Probiotics: Make Your Own Water Kefir!

When I went to see my naturopath, he told me that my fava beans might cause some digestive upsets and to use probiotics to remedy the condition. He mentioned several different avenues including buying them refrigerated from the health food store or making sauerkraut. I had bought a sauerkraut maker so when my neighbor gave me a giant head of cabbage, I thought I was all set. I’d bought powerful probiotics and they were powerful expensive so I figured this was the solution to any problem I might have with my innards. WRONG! Now, there are people out there who love to make sauerkraut and have achieved perfection with it but that isn’t me. I had cabbage from one end of the kitchen to the other and the result was less than satisfactory. I’d been there and done that. My gut would have to fend for itself.

Some months back, Peach on the forum had posted some comments about making water kefir. (That’s supposed to be pronounced keh-FEAR but I’ve always called it KEE-fer so I’ll continue to do so.) (However you read it is fine with me.) It sounded interesting. I’d been introduced to milk kefir by DH long, long ago and enjoyed it but the store that sold it was miles ‘n’ miles away. Besides, now that I’m a vegan, milk kefir would be out.

THEN another forum member posted a question about kefir on Facebook and I told her to go to the forum and post her questions. That’s what she did and we were off. KEFIR QUESTION almost instantly became a hot topic. It sounded like the perfect solution for me to get my probiotics and not go bankrupt at the same time.

Since Amazon has just about anything you could ever want and at a reasonable price, that was the second place I went. I’d emailed another source but didn’t hear anything so I went to Plan B and found water kefir grains. A few days later, they arrived. They were well packaged in plastic, then a foil pouch and after that, one of those squishy grayish mailing envelopes. Simple directions for making my own water kefir were enclosed.

In anticipation of their arrival, I’d already ordered a nylon mesh strainer since most directions say not to use anything metal with the kefir grains. I wasn’t taking any chances. Since, I’ve learned it isn’t the end of the grains if you use stainless steel but I keep that to a minimum. Glass, nylon and plastic are my preferences.

I’ve made many a batch of kefir water since the first one and had it going the whole time DD was home. I even sent some grains back to the Great Northwest with her (and mailed some to Shari) and she is having a great time experimenting with different combinations. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the equipment I use:

Quart jars
Plastic lids + one canning lid (not pictured)
Plates (sometimes it will fizz over so I use them just in case)
Plastic measuring spoon (tablespoon)
Plastic measuring spoon (1/4 teaspoon)
Nylon strainer

Equipment

The basic ingredients are very easy to obtain (other than the grains and they aren’t so hard, either).

Water (I use distilled to get rid of the chlorine and fluoride since the grains and I don’t like either one)
Raw sugar
Calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate (this can be omitted if using mineral water)
Last but certainly not least, water kefir grains

Ingredients

Measure four tablespoons sugar into each jar.

Sugar in the jars

Put 1/8 teaspoon calcium or sodium bicarbonate into each jar. I have never seen a 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon so I use half of the 1/4 teaspoon.

Sugar and calcium carbonate

Add water to the jars.

Adding the water

The difference in the color is because I put the plastic lid with the canning lid inside tightly on top of the jar and shook it until the sugar was dissolved. Then I repeated it with the other jar.

Measure four tablespoons of grains into each jar.

Measuring the grains

At first, I wasn’t adding lemon but Peach said she always did. Then I read somewhere else to always add lemon. The purpose of this (according to the writer) is to keep the bad bacteria at bay while letting the good grow. These have been topped off with water.

Always use lemon!

I scrub the lemon well if I can’t get organic and cut it into wedges, adding a wedge to each jar.

Ready to brew

I put raisins in the jar on the left and a bit of maple syrup in the one on the right. DD says the syrup makes the grains take off. I use just the plastic lids without the canning lids so the mixture can get a bit of air. Put the jars on the plates on the counter out of direct sunlight.

DD said she read that it’s ready when the fruit floats but mine floats pretty quickly so I don’t use that as a gauge.

Batch with raisins

Now here’s where it gets a little confusing because this is a different batch. I put some molasses in these jars which makes the color a little different. Now it’s time to strain the grains out.

Straining setup

I take the lemon wedge out and use a spoon (the only time metal touches anything) to fish around and get all the raisins. I eat as many raisins as I want and, if there are any left, they go into the compost bin.

Getting it ready to strain

The grains have multiplied since being put into the jars as they should since they are alive. The color is a bit darker because they tend to pick up colors from whatever is put in the containers with them.

Straining the finished brew

Grains

Here’s an example of the color change.

Kefir grains

This is the finished product, strained with the lemon squeezed into it, ready to drink. I put it in the fridge for a refreshing cool drink on a hot summer day. The end result is just very slightly sweet (the grains feed on the sugar) tart sort of fizzy tasting of whatever fruit it’s flavored with liquid. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable way for me to get those probiotics I need.

Finished product

As to the time I let it brew, I’ve settled on roughly 36 hours. That’s in MY house. Yours might be different. If I put a batch to brew at night, I’ll decant it the morning after the next. Any longer than that gets a bit of an alcohol tang that I don’t like.

If the kefir gets to be more than I can drink, I put the grains into a container and store them in the fridge until needed again.

I want to try some with goji berries. I made one batch with them and pitched it in the compost bin because I didn’t know I was supposed to take them out when it was finished brewing and it got pretty nasty looking.

Making water kefir is not an exact science. There are as many ways of doing it as there are people out there making it. It IS very satisfying.

8 Responses to Probiotics: Make Your Own Water Kefir!

  1. Shari July 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Save your money. I did goji berries and it didn’t taste any different than the raisin brew!

    It is taking about 2, even 3 days for ours to manifest to kefir as the high has been hovering around 60!!! That was the absolute high for today, Sunday in Seattle, Washington. Go figure.

    Currently I am using about 1 cup in my morning green smoothie. Think that is doing it any harm, whirling around in a blender?

    Shari

    • Tommie July 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

      Thanks for the tip, Shari! As for whirling in the blender, it might just make it dizzy. 😀 If you heated it up, it would kill it but you aren’t letting it go that long, I trust. Wonder if Peach would know? She’s our resident expert.

  2. Peach July 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    Tommie, I put goji berries in the second firment after I drained the grains. It got very fizzy and really tasted like wine. I don’t know how much alcohol it produced doing it that way.

    • Tommie July 18, 2011 at 4:56 am #

      If you didn’t get giddy, I’d say it wasn’t much. 🙂 I don’t do a second ferment. I like it after the first.

  3. Shannon July 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Hello! I’m really excited to have just stumbled upon your blog. I am also a huge supporter of fermented, probiotic rich food. I loved this entry about the probiotic rich kefir. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Samantha Robertson July 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I really liked water Kefir. It SO reminded me of sangria. Unfortunately, my tummy didn’t take well to the slight carbonation, so I’ve had to quit making it. 🙁

  5. Cath July 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Thank you for the well thought out and prepared information on Water Kefir. I may try this because you make it sound painless.

  6. Tommie July 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Thank YOU, Shannon. So sorry, Samantha. Cath, I timed mixing it last night and, from start to finish without having everything set out and ready was 10 minutes. Totally painless.

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