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My Notes on Kefir

November 22, 2013

Sparkling Kefir

Sparkling Kefir

Kefir was a word that had been bandied about but duly ignored on my radar. I had heard people talk about it, I had entertained the thought of it, I even bought a bottle of milk kefir and tried it.

When I tasted the bottled milk kefir, it reminded me of a drinking yoghurt and inspired me to re-hydrate some purchased kefir grains which sat stagnant at the back of my fridge for a few weeks before I threw them out. I obviously wasn’t applying myself to this project! My interest in making yoghurt had been curbed by choosing dairy free and I was really happy with my coconut yoghurt making efforts.

Like its probiotic counterpart, Kombucha, kefir is a combination of “good” bacteria and yeasts in a symbiotic matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars, that resemble tiny cauliflower. The grains can be grown in milk or water but have a subtle difference of composition in their bacterial make up. Milk kefir must be grown in milk and depend on a higher protein & lactose mix than water kefir which is grown in sweetened water. Milk kefir grains range in colour from white to yellow, whilst water kefir grains are translucent and may be white or clear. They range from the size of a pea to a walnut.

This post is about water kefir as I avoid dairy and even though, I believe milk kefir can be grown in coconut milk, I haven’t progressed down that path yet. Let me tell you about water kefir!

Fresh Healthy Kefir Grains

Fresh Healthy Kefir Grains

I was very lucky to be given some fresh water kefir grains recently and now I have a new passion: water kefir! Water kefir is known around the world and is also known as tibicos, tibi, Japanese water crystals and California bees. It tastes GREAT and can be altered by adding different fruits and flavourings.

Whilst I make kombucha regularly, the process for making water kefir is much quicker, more forgiving and the flavour more widely accepted in my household! I like to ferment the sugars completely out, rendering a NON sweet beverage with lots of nutritional benefit but the boys prefer a sweeter, more “soft drink” type of beverage. To do this with kombucha you get a progressively “vinegary” taste but you don’t with kefir. Because the ferment time is only 24 – 48 hours, this can be easily managed and adapted for everyone’s preference.

Kefir grains are chock full of vitamins & minerals but are foremost  full of good bacteria including Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc and possibly others. No two cultures are the same and as a probiotic, hold much higher value than any pharmaceutical supplement or even traditional yoghurt.

On the internet you will find thousands of recipes and differing opinions on how to make the best kefir. Some people prefer to ferment aerobically (without a lid), and others, anaerobically (with a lid).

Some people swear by using dried figs or banana to feed their culture. Some swear by adding a piece of egg-shell or extra minerals. I started from scratch and just used water & sugar and grains to get my first brew. It worked just fine!

The basic preparation method is to add the grains to a sugary liquid and allow it to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. It is important to use ingredients that will not inhibit the fermentation, such as chlorine in tap water or preservatives in dried fruit (sulphites). For this reason I boil my water and let it cool down and use organic fruit. With kombucha production you have to be extra vigilant about hygiene and sterilisation but I am told this is completely unnecessary when making kefir from a hygiene perspective as the bacteria is so robust that it can kill any “bad” bacteria.

It is important that the kefir culture is treated as gently as a live organism, just like a kombucha scoby. The grains need to avoid extreme heat or cold and have plenty of “food” (sugar) to feed off. When storing them, you need to keep them “alive” by regularly feeding them.

Experiment with how much time you ferment for as this varies depending on the ambient temperature. Experiment with different dried fruit and flavourings. I have heard that sultanas and vanilla are good.

The use of metal implements should be avoided, as they can damage the culture, but I haven’t experienced this. Yet. I bottle my kefir in glass and have learnt that after bottling, fermentation continues thus producing more carbonation —so don’t make too much ahead of time or you may have explosions happening in your fridge! Give it a try, its sooo much fun and would be a great science lesson on carbonation for the kids which will benefit them in more ways than one!

