Water Kefir FAQ
What is water kefir?
How does it work?
Water kefir, also known as tibicos, are gelatinous white or golden particles, commonly called grains. They are not grains from a plant; they are yeast and bacteria working in a symbiotic relationship. With proper care, your heirloom starter will last indefinitely.
Once activated in sugary water,the yeast and bacteria work to convert sugar to more digestible, simpler sugars, lactic and acetic acids, carbon dioxide, and low levels of alcohol. They produce a fizzy fermented beverage that can be flavored to suit.
Is it like Kombucha?
Unlike kombucha, water kefir does not need tea to brew, and so it is free from caffeine. Like kombucha, it does have a reusable starter so you can brew batch after batch.
What liquids can I use?
What type of water do they like?
Hard water with a high mineral content is good. Always use non-chlorinated water. Boiling removes chlorine if you do not have a filter.
Is milk kefir different?
Milk kefir grains are a different type of grains than water kefir grains.
They work the same way as water kefir grains but have evolved to thrive on milk sugars.
Can I ferment fruit and vegetable juice?
Water kefir grains can ferment fruit or vegetable juices, including coconut water.
Do a standard sugar water recipe in between brews of alternative liquids so you don't over work the grains.
Can I ferment coconut water?
Yes you can ferment coconut water but we recommend brewing mostly in sugar and water to retain the strength of the grains.
Use spare grains to brew in coconut water or only brew in coconut water every now and then.
How do I care for it?
How do I feed them?
Sugars - Cane sugar is the best food for the grains. You can use white, brown, raw, or rapadura cane sugar. Other sugars can be either too rich or not contain enough food for the grains to survive, so use sparingly.
Minerals - Grains enjoy a little calcium, potassium, and magnesium, found in dried fruits, baking soda, sea salt, molasses, and lemon peel. A small handful of preservative-free dried fruit, a pinch of salt, a slice of lemon or 1/8th of a teaspoon of baking soda or molasses now and then can help strengthen the grains. Choose to add one mineral source per batch.
They don't seem as active?
Grains naturally adjust their size and color due to ingredients, temperature, and season, but this does not affect their performance.
Water kefir grains can be finicky and appear to change in their requirements with the seasons, but as you get to know this, altering ingredients or time to ferment can be a quick fix.
If your grains are not fermenting, they will most likely need mineral support. White sugar alone is often not enough and changing your sugar combination or adding a few minerals will sort them out. Kefir grains are resilient and will perk up even after a few ‘failed’ fermentations.
Warmer temperatures can be damaging to the grains, so in hot weather, move them to a cooler part of the house.
It is normal (and quite exciting!) to see your grains bobbing up and down in the jar
Do they multiply?
Grains may multiply. You can increase the size of your batches or give grains away to friends.
Grains may also be slow to multiply if they do not have enough food. Add some supplements or change the sugar type if you wish to grow your grains faster.
Can I take a break?
Grains can sit in the refrigerator in their finished kefir liquid or sugary water for two weeks.
If a more extended break is required, then air-drying them is the best option.
Avoid dehydrators as grains are sensitive to heat. Lay the grains on a plate in a single layer and air dry over 3-4 days with an insect proof cover. Store once fully dry
Does it contain alcohol?
How to limit alcohol levels
Water kefir does contain a small amount of alcohol (0.08%) after the first 48-hour fermentation. During the second (bottle) fermentation, more alcohol can develop from added flavourings such as fruit juices.
To keep the alcohol low, use herbs, spices, or low sugar fruit to flavour your kefir and dilute with soda water to serve if unsure.
How much should I drink?
Naturally brewed water kefir can have a gentle laxative effect. Until your system gets used to it, have a small glass each day.
How do I make it fizzy?
Add some sweetness to the second ferment.
To make a fizzy water kefir, add a little sweetness to the bottles on your second ferment. Fruit juice or cordial in small amounts will work well.
Make sure you have bottles that can withstand pressure and sit them in a warm place to ferment for 48 hours.
Don't add too much sweetness, or the brew will be explosive and produce excess alcohol.
How do I flavor it?
One of the best things about making water kefir at home is coming up with flavor combinations.
You can flavor the first and second fermentation with your favorite herbs, spices, fruits, syrups and cordials. Mint leaves, ginger root, lemon slices, dried apricots, cinnamon and vanilla are some of our favorites.
Herbs and spices lead to interesting flavors with little additional alcohol.
Fruits, syrups and cordials can increase alcohol if you use too much, but also lead to lovely colors and flavors in your finished ferment.
If you keep the addition of fruits and syrups to a low % of the total brew (less than 5%) you will not produce excessive alcohol.