Water Kefir – The Yeasty Bacterial Elixir of Life
When you woke up this morning, I bet the first thing you thought was, “I’m so excited about yeasty bacteria!”
Okay. Opposite that.
But excited about yeasty bacteria is what you’re about to become. And then tomorrow morning will be another story.
This is water kefir. This is the yeasty bacteria that’s about to get you all fired up:
Water kefir - the culture of your dreams.
Now, don’t fret if you don’t have water kefir grains – or if you haven’t even ever heard of water kefir grains before this moment. At the end, there’s going to be an opportunity for SIX of you to receive them for free – compliments of yours truly and the community share plan (and also a link to a store to buy them, if you’re so inclined).
(I had a bet with myself that I knew you guys so well to know that: 70% of you have heard of kefir before, 40% of you have heard of water kefir, and 1% of you already have kefir grains. Am I right? We’ll never know. But we should just assume I am. Life is easier that way.)
So. Water kefir. Let’s learn.
Water Kefir – the Culture that Gives Back
Water kefir is, in fact, a bacterial yeast culture (that looks like little odd-shaped jelly-pearls) that converts sugar into fructose and imparts incredible probiotic goodness into the water you keep it in.
Think of it as yogurt on steroids that masquerades as carbonated, healthy soda.
You see, water kefir grains – which aren’t actually grain; they’re just called that to confuse you – eat up sugars, in addition to producing dozens of strains of healthy probiotic bacteria. As this happens, it sends gasses into the water, which carbonates it.
I’m happy to report, I’ve completely kicked my soda habit with water kefir. Now, when I stop by the store and think, “Diet Dr Pepper? Sure! I deserve one.” Instead, I think “I have water kefir at home, and it would feel sooo bad if I cheated on it.”
I have several favorite ways to prepare and flavor my water kefir, which I’ll share in a moment, but my current obsession is fermenting it a second time with dried apples. It’s like fresh apple soda with a kick:
Kefir apple soda - look at the bubbles around the top.
Health Benefits of Water Kefir
These aren’t documented fully, but I’ve found several sources that claim water kefir helps with everything from obesity (by helping the intestinal flora stabilize and metabolize foods better) to eczema and psoriasis to ulcers and more.
One thing I can tell you, from my personal experience, is that my digestion is improved beyond measure – and my seasonal fall allergies are almost nil when I drink water kefir on a daily basis. When I forget for a day or two, the difference is overwhelming.
As a whole, though, all the health benefits you expect from yogurt, milk kefir, and kombucha, you can expect from water kefir, as well.
You can even wash your face with it! When I have, the results have been smooth, soft, and glowing. But, I gotta be honest with y’all – it’s so delicious and I go through it so quickly, I can’t bring myself to put it ON my face.
How to Prepare Water Kefir
There are incredible tutorials all over the internets on how to prepare water kefir: here, here, and an alternate one using eggshells to help your kefir grow here. But here’s my quick and dirty version – the way that’s worked best for me.
Preparing water kefir for the first fermentation.
How to Prepare Water Kefir for the First Fermentation
- In a very clean one-quart jar, pour in 1/4 c. sugar (you can use refined, unrefined, rapidura, sucanat – any kind of sugar, but my favorite is 1/8 c. raw organic sugar and 1/8 c. sucanat or rapidura). Just don’t use honey – it will kill the kefir.
- Pour in 1/2 c. very hot water and swish the jar around until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Some sources say don’t use tap water – because of the chlorine – some say not to use filtered water- because it doesn’t contain the minerals kefir loves. I get by with filtered using molasses every once in a while to supplement the minerals.)
- Fill the jar almost all the way to the top with cool to cold water (make sure the resulting sugar water is at least room temperature to cool to the touch).
- Add in your kefir grains (about 3 Tbsp kefir grains work well with this recipe, and is standard in kefir starter kits)
- Place a coffee filter over the top of the jar and let it sit and ferment for 24-48 hours.
- Strain the kefir grains from the kefir water and start the process all over again for a brand new batch of kefir.
That is the first fermentation. At this point, you can drink the kefir water just as it is, or you can go for a second fermentation, which is where the REAL fun starts.
My Favorite Flavored Water Kefir Recipes
This is – by no means – an exhaustive list of the ways you can flavor water kefir (which typically enhances its nutritional value even more, too). These are just my favorites so far.
