How to make water kefir

How to make water kefir

Water kefir is a non-dairy, probiotic-rich beverage that you can make very easily and affordably at home. Many people today are familiar with the dairy beverage that is also called kefir - both dairy kefir and water kefir utilize kefir grains to make a cultured, probiotic-rich beverage. The kefir grains in dairy feed off of lactose or milk sugar to create thriving, abundant beneficial bacteria colonies. In water kefir, you feed the grains organic, nutrient-rich sugar and in turn, a host of microbiota colonies form providing us with a generous, wellness supportive dose of probiotics necessary for healthy digestion. 

The difference between the two is that dairy kefir utilizes dairy kefir grains and milk from a goat, sheep, cow, etc to make a delicious, probiotic and enzyme-rich beverage whereas, water kefir uses non-dairy kefir grains, organic mineral-rich sugar, filtered water and often time herbs and/or fruit to make a tasty probiotic-rich drink.

For those who don't tolerate dairy well, water kefir provides dairy-intolerant individuals, and individuals seeking a diverse array of probiotic-rich foods, an alternative option. 

Consuming a diverse array of probiotic-rich foods is something we have lost touch with and have abandoned with our modern, conventional diets. Today, many of us have very compromised microflora in our gut as a result of consuming a conventional diet rich in sugar, grains, processed and packaged foods, carbohydrates and alcohol for so many years. Our gut flora takes an additional hit by our overuse of antibiotics, prescription medications (including brith control pills), use of household cleaning products and our obsession with anti-bacterial soap.  

Compromised gut flora has become an epidemic and sets the stage for a host of acute and chronic disorders including, depressed immunity, Alzheimer's, neurological conditions, dementia, poor hormonal well-being (many of our hormones are made from beneficial gut microbes), depression, anxiety, infection, intestinal disorders such as Crohn's, colitis, colon cancer and IBS as well as cancer and candida to name a few.

In healthy individuals, gut flora populations should outnumber the cells 10-1. Among these millions upon millions of microflora are numerous different cultures and strands of beneficial bacteria. To keep this diverse array of beneficial microbes thriving, it is important to discontinue eating foods that deplete our beneficial flora levels such as: 

  • Conventional foods
  • Processed and packaged foods
  • Foods sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides (the herbicide RoundUp Ready has been shown to significantly decrease levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut and even encourage malicious bacteria such as E.coli, C.diff (Clostridium difficile) and Citrobacter to name a few.)
  • Grains
  • Starchy foods
  • Overconsumption of fruit
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable oils

To really get to the root of many of our major health concerns today, we need to start by repairing the gut via a Primal Foods diet and by replenishing its beneficial gut microbe colonies. To adequately and effectively do so, it's important to eat a wide range of probiotic-rich foods each day. Simply taking a probiotic supplement or eating one probiotic-rich food or beverage here and there is not nearly enough. 

Making homemade water kefir is an easy, affordable and empowering way to start rebuilding and repopulating beneficial gut microbe levels. A 2011 study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, has demonstrated water kefir grains to contain the following probiotic strains of beneficial bacteria:

  • Lactobacillus brevis
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus hilgardii
  • Lactobacillus hordei
  • Lactobacillus nagelii
  • Leuconostoc citreum
  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides
  • Acetobacter fabarum
  • Acetobacter orientalis
  • Streptococcus lactis

Below is a recipe to make homemade water kefir, including kefir making tips and suggestions. The following recipe is provided by JoAnne Dodgson, a dear friend and wonderful teacher and guide of the ancient healing arts of Ka Ta See including, the most ancient form of divination today known as the throwing of the bones. She has mastered the art of making water kefir among many things. We hope you enjoy making and drinking this delicious, probiotic-rich beverage with your friends, family and community!

GingerBerry Kefir (dairy free)

1/2 cup kefir grains (get from a friend who has left-over water kefir grains or order here)

1/2 gallon water

1/2 cup organic sucanat (or other high mineral, unprocessed sugar)

organic ginger root, chopped

Directions

In 1/2-gallon canning jars, combine kefir grains, water, and sugar. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Cut ginger root into small pieces and drop into the jars. Close with canning lids. 

Set the jars on the counter to ferment at room temperature for 3-7 days. The warmer the temperature, the faster the fermentation. The longer the fermentation, the less sugar content in the final beverage. Bubbles may form in the liquid during the fermentation. You may need to twist open the lids to "burp" or release the build-up of air - this will prevent the jar from building-up too much pressure and potentially exploding. You can also prevent exploding by simply loosely covering your beverage or covering with a cheese cloth. The grains will multiply as they consume the sugar, providing you with an ongoing supply of kefir grains. 

When ready (this is a matter of taste preference), pour liquid into glass jars to store in the refrigerator. Distribute the fermented ginger root among the jars. Keep the kefir grains separate to be used for your next batches. 

Your kefir drink can be stored for weeks in the refrigerator. The kefir will continue slowly fermenting, eventually becoming more acidic like vinegar. If this is not a taste you enjoy as a beverage, you can use kefir vinegar as a salad dressing, to marinate vegetables and meats or for body and hair rinse. 

While the kefir drink is stored in the refrigerator, you can activate a second fermentation by adding more ingredients. The second-ferment offers additional flavors and nutritional value to your kefir drink. I like to add a few blackberries and mulberries to each jar. Other possibilities include gogi berries, citrus, cranberries, figs, vanilla bean, pomegranate or raspberries. 

Pour the refrigerated GingerBerry Kefir into a glass. Squeeze the fermented ginger root with a garlic/citrus press, blending the ginger juice into the kefir drink. The berries and other ingredients can be stirred into the kefir and/or eaten too. Enjoy!

Special notes

For health considerations, use glass jars and wooden utensils. Avoid metal as this harms the kefir grains. Plastics will leach into the drink. 

Store extra kefir grains in a jar with water and sucanat. Extra kefir grains can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Every few days, change the water and add more sucanat to keep the kefir grains alive.

Making kefir is more art than science! Have fun exploring and experimenting with flavors you love!

JoAnne Dodgson has been learning and living the kala keh nah seh lineage of Ka Ta See for over seventeen years. She is a teacher, author, and ceremonial guide of these ancient healing ways from the Eastern Andes. She is passionate about reclaiming the traditions of 'food as medicine' to create balance and well-being in our lives. You can learn more about JoAnne by visiting her site at http://www.joannedodgson.com or you can contact her via email at joanne@joeannedodgson.com 

Heathar is a primal foods enthusiast and expert. She has studied food and nutrition for over 15 years and continues to do so to this day. When Heathar isn't in the kitchen, she's either writing, hiking or doing her primal energetics thing. If you are interested in discovering how Heathar's nutrition work may benefit you, contact her to schedule a free 45-minute phone consultation. Until then, Eat, Live and Be Primal!