An Introduction to Water Kefir

Water Kefir is a probiotic beverage with a base of sweetened water that is naturally fermented with the help of kefir grains, or tibicos.  It’s a little different from the most commonly known kefir, which is made with milk and is kind of like an extra tangy yogurt drink.  I had tried the milk kind before, and I have to admit, I hadn’t really liked it. But I had been interested in trying water kefir, which I had heard described as a ‘natural soda’, so when Jean Snow, urban farmer extraordinaire,  called up our office to see if we’d like to try out fermenting our own batch, I jumped at the offer of her extra kefir grains!

When I dropped in to Jean’s house, she offered me a taste of her last batch of kefir, which she had brewed with maple syrup, ginger, lemon and organic raisins.  It was so good…it tasted like an extra dry, fizzy ginger ale with almost a hint of rosewater.  She supplied me with a jar of the same recipe that she had been given with instructions to brew my own and share my own grains once they started growing.

The grains are what make the magic happen.  They are little colonies of bacteria and yeast that clump together, and they feed on sugar.  If left in a dark spot at room temperature, the grains will transform sweet water into a mildly alcoholic, fizzy and refreshing beverage within 24 to 72 hours that’s full of beneficial pro-biotics.  At this point, you can strain the grains out of your drink with a non-metallic strainer (a plastic strainer or cheese cloth works well) and  start the process all over again.

Jar of kefir on the left ready to drink, with three new batches on the right!

The grains do grow a little with every batch.  I was able to make three new batches from my original gift of grains after four days!  If you want to put your project on hold for a bit, just refrigerate the grains (with some sugar water) and your grains should stay alive for the next time you want to brew up a batch, as long as you don’t leave them too long!

The most basic recipe for making kefir is a 1-1-1-ratio:  1 Cup of un-chlorinated water (If you have municipal tap water, let it sit for an hour or so before mixing it up with the grains so the chlorine can evaporate),  1 Tablespoon of sugar (raw, unprocessed sugars are great, including maple syrup – but DON’T use honey!  The anti-microbial characteristic of honey can kill kefir grains), and  1 Tablespoon of kefir grains.  This recipe will keep your grains alive and going, but might taste a little dull.

Here’s a slightly fancier recipe that was given to me by Jean, which I can testify is delicious!

  • 3 Tablespoons Water Kefir Grains
  • 10 organic raisins or 2 Tablespoons of another unsulphured dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or sugar  (but not honey!)
  • 1/2 organic lemon
  • 1 thin slice fresh ginger, peeled
  • Enough chlorine-free water to fill your quart-sized mason jar

And here’s the instructions again – in easy point form!

  1. Dissolve sugar into water.
  2. Add water kefir grains, raisins, half a lemon and slice of ginger to the mixture of sugar water in a large mason jar.  Don’t fill it up too far – you want some air space so there’s some room for the fermentation to happen.
  3. Allow your water kefir to brew in a lidded mason jar at room temperature for 24 – 72 hours depending on the strength you prefer and the temperature of your home. The warmer your home is, the faster water kefir will brew.
  4. Strain the water kefir grains, raisins, lemon and ginger from the water kefir with a non-metallic strainer and bottle the liquid into smaller containers.
  5. Drink right away, or allow the smaller bottles to sit out for another 24 – 48 hours to continue fermentation and produce natural carbonation.
  6. Serve cold over ice and enjoy!

15 thoughts on “An Introduction to Water Kefir

  1. Sounds great! I’ve been looking for kefir grains in the Halifax area and have been unable to find them. I was referred to Planet Organic, but they no longer carry them.
    Any sources that you know of?

    1. Ange, we could share our batch once it grows a little! Give Alison or Mhari a call at 442-1077 to set up a time to pick it up, because we’re in and out of the office quite a bit!

  2. This is very excellent. I have a batch but wanted some more details, so thanks a lot. Great way for kids to drink their probiotics too:)

  3. This is a great idea . . . any suggestions on where someone can source the grains? Thanks!

    1. Kirsten – I’m not sure where you can actually buy these in Halifax… they seems to be a pass-it-along through friends kind of thing. Give us a call at the EAC and we can share ours with you once it grows a little!

    2. I’m not sure if they do international deliveries, but I ordered mine online (USA) from They have a lot of great ideas about recipes on their site, too.

  4. “will transform sweet water into a mildly alcoholic, fizzy and refreshing beverage” How alcoholic is “mildly alcoholic”?

    1. Ha!
      Well, I’ve read that it can be between 0.5% and 5% alcohol. I don’t have an alcohol meter – but from the effects it has on my head, I’d say if you let the kefir get to the point where it’s quite dry and fizzy, it seems to be about 3%ish. This is usually after letting it sit for about 4 days. If you drink it sooner, like after two days it’s still quite sweet, and the alcohol level would be more in the .5% range. It may not be a good choice for those who choose not to drink alcohol, simply because the alcohol level can change from batch to batch.

  5. The alcohol level can definitely vary quite a bit. I usually find it doesn’t affect me, but my last batch of root beer gave me quite a surprise buzz! I only brewed this batch for 2 days, which is my usual amount of time: I think it depends on both brewing time and temperature. We were in a heat wave recently and the high temp definitely changed the whole nature of my brews.

    1. I was doing a bit more research on this too. I probably have let my kefir brew a little too long – two days is prime. If you want it more fizzy (and a bit more alcoholic) you can rebottle the strained kefir and let it sit at room temp. Apparently the grains don’t like being starved by going longer themselves.

      1. Yes– that’s true. I tend to let it sit out bottled for a day to build up fizz. I didn’t realize that this makes it more alcoholic too. The original instructions I had said to keep it bottled at room temp for 2 days, but that’s too much for my kefir– I’ve lost almost the whole bottle to fizzy explosions!

  6. Hi, I was wondering if you guys were still growing your kefir, and if as a result you might have a little extra I could now get (2 years later I know :S). If not, any suggestions on where I might be able to pick some up? Thanks!

      1. A quick update: Our water coordinator is on maternity leave, so you can’t get kefir grains from her right now. If you have questions related to water issues, her replacement would be happy to help.

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