My Month With Water Kefir

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Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener and gentler. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Since becoming a SAHM I’ve been on a streak of introducing new, more natural and healthy, things into my diet.  For example I’m making my own laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo.  I even been washing my face with oil! I’ve also been making things from scratch like bread and healthy cookies.

There were a few things that just became incongruous in my lifestyle.  One, coloring my hair which I’ll talk about soon and two, drinking large quantities of Dr. Pepper.  If you “don’t like” pop (as we call it in the Midwest) and it is easy to stay away from it for you then I’m jealous.  Sometimes when I first wake up all I can think about is a Dr. Pepper.  I’m like a junkie.  Despite abstaining during my pregnancies I picked my habit back up with much glee each time.

Now, Aellyn wants drinks (she says “bites”) of mommy’s pop.  I know there is just no way to convince her forever to drink only water if I’m not doing the same.  Thing is I hate water.  I know, I know it doesn’t “taste like anything.”  I’ve heard it all before but the fact is I don’t like the way it does or does not taste.  I can have a drink to quench my thirst when I’m working out but I don’t like to drink it at other times.

I needed a healthier drink choice I could happily share with my daughter.

I first read about water kefir, also called tibicos, when I was researching making my own yogurt.  You may have heard of water kefir’s more famous sister milk kefir which is often just called kefir.

What is Water Kefir?

Kefir is a living product.  Like yogurt is a product of milk with bacterial colonization, kefir is a product of either milk or water colonized with a symbiotic community of bacteria AND yeast. They create a matrix that looks like little gelatinous crystals called kefir or tibi grains.  They are white but can take on the colors of the sugars they are cultured in.  Here is a good example of the difference between water kefir (l) and milk kefir (r).

Milk kefir eats lactose – the sugar in milk.  Water kefir eats sucrose or fuctrose – so it needs sugar or another type of sweet like molasses.  (note: although I’ve seen recepies online for honey – honey is technically antibiotic so it is generally NOT recommended).  If you give kefir food it will thrive and grow.

Why Water Kefir?

As a cultured, fermented food it provides beneficial probiotics.  Generally the probiotics of kefir are considered 10x as powerful as those of yogurts.  Also, as water kefir does not require any dairy it is one of the few fermented foods available to those who do not tolerate dairy or who are vegan.

Probiotics help you maintain a healthy gut flora which is so important for the whole immune system.

It is super cheap to make and is self-perpetuating.  Well cared for kefir grains multiply and the other ingredients you have right in you pantry.

You can learn more about water kefir here and here.

So How Do You Make Water Kefir?

Super easy!  You need:

  • 1/4 cup of water kefir grains
  • 1/4 cup of organic brown sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • a wooden spoon
  • a glass mason jar
  • a non-metal strainer

It is important to not use purified water (because the kefir like the trace minerals in water) but also NOT to use chlorinated water.  So, if you have municipal water (and if you do, you aren’t drinking it anyways because of the fluoride, right? :) ) you need to let the water sit out for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate.  Spring water is another option (but make sure it is spring water and not municipal water with the word “spring” on the label).

Step 1:  dissolve the sugar in the water.  I just stir it in but some people like to heat it up to really get it incorporated.  If you do heat it up make sure it cools completely before you introduce the living kefir grains. OPTIONALLY you can add dried fruit at this step which should be sulfur-free – available at most health food stores.  Apricots and Figs are popular ones.  I started with just the sugar.

Step 2:  pour in the kefir grains.

Step 3:  cover the jar with a lid or with a towel and rubberband.  I’m using the rubberband method.  It does not need to be airtight in this step

Step 4:  Allow the kefir to ferment for 24-48 hours.  Do a taste test.  If it is too sweet you can let it ferment for up to 6 days.  It seems people find there perfect time based on taste preference so you have to experiment.

Straining my kefir grains after 48 hours of fermentation

Step 5:  Strain the water to remove the grains, which are now ready for a second batch, into another jar that has a tight fitting lid.  In this next step you want to hold on to that CO2 so you want a lid that will hold that in.  A flip-cork style is best (see below).

Step 6:  Now you can add flavors!  Fruit juices, fruit, vanilla, ginger, the options are endless.  I’ll list my experiments below.

