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How To Make Water Kefir

on June 14 | in Recipes | by | with 87 Comments

How To Make Water Kefir

Do You Miss Cherry Limeades?

Or are you looking for a healthy alternative to soft drinks for your kids? Homemade soda pop to the rescue! Not only is it delicious, water kefir pop is rich in beneficial bacteria that boost immunity and help with digestive function.

The best part? It’s sooooo easy to make. Here’s how . . .

Homemade Kefir Soda

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rapadura/sucanat or organic white sugar (avoid honey because it does not have the right composition of sugars to feed the kefir grains)
  • 1 quart purified water – no fluoride or chlorine – these will kill the grains. I’ve used water from my Berkey, spring water and reverse osmosis water with minerals added back in
  • 2 tablespoons kefir grains (Hydrated, not dried. Follow the instructions for hydrating that come with your grains)
  • 1 squirt Concentrace minerals or molasses – optional (Water kefir tends to do better in mineral rich water. Both of these are good sources of minerals, but I’m not a fan of the flavor of molasses in my kefir)

Optional flavoring ideas:

  • A few slices of ginger – I’ve found this makes my kefir extra fizzy for some reason
  • 1/2 lime and fresh mint – so refreshing!
  • 2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract for a creamy soda experience
  • You can find recipes for cherry limeade, mango colada, blackberry lavender and more here

Supplies Needed

  • 1 quart jar
  • mesh strainer (plastic because metal will harm the grains)
  • cloth with rubber band to cover jar
  • measuring cup or bowl with pouring spout
  • swing top bottles – like these or these

How To Make Water Kefir

Step 1: Dissolve Sugar In A Small Amount Of Hot Water

If you’re making a quart, ladel out a small portion of your measured water and heat it to almost boiling. Add it to your jar along with the sugar and stir with a wooden/plastic spoon. Once the sugar is dissolved add the rest of your water. Make sure the water is cooled to room temp before continuing to the next step. .

How To Make Water Kefir

Step 2: Strain Kefir Grains

Whether your gathering your grains from a previous batch (as shown in the photo above) or using new grains recently hydrated in sugar water, you’re going to need to strain them. My favorite method is to place my mesh strainer over a measuring cup and pour. As the cup fills I pour it into swing top bottles for the second fermentation, which I’ll cover later in this tutorial. Make sure to use a plastic mesh strainer as metal can harm the kefir grains.

How To Make Water Kefir

Here’s what they look like up close.

How To Make Water Kefir

Step 3: Add Grains To Your Sugar Water Mixture

Boy do these things love converting sugar into probiotic goodness! Pictured on the left is a brand new batch of kefir that hasn’t fermented yet. On the right is a finished batch – the color tends to lighten when they’ve done their magic.

IMG_1159

Step 4: Add Flavorings (Optional)

 Now is the time to make your soda a cherry limeade, mango colada, or strawberry twist. 

Step 5: Pour In Swing Top Bottles For Extra Fizziness (Optional)

Technically you can stop with step 3, but in order for your water kefir to become carbonated you need to ferment a second time in tightly sealed bottles. As the beneficial bacteria and yeasts continue to consume the sugar they release gases which carbonate the drink. As a side benefit, this kind of carbonation benefits digestion!

I let mine sit for 1-3 days, depending on the temperature of my kitchen. Personally, I like to allow most of the sugar to be converted before serving, but you can pour a glass whenever the flavor develops to your preference!

Special Notes

Make sure to check on them often while you’re getting a feel for how quickly the fermentation process goes in your environment, because if the pressure builds up you may end up spraying fizz all over yourself and your kitchen. Not that I would know that from personal experience or anything. Ahem.

Also, it is possible to ferment with freshly pressed juices, but they yield a higher alcohol content than regular kefir, which contains a tiny amount. Please use caution when serving them to children, perhaps by fermenting them for a shorter amount of time. Also, second ferments are not recommended with juice kefir – pressure may build up very quickly, causing the bottle to burst.

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87 Responses to How To Make Water Kefir

  1. Sarah says:

    Very timely…I am looking at beginning this process for man who LOVES flavoured drinks. I am hoping this will be an acceptable alternative to soda (yuck!) for him. Thank you for the pictures and clear concise directions.

  2. Alaina says:

    Yep, at work today I opened up a kefir flavored with grape juice and it exploded all. over. me. Comical, but also sad because I was looking forward to the bubbles on my sore throat.

