Kefir Facts FAQ

I Have A Question About Kefir….Kefir Questions and Answers

Whether you are new to kefir, or an old hand, questions are bound to come up from time to time. Here are some frequently asked questions about kefir making. Click the linked question to go directly to that answer, or read through the whole page. If your question is not answered here, please take time to ask in the comment section. This way everyone can learn!

General Kefir Grains Questions:

Water Kefir Questions:

Milk Kefir Questions:

General Kefir Grains Questions:

  • What The Heck Is Kefir?- Kefir is a probiotic rich drink made by introducing a culture of "kefir grains" to milk (usually dairy) or water and sugar. Making kefir is simple and costs literally pennies a glass. The result is quite possibly the most healthy super food I have in my wellness arsenal. Follow these links to read more…

  • Can I Make Kefir Without Grains?– First of all, some people think kefir grains are made from grains like wheat. They are not. The "grains" terminology is simply a name for the firm gelatin-like cultures that make kefir. So the facts are, while kefir is not made with grain, you want to know wether you can make your own kefir grains at home without buying them.Most people say "no", but it has been done.In 1990 researchers made kefir grains for the first time and documented their method in a scientific paper. It was not easy, and it was made using goat hide bad and bacteria from sheep intestines. These are things that are not readily available in Canada. I did a post about the procedure. Read How To Make Kefir Grains
    So for most people, buying the culture, or buying kefir grains are the only ways to make kefir at home. The great news is if you buy kefir grains they will last a lifetime.
  • What's Better… Kefir Grains or Powdered Kefir Starter?– Powdered kefir starters have a limited number of bacteria, as they are developed to be standardized and consistent every time. They also lose their potency with subsequent brews so you need a new packet of starter every 3-6 batches. Kefir grains are inexpensive (usually about $5 a tablespoon) and you only need to buy them once in a lifetime. Once you start brewing your grains they grow and get stronger. Live kefir grains also provide a wide range of bacteria and yeast similar to what would be found in your intestine. Since the idea is to create a healthy microbiota in your body, kefir grains are superior.
  • Can I make my own kefir grains?– Kefir grains can not be made. Real kefir grains are passed from one owner as their supply grows into more than they can use themselves. Kefir grains are a very precise community of bacteria and yeast that exist together without one overpowering the other. I suspect "in nature" that the formation of milk kefir grains is a relationship that develops occasionally in raw milk and prevents it from going bad. In most parts of the developed world, milk is pasteurized (in Canada i is illegal to sell raw milk), so the formation of grains just would not happen. Even when people can get raw milk, I suspect one would spoil an awful lot of milk before the proper mix of bacteria and yeast. I suspect something similar if trying to culture sugar and water. Rather than causing people to get sick trying sour beverages, or trashing a lot of milk and/or sugar, it is best to just spend a little bit of money and get the culture. After all, when buying kefir crystals, it is a one time purchase that lasts a lifetime! also  Read How To Make Kefir Grains
  • Is My Kefir Ready?- This question is not easily answered in a few sentences. Please see How Do I Know If My Kefir Is Ready for answers.
  • How Much Kefir Should I drink?– Kefir is a food with benefits (not a drug), but some people still have an adjustment period. If your digestion tends to be finicky, start with 1/4 cup after a meal once every day, and listen to your body. If you tolerate this fine, then increase the amount, eventually moving it to BEFORE meals, as the good bacteria will aid in digesting your food. I personally drink up to 4 cups a day. There's no real limit. Just drink it when you want.
  • How Long Does Kefir Keep?– The kefir grains will keep indefinitely as long as you follow the instructions for storage. Once kefir is made, it will keep for a very long time. Remember that fermentation was a way of keeping foods safe to consume before refrigeration. I keep mine a month or more. Use your own judgement, and trust your nose and taste buds. Bad kefir smells bad and tastes bad. You will know. 
  • Where can I buy kefir grains?– It is particularly difficult to find them in Canada I have found. I ordered mine from someone in the States when I got them, and worried about extra duties and getting stopped at the border. We now sell kefir grains- we ship anywhere in Canada or US. Our kefir grains are packed to withstand the Canadian winter too! 
  • Does Kefir Cure Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Like Crohn's or IBS?– Kefir does not cure inflammatory bowel disease. It could help though. Read my article – Kefir and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Water Kefir Questions:

