How to Keep Your Water Kefir Babies Alive

If I've recently given you a tiny jar with jelly like crystals in it then this is the post you are look for. The crystals you have are called water kefir grains and you can use them to culture sugar water, juice, or coconut water. 

Water kefir grains have a much more diverse probiotic profile than a powdered starter culture and with good care will last forever and reproduce indefinitely, so you can give some away to your friends. Although water kefir has fewer strains of bacteria than dairy kefir, it's got far more than yoghurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut or most other probiotic foods you can culture yourself, so it's a really great addition to your kitchen. It also has no dairy, so it's great for those of you who have a true milk allergy and can't tolerate standard milk kefir. 

There's a lot of detailed blogs and videos that you can google to get information on how to make water kefir, with exact measurements if you are that kind of a personality, but I'm going to give you my simple instructions for two methods. 

1) Water Kefir  

Simply dissolve some sugar in water, but don't worry, the sugar is to feed the grains, not you*. You can use any sugar you like, cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, sucanat, maple syrup... whatever you love, as long as it's sugary.

Add your grains, leave it for 24-48 hours and taste it. You should see bubbles, and it should be mildly effervescent with a not too sweet flavour. It tastes a little like schloer.

If you want it to be really fizzy you can strain off the liquid, bottle it with a tight cap and leave it for a further 12-14 hours. Be careful when you take the lid off though, because this will FIZZ.

Adding fruit (such as raisins or dried mango etc...) is a great way to flavour it too, or you can water it down with another fruit juice and leave it for another 24 hours to culture that too. 

What should you do with the grains you strained out?
Start a new batch of course!

2) Juice Kefir

This is really just like it sounds. Instead of making yourself some sugar water, simply add your grains to some juice that you want to culture. 

Both these methods talk about leaving the grains for 24-48 hours to culture the water/juice, but the honest answer is that your brewing time is going to depend greatly on your ratio of grains/water. You can give a few grains a big jar and leave them for a lot longer than a little jar with lots of grains. 

It's also largely going to depend on how cultured you like your kefir. Leave it longer to get rid of more sugar and create a mildly alcoholic brew, but don't leave it too long or the grains will start to go mushy and die. 

You can rest the grains in some sugary water in the fridge if you find that they are producing more kefir than your family can drink (this does not happen in our house!) or if you want to go on holiday for a week or two.  

And finally, for those of you who are as geeky as me and want to know what is in those little jelly crystals, here is a list of all the benefical bacterica you will be growing and consuming:

Lactobacilli Strains in Water Kefir
  • Lactobacillus galactose
  • Lb. brevis
  • Lb. casei subsp. casei
  • Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei
  • Lb. casei subsp. Ramos
  • Lb. casei subsp. tolerant
  • Lb. coraciiform subsp. torquens
  • Lb. fructose
  • Lb. hilarities
  • Lb. homophobia
  • Lb. plantarum
  • Lb. pseudo plantarum
  • Lb. admonishes
Streptococci/lactococci Strains in Water Kefir
  • Streptococcus cremeris
  • Str. faecalis
  • Str. lactis
  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides
  • Pediococcus damnosus
Yeast Strains in Water Kefir
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Sacc. florentinus
  • Sacc. pretoriensis
  • Candida valida
  • C. lambica
  • Kloeckera apiculata
  • Hansenula yalbensis

*A small amount of sugar remains and this is not generally considered to be suitable for persons on the GAPS diet. We abstained from water kefir for three years during GAPS and only reintroduced it to our family recently using jaggery as the sweetener. 


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