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Water Kefir: a Delicious Probiotic Beverage


This time of year our family likes to bulk up on probiotics. With cold and flu season underway, we’ve been taking a proactive approach by upping our fermentation game through our diet. By eating a variety of fermented foods, we’re increasing our probiotics, this way we don’t have to rely on a flu shot to keep us healthy. We do this by adding fermented foods to each meal and sipping on probiotic beverages throughout the day.

To see just how simple this can be, here’s an example of what we eat in a typical day (BONUS: link includes a delicious, gut-friendly recipe for a coconut milk smoothie).

What is Water Kefir?

Hands down, our favorite probiotic beverage is water kefir. We think it tastes the best and it’s also the easiest to make at home! Never heard of water kefir? Sure, it’s not as well known as Kombucha, but definitely rising in popularity as the new kid on the block. You may have seen it in grocery stores under the label “Kevita”. Water kefir is made from kefir “grains” (which aren’t grains at all, but tiny colonies of bacteria and yeast) that look like little clear clusters of cauliflower. These grains feed on sugar and in return, produce a carbonated and lacto-fermented beverage containing gut-friendly probiotics.

When buying from the grocery store, you can expect to shell out close to five bucks per bottle, not a luxury I can afford every day. But for the cost of 3-4 bottles of store-bought water kefir, you can make it from home, indefinitely. All you need are kefir grains, some organic sugar, and a cozy half-gallon jar that your grains will call “home”.

Better yet, kefir grains often grow and double in size, making a wonderful gift for your “fermenty friends." Once you have your grains, you’re ready to begin.

How to Make Water Kefir

Oftentimes, kefir grains come dehydrated, and will take 3 to 5 days to rehydrate. Follow the instructions included with your grains prior to making your first batch.

Step 1: Add ½ cup organic sugar and one cup boiling water to a clean, half-gallon sized mason jar. Stir/swirl until sugar is dissolved then top off with cold water (an additional 7 cups).

Step 2: Add kefir grains to sugar water, cover with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber or metal band.


Step 3: Place jar in a warm spot in your home, we put ours on top of the refrigerator (68-75 degrees is ideal). Allow to ferment for 24-48 hours*.  

Step 4: After 24-48 hours, strain water kefir through a non-metallic, fine mesh colander, collecting the grains in the strainer. Store water kefir in the refrigerator and sip the probiotic benefits daily.


Step 5: Using the collected kefir grains, follow steps 1-4 to begin your next batch.

If your grains grow and double in size, you can make a gallon or more at a time (increase the sugar to 1 cup). If ½ gallon is too much, you can gift half your grains to a friend and make one quart at a time (decrease sugar to ¼ cup). Ideally, you should have ¼ cup grains per half-gallon vessel.

Flavoring Water Kefir

You’ve made your water kefir (pretty simple, right?), but the fun isn’t over yet. You can drink your water kefir as is, or flavor it a myriad of delicious ways.

Peach Italian Soda. Toss half an organic frozen peach (or other fruit) into the jar with the grains to flavor the kefir while it’s fermenting.

Probiotic Lemonade. Pour water kefir into a cup and add a splash of organic lemon juice - my husband thinks this tastes just like the neon-colored gatorade he used to drink on a daily basis!

Ginger-Lime. Squeeze ¼ of a lime into your water kefir and a splash of organic ginger juice (this is my current obsession) — if you’re feeling crazy, add a splash of organic vodka for a faux Moscow Mule.

Fizzy Kefir (any flavor). If you’d like a bubbly, carbonated drink, follow these directions for second fermenting your water kefir.

Troubleshooting Tips

Fermenting time and temperature. Kefir will ferment faster or slower depending on the temperature of your home. If kefir tastes too sweet, allow it to ferment an additional 12-24 hours and taste again. If kefir tastes “yeasty”, make a fresh batch and taste after 12-24 hours.

