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WHAT IS WATER KEFIR?

Water kefir is pronounced as KEE•fur or KEH•Feer. It is said that the name originates form the Turkish word “Keif” which when directly translated means “feel good”! Kefir is the finished drink that you get after the grains have fermented the sugar water transforming it into a naturally bubbly refreshing probiotic drink. Kefir Grains is the culture that’s used to make the fermentation process possible.

Kefir has a low Glycemic Load and contains no caffeine.

The Kefir grains consist of many strains of beneficial bacteria & yeasts. These microorganisms breaks down sugars into Lactic Acid, Carbon Dioxide and Ethanol. The Water Kefir Grains are mostly composed of Polysaccharides, mostly due to the L. Casei and L. Brevis in the grains. grains are symbiotic colonies of different strains beneficial bacteria and yeast. These microorganisms converts sugar into Lactic Acid, carbon Dioxide and Ethanol.

HOW DOES KEFIR TASTE?

Water Kefir has a slightly tart flavor and is much milder than Milk Kefir and Kombucha. You can determine how tart or sweet you want you kefir to be by adjusting fermentation time. Water Kefir is a natural and refreshing probiotic drink that’s delicious served neat over ice or can be added to slushies & ice teas for a tasty probiotic boost. The fruit and sugar used for the initial and secondary ferment will shine through you can really have lots fun with all the different flavours of kefir you can make.

WHAT SUGAR IS BEST FOR KEFIR GRAINS?

Organic Brown Sugar in my experience works best! Coconut sugar, Palm sugar, Coconut Blossom Sugar, Molasses, Organic white sugar, Sugar Cane Juice and Sugar Cane Stalks can be used as sugar source.

People choose to use Palm Sugar, Coconut Sugar and Coconut Blossom Sugar because of it’s Low Glycemic Index and because it’s not high in fructose and is rich in nutrient value. Sometimes the Grains get bored with the same sugar source and you can make a mixture of the sugars mentioned above. CAUTION: I’ve tried fermenting with Coconut sugar as main sugar source and it was a bit hard on my Grains at that time, it is best to use sparingly in a mix with other sugars.

WHAT KIND OF WATER DO KEFIR GRAINS LIKE BEST?

Any good quality water that is Nutritious, Mineral rich & Fluoride and Chlorine Free:

Wellwater*, hard water, Mineral Water, Spring Water, Dechlorinated Tap Water**

*If unsure about your well water, have it tested to make sure that there’s no contaminants that may harm your kefir grains.

**Dechlorinate your tap water by letting it sit outside without a lid for 24 hours. Make sure the water doesn’t contain Chloramine as it will not evaporate as Chlorine does. I’ve been using tap water here in Cape Town with Great success! An effective and inexpensive purification technique will be to boil the water at a full rolling boil for 1-3 minutes and letting it cool before using, this will get rid of most types of organisms if you are worried about that.

Bad water options that can lead to eventual grain death:

Reverse Osmosis Water, Soft Water, Filtered Water*, Carbonated Water, Ionized or Altered Water.

*If using Filtered Water make sure that you add extra minerals like Molasses, Pieces of fruit or a view drops Concentrace Mineral drops to keep your Kefir Grains happy.

WHAT TYPE OF CONTAINER TO USE?

Clear see through glass is the best option. I am not a fan of plastic, but if you have to food grade plastic can also be used. Metals can corrode and leach into the kefir because of the acidity of kefir. (Even though acidic Kefir turns into an alkali or is alkali forming once in the digestive system.)

LIDS OR NO LIDS?

Lids on produces more carbonation but kefir grains need oxygen to be happy and multiply well. A breathable cloth is the best option, just make sure it’s a tight weave to keep the insects out!

WHAT FRUIT CAN BE ADDED TO THE FIRST FERMENT?

The Kefir Grains like unsulphured, organic, no oils or sugar added dried fruits like dates, apricots, raisins, apples, mangoes, dates, cherries and coconut.

A wedge of lemon – as is don’t squeeze!

CAUTION: Citrus or berries may contain enzymes that may harm or slow down the metabolism of your kefir grains and slowing down kefir grain growth.

You can even experiment with FRESH fruits and vegetables or grains!

