Water Kefir

Water kefir

All natural, probiotic, sugar free soda!

Water kefir is a fixture on my fermenting counter. I’ve always got at least a quart, and sometimes two, bubbling away under a towel. It’s the easiest ferment to make by far and is a nice, gentle probiotic.

Water kefir “grains” are actually not grains at all, but SCOBYs (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts), like tiny kombucha mothers or milk kefir grains. They are a mix of lactobacillus, streptococcus, pediococcus, and leuconostoc bacteria along with yeasts from saccharomyces, candida, and kloeckera held together by a polysaccharide matrix. They feed on sugar from dried fruit to produce lactic acid, alcohol (just a little), and carbon dioxide. When they’re done, you get a refreshingly tart, lightly carbonated, mildly fruit flavored probiotic beverage that kids love!

It’s also fun to experiment with different combinations of dried fruits. So far, apricot, peach, and fig have all worked the best.

You can either obtain water kefir grains from a friend or you can buy them on Amazon or Cultures for Health. The cheapest option is to find someone in your community with grains to share and barter for them.

Water Kefir makes 1 quart
1 T water kefir grains
3 pieces dried fruit (figs, peaches, and apricots or a combination all work very well)
Filtered or spring water
Several drops of trace minerals

  1. Place kefir grains and fruit in a quart Mason jar.
  2. Add water to 2 inches from the top of the jar.
  3. Add several drops of the trace minerals.
  4. Cap loosely, cover with a towel, and let sit in a warm place (no more than 80 degrees F) for 24 hours. In warmer weather, the ferment will go faster and you’ll have to check on it sooner.
  5. Taste. It should be very lightly carbonated and pleasantly sour. Let sit longer if you want a more sour beverage, but not too long or it becomes alcoholic and nasty!
  6. When the kefir is to your liking, remove the fruit and either eat it, feed it to the chickens, or compost it. Decant the water kefir into a clean quart jar, leaving the grains behind in the original jar.
  7. If you want more carbonation, tightly cap the decanted kefir and let it sit on the counter for another day. Don’t let it sit too long, though, or your jar may explode!
  8. Start over at step 2!

Note: If you want to take a break from making water kefir, simply place the grains in some fresh water with a couple of pieces of dried fruit in the fridge. They’ll be happy for a couple of weeks or maybe months (I haven’t pushed them that far yet). Water kefir grains are one of the harder SCOBYs to kill.

This post is part of the Probiotic Food Challenge on Real Food Forager!

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37 comments to Water Kefir

  • Sue

    I was wondering if you might be able to answer a couple questions regarding water kefir and its crystals.

    Our kefir is only slightly bubbly. Isn’t it supposed to be very bubbly?

    Can I feed the extra crystals to my chickens and goats?

    Thanks, and may Jesus bless you.

    Sue Hopping

    • Joy

      Hi Sue,
      Kefir is not super bubbly, but if you want it more bubbly you can leave it sealed on the counter for an extra day after you decant it. If it gets too bubbly your jar will explode, so be careful not to forget about it! The extra crystals should be fine for your livestock. However, you might find they make a better gift for your friends!
      -Joy

    • Christine

      My friend who gave me my water kefir grains feeds her extras to her chickens all the time and they love it! She has been doing this for almost a year now and they have not suffered any ill effects at all.

  • This is interesting. I have always heard that water kefir grains tend to be more finicky than other cultures and so are easier to kill. But it doesn’t sound like that’s your experience!
    I’ve been making water kefir from a couple years now and my grains are still going strong. They never grow, though. Do yours grow? Do you have any tips for me? I have enough to make a half gallon every two days but I think we would enjoy more.

    • Joy

      They are easier to kill, I think. If you leave them alone too long they can die. But it’s not hard to keep them going. They probably aren’t growing much because they’re not getting a huge amount of sugar. To grow yours, put a couple tablespoons of water kefir grains into a quart mason jar with pure water and 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Put the lid on and let it sit for 48 hours and they should grow like crazy as they go to town on all that sugar!

  • Kathryn Arnold

    I was considering water kefir bit didn’t realize “candida” was involved. I have asn awful time with fungus issues, candida albicans among them. Would kefir be adding fat to that fire?

