420 Magazine Background

Water Kefir - The delicious, non-dairy, probiotic beverage - Lets share tips!

Thread starter #1

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
At the risk of being overly dramatic, welcome to the thread that may change your life forever!

I'm not going to go into the multitude reasons soft drinks are bad for us. Like many of you, I've went through periods of my life when I drank zero water. Unfortunately, drinking flavored beverages all day puts most people into a vicious downward spiral. The more soda I drank, the less I wanted to drink water because of the lack of flavor.

Anyway, I was able to break the cycle in the last couple years, but it's been a struggle. I drink a lot more water, but I still longed for a nice cold, tasty, bubbly beverage. Water Kefir to the rescue!

So why drink this stuff? The biggest reason is the benefits to the digestive system. It aids digestion in the same way as yogurt and the plethora of other probiotic products on the market today. Personally, I don't consume a lot of dairy (I eat some cheese), so milk kefir was not something I was interested in. Also, milk kefir has a bit of a sour element to the taste that I don't care for.

The other reason is it can help satisfy the craving for a soft drink. The variety of flavors I've brewed are amazing! I still drink water, but I drink ~1.5L of kefir everyday now. I try to always have a bottle in the fridge. :)


Now that the "why" is out of the way, let's discuss the "what" and "how"...

What is water kefir? There are lots of writeups on the interwebs. I'll just post the summary from Wikipedia.

Tibicos are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria. As with kefir grains, the microbes present in tibicos act in symbiosis to maintain a stable culture. Tibicos can do this in many different sugary liquids, feeding off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas, which carbonates the drink.

Tibicos is also known as tibi, water kefir grains, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees, and in older literature as bébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees,[1]

Tibicos are found around the world, with no two cultures being exactly the same. Typical tibicos have a mix of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida, Kloeckera and possibly others. Lactobacillus brevis has been identified as the species responsible for the production of the polysaccharide (dextran) that forms the grains.[2][3] Pidoux (1989)[3] also identifies the sugary kefir grain with the ginger beer plant. Certainly opportunistic bacteria take advantage of this stable symbiotic relation which might be the reason for the many different names/distinction in the scientific literature. Different ingredients or hygienic conditions might also change the fungal and bacteriological composition, leading to the different names. People who do not wish to consume dairy products may find that water kefir provides probiotics without the need for dairy or tea cultured products, such as kombucha. The finished product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage. It will continue to ferment when bottled thus producing more carbonation–so bottles need to be capped loosely and allowed to breathe, or they may become explosive.

Now to the meat of the thread, how do I make it?
Again, there is tons of info out on the web, but I will share MY method. I apologize in advance for getting too specific, but I'm a person that like to analyze and improve processes. There are some specific details that I think will help everyone be successful in making water kefir for themselves.

There are 3 'stages' in the brewing process. I will discuss them in the opposite order of actual practice. It will make sense at the end so bear with me. :2:

The first stage is letting your grains feed. I use half gallon mason jars for my brewing. I have many jars in use to keep some kefir in each stage, for simplicity, let's always talk about a single batch of kefir moving through the process. In this half gallon jar, I put in ~1.5L of RO, ~3/4-1c sugar (a mix of mostly white and a little brown), and some mineralized salt. Add the grains and let them ferment in this jar for at least 48 hours. If you want to use a quart jar to get started, you only need ~1/2c of sugar. It will take ~1/4c of grains about 48 hours to eat a quart of sugar. Use taste as your guide here. Some people will prefer a sweeter drink, so shorten the fermentation time. The longer you leave the grains in the sugar water, the more of the sugar they will eat and your drink will be less sweet. I like mine less sweet, so I tend toward longer ferment times. My first stage is currently running ~72 hours as the temps have cooled since Summer.

Let's talk about sugar and the mineralized salt... You can use ANY sugar. Lots of folks have their opinions on the right sugar. I've tried common white sugar (Great Value brand), brown sugar, and some Demerra sugar (just a more natural less refined sugar). You can use palm or coconut sugar too. Again, ANY sugar will work. You can even feed the grains fruit juice, but it's not recommended as it will color and flavor your grains. I now use a mix of mostly white sugar with a little brown for extra minerals. I do not care for the flavor that the Demerra and brown sugars add. Your choice of sugar will affect your final products taste.

