Q. What is Kefir?
A. Kefir is a hand-crafted, effervescent, cultured and enzyme-rich probiotic beverage filled with friendly microbes to help balance your inner-ecosystem. This beverage can only be made with live Kefir Grains. The term Kefir Grains describes the look of the culture only and can be a misnomer as they do not contain any grain such as wheat or rye. There are two types of grains, Water Kefir Grains and Milk Kefir Grains. In general, both types of Kefir Grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast in a polysaccharide matrix. Water Kefir Grains are cultured in a solution of sugar and water. Water Kefir Grains can also culture in natural fruit juices containing sugar or young coconut water. Milk Kefir Grains are cultured in dairy including cow milk, goat milk, or sheep milk.
Q: What is Tibicos?
A: Tibicos is the scientific name for Water Kefir Grains or Sugar Kefir Grains.
Q. What is the difference between Water Kefir and Milk Kefir?
A. The benefits are similar. Both grains ferment sugar breaking it down into more easily digestible energy while providing beneficial bacteria and beneficial yeast to the digestion system. The main difference is the culturing medium. Vegans and those who are allergic to dairy love Water Kefir. Water Kefir can be flavored in a second fermentation. It can also be used to make Coconut Water Kefir. Because of its water base, generally more Water Kefir can be consumed than Milk Kefir.
Q. How much sugar is left in the finished Water Kefir?
A. Not much. On average, it is the same amount of sugar as 1 green apple. As the Kefir Grains grow, they convert the sugar (sucrose) into very easy to digest mono-saccharides glucose and fructose. After fermentation approximately 20% of the original sugar will remain in the Kefir. Almost all of that remaining sugar will be fructose. After 48 hour fermentation, 1 quart of water will contain only 1.4% fructose.
Q. I don’t consume any sugar, can I drink Water Kefir?
A. After fermentation, very little sugar remains. If you tolerate Kombucha, you should not have a problem with Water Kefir. You can also try Coconut Water Kefir, which does not contain very much sugar to begin with.
Q. How many calories does Water Kefir contain?
A. That depends on how long it ferments. As time passes Kefir Grains consume more sugar. Generally, the more sour the Water Kefir the fewer calories it contains. If Coconut Water is used the resulting Coconut Water Kefir would contain the least amount of calories as the Coconut Water has less natural sugar to begin with.
Q. Does Water Kefir contain gluten?
A. No, Water Kefir Grains do not contain gluten.
Q. What is the alcohol content in Water Kefir?
A. As with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is present in the finished product. Scientific studies show Water Kefir to contain between 0.038% – 2% alcohol, or 16-38 g/L (grams per liter). With the normal amount being around .08% or less. Shorter fermentation will allow less alcohol production.
Q. Why drink Kefir?
A. Drinking beneficial bacteria will improve digestion and thus overall health. Foremost, a healthy digestive system ensures absorption of vitamins and minerals into the rest of the body which is critical to maintaining health. Over time poor diet, stress, lack of sleep, and many other factors contribute to a digestive track ridden with toxins and harmful bacteria and opportunistic yeast. These plague the immune system preventing absorption and digestion of vital nutrients into the rest of the body. Over time the buildup of toxins deplete our energy and prevent healing from disease. By introducing friendly bacteria and beneficial yeast into the diet on a daily basis we are constantly fighting the war against toxins and harmful microbes inside our digestive tract. Ancient chinese medicine believe digestion to be a critical starting point to improving ones health.
Q. What are beneficial yeasts?
A. Beneficial yeasts found in Kefir can dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by protecting the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming an army that cleans up and strengthens your intestines. The body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites and preventing opportunistic yeast like Candida from taking over.
Q. How does Kefir compare to yogurt?
A. Overall, commercially available yogurt is much less effective than Kefir. Yogurts may be pasteurized killing all beneficial microbes. Some products contain synthetic stabilizers which make them more difficult to digest. More importantly commercial products have less potent probiotics. Specially, the bacteria and yeast found in commercial yogurt are transient meaning they will not colonize your digestive tract. Kefir contains several major strains of beneficial bacteria not commonly found in yogurt (e.g., Lactobacillus kefyr, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris, and Lactococcus lactis subsp. diacetylactis). Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir, which can dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by protecting the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming an army that cleans up and strengthens your intestines. The body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.
