When it comes to good health, nowadays it’s all about a happy, heathy gut. Studies confirm the vital role our gut bacteria plays in our overall well-being, from weight control to brain health and our immune system.
All in all, the best way to improve our gut health is by what we eat and drink. By boosting our microbiome.
One way to do this is to drink water kefir. For many years I’ve included milk kefir in my diet however the former is relatively new to me. A tart, fruity and effervescent drink, perfect for summertime drinking.
What is Water Kefir?
Water Kefir is a probiotic drink made with water kefir grains. They can be used to culture sugared water and fermented for a second time with fruit, which is when the drink becomes effervescent.
Water kefir grains are clusters of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship and bound together by a polysaccharide produced by Lactobacillus. The bacteria and yeasts in the grains feed off the sugar. The exact bacteria and yeasts found in the grains will differ from culture to culture. Each culture is dynamic, and the microbes native to your environment effect the culture’s full microbial make up, just like a sourdough starter. The grains are soft and gelatinous and come from a cactus plant. Thought to originate from Mexico where it flourished in the sugary water of the Ountia cactus (prickly pear).
How to make Water Kefir
All you need is water, light brown sugar and kefir grains. The simplest way to obtain the grains is to buy online. I recommend finding an online seller that has micro-biologically verified (lab tested) grains, this will ensure quality and safety. The process really couldn’t be more simple from there.
The first couple of batches of water kefir you brew may not have a huge amount of activity. This is perfectly normal and due to the trauma of travel; it may take a few brews to begin growing. Making water kefir is not an exact science and it’s best to experiment a little to see what works for you.
- Try not to use tap water, it contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride. It will harm your grains over time. Having said that, this is what’s available to most of us, the process will still work. Filtered water works well or run water from the tap and leave it for several hours, then use.
- Don’t use bottled water, it may be too high in minerals.
- Don’t let the grains come into contact with metal, prolonged exposure will harm them. Always use glass, plastic or wood when handling your grains.
You will need:
- Kefir grains
- Mason glass jar with a screw top lid
- Muslin cloth & elastic band or string
- Wooden spoon
- Plastic sieve
- Fresh water
- Light brown sugar
- Several bottles to store your water kefir once brewed
Fruit & Herbs to try:
- 4-5 Strawberries, chopped & 4-5 basil leaves
- 80g watermelon, chopped & 4-5 mint leaves
- 5-6 Raspberries & a few lemon balm leaves or slices of lemon
- 4-5 Elderflower Heads & a few slices of lemon
- Lime juice & basil leaves
- Lime juice & a handful of frozen blueberries
- Deseeded Rosehips, boiled in a little water for 25 minutes. add lemon when cool
- 750 ml water filtered if possible
- 40 g light brown sugar or golden granulated sugar
- 25-30 g organic water kefir grains
- Combine the water and sugar and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Pour the sugared water into a Mason jar. Carefully place the grains into the sugar solution. Cover with a muslin or tea-towel and add a rubber band or string to keep it in place. Allow to brew at room temperature for 24-48 hours, no longer. Store away from direct sunlight.
- When the water kefir is done brewing, simply strain the grains out and keep approximately 25ml for the next brew. You can now either start the next batch right away with the kefir grains, or make a SCOBY hotel (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) in the fridge to store the grains until next time. (To do this add a teaspoon of light brown sugar to 20ml water and stir, add the grain and cover with a lid).
- If you like your kefir fizzy, return the kefir water to a clean jar or bottle with a wide mouth and add fruit and herbs of your choice. Close the tight fitting lid and leave to ferment for another 24-36 hours at room temperature. When fermentation has finished and you have bubbles, transfer to lidded bottles and store in the fridge. Enjoy over ice.
*Please note, if you’re not used to drinking kefir, it’s best to start with just a small glass, daily.