Water Kefir (Getting Started)
Water Kefir (Getting Started)
Thank you for your purchase and welcome to the “Urban Mystic” Kefir family! You are now part of a worldwide community that has sustained this delicious health-promoting probiotic drink for over two thousand years.
Water Kefir Step-by-Step Guide
*When your package arrives, we recommend putting it directly in your fridge temporarily, until you're ready to feed the grains (preferably the same day, or within 24 hours). When you are ready to start wash Water Kefir grains in cool water (non-chlorinated). There is 1/4 cup of Live Organic Water Kefir Grains in the package and should be able to comfortably culture 1 liter/quart of sugar water medium. In the package of Legacy Organic Dehydrated Water Kefir Grains when rehydrated there is approx. 1/4 to 1/3 cup of live grains (just ajust the measurements accordingly).
*Note: Occasionally, the slow shipping of live grains the first batch or two will have an “off “odor. Although generally safe, you may want to discard the first few batches. Although usually fine upon arrival, it is good to let your grains acclimate to your home, water source and sugars and become fully balanced before regular consumption. If it has a strong 'nail polish' odor, wait until they balance. If it persists, rest your grains in clean water in the fridge for a couple of days, changing out the water daily.
*Note: Most fermentations, including Water Kefir, do not do particularly well with metal utensils or metal containers which may harm or kill them. It is recommended to stick with glass, wood and plastic when handling and fermenting. Stainless steel is considered safe for short term contact such as
straining or stirring.
Basic Water Kefir Formula Recipe:
1/ 1 tbsp. sugar 2/ 1 tbsp. kefir grains 3/ 1 cup water 4/ fruitWorking Water Kefir Recipe:
1/ 4 tbsp. kefir grains (4 tbsp.= 1⁄4 cup) 2/ 4 cups water
3/ 4 tbsp. organic cane sugar
4/ 1/2 tsp. palm sugar (optional)
5/ *2 - 4 pieces 1” x 1” frozen or fresh pineapple 6/ 2 - 3 slices of ginger (peeled)
7/ vanilla bean pieces
8/ any fresh fruit *substitute unsulphured dried fruit 9/ 1/4 tsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses (diluted), 10/ 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
2 Quart or larger jar
Wood or plastic spoon/spatula
Plastic/nylon or stainless steel strainer
Another 2 to 4 quart-size or larger non-metal container to store the
finished kefir in Ingredients:
Water: One quart (4 cups) of water. Non or low-chlorinated, high mineral water is
preferable. Minerals help your grains to function and properly metabolize the sugars. Filtered and distilled water are low in minerals and usually don't work well; if this is your only source of water, additional minerals may be necessary (more on this below in the guide). Letting it sit out (open, no lid) 24 hours allows chlorine to evaporate. Chloramine (another form of chlorine sometimes used to treat water) does not evaporate though. *We recommend starting out with spring or mineral water and then testing on backup grains with your tap or filtered water before using one type exclusively. Hold off on experimenting with other liquids such as juice or coconut water until the grains have balanced in their new home.
Whole Cane sugar, brown (or a combination of these), Palm/Coconut sugar – (1 tablespoon Water Kefir Grains and 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of water). Water kefir grains function best on a combination of cane sugar and dried fruits, or a combination of less processed sugar (brown, whole cane, molasses, coconut sugar etc.). You can use white sugar but be sure to add molasses or foods high in minerals. There are truly a variety of combinations you can try. Experiment and see which one tastes best to you!
Nut Milk bag / Muslin bag: to hold your grains or dried fruit in during the ferment. This is convenient for keeping the grains separate from the fruit, but isn't necessary. Keep in mind it can sometimes hinder the grains access to nutrients a bit, too. This functions best for holding small fruits, or fruits that shred as they hydrate (like dates) herbs or loose leaf teas that you may eventually experiment with in your water kefir.
Organic is best, washed well. Some people like the flavor this lends, some don't. Sometimes it can help with the ph. of the ferment as well, depending on your water and other ingredients you're using.
