Water kefir grains are a live culture made up of yeast and bacteria. While they look like grains, kefir grains need some careful maintenance to keep the culture alive.
They are a perfect addition to any diet as kefir grains can support your gut health and digestive system.
Whether you are new to setting up water kefir grains or you already had some experience with kefir, we put together some useful tips with do’s and don’ts of fermenting water kefir grains.
Water Kefir Ingredients: Do’s And Don’ts
In order for your water kefir culture to thrive, there are a few things you need to look out for.
Do Use Spring Water
The most important ingredient in water kefir grains is water. It’s important that you use water that is free from chloramine, fluoride, chlorine and other potentially harmful additives.
The better the quality of the water, the better your kefir will be.
Don’t Add Extra Minerals To Spring Water Kefir
If you decide to use spring water or well water, then make sure that you don’t add Sucanat, turbinado, rapudura or any other extra minerals.
These additional minerals could cause over-mineralization in your kefir which could lead to the grains becoming mushy.
In a worst-case scenario, these minerals could even kill your kefir culture.
Do Use Cane Sugar
A kefir grain culture can only survive and thrive when you feed it sugar. The best type of sugar for kefir is cane sugar, such as white sugar.
Alternatively, you can also use evaporated cane juice crystals.
If you want to make your water kefir extra sweet, then use more of the crystals or add white cane sugar.
Don’t Use Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweetener is not healthy for you or your kefir culture.
There are also a few other sweeteners that you should avoid, including invert sugars, corn-based sweeteners, sorghum syrup, powdered sugar and maple syrup.
Plant-based sugars, such as beet sugar, coconut sugar, agave, honey and stevia are also not suitable for your kefir.
Don’t Use Juice For Your Kefir
While some people had good results with using juice as a basis for kefir, it can be difficult for the culture to multiply in juice.
The same can also happen with coconut water, so if you want to make coconut water kefir, then it is a good idea to alternate between batches of sugar water and coconut water.
Do Use Rapadura For A Stronger Taste
If you like the molasses taste of your kefir, then you can add muscovado sugar, turbinado, Sucunat or rapadura for a more gooey taste.
Do Add Other Ingredients When Using A Low Mineral Water
If you are using mineral water and sugar that is low in minerals, then it’s a good idea to add these ingredients:
- One eggshell (if you are not allergic to eggs)
- Mineral drops (amount according to instructions on the label)
- Half a teaspoon of unsulphured molasses for each quart of water
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of baking soda
Kefir Environment: Do’s And Don’ts
In order for your kefir grains to grow properly, you need to create the right conditions and environment.
Do Keep The Room Temperature Steady
Kefir can only thrive in an environment that has a room temperature between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wherever you keep your kefir culture, make sure that this temperature stains steady for the entire culturing time.
If your kefir grains get too cold, then the culture goes inactive and it can die. If your kefir is too hot, then the grain dies from the heat.
That’s why it is important that the room temperature doesn’t vary too much for the time that you are actively growing your kefir culture.
Do Ferment Your Kefir Between 24 And 48 Hours
The best fermenting time for water kefir grains is between 24 hours and 48 hours.
While you can also ferment kefir for up to 72 hours if the temperature is low, this can lead to the culture eating all the sugar, leaving it starving without food.
That is why we don’t recommend fermenting for three days. If you keep your kefir at room temperature, then the fermenting process won’t take as long.
Do Ferment Your Kefir Grains Away From Other Live Cultures
Bacteria can easily travel through the air and cross-contaminate your kefir project, so make sure that you keep your ferment at least four to five feet away from other live cultures.
This is especially important if you have bad bacteria nearby, such as pets, dirty laundry, trash, compost or house plants.
All these things can carry bacteria which may affect your kefir culture. Even if you have a glass door separating your cultures, it is best to keep different cultures in separate rooms.
Don’t Place Your Culture Near Chemical Products
Although a kefir culture is relatively resilient, it still picks up any other substance that’s nearby, such as airborne chemicals.
This is the reason why you shouldn’t keep your kefir culture anywhere near your laundry room or in places where you store your cleaners.
Don’t Use Dishes With Soap Residue
It is essential that you never leave soap residue on utensils or dishes that come into contact with your kefir culture.
These utensils could contaminate the culture, causing it to weaken and die.
Don’t Use Anti-Bacterial Soap For Cleaning
None of the utensils you use for your kefir culture should come into contact with anti-bacterial soap as this could kill the culture.
Water Kefir Ratio: Do’s And Don’ts
In addition to the perfect environment and high-quality ingredients, the right ratio for mixing your water and sugar is essential.
Make sure that you use the correct ratio of 3 to 4 tablespoons of grains with each 1 to 2 quarts of sugar water.
If you have less than 3 tablespoons of grains, then you can also add a quarter cup of sugar and a quart of water.
Storing Your Water Kefir Grains: Do’s And Don’ts
Once your kefir culture is thriving, it is essential that you store the grains in the right way.
Don’t Keep Kefir Grains In The Fridge
You should never store your kefir grains inside the refrigerator as this could damage the grains.
If you choose to keep your grains in the fridge, then they can survive for a maximum of two weeks.
However, you should expect several rounds of culturing to return your kefir back to its original state.
Don’t Rinse Your Kefir Grains
Try not to rinse your kefir grains unless they are covered in something or you are trying to revive them.
Do Dry Your Kefir In The Right Way
If you want to dry your water kefir grains, then place waxed paper into a casserole dish and spread the grains into the dish.
Then, place a kitchen towel over the casserole dish. Make sure that it doesn’t touch the grains. Then you can leave them to dry safely.
What Kills Kefir Grains?
While kefir grains are commonly resilient, exposing them to too warm temperatures can kill your kefir grain culture.
This means that your kefir culture won’t be active anymore and you will need to replace it.
Fermenting water kefir grains isn’t very difficult but there are a few do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind.