Adventures In Water Kefir!

Adventures In Water Kefir!

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So, you might recall that I told you that our family had cut out most of our caffeine….at least caffeine in the drinkable state. So, that meant I was drinking only water and decaf coffee. I hate tea, so that is 100% out. BLECH! In a state of homemakerness, I decided to order some water kefir grains from Cultures for Health and try my hand at that. Basically, water kefir is like dairy kefir…..but with WATER. Wow. I bet that threw you for a loop. It’s a fermented drink, high in probiotics – very good for you. I also ordered some for my friend Brandy to try – because I just figured that misery loves company. Or something like that. So, here is how it all went down.

When my grains came, they were dehydrated…..and they look sorta weird. (You might need to click on the photos to see them in larger size – I’m using thumbnails since I have so many pictures.) It looks like kryptonite. You rehydrate them by soaking them in a water/sugar solution for 3-4 days. It’s best not to use water straight from the tap, so I used filtered water. They also thrive better on natural sugars like sucanat or sugar in the raw. After they rehydrate, they’re ready to go. Oh, and let me warn you…..do NOT sniff the grains directly. If you do, you might gag and throw up a little in your mouth. They smell sorta nasty – like vomit. It’s true. I know; this post is really going places isn’t it?

If you’re fermenting other things in your kitchen, you might want to do this elsewhere. The directions say not to let them culture close to anything else. So, mine were in the living room, being kept company by a family photo. I had sourdough and dairy kefir fermenting in the kitchen. Better safe than sorry.

Okay, so when your grains are ready to go, you make a solution of water and sucanat (1/4 cup). First you heat a small amount of water and dissolve your sucanat in that. When it’s dissolved, fill the rest of the quart jar up with cool water. Do not add the grains until the water is at room temperature. You might have to wait an hour or so, if your water was really hot. When the water is ready, add the grains and put a coffee filter on top, secured with a rubber band. Three to four tablespoons of grains will culture up to three quarts of kefir.

Let the mixture culture for about 48 hours. You can let it culture as little as 24 and as many as 72. The grains in the jar are feasting on the sucanat. The longer you let it culture, the less there will be sucanat present. At about 48 hours, most of the sucanat is gone. You’ll know it is working, when it looks like this. The mixture on the left has cultured for 48 hours. It’s lighter in color because most of the sugar is gone. The mixture on the right has just been made. See the difference?

You should also see bubbles when you take off the filter. Isn’t that just totally awesome? You made BUBBLES! I get so excited about little things.

When it has cultured long enough for you, drain the grains out and start a new batch. Now it’s time to work with the cultured liquid! During this whole process, all I can think about is beer. It smells fermented like dirty feet beer. It looks brown and weirdo. Yep, we’re really going places now!

There are tons of options for flavoring your water kefir. You can make lemonade, which is what I tried. Cooking Traditional Foods has a good tutorial on that. You just add sucanat and lemon juice to your water for flavoring. Brandy says they really like this version. Me? Uhhhh, well. Not so much. I tried. I really did. I’d get a big cup and try to drink it. I’d give myself a pep talk about how wonderful it was for me and how good I was going to feel. Then I’d try to make sure I didn’t breathe while I was drinking it and have flash backs to working at Pizza Hut when I had to wash dirty, hot beer mugs.*Shiver*

You can also make “soda” from your water kefir, which is what most people do. For that, you just let your drained water kefir sit on the counter in an airtight bottle for a day or two and that usually produces bubbles. I was never able to get bubbles. I tried really hard. I used this awesome bottle……but nothing. Nada. Oh well. I can blow bubbles, does that count? Pure Homemaking has a really good tutorial on how to make kefir soda with different flavors.

So, here is how our conversation went:Me – So, how is it honey?

Barry – Well, not that great.

Me – Do you like it?

Barry – No, not really. Do you?

Me – No, it makes me want to gag.

Me – Honey, are you going to drink this if I make some more?

Barry – Probably not. Are you?

Me – Uhhh. Probably not.

Bye, bye water kefir. I think I’ll just stick with water. Thanks.

This post is linked at Monday Mania on The Healthy Home Economist, at Fight Back Friday on Food Renegade, at Simple Lives Thursday on GNOWFGLINS, and at Real Food Wednesday on Kelly The Kitchen Kop.

Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.

  • http://truelovescents.scentsy.us Becca C

    I love my kefir and hate to have to get rid of it. A couple of my kids like it so I guess I could keep making it some. LOL

    • Stacy

      BLECH! :-)

  • http://impossibleway.livejournal.com Brandy

    And let it be said that Brandy’s family likes it. ;-) There’s no accounting for taste.

