Water Kefir Tutorial

My dear cousin, Amy Best (also known as my tomato pal -growing tomatoes together!), has graciously written a post for us on the interesting topic of making your own water kefir. There are two types of kefir: water kefir – small transparent grains that ferment sweetened water; and milk kefir – white or cream coloured grains that look rather like cauliflower florets that ferment milk. (For how to make milk kefir, visit here). As Amy is allergic to dairy, this is a wonderful substitute, still allowing the healthful benefits of kefir with out the diary! Thanks Amy!

Kefir has many reputed health benefits. It has antibiotic and antifungal properties. In addition to beneficial bacteria and yeast, kefir contains many vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. Particularly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, B2 and B12, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin D. Tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids abundant in kefir, is well known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system. Because kefir also has an abundance of calcium and magnesium, also important minerals for a healthy nervous system, kefir in the diet can have a particularly calming effect on the nerves.

This recipe is so easy to make! And it’s yummy and very nutritious!

Ingredients and Utensils

  • 8-cup glass jar.
  • Strainer [stainless steel or nylon].
  • 2 to 3 Tbs milk kefir-grains or 1/4 to ½ cup translucent Water Kefir-Grains. I took some of our milk kefir grains and now use them only for water kefir. Since I’ve transferred milk grains to a non-milk medium, they may not continue to grow. I’m just waiting to fine out and I made sure to use only extra kefir grains in case they end up dying eventually. For more info on this topic see the link at the bottom of this post.
  • 1 to 2 naturally dried figs/prunes or 2 Tbs sultanas or a mixture.
  • Slice of Lemon [Use non waxed lemons preferably Certified organically grown].
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup cane sugar [brown sugar, or non-refined dry sugar-cane juice such as Rapadura, Demarara, Jaggery etc. or combination].
  • 6 cups fresh water preferably spring or good well water.
  • [Optional] 1 Tbs either whole caraway, anise, fennel seed or a few fresh mint (produces nice flavor and aids digestion)

Method

1. Add 6 cups water to an 8-cup glass jar. Do not fill any jar more than 3/4 full! CO2 gas, naturally produced during fermentation, will produce high pressure which has the potential to cause an explosion!

2. Add sugar and shake well to dissolve it. I used rapadura which makes the water brown.

3. Add a lemon cut in half. Only add lemon rind if the fruit is not waxed or sprayed with pesticides or fungicides, otherwise peel to remove rind or zest.

4. Add dried fruits and kefir grains. My kefir grains are brown from the rapadura in previous batches.

5. Fix lid on jar tight and let contents ferment for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature away from light. I put mine in a cupboard.

6. Strain the bubbly water kefir and if using translucent water kefir-grains rinse the grains with cold water. If the kefir tastes carbonated, you know it worked! If it isn’t bubbly yet, try leaving it out a little longer.

Enjoy!

Amy’s daughter, Natalie, enjoying water kefir!

  • Store water kefir in the refrigerator. Putting it in the fridge slows the fermentation process, so upon taking some out to drink later it may be less fizzy. I like mine fizzy, so I leave a glass of kefir out on the counter to return it to room temperature which seems to restore much of the fizziness!
  • I store my grains in some water in the refrigerator between uses.
  • For further resources visit here. This site has lots of great info about all types of kefir.
  • Further tips & tutorial for Water Kefir
  • Read more about my uses of kefir here.
  • Where to find water kefir grains

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

61 Responses to Water Kefir Tutorial

  1. Louise November 8, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    Do you know if it is possible to create our own kefir grains from nothing or so?

  2. DEB September 24, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I have left my water kiefer grains dormant (?) for about a month in a glass jar in the refrigerator, now I would like to reconstitute them … does any one have information on how to succesfully do this ????
    DEB

