Water Kefir revamped

I know, I know, another post on water kefir. This stuff is so good for you, I want all of my friends and family to be drinking this! It has completely gotten rid of Maggie's chronic UTI's, cured my kids of tummy bugs and fevers within hours and it has completely regulated my hormones after drinking 32oz/day for a month. Probiotics rock!

I was looking at my original post, Water Kefir Newbie, and I've made so many changes that I think make it so much easier that I wanted to just do a completely new post. I have a few friends who I've sold/given water kefir grains to and they're telling me that they don't look like mine and aren't multiplying. So, I'm doing a step-by-step post of how I do mine so that it can be replicated, hopefully. Here's what I use to make mine:

Water Kefir Grains - You can buy a tbsp of these dehydrated from www.culturesforhealth.com for $16 + shipping. It takes awhile to activate these grains. If you're in Oklahoma, please come get 2 Tbsp of grains from me for $5. They multiply and will last forever if you take care of them. It's such an easy step you can take to make your family healthier. It takes 1 Tbsp of grains to make 1 quart of water kefir.

Sugar: 1/4 cup for every quart of water. Organic is best in the form of rapadura or turbinado, but organic raw sugar is expensive. I have used organic sugar from Walmart and also non-organic turbinado sugar from Target. So far my grains are not complaining. I recently bought 50lbs of organic turbinado from Azure and it will probably last me a year.

Water: Non-chlorinated, achieved by letting tap water sit out for at least 24 hours. Unfortunately though, this does not remove a new additive called chloramines that can also harm your grains (and you). We use a reverse osmosis filter, which is pretty pricey, but the same water is available in almost every grocery store. It's the Culligan water stands with the 5 gallon jugs. The water is usually 40 cents a gallon. I believe that the grains would do fine as well with refrigerator filtered water or Brita filtered water. The concern with these filters is that they remove a lot of minerals from the water and the grains need minerals to grow, ferment, etc. With our reverse osmosis filter, all the minerals have been removed, but I have successfully replaced the minerals and my grains are thriving. If you will be using anything other than well water or spring water, you will probably need a mineral replacement. Here are a few of the things I use or have used:

  • Dolomite powder - available at health food stores or www.vitacost.com for around $4. I add 1/8 tsp per quart of sugar water. 
  • Sea salt - I just sprinkle a little in mine instead of dolomite sometimes.
  • Pastured egg shells - rinse out really well and drop in. Pastured egg shells are full of minerals. You can buy these at any farmer's mkt or check out www.localharvest.org to find a family farm near you. 
  • Unsulphured Dehydrated fruit - I have used dehydrated apples, raisins, bananas, and pineapple. By FAR, the bananas and pineapple are the best. 
That's all the ingredients you need! Supplies you need to have on hand:
  • Wooden or plastic spoons, measuring cups, anything that will touch the grains. 
  • Small, plastic strainer. I found the one above at Target for $5. It is perfect. 
  • Funnel 
  • Quart or half-gallon jars - we found these half gallon jars at Homeland and Crest and we LOVE them. I have four batches of water kefir going at all times in them. 
Pic-by-pic instructions:
This is a batch that needs to be strained. It has been culturing for 48 hours.
View from the top! 
Remove fruit with a wooden spoon.
To avoid grains in your finished kefir, you'll want to strain them. This is the easiest and quickest way for me! It's a little messy if your hands aren't so steady that day though. lol

SLOWLY pour your kefir into the strainer/funnel/container...

The strained kefir grains...

Rinse with non-chlorinated water (this is reverse osmosis faucet).  You don't have to rinse them every time, but they start to smell a little funky if you let them go too long. 

Pour grains into your jar of dechlorinated/filtered water. I've never had a problem with colder than room temp water. 

Add 1/8 tsp of dolomite powder for every quart of water.  (Optional)

Add 1/4 cup sugar for every quart of water. My half gallon jars require 1/2 cup. 