Dried unsulphured fruit:
Fruit adds to the flavor and nutritional dimension of the beverage. They are especially helpful if you're using only white sugar, as the dried fruit supplies minerals that processed sugar lacks. Avoid sulphured fruit (a preservative added to many dried fruits that can suppress or even harm the grains). A handful of dried fruit per quart is sufficient.
Amount of fruit:
You can visually get an idea here of about how much a 'handful' is. You can get by with less than this, too. The fruits pictured work well with Water Kefir, either by helping nourish the grains, lending a great flavor, and in many cases, both.
NOTE: We have found some fruits like dried strawberries just don't do much for the flavor or the grains. Raspberries on the other hand, work very well for flavor. Keep in mind some of these fruits will dye your grains a bit! Banana can be ok, but is sometimes a bit 'oily' and doesn't lend as much flavor as you'd think.
1. When you are ready to start making Water Kefir, place the live Kefir grains into a clean jar that holds at least 8 cups (2 quart). For this first batch, add 4 cups of spring water or mineral water to start out with. Mix all ingredients well before adding Water Kefir Grains. Be sure to allow some space at the top (don't fill to the brim). Never use water hotter than room temperature. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a skinny or a wide jar, but we have found that the kefir grains do a little bit better in a wide jar simply because they can breathe better.
2. For this first batch, add 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) sugar of your choice (brown, raw, white or a mix of them). Here are some good sugar combinations: all white sugar + a handful of dried fruit 40-80% white sugar + remaining % unrefined sugar 80% white sugar + 20% molasses a blend of white sugar, unrefined sugar, and dried fruit (optional: 1/4 teaspoon of Himalayan Salt, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda works well depending on water ph. levels).
You can try honey but it is cautioned that due to its antibacterial properties (especially raw), and different ratios of sugars (higher amounts of fructose than sugar) it may weaken the grains. We highly recommend experimenting, there are SO many sugar and dried fruit options. But, we stress waiting to do so until you have enough extra grains to experiment in a separate jar.
White cane sugar is the most affordable, and does not overwhelm other flavors that you may wish to add later when bottling. We recommend using white cane sugar
for at least approx. half of the sugar and, if desired, supplement the rest with a form of less refined sugar such as whole cane sugar or blackstrap molasses for additional mineral support. We have found that the grains do best with access to dense cane sugar supplemented with a smaller portion of high mineral (less refined) sugars and/or dried unsulphured fruits.
3. Stir with a wooden or plastic utensil until the sugar is mostly dissolved. If you are adding a lemon wedge, it is easier to do so after stirring.
Chlorine can damage the Kefir grains, which is sometimes found in high amounts in tap. Please refer to the section above on water under 'Ingredients'.
If using a metal strainer, stainless steel is considered safe for brief contact. Acids from cultures can interact with and leach metals (though mostly through prolonged contact), which could disrupt or harm the grains.
4. At this point, you can add a lemon wedge (anywhere from 1/8 of a lemon to a half lemon). If you're unsure what may be on the lemon (wax, chemicals, etc.), simply peel the skin off. It's not necessary to squeeze the lemon, but you can do this at the end when you are ready to drink, if you prefer a stronger lemon flavor.
5. Cover the top of the jar with a cloth, paper towel or parchment paper held by elastic. This is so your Kefir grains can breathe while at the same time protecting it from contamination.
*LID: Putting a tight lid can cause the jar to explode due to the natural carbonation process taking place. Believe us, this does happen!
6. Time to let them rest and do their thing! Find a place for your grains out of direct sunlight. A counter or shelf is just fine. You can shake/stir them once in a while as they ferment (helps redistribute nutrients). Don’t worry if you forget – although helpful, it is not completely necessary. Check back on them in about 12 to 24 hours!
Temperature can greatly affect the speed of fermentation (it can take half as much time during the summer). Experiment and see what tastes right (and digests right) for you. They will not die if they're ready at 24 hours, but you strain at 48, so don't worry too much!
7. When the Kefir is ready, you need to separate the Water Kefir from the Kefir grains. Set a plastic or stainless steel strainer over a jar or bowl and pour everything in. Pick out any fruit or lemon. You can eat these, discard, or even keep in your bottled water kefir. You can also re-use fruit for one more ferment if desired. If you used lemon, you can squeeze it into your strained Kefir for a stronger lemon flavor if desired.
