I first came across water kefir when I started looking into probiotic food and drinks (you can read more about probiotics, their functions, and benefits here). The recipe seemed pretty easy, and as I try not to consume too much dairy, water kefir seems like a perfect alternative for milk kefir!
Water kefir is a fermented fizzy probiotic drink made using water, water kefir grains, and sugar.
It is very simple to make, and is a wonderful sweet drink that you can enjoy instead of conventional fizzy drinks – especially best enjoyed in summer! Its taste can be easily enhanced with fruit, fruit juices, and spices to make a more interesting drink (however, I usually enjoy it plain as I like the plain taste).
Even though water kefir does not contain as many probiotics as milk kefir, it still has some probiotics and yeasts, hence is considered a probiotic-rich drink. It is also a good alternative to milk kefir – a good option for those who do not consume dairy.
Here are some of the possible benefits of drinking water kefir (please, note that the benefits will vary with each batch):
- helps digestion and digestion-related issues (you can find study here showing how probiotics can help with IBS). Promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and inhibits the growth of harmful yeasts and bacteria. However, caution should be taken here – while sugary probiotic drinks do, indeed, increase the number of good bacteria which fight candida, due to high carbohydrate content, they also feed candida at the same time! Hence if you are suffering from candida (or think you might be), I strongly recommend you to check with your doctor if you are O.K. to drink fermented sugary drinks. Indeed, if you are suffering from any conditions or/and are on medications, I would recommend seeing your doctor to discuss drinking any fermented drinks. Milk kefir (recipe coming up soon!) might be a safer solution for those who are, or might be suffering from yeast infections, but I would still check with your doctor to make sure it is absolutely safe for you.
- might help with immune health, though more studies are needed
- an improvement in gut and immune health can lead to increased energy levels and wellbeing
- can help with skin conditions (read here about “gut-brain-skin axis” hypothesis)
- certain types of probiotics might help with lactose intolerance (read more here)
- can help with food cravings due to rebalancing gut flora
- can have a general cleansing effect on the body
- can potentially help with vaginal conditions (read more here)
- can potentially help with mood and mood-related issues due to re-balancing the gut flora. Indeed, some studies show that gut health heavily influences the healthy brain functioning. “New studies show that bacteria, including commensal, probiotic, and pathogenic bacteria, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can activate neural pathways and central nervous system (CNS) signaling systems” (read more here).
Water kefir, milk kefir, and kombucha are, probably, three most popular probiotic drinks. So which one is the best to make? Here I compare them in terms of health benefits, easiness of preparation, and uses.
On the list of possible health benefits, water kefir would, probably, be listed in the end of the list. It contains least amount of probiotics compared to milk kefir and kombucha.
Besides probiotics’ benefits (you can read about these here), milk kefir can help with lactose intolerance, and build up bone and teeth density (thanks to Calcium).
Kombucha will likely be on top of health benefits’ list. Alongside with the benefits from probiotics and beneficial yeasts, it has antioxidants, iron, Vitamin C, glucosamines (which can help with joint health due to promotion of collagen production), and is high in acetic acid (same as apple cider vinegar) which is proven to help with weight loss (you can find one study proving it here).
Easiness of Preparation
Even though kombucha could be put on the top of the list of possible health benefits, I think it would be on the bottom of the easiness-of-preparation list! This is because while both milk and water kefir take 3-4 days to make, kombucha can take up to a month (or at least a week)!
The top of the list would be taken by water kefir, which is the easiest I know probiotic drink to make.
Milk kefir will be close to the easiness of preparation of water kefir, though due to a more complicated process of filtering out the milk kefir grains, I think it is harder to make than water kefir.
I think water kefir would be on the top of the list here, as milk kefir is not suitable for those who do not eat dairy (though it has many uses as a substitute for milk in muesli, in smoothies, and on its own with fruit and honey and/or maple syrup for those who eat dairy). You can double – ferment water kefir with fruit, which makes a tasty refreshing drink, also add spices and herbs to the taste. You can also use coconut water instead of pure water, or maybe even juice, to make a more interesting taste.
In theory, kombucha can also be double – fermented using fruit, or you can just add some fruit to improve the taste, however, I think that kombucha has very strong bitter taste on its own, so I am not sure whether it will help a lot with improving the taste! Though I know many people who really enjoy the taste, so I guess it is a matter of personal taste!
Water kefir grains are “bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship”. They are responsible for fermentation process in water kefir.
Even though called “grains”, the name refers to the texture of water kefir grains – they do not actually contain any grains (such as rye, barley, etc.). Hence, water kefir is suitable for those who do not consume grains.
Preparation Time: 5min (more if you need to sterilise your jars)
Fermentation Time: 3-4 days. The stronger you want the taste, the longer you need to ferment it. 3 days fermentation has more sugar in it, while 4 day fermentation is usually more rich in taste and probiotics. Do not ferment for longer than 4 days as water kefir grains might starve.
You can make water kefir using water or coconut water. In case you use coconut water, you do not need to use sugar as there is naturally occurring sugar in coconut water.
- 2 table spoons of organic sugar. You can use any type of sugar – white, brown, coconut, or any other. Sugar substitutes are highly unlikely to work, and honey can even be detrimental for water kefir grains.
- 450-500ml filtered or spring water, room temperature (or coconut water)
- 2 tea spoons water kefir grains. It is best to get them from a friend who is already making water kefir, or from a reliable shop. This one is highly recommended (please, note that they are based in the USA)
You will also need
- a plastic sieve (I bought mine from Poundland for £1). Do not use metal sieve or any metal when making water kefir as it can damage water kefir grains.