  3. Jack September 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Kefir is a traditional popular Middle Eastern beverage. The world of kefir is said to have originated from the Turkish word Keyif which means good feeling. It is due to overall sense of health and well being when consumed (Chaitow and Trenev, 2002). It originates in the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union, in Central Asia and has been consumed for thousands of years. It is the product of fermentation of milk with kefir grains and mother cultures prepared from grains. Kefir grains look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower, which contain a complex mixture of both bacteria (including various species of lactobacilli, lactococci, leuconostocs and acetobacteria) and yeasts (both lactose-fermenting and non-lactose-fermenting) such that beneficial yeast as well as friendly probiotic bacteria found in yogurt. Kefir grains or mother cultures from grains (Libudzisz and Piatkiewicz, 1990) are added to different types of milk. It can be made from any type of milk; cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice and soy but commonly cow milk is used. The grains cause its fermentation that results numerous components in the kefir including lactic acid, acetic acid, CO, alcohol (ethyl 2 alcohol) and aromatic compounds. That provides kefir’s unique organoleptic characteristics: fizzy, acid taste, tart and refreshing flavor. Kefir possesses antibacterial activity in invitro against a wide variety of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria (Serot et al., 1990) and some fungi (Cevikbas et al., 1994). Micro-organisms of genera Lactococcus, Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Streptococcus and Pediococcus are involved in these fermentations. In addition, Lactobacillus sp. and species of Bifidobacterium which is not LAB in nature are part of normal human intestinal microflora and they exert a positive effect on human health (Daly and Davis, 1998).

  4. Steffen F. August 12, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Greetings! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  5. nate June 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Water vs milk grains…
    I read that you can use milk grains in water but not water grains in milk.
    Can you elaborate as to why and are there difference between the grains microbially.
    I see that the milk are white and water are clearer or brown, I assume from the milk or sugar water they were grown in????

  6. Virgie Copelan June 24, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    They were a well performed submit , almost brilliance … some far more of it in the following future!

  7. Julie March 12, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    I live in China and just started my water kefir today! My kefir is Tibetian Kefir called Xue lian hua 雪莲花乳酸菌 this kind of kefir was originally made with milk, but milk kefir can be converted to water kefir (but if converted to water kefir it becomes translucent and then it can’t go back to milk kefir). Making water kefir with brown sugar or Chinese red sugar (rapadura) originated in Malaysia. According to Chinese medicine red sugar is good for women and helps regulate menstrual cycle and relieve cramps. According to my friend, red sugar combined with kefir is a superfood for women!

    Has anyone noticed water kefir helping with PMS, regulating periods or cramps?

    • Molly March 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Hello Julie! Are you still living in China? I am currently in southern China and have been trying to get some water kefir started. A friend gave me some grains, but they had been dormant for a while and I am not sure how productive they are. I would love to get some of your feedback from you.

    • Stuart April 8, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

      Hey Julie,

      I am also living in Beijing and was trying to get a hold of some water Kefir but couldn’t find it. Do you know where I can buy it here or have it shipped from somewhere else in China? Thanks!

      • Molly April 17, 2012 at 12:21 am #

        Stuart,

        I am not sure if you have heard of Taobao.com? It is similar to a Chinese version of Amazon. I have been able to find milk kefir grains, but have not seen any water grains. I searched using 克菲尔. Not sure if this helps or not.

    • Katharine July 9, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      I wanted to reply to your question about kefir and PMS – I noticed if I eat milk kefir grains, about 1/3cup 10 days before my period, my PMS (which used to be crazy) is reduced to almost nothing. No idea why that would be.

    • Mikael July 13, 2013 at 6:11 am #

      Hi Julie , I’m only using yoghurt ‘whey water’ as starter for coconut water kefir drink but I read that using ‘water kefir grain’ has even more benefits . Will be pleased to hear from you where I may buy Tibetan Kefir or Red Sugar Kefir which you mentioned originated in malaysia , as I am in kuala lumpur . Name &/ address of any TCM ( traditional Chinese medicine ) shops will be much appreciated .

  8. scandiwoman February 27, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Anyone heard of appleacto…..a fizzy drink made with apple juice. I used to have the culture, but not anymore. Would this water kefir work for this?

  9. mela mustika February 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    have you book about water kefir?

    • Lindsay February 25, 2011 at 8:16 am #

      Not familiar with any book the topic, but plenty available on the web.

  10. rania November 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    I like drink water kefir make fresh.

  11. Shannon October 31, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Hi, I’m also just starting out with Coconut water kefir but haven’t even gotten that far yet.
    Just rec’d water grains in mail from Mariyln and put grains into 1 cup Fiji water w 1 TBSP maple syrup, covered w/ cloth & rubber band & put in closet. I can’t remember if it was 2-3 days but it smelled yeasty so I rinsed everything off and am now storing on counter. I was told it could take 1-2 months to grow the grains to the 1 cup mark then I can start fermenting. Am trying Kombucha next.