  • What are some other names for Water Kefir?- Tibicos, tibi,& water kefir grains, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees, and in older literature asbébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees. source: Wikipedia
  • What is Water Kefir?– Water kefir is a probiotic rich beverage made with water, sugar, bacteria and flavoring.
  • What Is The Difference Between milk Kefir and Water Kefir?– Aside from the obvious, they are pretty similar. Even though you need milk kefir grains to culture milk, and water kefir grains to culture sugar water, the resultant beverage has a similar probiotic mix. They both have many strains of bacteria and yeast that exist in a perfect balance.
  • Can I Use Milk Kefir Grains to Make Water Kefir?– No. While you may find on the internet that some people claim to ferment all kinds of things with milk kefir grains or tibicos grains, the bottom line is … these probiotic culture starters have evolved to eat a specific kind of sugar and to survive in a specific kind of medium. Milk kefir grains thrive on lactose and other components of milk. While you may get a probiotic beverage once or twice, eventually it will be evident that the bacteria and yeast are out of balance. The grains will stop growing, perhaps even die, and the beverage will show signs of being off.
  • How Do You Make Water Kefir?– I have easy instructions for making water kefir right on this site. Click the link or use the menu at the top of the page or on the right hand side to find the instructions.
  • What Is Water Kefir Supposed To Taste Like?- Water Kefir taste depends somewhat on the type of sugar used and whether you use molasses or not. It also depends on the amount of time you let it ferment. In my Basic Water Kefir Recipe I do use molasses and I usually let mine ferment for 48 hours and then drink it with no added flavor. Made this way it is sweet. It has a bit of a "fermented" taste to it. It is lightly fizzy but not as carbonated as pop (or soda depending on where you live). It taste to me like a slightly fruity, slightly fermented, slightly fizzy drink. It reminds me of dried fruit like apricots or raisins. It smells slightly sweet, and slightly fermented (like a very light beer smell) If you have ever had REAL apple cider (not the pasteurized stuff from the super market) then you will find it is similar. I think it is absolutely delicious just the way it is but some people like to flavor it. After you strain the grains, you can add a tsp of vanilla or more and it taste like cream soda. Add ginger slices and let it ferment another day and you have ginger beer. Add strawberries or pineapple and some ice and… well you get the picture!
  • What Does Water Kefir Look Like?- It looks like iced tea if you make it with brown sugar and/or molasses which is how I make water kefir. The grains are anywhere between white/clear and brown or yellow/clear depending on what color sugar you use. Browse around this site. There are lots and lots of pictures of kefir in various stages of the fermenting process.
  • What Is The Alcohol Content Of Water Kefir?- This totally depends on how long you let it ferment, what kind of sugar you use etc. Alcoholic fermentation is the conversion of sugar into carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and ethyl alcohol through the work of yeasts found on the food itself and within the culturing agent (kefir grains, kombucha culture, whey, ginger bug, etc.) It is safe to say that the alcohol content of a 24-48 hour ferment is 0.5%- 2.0% according to authority sites. If you add fruit juice for a secondary ferment you can increase the alcohol content to something quite highly alcoholic, especially if done under air lock. Water kefir and milk kefir both often smell a little like beer. It is partly because of the fermentation which adds alcohol content, and it is partly because of the yeast (kefir probiotics are made of yeast and bacteria)
  • Does Water Kefir Have The Same Benefits As Milk Kefir?– Yes… with the exception that milk kefir has some benefits imparted to it by the milk itself… protein, calcium etc. Tibicos bacteria tend to be less in number than in home made milk kefir so it can be tolerated better in people who are sensitive. So as far as probiotics go, water kefir is just as beneficial and may be tolerated better by some people. I have a Kefir Benefits page on this site with references to Studies and Clinical Trials. Click "Benefits" in the menu above for more facts.
  • How much Water Kefir Should I Drink?- This is another "It Depends" kind of question. Some people can drink as much as they want and not have any problems. Some people have side effects or "die off" and need to drink a little bit each day until their body gets used to it. In traditional diets, people used to eat or drink fermented foods and beverages every time they ate. Since we have gotten away from the practice, your internal works may experience some issues. So take it slow in the beginning. Start with a small amount… maybe 1/4 cup the first day and slowly increase as tolerated. Whatever you do, don't stop drinking it once you start. Your body will thank you.