What about the 'mineralized' sugar? Your kefir grains can't live on just sugar. They need minerals. Brown sugar has what they need, so you can simply use all brown sugar. I'm unsure if you can get away with just a little brown sugar and the rest white sugar without more minerals. I DO know that my grains were not as productive for a period while I experimented with how I supplied the minerals. If, like me, you don't care for the taste that brown sugar adds, you can mineralize with unrefined sea salt. AFAICT, the GV Sea Salt works. That being said, pink Himalayan salt is real popular due to it's excellent mineral makeup. I now use this type of salt for minerals. As far as how much to use, I would start with 1/2 teaspoon, perhaps less and observe. If your grains are multiplying and you're getting good bubbles, then your're doing fine. I was giving too little for awhile and I was not getting a lot of growth in my grains and the carbonation was lacking.

For the first stage, I ferment aerobically. This means I let the jar breath. I fold a paper towel, so it's double thick, and place it over the top of the jar. Then I put a ring on top of the paper towel to hold it down and put the lid on top to keep bugs from going after the sugary paper towel (it will get some sugar on it due to evaporation). I put the jar on a shelf in the kitchen and let it sit. I try to give it a quick stir once on day 2. I have been thinking about trying to an anaerobic ferment. Some people seem to prefer it, but I am unsure why. I haven't ordered any air locks yet though.

OK, so we have our grains in the mineralized sugar water. After 48 hours or so, we move to stage 2. This is where we add the flavoring and start to build carbonation. Basically, you just stain out the grains and add the fruit. I use a stainless steel strainer, but plastic is fine too. You can flavor with extracts, but I have no experience with that. I use fruit. I've used fresh fruit and dried fruit. Both work great. I'm not 100% sure of the pattern, but it seems like the dried fruit give me more consistent results in regards to carbonation.

This second stage is done anaerobically in order to add carbonation to the beverage. This means you have to seal the jar! No paper towel in this step. Use the lid normally. I can monitor the carbonation by watching the lid. It will pop up and get 'tighter' as the pressure builds. If a batch if bubbling a lot, I will often vent during the second ferment, and I shake up the jar a few times during this stage.

The last step is to bottle up the finished brew. Again we use the strainer to filter out the fruit. I put my final product into bottle with flip top lids. They work great. I only have 2 so far that I got from my mom. I plan to order some, but with shipping the bottles are a little expensive. The important thing is that it stays sealed to keep in the carbonation. I used mason jars for this too before I got my bottles.

When the drink are carbonated to your liking, put it in the refrigerator. This will halt/slow the fermentation process. You can leave it there for awhile afaik, but I drink mine within a couple days. Not because it will go bad, but because I drink it as fast as I make it. haha

So that's it. It's really not that hard. So I explained it in the order that makes sense to understand the process. This is not the order you should make your kefir. I always start with the last stage. My flip top bottles are empty, so I fill those first. This empties the jar used for stage 2. I move the stage 1 liquid into stage 2, now the first jar is empty to start a new batch. I have to use less jars this way. It's not a big deal as I have extras around, but I find it's easier to do my brewing backwards.

I ordered my grains online. There are lots of sources. I'm willing to share my grains though. Once you started brewing water kefir, your grains will grow. I started out with 2 1/4c portions. I've given away a cup of grains so far and have ~3c split into my 2 jars. More grains should help ferment faster. Assuming demand isn't overwhelming, I'm willing to give away grains if anyone is interested.
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
I found you already. LOL
I'm here and I'm subscribed and I will be attempting this! Thanks for all of your help and suggestions Hiker.:thanks:

For the benefit of others reading here, I am a former Pepsi-holic who is also in need of a good healthy carbonated beverage. I hate drinking water, but I do it now.
Pepsi was bad for me in so many ways, the damage to teeth...my digestive system..etc. It had to go away. LOL
 
Thread starter #3

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
Now that you know how to make it. I'd like the rest of this thread to be for sharing any tips you come up with, but mostly for sharing recipes.

