Water Kefir Newbie

(From Wikipedia) Water kefir grains, also known as tibicos, are a culture of bacteria and yeast held in a polysaccharide matrix created by the bacteria. Typical tibicos have a mix of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida, Kloeckera and possibly others. Lactobacillus brevis has been identified as the species responsible for the production of the polysaccharide (dextran) that forms the grains.[2] 

Water kefir is a more natural and more potent source of probiotics than you can buy at the store. With kefir grains, you can make your own over and over again and potentially share with friends as your grains multiply. A few health benefits of kefir made from kefir grains:
  • Natural allergy remedy
  • Natural antibiotic (I saw this in action today. My son came down with a 101 fever suddenly with a sore throat. I gave him a big cup of water kefir and within about 45 minutes his fever was down to 99 and he was asking me for lunch!) 
  • Cleans the GI tract
  • Heals Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Improves immune system function
  • Cures Candida
  • Stops cancer cell growth
For many more health benefits, see Kefir Health Benefits

Left, water kefir and grains cultured for 48 hours
I recently started making my own from water kefir grains I bought at cultures for health for $16.99. I also went ahead and bought milk kefir grains at the same time that I plan on making this weekend. I've been at it now for about two weeks, making a batch every 48 hours and my kefir is finally starting to get bubbly. It's very important that you read the instructions that come with your dehydrated kefir grains to assure correct rehydration before making water kefir. Supplies you will need:
  • 2 1-quart canning jars
  • coffee filter or wash cloth
  • rubber band
  • non-chlorinated water (achieved by aerating w/ a blender, boiling or letting the water sit out overnight), well water or reverse osmosis water mixed with 1/8 tsp of dolomite powder.
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar per quart of water (pesticides will shorten the life and effectiveness of the grains.)
  • water kefir grains that have been rehydrated if purchased from cultures for health.
  • dehydrated fruit or a pastured egg shell (really increases carbonation and helps the grains multiply)
This is the method I have come up with. If any more experienced kefir makers have any tips, do share. :)
Warning - Do not let the kefir grains come in contact with metal. Use wooden or plastic spoons/measuring cups.

Step 1 - Straining the grains: Attach a clean rag to the top of a 1qt canning jar with a rubber band. (Depending on the laundry soap you use, you may want to rinse the rag in hot water prior to doing this.) I've since learned that once the grains are a little bigger, a plastic strainer works great and is so much quicker! The grains will usually stay at the bottom of the jar until almost all the liquid has been poured out.

Step 2 - Slowly pour the liquid and rehydrated grains into the clean jar until all the grains are sitting on top of the washcloth. Wash the empty jar.

Step 3 - Fill the empty jar leaving 2 inches at the top with room temp. water that has been dechlorinated by aerating in the blender. Well water can be used and if reverse osmosis water is used, some type of mineral replacement needs to be added. I add 1/8 tsp of dolomite powder to my reverse osmosis water.

Step 4 - Mix in 1/4 cup of organic sugar until dissolved and dolomite powder if applicable. Apparently there are all types of sugar you can use. The least processed the better.

Step 5 - Scoop kefir grains out with a plastic measuring cup or spoon and add to new batch of sugar water. Stir with wooden or plastic spoon. Add a few pieces of dehydrated fruit.

Step 6 - cover with a coffee filter or a clean washcloth and secure with a rubber band. Let sit for 24-48 hours and repeat. :)

Here is a link to instructions from more experienced kefir makers. http://www.wholetraditions.com/articles/3-water-kefir-instructions and http://www.nourishingcreations.com/2010/10/how-to-make-water-kefir-101.html

My kids love a little juice added to theirs. There are some pretty tasty recipes for all sorts of water kefir here. I can't wait to try some of the soda ones. Culturesforhealth.com also has great recipes. My favorite way to drink it is with some fresh lemon/lime juice squeezed in with ice. Tastes just like lemonade. For any questions at all about water kefir, I have found this site to be very helpful. They answer any question imaginable. I hope my grains start to multiply soon so I can share with friends nearby!

Edited to add: I have moved up to a 2 quart glass container because we have been drinking so much and my grains have multiplied just enough to make 2 quarts. Here it is after only 24 hours, the dehydrated fruit makes it so much more carbonated and it tastes a lot better too! (We dehydrate our own fruit, really easy if you have a dehydrator!) This is the one we have...it's not AWESOME, but it totally does the job for only $30! Click here for an updated post on my grains and water kefir. If you live in Oklahoma, I have plenty of grains available now!  I just found this great video on how to make water kefir from Cultures for Health!

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