  • What Are The Side Effects of Water Kefir?- Kefir is not a drug, so I really dislike the term "side effects" applied to it. Sometimes when you start adding back the good bacteria you can have a "war" of sorts in your belly. This struggle happens as the good bacteria fight to get the upper hand and the bad bacteria start to die off. The most common complaints are flatulence (gas), and be warned… it can get pretty smelly. Constipation and belly pain or discomfort, and heartburn are common complaints. I can not stress enough that you must persist! What's a little gas in the short term for all of the long term benefits of a healthy gut?
  • How Do I Know The Water Kefir Grains Are Working?- As a new kefir maker, you often are unsure whether your brew is behaving normally or not. Visit the Water Kefir Instructions Page to find out what signs to look for so you know what is normal.
  • Should Water Kefir Grains Float?- In a healthy kefir brew, some of the grains will float to the top, or rise and sink. This is quite normal and in fact it one of the signs of a healthy kefir. You see, the crystals let off gases like CO2 during the fermentation process. Occasionally some of the gas gets trapped in the kefir grain as it is growing, and this causes it to float.
  • Why Do You Add A Lemon To Water Kefir?– Sugar and water is THE perfect environment for bacteria and fungii to grow. A slightly acidic environment suppresses the activity of the 'bad' stuff. Lactic Acid bacteria produce acidity in the beverage, but needs a bit of time to establish itself. The citrus piece is a very important step as it adds a little bit of acidity to keep the bad bugs suppressed until the probiotic bacteria get established. 
  • Can I Eat The Solid Bits?- Yes absolutely. They often multiply fast, and it is not unusual to have lots of extras. Blend them into smoothies or just sprinkle them on your cereal in the morning.
  • Is Water Kefir Good For Diabetics?- You need to use your own judgement on this but I say YES! Here is why… Even though you put 1/4 C of sugar in 3 cups of water, by the time you drink it 48 hours later, the grains have devoured somewhere around 80% of the sugar. Since there is about 55 grams of sugar in 1/4 cup that means that there is only about 3 grams of sugar in a cup left after a 48 hour ferment. There is 10 grams of sugar in a cup of apple juice. Adding to that, probiotic use in diabetics has been shown to improve lipid profile (cholesterol) and help manage blood sugar. Here is just ONE of the many many studies done on this … Antidiabetic effect of probiotic dahi containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei in high fructose fed rats.
  • What To Do With Extra Water Kefir Grains?- Healthy tibicos multiply. In fact, when my grains are really happy they will double or even triple in 24-48 hours! That's a lot of culture! Eat them as mentioned above. Add them to smoothies or shakes. Feed them to your pets. They are also a great soil amendment and are wonderful in the compost pile.
  • Can I Freeze Water Kefir Grains?- Yes absolutely. Freezing cultures for short periods of time usually won't kill the cultures. In fact, sometimes when shipping cultures in Canada they freeze while in transport. If your live water kefir grains arrive frozen, simply allow them to defrost at room temperature, and proceed making your first recipe. For storing purposes, water kefir grains do better if they are dehydrated, but freezing for a couple of months at a time is an option. Remove them from the sugar solution, rinse them gently and pat dry with a paper towel. Then put into a ziplock freezer bag and cover them with sugar to help protect against freezer burn, and pop into the freezer.
  • Can Water Kefir Crystals Go Bad?– There are a number of things that can cause water kefir grains to go bad. Chemicals in the water, not enough sugar, or cross contamination from other bacteria are just a few examples of what could cause bad grains. For information on how to fix bad water kefir grains visit "Good Grains Gone Bad".
  • Can Kefir Grains Die?- Yes they can (after all they are made up of live bacteria and yeast), but sometimes you might think they are dead but they are only sick! They are pretty resilient little guys. If your grains have a white film, a really stinky smell, and are doing nothing in the sugar water, then they may be dead, but they may just need some TLC. Follow the link above and visit the Good Grains Gone Bad post and see if you can revive them by following the instructions found there.

