Tools you need for making water kefir:
- 1 large glass jar (does not need to have a lid)
- Cheesecloth or a kitchen towel
- Stretchy rubber band
- Fine plastic strainer (preferably a small one, the size of the mouth of a glass)
- Dehydrated (or hydrated) water kefir grains
To activate dehydrated kefir grains:
- Dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in 4 cups of water. Allow the sugar water to cool to room temperature. Anything hotter than room temperature can kill the culture of bacteria and yeast.
- Pour the sugar water into a glass jar along with the dehydrated kefir grains. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth or kitchen towel bound with a rubber band in order to keep bugs out. Place on the counter, in a pantry, or in a generally undisturbed area.
- Allow this to sit for two to three days, no longer than five days.
- Strain grains using a fine plastic strainer, discarding the liquid.
- Repeat this process several times until the kefir grains are “active.” You will know your kefir grains are active when the water they sit in becomes bubbly at the top and smells yeasty and lemony. At no point should the liquid smell foul, like spoiled milk. If this occurs, discard both the batch of water kefir and the grains and start again with a new set of grains. Your grains should appear plump, somewhat translucent, will continue to grow, and will resemble small cauliflower florets.
Note: The activation process truly can take several weeks. In fact, it took my dehydrated grains three weeks to activate. Yes, this means you will be pouring out batch after batch of sugar water to keep the grains fed and healthy. It will seem wasteful but it will be worth it once your grains are active and you can experiment with the recipes in this section!
To make water kefir:
- Dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 10 cups of water.
- Allow the sugar water to cool to room temperature. Pour it into a large glass jar or container, and then add in the activated kefir grains.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a dish towel secured by a rubber band.
- Allow grains to sit for two to three days at room temperature. You may need to lengthen the fermentation time up to four days if your house is chilly, but never leave water kefir for longer than five days or your grains will starve. You will notice small bubbles rise from the bottom of the jar to the top and some foam or larger bubbles will settle on the surface of the liquid. The liquid will smell yeasty and almost lemony. These are all signs that your water kefir is ready!
- Strain the liquid into a pitcher or into bottles to flavor it or drink plain.
- You are now ready to bottle your first batch of water kefir and start a new batch using the same active water kefir grains. You can continue using the same grains an infinite number of times, as long as you keep them healthy!
To flavor the water kefir or make kefir soda:
- Prepare a recipe from this section or add 100 percent pure fruit juice of your choice to water kefir (about 1 cup of fruit juice per 4 cups water kefir).
- Bottle the liquid in an air-tight container.
- Leave the bottles at room temperature for two to three days to allow secondary fermentation to take place.
- Place bottles in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation. Note that the beverage will continue to ferment in the refrigerator. For best results, wait a full twenty-four hours before drinking the cooled kefir soda, as the longer you wait, the fizzier it will get.
More from Delicious Probiotic Drinks:
Excerpted from Delicious Probiotic Drinks: 75 Recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, Ginger Beer, and Other Naturally Fermented Drinks by Julia Mueller, with permission from Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2014 by Julia Mueller. Photographs by Julia Mueller.