How to Make Water Kefir

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How to Make Water Kefir | We love water kefir! I can see why people call it a natural soda. But it is better than soda! Not only does it give you all sorts of probiotic goodness, it is not as sweet and doesn't leave you with a sickly sweet upset stomach.  And with active cultures that can probably last longer than you (with proper care), this is definitely a frugal -- not to mention healthy -- way to break a soda habit! In this post, I share basic instructions for a first and second fermentation, along with some flavor ideas. | GNOWFGLINS.com

We love water kefir! I can see why people call it a natural soda. But it is better than soda! Not only does it give you all sorts of probiotic goodness, it is not as sweet and doesn’t leave you with a sickly sweet upset stomach. With proper care, the water kefir grains can probably last longer than you, making this a frugal — not to mention healthy — way to break a soda habit!

See also: What’s So Great About Water Kefir?

I have done a little experimenting with flavors, but I could use some more ideas. My family likes the plain water kefir best, with just a bit of vanilla added. I enjoy the lemon/ginger best.

Rehydrating the Grains

Unless someone shares grains with you, you’ll have to purchase water kefir grains. (We recommend getting them from Cultures for Health.) Rehydrate according to the package directions. It takes 3 to 5 days in sweet water to rehydrate them and get them going again. The package from Cultures for Health gives enough grains to make around 3/4 gallon of water kefir at a time.

First Fermentation

After the grains are rehydrated, mix 3/4 gallon of water with 3/4 cups of sweetener in a gallon jar. The less refined the sweetener, the better – the water kefir grains love minerals!

For more information on water, sweeteners, and minerals, see also: What’s So Great About Water Kefir?

If using a dry sweetener (such as Rapadura or Sucanat — raw, unrefined sugar), it must be dissolved in hot water first. Bring the 3/4 cup Rapadura and 2 cups of water to a boil to dissolve the Rapadura. Let it cool a bit, then add 10 more cups of cold water to lower its temp. It should be comfortable to the touch, not hot at all, when using it with the water kefir grains. Add it to the jar.

egg shell in water kefir
Add a half (rinsed) pastured egg shell to the jar. Put the grains in the jar — either loose or in a little muslin fabric bag. Swirl it all around gently. Cover the jar with a paper towel or cloth napkin and secure it to the jar lip with a rubber band. Let it sit for 3 to 5 days until desired sweetness is left — the longer you go, the less sweet. It may or may not be bubbly.

Pour off the water kefir liquid into another gallon size jar or two half gallon jars. If not following the forthcoming directions for adding flavor during a second fermentation, add 1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla per 3/4 gallon of water kefir to make a simple cream soda. Refrigerate and drink as is, or bottle. Use the grains to start a new batch of water kefir.

Second Fermentation

fig water kefir
(The grains should be removed by this time.) Add fresh or dried fruit, or fruit juices to the jar. (See next for flavor ideas.) This second ferment should be done without air. Add a new half of a rinsed (pastured) egg shell. Cover the jar opening with plastic wrap and then the jar lid. Leave out at room temperature for 1 to 3 days. When you’re happy with the flavor, strain the liquid free from any bits of fruit and the egg shell. Refrigerate the soda or bottle it. I’ve never bottled it. I just put it in the fridge in a lidded pitcher and we drink it up quickly! The water kefir tends to get more bubbly during this stage. But, as I said before, it may or may not get bubbly.

The second ferment can be done in bottles, which will also increase fizz. :)

How to Make Water Kefir | We love water kefir! I can see why people call it a natural soda. But it is better than soda! Not only does it give you all sorts of probiotic goodness, it is not as sweet and doesn't leave you with a sickly sweet upset stomach.  And with active cultures that can probably last longer than you (with proper care), this is definitely a frugal -- not to mention healthy -- way to break a soda habit! In this post, I share basic instructions for a first and second fermentation, along with some flavor ideas. | GNOWFGLINS.com

For second fermentation methods and/or bottling instructions, plus updated instructions, see our Lacto-Fermentation eCourse or eBook.

Flavor Ideas

  • 1/2 cup raisins plus 1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates plus 1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried fig pieces plus 1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1 cup organic grape juice
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus a splash of vanilla
  • dried peach slices (a friend’s idea and I can’t remember how many she used – maybe 6?), plus splash of vanilla

How to Make Water Kefir | We love water kefir! I can see why people call it a natural soda. But it is better than soda! Not only does it give you all sorts of probiotic goodness, it is not as sweet and doesn't leave you with a sickly sweet upset stomach.  And with active cultures that can probably last longer than you (with proper care), this is definitely a frugal -- not to mention healthy -- way to break a soda habit! In this post, I share basic instructions for a first and second fermentation, along with some flavor ideas. | GNOWFGLINS.com
So that’s my simple process for making water kefir, and some ideas for flavors. Now it’s your turn.

How do you flavor your water kefir? Do you make it differently? Is there some flavor combination you’d like to see?

For more information about water kefir, see our Lacto-Fermentation eCourse or eBook, both of which contain updated info, second fermentation instructions, bottling instructions, and other fermented beverage recipes.

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!

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Comments

  1. says

    I tried water kefir and my fellas didn’t like it, BUT I didn’t try it with the second ferment with the flavorings. I have 2 jars of water kefir with the grains still in it. They’ve been sitting in my pantry with a lid on them for months (Like 5 months…yikes!). I kind of forgot about them and wasn’t sure if the grains were still good or not, so I’ve kept them anyway…just in case. Do you know if they’re still good to use to try again? Or would it be better to order some new grains and start over?
    .-= Susan´s last blog post… Venison Pot Pie =-.

    • says

      Susan – I would bet they’re no good anymore. :( For the future, if you want to store them, put them in some sweetened water (1/4 cup of sweet per 4 cups of water) and store in the fridge. The sugar will keep them alive, but the cool temp will slllooooowww them down. I’d probably change the sweet water every few weeks. I think your family would love the second ferment! It changes the beverage quite a bit.

  2. says

    I put my grains in the fridge to rest a couple of weeks ago. I think I’ll get them out again. Our favorite is ‘lemonade’. I haven’t tried the lemon/ginger combo but I’d imagine I would like it and the rest of the family would not. :-)
    .-= Millie @ Real Food for Less Money´s last blog post… =-.