Milk Kefir Questions:

  • Why Does My Kefir Curdle or Clot Before It Thickens?– It is the kefiran that gives your kefir a thicker consistency. You can encourage the production of kefiran and healthy milk kefir grains by keeping your kefir in an area close to 25 degrees celsius, by stirring it often, by using higher fat milk, and by using milks that have lactose as the main sugar. This is such a universal question that I answered it more in depth in a post. Read more about making thicker kefir.
  • My Kefir Is Fizzy (or tingly) On My Tongue. Is It Bad?– Both Milk Kefir and Water Kefir have an effervescent quality. They get fizzy, just like pop (soda). In fact, if you cover it nice and tight for a second ferment, it can get so fizzy that a pressure build up can pop a top! Milk Kefir that you buy in the store is often like drinkable yogurt with no fizz, but that is because they use inhibitors to stop that action. Otherwise they would be blowing tops all over the place! This is another reason why I love home made kefir.
  • Can Kefir Grains or Kefir Milk Be Frozen?– Both kefir grains and traditional milk kefir made from heirloom grains can be frozen, and still maintain biological action with no diminished bacterial count. read more on the post "Can I Freeze Kefir Grains?"
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order kefir grains

How To Grow Water Kefir Grains

Kefir Grains Have GrownCan I Grow Water Kefir Grains From Scratch?

Tibicos, or sugary water grains, can not be grown from scratch. They are made up of a group of bacteria and yeast that exist together, without one overwhelming the other. These bacteria form a polysaccharide (complex sugar) that make the actual crystal. You have to actually get the culture (grains) from someone else who has them. 

The true origin of water kefir grains is not known. There is a certain cactus in Mexico where hard bits form on the leaves, and folk lore has it that these bits will form into kefir grains, but for some reason this isn't a known fact. Mostly you will just find speculation about where these little guys came from. 

You can order water kefir grains from us if you live in Canada or the United States. Once you have the grains, if you follow the basic water kefir recipe the grains you have will start to grow. Before you know it you will have more water kefir crystals than you know what to do with!

 What If My Water Kefir Grains Are Not Growing?

Occasionally you will get a batch of grains that don't grow. This does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the kefir you are making. If the brew smells and tastes fine, go ahead and drink it. Kefir grains do like specific conditions in order to really thrive and be happy. 

Steps to Growing Water Kefir Grains:

The first step is to follow the instructions for making water kefir. This is the recipe I have found my particular strain of water kefir grains like the very best. My crystals double in size every 48 hours, so does it not make sense to follow a recipe that is proven to work? You would be surprised how many people claim they are following the recipe, but when I talk to them it turns out they reduced the sugar because they thought it would be healthier, or left out the piece of lemon because they "did not want to have fruit" in their drink. Seriously, 995 of failed kefir is recipe related! 

Kefir grains like moderate temperatures, sugar to eat, the proper acidity, water, and minerals. (follow the recipe!!) <:- ) 

Avoid heat. Kefir grains are made of bacteria and yeast, and bacteria and yeast are killed or damaged by heat. So make sure that boiled water is cooled to room temperature before using. You may not think that a short exposure will kill anything. You have proobably heard that you have to boil something for several minutes to sterilize something. This is true, however you do not need to kill all the bacteria to ruin a batch of kefir. Just slowing down a few of the strains with water that is too hot can disturb the balance, allowing one bacteria to overtake the culture. 

Cross contamination can be another issue. If you culture more than one food, i.e. sour dough starter and water kefir, make sure they are separated by a couple of feet distance, and use different utensils. 

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Follow these simple tips and you will be well on your way to growing healthy kefir grains. 

What Are Kefir Grains?

Kefir Grains- What Are They? (and what I love about them!)

Kefir grains are officially a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast)… fancy words huh? Basically that just means that it is a group of bacteria and yeast that live happily ever after, in harmony and balance, and they make my favorite healthy drink!