  3. Vanessa says:

    I can’t wait to try this! It seems easy enough. I’ve been wanting make it but have yet to try. I make Kombucha though, in those same bottles! My husband bought that beer because he knew they would be great for all my homemade stuff.

  4. kelly says:

    Do you add the flavorings to the mixture during the 1-3 days of fermentation or do you add them once they are done? I have a hard time finding a yummy flavor my kids will like…but I think switching the molasses for concentrace will help!

  5. Emily C. says:

    Can you clarify how long you do each ferment? In the cloth covered jar and then in the flip top bottles? Thanks! I’ve been doing mine for a while; cloth covered jar 2-3 days, flip top bottle 2-3 days and still no real bubbles. Not sure what i’m doing wrong.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Emily! I do the same times as you – not sure why you’re not seeing bubbles. I’ve noticed that when I use a bit more sugar I get more carbonation, though. Maybe that would be worth a try?

    • If it is cold, your bubbles can take a while to build up. During the winter, I let my water kefir sit 4-5 days before I begin getting good fizz in them.

      If you are flavoring with things that kill the colonies in the water kefir, it will also not produce bubbles. I had an extra package of Koolaid that I tried once, no bubbles at all even after several days, pretty sure that killed it. Also, aloe juice did not work.

      The bottles need to tightly seal and you should also make sure they are the proper type of bottle. There are some flip-top bottles that are not made for carbonated drinks. It can be dangerous using these as they can explode much more easily.

      Finally, if your water kefir does not have enough sugar left in it when you bottle it, it won’t have the food to convert into bubbles. So, you can try priming it with some extra sugar before capping. About 1 teaspoon per 3 cups of water kefir.

      One more thing, if your grains are no longer working, they also won’t create carbonation. Taste your sugar water before you add the grains and then after it has finished the first 2-3 day ferment. It should be noticeably less sweet. If it is not, you may need to search for new grains. Here is a resource that lists places where you can get new grains: http://www.yummykefir.com/get-milk-water-kefir-grains

  6. heather schweitzer says:

    I have been researching Water Kefir and am about to purchase a kit but my family and I would be so blessed to win it!! My oldest and I have asthma and have a very hard time keeping our bodies healthy during the winter when germs are abundant. I have been researching how to improve my family’s health and this is one way to get our guts and bodies healthy to fight!!

  7. Amanda says:

    This is perfect, thank you! I’ve gone in spurts with water kefir because it always ends up tasting funny, probably because I add the molasses… And I am always looking for ways to flavor it too, I never have good ideas for flavoring it. Thanks Heather!

  8. Debbie says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I am so curious: do the kefir grains eat most of the sugar in these drinks?

    • Heather says:

      It depends on how long you let the kefir ferment. For the health of the grains you want to give them more sugar every 24-72 hours, but you can do the second ferment and let it sit for another 2-3 days – during that time period a lot of the extra sugar will be consumed.

  9. Ryanna says:

    Awesome! Water Kefir is catching on everywhere — we have personally benefitted so much. Our family shares our live active cultures in a great kit that can be mailed all over the US. Happy Brewing! http://thisisgrub.com/projects/water-kefir/

  10. Angela says:

    I love water kefir and want to experiment more! I’ve been using it to help my son with his digestive issues. The bottles are gorgeous and I would love to have this whole set!

  11. Kaitlyn says:

    I’m sure it varies depending on fermentation time but what’s an estimate of the nutritional data for water kefir, including the sugar content?

    • Heather says:

      I’m not aware of one as the content will vary widely depending on the flavorings used, the exact composition of the grains, the warmth of the house, etc.

  12. Robyn M. says:

    One comment and one question:
    Comment: Honey shouldn’t be used because it is strongly antibacterial and will actually kill the kefir bacteria (see Sandor Katz “The Art of Fermentation”).
    Question: I’d like to incorporate my lemon balm tea into water kefir somehow, but I’m not sure the best way to do this. I make lemon balm ice tea pretty much exactly the way everyone makes iced tea–I brew a strong hot tea and then ice it down/dilute it with water. Do you think I should just dilute with water kefir once the hot tea has cooled? Could I possibly use brewed & mixed lemon balm tea as the water medium for making kefir? Thoughts?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Robyn! I know that sweetened nettle tea is sometimes used instead of water for the first fermentation, but I am not sure about the lemon balm. You might contact http://www.culturesforhealth.com and see what they say :)

    • I’ve used honey in my second ferments and it has made the fizziest water kefir by far. Aloe on the other hand, seems to have completely killed any type of carbonation that was happening prior to adding it.

