We’re loving learning the techniques of getting living foods into our diet, and one of the easiest to master is the fast-turnaround ferment of water kefir (also known as tibicos).
This yummo probiotic soda requires very little effort, minimal waiting time, and is just asking for some experimentation with the huge range of flavors you can work into it.
And of course, it is packed with so much good bacterial and probiotic action – good for your gut and immune system.
To make water kefir you’ll need to get your hands on some water kefir grains (not to be confused with milk kefir grains which make kefir from, you guessed it, milk).
Kefir grains have a tendency to multiply with each batch, so if you have a friend that has some they’re using, ask if they will happily share their excess with you. Or see the links at the bottom for some alternate leads.
Once you’ve got the grains – which are actually not a type of ‘grain’ at all but a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) – in your hot little hands you’re ready to get going.
Besides the basic sugar and water needed, adding in an extra ingredient like a few dried apricots of figs will aid the fermentation as the kefir grains are happy to have a bit of diversity beside the pure sugar to feed on.
Cap the bottle and leave on the bench another 12 – 24 hours till it’s as fizzy and flavoured as you like it. Then drink, or refrigerate to slow ferment.
(based on 750 ml jars)
The flavour possibilities on this second ferment stage are endless.
Might I recommend starting your family off with a simple lemon and sugar combo if you’re wanting a smooth and happy uptake of water kefir. It’s prettymuch like home-made lemonade once you get it right.
From there, reduce sugar gradually and get funky with your flavours.
Until I got it, I was a bit suspicious of water kefir, because that seemed like an awful lot of sugar to be scooping into our daily diets. But the sugar that you put in is the food for the kefir scoby – it literally eats it, converting the sugar to the tangy ferment that is water kefir.
So at the end of it all, you end up with very little actual sugar in the final product. Of course, if you like it sweeter, you can add extra. It’s up to you.
Well, in theory, yes you can. But might we recommend that you incorporate these into the second ferment stage, so that those alternate sweeteners don’t come into direct contact with the water kefir grains.
This is because the water kefir scoby has evolved on cane sugar and water, meaning that in this selective environment (water and cane sugar) this scoby can be relied apon to do its thing, out-competing all other yeasts and bacterias in the mix and creating a safe and awesome brew.
If you vary the ingredients of that selective environment, say with coconut water or agave syrup, you will necessarily alter and evolve the scoby.
Which might not be a bad thing, it’s just that it won’t be the same one that has proved dependable and safe for many generations of drinkers.
If you add alternate sweeteners to the second ferment, however, you’re fine on this front, as the resultant brew will be entirely consumed, and not re-entering the fermentation cycle.
Water kefir is one of the many living food techniques covered in our new Fermentation Workshops – a one day hands-on affair with lots of take-home cultures to get you started.
Accessing water kefir grains in Australia:
Try your local permaculture networks, sites like Gumtree or eBay, the Rejoice in Life site where people share their excess, or purchase some from sites like The Natural Therapy Shop. If you’re on facebook, see pinkfarm’s cultured community list of ferment swappers too.
If you have any more ferment-swap leads, comment below and we’ll add them here!
We’d also love to hear what your favourite flavor combo is, if you’ve already got a batch of water kefir going on your bench?