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5 from 7 votes

How to Make Water Kefir

Love water kefir? This fermented, vegan probiotic drink is easy to make at home, and is a delicious, light, and flavorful alternative to milk kefir or kombucha.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 d
Total Time2 d 30 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 3 people
Calories: 40kcal

Ingredients

Basic Water Kefir:

  • 8 cups water (dechlorinated water or previously boiled water)
  • ½ cup sugar (white, turbinado, or brown)
  • ¼ cup water kefir grains (amount approximate)
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Optional Flavoring Add-Ins:

  • fruit, spices

Equipment Needed While Fermenting:

  • half gallon glass jar (or multiple smaller jars)
  • paper towels or napkins (avoid using cheesecloth if you have a problem with fruit-flies)
  • rubber band

Equipment Needed While Carbonating / Storing:

  • mesh sieve or strainer
  • funnel
  • 1 2-liter soda bottles OR 3 16-oz bottles, PLASTIC or PRESSURE-RESISTANT swing top glass bottles

Instructions

Fermenting:

  • Add water and sugar to the glass jar, and mix until sugar is dissolved.  (This is easiest if the water is warm.)
    Note: If water is hot, allow it to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.
  • Add the water kefir grains.  Cover with a paper towel or napkin, and secure with a rubber band.  Allow to ferment for 48-72 hours.  
    Is it Working?  There will be few, if any, signs that your kefir is fermenting until you move onto the carbonation step.
    Fermenting Time: The first time using your kefir grains, they may be sluggish.  Give them the full 72 hours to ferment.  In warm rooms, your kefir will generally ferment quickly (48 hours) and in cooler rooms, it will likely take longer (72 hours).
    Tip: Write the start and estimated end date on the paper towel.
  • Pour the kefir through a mesh sieve into a clean jar or pitcher to strain out the water kefir grains.  
  • Add the lemon juice to the fermented water kefir.
  • Set the grains aside in a clean jar or bowl, and then add more sugar water to start the process over again.
    Tip: If you need to store the grains, store them in a new batch of sugar water, or in some of the current batch of sugar water.

Making Flavored Water Kefir: (Optional, but Recommended)

  • Technique 1 (2nd Fermentation):
    Add fruit, spices, and / or herbs to the jar of fermented water kefir.  Cover with a paper towel and rubber band, and ferment another 1-2 days.
    Tip: Never add the fruit (or other flavorings) to the water kefir while the kefir grains are still in the jar-- it could harm the grains.
    Strain out any added flavorings, and proceed to the bottling step.
  • Technique 2 (Flavor Added to Final Bottling):
    Add desired amount of juice or lemonade to the kefir.

Bottling Water Kefir:

  • Use a funnel to pour the water kefir into bottles.  Refrigerate immediately, or proceed to the carbonation step.

Carbonating Water Kefir:

  • Seal bottles.  Check after 24 hours, or after 12 hours in warm rooms.  The water kefir is ready when the plastic bottles are rock hard, or when glass bottles begin to fizz when opened.

Video

Notes

Makes ½ gallon, or 3 20oz bottles.
Troubleshooting-- My water kefir didn't carbonate:
  • Ferment longer: It likely wasn't fully fermented.  Try fermenting your next batch for one day longer.  This is especially likely to happen on your first batch of kefir with grains that have been in storage.  You can still drink the kefir, just ferment the next batch for a longer time period.
  • Go organic: Try using organic sugar.
  • Soak the Grains in Minerals: Add ⅛ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp molasses to the sugar water.  Soak grains for at least a week, or up to a month.  Don't drink this batch-- drain the liquid away and add the kefir grains to a new batch.
Nutrition information changes as this drink ferments, especially the sugar content.  The nutrition estimates for this recipe are based on a nutritionix estimate of general water kefir, and do not include the additional flavoring.

Nutrition

Calories: 40kcal | Carbohydrates: 5.8g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 0.8g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 30mg | Potassium: 95mg | Fiber: 2.8g | Sugar: 1.7g | Vitamin C: 2.1mg