      As for the tea, I make tea flavored water kefir simply by taking my finished water kefir and adding a tea bag to it for 1-2 days. Take the bag out after it has flavored the water kefir and bottle for fizz.

  13. Lisa says:

    Can you rinse milk kefir grains and use them to make water kefir?

    • Amanda Jensen says:

      I haven’t read a whole lot about kefir, but my impression has been that this is the one switch you cannot make with kefir grains. You can put your milk kefir grains in different kinds of milk, but nothing I’ve seen has suggested you can put milk kefir grains in water. At an initial guess, I would say that the “food” the grains need is different depending on whether they are milk grains or water grains, since the water grains eat sugar, and the milk grains eat… something else. But there’s no sugar in milk, so it’s not that.

    • Yes, you can switch milk kefir grains to make water kefir. They will no longer grow, but they will make a fizzy water kefir like product. It is not exactly the same as water kefir with water kefir grains but it does work.

      If you have the extra grains, give it an experiment, you might like it!

  14. Kaely says:

    Thanks for all your great articles Heather, I really am so thankful for your blog! I have two questions: First, where do you get your Kefir grains? I’ve read that it’s best to get them directly from a grower, but I have no idea how to go about doing that. Second, are they safe for people with Celiac Disease? I’m just curious because they’re called ‘grains’ and things with that name make me want to be cautious because my sons and husband have Celiac Disease.

    Also, one last question, :) Can I use them in almond milk to make kefir as well or are there different grains for that? We are lactose-intolerant around here too, so we can’t do much dairy, but I have heard good things about the benefits of kefir and would enjoy being able to try it.

    Thanks!

  15. Hi Heather! Thanks for the link love to my Water Kefir Flavor Guide! Hope you’re having a nice weekend!! :)

  16. Angela says:

    We have soooo sprayed our kitchen down with water kefir soda multiple times… :) That made me chuckle when I read it. Two solutions for that one. Only open cold bottles since that seems to calm the fizz in a super fizzy bottle, and the easier one a la champagne, hold a cloth or dish towel over the bottle when opening. It’s a lifesaver!

    • Debra says:

      I know some people are against using plastic, but a home made ginger ale recipe said to place it in 1 or 2 liter plastic bottles, squeeze slightly and close tight. This allows for expansion of gases and alleviates glass breakage.

  17. Lydia says:

    How much can you consume in a day? And, how do you know if the water you are using has chlorine and floride? We are saving up for a berkey, but am wondering what to use in the meantime.

    • Heather says:

      I personally feel comfortable consuming it in the same amounts as I would an herbal tea. Regarding fluoride and chlorine, most municipal water supplies will contain these. Bottled spring water is what I would consider to be the best option followed by reverse osmosis water with extra trace minerals to compensate for what’s been removed.

  18. courtney says:

    I just wanted to comment that I don’t heat the water to dissolve the sugar and my kefir turns out beautifully! After combining the sugar, water, and minerals I screw a lid on and shake really well, then add the grains and a couple of raisons. The raisons help with the minerals, plus when they float and have ‘streams of bubbles’ coming off of them I know my kefir is ready…

  19. Meg says:

    Would cheesecloth be acceptable? I don’t really like using plastic anything, but as metal would harm the grains, I was thinking cheesecloth/gauze-like material?

  20. katie says:

    I just started making mine and I love it! do you have a favorite place to purchase the swing top bottles?

    • Joan Smith says:

      I have purchased swing-top bottles at Sur la Table (clearance) and Amazon and I’m sure they can be found at Ikea. My favorite find was at our Latin grocery store, Fiesta, where they had some Italian lemon soda of dubious ingredients on the clearance shelf for $2/beautiful swing-top bottle. I had no problem pouring the soda down the drain to use the bottles for my kefir.

  21. Khara says:

    Is this approved for GAPS / SCD? (I’m guessing no, but thought I’d ask.)

    • Heather says:

      I’m not an expert, but I believe it is at least approved for GAPS as long as it’s fermented for a long enough period to dramatically reduce the sugar content.

  22. Jennifer says:

    How do you clean your flip top bottles? Some of mine are getting a bit…yuck, but I don’t know what to do about it.

    • Make sure you rinse right after consuming the water kefir with hot water.