    • Sally December 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

      Sounds like you left you kefir grains in the coconut water too long. Kefir is REALLY easy. I put my grains in a quart jar (I use about a cup). I add sugar, a dab of molasses, and fresh ginger. You need the sugar, but you can use whatever fruit you want, and skip the molasses if you want. I leave it out on the counter (no need to hide it from light) for 24 hours. I then pour out the liquid and drink it, add sugar and molasses (and new ginger every 3 days or so), and start again. Try that a couple of times. If you have really yeasty smelling grains, you might want to rinse them and do a batch with sugar just to strain out the next day, and start fresh then. It did not take months to build up good grains. In just 24 hours mine were multiplying. They will be happier with some warmth, so if your kitchen is really cold, you might try putting them near the stove when you cook, or on top of the fridge at the back. Good luck! PS: there’s lots of information on kefir out there. Toss all the complex stuff (no metal, dissolve the sugar frist, etc.). Simple works fine!!

  12. Rachel September 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Just wanted to let you know I yahooed “water kefir” and this came up as number three on the search engine!

  13. Beth Lamping August 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I have been making water kefir now (delicious fermented with grape juice!) but we don’t want to do several batches a week. Too much sugar and we don’t use it fast enough. You mentioned storing your grains in water in the fridge. Can you tell me more about that? Sugar in the water; ratio of grains/water; length of time left without killing; adjustment to restart the grains, etc….

    Thanks so much for the tutorial! :)

  14. Rosie August 13, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Hi, can a person re-use the culture in the kefir? I was just given some water kefir and would like to make my own, thinking that I might re-use the mother culture as can be done with yogurt and sometimes beer yeast. Does anyone know if that can be done, avoiding the need to buy the crystals? Thanks,
    Rosie from California

    • Lindsay August 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

      If you buy water kefir grains, yes, they can be reused after each batch.

  15. Jen March 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    can you use water kefir when soaking instead of milk kefir?

    • Lindsay March 20, 2010 at 6:46 am #

      Yes!

  16. Janet V February 17, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    I starting making kefir water a few weeks ago but I had to stop because I noticed that when I drink it it makes my stomack feels bad, I had stomack ulcers before, not anymore but I’m not 100% good so maybe is the fermentation of this water. My husband had the same reaction. Could you tell me if this water is not recommeded for people with stomack ulcers?

  17. Mendi November 16, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    I am a newcomer to making water kefir. Only been at it about a month. I have only used a lemon in it a couple of times recently. It does GREAT with just the white sugar and dried cherries. It tastes great. Just added some fresh squeezed lemon juice after the last batch had been strained – my kids loved it!

    • Lucy February 5, 2010 at 7:08 am #

      I am just now learning about H20 kiefer and was concerned about even
      the small amount of alcohol content that’s produced. I’d like to give
      it to my small children without any fears and was wondering what the
      alcohol content could be compared to in relation to fruit or orange
      juice. Also, in case of a pregnancy, I’ve read that ALL alcohol
      should be avoided, as even small amounts cross the plancenta and is
      harmful to the developing baby. So, I’m a bit confused on all of
      this and would gladly welcome any input. Thanks!

      • Lindsay February 8, 2010 at 9:41 am #

        If you search google you will find plenty of information on the safety of water kefir consumption during pregnancy and with children. Most say that a moderate consumption is safe for pregnant mothers, but it is totally up to you.

        • Lizanne September 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

          Did you drink water kefir when you were pregnant with Titus? I am 29 weeks pregnant, and have just started my first batch – I’m getting conflicting reviews on whether its ok or not I’m not planning on fermenting it into beer ;) but still want to be careful

          • Lindsay October 1, 2010 at 6:18 am #

            No, I have only made milk kefir and kombucha. I believe it is completely safe in moderation, as the alchohol content is very low. Kombucha is similar and I would drink 1/2 cup here and there or added to smoothies and such.

  18. Shanna November 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    Hello! Has any of yall ever made the water kefir without the lemon, but with all the other ingredients? I just read through the Dom website & ouch my head is aching! Hope it’s okay! Thanks, Shanna

    • Rebecca Bailey July 11, 2011 at 1:53 am #

      Hi – did anyone come up with an answer for this? I am dairy intolerant so have to make water kefir – but I am also very allergic to lemon – and all citrus fruits… Thanks for your help if you know an alternative method!

  19. nicolas November 2, 2009 at 3:04 am #

    My video to make the fruit’s kéfir.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xal6rz_kefir-user-guide-how-to-make-the-fr_lifestyle

  20. dft September 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    hi!

    I’m just starting with my water kefir, and I’m wondering if you have to change the dried fruit & lemon every after change of water.

    thanks!