It's normal to see some grains, the dried fruit, foam and occasionally some 'scum' floating near the top (especially when using less refined sugars and/or dried fruits). It's also normal to see a perfectly clear surface, too. Sometimes this can indicate inactivity though - taste to see if it still tastes like flat, sweet sugar water - this indicates the grains did not convert much of the sugar.
Water Kefir is milder than Kombucha, but should still have a noticeable flavor change - like a weak apple cider. Carbonation is very subtle but will increase when
bottled (more on this below).
If your grains are not doing well, they most likely need more mineral support. We recommend adding at least 1 tablespoon of whole cane sugar or using a nutrient dense dried fruit like apricots or dates. You can also try adding about 1/8 teaspoon (per quart) of Baking Soda, Himalayan Salt, or calcium carbonate to see if that helps.
Good signs of activity include floating grains (carbon dioxide bubbles trapped within the matrix of the grain) and tiny bubbles that rise to the surface when you tap the bottom of the jar.
8. Now it is time to bottle your strained Water Kefir and put the grains back into their jar. Put water kefir grains and place them back in your jar (does not need to be washed each time), or a clean jar. In the 'Extra Grains & Storage' section below you'll find ideas for what to do with extra grain growth. Now pour your strained Water Kefir into another jar to store. Clean pop, juice, vinegar or oil bottles work great. Glass is the preferred storage material. Plastic and metal tend to leach when in contact with acidic liquids. You can drink it right away or chill it. Water kefir tastes best (in our opinion) within 48 hours of being chilled, and begins to diminish in flavor past a week (continues to convert to a more acidic, higher alcohol beverage).
When storing, try to keep the lid on a tad loose, to prevent explosion. If you're aiming for more carbonation, fill the bottle within 1/4" of the top, and put the lid on tight, but 'burp' it each day (open the lid, then close back up) - this prevents explosions but still allows carbonation to build up.
Occasionally, the first batch or two will have an “off “odor. Although generally safe, you may want to discard the first few batches. Although usually fine upon arrival, it is good to let your grains acclimate to your home, water source and sugars and become fully balanced before regular consumption. If it has a strong 'nail polish' odor, wait until they balance. If it persists, rest your grains in clean water in the fridge for a couple of days, changing out the water daily.
*Important Note Before Drinking Kefir:
Kefir contains very large amounts of good bacteria and yeast as well as being acidic (from the high amounts of healthful lactic acid)- for a few people's bodies it can be a little bit of a shock. Everybody reacts to it differently, so we always recommend starting out slow to see how your body takes to it. Most people do not have any adverse reaction, but if you do, usually it's just a matter of starting out slow and slowing increasing over time. Start with a tablespoon and go from there. If you are sensitive to sugar and tiny amounts of alcohol, it is generally tolerated better on a full, rather than empty stomach.
NOTE: When people say they are drinking Kefir, they are referring to the liquid created. However, it is fine to eat small amounts of the grains themselves, too, which are of course an excellent source of probiotics.
Half the fun of Water Kefir is flavoring. When you have it strained and bottled, you can experiment with many different flavors and techniques. Add in some of your favorite fruit juice, veggie juice, or squeeze in some fresh lemon, lime or orange. You can even add fresh or dried fruit. Raspberries are delicious. A teaspoon of vanilla extract (per 1-2 cups), a stick of cinnamon, or some fresh slices of ginger are excellent as well. Grape juice is outstanding and gets it quite fizzy, too. Let the flavors meld, we like to let ours chill up to 2 days for maximum impact! Sometimes this process is called the '2nd Ferment' because it is without the grains, where you are adding in more sugar and/or fruit and flavors, and letting it further ferment a day or two. You can let it rest at room temperature or in the fridge for this process (just make sure to 'burp' the bottles, especially if left out of the fridge).
9. Now simply repeat! That’s it! Congratulations on your first home-made water Kefir! It really is a fool-proof process and the grains are quite resilient, so don’t worry too much, people have been making this for thousands of years!
Have fun, experiment and enjoy!