The second fermentation is the part that adds extra fizzy carbonation to your kefir – but be careful, and don’t shake. Because it WILL explode when you open it if you do (just ask Skip).
The second fermentation takes place without the kefir grains – but there’s plenty of probiotic goodness in the first fermentation kefir to feed on the sugars in fruits and juices you add to the second fermentation.
First Fermentation Cranberry Kefir
- Water kefir that’s ready for first fermentation
- 1/2 Tbsp dried cranberries
Most of these “flavorings” happen during the second fermentation, but I’ve found that cranberries added to the first fermentation are incredibly delicious – and SO good for your urinary tract. But mostly they’re delicious.
Just drop the cranberries in during the first fermentation and leave them in through the whole thing. At this point, you can either pick them out when you go to make your new batch of kefir – or you can leave them in for one or two more first fermentations. Store the cranberry kefir water in the fridge, or keep it (tightly lidded) on your kitchen counter for another day if you want it to be really super fizzy.
Kefir Apple Soda
- 1 quart prepared water kefir (filtered after first fermentation)
- 4-6 pieces of dried apples
In a jar that has a tight lid, pour in your water kefir and add the apples. Screw on the jar lid tight and leave on the kitchen counter for 24 hours. Then – drink. (Or put it in the fridge if you want to stop further fermentation.)
Kefir Cream Soda
For this one, all you have to do is add in 1/4 tsp real vanilla extract to a glass of water kefir and stir. Tastes almost EXACTLY like cream soda. It’s incredible.
Kefir Juice Pop
In a large jar, add half of the water from your first fermentation of kefir to half juice of your liking (I particularly like Knudsen’s Blueberry-Pomegranate). You’ll want your juice to be natural and hopefully organic with no additives or tons of preservatives; that’ll just kill the probiotics. Allow this to sit through a second fermentation for 12 to 24 hours. Of note: This is the one recipe I’ve found to yield more alcohol if you ferment for more than a day, so you might not want to give this to your kids after a second fermentation of more than 24 hours.
I also LOVE adding 2 coin-sized pieces of fresh ginger during the second fermentation for a ginger ale – or 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice for fizzy lemonade. YUM.
Here are TONS more water kefir recipes.
Excited About Water Kefir? Have Some!
So I’ve been dying to write about water kefir for a long time, but I thought, “Man. No one’s heard of it; no one has it. Who will care?” PROBLEM. SOLVED.
For the first community share from sales of the book (which have been great, btw!), I want to give 6 community members their very own water kefir grains from Cultures for Health <- this is where you can buy them if you don’t particularly want to be vocal around these parts, but really want some.
Here’s how it’s going to go down:
- Leave a comment right here in the comment section if you want some (don’t be shy). (Cultures for Health only ships within the U.S., though, so please refrain from asking if you live elsewhere.)
- On Sunday, I will choose three people who will receive the water kefir starter kit – and they’ll be notified.
- From the list of entries here, each of those three people will choose one person from the community to receive the water kefir starter kits.
- Then, I will buy them and have them shipped to all of you.
How you’ll be chosen: I’m intent on making this a community effort, so from the list of people here who say they want water kefir, I’ll pick three people who have been incredibly helpful or insightful or just plain kind or funny in the past – or over the next week (whether it’s in comments, in the Crunchy Community, or via Facebook or Twitter).
The three people I choose will then have the opportunity to choose someone within the community that THEY have felt has been helpful, insightful, plain kind or funny within the vast walls of Crunchy Betty.
Thus, the cycle of loving, helping, and being super duper kind and caring for each other is nourished beyond measure.
That being said: Having water kefir grains is like keeping a pet (I call them “my babies” and tell them I love them every time I strain them). You have to feed them every 24-48 hours (but don’t worry – they’re really hardy and it is INCREDIBLY difficult to “kill” them). They’re a wonderful responsibility. So only sign up if you’re ready to take this responsibility on.
AND – sometimes they grow. If you find that you have too many kefir grains to keep up with, you also have to promise that you’ll give the extra grains to someone who will really appreciate them.
And the cycle of giving/receiving lives on.
(You have to love this.)
SO TELL ME IF YOU WANT SOME.
Tell me now.