  3. says

    Hi Wardee,

    Thanks for the information. I converted about 3 tablespoons of my milk kefir grains to water kefir grains (not the same as real water kefir grains, but just as effective)

    For my first ferment I add the converted kefir grains to a mason jar filled about 2/3 full of filtered water, 1/4 cup evaporated cane sugar, and 10 dried natural cranberries. I let this sit for 2 days in a dark cupboard,swirling the contents a couple of times daily.

    After two days I extract the grains and discard the cranberries. I divide the kefir water into two-1 litre grolsch bottles and top it off with about one-two cups natural grape juce. After capping it, I place it in a dark cupboard that is somewhat warm from my furnace vent. This second ferment is usually about 12 hours, and then I place it in the refrigerator. This is so delicious. I love it!
    .-= Marly´s last blog post… Christmas Butter Cookies =-.

    • says

      Marly – I’m glad you shared how you’re doing that – it will be helpful for people wondering how to make water kefir from dairy kefir grains!

  4. says

    Just ordered a 2nd batch of water kefir grains from CFH. I’ll be giving your recipe a try as soon as they get here. I was also excited to find 7 old flip top beer bottles that I had forgotten that I bought at a garage sale last summer. They’re still in excellent condition (except for needing a good hot bath!). I’m going to try using them so we hopefully will get some nice carbonated kefir soda…which will be a BIG plus with my fellas…they really like the fizzy stuff. Thanks for posting about this, I think this batch will work out so much better!

    Hugs & Blessings!
    Susan
    .-= Susan´s last blog post… Healthy and Easy Mac and Cheese =-.

    • says

      Tara – Yes, I believe you can. At least I have read about people using it. I also run across things that say that honey is naturally anti-microbial, so it will eventually kill the mother cultures. However, I have read that when diluted, this isn’t likely. For myself, I would be willing to risk it. I’d love for you to keep in touch about how it goes with honey.

  5. says

    Wardee, I am so eager to try this and have been for months. Just reading through your process, I’m assuming that if you choose to do a second fermentation, the water kefir grains have been removed by that point, right? Or do you keep them in for the second fermentation, too? I love the tip about the egg shell! I’ve never read that anywhere else, and I’ll have to try it!
    —Sonya

    • says

      Sonya – You’re right – you remove them no matter what after the first fermentation. Start a new batch with them, proceed with the one in progress… Enjoy!

  6. Jessica says

    I have been using Milk Kefir to make sodas. I don’t know anything about the conversion process but I read on one blog that you can put them in milk in between uses to keep them alive which sounds like a different method. That is what I’ve been doing. I have some kefir that I use just for sodas. I store mine in milk in the fridge when I’m not using them. It seems to work very well. I made some delicious plum “cider” with them a few weeks ago.

    • says

      Erin – Those sound good. How do you do the apple/cinnamon flavor – do you dry the apples with the cinnamon or add the cinnamon to the water kefir with plain dried apples?

  7. HoopQueen says

    This was such a great post; I loved how you broke down the kefir-making into very clear steps.

    I’m really disappointed in my water kefir grains, though. I ordered some, and rehydrated them and all that… and I’ve had them for probably a month and a half now. I keep feeding them, but I always end up tossing the end result. Is water kefir supposed to taste GOOD? Mine tastes like vinegar sometimes, and just kinda icky other times. I like milk kefir just fine, so I don’t think it’s that I’m terribly picky about taste.

    Mine never seems to be hardly carbonated at all, either. I use Rapadura as a sweetener; I’ve also tried raisins. Maybe the eggshell trick would make a difference?

    I guess I’m just wondering if water kefir is totally an acquired taste, or is it actually fairly pleasant tasting?

    • says

      HoopQueen – What kind of water are you using? If filtered or chlorinated, or if for some reason the water lacks minerals (soft), the grains don’t do that well. Read this post for more info on water: http://gnowfglins.com/2009/12/18/whats-so-great-about-water-kefir/ . The eggshell should help alot if the minerals are lacking.

      I think our water kefir is very pleasant tasting, like a mildly sweet sparkling drink and then flavors added depending on the second fermentation.

  8. says

    I would love to try this because of the probiotic effects without the dairy. I can’t eat Rapadura or honey…any other sweeteners you can recommend?

    • says

      Amy ~ It has to be a real sweetener, with sucrose and/or fructose. I will look around to see whether you can use straight fruit for the first fermentation.

  9. Faith says

    This is a great overview, Wardee! After several months, I was able to find some local water kefir grains and am on our 2nd batch of water kefir. I haven’t tried your advice yet, but I will with our next batch. I am excited to share this with my parents (who don’t drink pop, but do drink soda water) as a healthy alternative.

    2nd Ferment: We’ve tried mango and cherry so far. And just started a 2nd ferment with 1) Orange/ginger, 2) Date/Dark Raisin, 3) Apple/Cinnamon. So we are excited to taste those. I’m glad to see you suggest leaving the 2nd ferment out longer than the info I had – I did this anyway with our first batch to strengthen the flavor. Wardee, can I add the vanilla after the 2nd ferment is done? Do you use bean or extract? Jessica, I’d love to hear about how you made your plum cider.

    1st Ferment: Marly, I’m excited to try the cranberries, that sounds delicious. I have been using raw cane sugar and applejuice for the first ferment. The original recipe also included some banana slices, but the woman I got the culture from changed that, she said it made it too slimey but the woman she got her culture from loved it that way. So maybe I’ll try the banana slices sometime. Has anyone tried alternative sweeteners like agave or maple syrup for the first ferment? I wondered about the honey too. We’ve never tried it in our other cultures, like kombucha, for the reason you give.

    I have a few questions… about water – we have filtered water we use. I have mineral drops I sometimes add to our water… maybe I should add to the water kefir water? I am also trying to get it fizzier without ordering the Grolsch bottles, does anyone have suggestions?

    • says

      Faith – You can add the vanilla at any time. I have not used vanilla bean. I would absolutely add those mineral drops to your filtered water. We have filtered water, too, but think we may not have to much longer, which is why I haven’t gotten any mineral drops. I have used agave for the first ferment – using up the last of a big supply. I just recently switched to using Rapadura and I have noticed right away that the water kefir is more bubbly with the Rapadura. BUT it still worked and tasted wonderful with the agave. Thanks for your flavor ideas!

