How to Make Water Kefir

Water kefir (also known as tibicos) is a delicious, fizzy, probiotic-rich fermented beverage.

This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about making your own water kefir at home!

Read the full guide, or go straight to the step that interests you:

What Is Water Kefir?

Water kefir is a fermented fizzy beverage that can be made in just a few days. It is made with sugar water and water kefir grains.

The grains are small, pale yellow, translucent crystals. They contain yeast and bacteria (including probiotics) that can turn sugar water into a fizzy beverage.

Water kefir is consumed for its good taste and its benefits. It’s fizzier than carbonated beverages and extremely easy to make at home!

Don’t confuse water kefir and milk kefir

Both are called kefir, and both are made from grains within a short period of time.

However, the comparison stops there. Milk kefir grains ferment animal milk, while water kefir grains ferment a sweet liquid.

For more information, see What Is the Difference Between Water Kefir and Milk Kefir?

Make water kefir in 4 easy steps

  1. Mix water, sugar, dried fruit, and kefir grains (5 min)
  2. Let it ferment on the counter (24 hours)
  3. Flavouring (optional)
  4. Bottling

If you are given dehydrated kefir grains, you must first reactivate them: How to reactivate your dehydrated kefir grains.

Making Water Kefir

Choosing your ingredients for making water kefir

The quantity and choice of ingredients provide the right balance of nutrients (sugar and minerals) to ensure that water kefir ferments property and the grains are healthy.

For your first recipes, we recommend simply following the basic kefir recipe.

Making water kefir is very easy! Even if you don’t have exactly the right choice of ingredients, it will work.

After a few recipes, we suggest adjusting the choice of ingredients, to find the right balance of nutrients so that your grains are healthy and multiply properly.

Minerals help water kefir grains metabolize sugars. However, don’t try to put in too much! Too many minerals are like not enough and could weaken the grains.

Minerals can be provided by:

  • Water (unless filtered or demineralized)
  • Sugar (unless it is white sugar)
  • Fruit, such as figs
  • Other ingredients

Water

Chlorine-free, mineral-rich water is preferable.

Filtered water will have the advantage of being chlorine-free but will contain very few minerals. Other mineral-rich ingredients should be added.
Tap water is usually fine! Bottled water is suitable, but not required. Read What Water Should I Use For Fermentation? to learn more about it.

If the water is chlorinated, pour it into a container and let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The chlorine will evaporate.

Do not try to replace the water with juice or coconut water when you first try making kefir. It is better to wait a few weeks until your grains have become stronger and more balanced.

Sugar

Sugar is essential for making water kefir. It provides most of the nutrients for the microorganisms! Depending on the type of sugar used, it can also provide minerals.

Low-processed cane sugar is ideal for feeding kefir grains.

Which Sugar to Choose?

  • Low in minerals: cane sugar, golden sugar, white sugar
  • High in minerals: brown sugar, coconut sugar, rapadura sugar, maple syrup
  • Do not use: stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, or sugar substitutes

If you use mineral rich sugar, do not use dried fruit or mineral-rich water, especially if your grains are still young.

Lemon

Lemon is optional, but sometimes, depending on the type of water used, it can be useful. Choose an organic lemon or remove the peel. It is best to use only the lemon juice.

Dried Fruit

The best fruit to use is dried figs. Figs help provide essential minerals for the healthy development of kefir grains.

Dried fruit such as dates, grapes, and cranberries can be used. However, they provide fewer nutrients than figs.

It is recommended to keep the fruit whole, to ensure that it can be separated from the grains during harvesting.

Avoid fruit that contain additives. If possible, use organic fruit.

What Equipment for Making Homemade Water Kefir?

To make water kefir, you need:

The Kefirko kit contains all the equipment needed to make kefir

For more information, see What Equipment to Use for Making Water Kefir

How to Make Water Kefir

Easy Water Kefir Recipe

Water kefir (also known as tibicos) is a delicious, fizzy, probiotic-rich fermented beverage made from water kefir grains.
5 of 1 rating
Preparation Time 5 mins
fermentation 1 d
Servings 1 L

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 tbsp. water kefir grains (or more)
  • ¼ cup sugar cane
  • 1 dried figs
  • 1 lemon slices (without the skin)
  • 6 cups water

Steps
 

Preparation

  • Pour the water into the jar
  • Add the sugar and stir to dissolve
  • Add the fig, lemon slice, and kefir grains
  • Put the lid on

Fermentation

  • Let the kefir ferment at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. The fig will rise to the top, and the taste will become tangy.
  • When you are happy with the taste, strain the kefir to remove the kefir grains, the fig, and lemon.
  • Set the grains aside for your next recipe. Compost the fruit (or add it to a smoothie). 

Flavouring (optional)

  • Add pieces of fruit, juice, or syrup to flavour your water kefir.

Bottling

  • Pour the kefir into pressure resistant bottles. 
  • Store the bottles at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.
  • After 24 hours, open and close the bottles to check the level of fizz. For fizzier kefir, let it ferment longer. 
  • When the level of bubbles suits you, put the bottles in the fridge.

