Synopsis: Information regarding water kefir including instructions on how to make the probiotic drink at home.
Water kefir is made from kefir grains which are also known as tibicos, sugar grains, Japanese water crystals, or tibi. The grains make up cultures of different strains of healthy bacteria and yeast which are held together in a polysaccharide matrix created by the bacteria. The symbiotic relationship of the microbes produces a stable growing culture. The microbes feed on sugar and produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide and alcohol; the result is a carbonated and fermented drink. The alcohol content is usually very low at less than 1%. Water kefir is a large dose of probiotics in natural form.
Also known as tibi, water kefir grains, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees. Tibicos are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria.
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.
'Probiotics,' refers to healthy bacteria that usually feed on bad or unhealthy bacteria in a person's stomach and intestines. Bacterial overgrowth may lead to a number of illnesses - some of which include:
Chart showing tools needed to make water kefir
Drinking water kefir will bring natural balance back to a person's internal micro-flora. Milk kefir also exists, although the dairy in it might be an issue for some people and is why many people choose water kefir instead. Probiotics are, 'good bacteria,' that are often times destroyed along with, 'bad bacteria,' when a person takes antibiotics.
To achieve optimal health it is important to replenish the good bacteria. There are different sources of non-dairy probiotics such as miso, sauerkraut, kombucha or ginger beer. Water kefir is used by many people as an alternative to soda pop; it is also a wonderful source of dairy-free probiotics.
To prepare water kefir you have to soak water kefir grains in sugar in a glass jar in water, or perhaps some juice or coconut water without sugar. Cover it lightly to avoid a possible, although unlikely, explosion due to carbon dioxide buildup, at room temperature and away from direct sunlight for between 24 and 48 hours. After this period of time you can add fruit or flavors and create your own unique soda pop-like drinks. You do 2 soaks - the first with the sugar and the second with fruit. Most people simply put their fruit in during the first soak in order to save some time.
The amount of alcohol in water kefir varies depending upon factors which include the length of the soaking time and temperature. A number of sources state the alcohol present in water kefir is between 1-3%. An independent study was performed by a chemist in the year 2009 and presented a result of a mere 0.64% alcohol by volume. Whether or not water kefir is safe for children is something parents need to decide. Leaving your water kefir to brew for longer than 48 hours gives it more opportunity to produce naturally occurring alcohol - giving you kefir beer. Kefir beer is a gluten-free vegan beer with beneficial bacteria.
If you are able to obtain raw water or spring water, you may choose to use it. Some people use mineral water; still others used boiled and cooled tap water. The reason for boiling tap water is to remove chlorine from it. Some sources say that mixing tap water in a blender will aerate it and get rid of chlorine. It is not advised to use carbon filtered water, or distilled water.
There are many water kefir recipes and the types of sugars people use vary. Because sugar is essentially consumed by the grains, some people say the type of sugar does not matter too much. Some people use 100% maple syrup; others use regular table sugar or powdered sugar. Some people warn against using honey because they state it will destroy good bacteria, which is what you want to keep. Using an organic natural sugar is one way to ensure you do not go wrong.
At one point it was said that water kefir grains were not commercially available. People said you had to obtain them from another person who was willing to share them. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. In addition to the grains you will need a container for brewing - glass jars such as mason jars are recommended. Do not allow the grains to touch any metal, or so people have warned, so take care if you use metal lids.
To store your finished product you will need containers. You can store water kefir in mason jars, although self-bottling is a fun choice that is quite popular. Keeping your grains separate from your fruit during brewing is important because you will be re-using your grains; they have the potential to last forever. Keeping your grains in a cotton drawstring muslin bag is a good idea.
Generally, a 1:1:1/4 ratio of hydrated grains (tablespoons) to water in quarts or liters to sugar in cups is used. It is usually recommended to have 3 tablespoons at least for the grains, regardless of if you use less than 3 quarts of water. It is also important to use the right amount of sugar. The grains can starve and become weaker and eventually leave behind more sugar than usual when less sugar is used. Feed your grains properly and less sugar will be left behind and make a far healthier final product. Generally, there should be no more than 1.4% sugar left behind in your water kefir.
If you use juice, with 100% organic juice being the best, instead of sugar water - it is recommended that you use less juice than you would water and leave the sugar out entirely. It is also suggested to make a few batches using sugar water before attempting to use juice and then not returning to using sugar water with the same grains - except for perhaps every 3 or 4 batches you make to give your grains a rest. It seems that juice is hard on the grains and will shorten their lifespan. Creating a batch with sugar water after using juice might also make the flavor of the water kefir unpleasant. Establish your grains with sugar water by making a few batches prior to using coconut water as well.
You can use nearly any kind of fruit to flavor your water kefir. Make sure you do not leave fresh fruit in for much more than 24 hours. Dried fruit is something you can use repeatedly for up to a week. When you use fruit during your brewing process, make sure you keep your grains in a muslin bag to avoid having to clean them after you are done. Bits of fruit might become stuck on your grains and encourage mold.
A wonderful method for flavoring water kefir, other than by adding fruit, is to add juice - but only after your grains have been removed. Simply soak your grains in sugar water for 48 hours and remove the grains. Top up the jar, leaving room for carbon dioxide, with juice. The longer your wait before drinking your water kefir after adding juice the, 'fizzier,' it will be. For an even healthier water kefir, use organic juice you have made yourself with a juicer.
You can store your water kefir grains in a sugar water solution of 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 quart or liter of water in a container with a tight fitting lid in your refrigerator for around 2-3 weeks. To store them even longer, simply give your grains fresh sugar water. If you want to store your grains for 5-6 months, dehydrate your grains by placing them on unbleached parchment paper for a week or more until they are completely dried. Store them in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool and dry place. In order to rehydrate your grains, place them in fresh sugar water for 3-4 days, replacing the sugar water if you have to until they are ready to use. Keep your grains in a cool and dry place while you pursue the re-hydration process.
Chart showing illnesses bacterial overgrowth may lead to
While making water kefir you will want to use tools that are made of glass or plastic. Remember - no metal! The items you will need include the following:
As for ingredients, you will need some spring or filtered water, some water kefir grains, and some organic cane sugar. Optionally, you might want some organic lemon or lime, or maybe some unsweetened, un-sulfured dried fruit such as figs, raisins, or apricots.
Let's say you decide to use lemon flavoring. Cut the lemon into quarters. Add 4 tablespoons of organic sugar to 3 cups of spring water. Stir these together with a plastic knife until the sugar dissolves. Add in strained water kefir and the 4 pieces of lemon. Cover your water kefir with the coffee filter and wrap it with a rubber band for 48 hours in a cool and dry place. After 48 hours, uncover your water kefir and strain it into a new mason jar. Make a new water sugar solution into the 3rd mason jar and repeat the steps above. Enjoy your water kefir!