To get this going I will share how I do my fruit now...

Ball (the mason jar company) sells this item that is made for freezing little cubes of herbal infusions. It's basically a silicon ice tray of sorts. I puree the fruit in the food processor, then pour that into the trays. I freeze them, then pop them into a gallon zip lock. This way I can buy whatever fruits are in season, look good, and hopefully are a little cheaper during peak season. I've not found a fruit that doesn't work so far. My wife put some orange juice into them one time and that worked too, although you need more if it's just juice. I've done lots of berries and melons. When I am adding the fruit for the second ferment, I just grab a cube from the freezer and pop it in. I do think this might be slowing things down as it has to warm up to room temperature before a lot of bioactivity starts to happen, so I've been experimenting with putting them in the microwave for ~5 seconds or so to soften them. I don't want to heat the fruit though, so it's more to defrost/soften.


heheh I let this post sit here and I see Cannafan has already found the thread. :)

Hopefully we can get a few more converts in here.
 
Thread starter #5

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
The dried plums from our yard, a white/yellow variety that has seeds separated from the flesh (easier to process), make the best kefir I've had yet!

From my observations only, ie I haven't kept notes, dried fruit also increases the fizzyness.

Sprawl-Mart has these great hinged lid glass jars. I've started using those for brewing my kefir. I really like them. There is a large size they rarely have in stock. I picked up one not realizing it was larger than the others I already had, so I'm still working on getting all big jars. I'm letting them brew longer in each stage, so I will have a total of 5 jars. 3 for the first ferment (2-4 days), and 2 for the second ferment stage (1.5-3 days).

If anyone else makes some, I'd love to hear your experience.

:)
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
HI ya Hiker!

Sorry I have not responded with my own results. Chit is busy around here. I'm going to be ordering the grains today, I found a source online that has some quick shipping, I'm told.

Thanks for the recent tips you put up, I will for sure be getting those jars. For more uses than just this. LOL

Has anyone else made any yet?

I'm so looking forward to finally getting started on this!
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Allrighty then! Order has been placed, should have the water kefir in two days.


Just curious if you know, is this the same type of grains that Amish communities use for Friendship bread and sourdough bread starter?

I have a huge Amish community near me, I might have been able to pick some kefir up from one of the supply houses.
 
I just got mine ordered a few days ago as well. :3:

I can't wait to see if the probiotics help out. I also processed my grapes already but made some juice and froze some in ice cube trays for the kefir.

Also Hiker I was curious if you have ever tried or heard of using an airlock instead of the sealed jar?

HI ya Hiker!

Sorry I have not responded with my own results. Chit is busy around here. I'm going to be ordering the grains today, I found a source online that has some quick shipping, I'm told.

Thanks for the recent tips you put up, I will for sure be getting those jars. For more uses than just this. LOL

Has anyone else made any yet?

I'm so looking forward to finally getting started on this!
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Hi SmokesDaKush! We will be getting started on this about the same time, it appears. :) We can share successes. LOL

I posted a link to this thread to the thread on IBS/IBD sufferers. I think this is really a good option for those sufferers to get a little, if not a LOT of relief. Hope it helps!

:circle-of-love:
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
I found some tips at the site I ordered my grains from and thought it would be good to share them here:

* When you first get your grains, they’ll be dehydrated for transport. Follow the directions that come with them, and don’t expect any bubbling action for 3-5 batches. Basically, the first few weeks will just be used to get the grains back to a plump stage.

* Try not to let the grains sit in the water for more than 48 hours without making a new batch of soda. If you’re not up for it, or need to put the grains on “vacation mode,” add a bit more sugar, and stick the jar in the fridge. It will likely take a few batches after that to get them back up to bubbly mode, but it is better than having your grains go bad.

* When the weather is warmer, the soda can get bubblier faster. In my own ignorance, I’ve let bottles sit at room temperature for too long, and I’ve had two bottles burst on me. Call it user-error, but it has happened. When opening the bottles for consumption, place your palm on the lid, and open the flip top slowly and carefully.