  21. Storm March 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    I’m new to water kefir and just started using it about a week ago. The first batch was perfect. Loved it. I’m on the fourth batch and the grains are no longer large like they were before. They’re very small. I’m wondering if this is normal? I’m using baker’s sugar and they seemed to love it at first but now I’m not so sure.

    My other question has to do with the Kefir water itself after removing the grains. I’ve allowed the water to set for 24 hours. But I see milky cloudy strings in the water. The first few batches didn’t have this. What is this stuff and is it safe?

    • Amy Best March 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm #

      Are the grains still multiplying? If so, that is a good sign. Although, sometimes for whatever reason, they won’t even multiply but will still culture your water. Try using organic brown sugar and see if they grains seem to like that. Are you making sure the water you use is filtered?

      I am unsure what the milky cloudy strings are. Do you mean you leave the kefir out at room temp. after it is done culturing? I always put it right into the refrigerator after removing the grains, although I don’t know if it is necessary.

      Don’t know if that is helpful, kefir is just a tricky thing you have to play with sometimes! Check out Dom’s kefir site (link in above post) for lots of specific kefir info.

    • Tribalmama April 17, 2012 at 7:39 am #

      I see this is a very old post but I thought I would mention,
      I have the same situation…I just got the cloudy strings in the water on my fourth or fifth batch. I had been using distilled water infused with real salt, a combination of refined and unrefined sugars, a lemon and a piece of ginger. This time around I was out of lemon. I also got greedy and wanted to double my batch (we are a larger sized family) and I believe this to be part of the problem. I am guessing there was not enough nutrition for them to multiply…and the strands are either the breakdown of the grains or more grains producing, like that in kombucha but not a full sized grain yet.
      I intend to try and give them more nutrients the next time around and hope they multiply.

  22. Ms. Camila March 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    Hi!

    A friend of mine gave me tibicos as a present in december.

    I did not know that tap water is a conflicting agent against tibicos’ health, but now I know and i*m already taking care of it.

    But I have a question still… What happens to the culture when you leave it unnatended for several days???

    Do it gets rotten?

    Any harmful bacteria, fungus?

    And how do you know its safe to drink?

    Please, I’m looking forward to an answer cause I’m noticing my kefir is not growing very well…

    Beijos,

    Camila

    • Amy Best March 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

      What do you mean by leaving the culture unattended?

      I do know if you don’t feed the water kefir grains every 48 hours they start to go into starvation mode. So for the most part, it’s good to feed them regularly.

  23. John February 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    I have been making water and milk kefir for 3 years and would like to share some info. First off, try it. You have to get used to its many flavors but is invigorating. Water kefir is much less expensive to make, given the yoprice of organic milk. It is also much more versatile, as one can add many types of fruits and herbs. I find that dried figs are a must for a pleasant taste. Sugar and water alone is not impressive. Dried raisins and grape juice give a wine taste. Making a batch with organic apple juice is a great idea, tighten the lid on the last 24 hours for a fizzy drink. Dried apricots give a pleasant taste and smell to the drink. The results are pretty much the same if you use golden cane sugar or plain white sugar. It is the grains who consume it, not you and they seem to prefer the latter. As for alcohol, I don’t know how strong mine is but I have gotten many a buzz from drinking 4 cups at once, although I don’t get any hangovers from it.

  24. Ellen October 22, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    I began my first culture 3 days ago, and I love this stuff! I found very quickly that if it’s used (strained) every 24 hours, it does not develop a high alcohol content or a very sour flavor. I started with raisins, went to apricots and am now trying prunes. It’s growing rapidlyso tomorrow I am buying more bottles and some strawberries which will probably be very dear since it’s October, but I don’t care. I can’t wait to get my whole family drinking this. I read that you should take periodic breaks from it, but also that’s it’s very safe and healthy even for children. I am still looking for the right word to describe the way it feels when you drink it. It has an intense hydrating quallity–almost as if it redeemed the water and gave it more life. Great stuff! I’m making a list. I’m goingt o try fresh fruit, vanilla beans, oranges, lemons, ginger, and see what I get.

  25. Yardsnacker September 27, 2008 at 8:51 am #

    Gorgeous family! Thanks for posting this! I am going to be making some coconut kefir soon!

  26. desi September 23, 2008 at 7:26 pm #

    what about using green tea instead of water?????

    • Elizabeth January 11, 2011 at 10:34 am #

      Try a kombucha culture if you want to use tea. It’s delicious! It takes a little longer than the kefir but it’s very easy to maintain.

