The Benefits of Coconut Water, Plus How to Ferment It

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Coconut Water

I’ve never really paid much attention to coconuts. After all, I live in Northern California. Coconuts don’t exactly grow around here. I remember my grandfather buying one and cracking it open when I was little. It was a complete novelty. Then came the start of my real food education and my new love for coconuts!

No doubt coconut products will stay a staple in our house long after we have graduated from GAPS. Coconut water is one amazing coconut product that has proven to be an extremely pivotal part of the healing journey in our home.

What are the benefits of coconut water?

The clear liquid from the middle of a young, green coconut has a long list of benefits. Coconut water is full of magnesium, potassium, and sodium, making it fantastic for oral re-hydration therapy and preventing dehydration. In fact, it has the highest concentration of electrolytes of anything found in nature, and in the event of an emergency can be put directly into an I.V. Soldiers serving in remote areas of the Pacific during World War II were saved using coconut water.

Coconut water is antibacterial, full of amino acids, helps to remove toxins from the body, and kills intestinal worms. It contains high levels of cytokinins which support cell division and cell regeneration. Even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has jumped on board in support of coconut water benefits. More than ten years ago it was granted a patent for a bottling process that preserves its nutrients, saying that it “contains the same five electrolytes found in human blood”.

exotic-superfoods-coconut-water

How do you source coconut water?

Once a young, green coconut is cracked and the inside hits the air, the water begins to deteriorate rather rapidly. If bottled properly, it will stay fresh from 10 days to 3 weeks. And regardless of what labels read, it’s on it’s way out when it turns from clear to pink. This means you have to pay attention to how the coconut water is packaged to know if it is worth the money or just a dead, sugar drink inside.

In short, if it comes in a can, if it comes in a tetra pac, or if it comes on the shelf and not refrigerated, there’s a 99% chance it is pasteurized, dead, and not worth the money. It needs to have been packaged in a way that it was not heated. Anything shelf stable is going to need either a preservative, or have been pasteurized.

If you can source a young, green coconut, you can harvest the water yourself. You want coconuts that are in the same quality as when they came off the tree. I had a super hard time finding any that were truly raw. If they are big and green, that is perfect. If they have been shaved and are white, they are most likely sprayed in order to preserve them.

I was not able to find an organic coconut in all of Northern California. And growing my own young, green coconuts simply isn’t an option for me. While California is full of imported palm trees (often planted next to pines), coconut trees just aren’t going to happen. It’s this stubborn climate thing that doesn’t allow them to grow.

In the end, I found two sources of coconut water that appear to be entirely raw and preserved properly. They are Exotic Superfoods and Harmless Harvest. My personal favorite is Exotic Superfoods because it comes frozen.

Why would you ferment coconut water?

Coconut water is very high in sugar. If you have trouble with yeast, it may not be a good idea to drink raw coconut water without fermenting it first. In order to capitalize on its amazing healing benefits but not add to the yeast issues, we chose to ferment it at first. Fermenting coconut water eats up the residual sugar, resulting in a vinegary like beverage. Watch out, though. Like other probiotic foods, it is wise to introduce it slowly.

If you would like to give fermented coconut water a shot and not have to make it yourself, I know of one quality brand for purchase — Body Ecology’s Cocobiotic. If you want to make ferment it yourself, it’s really easy!

How to Make Fermented Coconut Water

Warm coconut water to 100 degrees. Place in a fermenting jar and add probiotic for starter. For 12 ounces of coconut water I add approximately ¼ teaspoon probiotic. I have successfully used both Biokult and Gutpro. Mix with a wooden spoon and put on a lid. Put it in a warm location and wrap jar with a towel to keep the light out.

Depending on the warmth of your home, it takes an average of 3 days for fermented coconut water to be ready. It is ready for drinking when there is no residual sweet taste left, and the water starts to bubble like a true ferment. There should be a small layer of white foam on the top, and the water will turn cloudy. It should have a vinegar tang with a coconutty aftertaste.

Do you drink coconut water? Do coconut trees grow in your yard making me incredibly jealous? Will you be trying fermented coconut water? Join in below!

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Comments

  1. Joan Smith says

    Once again I have learned so much in this short article. Freshness, the white ones are sprayed, that it can be put in an IV? Thanks, Wardee and Nichole!

    I have been thinking about making water kefir with coconut water, how would that compare to the fermentation that you describe?

    • Kay says

      Yes, I would like to know how it compares too. When we were making Water Kefir, we were also using coconut water, although know I know which coconut water to be looking for when we start making the Water Kefir again.

      Thanks for the article.

    • says

      I have actually made coconut water kefir only once using standard kefir directions. I made sure the coconut water was room temperature instead of warming it up to 100 because I didn’t want to risk damaging the grains, and then added my grains, covered, and put in a dark place until it was done. The probiotic strains in coconut water kefir are very different than those in a fermented coconut water, so be aware of that if you are trying it for the first time.

  2. says

    I’ve tried coconut water a few times & I have always found it quite unpalatable. Every time I see it on store shelves I’m amazed that it sells, because I don’t understand how people could want to drink the stuff. Matter of personal taste I guess.