Type of sugar to feed your grains. There are many different sugars that can be used when making water kefir. I use organic evaporated cane juice. Sugars that are higher in minerals can sometimes cause damage to the kefir grains, but are great to use in moderation to add minerals to sluggish grains. It’s not recommended to use honey as it contains its own bacteria, this may cause grains to die. Read this article for more information on different sugars

New kefir grains. If your water kefir is tasting “off” (too sweet or too sour) and you ordered kefir grains through the mail, make two or three batches of kefir before throwing in the towel. Kefir grains can easily become out of balance, and may take a few "feedings” (batches) before regulating the proper bacteria:yeast ratio.

Bubbles and carbonation. Oftentimes tiny bubbles will float to the surface during fermentation, this is completely normal. However, a lack of bubbles is also OK. For soda-like carbonation to occur you will have to do a second ferment in an airtight bottle, such as the flip-top bottles in the photo above (called grolsh bottles).

Kefir has an off-putting odor. Water kefir should have a nice, slightly sweet aroma or it may smell slightly sour (but never unpleasant). If your grains are new, give them a few batches for the bacteria:yeast ratio to normalize. Next look at the fermenting time and temperature (see above). If kefir is still smelling “yeasty”, try adding ⅛ of a washed, organic lemon while fermenting the next couple batches. This will help normalize the yeast by increasing the acidity.

Cloudy looking kefir. It’s normal for water kefir to appear cloudy during fermentation. Some grains turn water cloudy, some don’t. Both are normal.

Multiplying grains. It’s common for water kefir grains to grow and double in size, although this doesn’t always happen. To promote the growth of your grains it’s important to use filtered water. You can also try adding one of the following during fermentation: a few, unsulfered organic raisins, ½ tsp organic molasses or half a washed, pastured egg shell. The mineral content in these items can help encourage grains to grow.

Over-mineralization. If your grains become slimy, mushy or begin to break apart it’s possible your grains are getting too many minerals. This can also cause your water kefir to be syrupy. If you have high mineral content in your water, be sure your sugar doesn’t also have high mineral content (coconut sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.).

Over-fermentation. What if you forget about your water kefir for more than 48 hours? Chances are, if it’s only been a few days, they’re fine. Taste the water kefir, and if it’s not too strong, enjoy it and start a new batch right away as it’s likely your grains are very hungry! If you forgot about your kefir for more than 6 days, it's unlikely your grains will recover. But try a few batches and see if you can revive them. If not, you’ll have to buy more grains and start again. (Sad, sad day.)

Storing kefir grains. It’s possible to store kefir grains for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Simply make a fresh batch of sugar water, add kefir grains, secure a coffee filter on top and place in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will slow down fermentation. For longer storage, you can dehydrate your grains and keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months (see below).

Dehydrating kefir grains. To dehydrate grains simply rinse with filtered water, place on unbleached parchment paper and leave out at room temperature for 3-5 days. Store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. This is perfect if you want to take a break from making kefir for a while, if you want to give kefir grains as a gift, or if you want to have some backup grains "just incase".

We Want to Hear From You!

Congratulations! You’re now helping improve your gut health by introducing probiotics in a healthy, and delicious way. Let us know your favorite flavors or share your new flavoring discoveries.

Kelsey Steffen is a aspiring farmer, wife, mom of four, and homeschool educator in northern Idaho. Join Kelsey and her family over at Full of Days as they blog about life in the Steffen household, and follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

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Easy Ferments to Make Right Now Part 1 Beet Kvass

Photo by Laura Poe

If you are staying at home for an extended period of time, as so many are right now, you may have extra time for fermenting projects on your hands. Whether you are totally new to fermenting or have a bit of previous experience, this is the perfect time to try a few new recipes and fermentation methods. If you have some items in the pantry that you aren’t sure what to with or foods in the fridge that are on their way out, they may just be destined for fermentation. For those who are wanting easy ferments that use what is on hand and can be done in a shorter period of time, here is the first of three simple ferments that come together and are ready-to-eat quickly, getting you the tasty, probiotic-rich foods you want asap.

Beet Kvass

If you have ever wondered what to do with those few beets rattling around in your crisper drawer, may I suggest to you Beet Kvass. Kvass are a family of non-alcoholic fermented beverages, made from a variety of foods, that originate from Eastern Europe; beet kvass is most associated with Ukraine. Kvass is earthy, tart, brine-y and a bit sweet, and is best reserved for beet lovers, if I’m being honest (I’m one of them!).  It is beautiful in color and full of nutrients. Beets are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and betaine, and their bright red color indicates their high antioxidant content. Because kvass is fermented, it is also full of beneficial bacteria and yeasts to promote a robust microbiome and stimulate immune function.

