Water kefir is a fermented drink made with water kefir grains; these grains have consisted of friendly bacteria (probiotics) and yeast living very close to each other or in symbiosis, as the scientists say. Water kefir origins are a bit obscure, but there are hints about it originating from Mexico, Tibet, and even Russia.
However, regardless of where it originated from, it has been in existence for centuries in the Northern Caucasus mountains. It is known by a variety of names in other countries; in Mexico, it is called tibicos or tibi, which is also used to make a fermented beverage called tepache; in Italy, it is called kefir de Fruita, in France, it known as grains Vivante, in California it is known as bees and the Japanese call it water crystal.
Not many people are aware of water kefir. In contrast, milk kefir is the popular one, water kefir was in the shadows, but the truth about it and all the other types of kefir have now caught the attention of healthy eaters, making them more aware that all the different types of kefir and on a whole all fermented foods and drinks have an array of beneficial probiotics that are excellent for the optimal performance of your body.
Nutritional Benefits of Kefir
Water kefir is a healthy probiotic-rich drink that you can make at home, and it is very cheap with no strain on your purse. It is quick and relatively easy to make. Its vast amount of probiotic content provides an enormous abundance of nutrients that help improve your digestive systems and your whole body’s health.
It has antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and also contains essential vitamins and other beneficial nutrients like biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, folic acid, niacin, and other vital minerals and nutrients. It also contains an abundance of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin B12,vitaminB2, vitamin A, vitamin D, and tryptophan (one of the vital amino acids abundant in kefir well known for aid in relaxing the nervous system).
Water kefir is rich in both prebiotics and probiotics. Other health benefits of water kefir are that it improves mental focus, hormone levels, mood swings and also helps to clean the liver and kidneys. The probiotics in water kefir also help contribute to a healthy immune system, reduce inflammation, and help digestion of foods and micro-nutrients.
In addition, it stimulates the immune system by building up colonies of good bacteria like acidophilus. The abundance of calcium and magnesium(contained in water kefir) are also crucial in maintaining healthy nervous systems, and it also has a calming effect on your nerves.
When our bodies do not get the proper nutrition, our entire system falls out of balance. Stress can disrupt our digestive systems, and poor diet choices and a lack of dietary fiber. The benefits of maintaining a healthy digestive system extend way beyond digestion and lead to better nutrient absorption from the foods we eat.
The key to attaining good health and longevity is an excellent digestive system and a balance between the good and bad bacteria; these are the essential starting points of healing and reducing problems such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and intestinal dysbiosis (small bacteria overgrowth). Maintaining an excellent digestive system can also help to increase energy, improve skin complexion and overall condition, improve brown liver spots /age spots, and can help with other skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
The probiotic drink, water kefir, could also help to make your hair and nails look healthier and strengthen them as well. In addition, it can help to cleanse the liver, thereby reducing aches and joint pains. It also helps with the glandular (endocrine) system, helps with a sleep disorder like insomnia, and helps to improve your eye health.
What are Water Kefir Grains
The water kefir grains are clear and translucent, and they often take the color of whatever fruit you tend to use in your brew. Water kefir grains are not natural grains like wheat or rye etc. They got their name from how they look; they are just yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship with other bacteria (an understanding and united relationship).
They are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars. This symbiotic relationship (SCOBY) forms grains (not clumps as with milk kefir). Lactic acid bacteria and yeast are found in every water kefir grain; it is the foundation of the whole matrix.
They do not cling or clump together like milk kefir, nor are their colors alike; while milk kefir is white water, kefir grains are clear or translucent. These translucent grains are comprised of an assorted amount of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus hilgardii which makes water kefir grains look a bit like crystals.
Making Your Organic Water Kefir at Home
You need to collect all the utensils and ingredients before you start, so let us see if you are on the right track. First, you need to set aside the utensil, and they are:-
- 3 glass jars
- 1 plastic, wooden or stainless steel filter
- 1 wooden or plastic spoon
- Cheesecloth/kitchen towel/coffee filter/paper towels
- Lid covers
- 2 flip-top bottles for secondary fermentation
- Kitchen twine/rubber-band
- Glass pitcher
Next, we assemble the ingredients we need:
- 6-cups distilled, filtered, or spring water
- 1/4- cup of water kefir grains (need to be rehydrated before use)
- 1/2- cup organic sugar (sugar cane etc.)
- 2 dried un-sulfured figs (optional)
- 1 lemon cut in half (optional)
- a dash of concentrate (optional)
- 1/2- cup fruit juice for secondary fermentation
- 2-tablespoon of organic sugar for secondary fermentation
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How to make Water Kefir – Instructions
- Bring to a boil the 6 cups of distilled, filter, or spring water (never use tap water or chlorine water)
- Then stir in the sugar and continue stirring until all the sugar is dissolved completely.
- Allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Place the water kefir grains into the glass jar, pour in the cool sugar water, and add the two figs and half of a lemon. If you so desire, add a dash of concentrate or any other mineral supplement you can do so.