  10. Faith says

    @ Susan… you could always try to reuse your grains. The good thing about cultured liquids is that it is very obvious in appearance and smell if they go bad. So you should be able to tell fairly soon if it’s good or not. However, if the grains have a bad smell already in your fridge I would not use them.

    I say this bc there have been many times (pregnancy, moving, etc.) when we have left some of our kombucha cultures for months in our fridge with a small amount of kombucha in jars and they have always worked great when we finally get back to using them. I think some of them were left at least six months with no problems.

  11. Erin says

    Wardee,
    I dry the apple slices with cinnamon sprinkled on both sides. It is a great flavor to the water kefir. I also tried some organic grapes when I was able to find them on sale this summer. I froze them and added them to the 2nd ferment. That’s another good one to try. Enjoy!

  12. says

    Hey everyone,

    Sorry I didn’t get right back with the conversion process, but I’m sorta busy with, you know, Christmas—Heehee. Anyway as soon as I have some time I will explain it all in detail for you. Have a wonderful Christmas.
    .-= Marly´s last blog post… Christmas Butter Cookies =-.

  13. says

    Wardee~

    Thank you for sharing about this.I was just wondering the other day where I might find a healthier version of pop. I want to try this so maybe we can break the “pop habit”.I’ll have to talk to my dh about me ordering the grains. I am going to pass this on to Nicole,too because she really loves pop. I think she drinks it way more than we do.
    .-= Tina´s last blog post… Our middle ds~ the Boss =-.

  14. says

    Wardee,
    I’m finally making my second batch of water kefir. My kids didn’t like the first batch, Pineapple flavor. So my husband and I drank all of it. I am starting a berry flavored batch next. I was just wondering if you drink it at a certain time, and how much you drink. My husband and I both had a cleaning out experience from this stuff. I’m wondering what that was about? It makes more sense with me, but not with my husband. And it was at very different times, so it couldn’t have been something we ate.
    I also tend to get a bit of a stomach ache when I drink this, not sure why.
    I do enjoy experimenting on myself though:)
    Thanks again for all of your insight!
    Tiffany

    • says

      Tiffany – We drink it about once a day, and usually with a meal. I drink mine in the evening or when I know I’m sitting down – it lowers my blood pressure just like Kombucha does, and both quite strongly.

      If you’re cleaning out, I think it must be doing good work! Kombucha is supposed to cleanse.

      Keep letting me know how it is going. :) Hope your kids like the berry flavor.

  15. says

    Wardee,
    I thought of another question. I am going to share some water kefir with a friend who is nursing her baby. Are there any recommendations for pregnant or nursing mothers and kefir?

    • says

      Tiffany – one other thing :) I wanted to clarify my answer about how often we drink this. Actually, our goal is to have at least a small glass of a beneficial beverage at every meal. And we also have Kombucha around. So it works out to be two cups of Kombucha and one cup of water kefir a day. Not everyone does 3 glasses a day, but we each do at least one, and it tends to be with a meal.

  16. dee says

    honey WILL indeed kill the mother grains eventually. honey is not the right kind of sugar to feed those little guys. kefir likes diglycerides like white sugar or molasses (there are plenty of other options).

    however you CAN use honey in your secondary ferment as long as you don’t leave any kefir grains trailing.

  17. Casie says

    I really need some advise. I don’t want to give up on my new water kefir grains, but so far I haven’t made anything that doesn’t taste alcoholic. I started out fermenting for 2 days and then another day or two sans the grains, plus vanilla and/or fruit for the 2nd ferment. Then I cut back to 24hrs on the 1st ferment. I’ve even cut back to 12hrs and it still tastes alcoholic. The most recent batch tasted better, but I’m concerned with the still present, although not quite as strong, alcohol-y taste (I’m expecting and just don’t want to take any chances). Is it supposed to taste like alcohol? I’ve tried using both rapadura and turbinado w/ a touch of molasses. I may be crazy, but I’m pretty sure that after just a couple of weeks, my grains have multiplied…I thought they were usually pretty stubborn about multiplying. I’ve been getting well water from a neighbor to make my kefir. Could it be that the water is so mineral rich that the grains are fermenting/multiplying faster? Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks for your time! (btw, this is my first time commenting, but I love your blog!)

    • says

      Casie – Hi! A couple thoughts. First, perhaps that you’re confusing the fermented smell/taste with alcohol? It is true that water kefir contains a smidgen of alcohol – it is a byproduct of the natural process. To us it does smell and taste a bit like alcohol, but it is not an alcoholic beverage. It is a fermented beverage. If you’re using rapadura and molasses – both rich with minerals – I am not surprised that your grains are multiplying. And yes, that well water could be doing it, too. It sounds to me like you’re doing everything right. What I suggest, since you’re expecting, is to drink a small amount of it. Sit down or lay down so you’re not doing anything else, and pay attention to how you feel. Alcohol would have a noticeable effect (at least it does me as I don’t drink it very often ;) ).

      But, to possibly confuse you more – Kombucha, for instance, has a blood pressure lowering effect that can be confused with the loopy feeling one would get from alcohol. Not all people notice it, but I do because I already have lower blood pressure. Water kefir affects me the same way, so I think the same thing is happening.

      When I started making water kefir, I only had agave syrup to use (was using it up and haven’t replaced it). The grains were stubborn. In fact, I don’t think they were eating much of the sugar because the water kefir after 5 days was still pretty sweet. Now I use Rapadura – the beverage is much more bubbly, fermented-tasting, and not sweet at all after 3 to 4 days.

  18. Denise says

    Hi Wardee!
    After reading your post on Kefir, I ordered the starter kit from CFL. I noticed in the directions they give a range of 3-4 days for original rehydration, and 24-48 hrs. for fermentation. I’d like to have more of a carbonated drink if possible, so should I go with the shorter or longer end of the time ranges? Also, my directions don’t say anything about a second fermentation, will I get a better flavor, and more carbonation if I do the second fermentation? It’s a little intimidating!! Thank you SO much for your blog, it’s been life changing:) Still working on trying to find raw milk, Argh!
    Thanks!

  19. Eric says

    Well, not quite sure how I got to this particular page but I must say, I’m glad I did. This sounds like something that I want to try. And this Kombucha thing… I’ve heard of it but never realized it was cultured.