Kvass is made similarly to brined vegetables, with a higher ratio of liquid to vegetable, resulting in a beverage rather than condiment. To make kvass, simply dice beets, add extra goodies if you like, then let sit to ferment in a salt-water brine. Be sure to opt for diced rather than grated beets, as grating releases excess juice. Beet juice is naturally high in sugar and this extra sugar from grating can make the fermentation tend toward yeast rather than bacterial (so, it can turn out a bit boozy, and not in the good way). Adding a starter culture, such as the liquid whey drained from plain yogurt or strained from kefir, can speed up the fermentation process by inoculating the kvass with live, active cultures. The brine from sauerkraut or lacto-fermented pickles will also work, and keeps the kvass dairy-free if needed. You can certainly make this with wild-fermentation, as the beets are already a source of lactobacilli, but this will just make the kvass take about twice as long to ferment. I have personally found that issues like mold and yeast are greatly reduced when a starter culture is present as well. Whichever method you choose, you can feel free to add small amounts of other ingredients as you like to make it your own. Go savory with herbs like dill, caraway, or garlic, or sweet with a bit of ginger, berries, or apple.

Kvass is used more as a tonic rather than a “beverage” to drink by the cupful; a 4-6 ounce serving is plenty, and is best consumed right around mealtimes to promote digestion. You can simply sip it as-is, or add it to sparkling water or juice to make a kvass spritzer. It is even delicious stirred into borscht (or any soup, really) just before serving to add a splash of flavor and probiotics. Even better, kvass can be thrown in a bloody mary or your favorite cocktail for a nutritional boost and a way to make your at-home party a little bit healthier.

Photo by Laura Poe

Beet Kvass with Ginger and Lemon

Prep time: 3 to 7 days

Makes: approx. 1 quart


  • 2 lbs. beets, diced (2 to 4 medium-sized beets)
  • 1 Tbsp. fine sea salt, or to taste
  • About 1 quart filtered water
  • 4 Tbsp. starter culture, such as: whey drained from plain yogurt or kefir; juice from sauerkraut, kim chi, or other lacto-fermented vegetables (optional)
  • 3-4-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


  1. Scrub the beets dice them into1/2” pieces. If you are using organic beets, there is no need to peel, but be sure to peel them if using conventional. Combine diced beets with the chopped ginger and the starter culture (if using) into one half-gallon-size glass jar. Alternately, you can divide the batch between two quart-size glass jars. Stir in the sea salt. Fill the jar(s) with filtered water, up to the shoulders of the jar, and cover with a non-reactive lid. Stir or shake well.
  2. Let the mixture sit, at room temperature, for about 3 days if using a starter culture, or closer to 7 days if going with wild-fermentation. Either way, check your jar daily for possible mold or yeast growing on the surface. If mold appears, toss the batch and try again. If kahm yeast, which will appear more like a thin film on top rather than fuzzy dots as mold typically does, simply skim it off and continue.
  3. Your kvass will be “ready” once the brine has a nice, tart flavor and is slightly effervescent. Its flavor may be similar to other fermented vegetables. The “done-ness” is fully up to you; if you like a stronger flavor and more effervescence, then you can let it continue to sit at room temperature to ferment. For a lighter, milder taste, you can let it be done sooner. When you are ready to drink your kvass, strain the liquid from the beets and ginger, setting them aside for a second batch (see note).
  4. Stir the lemon juice into the kvass. The kvass is ready for refrigeration and consumption at this point. Alternately, you can transfer the finished kvass to a flip-top round bottle, such as those typically used for beer brewing, for a second fermentation. These bottles are the only truly safe vessels for producing carbonated fermented beverages, so please only use these for the second step. When kept in this airtight bottle at room temperature for an extra 1 to 2 days, the kvass will become lightly carbonated. Be careful when opening, however, as it will be quite effervescent and prone to overflowing.
  5. After either the first or second fermentations, the kvass may then be stored in the refrigerator for up to several months.
  6. Repeat the previous steps for the second batch of kvass using the same beets, discarding them after their second use.
Recipe Note: While this yields approximately one quart of kvass, you can certainly double or halve the recipe if needed. You can use red, golden, or Chioggia beets for kvass, whichever you prefer or have on hand. The beets from this batch may be reused once more to make a second batch of kvass; after the second use, discard the beets. After two uses, most of their nutrients, flavor, and fermentation potential have already been transferred into the kvass.