- Cover the glass jar with the cheesecloth, coffee filter, paper towel, or kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber band or tie tightly with the kitchen twine.
- Allow the water kefir grains to ferment for 3-4 days; the longer the fermentation period, the stronger your brew would be.
- When the water kefir grains have successfully cultured, you can now strain it in a pitcher and discard the remnants of the figs and lemon. Do not throw the water kefir grains away, instead put them in a glass jar for immediate re-culturing; pour in your fresh sugar water, cover it with a tight lid, and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to ferment again. (water kefir grains will store in the refrigerator for up to 3weeks)
- Close the lid tightly to allow the carbon dioxide to develop, thereby producing fizzy water kefir, b. do not leave it to tighten for too long. Else this would lead to an explosive situation as the pressure (carbon dioxide) will build up and have no way to go. It tends to seek its way out by (kaboom) exploding.
While water kefir can be enjoyed as is after the initial fermentation, you can also re-culture or ferment it a second time; this secondary fermentation is where you get to spice up your drink’s flavor with whatever fruit juices you desire.
- For this secondary fermentation, you need to pour the water kefir from the pitcher into the glass bottles filling them until there are 1 to 2 inches of space remaining from the opening of the bottles. Ensure the bottles are adequately sealed, then set them aside on your countertop to ferment for a further 18-24 hours. A warm room will always speed up the fermentation time, and a cool temperature slows it down.
- Place the bottles of water kefir into the refrigerator for three days (72 hours) and allow the bubbles to develop.
- When the water kefir has reached completion, carefully release the lid over a sink and slowly allow it to foam and fizz. This careful manipulation gives the carbon dioxide a slow release enabling you to avoid a messy cleanup.
If there is white or cream-colored skin on the surface of the water kefir culture, do not fret yourself, for this is a normal process, just scrape it off and throw it away; this would in no way affect the health of your water kefir culture, taste or smell.
Water kefir cultures should be acidic. If it is not acidic, there is the danger of mold and other undesirable microorganisms taking over.
If there is translucent skin over the surface of your culture, it is something to worry about because that signals that the yeast and bacteria are imbalanced. Also, suppose there is a blue, black, or dark brown colored skin on the surface of the water kefir culture. In that case, it is probably molded, and the entire culture along with the grains must be thrown away, and all utensils should be washed carefully before starting the next batch.
Storage of Water Kefir Grains
The grains like to be in a warm place but not in the direct sunlight, a reasonably warm temperature between 68 F-78F. If the temperature reaches up to 85 F, they will still culture well; these warm temperatures stimulate the kefir grains with excellent results.
The best place for water kefir grains to culture is on your counter at room temperature, being fed with fresh sugar water every 24-48 hours. Water kefir grains should be changed at the end of the first fermentation, ending within 24-48 hours. This is done so that the grains do not run out of feed (sugar water). If they are allowed to run out of food (sugar water), they could begin to move out of balance and start working ineffectively.
Once water kefir grains have been cared for properly and regularly, they would continue to produce the wonderful probiotic drink, and they will continue to grow indefinitely. They grow and multiply, but the various culturing conditions and ingredients out there make it very difficult for them at times.
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Treatment of water kefir grains
You must avoid refrigerating the kefir grains too often; if you are taking a break from making kefir, like going on vacation, it can be hard on the grains because they do not like to be disturbed too often.
For long vacation periods for up to 6 months, rinse the water kefir grains with filtered, distilled, or spring water, lay them out on unbleached parchment paper in a safe location, and allow them to dry for about 3 to 5 days, depending on humidity and the temperature. Or you can use a dehydrator as long as you do not pass 85 F. Once the grains are dried, you can now store them in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator where they could stay for six months.
New rehydrated water kefir grains need time to adjust and mature before they begin to multiply. Even if you receive them from a friend, they need time to settle in their new place of abode; adjustment periods are regular and may vary widely in the length of time.
Alcohol Content in Water Kefir
Water kefir grains feed on sugar, so you do not have to worry about it being too sweet. The grains feed on the sugar, thereby producing lactic acid, a small amount of alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide. All fermented drinks, including water kefir, produce small amounts of alcohol; alcohol content in water kefir is 0.5%-0.75% depending on how long you leave it to ferment.
These figures are typically less than what you find in overripe fruits, hovering to about 0.9% to 1%. If the alcohol content is a concern for you, you can get a hydrometer (a gadget used by brewers to measure alcohol contents in their brews) and measure it to make sure you do not go above your desired limit. The bacteria and yeast in water kefir prefer to feed on glucose rather than fructose; they convert glucose into glucuronic acid and a variety of other acids.
Sugar Content in Water Kefir
Water kefir grains are cultured by introducing a bacteria and yeast symbiotic culture (SCOBY) into sugar water where the friendly bacteria (probiotics). Yeast present in the water kefir grains metabolize or consume the sugar, turning them into a mind-boggling array of beneficial acids and infusing it with healthful microorganisms and the vitamin B group and food enzymes, and more.