    I really must break my son of this soda habit. He doesn’t get that much, and for very good reason. Sugar…does things to him.

    Thanks for this entry :D

  20. Casie says

    Thanks, Wardee. I guess the fermented taste will take some getting used to. I’ve only had sips so far since I’ve been a little worried about the alcohol taste, but I’m going to keep experimenting with flavors and ferment times until I get something I’m comfortable with (or until I acquire a taste for it!). If these grains keep multiplying the way they have been, I’ll have to find someone to share with soon!

  21. audrey says

    hi

    i accidently put sparkling water instead of still water. can you please let me know if i made them all dead?

    thanks,
    audrey

    • says

      Audrey – How long has it been? Are you rehydrating your grains, or making a full batch with plumped up grains?

      If it were me, I’d check two things:

      1) I’d smell the batch – does it smell fresh and a little fermenty, but not repulsive? Then they’re probably okay.

      2) Depending on how long it has been, I’d taste the liquid. If it has been two days and the grains are working, the liquid should be much less sweet and a little carbonated (a little “bright”).

      If both those things are good (good smell and decreased sweetness), then I would think the grains are okay.

      Regardless – if I wasn’t sure if they were okay or if I thought they were, I’d put the grains in a fresh batch of pure, sweetened water – and be sure to add a rinsed eggshell if it is a full batch (not just the first stage of rehydrating). The best sweeteners would be Rapadura or Sucanat because they’d have alot of minerals to get the grains going again if they’d been suffering.

      Let me know how it goes!

    • says

      Michelle – You shouldn’t use any metal, even stainless steel, with cultures. Best to use wood or bamboo. I like those little muslin bags to store my water kefir grains – it makes transferring from batch to batch super easy. (See the Resources page for sources.)

  22. says

    Hi Wardee,

    Yesterday I poured out my first batches of water kefir to drink.
    I made two types-
    One with- dried figs cut up, half a lemon, water and 2 tablespoons rapadura sugar.
    the other- dried figs cut up, half a lemon, water & 2 tablespoon raw sugar.

    So I tried the rapadura one- im not sure if it is because of the sugar or the figs but it really smelt quite unpleasant, however it tasted a bit better than it smelt. It was also a bit thick, kind of syrupy, something I wasn’t prepared for. I also didnt really like the dark colour of it.

    The Raw sugar one- smelt much nicer and didn’t seem to be as thick and had a pleasant colour.

    So I’ve concluded that using raw sugar yields a nicer kefir aesthetically, albeit not as nutritious as one made with rapadura. I also tested the alcohol content with my hydrometer (I use it normally to make apple cider vinegar) and the specific gravity was around 2-3 percent (after 24 hours). So it contained around 2-3 percent of alcohol. I’m quite concerned about alcohol content.

    I’ve now made a new batch containing juice of half a lemon, half a lemon (whole), 2 tablespoons raw sugar and half a clean egg shell and water. My aim is to made lemonade. So I’m going to see how that goes.

    I’m thinking I might make a ginger beer next time if this lemonade goes successfully! I’ll let you know!

    • says

      Michelle –

      The water kefir will be syrupy from the sugar, and less syrupy the longer you let the grains “eat”.

      Did you add the lemons, figs, etc. during the first fermentation? I am confused because you also added sugar. Perhaps you had a reason for doing so. Every time I do a second ferment, I just let the grains eat fruit – no need for more sugar.

      I am shocked at the amount of alcohol! Will you please keep checking it and letting me know if this is consistently the result?

      And I agree – the more refined the sugar, the more aesthetic, EXCEPT in terms of bubbliness. The less refined sweeteners produce more bubbles because the grains love the minerals.

      Thanks for the update!

  23. says

    Hi Wardee,

    I’ve been experimenting a bit more with my kefir grains this week.

    The kefir I talked to you about last time has lemons, sugar, figs, kefir etc..so I added sugar aswell as fruit. But I only to a primary fermentation and then bottle it.

    I’ve made a really nice ginger beer (fresh ginger tea-made and then cooled & strained- a few pieces of fresh ginger, a piece of egg shell, a 1/8 teaspoon of bicarb soda, kefir grains, raw sugar & spelt syrup (instead of molasses)) which has turned out wonderfully! It has quite a nice fizz and tastes alot like bundaberg ginger beer (which is a really popular brand here in oz).

    I tested it for alcohol two other times now and they have been between 0.5 & 1%. But I will keep testing it to see if i get the same results.

    You know drinking the water kefir has greatly improved my appetite (normally its really low) since I started drinking this kefir at the begining of the week (yes I’ve only started drinking it at the begininng of this week!). But it’s been a great experiment.

    I want to make a really nice lemonade in a week or so. Have you made nettle kefir? I saw it on Dom’s site and I’m thinking of trying it but not too sure.

    • says

      Michelle – So you’re adding the fruit to the first fermentation. Gotcha.

      The ginger beer sounds wonderful.

      Interesting that the alcohol content is lower now. I’m glad about that. :)

      Wonderful its affect on your appetite! I have not seen nettle kefir. You are such a great experimenter – please let me know if you try it! I’d like to use some of your ideas in the eCourse lesson on water kefir. I’ll be referring everyone to this post for ideas beyond what I demonstrate in the class, so whatever you add here will be a great benefit to everyone – thanks!

  24. says

    I’m new to water kefir, though I’ve successfully brewed a few batches of the lemon/fig recipe. I’ve been drinking it on its first fermentation, but am interested in other flavors. In searching for recipes, I found your blog, and made sure to read through all the comments. Now I can’t wait to start making second fermentations so that maybe my children will enjoy the drink, and the health benefits as well. :D

    As for the nettle kefir, my friend wrote a post about it on her blog long ago, though I’m not sure she still makes it. http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/blog/2007/09/fermented_nettle_tea_an_iron_b.html

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts, ideas and recipes!

  25. Nancy says

    Hi! I’ve been experimenting with water kefir for a couple of weeks now, and have found your directions better than the others on the web. My water kefir gets very bubbly during the second fermentation, but when I strain that into a bottle, it looses all it’s fizz. Any ideas n what I could be doing wrong? Also, it’s much cloudier than the one you have pictured above, which is clear and sparkling. Thanks for any additional tips!