Kitchen-PortaitLaura is a Registered Dietician and a Traditional Foods Instructor.

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Laura moved all over the U.S. before she finally figured out that she is a country girl at heart, and settled down on her homestead in the Driftless region of Southwest Wisconsin with her husband.

Laura is a private practice dietitian, focusing on individualized healing and adding in traditional, whole foods, with emphases on digestion and mental health. She is a blogger, writer, and speaker on health and traditional cooking techniques, such as fermentation and cooking with organ meats. If you can ferment it, Laura will try to do it. She also coaches functional movement classes and loves to spend time with her family and be out in nature as much as possible, especially canoeing and hiking.

When not cooking, eating, or talking about food, Laura also enjoys stand-up comedy, learning German and drinking wine. Not all together.


How to Make Fruit Kvass with Probiotic Benefits


Fruit kvass is a fermented drink that is quick and easy to make, loaded with digestive enzymes and probiotics and inexpensive to create.

For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors ate real meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, fats, oils, fish and fermented foods. As fermentation was their only method of preserving fresh foods for future ingestion, these particular items were probably eaten daily. Our gut biome depended upon them.

Fermented foods not only give us enzymes that will help us to digest our meals and probiotics to keep us well, but they make the vitamins and minerals in these foods easier for our bodies to assimilate.

Even though we now have the options for freezing, canning and refrigerating our crops and animal products, it might be wise to include some fermented items in our diets. Fruit kvass is probably the easiest of all to make.

A fruit kvass can be put together in under three minutes. It can be made with almost any fruits or vegetables — you can use lots of them or just a little bit. The produce can be fresh, frozen or dried.

Sometimes they can be made for next to nothing — having some watermelon with the family? Save the rind and seeds and kvass them. During the summer, you can add some purslane (a very nutritious weed) or other weeds from the garden.

Basic Fruit Kvass Recipe with Blueberries, Strawberries, and Orange

That all having been said, people often like to have an exact recipe. So we can start off with a Blueberry-Strawberry-Orange Kvass. This basic recipe yields about 20 servings.

Materials and ingredients:

• 1/2-gallon jar

•1/2cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

• 1/3 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen

• 1 orange, cut into pieces

• 1 tsp good-quality salt (gray sea salt or pink Himalayan)

• 1/4 cup homemade whey (optional)

• 1/2 gallon pure water, no chlorine or flouride


1. Put the orange pieces and strawberries in the jar. Mash the blueberries a little (any time that a fruit’s skin is tough, this is a good idea) and add to the jar.

2. Add the salt and, if you have it, the whey. Fill with water leaving a good 2 inches of head space or air at the top. Cover tightly. Shake well. Place on the kitchen counter under a towel.

3. Keep shaking several times a day and release the lid just briefly at least once a day to let out the gases. After two days in a warm kitchen or three in a cool one, the mixture is done.

4. Strain out the fruit, eating it for the fiber if you tend to be constipated, or compost it. Place the liquid in a jar in the refrigerator.

5. During the day, add a splash of it to all of the glasses of water that you drink. If you are not used to ferments, start slow. Try just a tablespoon or two for the first few days and increase the amount slowly.

I can’t make a claim for anyone else’ health, but I do know that I have been drinking fruit kvass for a little over the past five years. In that time, I have not been sick once.

To view a YouTube video on how to make fruit kvass, visit the author’s website. If, for some reason, your fruit kvass looks bad, smells bad or tastes bad, don’t drink it!


Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Make Infused Vinegar

Infused Vinegars

How to Make Infused Vinegar

Infused vinegars add dazzle to food. They make great gifts, too.

1. Wash a glass canning jar and its lid in hot, soapy water. Rinse, and leave the jar in hot water until the vinegar and other ingredients are ready.