    • Joy

      There’s more than one kind of candida – kefir is actually known to help with candida albicans issues. From: the Kefir.Org manual

      Those of you, who are into kefir drinking for eliminating candida overgrowth, may be scared to death learning that kefir culture contains also candida yeast. Don’t panic, all is OK! The candida yeast in kefir is a vicious cannibalistic sister of the infamous Candida albicans! In addition to it, the kefir culture contains host of other microorganism and all of them eat Candida albicans 24H per day. All available scientific research and uncountable personal experiences confirm that drinking kefir will free you (with no side effects) form burden with candida overgrowth.

  • Natalia

    All the recipes I came across before call for sugar for water kefir. Yours doesn’t? Is sugar in dried fruit enough?

    • Joy

      It really does work with just dried fruit, I promise! Every now and then if you want to grow your kefir grains significantly you can use other forms sugar. In the comment response to Meghan I outlined how :)

      • Natalia

        My next batch goes sugar free! Thanks for the quick response.
        I started making water kefir in the hopes that husband will quit drinking soda. Hopefully, it works out!

  • jackie

    I really want to try water kefir! I have heard that milk kefir grains can be converted to water kefir. Does anyone know if this is true and how to go about doing it? Thanks!

    • From Dom’s kefir site ( amazing resource)
      http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html

      With traditional water-kefir, the beverage is cultured with translucent water kefir-grains, or sugary kefir grains [SKG]. SKG have an opaque, firm texture compared to traditional milk kefir-grains of Caucasus. But I’ve discovered that a variety of water-kefir may also be cultured with milk kefir-grains in place of SKG, by transferring milk kefir-grains to a sugar solution. When doing so, the first few batches take 4 to 5 days to ferment. This is because of the sugar-water media and the microflora of milk kefir-grains has to adjust to utilize the new media. [This period is scientifically referred to as Lag phase]. But after three or so batches, the organisms have adapted sufficiently to the new media, and from that point on, fermentation occurs within 24 to 48 hours. This is because the native microflora of milk kefir-grains need time to adapt to the new source of energy [sucrose and fructose instead of lactose or milk sugar]. So one should expect this to occur, if they want to use milk kefir-grains in this manner. I recommend brewing with patience for the first few batches if deciding to transfer milk kefir-grains to a different medium in any recipe explained below.

  • Susan

    Does anyone know if you can put kefir water grains in straight apple juice, ferment it a bit, strain out the grains and continue fermenting the juice (lidded to get bubbles). Why do recipes always have water and fruit/juice? What’s wrong with straight apple juice perhaps with a little sugar?

    • Joy

      I do think you can put them straight in juice. Amanda Rose at Traditional Foods says she does it that way.

      People like to add the juice for a stronger flavor. My take is many people try water kefir because they’re trying to replace soda. People who are used to drinking soda are used to very sweet, strong flavors. Since I came to water kefir after a lifetime of disliking most carbonated beverages and sticking mostly to water, I was fine with the milder taste and fizziness of plain water kefir.

  • Charlotte

    I have never added trace minerals to water kefir, what purpose does it serve and is it optional in this recipe?
    thanks

    • Joy

      It remineralizes the water, providing the water kefir grains the minerals they need to continue to divide. If your water is not hard and full of minerals in the first place, the grains will eventually stop working.

  • Red

    Intriguing!

    How much alcohol is in there! My cat would be getting it as well as me (we’re both dairy allergic and I’m on various medications) so I don’t want to do either of us harm — the last soy yogurt in my area switched to milkbased cultures and we can’t use them.

    How much is too much for a human and are there contraindications?

    Thank you!

  • I really couldn’t tell you how much alcohol is in the water kefir, Red! It completely depends on the brewing conditions. You can get a specific gravity meter from places that stock home brewing supplies that will measure alcohol content.

    I wouldn’t recommend any ferment that contains even a little bit of alcohol for your cat – their livers aren’t equipped to handle it and even a very tiny amount can cause kidney damage or renal failure.

    Cultures For Health sells a vegan dairy-free yogurt starter if you’d like to make your own yogurt.

  • Fascinating! How big are those pieces of dried fruit?

  • Angela E

    How/where do you find unsulphured apricot? Or do you use dried fruit that has sulphur in it?–I’ve always read and heard that the sulphur will kill the grains.