  27. Joan August 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,
    I am very new to water kefir and am only into my first batch. I am hesitant to let my children, aged 6 1/2 and 4, taste because I am not sure if I can. I’ve read conflicting things about it, some say yes and some advises against it. I am very curious about Amy’s daughter Natalie drinking it. Do you know how long she ferments hers? Some say it’s ok if you ferment it for 24 hours. Would definitely appreciate hearing from you. Thanks very much. Joan

  28. Sarah June 15, 2008 at 6:48 am #

    Hi Lindsay,
    Have you ever made water kefir using agave nectar instead of rapadura? Just wondering if it would work since I am not always wanting such a strong molasses flavor from the rapadura (and I have had such great success using agave nectar in ice cream and other places where I just want the sweetness and not the flavor).

  29. Brenda June 6, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    Have you ever tried Kombucha? It is a wonderful health tonic that is fermented over 8-14 days.It has many health benifits and can be easily made at home to avoid the price store cost ($4.00 a pint here).

  30. neleh June 6, 2008 at 7:05 am #

    I just want to let you know I have been reading your blog for a long time because I find your “whole living way of life” interesting. This Kefir was the answer to a question I asked my daughter the other day. We didn’t exactly know what it was but saw it on the back of a truck advertising yogurt. You have explained the process very well. Thank-you
    Neleh

  31. Lauren June 4, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    Thank you for the info, Lindsay! That’s good to know about the sugar content/fermentation time… A friend of mine made water kefir, but she must have let it sit a long time because she said the alcohol taste was overwhelming. That’s what made me so hesitant to try it. I’ll definitely give it a try now and see how it turns out. God bless!

  32. Lauren June 4, 2008 at 2:54 am #

    I’ve really been wanting to make water kefir as I love my milk kefir, but I heard that the water kefir has a high alcohol content. Do you know if it is okay to drink water kefir if you’re trying to get pregnant? (Or if you are pregnant?)

    • Lindsay June 4, 2008 at 8:07 am #

      Here is what I have read:
      Most say that water kefir will produce no more than 1% alcohol content, but this point clarified how to avoid it in excess:

      **Remember that fermented foods naturally contain a small amount of alcohol. This is usually no more than the alcohol content of a very ripe banana. However, the more sugar you use, combined with a longer fermentation process can significantly increase the percentage to as much as 15%! Be aware of this and do not add more than the minimal amount of sugar and ferment only until the cultured drink seems done to your liking. Too much alcohol content will seriously diminish the health benefits of this beverage.

      To my understanding, a small amount of alcohol is fine for pregnant mothers (given the recommendation to drink wine during pregnancies), so I personally don’t see that this would be a problem, especially by following the above recommendations.

  33. Julieann June 3, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    Awesome–Thank you:)

    Julieann

  34. April June 3, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    I just have such a hard time reading about Kefir without thinking of Kiefer Sutherland!

    • Lora (kneadnprayer) June 4, 2008 at 11:34 am #

      Ummm…yeah…makes me wonder what his parents were thinking ~ :-)

  35. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home June 3, 2008 at 8:13 am #

    What a neat idea! I have never heard of that before! We all do well with dairy, so we are loving our regular kefir, but how perfect for those who can’t have dairy.

    I just love how wonderful of a vehicle blogs are for spreading great ideas. Not sure why, but this post just reminded me of how many new and valuable ideas I’ve found through blogging, especially since not too many of my real-life friends have the same health interests. I enjoy blogging alongside you, Lindsay!

  36. Shirley Mom of 6 June 3, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    We have had GREAT success converting milk grains to water grains. I rinse the grains well and ad to sugar water and let it sit for 24 hours. Then I rinse again and let sit in sugar water one more 24 hour period. I find after doing this twice there is not any milk residue left. Then I do the 1/2 lemon, raw organic sugar, and dried fruit (cranberries are WONDERFUL!!). My autistic son cannot have milk kefir. The converted grains work GREAT for those who don’t have access to water grains. Some have said that they will stop producing good water kefir after a while but I have found that mine still rapidly reproduce and make kefir even after sitting unattended for long periods of time.

    • Crystal November 29, 2009 at 10:25 pm #

      Shirley,

      Have you tried the milk kefir grains in coconut milk? I also have a son who is autistic and I am just starting out with kefir. I have heard about using water grains with coconut water. Do you use plain water? I am excited about trying this!