Like with all fermented (Probiotic) foods, water kefir supports good health and overall well-being as the friendly bacteria in the water kefir grains consumed the sugar in the water. This process of fermentation also reduces the sugar content of the drink.
It might seem quite tempting to reduce the amount of sugar used in the making of water kefir, but that would not be a good idea for your water kefir culture. It could put the health of the water kefir grains at risk because they need the sugar to survive. It is what they eat, so you have got to feed them.
The speed at which the sugar is consumed by the water kefir grains depends on the temperature of the environment they are set to culture in. If the days are warmer than the standard room temperature, the water kefir grains will need to be fed every 24-36 hours to prevent any chance of over-culturing.
Avoid adding fruits to the water kefir culture that still has the grains; some fruits may damage the grains. In addition, while fruit juices tend to make very delicious water kefir, it is very acidic. Therefore, putting the water kefir grains in it creates a problematic environment for the grains to multiply effectively.
These water kefir grains prefer a mineral-rich environment. Such minerals come from the sugar and distilled water used in the culture. You can also use minerals from different sources such as eggshells, sea salt, molasses raisins, or any other mineral contained product you choose to use.
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Probiotics in Water Kefir
Water kefir is known to inhibit the growth of unfriendly bacteria and yeast; it also helps microorganisms to colonize and thrive in our digestive tract. Several varieties of probiotics are found in water kefir, such as Lactobacillus casei, acetobacters orientalis, Lactobacillus nagelil, streptococcus lactis Lactobacillus Brevis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Lactobacillus hordei, acetobacter fabarum, and leuconostoc citreum, Lactobacillus hilgardi. Water kefir contains 10-15 probiotics and good yeast strains, which is less than that of milk kefir.
Consuming water kefir which is a natural source of probiotics, is a sure way of introducing probiotics into your digestive tract. Overgrowth of harmful bacteria (pathogens) can lead to many illnesses, including yeast infection, indigestion, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and skin disorders. By drinking water kefir, you will give your internal microflora the balance it requires.
Water Kefir and Health conditions
Water kefir can be better tolerated than soda by people with diabetes because of its lower glycemic index (GI). This is due to its acidic contents, and it is also more tolerable for persons who suffer from candida. In addition, it does not add to problems with blood sugar fluctuations, neither does it feed sugar cravings.
Water kefir also helps to eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. In addition, its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to many types of conditions.
According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, a leading expert in the raw food community and author of Rainbow greens Live food cuisine; kefir grains produce the right rotation l(+) Lactic acid, which is an important constituent of the human body. If consumed in high quantities, water kefir could cause serious side effects, from constipation to stomach cramps and even urinary tract infections. The most common side effects are flatulence and loose stool.
Water kefir is not recommended for people with Niemann-Pick disease A and B.
Note: Listen to your body; never ignore your body’s response to water kefir.
An imbalanced body is a great breeding ground for harmful bacteria, which causes irritable bowels and lousy digestion, food allergies, flu, skin rashes, and other more severe disorders. Introducing friendly bacteria (probiotics) and beneficial yeast such as Hanseniaospora valbyensis, Zygotorulaspora Florentina, Lachance fermentati, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae into our diets on a daily basis, we are constantly fighting the war against toxins and harmful microbes inside our digestive tracts.
Since kefir has gained momentum with healthy eaters and people of all walks of life, the spotlight is now being cast on the other variations of kefir, such as water kefir. Very little research has been conducted on kefir and water kefir, but there is a lot of anecdotal information. It is said that water kefir is a great remedy for fungus infections, candida, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammation, and migraines.
Persons who practiced Ancient Chinese medicine believe digestion to be a critical starting point to improving one’s health. This is because the friendly yeast bacteria in water kefir can dominate, control, and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeast (unfriendly yeast bacteria) in the body.
They do so by protecting the mucosal lining where unfriendly yeast bacteria live, forming an army to fight and strengthen your intestines. As a result, the body becomes more effective in resisting such pathogens as E.coli. Intestinal parasites, thereby preventing opportunistic yeast-like candida from taking over.
As the digestive tract improves and rebuilds with health benefiting microbes from water kefir, toxins will leave the body. A clear sign of this is headaches, general pains, nausea, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms; these flu-like symptoms body’s natural way of detoxing and cleansing.
Water Kefir Flavors
Water kefir makes a mild, light, refreshing, and slightly carbonated drink, resembling cola and apple cider. Most people mix a variety of their flavor choices with various fruits, molasses, apples, vanilla beans, or other unique flavors. The final say on what flavor to try is yours.
It has an excellent count of probiotics, just as kombucha, but while kombucha takes 14 to 15 days to ferment water, kefir takes only 1-2 days.
It is easily digested and is a great alternative for those people who are lactose intolerant and folks that are sensitive to casein in dairy.
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