Congratulations on investing in your health through delicious, nutritious water kefir! Below are easy step by step instructions for how to make this amazing, probiotic, health-boosting fermented beverage!
If you are receiving new kefir grains:
The First Ferment: Whether you have live kefir grains (meaning they are wet and plump) or dehydrated grains, the first step is the same:
- Make Sugar Water: Dissolve organic or brown sugar in room temperature water. Add it to the water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. The ratio is about 1 Cup of sugar for 1 Gallon of water, or ½ Cup for ½ Gallon of water. The ratio depends more on the volume of water you are choosing to use (how much kefir water you want from each batch), than the amount of volume of kefir grains. Most people do about a gallon of water at a time, others do smaller batches (half-gallon). The kefir grains do not like chlorinated water (tap water). You can use spring water, or, you can leave a container of tap water out for 24 hours with a cloth over the top (and the chlorine will evaporate out). Finally, glass jars are best for kefir grains. Plastic is fine (example, gallon milk jugs) for a while, but over time, you’ll likely want to get glass containers.
- Add in Your Grains and Let It Sit: Add your live, or dehydrated grains to the sugar water, and place a paper towel or dishcloth over the top (this allows the carbon dioxide to escape during the first ferment, as the kefir grains consume the sugar in the water. It also prevents dust and particles from getting into your kefir water. Place the container in a somewhat dark spot for 24–48 hours (the warmer the temperature in your home, the faster the ferment — in the Winter, the first ferment can take 3–4 days, and in the Summer, it can be as little as 24 hours). You may see some kefir grains floating at the top, while most stay at the bottom. You will also notice air bubbles rising to the top (especially when the container is moved or stirred). If the kefir begins to produce a sour smell, it is likely out of food (sugar) and the water needs changing. If you are using dehydrated grains, you will want to discard this first batch of kefir water. Your grains are activating, and the first batch is just them waking up.
- Strain Your Grains: When it has been about 48 hours (2–3 days) — you will strain out your grains by pouring your kefir water through a strainer (not a colander, but a mesh strainer) into a bowl or container larger enough to hold your water. If your grains are dehydrated, then you’ll just discard this first batch of kefir water.
- Repeat: Repeat step one (dissolve new sugar in new water), add your strained grains back in, cover with a cloth and set it aside for another 24–48 hours.
The Second Ferment: You now have “activated kefir water” to which you may add a flavor and bottle (to create a flavored, kefir soda).
- Add a Flavor: You now have a bowl or container with activated kefir water — this is the water left behind after straining out your kefir grains. This water still has tiny bits of kefir inside, which will continue to feed (producing carbon-dioxide as a by-product) if given more sugar. Add to this container of kefir water, a flavoring of your choice. What you choose for the flavoring and the amount to add is up to personal preference. Many people choose to use a frozen juice concentrate (example: grape, apple, cranberry, white-grape, fruit punch, etc.). The kefir water is naturally a bit sour and will taste vinegary the longer it ferments — because of this tartness, some avoid citrus flavors that already have a tart bite to them. The ratio of concentrate to kefir water is up to you — but is often around ¾ Cup concentrate per gallon of kefir water. The less concentrate you add, the lower-calorie your kefir soda is. Some choose to use fresh fruit as their sugar source, and still others choose to drink the kefir water as is after the first ferment.
- Bottle Your Soda: Once you have added your flavoring and stirred it to distribute — it is time to bottle your kefir water in a closed, pressure-safe container so it can begin to carbonate. Most kefirers use flip-top pressure-tested bottles. You can buy these at a grocery store or online (just search flip-top bottles on Amazon). Use a funnel to transfer your flavored kefir water to the bottles. One gallon will fill about 5 bottles. Leave a little bit of air in the neck of the bottle for the carbonation. Place these bottles on a counter or shelf. The longer the bottles sit, the more carbonated they become. They also have fewer calories the longer they sit because more of the sugar is consumed. You can drink these right away or let them ferment for longer. If they are in the sun, or a warm location, be careful as they will ferment fast and build up significant pressure.
- Burp Your Bottles: Each day, grab a cloth and place it over the flip-top, then slowly release any pressure. This keeps your bottles from building up excessive pressure and spraying kefir soda when you open them. Placing them in the refrigerator will also decrease the pressure naturally. As you drink a bottle from the refrigerator, place a new one in the fridge to cool.
- Shake It Up and Drink It Up: The kefir will often settle so it’s best to shake it before drinking. If your bottle has been fermenting for more than a week, smell-check it before drinking. Eventually, the kefir will run out of food and the fermentation process will turn alcoholic.
When you get into a rhythm, you’ll be doing a first and second ferment at the same time every 48 hours or so.
That’s it! You’ll love this new healthy hobby. Let us know how it goes!