Step 7:  Allow this mixture to further ferment for 24 hours then drink!  You should have a light bubbly carbonation and a sweet and tangy drink.

Stumbling Along

I got my kefir grains in the mail 2 weeks before Christmas and immediately started my first batch!  The instructions that came with the grains mentioned that it can take the grains several fermentation cycles to acclimate to their new environment and I’ve found this to be true.  I don’t feel I’ve gotten much fermentation happening.  I feel like I’m drinking sugar water and don’t notice any carbonation.  I should taste a decreased sweetness but it has really been too sweet.

In my 3rd batch I put blueberries in the second fermentation and the next day poured out a gelatinous mixture.  I wish I had videoed it! lol.  It was like loose jello. Clearly something is going on, right?

This led me to research and this is when I learned about the chlorine problem and to not use metal utensils.  Sigh.  I’m not going to give up.

My next two batches were delicious.  I used raspberries and lemon in the second fermentation and made a delicious raspberry lemonade.  I’m still not feeling any carbonation but I might be expecting too much?  I’m going to keep at it.  Also, this week since I have been drinking this now for a while I stopped eating my daily yogurt to see if some of my previous intestinal problems would return (I have IBS) and they have not.  So, I feel that I’m at least getting the probiotics I would have gotten in yogurt.

My 2nd fermentation with raspberries and lemon (l) and my 1st fermentation (r) of the next batch

I’m still craving carbonation and I think I may have found an alternative solution to that but the water kefir tastes great and is another traditional, healthy food I can add to my diet!  I say, the experiment was definitely worthwhile!

Fermentationally yours,

Baby Dust

Have you tried kefir or water kefir?


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Make your own moisturizer! — Megan at boho mama whips up a winter skin-friendly moisturizer.
  • Cold Water Only — Brittany at The Pistachio Project talks about how you do not need hot water to wash laundry.
  • Family Cloth… Really?? — After lots of forethought and consideration, Momma Jorje finally decides to take the plunge with family cloth.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about decluttering her home in an attempt to create a gentler living space. She takes on a new project where she sets a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling every day.
  • Pros and cons of family cloth — Lauren at Hobo Mama would love to continue replacing paper products with family cloth … if she could only get over how damp she feels.
  • Craftily Parenting — Kellie at Our Mindful Life finds that crafting makes her a better parent.
  • Changes — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one area to experiment with, so she wrote a long post about all the fun changes initiated in her life!
  • Life without Internet: Not all it’s Cracked up to Be — Adrienne at Mommying My Way tries to go a week without the Internet, only to realize a healthy dose of Internet usage really helps keep this stay-at-home mom connected.
  • My Progression to Raw Milk — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her natural parenting progression all the way to trying raw milk.
  • mama’s new little friend. — Sarah at Bitty Bird tries a menstrual cup to “green her period,” and is pleasantly surprised when she falls in love with the product!
  • Before you throw it out, try homemade laundry soap! — Jennifer at Practical OH Mommy shows visual proof that homemade laundry soap is cheaper, easier, and works better than the store-bought chemicals!
  • Oil, Oil, No Toil, No Trouble — K from Very Simple Secret talks about her foray into the oil-cleansing method.
  • I Need a Hobby — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro couldn’t decide which experiment to run, so she did them all.
  • 7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family — The Stones make a [successful] attempt to release the “holiday junking” with 7 days of macrobiotic meals to balance their bodies and souls. Elisabeth at Manic Mrs. Stone includes an explanation of macrobiotics.
  • Chemical Free Beauty Challenge — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction turned to natural alternatives for her daily beauty and cleaning routine, with great results.
  • Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about how she decided to give up her traditional antiperspirant and make the switch over to crystal deodorants and definitely isn’t looking back!
  • Going Raw (for a while) — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares her family’s experience with raw food.
  • Do we get to eat gluten today? — Sheila at A Gift Universe has been trying to figure out if her son does better with or without gluten in his diet … but it’s really hard to tell for sure.
  • Hippies Can Smell and Look Fabulous Too! — Arpita of Up, Down And Natural details her experience of going shampoo-free and overhauling her cosmetics to find the balance between feeling beautifully fabulous and honoring her inner hippie.
  • Our cupboards are full…but there’s nothing to eat — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud takes on the challenge of chomping through the contents of her storecupboard rather than going shopping — but there’s something that she just can’t bring herself to do …
  • Elimination Experiment 3.0MudpieMama recounts the messy adventures of her baby daughter trying to be diaper free.
  • Family Cloth Trial — Amyables at Toddler in Tow talks about making and using family cloth wipes in the bathroom for the first time.
  • Taking a Hiatus — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares how her experience of much less internet interaction affected her family and how it will change her approach in the future.
  • Trying Out the Menstrual Cup — Lindsey at an unschooling adventure ditches the tampons and gives menstrual cups a try.
  • Managing Food Waste in Our Home — Tired of the holiday waste, Robbie at Going Green Mama takes a weeklong focus on reducing food waste in her home, and learns some lessons that can take her through the new year.
  • Going Offline, Cloth Tissues, and Simplicity — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses over her time away from blogging and social networking. In addition, she shares her newfound love of cloth tissues and simplicity.