    • Stacy

      Everyone has different taste buds. :-)

  • Connie

    I’m actually loving it myself. I started using apple cider to flavor it, then moved to key lime juice and now I’m close to being addicted to it. It is very light and refreshing and doesn’t smell anything even close to beer.

    Mine isn’t nearly as dark as yours, I’m using turbinado sugar. I’m also adding a dash of sea salt for minerals. I also don’t use nearly as much sugar – maybe a quarter cup if that – and let it sit for a day (sometimes two, I’m not all that exact) and I get lots of bubbles. Now my grains weren’t dried when I got them.

    • Stacy

      Whew! I’m glad it’s working out for so many other people, but it’s just not for our family. :-) I used 1/4 cup of sugar to culture it. The initial larger amount was only to rehydrate the grains.
      We can’t handle the fermented smell or taste.

  • Paula

    I couldn’t stomach the taste of it either and the rest of the family despised it. Just when I felt I was onto something (cream “soda” flavor), my grains died. Needless to say, I didn’t spend the $$ to replace them.

    • Stacy

      Glad I’m not alone! :-)

  • http://mindofthemother.blogspot.com Danielle @ Analytical Mom

    Bummer, I’m sorry you didn’t like it! We just started in on water kefir and loved it (and then my husband killed my grains…). My husband and his friends thought it tasted a lot like some kind of beer they’d had too (but they loved it!), and I just juiced mine up a lot with apple cider. That was the only way I liked it. :) Well, now you can safely toss that idea and start in on something new!

    • Stacy

      Danielle, I like the way you think! :)

  • http://www.mackleywoodengifts.etsy.com Wendy

    I feel the same as you Stacy. I shudder at the thought of having to drink my water kefir. I keep making it and force myself and whoever else is near me to take a sip(that’s about all I can manage). It’s been about a month and I will keep on trying different recipes until I find one we can can stomache.

    • Stacy

      I just hated the thought of wasting my sucanat on it when I could barely stand to drink it….or smell it. :-) I have a better chance of learning to like tea. *Shudder*

  • http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

    LOL Funny story! My son is going to do water kefir for his Science Fair project this year.

    I have to say though i love the taste of water kefir. I make it and then refrigerate for several weeks and the taste mellows over time and tastes just like apple cider. Maybe you should try it again sans the bottling?

    • Stacy

      Interesting! I haven’t read about refrigerating it to help mellow it out. Thank you! :-)

  • http://www.realfoodforager.com jill

    Hi,
    This post is so informative. I would love for you to come
    share it at FAT TUESDAY. I hope you will
    put FAT TUESDAY on your list of carnivals to visit
    and link to each week!

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/09/fat-tuesday-september-27-2011/

  • http://www.hardlotion.com Renee Harris

    No WAIT!!!!
    You have to drink apple kefir. It tastes just like Martinelli’s and SO easy to make :)
    http://www.hardlotion.com/blog/2011/3/16/how-to-make-apple-kefir-juice.html

    • Stacy

      We’re not fans of alcoholic drinks. :-)

  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    We didn’t hate it, but we didn’t love it either. And we could never get the bubbles we wanted. We got one batch that did have bubbles that was really good, once. Also I hated the smell of the grains initially, but after a year of fermenting a bunch of stuff I grew to like the smell of them. Maybe because those probiotics made me feel good, who knows. But, we’re not brewing it anymore either. Now I just make kombucha all the time. 6 gallons every 2 weeks and we’re considering doing more. That is consistently bubbly and we love it!

    • Stacy

      I have read a lot about kombucha but we haven’t tried it…..I’m a little burned on this and not ready to try something else yet. :-) It’s good to know you like it even if you weren’t crazy about the kefir! That gives me hope.

  • Alexis

    Don’t give up! We love our water kefir but it took some experimenting to find the right kind of sugar and the right juice for the second fermentation that we really liked. I use organic white sugar for the first fermentation. It produces a very mild kefir. Then we use organic grape juice or pineapple juice for the second and find it makes a lovely fizzy mildly sweet soda. I use the rapadura type sugars occasionally to recharge my grains but we don’t drink that kefir because it is gross tasting. We can’t live without our kefir now but it took a while to get there.

    • Stacy

      Thanks for the encouragement! :-) Might be a while before I am willing to try again. Cultures for Health says that using sucanat works the best, so that’s what we did. We don’t keep white sugar in the house.

