How to Make Water Kefir: A Simple Fizzy Drink with Probiotic Benefits
If you're new to fermentation, or are looking to expand your practice, the fizzy fermented beverage known as water kefir - is one of the best places to start, or it could be your next grand fermentation venture!
Water kefir is something that I have been making for a number of years now, it was Marni Wasserman who first introduced me to the fizzy drink - after taking her holistic cooking course, in which we touched on fermentation - she gave me some of her 'grains' to take home so that I could embark on my own fermenting journey.
This was my first ferment ever, and I have kept up with it over the years because it is low maintenance to make, requires only a short fermentation time and boy oh boy is it ever tasty! This is NOT like fermented vegetables, which unfortunately, are not everyone's favourite.
If you haven't heard of water kefir before, despite being made with what's called 'grains', the end beverage is grain-free, gluten-free and vegan. Different than milk kefir, which is that drinkable, more sour, and thinner 'yogurt'. Water kefir is tasty & has a huge potential for different flavours - also making it a great replacement for other carbonated drinks (that will not be named), which have no nutritional value.
In what's known as your second ferment, you will be adding in fresh or frozen fruit or a pure organic fruit juice, to flavour your fermented beverage to your liking. (I've shared some of my favourite combos below!).
Water kefir might be sounding similar to kombucha right now, and although it provides similar benefits - and is another naturally carbonated probiotic drink - the brewing process between the two is quite different.
First, water kefir does not ferment using a 'scoby', like our friend kombucha, it also does not require caffeine from black tea, or 30+ days to make a batch!
In the making of water kefir, all you need is: 4 days, what's known as water kefir grains (not real grains - they just look like it), filtered water and organic sugar.
Water kefir 'grains' are made up of healthy bacteria and yeast. The term 'grains' is used to describe the look of the culture. Cultures for Health Inc. is one of a few companies that packages and sells dehydrated water kefir grains (along with many other fermentation starters). You can also potentially find water kefir grains on kijiji and facebook (if you are comfortable with that), but also through friends (flashbacks to friendship breads).
You will only need to purchase the grains once, because as you begin brewing batches of water kefir, the grains will continue to grow and multiply (they're alive!). Avoid purchasing water kefir grain 'powders', as these will not multiply and then you will have to continuously purchase these packages (sneaky buggers).
Why are we into fermentation again & what's the benefit? (In other words, why should I spend time making this?)
Well... The art of food preservation has been practiced for thousands of years (it's not just a new 'trend'), the simple and natural process of lactofermentation encourages bacteria to feed on sugar/starch, creating lactic acid. The process is used to preserve foods and beverages to extend shelf life (which is why it was so popular thousands of years ago). However the process also creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and various strains of probiotics.
Fermentation has many benefits, but the main thing to remember is that lactic acid promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora which creates a healthy gut and immunity!
Consuming fermented foods and beverages is an easy way to ensure you are getting in natural 'whole-food' probiotics for gut health, along with some added nutrient value to your day!
Now I am going to share with you exactly how to make water kefir, so that you can show your gut some love and feel the tasty nourishment!
How to Make Water Kefir
Makes 1 L (4 servings)
What you need:
1L mason jar
Unfluroridated & unchlorinated water (I use reverse osmosis with added Concentrace Trace Mineral Drops)
1/4 cup organic sugar (cane, turbinado, rapadura) - don't worry! The probiotics feed off of the sugar making the end sugar content very low
Re-hydrated water kefir grains (about 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup)
For the 2nd Ferment - when you add the flavour!
FLAVOURS TO TRY:
-Adding a small handful of fresh or frozen berries to the second ferment is my favourite way to enjoy (and it's simple!)
-Adding 1/2 cup (or more) of pure organic grape, apple, cherry or pomegranate juice creates a fizzy fruit drink after the second ferment.
-Adding raisins or prune juice resembles 'Dr. Pepper' after the second ferment.
-After the first ferment, cap the water kefir without adding any flavourings. After two days, place in fridge and add in some pure vanilla extract before drinking for a cream soda taste!
-Adding lemon juice and drinking right after the first ferment resembles a lemonade!
-Make a super powered healing water kefir with turmeric root and freshly squeezed orange juice
FOR FERMENT #1
-Add 1/4 cup of sugar to your 1 L mason jar and dissolve with a small amount of hot water
-When the sugar has dissolved, fill the jar about an inch or two from the top with cool filtered water (saving room for any flavourings in ferment #2)
-Ensure the water is at room temperature, then add in the hydrated water kefir grains
-Screw the lid on and allow to ferment on your counter for 24-48 hours. The longer you leave it, the more sugar ferments out - try not to leave longer than 3 days, as it can starve the grains (you don't want them to die on you!).
-Make a habit of burping the jars every day to release the natural gases produced (this is when you get to hear their activity!)
-After 24-48 hours, pour your first ferment through a strainer into a 4 cup glass measuring cup, to separate the grains from the ferment. Set the grains aside, and pour the fermented water kefir into a clean 1 L mason jar.
-This is your first ferment! The second is when you add flavour!
-Follow the steps above again and reuse the grains to make your second batch. (Dissolve the sugar, add water, add grains, ferment)
FOR FERMENT #2
-Add in your flavourings of choice. I recommend using frozen berries or an organic no-sugar added fruit juice to start.
-Cover again and leave on the counter to ferment for another 24-48 hours
-You can now either strain out any whole fruit or leave it as is. Transfer to your refrigerator after the second ferment and enjoy!