Water kefir for me has been the most challenging of the fermented drinks to master. While it is the simplest and quickest, I found experimenting to find the best flavours a long process of discovery. Many, many batches were poured straight into the pigs bucket.
Beverages need to be enjoyable, regardless of whether they have health benefits. Why compromise on joy?
I will share with you want has worked for me.
Water kefir is a versatile culture of bacteria and yeast that can be used to ferment any carbohydrate rich liquid. They have the appearance of crystals and are surprisingly firm to touch.
I typically ferment the kefir in a sugar solution of three tablespoons to a litre.
Table sugar is fine but I have used molasses and malt barley extract also.
I found the molasses to greatly encourage growth and vigour of the grains but produced a liquid that I found unpleasant tasting. I feed the grains with molasses every now and again as I feel it is of benefit but I pour the fermented liquid into the pigs bucket afterwards.
I found using malt extract to produce a pleasant tasting liquid and also makes the grains very active. I use this sweetener the most often.
Table sugar is fine but I found it ferments very quickly and often the liquid produced an overly strong fermented and unpleasant flavour. Over time the grains became less active and growth slowed.
I actually thought that the unpleasant flavour produced by the table sugar just was the flavour of water kefir and I clearly just did not enjoy water kefir. But having used the malt extract, I actually enjoy the ferments and I am experimenting further with flavours.
First stage is to source some kefir grains. I always have some available if you are nearby or you may source some locally through friends, otherwise eBay usually has many listings of them.
Once they are sourced, start a first fermentation by placing the grains into a glass container with the cooled sugar:water solution. Cover the container with a cloth and a rubber band. This allows it to breath yet keeps out dust/flys.
After 48 hrs it should be fermented. You can taste the solution to check if most of the sugars have been used.
Sieve the mixture to separate the liquid from the grains. Set the grains aside to use again. Pour the liquid into strong flip-top bottles. Leave space in the bottle to add flavouring. Seal and set out in a warm room for 2-3 days. The pressure should have built up now in the bottle to produce a fizzy beverage.
They can be stored in the fridge to prevent further fermentation.
Always open bottles in the sink with a cloth over the lid. They can be very fizzy and weaker bottles have been known to explode under the pressure. We bought our bottles in a home brew shop and they were a great investment.
My favourite water kefir flavour is ginger. It is very easy. I put a small piece of crystallised ginger into each bottle. Yummy! Just be careful to use a small piece as it will swell and could be very difficult to remove from the bottle for cleaning later.
I also like to add cranberry juice to the kefir. I usually add a fifth of juice to flavour the kefir. You can experiment with lots of different flavours juice drinks.
I make about four litres of vegetable juice every week. I do it in one big go and make enough for the week. I always add to the juice about a litre of fermented kefir. It is stored immediately in the fridge and holds excellently. As I store it in the fridge, it does not ferment further to produce a fizz but I am still getting my probiotics.