Kefir grains

Milk Kefir Grains- No one has ever been able to make kefir grains in modern times at home. In ancient times there are stories of sheep stomach sacs filled with milk hanging next to a door, and everyone who came through the door would give it a knock thereby stirring the contents. From this sac would come a fermented beverage known by many names (including kefir of course) and along the lining of the sac would form harder clumps which could then be used to make kefir. 

Some scientist in Iran made kefir grains and in documented history, this is the first time we know of that someone set out to make kefir grains and succeeded. I wrote about that here… How To Make Kefir Grains At Home

Water Kefir Grains- According to a Wikipedia article water kefir grains are found in many different cultures around the world, with no 2 being exactly the same. As with milk kefir grains, the exact origin is not known, although current theory points to Mexico as being the country of origin. A scientific paper written in 1889 talks about "Tibi", which is another word for water kefir grains, growing as hard grains on the leaves of a certain cactus plant and being able to ferment sugar water. Like the milk kefir grains, no scientist has ever been able to make the water kefir grains without first having the grains themselves.

I do love kefir grains. They are living things. In my home they have become as important as my pets in my life. I feed them, and keep them clean and warm, provide an environment in which they can thrive, and in return they provide me with a drink that has so many health benefits that I feel as if my very life depends on them. 

 

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Dehydrated Grains- Bringing Them To Life In Pictures

Instructions for Brewing Kefir With Dehydrated Grains

I have seen people say that dehydrated grains are harder to keep alive, or harder to “wake up”. If that is the case, then they most likely were not dehydrated properly. In order to preserve the qualities of the bacteria and yeast, and have them go dormant with out killing them off, they should be dehydrated in a dehydrator with no heat. It’s not that hard to do, but still it needs to be done this way.

If your water kefir grains are properly dehydrated, and you follow the easy instructions for rehydrating them and brewing your first batch of kefir, you will have live active, happy, water kefir grains in as little as 3-4 days.

1 Tablespoon of Dehydrated Grains

Instructions for Rehydrating Dehydrated Water Kefir Grains- 

If you have ordered dehydrated water kefir grains, they will arrive packaged in a ziplock bag and shipped in a padded envelope for a safe journey. When they arrive, if you can not make your kefir immediately, place them in the refrigerator. They should be safe there for several months (up to a year or more). 

#1- Gather your ingredients. 1/4 C of your sugar of choice. Here I have organic brown sugar. Lemon or lime slice. Peeled if it isn’t organic Unsulphured dried fruit. 3 Cups 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! 


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

Water Kefir Basic Recipe


#3- Add 1 Tablespoon of dehydrated water kefir grains.

Dehydrated Water Kefir Grains- 1 Tablespoon


#4- Cover the jar loosely with a coffee filter, paper towel etc and secure it with an open mason jar ring, or an elastic. This allows gases to escape while keeping out flies and other unwanteds. 

Dehydrated Water Kefir Crystals Rehydration Process

That is all there is to it! Now just put it in a safe place (I use the cupboard over my stove) and wait for the magic to start)


Here is what it looks like 16 hours later. The grains are not just swelling. They are also growing as they begin to eat the sugars. After a long hibernation, your grains are hungry.

 

Dehydrated Kefir Grains Rehydration Day 1


Day #2- The grains have now been in their sugar water for nearly 48 hours. Notice there are a couple of grains starting to dance in the jar. This could start happening at any time in the first 4 days, and is a good sign. It means that the grains are beginning the fermentation process, and creating gases that cause the water kefir grains to float. 

At this point, change the sugar water, and some people will tell you to just leave it alone. Especially if it is warm in your kitchen. I used to recommend leaving it for a few more days but someone reported mold after 5 days, and that’s not good. (revised September 17, 2015)

Day 2 Dehydrated Kefir Grains


Day #3- The grains are a little bigger now and the sugar solution is beginning to lighten. 

Day3 Dehydrated Kefir Grains


Day #4- Your dehydrated grains are fully hydrated now and probably have started to grow in a noticable way. The sugar water solution is quite a bit lighter than when you started. You may also notice tiny bubbles at the top of the liquid, and floating up from the grains on the bottom. You are starting to notice a “beery” fermented kind of smell. 

Day4 Dehydrated Kefir Grains


#5- It is now time to strain the kefir grains and start with your first ferment. Using a non-metal strainer, strain the sugar solution off of the grains. Discard the lemon or lime, and the dried fruit. 