Root vegetables have a high sugar and mineral content so add a couple of slices of Carrots & Ginger if you feel like doing something different.

WHY DO I WANT TO ADD FRUIT WHEN MAKING KEFIR?

The lemon contribute to lower the pH of the sugar water so that foreign opportunistic bacteria and yeast don’t get a chance to invade your brew. The lemon peel is also high in calcium and is good for the Kefir Grains. Don’t squeeze the lemon juice into your kefir brew, this may have the opposite effect doing more harm than good. The idea is for a gradual pH drop and not a shock making the brew too acidic for your Grains to brew happily ever after.  Adding lemon is not needed with every brew, if your grains are strong and become more with every brew it’s probably not needed. Traditionally some of the previous batch of kefir, enough to cover the grains will be added to the next brew.

The dried fruit adds additional minerals and other micro nutrients that may not be supplied by the sugar or water. With Water Kefir nothing is set in stone and you are your own brew master experiment and learn from the feedback you get from your Kefir Grains. Good feedback from the grains will be when your Kefir Grains Grow and become more producing more tart and bubbly kefir. The fruit, blackstrap molasses and Consentrace Mineral Drops serves the same purpose.

CAN I MAKE MY OWN KEFIR GRAINS?

No, you will need the actual Water Kefir Culture or Crystals to make Water Kefir.

HOW MUCH LEMON AND OR DRIED FRUIT WOULD BE BEST?

1 Teaspoon to a small handful of raisins OR 1-3 pieces of apricot and a 1/4 wedge of organic lemon (wash your lemon with hot water to get rid of dirt) per 1 liter sugar water.

WHAT NOW, I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO ORGANIC LEMONS?

Simply peel your conventional lemon to get rid of most of the wax, preservatives or pesticides that may be coating the lemon.

DOES MY INGREDIENTS HAVE TO BE ORGANIC?

If you peel your lemon and choose preservative free dried fruits then it will not hinder you grains but it’s suggested to use organic because sometimes the organic products contain less additives which is better for the Grains. I only use organic ingredients. Answer in short: No, it’s not crucial for the ingredients to be organic.

CAN I ADD MINERALS WHEN FERMENTING KEFIR?

Yes, especially when they don’t preform as well as always or are a bit sluggish. When the grains are “down” try to use baking soda (1/8 of a teaspoon pre liter) and sometimes a pinch of Calcium Carbonate or boiled egg shells to see if it helps. If the grains do worse or the water becomes murky, slimy or thick it is an indication of mineral overload. Slow down on the minerals, make a new sugar solution and pop them in the fridge for a couple of days up to a week.

WHEN IS MY KEFIR READY?

The Colour would be lighter than what it was before fermentation. The smell and taste will change from sweet to slightly tangy. You will see bubbles floating to the top as you move or pick the jar up. Raisins will be puffed up and floating on top. Don’t expect an extremely fizzy, your finished kefir may be slightly bubbly and that’s why we second ferment it to add fizz and flavor.

HOW OFTEN DO I FEED MY KEFIR GRAINS?

They need  a new sugar solution at least every 48 hours. With every brew you will pour the kefir off and put your grains in a fresh sugar and water solution. see How to make Water Kefir .

WHAT’S THE BEST TEMPERATURE FOR KEFIRING?

The optimal temperature ratio is between 28ºC – 30ºC. Kefir can is still active and ferments at a temperature ranging from 5ºC-30ºC that’s why kefir continues to ferment in your fridge only slower than usual. In Summer time when we have extremely hot days with temperatures 28ºC and above, you may want to let your kefir ferment in the fridge during the day and on the counter at night. OR you can cooler box it by placing ice packs around the jar in the cooler box to keep it cool.

CAN KEFIR FERMENT ON THE WINDOW SILL IN SUNLIGHT?

Sunlight may cause an uneven ferment or knock your yeast & bacteria balance and have a domino effect of problems down the line. You are looking for a spot that’s cool and rather darker than light with good air circulation away from dampness, dust, dirt and smoke.

DO I WASH MY GRAINS?

Even though the traditional practice doesn’t suggest washing Kefir Grains and is considered as unnecessary, I still wash my Kefir Grains especially when yeast buildup is visible. I swish them around in a bowl of clean chlorine-free water and drain them.

