Water Kefir. Tibicos. African Bees. These are all the names for the same bacteria and yeast colonies used to make water Kefir. You may never have heard of water kefir, only knowing about it's more famous cousin, milk kefir. But like it's more gad-about cousin, water kefir is a wealth of gut healing, happy tummy making probiotics. Many folks drink it to replace soda in their diet. I like it because it tastes really good and gives me a probiotic boost at a fraction of the cost of probiotic supplements. It is also a great creative outlet for my disposessed chef. I can play around with flavors for pennies.
Here are the water kefir grains. They look different from the milk kefir because these grains eat sucrose/glucose instead of lactose, which is eaten by the milk grains. They look like the crystals you make smelly jelly from, or use to hydrate very dry garden soil. My husband had a less charitable analogy, something made by Walter White. These are rehydrated grains I bought from Cultures for Health. Their website has great information on water kefir and how to rehydrate and use it. Basically I soaked the dehydrated grains in a sugar water solution for 3 days then poured the sugar water off. My kefir was now ready to get to work.
I made up a new sugar water solution and when it was room temp, I added the grains to it, put in a slice of lemon because it gives it a nice flavor and Dom Anfiteatro, the Kefir Guru of the WORLD said to. Then I let it sit for 2 days.
After the 2 days, I strained the grains out and put the liquid into flip top bottles. I added elderberries to one bottle and hibiscus flowers to another. Then I let them sit out for another 24 hours, burping them every 10 hrs or so.
After the 24 hours I strained the herbs out and then drank the kefir. It was yummy. I liked the elder, but I really liked the hibiscus.
this pix above is elderberry water kefir.
And there you have it. Homemade, healthy soda-like drinks. I'm going to keep experimenting with different flavor combinations. It's fun to see what tastes good and what is nasty. Nothing nasty so far.
Here is a recap of the recipe:
4C filtered water
10 drops liquid minerals
slice of lemon
3-4 T water kefir Grains.
Boil water, add sugar to mason jar and add boiling water to disolve. Add filtered water to make 4 cups. Let cool to room temp. Add in grains and lemon slice. Cap with an airlock cap and let sit for 24-72 hours at room temp. The higher the room temp the quicker the kefir will ferment.
How do you know when it is ready? Give the kefir a taste and if it is significantly less sweet than when you started, you are good to go. If not, let it sit a little more. Drink water kefir plain if you like but most prefer to ferment it for a second time with flavorings. Add desired flavors, Fruit fresh or dried, spices or extracts to individual swing top bottles and let sit out for another 24 hours, burping the bottles every 12-24 hours depending on the temp and the sugar content of the flavoring. More sugar, more burping. After 24 hours toss the bottles in the fridge and let cool down. To enjoy one of these bad boys, open carefully over the sink in case there was excessive carbonation and it volcanoes all over the place. You might even want to put the second fermentation process in a cooler or other container. I had a bottle burst at 3 AM filled with elderberries. I was awoken by a loud POP and found Glass, berries and liquid all over my kitchen. Not a very fun time. But you will be much smarter than I. I can tell that already.