      If you still have stuff stuck in your bottles, grab a tablespoon of rice, put it in your bottle with about 1/4 cup of cold water, close and shake it vigorously. The rice scrubs up the insides of your bottle while you are shaking. If that does not work, soak your bottle with warm water to loosen the stuff on the bottle and do it again. You want to use cold water with the rice so that it doesn’t soften it.

  23. Siobhan says:

    Hi Heather
    Thanks for the wonderful info. What is the sugar content like of the drink, does all the sugar get used up by the grains.

  24. Chloe says:

    I appreciate the detailed step by step instructions. I look forward to trying it myself. I’m seeing a lot of information lately about the importance of Kefir. Thanks.

  25. Sheila says:

    Thanks for the article. I’m not clear when you add the minerals or the flavorings. I’m making some now and added vanilla in the bottle with the grains for the first ferment but then I read elsewhere to remove the grains before adding the flavor. Now I’m concerned I’ve ruined my grains.

  26. Alicia says:

    Is water kefir safe to drink during pregnancy? I would really like to start making it, but was not sure about the alcohol content.
    Thanks very much!

    • Heather says:

      I am five months pregnant and feel very comfortable drinking it and giving it to my preschooler and toddler. Unless it is fermented with fruit juice it is my understanding that the alcohol content is very low.

  27. Christy says:

    We’ve been making grape water kefir for a good while now, and have had several bottles spew, but just this week, had a flip-top bottle explode in the kitchen. Thankfully, none of us were home at the time, because glass went across the house! Since we like the grape so much, we just changed over to a bottle with a screw top that isn’t air tight, and use all our flip-tops for kombucha. When we do the first ferment, we use the sugar water and about 2 Tb grape juice, which seems to make the grains really happy. After 24 hours, we move to a bottle and add about 1/4 cup more grape juice. We cap and leave it out for 24 hours more, then move to the fridge before opening. It’s the perfect combination of a water and juice kefir, and yields a fizzy, but not too alcohol-y flavor. If you are using an airtight bottle for any kefir, though, I would recommend covering it during the second ferment. An explosion could really hurt someone!

  28. Christy says:

    For cleaning bottles: I have found that a $1 baby bottle brush has worked best. I cut off the plastic handle and duct-taped a wire coat hanger handle onto it so it reaches the bottom of the bottle. It works much better than the bottle brush I got from the beer and wine store that was meant for my flip-tops!

  29. That’s really awesome! I’m newer to the all-natural lifestyle, trying to slowly transition my husband and I altogether, and literally just this week I started wondering if I’d eventually have to give up things specifically like Ginger Ale & other light sodas, for good. So this is pretty exciting that you just gave it right back in a healthier option; Thanks! I’ll look forward to trying some of these fun soda options.

  30. Camilla says:

    Hi! I have gotten so many great recipes from you, so I thought I’ll share one with you :) I have always loved elderflower cordial, don’t know if they grow where you are, they are blooming over here in England at the moment so I thought I’d try elderflower kefir…. Oh my world….SOOOO GOOOD. Just add about 3 floor heads to a liter and a couple tbsp of fresh lemon juice plus 2 slices. Prepare yourself to be carried away on the sweet waves of summer!

  31. terisa says:

    I am gf/df. What would I use for the grains?

    • Heather says:

      Water Kefir grains are different than milk kefir grains. You might check with Cultures for Health for clarification, but it is my understanding that water kefir grains are gf/df friendly

  32. Linda says:

    Heather, can you please tell me where you purchased those beautiful green bottles? thanks so much!

  33. Leigh says:

    I’ve been making water kefir for several months now and just recently my grains have begun shrinking. I use reverse osmosis water with minerals added back (every couple batches), white sugar, and a few raisins. I “ferment” for 2 days. Any ideas?? I tried molasses last night to get them growing again but I’m with you, I don’t care for the taste.

  34. Abby says:

    ok, at the end of this post you say 2nd ferments are not recommended with juice kefir, what do you mean by this? As in, I should not add blueberry juice to my kefir for a second ferment? and if not juice for a second ferment, what do you use?

    Also, after the second fermentation is complete do you just put your bottles in the fridge and can they keep there indefinitely?

  35. sofia says:

    Hello Heather! My water kefir is not bubbly any more. I purchased from another site, delivered within3 days.They were hydrated when arrived. They werent bubbly by my second fermentation. I used distillef water from store bought gallon, add concentrance and quarter cup of sugar for a quart mason glass. Why I dont see bubbles anymore?