Q. Who should drink Kefir?
A. Everyone. Kefir is excellent for healthy men and women, pregnant and nursing women, children, the elderly, and those with compromised immunity.
Q. When should I drink Kefir?
A. Anytime. It may be helpful in the morning as a replacement for caffeine. It works well in the afternoon as an energy boost. It may be used to reduce cravings for food or sweets. Coconut Water Kefir may be best after exercise to rehydrate and revitalize your body.
Q. How much Water Kefir should I consume?
A. Water kefir is a very powerful probiotic. It is more powerful than commercially available Kefir and Kombucha. Most people may start with 1 ounce per day. Within a few days you can increase it to 1 ounce a few times per day. Children or elderly may want to start with 1/4 ounce per day. As you improve your digestive system and release toxins you may consume more and more. Listen to your body.
Q. How do I know when I consumed to much?
A. As the digestive tract improves and rebuilds with beneficial microbes, toxins will leave the body. Some temporary symptoms may include headache, general aches, nausea, diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms. This is the body’s natural way of cleansing and detoxing with the help of the new army of beneficial microbes introduced. If these symptoms become uncomfortable reduce consumption or skip a day. A very toxic body may benefit from a slower cleansing to avoid this discomfort. If the body is less toxic to begin with these symptoms may never be experienced.
Q. What age can children begin to consume Kefir?
A. Ultimately this depends on your judgement as a parent. Mothers may give Coconut Water Kefir to babies in very small amounts. Mothers may also consume Coconut Water Kefir while breastfeeding.
Q. What are possible side effects or allergic reactions to Kefir?
A. Water Kefir is a very powerful probiotic. It is more powerful than commercially available Kefir and Kombucha. As the digestive tract improves and rebuilds with beneficial microbes, toxins will leave the body. Some temporary symptoms may include headache, general aches, nausea, diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms. This is the body’s natural way of cleansing and detoxing with the help of the new army of beneficial microbes introduced. If these symptoms become uncomfortable reduce consumption or skip a day. A very toxic body may benefit from a slower cleansing to avoid this discomfort. If the body is less toxic to begin with these symptoms may never be experienced.
Water Kefir Basics
Q. Is Water Kefir hard to make?
A. No. It takes a few simple steps! Check out a tutorial by clicking here.
Q. How is Water Kefir made?
A. Water Kefir is made when a sugar water or coconut water is cultured by Water Kefir Grains. It is a simple and inexpensive process.
Q. What amount of Water Kefir Grains do I need to make Water Kefir?
A. 1/4 cup of Water Kefir Grains will culture 3 quarts of Water Kefir every 24-48 hours.
Q. How long will the Water Kefir Grains last?
A. With proper care, Water Kefir Grains should last indefinitely. There are many delicious ways of preparing Water Kefir and creative experimentation is healthy. However, it is recommended to store a “reserve” in the refrigerator incase you ruin the grains. The master recipe should be used every so often to keep the grains is healthy condition.
Q. Are Water Kefir Grains reusable?
A. Yes, Water Kefir Grains are reusable. Once your Kefir is finished culturing, simply remove the Water Kefir Grains and place them in fresh sugar water, juice or coconut water.
Q. Will Water Kefir Grains multiply?
A. Water Kefir Grains are known to multiply, but at times they are reluctant to do so. Water free from chlorine and rich in minerals along with sugar and molasses will promote the best growth.
Kefir Grains Food
Q. What types of sugar can be used to make Water Kefir?
A. Dark brown organic sugar is best. Whole sugars with molasses still intact will promote healthy Kefir Grains in the long term as the minerals in molasses promote Water Kefir Grain growth. If Kefir Grains are having trouble fermenting experiment with different kinds of sugars until you find one that works. Sometimes the grains need different vitamins or minerals that could be in different brands. Kefir Grains have successfully cultured in agave, maple syrup, palm sugar, and other organic natural sweeteners. DO NOT use artificial sweeteners of any kind.
Q. What kind of molasses is best?
A. Organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses.
Q. Do I have to use molasses?
A. For the most part, no. If you don’t like the taste, you don’t have to include it. Every once in awhile it is a good idea to add some as the Water Kefir Grains may need minerals.
