What Should Kefir Look Like?

What Does Kefir Look Like?

How to know if your water kefir is done.
How to know if your water kefir is done.

When brewing kefir for the first time, it is sometimes hard to know if it is ready. It may take some trial and error before you really know. The "readiness" of kefir depends on several things. Personal taste is one of the factors that differs between people. There are other signs to look for however in judging whether your kefir is ready.

Signs that your water kefir is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24-48 hours
  2. It smells fermented. To me that is a slightly beery, slightly yeasty, fruity smell. 
  3. It looks fizzy- Water kefir is slightly carbonated when done and you will see small bubbles rising up from the bottom, especially when stirred or agitated. 
  4. Bubbles gather on top.
  5. The dried fruit is fully hydrated.
  6. If you used brown sugar or molasses, the liquid will be quite a bit lighter.
  7. Taste of "ready to drink" water kefir is much less sweet, slightly tangy and acidic tasting and has a definite fermented taste. 
  8. The water kefir grains have grown.

Milk Kefir separated after 48 hour fermentationThe readiness of water kefir is subjective to some degree. Some people like it less sweet, some like it fermented longer… you have to try it different ways to discover what 'readiness' tastes like to you. 

Milk kefir is a little different. It is not always as easy to see the readiness of milk kefir. It is also less forgiving, in that, over fermented milk kefir will separate into curds (a thick top layer) which float to the top, and whey (a watery, slightly yellow liquid) on the bottom.

Pic source: Dom's Kefir SiteKefir creates a unique rivulet pattern on the glass

If your milk kefir separates, you can still use it. Just shake and strain as usual. It will be more sour tasting.

Here are some ways to tell if your kefir milk is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24 hours
  2. It smells yeasty and slightly tangy
  3. The grains are floating on the top
  4. The kefir forms unique rivulet pattern when tipped against the glass. 

This is what my kefir looks like when readyMostly your milk kefir readiness is determined by personal preference.  This is what my kefir looks like when it s the perfect "readiness" for my tastes. Notice the pockets of clear whey throughout the jar. If I leave it another hour or two it will completely separate into curds on the top and whey on the bottom, but I like to pour it when it looks like this. It hasn't curdled yet and it still will pour freely, but it is nice and thick. If my milk has separated into curds and whey, like the 48 hour example above, then I find the resulting kefir is too sour for my liking. 

I will strain it now, and then put the strained liquid in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for a day or two. This gives me a mild, thick kefir that I really adore. It took me several months before I found the right amount of sourness and the consistency that is perfect for my tastes. 

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If your kefir does over ferment, there are still lots of things you can do with it, including drink it. I will outline what to do if your kefir separates in another post. 

How Can I Make Kefir Grains At Home?

Is It Possible To Make Kefir Grains Without Buying Them?

Can I Make Kefir Grains At Home?I get this question a lot and it was a question I had as well. There are not too many things I won't try if it is not too complicated, so I went about researching how to make my own kefir grains. I found most sites said that it was not possible. That in order to make kefir at home you had to purchase kefir grains from someone who had an overabundance. 

I did find one site where a gentleman claimed to do something with an ant hill. (see here… it is funny but be warned he uses the 'f' word a couple of times.) Now I know there are people who will believe anything if it is written on the internet, but I KNOW you won't be making kefir grains this way so please do not try it, or if you do try it, please do not drink it. OK you have been warned! 

Now, on to the real way to make kefir grains. No one had ever successfully made kefir grains that they could then take and use to culture milk. That is, no one until Motaghi, et al. These Iranian scientists took goat hide and formed a sac. Then they added milk, and bacteria from sheep feces. They shook the bag several times a day, kept it at a consistent temperature of 24-26 Degrees celcius for 48 hours and then changed the milk. 12 weeks later they were able to scrape some coagulated residue stuck to the inside of the bag and put it in milk in a glass jar and make kefir. 

So the answer to "can I make kefir grains" is YES. Yes you can. But hey, if that's too much trouble,

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we sell kefir grains. :- D 

Water Kefir Instructions in Pictures

Instructions- Making Water Kefir With Live Kefir Grains

If you live in Canada, and have ordered LIVE Kefir Grains, they will arrive double bagged and secured in a padded mailing envelope for a safe trip. If you can not make your water kefir immediately, place them in the refrigerator as is until you can get to them… hopefully within a day of receiving them. Here are my simple instructions for making perfect water kefir every time.