1/2 cup water kefir grains
9 cups water, boiled & cooled to room temperature
1/3 cup raw sugar, dissolved in 1 cup boiled water, cooled
1 dried fig, organic & unsulphured, cut in half
1 slice of lemon, including rind
1 knob ginger (optional, sometimes I use fresh turmeric)
Unfiltered fruit juice – I use apple, but any will do.
Make sure that everything is room temperature and mix together in a large jar or bottle. Secure a clean nut milk bag or muslin on top with a rubber band to keep the fruit flies out.
Have a taste and keep in mind how sweet it is.
The kefir grains will sink to the bottom as will the fig. The lemon and ginger will float on the surface.
Leave for 24 hours at room temperature and taste. If it tastes less sweet than the day before, the kefir is active and eating the sugar.
You will see small bubbles forming around the grains and some may float to the top, that’s normal.
Leave for another day  – a little scum may form on the surface which is tiny yeast bubbles, that’s normal too.
Taste – it will be less sweet again and then prepare to bottle. It will not be fizzy but will produce more carbonation after being sealed.
Make sure your bottles are clean and sterile*. I use recycled beer bottles that I cap with a brewing capper but swing top bottles are easier to use and widely available.
If you are using big bottles, pour an inch of fruit juice in the bottom and top up with kefir and seal. I pour in a half-inch of juice in small beer bottles. This gives the bacteria in the kefir some more food to produce carbonation.
Leave at room temperature for one more day and then refrigerate to slow down the fermentation process. Drink and enjoy the amazing benefits of probiotics!**
Please contact me if you would like me to send you some fresh water kefir grains – I have plenty to share.
Learn how to look after your water kefir grains here.
* Most internet sites I looked at did not mention about sterilisation but I do for peace of mind.
** Just a word of warning: Don’t drink too much of this at the start – your gut will not be used to the probiotic culture and may have a “cleansing” effect. (he he he) Your gut will soon benefit and become a very happy tummy!
19 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    February 26, 2017 4:14 pm

    Hi I was wondering if I could get some water kefir and kombucha scoby?, I’ve just read your post on fermenting these and I’m inspired to give it a go

    • March 3, 2017 7:10 am

      Hi Amy, I’m sorry but I don’t have any at the moment. I find brewing too prolific in the heat of summer so I tend not to have any at this time of year. There are some great facebook groups you could try.

  2. Emily permalink
    November 10, 2015 5:17 pm

    Are you still making water kefir? I live in Brisbane and would love some grains of you have some spare 😊

    • November 13, 2015 4:29 pm

      Hi Emily
      Yes I am but I have only just sourced a new batch from a friend as my own were exhausted!! I should have some in a few months when these have multiplied!!

  3. Anonymous permalink
    December 12, 2013 5:08 pm

    Hey sarah that would great is pay pal through ur website? Bec

  4. christine permalink
    November 24, 2013 3:15 pm

    are you in Australia – can you buy water kefir grains in Oz

    • November 25, 2013 9:16 pm

      Yes, I’m in Brisbane Australia. If you are local I can send you some!

  5. Diane Lette permalink
    November 23, 2013 8:31 pm

    Hi Sarah I would love some grains please I’ve been making Kombutcha and reading up on Keffir but didn’t want to do the dairy ones I’m in Tassie will that be a problem.

    • November 25, 2013 9:17 pm

      We can only try! Please email me directly with your address and I’ll send you some!

  6. Andrea permalink
    November 22, 2013 4:27 pm

    Wow this sounds great. Had heard of this months ago and brought a book on food fermentation. Would love some grains.

  7. Marissa Rimmer permalink
    November 22, 2013 2:37 pm

    Great post. I’d love some grains please!

    How will you send them?

    Thanks Marissa

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. A Table in the Sun permalink
    November 22, 2013 1:15 pm

    I made milk kefir for awhile, and my tummy loved it…….but I’m still too dairy intolerant to make this a healthy habit….sigh…..My ears completely filled with fluid and started hurting daily. I did try making water kefir once, but wasn’t as successful. Perhaps I’ll give it another try. Thanks for your detailed instructions.

    • November 22, 2013 2:21 pm

      Oh Yuck! Stay away from dairy!! The water kefir is sooo easy peasy, do you want me to send you some grains?

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 12, 2013 3:37 pm

        Hey Sarah do you still have grains left and also if you post them do you want money for postage? Bec

      • December 12, 2013 3:43 pm

        Hi bec, yes I do. I have posted a couple of batches but haven’t heard how they travelled yet. The postage is $7. Make payment via PayPal and I will post to you.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 12, 2013 5:09 pm

        Hey sarah that would be great is paypal through ur website

      • December 12, 2013 5:10 pm


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