HOW DO I KNOW MY GRAINS ARE HEALTHY?

Trust your senses! The kefir liquid will Look lighter than it was before the fermentation time. It will smell fresh and may even have a slightly yeasty smell but not a overpowering rotten smell. The Kefir will flow like water and not be thick and slimy. Seasonal changes can be expected, they change in shape and size -even food source preference when the season changes. Healthy kefir grains will convert sugar water into kefir. Don’t consume anything that doesn’t smell or look right. If you suspect that your kefir grains may need some recovery then you can make a new sugar solution and pop them in the fridge for a couple of days up to a week so that they can recover.

HOW LONG DOES KEFIR GRAINS LAST?

Water Kefir has been around for thousands of years and was passed down from one generation to the next and with good care you never have to get new grains again.

WHY IS MY KEFIR GRAINS FLOATING?

Floating grains is normal and happens when the grain traps some carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of the sugars being converted by the yeast while fermenting, causing the grains to float. They can really sometimes appear like little acrobats jumping up and down doing their little C02 magic! Floating grains can also be because of the specific gravity of the liquid being more dense than the composition of the grain making them float. Some grains aren’t as dense as others so that’s why you’ll see some grains sink and others float.

NOTE: it is possible that the outer layer of the grains have been damaged by freezer burn or high heat and cause the grains to float.

WHAT’S THIS”DUSTY” FILMY COATING?

The “Dustiness” or “Cloudy look” is most probably because of the yeast being overactive leaving a layer of dead yeast “sediment” coating and it appears to stick unto the grains. This occurrence is normally a result of too many minerals or too many dried fruits. This problem will dissolve as you cut down on mineral and fruit.

WHY ISN’T MY GRAINS MULTIPLYING?

You shouldn’t be too worried if your Kefir Grains are fermenting sugar water into kefir, they sometimes have their stubborn stilts and it usually passes as you try to figure out what they are craving for. Crumbling floating grains turning into small sand size grains not turning sugar water into kefir is all signs of deteriorating grains, you may be able to still save them by making sure you are using the right water, jar, mineral source and temperature. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t use antibacterial soaps to wash anything that comes into contact with your kefir or kefir grains. Grains damaged because of freezer burn or heat may not recover at all and it’s best to start fresh with new Grains. See HOW TO ENCOURAGE GRAIN GROWTH

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY SLOW KEFIR GRAINS OR MY OVERACTIVE GRAINS?

Rehabilitate them in the fridge. Prepare some sugar water put a lid on your jar and place them in the fridge to slow down and recover. They can stay in the fridge for 3 days up to a week. It may take a brew or two (2 Fermentation cycles of 48 hours) for the Kefir Grains to make great kefir and reproduce at a steady rate.

Wake up your slow grains by creating the optimal environment for them. You don’t want to starve your Kefir babies because that will cause their metabolisms to slow down resulting in slow grain growth. Make sure that you feed your Kefir Grains every 48 hours with a fresh batch of sugar solution. Nutrients also play an important role here, they love unrefined sugars and molasses mixed together. They love apricots and ginger slices. Keep them surprised with the sugar source as they thrive on a variety of nutrients introduced on a on-and-off-basis. For example one week for apricots, the other week for dates, one week for ginger slices, then a week for raisins and a couple of days off, starting with apricots the next week.

HOW DO I DRY WATER KEFIR GRAINS FOR STORAGE?

Wash your grains and dry them. Spread them out over an ironed tea towel and cover with another, make sure the edges is closed up to keep the insects out. Leave well ventilated at room temperature for 3-6 days. The Kefir Grains will be hard and smaller than their original size when fully dehydrated. Store in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer up to 6 months.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO REACTIVATE DRIED KEFIR GRAINS?

It can take from 3 days to a week to rebalance and become active again, no more than 14 days. Growth can start right away or up to 5 weeks.

DRIED OR LIVE ACTIVE KEFIR GRAINS?

I will always choose live active Cultures rather than the dehydrated cultures because the adjustment period is shorter and you can make drinkable Water Kefir with the first or second brew. It can be a bit of a schlep to rehydrate the dry Water Kefir Grains and then there is no certainty of when they’ll be able to make drinkable kefir or reproduce.