* Honey is not safe for the grains as it can render them sterile.

* Don’t use a metal strainer for your mixture as the metal can burn the grains

If you disagree, or have experienced opposite things from these tips Hiker, do correct and add your thoughts!

EDIT: I also read that you should not use fluoride or chlorinated water, as it can kill the grains.

:circle-of-love:
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Funny too cause I read that using RO water will deteriorate them over time as well. Claims you need to mineralize the water first.
Yep, I've read a lot of sites that talk about the mineralizing.
 
Thread starter #13

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately. I'm so glad to see people interested in water kefir. I'm not going to say it changed my life or anything, but it has become a daily part of it. :thumb: :circle-of-love:

Allrighty then! Order has been placed, should have the water kefir in two days.


Just curious if you know, is this the same type of grains that Amish communities use for Friendship bread and sourdough bread starter?

I have a huge Amish community near me, I might have been able to pick some kefir up from one of the supply houses.
Nope. There is some similarity to all of these things. Your grains are a 'starter' for water kefir. I'm sure there are some bacteria and yeast species in common, but they are different. That being said, you should definitely get a sourdough starter from them and made some yummy bread! :)

I just got mine ordered a few days ago as well. :3:

I can't wait to see if the probiotics help out. I also processed my grapes already but made some juice and froze some in ice cube trays for the kefir.

Also Hiker I was curious if you have ever tried or heard of using an airlock instead of the sealed jar?
I have heard of the airlocks. In fact I have not heard of anyone doing the first ferment sealed. I use the sealed hinged jars because I have them and I haven't had the time to order the airlocks and a bit to drill holes in the lids. That's the route I will likely go eventually. For now, I think I'm doing about the same thing. The airlocks goal is to let air out but not in, right? These hinged jars don't seal 100%. Since I am creating a positive pressure inside the jar, I doubt much of anything is getting in. I know they leak a little, so there is no way pressure can build to burst one. :)

I found some tips at the site I ordered my grains from and thought it would be good to share them here:

* When you first get your grains, they'll be dehydrated for transport. Follow the directions that come with them, and don't expect any bubbling action for 3-5 batches. Basically, the first few weeks will just be used to get the grains back to a plump stage.

* Try not to let the grains sit in the water for more than 48 hours without making a new batch of soda. If you're not up for it, or need to put the grains on "vacation mode," add a bit more sugar, and stick the jar in the fridge. It will likely take a few batches after that to get them back up to bubbly mode, but it is better than having your grains go bad.

* When the weather is warmer, the soda can get bubblier faster. In my own ignorance, I've let bottles sit at room temperature for too long, and I've had two bottles burst on me. Call it user-error, but it has happened. When opening the bottles for consumption, place your palm on the lid, and open the flip top slowly and carefully.

* Honey is not safe for the grains as it can render them sterile.

* Don't use a metal strainer for your mixture as the metal can burn the grains

If you disagree, or have experienced opposite things from these tips Hiker, do correct and add your thoughts!

EDIT: I also read that you should not use fluoride or chlorinated water, as it can kill the grains.

:circle-of-love:
Mine we not dehydrated, but I have read that about dried grains. Even my grains took one batch to 'perk up'.

You don't want them to sit too long, but this is just to keep them the most active. Eventually they will die, but if you left them in the sugar water for longer, I think it would a few more days before you really hurt them. That's a good recommendation though. I make mine almost everyday, and I don't stress if I don't get to it for a day. I like mine less sweet anyway. :)

I think I mentioned that I noticed the difference with ambient temps. I got my grains right as we went into the peak heat of summer, so I was brewing very fast. I'm currently still doing ~48 hours for the first ferment and 24-36 hours for the second. Then I filter out fruit and put in the fridge. I still need more of the final capped bottles. I still only have 2 :9: I've had mine foam over when I opened them. Mostly this happens when I flavor with dried fruit. I mostly use my little frozen cubes of fruit purree, but I get better bubbles with dry fruit. I also find that fruit picked from my own garden bubbles more, ie my own strawberries. My theory is more bacteria on the fruit than stuff from the store? oops got a little off topic there! haha

Honey, while an awesome food, is not appropriate for feeding kefir. Honey is naturally an antibacterial. Kind of counter productive when we're growing bacteria. :16:

I have heard that about metal. I strain with a stainless steel strainer. Everything else I use is glass. I'm a little skeptical about the metal. I could see copper, another natural anti bacterial, causing issues, but stainless should be OK. You will figure out a system that works for you.