Notes

See our Guide to Flavouring Water Kefir for flavouring ideas.
Water kefir can be stored for about a week in the fridge. It will still taste good for many, many months, but the taste will change.
This recipe is designed for the 1.4L Kefirko kit, as this equipment and size are very popular and well suited for making water kefir.
It is also possible to use wide mouth glass jars with a cloth filter.
Is this your first recipe? Reactivate your dehydrated kefir grains before you start.
Have you tried it?Share and tag @revolutionfermentation!

How to Store Your Kefir Grains

After filtering your kefir, don’t throw your grains away! They can be used over and over again.

The best way to preserve your kefir grains is to start a new recipe immediately.

Regular recipes with good ingredients keep the kefir grains strong and healthy.

Do not rinse the grains between recipes. Repeated rinsing may weaken them.

Keep Your Grains in the Fridge

To take a break, you can keep your grains in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

  1. Drain the grains
  2. Place in an airtight container
  3. Cover with water
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar
  5. Refrigerate

After a maximum of three weeks, drain the kefir grains and make a new recipe.

Storing Grains in the Freezer

It is possible to keep grains in the freezer for a few months.

  1. Drain the grains
  2. Place in an airtight plastic bag and remove as much air as possible
  3. Keep in the freezer for up to 6 months

Frequent periods in the fridge or freezer will weaken the kefir grains.

How to Flavour Your Water Kefir

Plain water kefir is delicious, but we love flavouring it with all kinds of flavours!

You can add:

  • Fruit juice
  • Herbal teas
  • Chopped fruit
  • Spices

Flavouring should be done after removing the kefir grains. This way, contamination of the grain is avoided!

Need some inspiration? Check out our Guide to Flavouring Water Kefir and our Water Kefir Recipes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Dried Raisins, Dates, or Other Dried Fruit for My Kefir?

Yes, dried fruit provide nutrients that kefir grains love.

Dried figs work best, but dates, cranberries, and raisins are also good options.

Can You Make Kefir Without Dried Figs?

Yes, but you must make up for it!

Kefir grains need nutrients to grow and ferment. If you make water kefir without figs, you need to make sure that you have at least one ingredient that contains these nutrients. This could be…

  • Mineral-rich water
  • Unprocessed sugar (white sugar with molasses, brown sugar, rapadura, coconut sugar, etc.)
  • Other dried fruit

You must find the right balance! Be careful not to use only mineral-rich ingredients as the grains could also weaken.

Can I Make Kefir Without Lemon?

Lemon helps create an acidic environment to guide the fermentation of the kefir grains. It can be replaced by a slice of citrus fruit or 1 tbsp. of lemon juice.

How Much Kefir Can I Drink per Day?

As with any new food, it may take your body some time to get used to water kefir. Start with small amounts (1 glass per day) and increase as you go along.

Read The Benefits of Water Kefir According to Science to learn more about the virtues of water kefir.

Are there any dangers to water kefir?

Water kefir is a safe drink to make at home. You just need to use the right ingredients and clean equipment. To learn more, see Are there any dangers to fruit kefir?

How to Grow My Water Kefir Grains?

Kefir grains are made from bacteria that synthesize the nutrients they find.

First and foremost, fermentation conditions are important. The grains are more likely to grow if:

  • The recipes are regular
  • The temperature is constant
  • The ingredients contain enough minerals, but not too many
  • The grains are not kept in the fridge too often

When there is a lack of minerals, a boost can be added occasionally:

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • A piece of boiled eggshell
  • 1 tsp. molasses

Can I Make Milk Kefir With Water Kefir Grains?

No. Milk kefir grains and water kefir grains are two different cultures, with different microorganisms.

Milk kefir grains can process the lactose in milk, which water kefir grains cannot!

For more information, see What Is the Difference Between Milk and Water Kefir?

Can I Make Water Kefir With Other Liquids Than Sugar Water?

Yes, but the grains could weaken over time if the nutrient balance is not adequate.

To experiment with other liquids, use extra grains. As the colony is constantly growing, you will be able to take a portion of it for your experiments.

Plant Milk Kefir

Plant milks such as coconut milk and soy milk can be fermented with water kefir grains.

The plant milk will become slightly tangy and effervescent.

  • 1L plant beverage
  • 1 tbsp. kefir grains
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

Coconut water kefir

This fizzy beverage is very refreshing!

  • 1L coconut water
  • 1 tbsp. kefir grains

Apple juice kefir

Make an easy sparkling apple juice!

  • 1L apple juice
  • 1 tbsp. kefir grains

What Are Water Kefir Grains Made Of?

Water kefir grains are not “seeds” per se. They are assemblies of microorganisms!

Water kefir grains are usually composed of:

  • Lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus casei/paracasei, Lactobacillus hilgardii and Lactobacillus nagelii)
  • Yeast (mainly Saccharomyces cerevisiae)
  • Bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium aquikefiri)
  • Acetic bacteria (Acetobacter fabarum)

The grain structure is generated by the bacterium L. hilgardii. These bacteria assemble simple sugars and minerals to create complex crystal-like structures.

The bacteria build the kefir grains with dextran, a kind of homopolysaccharide (bless you!) (ref.).

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