THE DIFFRENCE BETWEEN MILK & WATER KEFIR?

Water Kefir lives on the sugars and fruit that you’ve added to the water and produce a mild tasting, natural probiotic beverage that can be a great substitute for commercial drinks that’s not as healthy. Water Kefir Crystals looks like clear see through gems and may vary in color depending on the sugar used.

Milk Kefir lives on the sugars in milk called Lactose and makes a potent probiotic beverage which can have a bit of fizz and that’s why it is also known as the Champaign of drinking yogurt.

WHAT IF I DROPPED A GRAIN ON THE FLOOR?

Think quick and rinse well to make sure all the dust and stuff is rinsed off completely. You can now add that grain to the others OR eat it!

HOW SAFE IS KEFIR TO MAKE AND DRINK?

Kefir have been brewed for thousands of years, it survived the ages with no problem! Kitchens have become cleaner and there is not one person that I know of that had ill effects or contamination. Some studies have shown that Kefir wards off Salmonella and E. Coli and can also Kill Helicobacter Pylori, which is quite impressive! Kefir has a natural defense mechanisms to keep the colony of beneficial bacteria and yeast safe from invaders, the same type of bacteria and yeast is active in your gut and helps your body to absorb food better, it boosts your immune system and helps with so many things including your general well being. Most people’s gut’s are imbalanced and that’s where stuff like Kefir comes in to help bring back the balance so that your good gut bacteria and yeast can fight for your health even when you’re asleep! It may take some time for the body to get used to probiotic rich foods and may cause a die off  of bad bacteria and yeast (Herxheimer reaction)  which may cause flu like symptoms. You can stick it out and wait for it to pass or reduce the quantity and gradually increase as you feel need be. Only you can tell what’s best for your body and your health.

WHAT IF I AM EXPERIENCING ADVERSE REACTIONS TO DRINKING KEFIR?

Always start out with small amounts, as little as 30ml, and try within 3 – 5 days time to see if symptoms return. This can be an indication that your body is struggling to adjust and find balance and can possibly be Herxheimer reaction, where the body is detoxing due to the probiotics present in kefir. Listen to your body because only you will really know what is good for your body. Leave it if it doesn’t feel right and come back later and try again.

HOW MUCH KEFIR DO I START WITH DRINKING?

Start with 30ml for the first week with or after lunch and supper and then increase to a 1/4 cup for a week and then 1/2 a cup for the next week, you can drink 2-4 cups of Water Kefir per day.  You can also add your kefir to juice or water up until you are used to it.

COMPOSITION OF WATER KEFIR GRAINS

Kefir Grains are living cultures composed of beneficial bacteria and yeast (opposed to harmful yeasts like certain candida).The beneficial bacteria will help keep a balance between good and bad bacteria in it. Healthy bacteria balance is important because it helps with the body’s ability to utilise nutrients from food, immune system function and energy.

Strains of Yeasts:

Saccharomyces bayanus

Saccharomyces florenstinus

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Saccharomyces pretonriensis

Zygosaccharomyces flerntinus

Hanseniaspora vinae

Kloeckera apiculate

Candida colliculosa

Candida famata

Kluyveromices lactis

Candida valida

Hanseniaspora yalbensis

Candida lambica

Toruspola delbruechii

Candida lambica

Toruspola delbruechii

Candida magnolia

Candida Kefyr

Kluyveromices marxianus

 

Source: Intech – open science | open minds

 

 

 

Strains of Bacteria:

Lactobacillus brevis

Lactobacillus lactis cremoris

lactobacillus casei subsp. rhamnosus

Lactobacillus casei subsp. Pseudoplantarum

Lactobacillus buchneri

Lactobacillus keranofaciens

Lactobacillus lactis subsp. cremoris

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. Dextranicum

Gluconobacter frateuri

Lactobacillus hilgardii

Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei

Acetobacter aceti

Lactobacillus plantarum

Lactobacillus fructiovorans

Lactobacillus kefiri

Lactobacillus lactis subsp. lactis

Leuconstoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteriodes

Enterobacter hormachei

Chryseomonas luteola