How to Make Water Kefir

Water kefir is the most popular fermented food at our house. It’s the one ferment that each family member enjoys and will drink on a regular basis. I was surprised by how quickly my family fell in love with this bubbly, tangy treat. If you want to try it, too, keep reading.

Posted by Andrea

We’ve been brewing water kefir for two years, with only a couple of small breaks, and it always disappears—sometimes faster than I can keep up! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the fridge open and someone says, “Hey, who drank all the kefir?”

Here is my step-by-step guide for making water kefir, one quart at a time. It’s really easy to do, and if you need to cut back on sugary drinks, this may be a great substitute for you!

How to Make Water Kefir

Getting Things Ready:

  1. Obtain water kefir grains. You can buy them online. Even better, find a friend or family member who brews water kefir and get some grains from them. Water kefir reproduces, and those who brew it usually have grains to share.
  2.  Get a few simple tools. These are the tools that have helped us perfect our brewing efforts:
  • Flip-top bottles. I have a hard time achieving carbonation without these. If you don’t feel the need for carbonation, don’t worry about the bottles– but I find water kefir is much more satisfying when it’s nice and bubbly. I invested in a 12-pack of 16-ounce EZ Cap bottles from Amazon and have never looked back—they’ve been well worth the money.
  • Plastic mesh strainer. This is essential for straining your grains from their sugar water. I found one on Amazon that holds ¼ c. grains, which is the volume of grains you will be straining.
  •  Small funnel. This will be used to pour the kefir into the flip-top bottles for the second stage of fermenting.
  • A few wide mouth quart jars. We all have these laying around, right???
  • Miscellaneous: Coffee filters to cover the water kefir as it brews, bottle brush made for the flip-top bottles if you are using them, fruit fly traps (easy to make yourself!).

3. Assemble the Following Ingredients: Keep these on hand to keep water kefir brewing continuously:

  •  Filtered or unchlorinated water
  • Sugar (I prefer raw organic cane sugar)
  • Flavors These are usually added during the ‘second brew’. Click here for flavor ideas. We keep it very simple by using frozen juice concentrates—grape is our favorite.

One step at a time:

Step #1–Fill a quart jar with filtered or unchlorinated water. Stir 4 Tablespoons sugar into the water and let it sit until dissolved. Place ¼ c. hydrated water kefir grains into the sugar water. Cover the jar with a coffee filter, attaching either with a rubber band or a canning jar ring. Let the kefir brew, out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures, for 24-72 hours. Check daily to see if there are bubbles coming up from the grains. If the grains are not bubbling after 48 hours, try moving to a warmer spot.

Step #2–After the grains have bubbled in the sugar water for a day or two, it’s time to bottle the kefir to achieve carbonation. First, prepare a new quart jar with sugar water, so that you’ll have a place to put the grains after you strain them. Put flavorings in your flip-top bottles. We use 1 Tablespoon of thawed juice concentrate per 16-ounce bottle. A funnel really helps with this process.

Put your ¼ c. plastic mesh strainer over the funnel and pour the water kefir in over the flavoring. The grains will be captured in the strainer to be used again in the fresh quart of sugar water you prepared. If the grains have multiplied and don’t fit in the strainer you can eat them, compost them, or store them in a new jar of sugar water in the fridge (and when you have enough extra, share with others).

One quart jar of water kefir will fit into two 16-ounce flip-top bottles without quite filling them up. The neck space is good—it will give a little ‘breathing room’ in case your water kefir becomes really, really bubbly. Tighten the lids on your flavored bottles and set them aside to brew for 1-3 more days. Carefully burp the bottles each day so that they won’t explode! Once they get nice and bubbly, place in the fridge to let them become refreshingly cold.

Tips for Successful Water Kefir:

  • You can brew two or more quarts at a time; just increase the sugar and grains accordingly.
  • Timing is everything. Too much time, especially on the second brew, will result in kefir that tastes too sour and vinegary. Water kefir is a short ferment. On the other hand, if the temperature in your house is a bit cold, it could take longer than you expect. I gauge the kefir by the bubbling action—in time you will be able to do the same.
  •  For even more carbonation, occasionally add a dried fig to step #1 (or other dried fruits—I’ve just had the best luck with unsulfered figs). Remove and discard the fig after the first brew. This will usually add quite a burst to the kefir, so be especially careful to burp the sealed second brew to prevent explosions.
  •  If you need a break, take one! Even though we have our kefir brewing down to a simple science, sometimes we just need to stop for a week or two. Put the grains into the fridge, making sure they have sugar water to eat, and let them hibernate. Once you are ready to brew again, pull the grains out of the fridge, let them warm up, and start anew.
  • Experiment with flavors, and research other methods. There are many resources online and in books. A fellow blogger wrote this review of one book dedicated entirely to water kefir, called Water Kefir Handbook.
  • I hope you enjoy water kefir as much as we do!

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Andrea gardens, forages, cooks and ferments on a little plot in the city. She loves spreading the word about age-old practices and making them new, exciting and feasible for everyone. Find her at LittleBigHarvest.com.
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