’ the same. In a pinch, you can — if you have some time — convert your milk kefir grains to water kefir grains, of a sorts.
We’ll write an article about how to do it. It will take you a few weeks to a month to do, however. if you want to make proper water kefir quickly, it’s best to get your hands on water kefir grains. Also note that once you adapt milk kefir grains to live on sugar water, you can’t reverse this process (you can’t take those grains and put them back into milk).