To make a batch of water kefir you need to have some water kefir grains. These are known as a SCOBY, a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Water kefir is just one of many names for this culture, that in the restaurant we use to ferment a sugary liquid to which we add lemon and a little dried fruit to bring a fruity flavour to the finished sparkling drink.
The term grains is purely to do with the appearance; there are no actual grains used in the process. It is also important to remember that milk kefir and water kefir grains are not the same. Their appearance is similar, but for this recipe we require water kefir grains.
Making your own water kefir is a fun and simple process. As with all preserving and fermenting, it is beneficial to collect all your equipment and ingredients before starting and important that your fermenting vessel and other equipment has been cleaned well.
Caring for your grains requires a little work; if keeping them in a jar in the fridge it is good to add a teaspoon of sugar every three days to keep them ticking over. If they are happy, then they will multiply so share them with friends and family. Having a weekly rhythm is useful when making kefir; we make it twice a week for the restaurant, meaning we have a super sparkly drink with a slightly sour tang, like a lemonade with more funk. The finished kefir will store for about a week in the fridge with the flavour becoming more sour each day.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Naomi Devlin for sending us our starter grains. The recipe we use in the restaurant is an adaptation from her wonderful book, Food for a Happy Gut, a super guide for healthy gastronomy and a constant source of inspiration. Naomi recommends for newcomers to kefir to indulge in small glass or 2 each day then slowly increase the quantity you drink over a week as the probiotic can cause a little bloating for some people and has a cleansing action on the liver for others. People with no digestive issues can probably consume as much as they like.
1L warm, unchlorinated water (our tap water on the farm is fine, but you can use filtered water if you are concerned about your own; heavily chlorinated water kills off the grains)
2 tbsp water kefir grains
3 tbsp organic cane sugar
a slice of organic, unwaxed lemon
2 unsulphured apricots (alternative dried fruit can be used resulting in different final flavours)
1.5L fermentation crock or glass jar with lid or cheese cloth
1 whisk or wooden spoon
2x 750mL or equivalent swing top glass bottles
1 measuring jug
1 funnel (for bottling)
1 small sieve
1 jam jar for storing grains
Begin by cleaning your equipment. This can be done by simply washing everything in hot soapy water and rinsing well. Then fill and boil the kettle and slosh the boiling water over all the equipment. Allow everything to cool to room temperature and then get started immediately.
Once the equipment is ready, pour the warm water into the fermenting vessel, add the sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the kefir grains, dried fruit and lemon slice and gently mix for a few seconds. Place the lid on loosely, or secure the cheese cloth with an elastic band. This ferment is not reliant on oxygen, but it will begin to produce gas, so it’s good to allow some kind of release. We only cover ours to prevent foreign bodies climbing inside and floating amongst the grains.
Leave the jar to ferment at room temperature for up to 48 hours. The longer the ferment the more sour it becomes. We find that 24 hours fermentation before bottling is perfect for us. The trick is to have a little taste along the way. The drink won’t yet feel carbonated, but you can decide on the acidity you prefer.
Once you are happy with the flavour, it’s time to bottle. Using a clean spoon, fish out the now rehydrated fruit and the lemon. Carefully pour the grains and liquid through a sieve and into a clean measuring jug. The grains can now be stored in your jar, making sure they are covered with water and fed every two or three days with a teaspoon of sugar. Leaving the grains in the same solution without the addition of sugar will eventually kill them, so look after them and keep making fresh batches of kefir.
Carefully pour your kefir into your clean bottles using the funnel. Seal the bottles with the swing tops and leave at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Check the fizz by opening a bottle every few hours. Don’t leave too long at room temperature otherwise the bottles may explode; I am know this from personal experience!
The kefir can be enjoyed as it is or mixed, as we do with a little homemade fruit or herbal cordial. Enjoy!