BENEFITS OF WATER KEFIR
Water kefir is a fermented beverage teeming with beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeasts as well as enzymes, bioavailable nutrients and amino acids. It can be slightly fizzy, why it’s also called water kefir soda and it’s a great and healthy substitute for soft drinks and juices loaded with sugars. Just like the more well known cousin Kombucha, water kefir will provide many natural beneficial microbes that can colonise and thrive in your digestive tract and therefore helps with the digestion of food and micronutrients.
As water kefir is liquid, it’ll pass through your stomach faster, so there is less interaction with bile and stomach acids. Drinking water kefir regularly can contribute to a healthy immune system as the immune system is highly connected to your gut health and therefore helps increase your energy level and overall “feeling of good” health.
WHAT IS WATER KEFIR
Water kefir is a symbiotic mix of various bacteria and yeasts enclosed in a white soft shell, forming the kefir “grains” (contain no actual “grains” such as wheat, rye, etc.). The kefir grains have a unique and very stable symbiotic mix and the most important microbial species are: Lactobacillus casei/paracasei, Lactobacillus harbinensis, Lactobacillus hilgardii, Bifidobacterium psychraerophilum/crudilactis, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Dekkera bruxellensis but the total number of strains is around 60, give or take. To put this in perspective, the probiotic supplements on the market have three or four strains of bacteria and yeasts; a few brands contain up to ten strains but these are more expensive.
The water kefir grains thrive on sugar of any form, which makes it one of the most inexpensive fermented probiotic drinks. Sugar (sucrose) is completely converted after 24 hours of fermentation that coincides with the production of the major part of the water kefir grain polysaccharide (polymeric carbohydrate). The main metabolites of the fermentation are lactic acid (the slight tangy taste) and ethanol and in low concentrations glycerol, acetic acid, mannitol and carbon dioxide (the gas bubbles). The major part of these metabolites are produced during the first 72 hours of fermentation, during which the pH decreases from 4.26 to 3.45.
HOW TO HANDLE KEFIR GRAINS
Avoid contact with metal so use glass, plastic or wood utilities, strainers and measuring cups. Make sure your jars and utensils are cleaned and rinsed very well of soapy residues and thoroughly dry as you don’t want any chlorine residues either. Both of these are antimicrobial and will potentially destroy the cultures. Use mineral water or filtered water as kefir grains don’t like chlorine or fluoride.
6 cups Mineral or filtered water
5-6 Tbsp Organic coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
6 Tbsp Water kefir grains
2 slices Organic lemon
2-4 Organic dried fruit like apricots, figs or raisins (unsweetened and un-sulphured)
5-10 Raspberries, other berries, fruit or essential oil (food grade) to taste
HOW TO MAKE WATER KEFIR
Pour the water into a 2L jar. Add sugar to the water and stir before adding the water kefir grains, lemon and dried fruit. Put a cloth on top of the jar so that it can “breath” and the cloth prevent anything to get into the jug. You can also use a lid that will allow it to breathe.
The water kefir is ready when the dried fruit is floating to the top and you can see carbonate bubbles building up. The brown colour from the sugar will also be lighter. It will be around 24-48 hours depending on the temperature. Now you strain the water kefir grains (we use a nut milk bag) into a bottle or jug and put the dried fruit and lemon slices in the compost.
We love to flavour the water kefir with raspberries but you can experiment with other berries, fruits, peel from organic citrus fruits, chopped/grated ginger and turmeric or food grade essential oil like wild organic, lemon, citrus blend or ginger. I use doTERRA essential which sells high quality, food and therapeutic grade oils. You can get them HERE. If you add vanilla extract it will taste like cream soda. You might want to puree some fruits to flavour the water kefir with, experiment and find your favourite flavour. If you have a cold press juicer, you could juice the ginger, turmeric and/or lime and add the juice to brew instead of chopping them up.
Put a lid on the flavoured kefir and the tighter the lid the more fizzy the flavoured water kefir will become. Leave the flavoured kefir another day or night on the counter before transferring it to the fridge for a nice cool fizzy drink.
I advised to start slowly, with a tablespoon per day and slowly increase your dose but don’t over do it as with all fermented foods. Fermented foods are potentially a very powerful probiotic. If consumed in high quantities, there could be serious side effects, from severe constipation to stomach cramps but the most common side effects are flatulence and loose stool. If you’ve one of these for more than a couple of days, lower the dose. The effects are different for everyone, depends what is going on in there. Just monitor it, tweak it, increase when you feel you can, cut back again if same result. Whether or not you suffer any side effects from drinking kefir depends on your health condition and some might not be able to handle it altogether.
There is very little scientific research on the water kefir health research, but there is a lot of anecdotal information. So take it with a grain of salt, but don’t discard it just because it hasn’t been proven scientifically.
In our family of three we didn’t note any side effects. On the contrary a test (testing for gut pathogens) found that I’ve a rare but very beneficial bacteria that competes with and fights Candida albicans that causes Candida overgrowth/dysbiosis.
Store the kefir grains in a container in the fridge with some water until you make the next batch. They will just go dormant until they are fed sugar again and they also sometimes can be revived after being frozen.
You could use plain white sugar but adding rapadura or coconut sugar has more mineral and nutrient content. Adding them will stimulate the growth of the kefir grains as well as adding more minerals to your drink. This is the same reason I add organic dried fruit (also optional) and the lemon slices will make the water more alkaline. Peel the lemons if they are not organic.
You can also use coconut water however no more than 2 batches of coconut water kefir in a row before doing another batch or two of standard water kefir as the grains seem to thrive better when you rotate them between these two. There’s also no need to add sugar when using coconut water because the coconut water contains enough sugar for the kefir grains to consume.
HOW TO GET WATER KEFIR GRAINS
The grains will multiply so do a little research to see if you can find somebody to get it from in your area. There is also this international list where you might be able to find some in your area for free. Alternatively, you can find places that sell them online or maybe in your local health food store.
OTHER WAYS TO USE THE GRAINS
When you get started, you might end up with more and more grains so here are some suggestions how to use them – add them to your smoothie which will make it slightly like yogurt, or simply just drink/eat the grains.
MORE RESOURCES (how to videos):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7svkQuUYYc (part 1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8YYkzBaNzMhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8YYkzBaNzM (part 2)