  • Alexis

    I hear you about the sugar. Sucanut is best for the grains but CfH recommended organic white sugar for the best taste. I buy it only for making kefir and since the culture consumes most of the sugar (80%) I make this one exception. Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a nice Kefir soda recipe but she also uses white sugar. I have a brew to bottle tonight!

    • Stacy

      You have me intrigued……I may come over to your side eventually. :-)

  • Barbara Grant

    Try adding some grape juice when you bottle it. Let it sit one day only and refridgerate. It should carbonate. You might want to open it over the sink and have a glass ready! This is much better than plain water kefir. Try different juices.

    • Stacy

      We don’t drink juice…..which is another reason why I’m not sure this is the thing for us. :-) I tried on multiple occasions to get it to fizz, following just what you said and I never got fizz. :-( Oh well.

  • http://www.worthyoflovedoula.com Amanda Hightower

    Hi Stacy,
    Sorry your adventure was a bleh type. There are different water kefir grains that have been grown from sugar-each have a different taste definitely think about feeding them with white sugar for a while or turbinado(lighter taste) and try it again after they smell better. Good luck :)

    • Stacy

      I had a friend try hers with white sugar and couldn’t tell they were working at all. In fact, she thought they were dead. When she started using raw sugar, they perked right up. :-)
      We’re fine with just plain water. It fits our lifestyle better anyway. :-) We can fill up on probiotics from diary kefir.
      I’m very glad that everyone else likes it……but I”m very glad we don’t. Ha, ha! :-)

  • http://auldgreymare.blogspot.com/ LyndaB

    lol… I love this post. I had the same experience (and glad to see your pics – mine looked the same, so I don’t think I was doing anything wrong, which is what I was afraid of). I kept at it for a MONTH, gamely drinking it, and coming to dread the next batch. Tried flavoring it every way I could, and finally just couldn’t stand it anymore. I love dairy kefir and other fermented things, so I’m still not sure why I couldn’t develop a taste for this, but I figure I gave it a fair shot, so I can legitimately just say no to water kefir.

    • Stacy

      Lynda, THANK YOU!!! I was beginning to think I was nuts. LOL :-) I’m so glad I’m not the only person in the world who can’t stand it. :-) :-)

  • http://www.beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com Sarah

    I had a similar experience at first (read here: http://beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com/2011/08/you-call-it-soda-she-calls-it-pop-i.html), but fiddled with it a bit and now we love it.

    the main thing for us for getting to like it is to stop using sucanant. It makes it f’ing NASTY (I compared it to the taste of Sasqwatches ball sweat). We use plain evaporated cane juice and it’s made a huge difference.

    Our favorite is either plain old grape juice (about 1/2 – 3/4 cup), or 1 cup of limeade and a bunch of crused mint leaves (mojito soda!).

  • claire

    For the second fermentation you don’t have to add fruit juice or sugar but you can add fresh fruit or dried fruit to give the kefir something to help produce the carbonation. I also use candied and fresh ginger for a spicy ginger flavor.

    • Stacy

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Molly

    Oh, I was so upset to read your post. I have a couple of things to say. Your grains came dehydrated and it takes awhile before they really get going. I use 1/3 cup of Sucanant and I add a pinch of sea salt for minerals because I use reverse osmosis water. I also use almost a cup of kefir grains for a quart of water and I only ferment 2 days. It does have a beer type of taste. I only drink about 1/2 cup and I add sparkling water. My husband wants his sweet so he adds fruity sparkling water. We drink it with dinner every night and neither one of us has had digestion issues in SO long. I’m a huge advocate of water kefir. Also don’t use Real Lemon. YUCK. I hate that stuff. Get real lemon juice bottled at the health food store. It is superior to what you show in the picture. I hope you will give it another chance. If you don’t, can I buy your bottles from you? LOL. I want to start making kefir ginger ale.

    • Stacy

      I’m going to keep the bottles for ginger ale. :-) I let my grains work for over two weeks and we still didn’t like the flavor. And I’ll be honest – I’m not sure about everyone saying to add juice. We really don’t want all that added sugar. Doesn’t that cancel out the good properties? I feel like we’re better of just drinking water than water kefir with juice.
      Thanks so much for your comment! :-) We love our dairy kefir, but water kefir just isn’t for us.

  • http://onestaorganics.com Heidi

    as some already said, switch to another sugar to avoid the weird taste. As far as I understand, the sugar is being converted, so this is no problem.

    • Stacy

      :-) Thanks.

  • http://www.sweetkissesanddirtydishes.com Debra @ Sweet Kisses and Dirty Dishes

    I want to make water kefir! We shall see. I like the taste of beer though, so maybe I’ll like this. Do you make Kombucha? I have tried, and hated, that stuff but I still want to try it again.

    • Stacy

      No…the fact that I hated the water kefir makes me want to avoid it. I HATED the water kefir. I can think now about how it used to smell and it still makes me want to barf. My friend Brandy is still making it, with white sugar like some of the people recommended, and I still can’t handle the flavor. YUCK! Good luck though….since you like beer, you’re probably all set.

  • http://www.tandysean.com Sean

    I started making water kefir at the same time as I started making kombucha, and I gotta say, the kombucha is much better and offers the same (if not more) benefits as water kefir. Kombucha takes 7 to 10 days to ferment, and requires you to start with a sweet tea rather than plain water, but it’s so much tastier! The energy it provides is unbelievable. As I read this I am drinking my water kefir, as I continue to ferment both, and it tastes like dirty gym socks. Try kombucha, it’s better.

    • Stacy

      Dirty gym socks is an excellent metaphor! :-)

  • http://auburngypsy@gmail.com Shannon

    My husband keeps batches of water kefir going at all times. He’s crazy about it, and flavors his with fruit. I drink it, but I kind of give myself a pep talk too. He also makes kombucha; have you done that yet? We got the kombucha recipe from The Healthy Home Economist. She has a lot of traditional food recipes. I’m loving your site though!

    • Stacy

      My friends drink kombucha, but the tea flavor turns me off. :-)

  • http://www.krystalcrusius.blogspot.com krystal

    After your kefir water ferments for 24 hours add the fermented kefir water to some organic juice. Peach is very good! So if you have say 16oz of kefir water fermented then add 8oz of juice. Let that sit for another 24hours then refrigerate until cold in an air tight bottle. Drink cold or at room temp. Should be bubbly by then too!

    • Stacy

      That’s a good tip – but I’ll be honest….we don’t buy or drink juice and try to limit how much sugar we use. And plus, after all that nastiness I”m not trying again. LOL

  • http://www.krystalcrusius.blogspot.com krystal

    I use 2 rounded tbsp organic coconut sugar and 2 rounded tbsp organic sugar for each batch.

  • http://www.krystalcrusius.blogspot.com krystal

    Hey Stacy! I don’t drink juice either. The only way I will is through kefir water. The grains actually eat the suggest through fermentation. Other than kefir I only drink water, stevia sweetened home brewed tea, and organic coffee occasionally. Just a thought because the probiotic benefits are just that wonderful!

    • Stacy

      I think my friends have talked me into kombucha instead. :-) I love using our dairy kefir though! Just used some this morning for breakfast. Thanks for the great tips!

  • julie

    How will i know if i killed my grains? After 3 days, my water kefir tastes like sugar water.
    I assume that’s not a good that they are still alive.

    • Stacy

      That doesn’t sound promising. :-( The grains are supposed to eat the sugar.

  • Trina

    We drink water kefir all the time and love it! I will say that I use plain organic cane sugar- and it is good. One time I switched it up and used some molasses– and another time a dark organic sugar– both were YUCKY! It looks like you were using a dark sugar– so maybe that made a difference.

    I don’t usually get lots of bubbles unless I mix in a purple juice (grape is the best- cranberry makes good bubbles too). My favorite flavor so far is lemon (like lemonade) and elderberry.

    Also, I am not sure if where you purchased them makes any difference- I got mine off amzaon for about $10 and they were not dehydrated. They make delicious kefir!

    I have had one batch “go bad”– I stressed them out by not feeding them for over a week— and they stunk like feet! My kefir NEVER usually smells and tastes bad like that— after researching it, it was because I stressed them out. I will try reviving that batch by rinsing them and trying again. Thankfully I have 3 different batches now since they grow like crazy. So if they don’t stop smelling like dirty socks then I will toss that jar.

    • Stacy

      I’m in the process of trying kombucha now. :-)

  • Sarah

    Hahaha, yep, water kefir is the moodiest of all the lacto-fermented drinks I’ve tried. Mine was growing ridiculously fast, then started smelling like cheese, now it’s mad at me and hibernating. If you ever master it, it’s addicting, which is why I haven’t given it up yet! It’s the only one my husband likes!