 

Instructions for Making Water Kefir


#1- Gather your ingredients. 1/4 C of your sugar of choice. Here I have organic brown sugar. 1 tsp Black Strap Molasses (optional but I always use it for extra minerals) Lemon or lime slice. Peeled if it isn't organic Unsulphured dried fruit. 3 Cups water. (The grains to water ratio is about 1 TBSP grains to 1 Cup water) Minerals-liquid minerals, pink himilayan salt, a cleaned egg shell piece (any 1 of those will do)…and only needed if you are using distilled water stripped of minerals. Here I am using just a few drops of Concentrace liquid minerals purchased at my local organic "health food" store.

You will also need a glass jar, coffee filter and ring lid or elastic band for cover and wooden or plastic stir stick.

Water Kefir Ingredients

 

A NOTE ABOUT WATER: If you are using bottled water you absolutely must read the ingredients on the back label. Just because it is called "Spring Water", that does not mean nothing has been added. Natural spring water will have minerals, and may have a slight amount of naturally occurring fluoride. It should not have any chlorine.

Do NOT use ozonated water. Ozone is added to kill bacteria. See here for reference.

Do NOT use alkaline water (kangen water etc). We add lemon or lime to give the water a slight acidic edge. The act of fermentation increases the acidity of the brew. An alkaline environment will encourage an imbalance of bacterial growth and you could end up with some nasty bacterial contamination! 

I use Nestle Pur Life bottled water when I do not have access to my well. 

#2- Mix all ingredients, except water kefir grains, in the glass jar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.

Water Kefir Basic Recipe


#3-Add 3 tablespoons of  Kefir Grains to the jar with the sugar water.

As a general rule of thumb, I estimate about 1 tablespoon of grains per 1 cup of water. 

Add Kefir Grains


#4- Cover jar loosely. Here I am using the mason jar ring with a coffee filter. You can also use a paper towel, or dish towel with an elastic band. The idea is to keep out bugs and stray bacteria from the air while allowing the released carbon dioxide an escape route. 

Cover Jar Loosely

#5- Put it somewhere that doesn't get too hot or cold, and walk away. I usually just set mine in the cupboard above the stove. 

That's it…If you followed instructions you can simply let the grains work their magic.


Kefir Ready To Ferment


A day and a half later… look how much my grains have grown! This is a good sign that the grains like what you are doing. Keep up the good work! 

Kefir Grains Have Grown


#6- Strain the water kefir into a clean jar. Use plastic or wooden utensils.

Strain the water kefir grains


#7- Look at how much I have from just 3 tablespoons. This is just 30 hours later! Remove and discard the used lemon and dried fruit. (hint: you can eat them!) 

Strained Kefir Grains


#8- Take 3 tablespoons of your strained grains and start again! As long as you give your grains a little sugar and a little water every few days (or follow my instructions if you want to take a break from making kefir) you will have healthy grains that will last a lifetime! 

Drink the kefir you have made now, or add some fruit juice or flavoring, cover tightly and ferment for aother day or 2.  

Add Kefir Grains


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Purchase Water Kefir Grains

Making Water Kefir

Water Kefir Grains Delivered Anywhere in Canada and The United States

(and instructions on how to make water kefir below,,,)

If you live in Canada and wish to order water kefir grains, you may choose between regular grains and dehydrated grains. Either option will allow you to brew your own healthful, delicious, probiotic water kefir. The difference is that dehydrated grains take a couple of brews to become fully reconstituted (rehydrated). The regular grains are fully hydrated, and will arrive wet. You must begin brewing your grains as soon as you can after they arrive as they are hungry after the long trip. 

If you can not begin brewing your water kefir immediately when you receive your grains and you ordered hydrated grains, then set them in the refrigerator where they should be safe for another day or two.

I prefer to ship dehydrated grains. They are not going to be affected by swings in temperature that can happen with our Canadian climate. However, if you prefer live grains I will certainly send them to you.

Water Kefir grains grow, and you can use grains from each batch to make the next batch, so you only ever have to buy them once. Properly cared for, they will serve you for life!  

Rehydrated Water Kefir Grains
Rehydrated Water Kefir Grains

Instructions for Making Water Kefir

The following instructions are for wet grains. With only slight modification, dehydrated grains are handled in much the same way.

Making Water Kefir is so easy. In fact, of all the recipes I use in my healthy kitchen, this probiotic drink is by far the easiest! 

