Good Grains Gone Bad

Has Your Water Kefir Gone Bad?

Sometimes kefir grains go bad. They can become slimy, or the water kefir becomes thick and syrupy, the grains develop a white film, or they start to smell bad. Don't throw out your grains just yet! You can often bring them back to health again with a little trouble shooting and some TLC.

First, no matter what the problem may be, you need to check all the ingredients you are using.

  • Is your water fresh with no added chemicals? (no added chlorine or flouride)- SolutionUse bottled water, or boil water for 10 minutes and then let cool before using to remove chlorine. Fluoride can not be removed this way. You need to use bottled water if your municipality adds fluoride. Even bottled water that is labeled "spring water" can have bad additives like chlorine, sulphites, and other unwanted ingredients. Read labels!
  • Are your ingredients free of preservatives?- SolutionThe one that often seems to get by unnoticed is sulphur added to dried fruit. Ths is a preservative. Choose unsulphured dried fruit such as raisins or apricots. Honey can casue a problem too because it has anti-microbial properties.Preservatives in water kefir make for bad grains!
  • Are you using reactive metal utensils? Solution Make sure you are using a glass jar (not plastic) and plastic or wooden utensils. Stainless steel is ok, but I avoid metals just to be on the safe side.
  • Do you have cross contamination? Solution Don't culture different fermented foods or beverages in the same cupboard. Bacteria and yeast can become airborne and cross contaminate. This means if you have milk kefir and water kefir they should be placed in different cupboards.

If any of the above are present, and your kefir seems bad or off somehow, correct the issue, rinse your grains gently in fresh, cool water, and try making a fresh batch of water kefir. If after a few days the problem persists, then you need to take further action.

  1. Drain the grains and rinse them gently in cool fresh water.
  2. Add them to a clean glass jar
  3. Mix a sugar solution of 3 or 4 tablespoons of sugar with 2 cups of cool fresh water and add to grains.
  4. Place jar in refrigerator for 3-4 days to allow the grains to rest. Rinse the grains and change the sugar water solution daily and discard.
  5. On day 4 or 5 use the water kefir recipe  to make a fesh batch of kefir. It may take sevearl days, up to a week, to get a fresh balance batch of water kefir after rehabilitating the grains. When the grains are refrigerated, frozen or dehydrated, they go into a state of partial or full dormancy, so it may take a few batches to bring them back to health again.

Grains can be more sluggish in the winter. Try moving your culture to an inside cupboard. Cupboards along an outside wall may be quite cool and causing slower fermentation and growth of your water kefir grains.


If you see little air bubbles in your culture, and it smells lightly yeast or 'beery', be patient. These are good signs that your rehabilitation is working.