  • doris

    I am having a terrible yeast problem because of the urinary infections and antibiotics. How long does it take for kefir clease to work and how much should I be drinking????? Thanks so much

    • Joy

      Hi Doris,
      I’m sorry you are suffering! We are not medical professionals and even if we were, each person is individual and may need different medical advice. If you are concerned about your yeast problem, please visit a doctor who can look at it in person.

      Anecdotally, introducing a variety of probiotic foods can clear up yeast infections for many people. We’ve found it works best to start with one probiotic food at a time, in a very small amount (about 1 Tbsp per day), and gradually increase the amount over time as you tolerate it. You can also apply probiotic foods directly to infections that are on the skin. We don’t plan to ever stop eating probiotic foods!

  • Shaina

    Could molasses be used in place of the trace minerals? If so, how much would you say. Thanks!

  • Hi I have been giving kefir to my dog is that ok? Also I am a diabetic and have real bad candida problems and rash even and the kfir has cleared all that up THANK GOD.Also I use black strap molasses to make my kefir and brn sugar. This increases the nutrional value of our kefir My husband has got to drinking it now. He likes it too and he is a diabetic also It seems to be helping us both.

    • Joy

      I’m glad kefir is helping you and your husband. The probiotic foods really can make a difference! I think it’s fine to give it to your dog, but I’m not a vet, of course!

  • Cory-lynn

    I am super excited to hear that you can use fruit alone. I have always had problems with my water kefir and rarely drink it because it seems to still be too sweet for me even if I let it go a long time. I have candida issues too. So I was about to just give it up altogether, but now, if the dried fruit works, I will be just fine :-) Thanks!!
    I used to make it in fruit juice and it worked but it made the alcohol content very high. I was going to give this to my 3 year old who is addicted to juice (thought his juice might as well be probiotic) Thank God I drank it first because I drank a cup and a half of it and I literally couldn’t walk straight. I felt like I had just had way to many drinks!!
    That was with 100% pure raspberry juice or grape juice.
    The alcohol content must be considerably less with fruit pieces, not?? I am pregnant and want to make sure I am not getting any significant amount of alcohol. (Have you ever tested the alcohol content of yours??) Thanks

  • I just discovered your website and am anxious to learn more. I did have a question about the water kefir. I am trying to fight candida with the body ecology diet, and am eating fermented foods every day. I enjoy water kefir, but can I be sure the sugar is being consumed by the kefir? I usually leave it on my counter about 40-48 hours. Thanks so much for your help, I learned some new things in this post. :)

  • Annette

    I’ve only been making water Kefir for a couple of weeks now, but I’m going crazy watching videos and reading article they says two different thing. Do I use a air tight lid, or cover with cloth and a rubber band. One person say put an air tight lid, and the next will say put a cloth on it. My water kefir is completely flat, no fizz at all. I only have to brew 1 day because it’s so warm in my home. In your opinion with is better air tight or cloth???

  • Adam

    has anyone tried a citrus kefir? Not sure if that would be too acidic for the fermentation process? I thought a lime/lemon water kvass would be good???

  • Katie

    Hi, thank you for this information. I was wondering if I could start with water kefir right away on stage 1 og GAPS? I’ve already made sauerkraut andnoticed it said to introduce one probiotic at a time. Does it matter which is first?

    • Christine

      I’m also interested in knowing if water kefir is GAPS-friendly. I realize most of the sugar is eaten up by the grains themselves, but because GAPS does not allow sugar at all, I wanted to be certain. Thanks.

      • Katie

        Hi Christine, I just met with my GAPS trained mentor who teaches classes on how to ferment and she said we should be doing water kefir now, especially since it can be difficult for some people to get it going. She also said to introduce coconut oil and make coconut water with the water kefir a regular thing. I’m actually glad bc my kids need more fat and options. Just thought I would pass the info I recieved along. My mentor has a daughter with PANDAS who has healed amazingly from GAPS. They are going on a year now.

  • […] Kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, relishes, and other condiments are all ferments that are easily made at home for pennies on the dollar compared to what you’d pay in the store. You can buy starter cultures at Cultures For Health or get them from someone in your area. Once you’ve got them started, you don’t have to buy the starter again! Getting your probiotics from homemade ferments is the best way to get them, according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who wrote the GAPS book. So you can save on supplements this way, too! […]

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