How to Make Water Kefir

Written by Stacy K, Contributing Writer

What is water kefir?

Water kefir is a lacto-fermented beverage made with water kefir grains and sugar water. It is easy (and relatively quick) to make, and provides an abundance of probiotics to improve digestive health.

Water kefir grains are not grains at all, but rather “bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship” (as noted by Julie of Cultures for Health.) The term grains really just describes their appearance.

Because the grains feed on sugar, the resulting beverage is not overly sweet.

Water kefir is often bubbly and has a reputation for being a natural alternative to soda pop.

Is water kefir different from dairy kefir?

Yes. Water kefir grains and dairy kefir grains are two different things. Dairy kefir grains are whitish in appearance and generally clump together, they feed on lactose and grow well in milk.

Water kefir grains do not clump together, and are clear and translucent. They often take on the color of the beverage or type of sugar used in the culturing process. For example, my kefir grains have a browinsh tint due to the fact that I use sucanat in my sugar water mix.

It is possible to convert dairy kefir grains to make water kefir, but it is my understanding that they will not last as long as true water kefir grains, which will multiply indefinitely.

Where do I find water kefir grains?

If you have a friend who makes water kefir on a regular basis, chances are they will have extra grains at some point. Mine were almost doubling with each batch!

There are a number of places online to purchase water kefir grains. I bought mine from Cultures for Health and have been extremely happy with them (like I said, they were doubling with each batch. They are very healthy grains)! The Kefir Lady sells both fresh and dried kefir grains (I have not purchased from her myself as yet).

While it is possible to buy fresh grains, my preference is to get dehydrated ones (unless I were to get them from a local friend). The reason for this is that life is often hectic and fresh grains need to be dealt with immediately, while dried ones can wait until you are ready. It would be disappointing to spend money on grains only to lose them due to unforeseen circumstances surrounding their arrival in the mail!

How to rehydrate water kefir grains

When purchasing dehydrated kefir grains, they will look like this:

Most grains come with instructions for rehydration, which generally involves soaking the grains in a sugar water mixture for a few days. The grains I purchased from Cultures for Health required 3 to 4 days of soaking.

To make the sugar water mixture for rehydrating dissolve 4 to 6 tablespoons of sugar in 4 cups of water and let cool to room temperature. Pour into a glass jar and add the dehydrated grains. Cover with a  tea towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Let sit until grains are plump (no longer than 5 days).

Once the grains are rehydrated, they should look like this (if you use white sugar they will have a lighter color):

During the rehydration process, 2 tablespoons of dried grains plumps up to approximately 1/3 cup!

Once this process is complete you are ready to make water kefir!

How to make water kefir

Making water kefir is not an exact science.

The general idea is to dissolve sugar in water and allow the grains to ferment in this mixture for one to three days. Once fermented, remove grains and drink kefir as is, or add flavoring (in the form of fruit of juice) and allow to ferment for another day. It is during this second ferment that kefir often becomes very bubbly (but not always).

The amount of sugar, type of sugar, length of fermentation, and type of flavoring can all vary.

Here is a step-by-step of how I usually prepare water kefir:

:: In a pot, on the stove top, dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water*. Allow to cool a little then add 3 cups of water. Pour this mixture into a 1/2 gallon mason jar and add another 1 1/2 to cups of water (so the jar is filled close to the shoulder or 6 cup mark).

:: If the water is room temperature, add 1/3 cup of water kefir grains.

(Some people choose to contain the grains is a muslin tea bag, which makes removing them from the jar easy. However, I found the grains did much better when allowed to float freely.)

:: Add 4 drops of liquid minerals.
(This step is optional, but highly recommended. Water kefir grains thrive on minerals and I notice a difference when I don’t add them.)

:: Cover with a tea towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.

:: Leave in a warm place to culture for 24 to 72 hours. The longer you leave it, the less sweet it will be (the grains eat the sugar!).

:: Taste the water kefir each day to see if the it has reached your desired level of sweetness. Once it has, strain out the grains by placing a plastic strainer over another mason jar and pouring the kefir through it:

Be sure to use a plastic strainer as metal is reactive and not recommended for use with kefir grains.

Store the grains in a sugar water mix in the fridge or use them to begin a new batch of water kefir.

Once the grains have been removed, I like to do a second fermentation.

The second fermentation is a great time to add fruit (fresh or dried) or fruit juice for extra flavor. I often add a cup or so of grape or cranberry juice. (I’ll give some other options below.)

Instead of using a towel or coffee filter to cover the top, place plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar and then the lid. This will keep out the air and allow bubbles to form.

Leave the water kefir covered for another 24 to 72 hours. Then strain out any fruit pieces and pour into a clean container or bottle.

Store in the fridge.