    • says

      Nancy – I’m glad you found the directions helpful. :D Pouring it releases the fizz – it is gas that escapes. Are you pouring it into a Grolsh-style bottle or into a non-air tight bottle? If the former, it will build up fizz again. If the latter, it probably will stay pretty flat.

      For your second question, what sweetener are you using? In these pictures, I used evaporated cane juice (a sugar that is more refined than Rapadura). Now I use Rapadura and this results in a darker, cloudier water kefir. Let me know if any of this helps!

  26. says

    I’m doing water kefir for a short while and started yesterday a new batch, this time putting the grains into small muslin bags. However, now the bags float on the top and my dried fruits, raisins, are on the bottom. Doesn’t that affect/slow the fermentation?

    • says

      Martin – That is totally right. The grains in the bag do float – they give off gas which gets somewhat trapped in the bag, giving it buoyancy. If the grains were free and doing well, you’d see them dancing up and down in the jar. It is really cool! And yes, the fruits do stay at the bottom. Have fun!

  27. says

    Thanks Wardee,
    but I have the strong feeling that the fermentation takes much longer when the grains are in the bag as when they are loose. Maybe because they are in close contact with the fruits when loose? What is your experience about this difference in fermentation time?

    Best,
    Martin

    • says

      Martin, you could be right. I can’t say I’ve ever compared it. However, if it is slowed, it isn’t detrimental, to my knowledge. I get a full fermentation of water kefir within 48 hours (almost no sweet left) and I use a bag every time. Perhaps it could go faster… I don’t know. I’d be curious to hear from you if you do a side by side and find anything interesting.

      Also, I don’t typically use fruit while the grains are in the brew. I do a first fermentation with just grains. Then I put the grains in a new batch, completing a second fermentation on the original batch with dried or fresh fruit (no grains).

  28. Anna says

    I’ve been making kefir water for a month or so and the last two batches got a little long (like 6 days), so the taste is more like wine or vinegar (not the least bit sweet). Have you experienced this and do you still drink it?

    Thanks,
    Anna

    ps – I use grains from CFH and my sweetener is Sucanat. I was doing a quart at a time, but this most recent batch my grains had multiplied enough to do nearly a half gallon.

    • says

      Anna – That sounds normal. We do still drink it even though there’s no sweet left. However, I think for the longevity of your grains that you should normally avoid a 6-day long fermentation, especially in warm weather. Though it does sound like your grains are thriving if they’re multiplying, so let your taste and their health be your judge.

  29. dee says

    Wardee and anna…

    the winey/vinegary taste is completely normal, but i tend to not drink it. what you should do is keep it in the fridge, closed, for an extra week or two. you will be shocked at the yumminess that is produced from that vinegar stage. it actually goes EVEN sweeter, and somewhat syrupy if you let it process off the vinegar.

    but i suppose you could use it as is to make salad dressing! i never tried but always wanted to!

  30. Evelyn says

    Hi Wardee,
    Thanx for all your recipes and advice. I read through alot of the posts and some of my questions were answered. However I still have a couple:
    1. I read somewhere that you can freeze the grains, if so how would I do it?
    2. I am new to this and received my grains from a co-worker. The directions she gave me did not call for lemon or raisans and she also told me to use piloncillo (sugar). I have been having somw heartburn and I wonder if it is because I failed to use these items and am not measuring my amounts. What do you think?

    I tried the 2nd fermentation process and I think my mango was over ripe because the batch smelled rancid instead of fermented. I tossed this batch out but the batch before was made w/ firmer mango and blackberries and it was good.I have also started using (1st process) organic lemon and raisans and an extra cube of sugar (last 2 batches) and I found it to have an even STRONGER vinegary taste than before, (the process is usually 24- 30hrs). I am not sure why, not sweet or anywhere near sweet but I still drink it. I also spent yesterday in bed w/lightheadedness and nausea and I know when the body is releasing toxins it may be reacting to it, do you think this could be it? I know you are not a Dr. I was just asking for your thoughts. :-)

    Sincerely,
    Evelyn

  31. dee says

    Evelyn wrote:
    “I tried the 2nd fermentation process and I think my mango was over ripe because the batch smelled rancid instead of fermented. I tossed this batch out but the batch before was made w/ firmer mango and blackberries and it was good.I have also started using (1st process) organic lemon and raisans and an extra cube of sugar (last 2 batches) and I found it to have an even STRONGER vinegary taste than before, (the process is usually 24- 30hrs). I am not sure why, not sweet or anywhere near sweet but I still drink it. I also spent yesterday in bed w/lightheadedness and nausea and I know when the body is releasing toxins it may be reacting to it, do you think this could be it?”

    hi evelyn!
    i think you should basically be careful with any fruits that are viscous by nature, ie that don’t have some form of protective layer keeping the juices locked inside instead of freely mingling with the kefir. i have used dried apricots successfully but had no luck with fresh apricot slices, where the inner flesh was making contact with the sugar-water media. similarly, i’ve had perfect batches using raisins but some cloudy icky batches using sliced-open dates. the solution basically turned the dates into mush, which also left behind thin shreds of date-flesh throughout my mixture.

    lemon and citrus fruits seem to work, but most other ‘slippery’ or surface-wet fruits tend to ruin the brew (bananas, kiwis, pineapple, sliced-open bits of melon, banana, etc). anything with a skin (apples, grapes, whole blueberries etc) holding in the juices should work.

    if you are still a new kefir taster, your sick feelings may indeed be your body adjusting to the ‘good bacteria’. you may have overdone your intake, which CAN cause heart-burn and bloating, sometimes diarrhea and stomach ‘gurgling’, and in rare cases, usually in people with a lowered immune system, it could cause nausea.

    i was SO bloated for 2 months after making my first brews, but other than that, i felt no discomfort.

    it sounds ridiculous, but when you first start consuming kefir, try not to ingest more than a tablespoon per day. if your symptoms continue, try to reduce to a teaspoon. if you’re STILL reacting badly to it after a month of 1 tsp per day, you may want to consider avoiding kefir altogether. but if you feel none or only mild discomfort at 1 tsp per day, slowly increase until you feel your system has fully adjusted.

    even though i’ve been drinking my kefir for about a year, i still try to control my intake, and limit it to about 250ml a day, and it’s suggested to take a one or two day ‘breather’ if you can.

    so, many people drink kefir 5 out of 7 days a week only, though it’s not completely horrible if you have just a bit each day. it won’t kill ya, but the good bacteria in your gut will work better if you give it a couple of days off.

    i hope that gives you some insight!

