Water Kefir!

I am¬†obsessed with all things fermented. I just recently woke up my kefir grains that were stored in the back of my fridge.¬†¬†Pronounced KEE-FUR.¬†I¬†use to make it every couple of days- then I mastered kombucha which¬†has a slower rhythm than kefir and just got into a comfortable pace….then I stopped drinking and my desire for beverages other than water crept up. Kombucha rolls around every 8-10 days and I have a pretty good rhythm going, when to make the brew while a finished brew is doing a 2nd ferment and I have cold kombucha in the fridge; kefir takes a short 2-3 days (!) and only a quick 2nd ferment, again about 1-2 days before its ready to go! I have been mixing mine with hibiscus tea, lemon juice, and drinking it on its own.

  • Water kefir is not the same as Dairy Kefir, it is also known as¬†Tibicos¬†and it is believed to have originated in Mexico.

Kefir is referred to as “grains” but they aren’t grains at all, but a living matrix of yeast and bacteria that look more like crystalline mini lumps. You can press them between your¬†fingers and they will mush, I don’t know why you would want to do that, but that is the texture to them. I love these little guys. It has become such a pleasure to nurture them and to drink their gifts! They live off of sugar, so by the time they have eaten through the sugar in the water, mostly what is left is converted to glucose and fructose, and what¬†you¬†drink, has about as much sugar as one green apple. They are FILLED with healthy¬†probiotics¬†which helps promote a healthy belly. Water kefir is a fermented food that is easy to make and enjoy. You can also make an entirely sugar free non-dairy kefir drink by instead of using sugar water, you use raw, living coconut water and let that sit for a couple of days. The end result is almost a champagne like, mildly sweet,¬†effervescent healing tonic!

Fermented foods are known for their anti-aging and cancer fighting properties.¬†“Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts, such as¬†Saccharomyces¬†kefir, which can dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by protecting the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming an army that cleans up and strengthens your intestines.¬† The body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.” -www.tibicos.org

All it takes is about 48 hours before you are ready to enjoy your first batch of kefir.You can drink this liquid after straining out the grains (now ready for another fresh batch of sugar water) or you can opt to do a second ferment which creates more gas, creating a soda like drink. I love making mine fizzy, this happens by using an air tight bottle of some sort, like an italian swing top glass bottle, Grolsch bottles or any hermetically sealed container. You can flavor it at this point with fruit juice, ,or fresh fruit, or with italian soda flavors- it really is like soda!  I find Water Kefir to be more accessible than kombucha initially but that could just be me.

You can’t grow kefir grains without having them!¬†SO¬†you either have to purchase them or be lucky enough to be given some. I am planning on having a kefir party soon but I am serious about my grains, don’t ask me for any unless you plan on committing to them! They are such a blessing!!!

The good news about kefir is that if you are not feeling it or start to get overwhelmed, you can put them in some sugar water and put them in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, where they will go to sleep (become less active) until you are ready to start them up again. Any longer than that, I would suggest dehydrating them.

What you will need to set up your Kefir Kitchen:

  • one or two 1 quart glass mason jars or bell jars (the grains don’t like metal and they shouldn’t ever come into contact with any stainless steel or other metal utensils)
  • 4-6 hermetically sealed bottles
  • fine mesh plastic strainers (get a set of several sizes)
  • sugar- they love sucanat but this makes for a heavier tasting brew, no honey (disinfectant qualities kills off the grains) no agave (low glycemic index), I use organic sugar, they LOVE it, it’s is really inexpensive, and makes a light tasting finished product.
  • cotton bandana- to cover the jar on the first ferment- the fermenting process needs air but the sugar water attracts ALL SORTS of critters, so you want to keep them from raiding your brew. (and yes those are¬†SoulCycle¬†Bandanas :> )
  • rubber band to secure the bandana around the lip of the jar.
  • one set of plastic measuring spoons

Basic Water Kefir:

1/4c water kefir grains

1/4 sugar

4c fresh water

1T dried fruit- I use Goji Berries and fresh ginger, but have tried figs (love), apricots, raisins (not a fan)- the grains LOVE dried fruit, and I notice it gets them more fizz lovin’ but it could just be me- you can choose leave them out entirely.

Dissolve the sugar in a clean glass mason jar- make sure that the water has cooled down if using warm/hot water to help dissolve the sugar crystals (don’t cook the kids!) Add in the grains, the dried fruit and cover with a clean cotton cloth and secure it with a rubber band. Let this sit in a place unmoved for 2 days away from direct sunlight…and on the 2nd day, get ready to rock your Kefir.

