Water Kefir

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Water Kefir

Drinking kefir is an ancient tradition, it is thought that sheep herders accidentally fermented milk in their leather flasks and drank it. Its healing benefits spread around the villages, and was named Kefir which means ‘feeling good’ and used by doctors to treat health problems like tuberculosis!

All kefir is made using kefir “grains,” which aren’t actually a grain, but a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. Its a fermented drink full of good bacteria in different strains, its incredible to heal leaky gut, for digestion problems, improves immunity, full of probiotics, improves allergies (as reduces inflammatory response), enhances mood, deters sugar cravings, fights infection due to its antiviral properties and many more benefits!

Traditionally kefir is based on dairy or goats milk, you can also make coconut water kefir, or lactoferment breastmilk for a breastmilk kefir!

I make water kefir, as it is easy to make and not time consuming, it has a quick turnaround period and a nice mild taste. I often will also buy a pre-made milk kefir.

Water kefir is known as a ‘wild’ ferment so there are a lot of strains of bacteria in it, if you have gut issues or on GAPS diet it might be more beneficial to purchase starter kits such as these from kultured wellness as the strains of bacteria are controlled.

Don’t be afraid of the sugar content, as (alike kombucha) kefir must have sugar either naturally present or else added in order to allow the healthy bacteria to grow and for the fermentation process to take place. However, the end result is that both kombucha and kefir are very low in sugar, because the live active yeast essentially ‘eats’ the large majority of the added sugar during the fermenting process.

RECIPE

I use the recipe from Whole Food Family (and also the grains which I purchase at the Newcastle Farmers Market). You can also buy grains online and many health food shops.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1L spring water

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup water kefir grains

  • 1 dried apricot or fig (optional)

  • Pinch salt, pinch bicarb (optional)

  • Lemon peel (optional)

Second ferment ideas

  • Orange and turmeric 

  • Strawberries and basil/mint

  • Ginger

  • Apple

  • Lemon

  • Mint

  • Berries

  • lemongrass


METHOD

  1. Boil 1L of spring water and pour it over the sugar to dissolve, place aside to cool.

  2. Once cool, pour the sugar water in to a jar with all the other ingredients.

  3. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a tea towel and secure it with a rubber band.

  4. Leave for 24-48 hours on your benchtop. The apricot should rise and float.

  5. Pour off the liquid into a narrow neck flip top bottle and add your secondary ferment flavours.

  6. Seal the bottle and leave on your bench for another 24hours to create a good fizz then transfer to the fridge.


Q. Can I give water kefir to baby?

A. YES! Kefir is safe and amazing as a ‘first food’ (so from 6 months). I prefer kefir to kombucha, as kombucha is made on tea so it contains caffeine.

Q. How much is appropriate for baby:
A. I would start with just a sip or two, and gradually increase as your baby starts to consume more solids. Or you can give them the fermented fruit to eat.

Q. How many times can you reuse the kefir grains?

A. As much as you can if you look after them! 

Q. How do I know when my kefir is ready?

A. Taste after 24 hours, and keep tasting until it no longer tastes sweet - but doesn’t taste alcoholic (that would mean it has over fermented). On hot days it will ferment faster than cooler, to slow the fermentation process you can pop it in the fridge. The liquid will generally lighten in colour and turn cloudy during the fermentation period, as well.

Q. I forgot about my water kefir on the counter and it's been culturing for more than 72 hours. What should I do?

A. The water kefir grains are likely very hungry after more than 48 hours without fresh food. Change the sugar water out every 24 hours for the next few cycles until the water kefir grains start behaving normally again. If it has been longer than 6 days, the odds of saving the water kefir grains are significantly reduced.

Q. Some mould has developed on top of the liquid. Can the water kefir grains be saved?

A. If mould does develop, immediately toss the entire batch, including the water kefir grains. Do not try to salvage a mouldy batch, even if you do not see mould on the water kefir grains themselves. Doing so may be dangerous to your health. Obtain a new set of water kefir grains, clean the jar thoroughly, and try again another day.

Q. What kind of sugar should I use and can I substitute sugar for an alternative sweetener?

A. When choosing a sugar for making water kefir, always read the label. Some sugars may contain anti-caking additives or other ingredients that could affect the health of the water kefir grains.

Look for plain sugar with no added ingredients, for best results. I use organic raw sugar.

Excerpt from https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/water-kefir/water-kefir-ingredients

Refined white sugar

Pure white, free of minerals

  • Makes a sweet water kefir

Organic Cane Juice Crystals

Less refined than white sugar; very low mineral content

  • Makes a sweet water kefir

Turbinado or Raw Sugar

Sugar that is spun to have most of the molasses removed. Slightly less refined than OCJC; medium mineral content

  • Makes a less sweet water kefir than white sugar or OCJC

Rapadura or Sucanat

Sugar cane juice that has been pressed and dried; high mineral content

  • Makes a stronger-flavored water kefir

Brown Sugar

White sugar with molasses added back; high mineral content

  • Makes a stronger-flavored water kefir


Coconut Palm Sugar

Sugar extracted and dried from coconut palm trees; very high mineral content

  • Too rich for water kefir and can damage water kefir grains.

  • Use small amounts only in combination with cane sugar.

Maple Sugar or Syrup

Made from the sap of the sugar maple tree

  • Too rich for water kefir and can damage water kefir grains.

  • Use small amounts only in combination with cane sugar.


Honey

Natural sugar from bees; high in mineral content

  • Raw honey has its own bacteria that can compete with water kefir grains; some honey is contaminated with high fructose corn syrup;

  • We DO NOT recommend using this for making water kefir.


Molasses

Very high mineral content

  • Used on its own, molasses can be damaging to water kefir grains.

  • We recommend using only ½ tsp. as mineral supplementation per batch, as needed.


Agave, stevia, monk fruit, Splenda

Sugar substitutes

  • Unfortunately, these substitutes do not provide the food necessary for water kefir grains.

  • We DO NOT recommend using these for making water kefir.