Yes, do not use chlorinated water. That WILL kill them.

Funny too cause I read that using RO water will deteriorate them over time as well. Claims you need to mineralize the water first.
If you use RO, you have to add minerals. In fact, just assume you have to since you can't use tap water afaik. Using brown sugar will provide the minerals. Or you can add some unrefined sea salt. I have some pink Himalayan salt. These salts are known for there diverse mineral content. My wife does not want the white sugar, so I make hers with brown sugar. I think the grown sugar imparts a flavor I don't care for. I use a less refined, but still white sugar I get at sprawlmart. It costs barely more, ie 3.3 cents/oz vs 3.5 or something of that magnitude. It's an all organic, green, etc sugar product. I can post the name if anyone wants to know the specifics.
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Thanks for all of the information Hiker. It is much appreciated. :) I'm going to make a detour on my way to work this morning to a local home brewing store for some of those bottles with the flip over caps.

Just checked my order status on the Kefir grains and it shows it will be delivered today. Woo Hoo!

And Hiker, check your PM box. ;-)
 
Yes the airlocks where designed to let the air out. This is the first year I am making grape wine so I have a bunch of 1 gl and 1/2 gl moonshine jugs with airlocks I planned on using for this. Good to know about the brown sugar and sea salt, I was originally thinking sea salt but was unsure if it had enough so thanks.

Cannafan, Jeesh I put my order in over the weekend and they just shipped out the other day.
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
I have some containers for the foodsaver system that get the air out of the locking lids with a tube inserted. Will those work?
I can send a picture if needed later.

:thanks:
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
I got my Kefir grains today, and I'm about to get started on hydrating them. They have to hydrate for three days.

And, yepper..stainless is okay according to the directions I received. Just don't use aluminum utensils.

I'll take a pic or two when the hydrating starts so people can see the process.

:circle-of-love:
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Also, I went through some old bar accessories and found some lock down/flip top bottle corkers. I think those ought to come in handy. You can find all different kinds of them on ebay or scamazon. I think I did a search for "bottle stopper" and got to a few.
 
Thread starter #19

Hiker

Member of the Month: April 2013
Yes the airlocks where designed to let the air out. This is the first year I am making grape wine so I have a bunch of 1 gl and 1/2 gl moonshine jugs with airlocks I planned on using for this. Good to know about the brown sugar and sea salt, I was originally thinking sea salt but was unsure if it had enough so thanks.

Cannafan, Jeesh I put my order in over the weekend and they just shipped out the other day.
I suspect your shine jugs will work well. Brewer suppliers have the stuff needed to brew kefir well/easily. I'm wanted to get started with a minimum investment. Now that I know I like it, I'm slowly adding more glassware. :)

You don't need the brown sugar and the salt. Use one or the other IMHO. I had to experiment with the salt a little. For awhile I thought I was adding too little and the grains seemed less active (less bubbles water stayed sweeter longer). Then there were the 2 batches where the pendulum swung a little too far towards salty. Those were undrinkable :p



Thanks for the heads up on the stoppers Cannafan. I'll have to look for those. :thumb:
 

Cannafan

Member of the Month: Jan 2014, May 2016, Feb 2017
Yer very welcome Hiker!

So, last night I went to hydrating. Oh, I almost did a no-no right off the ding bat. I got a pan, filled it with tap water and set it on the stove to heat. Oops, that's softened water! I went outside and got some of my fresh rainwater. LOL
Should be plenty of minerals in that? We shall see.

So here's the new kids getting all fluffy: