Many people have heard of milk kefir, but not being a big fan of fermented milk, I was really excited to find out about water kefir. I’m a massive fan of probiotics and I believe they are a very important of my diet, especially in this day and age when so much of what we eat is processed, causing all sorts of digestive issues. Probiotics help to regulate the gut bacteria and to keep it balanced and healthy; there is evidence that they can help people with IBS and intestinal problems. I find them particularly helpful when my children are sick, have stomach pains or diarrhea: I usually give them some probiotic, organic yoghurt that is easy to digest and helps the gut to heal. Same thing if they have been prescribed antibiotics (which is very rare): I will make sure they get some probiotics in as antibiotics destroy the gut’s flora. Water kefir has different bacteria strains than milk kefir, so if you have both grains, you can alternate between them.
Water kefir is great because it is extremely cheap to make, can be made to suit different tastes and is a healthy replacement for soda. Grains grow and reproduce, so if you know anyone who makes kefir, they will often have a stash of extra grains to give away. I got my grains from a local person I found on facebook (there are lots of groups dedicated to kefir and kombucha), and I only paid for postage.
Once you have grains, you literally only need water and sugar to get started. I usually measure one cup of water for one tablespoon of grains; you can use bottled or filtered water, but tap water is just fine.
What you need:
-water kefir grains
– a glass jar (mason type)
-a strainer (or use a little muslin or other light fabric to make a little bag in which to keep your grains, as I did)
– measuring equipment
– a bottle to transfer your kefir into, once it has fermented
Boil the water, pour in a large jar, and add sugar (add the same amount of sugar as you have grains). Some people use rapadura or brown sugar, but I find plain white sugar is best assimilated by the grains. The sugar actually feeds the bacteria; the end drink in not actually sweet, so don’t worry if you feel you are adding too much sugar. Do NOT use honey as it is harmful for the grains.
Once the water has cooled, add the grains and close the lid (you can also close the jar with paper towel and elastic). Some people add a dried fig, a date or piece of lemon, which gives a nice, fruity taste to the kefir. The fruit will also float up once the kefir is ready, which helps. I prefer to not add anything at this stage, but I do during the 2nd fermentation.
The kefir takes 24h to 48h to ferment, depending on temperature. I usually leave it 2 days in the jar, then remove my little bag of grains and transfer into a bottle for a 2nd fermentation. At this stage, I add a quarter of lemon and I make sure the bottle is closed properly so the drink gets fizzy, and I leave another day or 2 in the fridge, before drinking. Kefir is incredibly versatile, and there are loads of recipes to suit your taste: you can add ginger, fruit juice or purée, or try making kefir in coconut water.
I love my kefir. It has a slightly odd taste at the beginning, but you get used to is and I really feel the benefits on my health. I don’t feel bloated for example, and sleep better, so I have more energy. It is said to have all kinds of benefits for cancer sufferers, help with depression, chronic fatigue and more, but I can’t comment on that!