First you need to order your Water Kefir grains

While you are waiting for your grains to arrive, make sure you have all of the equipment and ingredients that you need to begin immediately when your grains arrive. The equipment and ingredients I use to make a basic water kefir are as follows:

Equipment:

  • 1 Quart (4 cup) mason jars
  • small plastic mesh strainer
  • coffee filter or paper towels
  • elastic band
  • Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1 tsp Black Strap Molasses (not procesed or fancy!!)
  • 3C water (well water or spring water) I use well water or Nestle Pur Life bottled water. 
  • squirt of minerals (if water is filtered)
  • slice of lemon (peeled if not organic)
  • 1 apricot (unsulphured, organic) can use raisins, figs etc (UNSULPHURED is important. Sulphur from dried fruit will kill your grains.) NOTE: Updated to say I can no longer recommend figs. Too many people have their kefir go unbalanced and syrupy after using figs. I think the preservative must not always be listed on the label- so NO more figs for me!)
  • 3TBSP water kefir grains (approx 1TBSP per C/water)

A NOTE ABOUT WATER: If you are using bottled water you absolutely must read the ingredients on the back label. Just because it is called "Spring Water", that does not mean nothing has been added. Natural spring water will have minerals, and may have a slight amount of naturally occurring fluoride. It should not have any chlorine. 

Do NOT use ozonated water. Ozone is added to kill bacteria. See here for reference.

Do NOT use alkaline water (kangen water etc). We add lemon or lime to give the water a slight acidic edge. The act of fermentation increases the acidity of the brew. An alkaline environment will encourage an imbalance of bacterial growth and you could end up with some nasty bacterial contamination! 

Method:

Add ingredients to mason jar. Cover with coffee filter or paper towel secured by an elastic. Set in cupboard 24-48 hours. (I always let mine go 48 hours) If you see little bubbles rising, it is working. The first one could take a little longer (or you may have to make 2 or 3 batches to get your best kefir water) as the grains will sometimes be a little sluggish from being in the fridge. 

After 24-48 hours (48 hours for me), strain off the liquid to drink as is, OR put the strained liquid into another bottle or jar sealed tight and let ferment another 24 hours or so. You can add juice, ginger, berries etc for the second ferment to create different flavors. Will get slightly fizzy.

Then refrigerate for up to several months, or drink immediately.

Use your strained grains to start the process again.

Please also see Water Kefir Instructions in Pictures using live grains.

Tips:

(NOTE: You can experiment with any kind of white or brown sugars, or juices etc. These are what I prefer. If you do decide to experiment, always have some backup grains in case you need them)

If your grains are dehydrated, the process is the same, but discard the first ferment. May take up to a week to fully hydrate the grains.

Water kefir grains will often double in size each week or so. If yours are not, they may still be making wonderful kefir, but something could be perfected. 

Do not use water that is chlorinated or fluoridated (Britta filter works… or buy spring water) 

Do not use honey in place of sugar. Honey is a natural antibiotic and could damage grains.

The finished product smells slightly yeasty or beery. If it smells like vinegar or otherwise off, your grains need some rehab. Don't drink kefir water that smells rancid or too sour. 

Water Kefir gets very fizzy. A build up of gases could cause botle explosion. If you are going to keep water kefir longer than a few days, store in bottles designed for brewing. Open your bottles over a sink in case the liquid fizzes up and out of the bottle when opening. 

If you ordered live kefir grains and they arrive frozen in the winter, simply allow them to defrost at room temperature, and then follow instructions. 🙂

How Do You Know Kefir Grains Are Working?

First time brewers of water kefir often are worried that their brew is not going to work. During your first, and subsequent brews there are several indications that things are progressing as they should:

  1. Tiny bubbles are rising from the grains and/or gathering next to the glass on top of the liquid- The fermenting process releases carbon dioxide. Some of the grains may float and sink for the same reason. This is a good sign that things are going well. 
  2. The color is lightening- The grains consume the sugars in the brew. If you have used brown sugar and/or molasses the dark color will begin to lighten.
  3. It develops a pleasant yeasty odor- Kefir water smells fresh ands lightly yeasty or beery with some fruity notes. It should never smell rancid or "off" in any way.
  4. It is not as sweet- because the grains are eating the sugar, the brew should begin to taste less sweet and becoming more acidic.
  5. The grains are growing

The following video is NOT mine. It does give a good general overview of how to make water kefir.