Variations

I have used the same basic method to make a larger amount of water kefir. In fact, I use the same amount of kefir grains, 1/3 cup, but dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in 2 cups of water, then pour into a gallon size jar and fill to the shoulder with water. (I learned this from a post at GNOWFGLINS.)

It is possible to place the kefir grains directly in juice or sugar water containing dried or fresh fruit. If you have extra grains, then I would suggest experimenting with these methods, but when just starting out I highly recommend keeping the grains in sugar water only. This way they will not be compromised before you have any extra stored away.

To make fruit juice water kefir: Place 3 Tablespoons of kefir grains in 1 to 2 quarts of juice (preferably organic). Cover as directed for the first fermentation and allow to sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain and enjoy!

Cream soda: Add 3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract to 2 quarts of water kefir after straining.  Increase (or decrease) amount of vanilla to your taste.

Jenny of Nourished Kitchen has a lovely recipe for Lemon Ginger Kefir.

Add raisins, dried figs, or whatever takes your fancy!

How to store kefir grains

If you need to take a break from making water kefir, the grains may be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks in a sugar water mixture. Dissolve a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in a 1/2 cup of water. Cool.  Add grains and sugar water to a clean, airtight container. Keep refrigerated.

What type of sugar should I use?

I use sucanat because it is less processed than other sugars and still contains minerals, which the kefir grains love! If the sucanat flavor is too strong for your taste, try using organic sugar, or half organic sugar and half sucanat.

*A note about water

Since kefir grains love minerals, it is important to use water with a high mineral content.  Spring or well water are the best options.

If it is necessary to use tap water, remove the chlorine by boiling the it first.

Have you tried water kefir before? What is your favorite flavor combination?

This post is sponsored by My Job Chart, a FREE online, customizable job chart that is revolutionizing the way parents run their homes, and teaches kids to work hard and learn responsibility.

About Stacy Karen

Stacy, a homeschooling Mom of three, enjoys healthy, natural living and is a make-it-from-scratch maniac. She strives to encourage women to find peace and joy at home through her blog, A Delightful Home, where she shares tips and tricks for creating a happy home (and life) with God at its center.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. I’ve made milk kefir before and I love it! I made my first batch of water kefir last week and just took the grains out after 3 days. I have a Candida yeast infection so I can’t have sugar. My kefir is still very sweet so I’m afraid to drink very much of it. How much sugar is left after fermentation and how do I know when it’s done? I’ve never had water kefir so I have no idea what it’s supposed to taste like.

  2. marie mccafferty says:

    how long will this last in refreg for drinking…

  3. Samantha Berg says:

    Any suggestions on how to keep the kefir from producing so much alcohol? I feel like mine is a little too alcoholic.

    Thanks!
    -Sam

    • @Samantha Berg, It might just be that you are fermenting it a bit too long. Each kitchen (or wherever you ferment) is a bit different and yours may be just too warm and is fermenting it more than you prefer. I would try putting it in the fridge sooner, maybe 6 hours sooner? Just experiment.

      • Samantha Berg says:

        @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, Thank you! I will give that a try.

      • Hmmm… Some of my batched will defiantly give me a buzz. Thats fine while I’m at home, not the best to consume at work. Mine taste great when they are on the counter. When I get the flavor I want and I don’t drink it all that night I’ll place any extra in the Fridge. the next morning, wow, its much more like hard cider. Not at all the same as it was the night before.

        I’ve heard that you should Rinse the grains to keep the excess yeast buildup tp a minimum and that would help with the alcohol content. Then I came across another website that says not to rinse…

        I’m at a loss… )-:

        • Maybe only rinse with the proper water, like the water you’d use to make the kefir. I accidentally rinsed my grains with tap water. OOPS! But I was trying to stop them from smelling too much like yeast. Someone over at Cultures for Health reccommended rinsing them when that happens.

  4. Great photos, great step-by-step. I’m going to link to this. Thank you. :)

  5. a friend just gave me some of her kefir grains today and i am making my own for the very first time tonight! eek! i am excited and nervous. not sure if i will like it, but so excited to try it out. thanks for the great step by step process.

    i heard i can add some of this into a smoothie to hide it from my kids. how does that turn out? any reviews or proportions recommended? any certain smoothie ingredients NOT to mix it with? thanks for the help!

  6. I really, really want to do this but it sounds like such an overwhelming process. I can buy water kefir at my whole foods store, but it is very pricey and I know I should make my own. I wish you lived next door! :-)

    • @Musings of a Housewife, Have you made kombucha yet? The process isn’t much harder. The first couple times, it requires a bit of extra energy because it’s a new thing, but then it quickly becomes a simple task.

      I had no idea you could buy water kefir. I don’t know of anywhere in Canada to get it!