Strain the water kefir grainsYou can discard the liquid, or drink it. At this point it will have started to ferment, but it won’t be a fully fermented water kefir beverage. It will be more like a sugar/water solution with some probiotics in it. Still good for you if you don’t want to waste it! 

Re-hydrated Water Kefir Grains

Now that your dehydrated kefir crystals are fully hydrated, you are now ready to create your first brew of water kefir. It’s time to go over to the water kefir brewing instructions

Here you can purchase dehydrated water kefir grains

Taking a Break- A Kefir Vacation

A Water Kefir Vacation

Storing Kefir Grains When On VacationSometimes looking after your kefir grains can seem a little like having a pet! They need to be fed and watered, and kept in a warm place. What happens when you want to take a break from making kefir? Do you have to get a babysitter? Thankfully, the answer is no.  There are several ways that you can keep your grains safe and store them for a week, a month, or even up to a year! 

Scenario #1– You are going away for a week or so, and want to make sure your grains stay healthy until you can get back to your routine. It is really easy to store your grains for a short break. Simply mix 3 tablespoons of sugar with a cup of water in a glass jar with your grains. Put the cover on the jar and place it in the refrigerator. That's all there is to it!

Your grains will ferment and grow much more slowly in the refrigerator and they have enough food for a week. In fact, they will likely be fine for a month or two like this.  When you return home, and are ready to start making water kefir again, simply dig out your old recipe and carry on. The first batch may not be up to standard but it will not take long until they are up to speed. 

Scenario #2– You are really excited about being a Canadian snowbird this winter! From the first of January until the end of March you plan to be laying on the white sandy beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast. How can you keep your kefir grains healthy if they won't be fed for 3 months? Is storing kefir grains for longer than a week very difficult?

There is an easy solution here too! Freeze them! Your water kefir grains will last for a short time- 3-6 months at a time, in the freezer. Take 3 tablespoons of water kefir grains and put them in a ziplock bag. Then put the closed bag in a container and place in the freezer. When you want to start making kefir water again, simply take them from the freezer and allow them to defrost at room temperature. Then make kefir as usual. As above, it may take a batch or two to get your usual batch of kefir because they have been dormant for a bit.

Scenario #3– You are tired of kefir and don't know when you may want to make it again, but you want to keep some water kefir grains in case you want to start up again at a later date. In situations where you do not know how long it will be until you make kefir again, the best thing to do is to dehydrate some grains. You will need a dehydrator so if you don't have one, perhaps you could borrow one from a friend. Place some grains in a single layer in your dehydrator, set the temperature at the lowest setting (if it has a temperature guage) and leave until the grains are completely dry. Then place in a clean dry jar, cover the jar tightly and put it in the fridge.

The grains can keep up to a year like this.  So there you have it. If you need to take a vacation from water kefir making there are several ways to ensure you have healthy grains to continue getting good quality probiotics.  At this moment I have grains in the refrigerator in sugar water, grains dehydrated in a jar AND grains in the freezer. I want to make sure I have some back up in case anything happens to the batch I am currently brewing with.   

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


Purchase Water Kefir Grains

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.

Tips- Water Kefir Making

Tips and Troubleshooting:Tips for kefir making

  • If your grains are dehydrated, the process is the same, but discard the first ferment. It 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 workswell … or buy spring water) 
  • Use only unsulphured dried fruit such as apricots or raisins. Sulphur is added as a preservative and will kill your grains.
  • Never add anything to your grains that is used to preserve food, or kill bacteria. This means avoid preservatives of any kind. 
  • 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 bottle 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. 🙂
  • It is not necessary to use organic sugar or fruit in order to make kefir. I use organic ingredients because I prefer to limit chemicals in my foods. 
  • If you are using distilled water, or are boiling your water and letting it cool before use, you may need to add a few drops of minerals, or add a piece of egg shell. I use Concentrace Liquid minerals. If you do add minerals, a few drops will do. Too many minerals is just as bad as not enough. 

See Also: Good Grains Gone Bad for some more tips and specific issues you might encounter when making water kefir. 

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.