Q. Is there any danger to using less sugar than recommended?
A. Yes. Making Water Kefir requires a balance of ingredients to allow the Kefir Grains to properly culture and feed. Using less sugar (or culturing the kefir for longer than 48 hours) may cause the grains to starve. Over time, the Grains will become less efficient and although you are using less sugar, you may actually end up with more sugar in the finished Kefir than you would with efficient working kefir grains. Ultimately, using less sugar will result in unhealthy Kefir grains and possibly higher sugar consumption for you.
Q. Can I use coconut water to make Water Kefir?
A. Yes, young coconut water can be used to make Coconut Water Kefir. Allow Kefir Grains to get established using sugar water (for at least a few batches) prior to using coconut water.
Q. Can I use honey to make Water Kefir?
A. Technically, yes. Raw organic honey will make a wonderful tasting Water Kefir. However, honey has antibacterial properties in nature and the Water Kefir Grains are a mixture of bacteria and yeast. Therefore honey is very hard on Water Kefir Grains and will cause them to weaken and eventually die. If you really must use honey, keep a reserve of Kefir Grains thriving on the master recipe.
Q. Can I use fruit juice to make Water Kefir?
A. Yes, straight organic fruit juice can be used to make Water Kefir. Allow Kefir Grains to get established using sugar water (for at least a few batches) prior to using fruit juice. Fruit juice is hard on Water Kefir Grains and will cause them to weaken and break down. Therefore, keep a reserve of Kefir Grains thriving on the master recipe.
Q. Do I need to add sugar if I’m using fruit juice to make Water Kefir?
A. No, there should be enough sugar in the fruit juice to feed the kefir grains.
Water Quality Makes a Difference
Q. What kind of water is best?
A. Artesian Well, Spring or regular well water have high mineral content and are best for culturing Water Kefir Grains.
Q: Can I use filtered water?
A: Distilled, Reverse Osmosis and water filtered trough a carbon-activated filter (Britta, Pur, etc) should not be used. These processes remove vital minerals for healthy Kefir Grains.
Q. Can I use tap water?
A. If you cannot source Artesian well or spring water and must use tap water, it is important to remove the chlorine either through boiling (15 minutes) or through aeration (e.g. placing the water in a container and allowing it to sit out overnight or running it through a blender).
Q. Why the variable fermentation time?
A. The time you choose to ferment will likely depend on how you want it to taste. Letting it ferment longer produces a more sour beverage that contains more probiotics.
Q. Where should Kefir Grains ferment?
A. The ideal place would be clean and dark and away from any major appliances.
Q. Does the fermenting Water Kefir need to be refrigerated?
A. No. They need to ferment at room temperature.
Q. At what temperature should the Grains ferment?
A. 70 degrees F is ideal. Cooler will slow fermentation. Warmer is ok, but it will ferment faster, so check it often. Warmer also works better for Coconut Water Kefir.
Q. Can I allow the kefir to culture for longer than 48 hours?
A. Allowing the Kefir Grains to culture for longer than 48 hours may damage the grains by potentially starving them (particularly in warm weather when the culturing process is sped up due to the heat).
Q. Do I fill the jar completely to the top?
A. Fill almost to the top, leaving about one inch from the top to allow for bubbles and pressure.
Storing Finished Water Kefir
Q. Where do I store finished Water Kefir?
A. It is best stored in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Q. Is there any danger of the glass container exploding under the carbonation pressure when bottling water kefir?
A. We have yet to hear reports of exploding containers although lids do occasionally fly off, particularly when being opened. We recommend keeping your whole hand over the lid of the container as you open it to prevent being hit with a flying lid. We also recommend opening the container over a sink in case the carbonation causes the Water Kefir to bubble over.
Tasting Water Kefir
Q. What should Water Kefir taste like if I am making it correctly?
A. It is generally tart and fizzy, but it really depends on how long you let it ferment. You can taste it after two days of fermentation and see how you like it. If it is too sweet, let it go a bit more.
Q. How will I know if I’ve successfully made Water Kefir?
A. The primary test of whether or not you have successfully made Water Kefir is if the finished Kefir tastes less sweet than the sugar water or juice you’ve started with.