      You probably mean that you wish Stacy (who wrote this) lived next door… but I wish that many of us real foodies live near one another and we could work through these learning processes together. It would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? :)

    • @Musings of a Housewife, I thought it sounded overwhelming at first too but I needed another purchase so I could qualify for Amazon free shipping and Cultures for Health has such excellent reviews so I just jumped right in. Not sure if they can ship to Canada, but it’s worth checking out. I received mine very quickly and they doubled with the first batch. So far I’ve only tried the lemon/ginger kind, but I love it. It’s much easier than it sounds!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I read this post (me first, then him) and decided to try it! We have friends that make milk kefir and want to try our water grains… how much is a good amount to get someone started? And how much should we always keep on hand?

  8. Thank you for the great post!!! I finally had success after adding the liquid minerals! I made blueberry kefir during the second ferment. It’s very good! I’ve got another batch going now. Adding a pinch of baking soda to the second ferment makes it extra bubbly(:

  9. Is water kefir safe for children to drink? Doesn’t this process produce alcohol? Bacteria eating sugar creates alcohol, right? I would love to make this for my teenage son and younger daughters as an alternative to soda, but if there is alcohol in it I am not sure I feel responsible giving this drink to my children. Comments, please, as I am new to water kefir.

  10. I have been interested in making water kefir but am concerned about the final sugar content. We don’t drink pop or juice and generally avoid refined sugar (I know I can’t use honey in water kefir). Does anyone know how much sugar remains per serving or as compared to plain old juice (no sugar added)?

    • Hi Kika,

      While I’m not sure on the sugar content, I would guess it would depend very heavily on original recipe composition, fermentation rate, and brew time. So, it is unlikely anyone could give you an excellent answer on that without having specifics such as those.

      However, this article: http://winemakermag.com/stories/techniques/article/indices/35-techniques/501-measuring-residual-sugar-techniques may provide you with information that would be useful in evaluating your brew as it goes, to get the final composition you want. Just note that the brew will eventually turn to a vinegar if you let all of the sugar get used up.

      As a note, you can use honey for the kefir, but honeys that have antibacterial effect will eventually kill off the kefir. So, if you really prefer honey, you could ostensibly brew with it while reserving some grains and storing them in standard sugar water. Personally, I’ve been using a mix of white sugar and unsulphured blackstrap molasses.

      Regards

  11. I made water kefir a few years ago, but didn’t realize you could make fruit varieties. I only made citrus (lemon and lime) and though I enjoyed that, it got old after a while. I think my family would enjoy the fruit flavors better. I’ll have to give it another try.

  12. I bought some dehydrated water kefir grains (along with a plastic strainer) off of Etsy. They are sitting on my counter at the moment. Hoping to start a batch on Sunday. Excited to try some. My hubby is not a big soda drinker, but I’d love to get him ‘hooked’ on something with some probiotics in it!

  13. Emily McClements says:

    Thanks for this great post Stacy! I am definitely going to try this soon! I love carbonated beverages, especially in the summer. But we’ve stopped drinking pop for obvious reasons, and sometimes I just crave something carbonated. I know my kids will like it, and maybe even my hubby too, and I can feel good about them drinking something other than water or milk that is actually good for them! Can’t wait to get started!

  14. I have never made water kefir before, but I have made kombucha and it sounds like the process is fairly similar. This sounds like something my husband and kids would love. Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. We’ve been making water kefir about every two days for the past 3 months. I also bought my grains from Cultures for Health. For the second fermentation, I strain the kefir water directly into an airtight stopper bottle (a.k.a. Grolsch – type bottle). I had difficulty finding these bottles until I realized they are the same bottles that French sodas come in. I bought a few of these bottles from Cost Plus and Whole Foods. (I use fruit juice and not fruit pieces, so I don’t need to strain them out after the second fermentation.) I really wanted to like using sucanat, but the results taste a bit “band-aid”-like to us — even when I tried to do half white sugar and half sucanat. Now I just use straight organic white sugar. This has been a great alternative to soda — sometimes it’s more bubbly than other times; I guess it depends on the fermentation time and type of juice we’re using.

  16. i am a bit behind… what are the benefits to kefir? i have never used them. sounds super interesting.

    • @charis, It is my understanding that water kefir grains are dairy free.

      The greatest benefit they have, and the reason I use them, is the beneficial bacteria they provide.

      Traditional diets were rich in probiotics. I think it is good to get probiotics from a variety of sources, water kefir being just one of them. It always seems to me that getting vitamins, minerals and probiotics from food and drink (whenever possible) is superior to that of taking a supplement in that it is more easily absorbed and used by the body.

      I know that a benefit many people find is that this beverage helps to kick the soda habit. I can’t attest to this fact though. But I will say that when I feel like something sweet and bubbly, I go for the water kefir. The fruit juice kefir has been the tastiest and most likely to be consumed by my children.

