Fermented products are a huge health trend at the moment, and for good reason. Fermented foods are nothing new and water kefir has been drunk for thousands of years. Fermented foods are steeped in tradition as they have been used as a way of preserving foods before we had the luxury of modern appliances.
When we consume fermented foods on a regular basis we are ensuring that we have a diverse ecology of beneficial bacteria and yeasts (collectively called our microbiome) within our digestive tract. When we have an optimal and diverse microbiome in our gut, the health of our entire body, from metabolism to neurotransmitters is maximised. It can not be emphasised enough as to how important a healthy microbiome is to our health.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir (pronounced keh-FEER) is a probiotic drink that contains a symbiotic mix of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. When you place the kefir grains into a sugar water mixture the bacteria and yeast present in the grains metabolise the sugar and infuses the water with beneficial bacteria, B vitamins and beneficial enzymes. As the grains digest the sugar you are left with a delicious sugar free drink.
The water kefir grains are not actually a grain from a plant, but are small translucent, gelatinous crystal like structures. When cared for properly and regularly cultured, they will last indefinitely. This means that you will always have access to this delicious lightly carbonated drink that the whole family will love. The kefir drink takes on the flavour of what ever fruit you choose to put in it. You can make a bright red raspberry batch that the kids go crazy for, or a more sharper ginger, mint and pineapple batch that is amazing and refreshing.
What type of bacteria are found in water kefir?
For those who like the technical info, this is a general list of the types of bacteria and yeasts commonly found in water kefir. Please remember it can vary between each batch of grains and how healthy the grains are.
How to make water kefir
To make water kefir you need to buy some water kefir grains. I buy mine from culturesforhealth.com. You will also need a glass jar, such as a mason jar, with a loose fitting lid or cheese cloth with an elastic band for a lid. You will need another bottle for the second fermentation process that ideally has a flip top lid that is airtight. You will also need a mesh strainer to strain the liquid. One word of warning though, is that kefir grains do not like metal, so don’t use a metal strainer or metal utensil. Use bamboo, plastic or silicon instead.
If you care for your grains properly they should multiply over time so that you can share your grains with your friends. You can often find people in your area giving away kefir grains as sometimes they can multiply like crazy. A quick google search should send you in the right direction for tracking down seem free grains close to where you live.
When you brew water kefir it is done in two phases. In the first phase the grains metabolise the sugar in the water to ferment it and to infuse it with beneficial bacteria and yeasts. The second ferment adds flavour to the initial brew. You can drink the first brew and skip the second brew, however the taste is not the best. During the second brew the bacteria will continue to ferment and to enrich the water even further.
- First Fermentation
- ¼ cup water kefir grains
- ¼ cup organic cane sugar
- 1 L filtered water ( if you are using tap water, boil it first to remove the chlorine)
- Second fermentation
- Water from first fermentation
- 1/2 C fruit juice or freshly chopped fruit
- I find fruit that is naturally rich in enzymes such as pineapple, kiwi or papaya produce a very fizzy drink, whilst other fruits such as raspberry, citrus, ginger or mint will produce a gentle fizz.
- Dissolve the sugar in small amount of hot water.
- When sugar is dissolved, fill the rest of the jar with cool filtered water. Make sure the water has cooled down to room temperature before adding the grains
- Add the water kefir grains
- Cover the jar with a cheese cloth held on with an elastic band,
- Leave on the counter (preferably at 21-24 degrees) for 24-48 hours. The longer you leave it, the more sugar ferments out and the stronger the brew may become. However if you leave it out for too long then you may starve the grains of their food which is detrimental to their health.
- After a maximum of 48 hours, strain the water kefir grains through a mesh strainer, pouring the liquid into another container.
- Keep the grains aside.
- To start the second ferment, add your fruit juice or fruit to the first brew water. Store this in an air tight container and leave it out on the counter for further 1-3 days. The longer you leave it the fizzier it will become.
- Refrigerate before drinking.
- Use the grains to start the first fermentation process again.
So as you can see, making water kefir is a continual process and is a little bit of a commitment, It’s a bit like having a pet. If you do want to have a break from making kefir water, you can pop the grains in it’s first ferment water in the fridge for up to a week. If you need a break for longer than than this then the grains can be placed in the freezer. You can find out more information on how to do this here http://www.culturesforhealth.com/take-break-water-kefir
I really encourage you to try making water kefir a regular part of your diet. I know for certain the the digestive health of my family has dramatically improved since adding water kefir to our diets. Of all the fermented foods water kefir is definitely the most palatable, and is easy to get the kids to drink and enjoy.