  32. Evelyn says

    Thanx Dee!

    I have been drinking about 14-16oz a day, I started at around 6-8 for the 1st week. I am already drinking this much so I guess I will stay here for a while and I will take your advice and give it a break every few days. My water kefir has been extremely happy since I started adding extra and the lemon wedge. Thank you so much for the help.

  33. says

    Evelyn — I am sorry for being tardy to your questions!

    On the freezing, I put my grains in a bit of sugar water in a Ziploc and freeze. It has worked well so far.

    dee gave great advice on how to get used to kefir and also about fruits. I would suggest fermenting for less time to avoid the heavy fermentation smell/reactions. I would also suggest NOT using any fruit during the first fermentation.

  34. says

    Hi,
    does anyone has experience with large batches of water kefir? The recipe should scale linearly, shouldn’t it?
    I started a batch two days ago in a 25 liter (~6.6 gallons) fermentation container using 4-5 cups of grains and ~1.6kg sugar. Seems to ferment well, however this morning (~36 hours) there was still a good bit of sugar left. However, the grains were stored in the fridge for a couple of days beforehand, so they will need time to recover first.
    I will keep tasting to see when it’s finished.

  35. Ceitllyn says

    I have had some water kefir brewing on my counter for almost a week now. I put in eggshells and it is starting to get a bit of bubbles but I noticed a bit of ‘film’ almost like a SCOBY on top. Reading through the posts, I haven’t seen anyone ask that. It is still very sweet to me, I am thinking of putting it in a bigger jar and adding more water. Would that hurt any progress? Thanks

  36. says

    Ceitllyn, I don’t think that film is a good sign. I could be wrong, but I think your fermentation has been too long. You should never go more than 5 days, and usually about 3 in warm weather is the max. If it is still sweet, it would seem the grains are not thriving because they’re not eating. I would try to start a new batch, perhaps smaller just in case you have to go through several to revive them.

    Martin, I start a few batches of water kefir at once. Yes, it scales. If I’m making two gallons, I dissolve 2 cups of sugar in a bit of water (by boiling). Then I add water to cool it down. Then I pour the sugar water equally into the gallon jars, and fill to the top with more fresh water. Add the grains, etc.

  37. KeeNan says

    It’s not clear in your instructions how much kefir grains to use to 3/4 gallon of water… you say that the packaged amount is good for that big of a batch, but not a measurement for those of us not using the package…

    Can you advise?

    • says

      KeeNan — Sure! About 1/4 cup of rehydrated grains per 3/4 gallon of sweet water. It is flexible, though, you can use more or less and be fine.

  38. says

    I was able to obtain some water kefir grains recently, but they are not dehyrated. They came to me in a small half-pint jar that is very full and bubbly…and no instructions. I’m keeping it in the frig. Now what???

    • says

      Sherri — proceed with the directions in this recipe. You need about 1/4 cup of hydrated grains for a 3/4 gallon batch of water kefir. If you’re in the Fundamentals eCourse, you can see video demonstrations of the whole process.

      PS Your comment went to spam — I just now found it.

  39. says

    Hi Wardee.

    I’ve been on a few months hiatus from WK (my last comments on this post were in Feb. which was around the time I last made it). I noticed in your last comment to be above you wanted to share some of my ideas in the eCourse, I know this is late but I would have said that is fine :).
    I’ve recently procured some more grains and have been making and drinking it lately. I’ve now established a few WK ‘formulas’ that have worked for me:

    To make basic water kefir-

    I dissolve raw sugar in bottled water, add a pinch of bicarb and the grains. I let it sit out (i.e. on the counter) in a glass jar with a cloth and a rubber band around the cloth to ferment for around 24 hours. Once that time is over I strain the kefir water into another clean jar and then add flavourings for a second fermentation.

    Flavourings I’ve liked and tried (added to the second fermentation w/out kefir grains):
    -a dash of vanilla extract (though fresh vanilla bean would be devine)
    -zest of 1 lemon, it’s juice and the rest of the lemon chopped up

    I’m now making a ‘fanta’ flavoured WK: it has orange peel, orange zest, juice from the orange and the rest of the orange chopped up and added to the kefir water for second fermentation. It had a tight lid on to increase it’s hold of gas. It’s currently ‘brewing’ so I’ll let you the results of it soon!

    I’m going to again check the alcohol content of my WK brews sometime soon and I’ll also let you know about that too.

    By the way, when you first started making WK did you ever notice a cheesy smell and taste? When I first started I did, but now I find that smell and taste almost completely goes upon refrigeration of the kefired water.

    -Michelle.
    Health Food Lover
    healthfoodlover.com

  40. says

    Hi, Wardee! I just acquired water kefir grains. I have them fermenting with a little organic refined sugar and some unsulphured organic molasses until I restock my sucanat next week. As I was reading over this post and comments I wondered about the mineral content of my water. We have well water, but do run it through a softener (it’s not terribly soft, though). We have our own chicken’s egg shells to use, so that is good, but I wondered if I could add a little Azomite powder to a batch? In my mind it makes sense but I’m wondering if you knew for sure yes or no.
    Funny thing about this first batch is I was tired while I was getting it going last night and 1-1/4 cups sweetener in 1/2 gallon of water for 2/3 cups of rehydrated grains. Yikes! Read this post and immediately added another 1/2 gallon of water – there were already some beginning bubbles and some of the grains were floating. Looking forward to this (and getting my kombucha going again).
    Oh, one more thing – is it okay to culture this right next to my milk kefir? Both jars are covered with coffee filters…
    Thanks!

    • says

      Kimarie – Fun! As far as I’m concerned, additional minerals are an excellent idea. I think you should do it. When I first started making water kefir (as in this post), I only used egg shells. My grains did okay, but they never multiplied and the water kefir wasn’t that bubbly. Now I add mineral drops to each batch and the grains are sooooo happy. They bubble and move up and down and multiply like crazy. I no longer use a bag because they grow so fast they crowd themselves in the bag.