  17. momOfFour says:

    I have never tried water kefir. I am interested if these are dairy free probiotics. Are the benefits different than just taking a probiotic?

  18. I love to ferment! I am big into fermenting veggies and making milk kefir. I have some water grains and I think this post is the motivation I needed to get them going! I have a question for you, are there any scientific studies out there about kefir? I am trying to get the rest of my family on board and they are the kind that needs mainstream proof. Thanks!

  19. can children drink this? how young can they drink it if so?

  20. I make dairy kefir all the time but haven’t ventured out to water kefir yet. I did purchase some dehydrated water kefir grains almost a year ago and they have been in my freezer the whole time. Does anyone have any idea if they’re still good to use?

  21. wow. I have always been intimidated by kefir and have not been too interested in dairy kefir, but this totally looks doable! Thank you for sharing this info with us, and hopefully I’ll get up the courage to make this soon!

  22. I have never heard of this! I have a daughter with a sensitivity to casein, and have been concerned about the whole probiotics issue. Do you happen to know what kinds of probiotics are in water kefir? Her testing showed an overgrowth of L. acidophilus, and recommended non-D-lactate forming bacteria. Not impossible to find, but VERY expensive.

  23. I haven’t ventured into kefir yet, but I am definitely interested. Maybe this summer?

  24. We have been enjoying water kefir for some time now. I recently read to add a half of egg shell, this would be for the minerals. I did noticed a HUGE difference and we always have broken egg shells. I also want to find those reusable soda bottles, I read it keeps the soda fizzy and more carbonated. I am going to check into wine making places to see if they have any.

  25. For furit juice kefir I don’t do the 2nd ferment. I mix the juice with the water in the initial ferment and I mix it 50/50. The girls love grape juice kefir like this.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] drops to my paste. I use these to add minerals back into our reverse osmosis filtered water when making water kefir and I thought it would be a great addition to our toothpaste as [...]

  2. [...] breads, and anything else I might have bought in a box at the store. I eased into fermenting with water kefir, dairy kefir, and eventually sourdough. I have to admit to being afraid of making my own lacto [...]

  3. [...] brands with counts of between 50-100 billion live strains. If you’re up to making your own water kefir, kombucha, or properly fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, this would be the ideal way to [...]

  4. [...] would be great for a picnic!11. Flower vase. Simple, quaint, beautiful.12. Making milk kefir or water kefir or coconut milk kefir.13. Storing homemade juice or iced teas in fridge. The large 1/2 gallon [...]

  5. [...] who is living a lifestyle of gluttony (whether they're overindulging in soda and onion rings or kefir and green smoothies), you do have the same obligation to confront them in love as you do if they are [...]

  6. [...] and eliminate questionable ingredients from their kitchens but aren't quite ready to make their own kefir and kombucha or to soak grains.This cookbook is full of common pantry staples and easy-to-follow [...]

  7. [...] some great info to get you started from the Healthy Home Economist, Cultures for Health, and Keeper of the Home (her [...]

  8. [...] purchasing starter cultures. Here's what they offer:Yogurt startersKefir grains (both dairy and water kefir)Sourdough startersKombucha starterButtermilk starterSoy culturesOther cultures (like sour cream, [...]

  9. [...] How to Make Water Kefir – from Keeper of the Home [...]

  10. [...] tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can be made from coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water, which will provide many of the benefits found in dairy [...]

  11. [...] tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can be made from coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water, which will provide many of the benefits found in dairy [...]

  12. [...] I just looked up water kefir and see that it is different from the kefir I drink which is milk based. Water kefir sounds GREAT !!!! I found a webstie that gives a simple how-to for anyone that might be intersted, I know I am! How to Make Water Kefir | Keeper of the Home [...]

  13. [...] so I will try to make some soon. Keeper of the Home has an amazing article on keifer here. I will post pictures of each step, and I really suggest you make it. As mentioned in the article, [...]

  14. [...] For some of us, the tantalizing breezes of summer are already wafting over our gardens.  As the days warm and the herbs in our gardens increase in size and production, there's not better time to indulge in a pitcher of iced herbal tea, or herb flavored water kefir. [...]

  15. [...] just became part of my routine. Then on to lacto-fermented veggies and condiments, creme fraiche, water kefir and [...]

  16. [...] Water Keifer from Keeper of the Home – I am so excited to try making water kefir this summer.  Sometimes a carbonated beverage (usually pop) sounds so good to me in the summer time, and this would be a much, much healthier option.  I know my kids would love it too! [...]

  17. [...] I’ve written a step-by-step tutorial explaining how to make it over at Keeper of the Home. [...]

  18. [...] this, water Kefir, I had recently found milk kefir recipes, but may try this water version first, for a sort of [...]