|Water Kefir Grains|
You will need to acquire grains either from a friend or from a retailer. Mine came from Cultures for Health and you can help my site by ordering from them through my site using their great flash ad. If you buy dehydrated grains, you will rehydrate them for three days using twice as much rapadura as usually called for in the recipe. If you received fresh grains, they are ready to go. Start by preparing your water. Either aerate a quart of water in a blender, boil it on the stove or cover it and set it out overnight to off-gas. You will need a glass container at least one quart in size and a loose lid, though some people prefer a fabric cover. I have found that grains do very well with a loose lid which prevents spills and protects it from fruit flies, though you can choose which you prefer. You can easily double this recipe, or make three cups instead of four by keeping the ratios consistent.
Add your water, add one tablespoon rapadura per cup of water, add the grains (one tablespoon per cup), cover and rest 24-48 hours. Warm water dilutes the rapadura better but too warm will kill the grains, they are a living colony of helpful probiotic bacteria. Try to go no higher than a comfy bath temperature. I boil my water to eliminate the chlorine, add rapadura and stir and cover before turning off the heat. In a few hours it has cooled enough to pour into my jar and add my grains. In 24 hours your drink will be ready, but 48 hours will give the grains more time to consume the sweetener. Don't go longer than this unless your jar is in the fridge! The warm grains will consume all the sugars and die of starvation. In the fridge, you can feed the grains every four days by adding more rapadura.
You can pour the kefir through a small sieve over a pitcher, like the one seen above which is available from Cultures for Health. The sieve will catch the grains for the next batch. You can either serve from the pitcher, cover it with plastic and refrigerate or do a second ferment. A second ferment produces more bubbles as well as refines the flavor and gives the opportunity for adding more flavors. A good rule of thumb is one tablespoon vanilla extract per quart (I use homemade, see my recipe HERE) or four tablespoons of juice. Avoid antibacterial juices like cranberry if you want bubbles, sometimes they will kill the probiotics. This is way cranberry foods are forbidden for people on blood thinners, they kill the major source of vitamin K which is your gut bacteria. We have a juicer and I will juice what is laying around. The favorites are honeydew, watermelon and apple. In each bottle, add a few pieces of dried fruit (it must be dried) top with kefir and seal with either a bottle capper or a swing-top (a cork held with wire). Adding juice adds new sugars, so it will ferment faster just as warmer temperatures with speed things up. When the fruit floats, then it is ready for the fridge. Try to keep your kefir out of direct sunlight while it does its second ferment to preserve the flavor.
The thing that is particular to kefir that makes it different than kombucha is how picky it is about the sugar. Kombucha scoby thrives on cheap white sugar while kefir grains don't, I tried just to see what would happen. They also won't do well with honey which is difficult for yeast to break down and is mildly antibiotic which is bad for the bacteria. They seem to do the best with rapadura or sucanat. I have tried using egg shells and mineral drops both of which are often highly recommended but have not seen any real need for them. I find that the mineral drops help when using white sugar but also makes the drinks bitter. I have tried it all so you don't have to abuse your grains. So take it from me: the minerals in rapadura are necessary and sufficient. However, if you are using white sugar, add one tablespoon of molasses per quart to provide further nutrition to the grains.
An important thing to remember about water kefir is how much it attracts fruit flies. I have found enormous success in keeping a shot glass with a single tablespoon of plain red wine in it right next to the jar. If using a fabric cover, every single batch sanitize the cover. You can wash it, boil it, or rinse in water and microwave for one minute to kill any fly specks (eggs) that might be on it. But the wine is key. I dumped over the glass and poured off the wine to show you how many fruit flies collected there in just 48 hours. Mind you, I never see a fruit fly, I just find their dead bodies which is just how I want it. Keep another near the fruit basket, the kombucha and near the sourdough. Shot glasses are easy to find at any thrift store for a song.
In Mexico, we toast to each other's health by saying "Salud!". So here's to you health and delicious necessities!
Need a little more direction? Cultures for Health has a great video showing you how to make your water kefir at home.
Julie rehydrates water kefir grains.
Julie shows you how to make the water kefir with active grains.
Looking for a good source to buy water kefir grains? I wholeheartedly recommend Cultures for Health whose flash ad is at the top of the page. I am a strong believer in their product line and am a customer myself and my own grains and the strainer seen in my photo above both came from their store. Please note that I am an affiliate and do receive compensation if you order and I thank you for ordering through my site.