- wooden spoon (to stir sugar). Do not use metal as it can damage water kefir grains.
- cheesecloth, muslim bag, or piece of kitchen towel and an elastic band (I got mine in bulk from here) to secure it on top of the water kefir bottle/jar (to prevent fruit flies getting in – they love the stuff!)
- two 1/5 litre jars to ferment and then store (optional) water kefir in the fridge (I would recommend keeping it in fridge for no longer than 3 days)
- sterilise one of your jars if needed. Not always necessary, but highly recommended as it helps to kill off bacteria and preserve your drink for longer
- put a bit of boiling water in your jar
- place 2 table spoons of sugar in the jar using wooden spoon. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved in water.
- fill the jar, leaving an inch or so at the top, with room temperature water
- place 2 tea spoons of water kefir grains in sugary water
- place kitchen towel/cheese cloth/muslim bag on top, secure with elastic band
- place in warm place in kitchen out of direct sunlight for 3-4 days
After 3-4 days of fermentation:
- sterilise your other jar (only if you are storing water kefir in the fridge)
- remove muslim bag/cheese cloth/kitchen towel from the top of your water kefir jar
- place plastic sieve on top of your storing jar (if storing in the fridge), or a cup/glass if drinking straight away
- carefully pour the liquid from the jar where you fermented into a new jar or cup/glass. You will then have water kefir in your jar/glass/cup, and water kefir grains in you sieve
You can then re-use your water kefir grains and make a new water kefir batch. Do not rinse water kefir grains with water after using as it can damage them! If taken proper care of, water kefir grains should last you for a very long time, if not forever! Overtime, the number of water kefir grains is likely to increase. In this case, you can separate them to make more water kefir.
Your water kefir should have a sweet tingly taste and might be fizzy. The liquid might also be a bit cloudy and lighten up, which is considered normal. I would recommend not drinking any batch that tastes strange or unpleasant to you.
Please, note that in the process of fermentation some alcohol will be naturally produced in water kefir. The amount of alcohol varies according to the batch, but it is usually a relatively low percentage. However, caution must be taken by those who abstain from alcohol – it case of any doubt, please, check with your doctor.
Once water kefir is ready, I usually drink it with a metal straw – this can help prevent this fizzy sugary drink from damaging your enamel. I usually drink it plain, but you can experiment and add a few things to make it taste better – fruit, herbs, vanilla extract, and spices such as cinnamon (which you can add according to your taste).
With dried fruit, put them in the jar with prepared water kefir and leave for 2-3 days, or up to a week.
If you are using fresh fruit, put them in the jar with water kefir and leave in water kefir for up to 24 hours. For stronger taste, after 24 hours fermentation with fruit strain out water kefir using plastic sieve, add new batch of fresh fruit, and leave them in water kefir for another 24 hours, then strain to drink or store in the fridge.
The easiest way to flavour water kefir is by adding fruit juice. With most fruit juices, the ration will be 1/2 cup of fruit juice to 1 litre of water kefir, but with concentrated fruit juices, such as lemon juice and others, it is best to decrease the amount of juice to 1/4 of a cup. Just pour juice into water kefir and drink straight away or store in the fridge.
There might be a time when you would want to take a break from making water kefir – maybe, you are going on a trip, or you just want to relax and give yourself time off from making water kefir every 3-4 days. Luckily, in this case you have two options – an option for a short break, and an option for a long break.
Short break: up to three weeks
Make water kefir as usual. Place the solution in air-tight container with an air-tight lid. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
When you would like to resume making water kefir, take solution from the fridge, strain water kefir grains (you can then drink the liquid unless it has an unpleasant or strange taste), and put them in the fresh batch of sugar water. Ferment for 3-4 days as usual.
After taking a break, water kefir grains might take a few rounds of fermentation to “wake up”, which is normal. You do not have to do anything – just be patient and give them time.
Long break: up to 6 months
If you need to take a break from making water kefir for longer than 3 weeks, you should dehydrate water kefir grains. This is how you do it.
Strain water kefir grains and rinse them with fresh filtered or spring water. They lay them on unbleached parchment paper somewhere where they will not be damaged or polluted. Let them dry there for 3-5 days (depending on the air humidity, it might take shorter or longer). Once completely dry, place water kefir grains in airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.
When you want to resume making water kefir grains, you should follow an activation process.
In the activation process, you take your dehydrated water kefir grains from the fridge and place them in sugary water solution (same as when making a usual water kefir batch). Then place a muslim bag/cheesecloth/kitchen towel on top of a jar where you are fermenting, and secure it with an elastic band, and place the jar in warm place out of direct sunlight.
After 3-4 days (that should give water kefir grains enough time to rehydrate) strain water kefir grains and discard sugary water solution (do not drink it!). Then place water kefir grains in sugary water solution and prepare water kefir as usual.
As with any type of food or drink, if you are unsure whether it is a right type of food/drink for you, it is always best to discuss with your doctor or nutritionist (or both!)
If you are taking any medications, suffering from any conditions, or are unsure about consuming water kefir, please, check with your doctor or nutritionist prior to consuming it.
This is the website I used to learn how to make water kefir. It also taught me much about water kefir, its benefits, how to flavour water kefir, and how to take a break from making water kefir. They have lots of useful information on their website, and present it in an comprehensive question-answer format. I also love their videos where they show how to make water kefir and flavour it.
How to Make Water Kefir
How to Flavour Water Kefir
Have you ever tried water kefir? Did you like it? Have you ever tried making it? We would love to hear your thoughts!