Monday, August 3, 2015

My Water Kefir Adventures

I've been making water kefir for awhile now, and I love it! I'm sharing my experiences for a couple reasons. First, I get a lot of responses like: "What IS that stuff??", and then I wanted to show how easy it is to maintain. It's just like a pet (without the vet bills...) that needs attention on a daily basis.

My favorite source of information is Cultures for Health. Go to the "Learn" tab and click on "Expert Advice Articles" and you can read all about water kefir in addition to other types of cultured foods. They also sell the starter cultures and supplies. I bought their water kefir grains from my local feed store.

Apologies for the low light photos. Our skylights are covered so the house doesn't roast (as much) during the summer.

From left to right:
  • Kirkland Lemonade from Costco, one of our favorite juice flavors to add.
  • Regular old white sugar to feed the kefir grains.
  • My half-gallon jar and my green quart jar (covered) to culture the grains.
  • (in back) a flip-top jar with metal funnel getting ready for a second ferment.
  • My white strainer on top of a blue mason jar funnel that just poured into a pint jar.
  • My purple handled Brita filter for a water source.
Oh, and the baby monitor. It was nap time :) Speaking of the little guy, he loves this stuff. He asks me for "kefir lemonade".

This is what the grains look like up close. I would describe milk kefir grains as looking like cottage cheese, and these are similar in size and texture, but they're a brownish clear, since it's cultured in sugar water.

Much of the finished product I'll put into pint jars and add some lemonade or other juice at about a 1:3 ratio. I was doing half-and-half until we got used to the kefir flavor, and now I add less, only enough to flavor it.

This is a flip-top bottle fresh from the fridge. See the frosty neck? Some of the kefir water I'll pour into one of these and do what's called a "second ferment". My favorite flavors for that right now are lemon or orange (fresh squeezed) with some ginger added. I'm still experimenting with the right amount of flavoring and time to get it to fizz.

Right now I have one half gallon and one quart (the glass is green). As it cultures, I've noticed there are little bubbles that float upwards, and sometimes the grains go with it. You can see one of them in the clear jar about halfway up.

If I have all my extra jars and lids washed, then it only takes me about 10 minutes to strain the kefir out and prepare new. I just picked up a second half gallon jar so I don't have to wash it in the middle of making the kefir.

Here's what I do:
  1. Set out all my jars and bottle, and start gathering the flavors.
  2. Heat up about 2 cups of water (microwave since it's so hot) and set it aside.
  3. Strain the finished kefir through a plastic strainer and through the mason jar funnel into the jars and bottle, leaving space for flavors.
  4. Pour the sugar into a clean quart and half gallon jar - 1/4 cup per quart of kefir.
  5. Pour the hot water over the sugar, swirl it to mix, adding more water as needed to dissolve it completely.
  6. Pour more filtered water over the sugar water to make it nearly full and bring it closer to room temperature.*
  7. Return the kefir grains into the cooled (68-85 degrees) sugar water, and put a cloth or paper towel over the top with a rubber band to make sure it stays clean. Set on counter.
  8. Add the flavors to the mason jars, label them, and put them in the fridge.
  9. Add flavors to the flip top bottle and set it on the counter with a chalkboard sign reminding me what it is and when it'll be ready to chill and drink.
  10. Write the day and time (AM, Noon, or PM) on the chalkboard sign for the new kefir.
  11. Wash my strainer and funnels (always right away so they're ready), clean up jars and wipe down any spills.
  12. Add water to my Brita filter.
* The directions I've read talk about heating up ALL the water to add the sugar, and then letting it cool to the required 68-85 degrees. I've found I only need a small amount of hot water to dissolve it, and then by adding cooler water, I don't have to wait hours for the whole thing to cool. So far this has worked for me, so that's just the way I do it.

I use a dry-erase marker on the top of the metal jars to tell me what's inside and when it started chilling. I don't use mason jars for the second ferment after I had one of them bump out on me. Uh oh! Now I only use the flip tops that are made for holding pressure.

I hope you're inspired!  And if you liked this post, please let me know in the comments below :)

Note that this is not sponsored content, nor are there any affiliate links. I see so many of those now, that I thought I would mention it.