Q. What if it isn’t fizzy?
A. Try a secondary fermentation and see if that helps. Meanwhile, do another fermentation cycle with the grains. They might need to adjust to your environment. They should have some fizz after primary fermentation and more after secondary fermentation. The most carbonation will be when cultured with Coconut Water. You may still drink and receive the benefits of the non-fizzy Water Kefir that you made.
Q: How can I increase the amount of carbonation?
A. There are several ways to increase the amount of carbonation/fizz/bubbles in Water Kefir. Whole sugars (sugars containing molasses) will normally produce a more bubbly kefir than water kefir made with white sugar (adding 1 tablespoon of molasses to white sugar has a similar effect). Once the initial culturing process is complete and the grains have been removed, you can bottle up the finished Water Kefir with or without juice (20% fruit juice is a good ratio) for several days to allow carbonation to build. Water Kefir bottled with juice will generally be more carbonated than Water Kefir bottled without juice due to the higher sugar content.
Q. What do you mean by secondary fermentation?
A. After draining the grains, add whatever fruit (fresh, dried or juice) or flavors (e.g. vanilla) you like to the finished Water Kefir, cap and let that ferment for a day or two. For more ideas, see our Recipes section.
Q. Can I flavor Water Kefir while it’s brewing?
A. Yes, technically you can add fruit (fresh or dried) to the sugar water at the same time you add the grains. Please note that not all fruit is not compatible with Kefir Grains and over time, may damage the grains. Strawberries, mangos and figs are popular fruits to add during the culturing process.
Taking a Break from Making Water Kefir
Q. How do I take a break from making Water Kefir?
A. Prepare a sugar water solution (1/4 cup sugar to 1 quart water), place the grains in the sugar water, place a tight lid on the container and place it in the refrigerator. The cold will greatly slow the culturing process and they can keep this way for up to several weeks. If at the end of that period you require more time, simply repeat the process with fresh sugar water. If you desire a longer break period, you may dehydrate your Water Kefir Grains by placing them on unbleached parchment paper in a safe location (room temperature) for several days until they are completely dry. Then place the dehydrated grains in a secure glass container and in a cool dry place. They should keep this way for at least 6 months. For even longer storage, live Kefir Grains may be rinsed and frozen in a capped glass jar. This way they can last up to 2 years.
Q. I think I may have damaged my Kefir Grains (e.g. cross contamination, left them to culture for too long, left them in the fridge for too long, cultured them without enough sugar, etc.)? Can I save them?
A. If you believe your kefir grains have been damaged, rinse them thoroughly with filtered water, place them in a fresh sugar water solution (using the master recipe) with a lid on the container and place it in the refrigerator for a few days. This process will often regenerate grains. Once the process is complete, test your grains by culturing them in fresh sugar water for 48 hours then taste the resulting Water Kefir (do not consume any water kefir that looks, smells or tastes unpleasant). If the finished Water Kefir is less sweet than the sugar water you started with, the grains are functioning. If not, it may be time to acquire a new set of Water Kefir Grains.
Q. My Water Kefir Grains are multiplying rapidly. Is there a point where I must remove some of the grains?
A. While only 3 tablespoons of water kefir grains are required to culture up to 3 quarts of water kefir, more grains will not harm the process (and we don’t recommend using less grains even when making less water kefir). However at some point, you will likely have so many grains taking up room in your brewing container that you must remove a portion of them as a practical matter (or you simply won’t have much Water Kefir available). Extra kefir grains can be dehydrated (see above for instructions on taking a break from making water kefir) or given to friends and family (please be sure to pass along the instructions or a link to this website so they can familiarize themselves with the culturing process).
Additional Recipe Questions
Q. Can I make Dairy Kefir or Yogurt with my Water Kefir Grains?
A. You can make a drinkable milk kefir by adding 1 ounce of water kefir to any kind of milk (cow, goat, nut, coconut, etc) and allowing it to ferment for about 24hours. Check it periodically and refrigerate when it starts to thicken. You can also strain to afterwards through cheesecloth to give you a more scoop able kefir.
Q. Can I use Water Kefir Grains to make alcohol?
A. Yes. Culturing water kefir grains in 100% juice (especially with added sugar) for several days will result in a higher alcohol content. Also, it is possible to make a type of beer using Water Kefir Grains.