The grains will keep on keepin’ on as long as you care for them- feed them! If you notice your grains aren’t producing, or reproducing (which they will do and you get to be the revered sponsor to prospect-ful kefir makers of¬†your¬†choosing!), you can do a single feeding of molasses or sucanat, both of which are sugars with their minerals intact. This will give the grains a boost of nutrition, and then you can go back to your regular sugar water. Also adding a pinch of pink sea salt offers up perfect mineral nutrition.

I will post recipes as I make them. But one recipe to get you started is SO SIMPLE and probably my favorite…

Water Kefir Lemonade

4c 1st fermented water kefir (grains strained).

1/4c fresh lemon juice

Drink immediately! You can 2nd ferment the kefir after removing the grains for a couple of days and  then add the fresh lemon for a spikey, bubbly lemonade or fizzy Lemon soda!!!

THIS IS THHHHHEEEEEE BEST!!

KOMBUCHA!

*kombucha

I have been wanting to share my passion for making Kombucha for a while now, so in lieu of a workshop, here is the written lesson. I love kombucha. I love making it, I love drinking it, I love everything it represents- to me it is a sort of guerrilla slow fermented food movement of health, wellness and culture- literally. The culture is called a SCOBY and there is lots of info out on the web about it’s amazing characteristics- for our purposes, this is the straight up recipe to get you going on your Kombucha trail blazing path. I have LOTS of SCOBY’s so if you are in the need for a Kombucha Start Up Kit (funnels, strainers, scoby and starter tea) email me. This will make 7 pints of Booch. I drink one a day so I am in the rhythm of fermenting, bottling, and then making the tea all over again, pretty consistently.¬†I also always do a 2nd fermentation- meaning, the first time is just to ferment the tea, the 2nd ferment is flavoring and fizzing after the 1st ferment tea has been made (7-9 days). ¬†After flavoring, I bottle it in glass bottles with a gasket tops to create fizz. I will describe¬†my¬†kombucha making process and if you should have questions, just post them.

What you will need to make 1st fermentation batch:

  • A healthy SCOBY
  • 1c starter tea (previously made from the last batch)
  • 5 tea bags- I use 2 black 2 green and 1 of a rose or pomegranate flavored tea
  • 12c water (4c hot water to brew tea, 8c cold once tea is brewed)
  • 1c sugar (I use organic sucanat or organic cane sugar)
  • label and marker

In a large tempered heat proof glass vessel, add the sugar, tea bags and water just to cover to steep, making a sweet tea mix. Once this has brewed, 5-7 minutes, remove the tea bags and pour the remaining cold water in. Add the starter tea and the SCOBY. Cover with a clean towel and secure the towel in place with an elastic band. On a label, mark the date and when you will be checking it. So for today, I marked 9/2 (the day I made the tea) and 9/11 (the day I will be checking it for doneness) Set this aside on the counter, out of the way or in a cabinet, and do not move or disturb for at least 7 days. As the tea ferments, it will be eating the sugar, so more days fermenting equals less sugar. It also tends to get a vinegary taste- some love, some not so much. I prefer mine in between so 8-9 days is how long I let mine go for. You can start tasting it after 7 days. It will also ferment more quickly in a hot space or in the summer months.

You can drink the tea as is. In order to do that, you will want to strain out the SCOBY, and the new baby SCOBY that this batch JUST made. (it will make one every time you brew! You can give these away, use then in addition to your mother SCOBY and make them stronger, some people blend them up and use them as a facial mask or you can simply compost them)

*When saving SCOBYS, save enough of the tea you just made to cover it, place it in a jar and in the fridge.

2nd Ferment, what you will need:

When my tea is done, I take out the SCOBYS and set them aside in a glass jar the tea they just made- they are ready for another batch of tea. This doesn’t have to happen immediately. You can leave them in the jar, in the tea, until you are ready to brew again.

I flavor my tea with organic freeze dried fruit, real fruit purees, frozen fruit- whatever you can get your hands on. You will note certain fruits enhance both the flavors and the fizz due to their sugar content. My favorite is to use freeze dried strawberries- this is especially awesome when my base tea has Rose flavored tea in it- SO GOOD. So I place the fruit right into the brew vessel, cover it again with the towel, and place a rubber band around the top to keep flies out. I let this stand overnight to mingle their flavors. The next day, I strain everything out and pour the flavored tea into bottles, lock the lids, date and label the bottles and let stand on the counter for 3-5 days. *CAUTION- contents under pressure can explode- this is especially true for brews with a higher sugar content. Start conservatively with your fermenting days, especially using glass bottles, until you get comfortable and into a rhythm.

I LOVE BOOCH.