Water kefir is a natural and delicious dairy-free alternative to milk-based kefir. The beverage has a light, bubbly taste and has recently gained popularity.
I first stumbled upon water kefir in a quaint organic health food shop in London, and the moment I tasted its light, delicate flavour, it was an instant love affair.
Water kefir is also known as tibicos or aqua kefir, a refreshing, fermented beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries. Like the more widely known milk kefir, it is made using kefir “grains”, which is a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
Unlike milk kefir, water kefir is completely dairy-free. These grains, which originally were isolated from a cactus plant in South America, feed on organic sugars, fruit, and water to create a probiotic-rich drink that is lightly sparkling and delicately flavoured.
While water kefir has a very subtle taste (compared to kombucha, for example), it can be enhanced by adding fruit, herbs, or juices for a stronger flavour and additional health benefits.
Drinking water kefir has many benefits for your health and well-being. It is primarily consumed for its probiotic properties, as it contains high concentrations of beneficial lactic acid bacteria.
Probiotics (good bacteria) are beneficial microorganisms commonly found in fermented foods like kefir, yoghurt, and sauerkraut. They help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota by populating the digestive system with friendly bacteria. This can lead to better digestion, nutrient absorption, and a stronger immune system.
Water kefir that has not been heat treated is brimming with vibrant live probiotic cultures. Additionally, the fermentation process produces B vitamins and other beneficial compounds.
Water kefir is a great addition to your daily routine, especially for those looking for a plant-based alternative to milk kefir and yoghurts. It is low in calories and sugar, making it healthier than many other beverages.
You can enjoy water kefir on its own for a little daily boost or use it as a base for smoothies, mocktails (and cocktails), and other drinks. Its versatility and health benefits make it an easy, effortless, and tasty way to look after yourself.
How is it made?
Making water kefir is simple and requires only three ingredients: non-chlorinated water, organic sugar, and kefir grains. Dried fruit such as figs and raisins are sometimes added to provide additional nutrients to the SCOBY.
The fermentation process is usually carried out in two stages. First, the kefir grains are introduced into a mixture of sugar and water and left to ferment for 24–48 hours a room temperature, followed by a second fermentation (without grains) with fresh fruit, herbs, or various juices to achieve a different flavour profile.
If you’ve already purchased water kefir grains, here’s a simple recipe to get you started:
Basic water kefir recipe:
- ¼ cup kefir grains
- 4 cups non-chlorinated water
- 40g organic sugar
- 20g organic dried figs or raisins (optional)
Step 1: Mix sugar with water in a clean glass jar
Step 2: Add kefir grains and dried fruit, cover with a cloth or paper towel and seal with a rubber band
Step 3: Let the mixture ferment at room temperature for 24–48 hours
Step 4: Strain the liquid into a bottle (separate the grains and reuse them for the next batch. In between preparations, keep your grains healthy by regularly feeding them with fresh water and sugar and fruit every 2–3 days)
Step 5: Chill and enjoy
At this stage, the water kefir is ready to drink. It should exhibit a delightful combination of gentle effervescence, tanginess, and subtle sweetness, a raw, fermented, and caffeine-free treat.
The finished beverage should be stored in the fridge and consumed within two weeks. Chilling your kefir to below five degrees will help prevent the build-up of CO2 in your bottle and slow down fermentation.
For homemade water kefir, it is advisable to periodically “burp” the bottle by opening the lid every few days, allowing excess CO2 to escape and ensuring safety. Depending on the yeastiness of your culture, it has the potential to become extremely fizzy.
It is important to note that kefir grains require regular nourishment to stay healthy, balanced, and vibrant. They should be fed every 24–48 hours. Unlike kombucha, water kefir is a more delicate culture that demands daily care and optimal fermenting conditions.
If making it yourself isn’t for you, you can buy ready-made water kefir drinks, like PiQi. We make our water kefir in small batches in Devon using organic ingredients. It comes in four delicious flavours; original fig, grapefruit and cardamom, butterfly pea flower and lychee, and ginger and lemon.
Each flavour is crafted to be a nourishing daily treat that’s both refreshing and gut-loving. If you’re buying your water kefir from the store, make sure that it is sold in the refrigerated aisle and hasn’t been heat treated, which would destroy the live cultures.
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