      I’m glad you added more water! But it would have been okay, probably. It may take your grains longer to get through the sugar. :)

      I would move the water kefir away a bit. There are different organisms and they can cross over, even though coffee filters… Just best practice. I’ve had some experiences lately with sourdough and cheese not behaving well in the same room together that I’m pretty careful about keeping things at least 5 feet apart, but more if I can.

      • says

        Thank you! I’m on my second batch of kefir now (this is MUCH faster than kombucha!) – I added some vanilla to the first batch and let it ferment under lids for less than two days, we keep tasting it and love it. It has a slight fizz. Don’t have sucanat until Thursday so I’m using organic sugar plus the eggshell for the second batch. I think I’ll toss some Azomite powder in there.

        One more question, do you strain it through anything finer than a plastic strainer? There’s a bit of sediment in the bottom – I don’t mind, but I’m wondering if I’m “wasting” tiny new grains… :-)

        Fermentation is so fun!

        • says

          Kimarie — That sediment is normal (a by-product of the fermentation) and to my knowledge you couldn’t successfully strain it out anyway; I don’t. I just strain the grains through a normal strainer and the sediment accumulates in the jar.

          Yours sounds super good! I’m glad you’re liking it! Yes, it is much faster than Kombucha. :)

  41. Nate says

    Why can’t I figure out this WK thing??? lol

    I have only got 2 bacthes that aren’t syrupy, thick, yeasty garbage…. Hmmmmm What am I doing wrong? I have been at it 3 weeks now….

    My grains aren’t multiplying, I have been very careful to monitor temp (76 to 80 degrees) I have tried several combinations/ratios of sugar to grains, raisians, Black Strap Molasses, etc etc….

    Recently a few grains have started to float to the top….but I see no dancing grains….no growth, and the taste sucks….

    Any ideas??

    • says

      Nate — I’m sorry it is giving you trouble. You’ve tried everything, and now I suggest you up the ante. :) Give those grains some more minerals. Here are the drops I use: Liquimins. At one period, I was producing slimy, syrupy water kefir and grains that didn’t multiply. Then I started adding 1/8 teaspoon of mineral drops to each batch and the difference was like night and day. Be sure to rinse your grains well and give them some more time to recover in case they’ve been shifted out of balance by another organism.

      • Nate says

        Thx for the tip….and yes I feel like I have tried everything :) It’s discouraging always pouring it down the drain….

        Question tho… I see so many conflicting things on the interent….. Should I or shouldn’t I rinse the grains befor each new batch….. :)

  42. Kim says

    All I’m getting is yeast-smelling water, no bubbles at all. I use filtered water and an eggshell. Mineral drops are too expensive. I’m about to give up, as I can’t bring myself to drink this, and it’s expensive experimentation.

    • says

      Kim — You could try adding baking soda, which offers some minerals. I seem to remember reading that 1/2 teaspoon per gallon is a good ratio. Give that a try and let me know if you can revive those grains. They sound to me like they’re starving for minerals.

  43. says

    Hi,
    I have a problem with my water kefir, maybe you know what’s happend:
    I stopped brewing water kefir for a while (3 month) and recently started again. My grains were in stored in the fridge in sugary water. I put them into new sugary water with some lemon juice to recover for a couple of days.

    My brewing method is as follows: I put the grains in a muslin bag and this in a 5l fermentation plastic vessel (both from a home (beer) brewing store). I add 250g white, normal sugar (~50g/liter) and some lemon juice. After 1-2 days at room temperature (unheated room, so a little colder than normal) I remove the bag and a ~170g raisins. After another 1-2 days I bottle, i.e. fill it in a 5l wine-in-a-bag bag with tap and put this into the fridge. So far this resulted in a nice yellow water kefir. The color is of course different for different dried fruits, but always yellow for raisins.

    My last batch turned out to be not very yellow, just a little bit but quite slimy. When I removed the raisins with a sieve the liquid didn’t flow very good so I put a spoon in the stream and it was quite solid. I tasted it and it didn’t tasted bad but not like normal finished water kefir. One other funny thing is that the white muslin back got a large brown spot on it where I made the knot to close it.

    I dumped both the water kefir and the used grains to be on the save side and set up a new batch with some backup grains I kept in the fridge. Let’s see how they turned out.

    Do you have any idea what happened? Maybe I got some contamination of other bacteria in it? Is this bad or nothing to worry about it? I like to avoid this to happen again with my other grains.

  44. becky says

    i have done a few successful batches of water kefir and we love it plain! I just did a batch with lemon juice(fresh squeezed) and grape juice. they sat on the counter for 3 days (w/o grains), bottled them, popped one open and it splattered all over my kitchen! it smelled wine(ish) but didn’t smell bad, just like wine. tasted o.k. not sweet at all like the plain kefir. will it have some alcohol content just after those 3 days? is it o.k. to drink?
    Is the plain water kefir supposed to get fizzy like that? because mine never does.
    Thanks for your help!

  45. Eva Corbett says

    I also experienced the slimy disgusting water kefir. I got tired of all the effort and no one would drink it. So I froze my grains in sugar water. I pulled them out of the freezer about a week ago and started a new batch. They don’t seem to be fermenting at all. No bubbles. The water is still very sweet, though it is beginning to smell like kefir. My grains are no longer firm. More like mush. Did I kill them??? Can I revive them? I would really like to try again now that I know a bit more about how to make it.

  46. Nathan says

    Hi I’ve been working on making water kefir for the past few weeks and every time I make it it is always super bitter and tart and loses almost all carbonation once I bottle it. Do you have any suggestions to help make my kefir more drinkable? Every time I make more I can barely stand to drink it and usually end up pouring it out.

  47. Brittan says

    I’m new to the WK and just finished my first batch. I’m wondering how I should store them? Thanks!!

  48. Shawn says

    Hi Wardee,

    Thanks for the information on Water Kefir. We are just getting started with it and it was great information. I’m actually writing just to complement you and thank you. For the last year and a half, we’ve been struggling to isolate some food allergies with our kids. They are strong, beautiful, healthy children for the most part, but our trials in balancing their diets have driving us to the brink of frustration. We wife has slowly been pulling me into the world of organic/natural and sustainable living and we are doing our best to move that direction. Anyway, getting to the point. The picture of your daughter for this article is amazing…she looks so healthy, warm and vibrant. It truly inspired me in wanting to give that to our children.