  36. Sara says:

    Do you know if there are any carbs left once its fermented? My son is a type 1 diabetic and he needs insulin for all carbs. Thanks!

  37. Caroline Moore says:

    Hi there,
    My grains seem to have shrunk quite a lot (which I have read are from over fermentation) but I don’t seem to be getting any fizz during the second fermentation any more. Any Ideas on either how to grow the grains or why it is not going fizzy?
    Cheers
    Caroline

  38. Megan says:

    Hi…I am trying making water kefir first time. Have just had grains in sugar water for 3 days. Am going to strain next and add flavorings…can you clarify, do I leave the grains out for the second ferment? And then start making my next batch with those grains…just put them right back into new sugar water? Thanks!

    Meg

  39. Stas says:

    I just had to say that I love the name Mommypotamus.
    But since I’m here might as well ask if you know any lists that would have people sharing water kefir in England

  40. AthenaK says:

    I just purchased water kefir grains form a lady. She gave them to me in a small amount of sugar water and told me to just transfer to a bigger mason jar and add enough fresh water to make a quart. I did. But my water was from my tap which only has a birta filter. After reading that chlorine or fluoride will kill them I am worry I’ve ruined mine? Do you think I should be concerned? Also, how do you do reverse osmosis? Thanks!

  41. AthenaK says:

    Hi. I used water from the tap that only has a brita filter. Does that mean I killed my grains? :(

  42. […] Mommypotamus also shows how to make flavored water kefir in 5 steps. […]

  43. Rebecca says:

    Hi Heather,
    I have been making the water kefir and loving it but I have so much and was wondering how you stop for a while until the kefir I have made is finished. Can you hybernate the grains like you do milk kefir or sourdough starter? Do I place them in a jar of sugar water? Thanks. My regrigerator is filling up quickly with all my brews:)

  44. […] with some of my fave companies, like the maker of this uhMAZing skin balm, Cultures For Health (water kefir, anyone?), and Wild Mountain […]

  45. Michele says:

    Hey Heather!
    I bought some kefir grains from Donna Gates and made coconut water kefir, when I strained it, there were no grains like you show in your pictures, Maybe I did something wrong? Any advise?

    • Heather says:

      So you started with grains and then they disappeared? I’ve never heard of that happening. If it were me I would contact the company and ask for advice :)

  46. Julieanne says:

    I have just returned to making water kefir – and it took 2 brews to get the grains started again, I did read somewhere that resting grains in the fridge (in sugar water solutiong)can restore them. I would like to know if anyone has any ideas what else the excess grains can be used for? They seem very gelatinous and I thought maybe they could be used to thicken up recipes instead of gelatine? Any ideas would be welcome:)
    Also I have started using herbal infustions to add to the bottled keffir – elderberry flowers and nettle are a delicious mix.

  47. Melanie says:

    At what age can you introduce water kefir?

  48. Charmagne says:

    I have been making water kefir for several months now, using Demera or raw cane sugar (with a 1/4 tsp of molasses). The color is right and I feel a difference in my digestion. So I think it is becoming probiotic. But the fizz is often disappointing.

    I usually use a ratio of 4 to 1 (the 1 being of some sort of 100% juice) in my second ferment. Do you think I need to add minerals to the second ferment as well? How long should I second ferment in order to consistently get carbonation?

  49. Sue says:

    Do I have to use flip top bottles? Can I use mason jars with tight lids for the 2nd ferment?

  50. colin aherne says:

    hi there after the water kefir is made what bottles should u use or containers to keep it in the fridge untill u wanna drink it or store till you wanna drink it?? and one thing comfusing me is people water tight the jars and leave no air in i was told use kitchen towl over it with elastic bands which is best thanks :-)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Colin, I store mine in swing top bottles, but I make sure not to leave them in too long because although refrigeration slows the fermentation process it does not completely stop it. If left in too long the bottles could break due to too much pressure.

  51. […] Note: You don’t have to use whey. Other options for starter cultures include a ginger bug, champagne yeast or water kefir. […]

  52. Tamara says:

    Hello,

    I recently received some grains with a recipe. The recipe calls for doing the “starter” step first. So, the first ferment. But the it calls for doing a second ferment in about 8 cups of water, same amount of suger. Then after 24 hours bottle it with some fruit juice, etc… But I have never seen this in any other recipe. Can you provide some insight on why I would do this? I enjoy the flavour and it yields more but why do I need to do both steps? Thanks…

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