So, I’ve been into fermenting for almost a year now, trying my hand at a couple different methods. I’ve been buying store bought milk kefir, and loving it! I decided to try my hand with water kefir also, and I’m loving it!
What is kefir?
– Kefir is a fermented drink, which comes in two forms: milk & water. The fermentation is started with “grains,” basically specific bacterial cultures that reproduce rapidly under proper conditions and help to ferment which ever beverage you are making.
Milk vs water kefir
– Milk kefir uses grains that are white to off-white and look like little globules of cheese (think goat cheese). Water kefir uses grains that are clear to translucent with a similar shape as that of the milk kefir grains. Both grains accomplish the same feat: facilitate fermentation within the media that they are added to. Milk kefir grains feed primarily off of lactose and other proteins in milk, while water kefir grains prefer sugar.
Where did you get your grains?
– I ordered mine off of a fellow homesteader’s etsy shop! Tons of online resources sell both water and milk kefir grains and will ship them straight to your door. Because of rapid reproduction, others who ferment with the grains will often give them away for free if you can find another fermenter near you. Check Facebook and Craigslist also.
Caring for your grains.
– Don’t forget that kefir grains are living things, and therefore require a bit of care. Water kefir grains need to be fed ample sugar (usually 1/2-2T/day) in order to facilitate reproduction and keep them healthy. If you’re going out of town, store your grains in the fridge instead of on the counter to slow fermentation. They’ll still need fed, however feedings can occur much less when fermentation occurs at a slower pace.
Brewing your water kefir.
– I’m not sure brewing is the right word here. To make your water kefir, you simply add your grains to the sugary liquid of your choice. Traditional water kefir is simply water, sugar, and grains – left on the counter to ferment 3-5 days. My first batch of water kefir I made with cranberry-cherry juice, allowed 2T of grains to ferment in a 2quart container filled with juice, for about 4 days (use more grains for a quicker ferment). I then removed the grains and added 2 sliced, squeezed limes and fermented another 2 days (this is the 2F or second ferment). It was delicious. I am currently fermenting some grains in coconut water, it’s looking lovely. You want to ferment until it’s fantastically bubbly, then remove the grains and drink or run your second ferment to add more flavors. The grains can be re-used after fermenting a beverage.
What do I do with all the grains?
– I keep my grains in a “hotel,” similar to my kombucha hotel. The grains live in filtered water and are fed sugar regularly, and I remove some when I’m wanting to do a ferment. I keep them in my oven with the light on to keep them warm and active. When grain production increases beyond the capacity of my hotel, I simply feed my grains to the chickens and the dogs. I’m sure there are tons of other things you can do with them, I just haven’t explored them entirely yet.
All in all, water kefir has been one of the most interesting and simplest ferments I’ve worked with yet. It can transform a seemingly boring glass of juice into a bubbly, fizzy, beneficial probiotic rich drink! I know a couple people who have replaced soda with various water kefir brews and their kids LOVE them! I have yet to try my hand at milk kefir, but I’m sure that won’t be too far down the road.