    Thanks for the inspiration and great job helping others break out of the system :)
    Shawn

  49. Lisa says

    I notice you say to do the initial ferment for 3-5 days. I got my water kefir grains from http://www.culturesforhealth.com and they have an FAQ page on their website about it. In the FAQ section thay include this info:
    “Q. Can I allow the kefir to culture for longer than 48 hours?

    A. We strongly recommend against allowing the kefir grains to culture for longer than 48 hours as over time it will damage the grains by potentially starving them (particularly in warm weather when the culturing process is sped up due to the heat).

    I notice with my grains that after 48hrs it still tastes sweet but also tastes and smells very fermented (almost a spoiled taste/smell that you would get from dairy only it’s not bad). I’ve been flavoring it with lemon juice to make a sort of “lemonade” and it tastes pretty good.

    Are my grains differnt from yours? Should allow mine to ferment longer to allow the grains to “eat” more of the sugar?

    Thanks!

    • says

      Lisa — It is risky to go so long on a continual basis. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, though. You have to play with it so the sugar is gone, but not so much that the grains decay. In summer, no more than 3 days. Cooler room temp can means a bit longer, but we do that at our own risk. I have had grains decay and fail to thrive because I pushed them too much.

  50. Lisa says

    Oh yeah, and one other question…I’ve never gotten the carbonated “soda” feel with my water kefir. Does that only happen if you allow a second fermentation period? I haven’t experimented with that yet as I’m very new to this.

    Thanks!

    • says

      Lisa — You’ll only get carbonation with the second ferment, where the container is sealed at room temperature building up carbonation.

      • Jennifer says

        Just found this article. I’ve only managed to get my kefir to be bubbly after the second ferment one time. Is there any way to do this more consistently?

  51. Kelli says

    I have a ton of grains. At least a half a cup. And they are hydrated. For some reason your response got sent to my junk mail. I’m glad I found it! Also, I am doing Kimi’s no sugar challenge. Is there any sugar left after the kefir is ready to drink? I might have to make it for my family until I am done with that.

    • says

      Kelli — Use 1/4 cup of grains per 3/4 gallon of water kefir (or up to a gallon). How much sugar is left depends on how long you ferment it. After three days in warm temps, there’s not much left. Taste it and you can tell if it has any residual sweetness.

  52. Danielle says

    I just made my first batch of kefir water….I rehydrated my water kefir grains that I bought, then put the grains in 2 quarts of water that had 1/2 cup of palm sugar dissolved in it. Then I let it ferment for 24 hours, then added 1 quart of strawberry juice to it…and then bottled it in grolsch flip top bottles…and let these bottles sit on the counter for 18 hours….and absolutely NO carbonation at all! I was advised to not go longer than 18 hours because it might “explode when I open it. Should I have let the bottles sit longer? would that have caused carbonation?

    • says

      Danielle– Where are the grains? Did you remove them before adding the strawberry juice? How did it taste after the first 24 hours, was the sweetness gone as if the grains had been doing their work?

  53. Danielle says

    Yes, I removed the grains before adding the strawberry juice. I didn’t taste it after the 24 hours…should I have?

    • says

      Danielle — Yes, you should taste it to see if the grains were eating the sugar. If it was still sweet, it needed more time to ferment, both to reduce sugar and to populate the beverage with beneficial organisms for the next fermentation. I’d try it again. :)

  54. Danielle says

    I let my last batch of kefir water ferment in the grains for about 31 hours…and there was a greyish film on the top of the water. Is that mold? Should I throw out this batch?

  55. Jenn Neddo says

    I have tons of water kefir grains to share if anyone is interested. email me at jneddo76 at yahoo dot com with your address. —Jenn

  56. Alysha C says

    Why do you add the egg shell? would I use that instead of mineral drop? And do I need either? And by pasteurized eggshell do you mean from a grocery store as opposed to my local farm?

    Thanks!

    • Jen says

      “Pastured” egg shells means shells from an egg that came from a free range chicken that was allowed to freely eat green stuff growing outside. As far as I know there are no “pasteurized” eggs thank goodness.

    • Chris church says

      I drank ginger water kefir for most of my first trimester. it helped so much since I had weeks of not being able to keep food down.

  57. Lorrie says

    I’m so confused about the sugar. If I use raw cane sugar, it needs to be disolved first? What sugar do you usually use?

    Thanks so much. I already do MK and KT so water kefir is new to me. Just ordered grains and am trying to prepare ahead of time ;-)

  58. Jessica says

    I have a question about the sugar to use. I normally buy Florida Crytals, cane sugar. They sell two varieties, one is natural and the other is demerara. Which one do you think would be better for making kefir? Thank you!

  59. Deborah Doyle says

    Hi Wardee,

    Can you tell me what sweeteners I can use other than cane sugar?
    I tried coconut sugar, but it become very foul smelling within a day.

    Would maple syrup work?
    I understand that honey does not because of all the active enzymes.

    Thanks so much for your help!
    Deborah

  60. Christine says

    I really want to try water kefir with my daughter, however, she had a nut allergy and on Cultures for Health is states it is manufactured in a facility that processes nuts and many other allergens like wheat, shellfish etc. Just wondering if there is another brand that you know of that has a more separated process for manufacturing? I have an email into the COH company to get more clarification so thought I would check with you as well. Thank you so much for you all of your information and your great site. C

Trackbacks

  1. [...] My family eats a a lacto-fermented food with each meal and then some — most of the time. This is easy to do when you consider the array of lacto-fermented foods available: raw cheeses and fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir or clabber), sauerkraut, natural pickled vegetables and fruits like relishes and chutneys, pickled meats, even desserts made from fermented food bases (like ice cream that uses kefir or cream cheese frosting using homemade raw cheese), and delicious beverages like water kefir. [...]

  2. [...] on the tour are the jars that hold some of my fermented beverages.  I recently started making water kefir and keep the batch with the grains and the flavored batch fermenting for a few days on my counter. [...]

  3. […] For second fermentation methods and/or bottling instructions, plus updated instructions, see our Lacto-Fermentation eCourse or eBook. Pictured in bottles: water kefir. […]

  4. […] I have used the same basic method to make a larger amount of water kefir. In fact, I use the same amount of kefir grains, 1/3 cup, but dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in 2 cups of water, then pour into a gallon size jar and fill to the shoulder with water. (I learned this from a post at GNOWFGLINS.) […]

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