Add dehydrated fruit and/or egg shells. 

Stir until sugar is dissolved. I've read that with rapadura, you may have to boil the water first, add the rapadura, let it dissolve, cool to room temp and then add the grains. You do NOT want to add the grains to hot water. 

Cover with a clean rag. Ready to culture! Let sit for 24-72 hours. The shorter the time, the sweeter the kefir. (You can also put a sealed lid on for a more effervescent kefir.)

My 4 half gallon jars of water kefir on top of my hutch. :) Love them.  Our family drinks 2 jars every day. 
My trick I've discovered to getting my water kefir grains to multiply - double the sugar water for the amount of grains you have and they will grow to that amount. I started out with only one tbsp and in about a month it has grown to almost 3 cups of grains. For example, if you have 1 tbsp of grains and want them to grow, add them to 2 quarts of water with 1/2 cup of sugar and they will double. It might take a few times switching out the sugar water every 2 days, but that's how mine took off.

Drink it with fresh lemon or lime squeezed in or 1 tsp of vanilla for a cream soda flavor. My kids love it mixed with juice. Drink as much as you desire, the more the better!

Edited to add on 1/15/2011 - just found a great site with an excellent FAQ...
Dom's Kefir FAQ
My most freqently asked question is one regarding the sugar content in water kefir. Here is Dom's response -

"It is imperative that sugary kefir grains [SKG] grow well, to produce a health-promoting beverage. The only way SKG will grow well is if they are fed on sucrose or cane sugar [table sugar] solution. Honey or fruit juices do not provide the correct form of sugar for the organisms to create new grain, for honey and most fruit juices are mostly fructose. The organisms require sucrose, a two-sugar or disaccharide, so that they can break it down into its two basic forms or single-sugars [mono-saccharides], glucose and fructose. Specific organisms use the glucose to create new grain [growth].

If sugar content or sugar-type is a concern, then the following information should ease your mind. The organisms of good growing SKG utilize most of the sugar, more than 80% in fact. What is left in the final beverage is mostly fructose, some of which is converted to a myriad of compounds, most of which can be classified as heath-promoting. So what is left is in fact a form of honey, for honey is mostly fructose. Good growing grains remove most of the glucose from the solution, which is converted to new grains, and which are not consumed, for the grains are removed through straining, taking with them a good portion of glucose. Even if the grains were consumed, the glucose [dextran] based SKG are not easily digestible, and provide very little to no energy value, so I believe.

The photo on left demonstrates the amount of sugar left over in water kefir, prepared with 1/2 cup sugar and 6 cups water, brewed for 2 days at room temperature. The thick syrup was produced by reducing the water kefir through boiling under partial vacuum. There's actually less sugar left than what we can see here, for the thick syrup still contains some water-- the sugar was not crystallized. On tasting the thick syrup, it is not very sweet at all, in fact honey has a much sweeter taste. For those interested in food science, or developing [health] foods, this syrup can be a base for producing some healthy sweets, or used as a light thickening agent, for the syrup has a slight gel property, possibly due to compounds produced by organisms in producing the grains.

Now, this amount of sugar is left right after a 2 day fermentation. If the water kefir is stored even in the fridge, even more sugar is reduced. My favourite reply to those individuals concerned about sugar in water kefir is to state that one cup of water kefir prepared with good growing SKG contains far less sugar than a Granny Smith apple [the green sour type].

Some folks are finding that young coconut water prepares a healthy water kefir, stating that the grains grow in young coconut water. However, at this point I can not verify this, for I have not prepared young coconut water kefir over an extensive period to test this.

NOTE The above tells us that in order to reduce as much sugar as possible in water kefir, then it is important that the SKG are growing well. The more grain growth the lesser sugar is left in water kefir, and also the lesser amount of alcohol produced. For a good water kefir recipe that gives best grain growth, please go to my kefir making web page here."

Here is a great video from culturesforhealth.com if you still have questions!

How to flavor water kefir...

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