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36 thoughts on “My Month With Water Kefir

  1. Pingback: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day | Diary of a First Child

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    • Awesome Paige! I acquired some kefir grains last summer but didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't know they had to acclimate? Mine turned out like yours, too sweet and not carbonated, although it smelled and tasted a little fermented. Then I thought I ruined them because I put in cherries that I'm pretty sure were sulfured. Oops. I just threw them away.

      I want to try again, though, especially after reading this. So you can just store the grains in a container without any sugar water to feed them? Milk kefir grains have to be stored in milk, so that's interesting.

      Good article. Seriously I think I got more info out of this than anything else I've read on water kefir.
      My recent post Gut and Psychology Syndrome

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    • From what I understand to store them without sugar (food) you have to freeze them or dehydrate them. I have a batch going now and it is looking bubbly! I'm crossing my fingers.

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  10. Another person who hates water! Doesn't it not taste wet enough, or is that just me? lol

    When I was last trying to kick the soda habit, I tried finding other non-water things to drink and tried kombucha. All I'll say is, Blecch!! (Ok, sorry to any kombucha fans.) I might try kefir. Then again…

    What I've found this attempt to kick soda (or, at the very least, drink more water) is to experiment with the water temperature. I found, counterintuitively to me, that water the temperature of tap water (not fridge cold) tastes better and "wetter" to me. Go figure. I still don't like it or crave it, but it's getting better with practice. The kicker really was my poor son, who now (phew!) enjoys drinking water.
    My recent post January Carnival of Natural Parenting 2012: Pros and cons of family cloth

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  11. Pingback: Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution | The Artful Mama

  12. Carbonation – put your kefir in some clean empty plastic bottles (i.e. pop bottles), cap them and let them sit on the counter until they get hard when you give them a little squeeze. I've gotten great carbonation that way.

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  14. I'm really intrigued by water kefir, and after seeing just how easy it is (it's a little intimidating still, though) I might have to order some grains. I love milk kefir, as does my son, but this could be a nice alternative with few calories and would definitely suit me well to replace soda (Goal #1 this year…). Have you had Cascal sodas? It's fermented – I wonder if they start with a base like this?

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring! I'm definitely going to try this out!
    My recent post OMG Mom is Home… All Day Everyday: A Week-Long Experiment in Connecting

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  15. I have been fascinated with kefir, but I'm too lazy (yes, really!) to try it. I generally drink water with a couple drops of grape stevia – tastes like propel – yum!! I need to sample someone else's kefir to see if it would be worth it to make, good luck with yours!

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    • Yeah! A fellow "pop"er. My husband is from Mass and he's trying to get our daughter to call it soda. I'm like nooooo! ;)

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  20. I had never heard of water kefir before (or maybe I have and it went over my head) but it sounds really interesting, and fun. The children enjoy making home made yoghurt, so they’ll like this too. They get very excited by bacteria and yeast!

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    • kombucha is on my experiment list! Do you have a blog post about it? (I'll search). I always mix it up with kimchi – which is TOTALLY different! lol

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  21. I had never heard of water kefir before! How lovely that you can experiment with different flavors — the raspberry lemonade sounds delicious.

    So — do you still wake up thinking about Dr. Pepper?

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  23. Get a sodastream! I cured me of my camel ways, and now I drink the plain bubbly water (also known as tickle water in this house) all day long.

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