WATER KEFIR MAKING
As soon as possible after receiving the grains, follow these instructions to make your first batch of kefir. If, for any reason, you can’t make it straight away, put the grains in mineral water, in a glass jar in the fridge with a dessert spoon of sugar, stir well. Chlorinated tap water will kill the grains.
- Approximately 2-3 tablespoons of kefir grains
- 1 litre kilner jar or similar – wash the jar if it is new
- 1 litre of filtered or mineral water
- 3 tablespoons of sugar (start with white and experiment)
- A slice of organic lemon
- A couple of pieces of dried fruit such as fig, prunes, apricots etc
Put the water, kefir grains, sugar and dried fruit into the jar and stir well with a wooden spoon until all the sugar is almost dissolved.
Add the lemon (it must be organic or the chemicals will inhibit or kill the grains (although I used just unwaxed and they have been fine)), and then seal the jar. If you can’t find an organic lemon, try adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to your first batch of kefir and then leave some liquid in the jar when you strain it after it has fermented. This is done to keep the pH low.
Leave the jar at room temperature for 24-48 hours until the kefir tastes sourish and slightly fizzy, maybe even smelling a little like beer. You can decide how sweet or sour you like your kefir, but the more sour it is the less carbohydrates there will be and more of the beneficial lactic and acetic acids.
When it is ready, take out the lemon and dried fruit and discard (or eat if you like). Strain the mixture through a sieve and put the liquid in to a screw top or stoppered glass bottle. Do not store in plastic. You can now leave the kefir to continue fermenting in the bottle for 12-48 hours, depending on how potent it is. Check the fizziness by burping the bottles every 6 hours or so – don’t allow them to over-carbonate as your bottles could explode! Put them in the fridge once they have carbonated enough, as this will stop fermentation. The kefir will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.
Use the strained grains to make your next batch of kefir as before and drink the batch you have made.
Once it has been strained you can flavour it before you carbonate it if you wish. You could add a good hit of freshly grated and squeezed ginger, but herbs, pureed fruit, and vanilla extract all work well too. You can also add another teaspoon of sugar as it is fermenting.
If you are going away, or need a break from your grains, just pop them in the fridge in a smaller glass jar with some mineral / filtered water and 2 teaspoons of sugar. They should be ok for a week or so like that – mine have survived for over 2 weeks. When you wake them up from the cold again, they may be a bit sluggish and take an extra day to brew.
Your grains need nutrients – this is why you give them dried fruit. However, you can also vary the type of sugar that you use, from white to the darkest Muscavado, or even maple syrup or molasses – in order to vary the nutrients they get. If you use all brown sugar, the yeasts can predominate and the mix gets very beery and frothy. This is not ideal and if it happens, you need to wash the grains in mineral water and start again. It is good to alternate. Coconut sugar works well. The only thing you MUST NOT give them is honey as its anti-microbial action may kill the grains.
Your grains should increase after a couple of weeks – this means that they are happy. If you find you have too many grains after a while, you can eat them in muesli to get a super probiotic effect or, add them to the compost where they will much away happily. Or you can give them away or store them in the fridge in sugar water for up to 10 days before feeding them again.
Water kefir grains will work well with coconut water too, follow the same instructions.
PLEASE NOTE THAT MILK AND WATER GRAINS ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE
Notes about 2nd Ferments (kefir and kombucha)
2nd ferments usually take place in a second bottle – such as 1l kilner bottles. Flavour with whatever you like (e.g. mint leaves, lemongrass stalks, ginger juice) and then seal. This ferment usually gets fizzy quite quickly and you will need to keep an eye on it. Burp the bottle every couple of hours, get a feel for the fizz. When you like how fermented it is you can put it in the fridge – this slows the ferment down but doesn’t stop it.
Don’t leave your 2nd ferments for more than 24hrs without burping as these bottles can explode. If you are going to be out all day and it is very warm, you’d be better uncapping it and recapping when you are home to keep an eye on it. You can also keep these 2nd ferments in a bucket. It sounds odd, but clearing up a litre of kefir or kombucha and bits of glass is no fun!
Don’t let this put you off, it is not a common occurrence.