      • Karin Swart says

        Nicole, where can I buy the Exotic Superfoods and Harmless Harvest brands? Strictly online or would Whole Foods carry it? I would love to try fermenting my own. Thanks for the article. On a side note, being that I use ONLY Coconut oil for any and all cooking among many other uses, I know the wonderful properties of coconut water and oil and all that they offer. My question is have you heard of “oil pulling”? it is done with olive or coconut oil and it is for teeth. It is an amazing thing and I do it often. It removes stains, kills bacteria, cleans your teeth, etc…many other benefits. Just thought you might be interested. :o) Karin

    • says

      In my family we all adore coconut water. Not so much the fermented stuff (although I’m inspired to try again). It is excellent if you are dealing with dehydration of any sort and for balancing electrolytes in general. When the girls are sick they know I will give them coconut water and the love it.

  3. Emily says

    Great post! I’ve tried this method once before and obviously did something wrong as it started to mold after a couple of days. I was going to try again without a lid (as I do with kefir). I was wonderig if there is a reason you use a lid to ferment? If so, do I need to let it breathe occasionally?
    Thanks!

  4. x says

    This article says “it’s on it’s way out when it turns from clear to pink.” But Harmless Harvest states clearly on their package that the Pink ones are the “lucky” ones. I have been fermenting young green thai coconuts for a while now and I know when the coconut is pink it is in fact not good!!! Also this article says to heat the coconut water up…which I never do. I do use body ecology Kefir starter for the coconut water and I also use water kefir garins. So this article has some good info…but the facts need to be straightened out. =)

    • says

      Hi there. You are right….be cautious when that coconut water turns pink. Also, if you don’t heat the water up or at least warm it rapidly to room temperature you risk having the coconut water go bad while it sits and warms. When purchasing bottled from the store it is hard to know how close that particular bottle is to going bad. Fermenting preserves it longer, and if you move it to the fridge when it is done it will last longer still. I have successfully fermented without heating, or with only warming slightly, but have also had it go bad before the ferment got started.

      • says

        Thanks for the recommendation Nichole.

        To clarify: Our coconut water is totally clear when bottled and only afterward do some bottles turn pink due to varying levels of antioxidant interacting with light. This is totally different than a freshly cracked coconut, where pink is a sign that oxygen has gotten into the sterile coconut and is a symptom of spoilage. Each of our bottles has a best by date stamped on the bottle, so you know how long you have to drink it.

  5. Gail says

    So the coconuts I’m familiar with have a brown husk-like exterior…Is the green coconut under that? Is it an older coconut? Probably not worth the effort to get into them!

    • says

      Yes, the brown ones are older ones. You do NOT want to use those. You need a young green one that is green on the outside. By the time they are brown the meat and water inside have changed considerably.

  6. says

    Interesting subject coconut water I will be embarking on an experiment at home utilizing my Summit Spring Raw Water-with some sort of coconut recipe probably fermented also. I let folks know my results.

    Thanks,
    BH

  7. Kris W. says

    Hi, this is an awesome post, thanks for it! A couple of questions. I saw some people posting about water kefir grains. Can coconut water be fermented using water kefir grains? I am not able to use most probiotics as the inactive ingredients usually contain some type of grain or gluten. Could you use milk kefir grains also? Thanks again!

  8. says

    I made coconut water kefir using the Body Ecology Kefir starter culture. I made two batches. The second batch took much less longer to make. Once it is ferminted, i take some out to place in the fridge and leave about 1/4 cup in the jar I used to ferment the water. My question is, If it turns vinegar and all the sugar is used up before I can add more coconut water, can i still use it for another batch until ive dont 7 batches or so?

  9. Suzette says

    Thanks so much for this info. I had no idea that the shelf stable water i’ve been buying is ‘dead’. Thanks for providing a source for better quality water. I put it in my green smoothies and I can’t get the benefits if it’s not good quality!

  10. Darren says

    Wow! What amazing info. I found this site while trying to learn about coconut spoilage. I am in the Dominican Republic where there are young, green coconuts everywhere. I am trying to help villiages in exporting and put the money into new schools. Here they have many un-used water jugs like we have in north america and lots of coconut water. Is there a way to ferment the coconut water and export it? The people who own the plantation I am at is owned by husband and wife doctors. Any advice would be great and to help the people here with a better life.

  11. Danielle B says

    I live in Mexico. And where I go grocery shopping there’s a coconut stand. They sell coconut water and the meat topped with chile powder. The nice thing is that they only stock young coconuts. It’s so nice to pick up a litre of coconut water to have for the day. Super fresh! They open the coconut right in front of you.

  12. James says

    Can you ferment with the lid on?
    Does the ferment need to breath – if so why?

    I’m not actually using Kefir culture – instead I have used some wholefood probiotic powder blend mixed with coconut water in a jar with lid screwed on.

    I hope someone can clarify my questions. Many Thanks

  13. Sharon says

    I am from an Island and I have had coconut water all my life. I have had Water from brown and green coconuts, the tastes are bit different but they are both good. The brown coconuts are what we use to make oil. The best packaged coconut water I have ever had is Harmless Harvest. When I found it at Whole Foods I was in heaven. All others to me taste horrible! Like imitation.

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