What is Water Kefir?
Water kefir is a fermented beverage made by combing sugar, water, and kefir grains. The resulting refreshing drink is rich with healthy gut microbes, not to mention a pleasant zippy flavor!
I love making water kefir because the ingredient list is so simple – you just need water kefir grains, water, and sugar!
One additional benefit of making water kefir is that you can easily infuse it with flavors such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, herbs, and spices. This can be done during the first fermentation or the second fermentation. I’ll explain more down below.
As I mentioned before, the only ingredients required to make water kefir is sugar, water, and kefir grains. Here’s a quick breakdown of each essential ingredient:
Filtered, tap or well water will work equally well for making kefir. If your tap water is highly chlorinated, opt for filtered water.
You might also be interested in: Milk Kefir vs Water Kefir | Key Differences & Potential Benefits
Any type of granulated sugar will work for making kefir, though the more molasses that’s in the sugar, the stronger flavor it will have. I typically use raw cane sugar or turbinado sugar.
Do not use honey, agave, maple syrup, or sugar substitutes to make your water kefir, as these will negatively affect the kefir grains.
Grains can be purchased online or in many health food stores. Your kefir grains may come dry or in a sugar water solution. I’ve included instructions on how to rehydrate kefir grains down below.
There are a number of additional ingredients that can be added to the kefir during the first or second fermentation. Since we are just covering the first fermentation in this post, I will stick with ingredients that can be added at this point:
- Coarse sea salt, for mineral content
- Citrus juice (no peel)
- Dried fruit (figs, dates, prunes, etc.), also for mineral content
How to Make Water Kefir
The steps to make water kefir are simple, and in no time at all, you will be making it without even looking at instructions!
Plan to have fully fermented water kefir about 6 days after starting the process, assuming you have dried kefir grains. Time will vary depending on the temperature of your kefir, so taste regularly to see when it’s ready. Water kefir should taste slightly tangy, with a slight touch of sweetness.
Also read: Why Is My Kefir Bitter?
Step One: Reactivate Dried Kefir Grains (2-3 Days)
If your kefir grains came fully hydrated in a sugar water solution, you can skip this step.
To reactivate dried kefir grains you will basically make a small batch of water kefir. You will need 3-4 cups of water in total. Heat just enough water to dissolve ¼ cup of sugar in your mason jar.
Once your sugar is dissolved, add the remaining water and put your jar in the refrigerator. Allow this to cool completely (kefir grains will die in the heat!)
Once cooled completely, add your dried grains. Cover with a cheesecloth or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Store in a warm spot for 2-3 days, or until your kefir grains look full and plump.
Step Two: Make Water Kefir (1-3 Days)
Now that your grains have fully rehydrated, it’s time to make the kefir!
This process is basically the same as the process to rehydrate. Just heat enough water to dissolve ½ cup of sugar, then fill your mason jar with cold water, leaving approximately 2 inches of space on top.
Place your mason jar in the refrigerator, until it is completely cooled. Add your kefir starter (the grains plus the sugar water you used to rehydrate it) and store it in a warm spot for 1-3 days.
If you’re adding sea salt, lemon juice, or dried fruit, you will make your addition before you fill your mason jar with water, so it won’t overflow.
Step Three: Making Your Next Batch of Water Kefir (1-3 Days)
Once your water kefir has finished fermenting, you will probably want to make some more! To do this, simply strain your finished kefir, leaving at least 8 ounces of kefir remaining in your mason jar. Add back your kefir grains to the jar.
I find it’s easiest to use a second jar to make your sugar water solution, then pour that into your jar with the kefir grains. Your sugar to water ratio will remain the same, roughly ½ cup of sugar to 2 quarts of water.
Always remember to make sure the sugar water is cold when you add it to the kefir grains, as hot water will kill the poor little guys!
Flavoring Your Water Kefir
Now, we have a couple of options when it comes to flavoring water kefir. First, you can add lemon juice or dried fruit to the kefir during the first fermentation (as I mentioned above) or you can add fruit during the secondary fermentation.
Now, what exactly is secondary fermentation? This is the step that will create effervescent water kefir, deeply infused with yummy flavors. This step is optional, and I will go into great detail in a future post!
If you want to add flavor without secondary fermentation, just toss in any fresh fruit, juice, herbs, or spices that you like and store your kefir in the refrigerator.
Also read: Does Kefir Have Alcohol?
Storing Your Water Kefir
Water kefir will keep in your refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months! Just remember not to heat your kefir up and allow it to thaw naturally.
One important thing to remember is that your kefir is alive, and therefore it will continue to ferment. The process is much slower in the refrigerator, but it won’t stop completely. To protect against any messy explosion – keep the lid on the kefir loosely closed and open the lid once per day to “burp” the kefir!
As for your kefir grains, if you know you’re not going to be able to make kefir for an extended period of time, make a solution of ¼ cup of sugar with 3-4 cups of water. Store your grains in this mixture and keep them in the refrigerator. They should last for up to 3 weeks.
Answer: Simple! Just combine sugar and water in a ratio of ½ cup of sugar to 2 quarts of water. Make your sugar water, allow it to cool completely, then add in your kefir grains. Cover with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and store in a warm spot for 1-3 days.
Answer: Kefir is a nutritious beverage and can be enjoyed every day. I’d recommend 1-3 cups of water kefir per day, in addition to other fermented foods and beverages.
Answer: Both milk kefir and water kefir use grains to consume sugar, and both are high in healthy gut microbes. The difference is that milk kefir grains consume sugar from milk, and lactose, whereas water kefir consumes granulated sugar. They are not interchangeable.
Making Your Own Water Kefir
- 2 clean 2-quart mason jars
- Hot water kettle
- Measuring cups
- Wooden spoon
- Stainless steel strainer
- Cheesecloth or coffee filter
- Mason jar o-ring or rubberband
- Hydrated water kefir grains (1 package should equal ½ cup of hydrated kefir grains)
- ½ cup Sugar
- 2 quarts Water
- 1 tbsp pink sea salt (optional)
- Heat just enough water to dissolve your sugar and sea salt in your mason jar. Once dissolved, fill your mason jar with cold water, leaving 2 inches of space at the top. Store in your refrigerator until completely cooled, about 1-2 hours.
- Once your sugar water has cooled, add your kefir grains and stir gently. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Store your growing kefir in a warm spot for 1-3 days.
- To make your next batch of kefir, strain the finished kefir, reserving the grains. Make the same sugar water solution listed in step 1, allow it to cool completely, then add back your kefir grains. Store in a warm spot for 1-3 days.