Delve into the crazy world of fermented drinks with this easy guide to making water kefir at home. Food writer Malou Herkes shows you how.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir is a probiotic, naturally fizzy, fermented drink that tastes rather like lemonade, but milder. If you’ve heard of kombucha or kefir milk, then you’re along the right lines. These non-alcoholic fermented drinks have grown in popularity in recent years, known for their gut-loving properties, natural fizz and interesting flavours.
Water kefir is made by soaking water kefir grains in sugared water. These grains aren’t actually grains as you might think of them, like wheat or barley. Rather, they’re a starter culture made of the beneficial bacteria that will transform your water into a fizzy fermented concoction. They work in a very similar way to the SCOBY you use to make kombucha. Read more on that over here.
Where can I buy water kefir grains?
You can get hold of water kefir grains online or, as I discovered, from a neighbour on Gumtree. It’ll set you back about £5. Most health food shops stock them too but they’re often dehydrated, which means you’ll need to rehydrate them for a couple of days before you can make your water kefir. The process is very simple so follow the package instructions.
Once you’ve got your kefir grains and you’ve made your first brew, you’ll notice the grains will start to multiply. The more you have, the more kefir water you can make! Use a rough ratio of 2 tablespoons of grains per 500ml of water; if you have less, add less water and vice versa. Store any extras in the fridge or give them to a friend, or sell them on Gumtree!
To store your grains, keep them in an airtight glass jar in some already brewed kefir water in the back of your fridge. Check on them after a few months, strain them and refresh with a new batch of kefir water. They like a mineral-rich environment so keep them healthy by adding just a little blackstrap molasses or some dried fruits, like raisins or dates. And finally, it’s best to ensure your grains steer clear of metal so avoid straining them in a metal sieve or using any metal spoons during the process.
Phew. Now to begin. You’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons kefir grains
- 2 tablespoons sugar (1 tablespoon of sugar per 1 tablespoon of kefir grains. They tend to like cane sugar but any sugar will do)
- 500-700ml filtered water (kefir grains don’t like chlorine, so if you only have tap water, boil and leave it to cool before starting)
- Glass jar with a lid
- Jug or funnel
- Plastic-mesh strainer
How to make water kefir
In a glass jar, dissolve the sugar in a small amount of boiling water.
Top up with with cool, filtered water so you have 500ml to 700ml in total. Dip your finger in to check the temperature – you want it to be room temperature, not warm! Add the water kefir grains and 1 to 2 tablespoons of kefir liquid from a previous batch (or the water your kefir grains came in).
Cover loosely and set aside in a warm place for about 48 hours. You’ll notice the water becomes cloudier and less sweet the longer you leave it. Don’t leave it longer than 48 hours as you may starve your grains.
Strain the water kefir into a jug through a plastic-mesh sieve. The grains will collect in the sieve. Bottle your brewed kefir water and cap it, then either store in the fridge or leave it out for another couple of days to ferment further.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 or store your kefir grains as mentioned above. Delicious with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Water kefir with a twist!
- Replace plain water with coconut water for a tropical vibe.
- Infuse with lemon and fresh ginger as it brews.
- Blend your finished brew with fresh fruit for a smoothie with tang.
- Add about 60ml of fruit juice to your strained brew, then cover and leave at room temperature for a few more days until it ferments into a fizzy concoction. Avoid citrus juice though – grape, pomegranate or apple work well.