Water kefir grains are a type of SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast) that feed on sugar water, making a delicious probiotic drink in the process. Depending on what you flavour it with post fermentation, water kefir can taste like lemonade, ginger beer or fruit squash – albeit tarter versions of these. If you bottle the drink and leave it to ferment for another 12–24 hours, it will carbonate naturally into a delicious, sparkling pick-me-up.
1litrewaterfiltered or mineral (chlorinated tap water will kill the kefir grains)
fewpiecesorganic dried fruitsuch as figs, unsulphured apricots or prunes
1.5litrekilner jar or other preserving jar
stoppered or screw top glass bottlesdon't use plastic bottles
Wash your Kilner or preserving jar with hot, soapy water (no need to sterilise) and rinse well.
Stir the sugar into the water until dissolved, then pour into the Kilner or preserving jar.
Add the kefir grains, lemon slice and chosen dried fruit and give it a stir with a wooden spoon, then close up the jar. If your jar has a rubber seal, remove this so that gases don’t build up. (If you can’t find an organic lemon, try adding a few drops of cider vinegar to your first batch of kefir and then leave some liquid in the jar when you strain it (once it has fermented). This is done to keep the PH low.)
Leave to ferment at room temperature for 24–48 hours, until the kefir tastes sourish. The more sour it is, the less sugar and more of the beneficial lactic and acetic acids it will contain. I usually give mine 48 hours. Don’t give it longer than 48 hours at this stage or the grains will start to suffer.
When it is ready to bottle, discard the lemon slice and dried fruit. Strain the water kefir and grains through a sieve, reserve the grains (see page 240) and pour the water kefir into clean stoppered or screw top glass bottles, leaving a little space at the top of each, then close the stoppers or screw on the tops. You can now leave the kefir at room temperature for 12–24 hours to carbonate, depending on how potent it is. Check the fizziness by burping each bottle (undo stopper or lid to release any gas that has built up) every 4 hours or so – don’t let them over-carbonate or the bottles could explode! Put them into the fridge once they have carbonated enough, as this will slow the fermentation. The kefir will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Start by having a small glassful of water kefir a couple of times a day and then increase the amount you drink over a week, up to however much you like. Go slowly at first as the probiotic can sometimes make people bloated and has a cleansing action on the liver in some. If you don’t have any digestive issues, you can probably drink as much as you like right away.