2. Make sure infusion ingredients are clean.

3. Heat vinegar in a saucepan to just below 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off heat.

4. Remove jar from the water and drain it. Pack herbs and other infusion ingredients into the jar. Pour in hot vinegar, leaving one-quarter-inch headspace. Place a small piece of wax paper or plastic wrap over the top, then screw on the lid. (The wax paper ensures the vinegar doesn’t touch the metal and corrode it.)

5. Store the jar at room temperature for up to a month. You may open the vinegar to test it periodically. When you like the flavor, strain out the infusion ingredients.

6. You can store the infused vinegar in the same canning jar, but, ideally, vinegar should be stored in a narrow-neck bottle with a tight seal to prevent oxidation.

7. If you plan to use the vinegar within a couple of months, you may add a fresh sprig of whatever herb you used to the bottle as decoration.

Flavored Vinegars

• 2 stems of fresh tarragon in balsamic or white wine vinegar
• Half a habanero pepper with a handful of fresh cilantro in white wine vinegar
• Zest of 1 lemon plus a handful of fresh basil in white wine vinegar
• 2 sprigs each of parsley, basil, thyme and oregano with 2 garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes in white wine vinegar
• 4 stemmed and sliced strawberries with 2 sprigs of thyme in champagne vinegar
• 1 sprig of rosemary in red wine vinegar
• Diced shallot in sherry vinegar
• A half-cup of fresh blackberries and a handful of fresh mint in cider vinegar
• Zest of 1 orange plus 3 cloves and 1 inch of a cinnamon stick in cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon each of celery seed and coriander seed in malt vinegar

Photo by Tim Nauman: Flavored vinegars left to right: Habanero-Cilantro, Strawberry-Thyme, Rosemary, Lemon-Basil.

Home Brewing Kombucha

Home Brew Kombucha

What is all the hype about this funky tea known as Kombucha? Kombucha most likely started in China and spread to Russian over 100 years ago. It is often called mushroom tea because if the scoby that forms on the top, resembling a mushroom. Scoby is actually an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with the organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and vitamin C. According to the American Cancer Society "Kombucha tea has been promoted as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer. Supporters say that Kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process." I will caution you however that there is little scientific evidence to support such strong claims.

For us Kombucha is fun to make, and is highly recommended among many of my holistic friends. It is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, which is helpful for digestive health. I think it smells a little strong, but is actually pleasant tasting.

Making Kombucha Tea


  • 14 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 tea bags
  • 1 cup starter tea or vinegar kombucha culture


1. Combine hot water (14 cups for 1 gallon) and sugar (1 cup) in the glass jar you intend on using to brew the tea. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.

2. Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep. Use 8 tea bags for a gallon of tea. I prefer the flavor of green tea, but you can also use black tea. Try to find an organic tea. If you use loose tea leaves use 4 tbsp for a gallon of tea.

3. Cool the mixture to room temperature. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools. Once cooled remove the tea bags.

4. Add starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted. If using vinegar use 2 cups for a gallon of tea.

5. Add an active kombucha scoby (culture).

6. Cover the jar with a towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Ants can smell sweet tea a mile away.

7. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste.

Keep the scoby and about 1 cup of the liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch. You will have the “mother scoby” that you added and a new “baby scoby” that will have formed on the top. You can reuse your mother scoby, and gift your baby.

harvest kombucha in jars

The finished kombucha can be flavored, or enjoyed plain. Keep sealed with an airtight lid at room temp for an additional 7 days with added fruit if you like a fizzy drink like soda.  Otherwise store in the fridge to stop the fermentation process.  These little bottles of “hippy tea” have been popping up all over grocery stores for about $3 a bottle, but you can make it at home for about $1 a gallon. I'm not sure that it's a cure-all, but at worst you have a delightful and affordable probiotic.

Melissa Souza lives on a 1-acre, organically managed homestead property in rural Washington State where she raises backyard chickens and meat rabbits and grows plums, apples, pears, a variety of berries, and all the produce her family needs. She loves to inspire other families to save money, be together, and take steps toward self-reliance no matter where they live. Connect with her on Facebook.

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