My journey into a #LifeFromScratch has been a slowly developing experience over the last 5 years.
I’ve been addicted to gardening since I was a child, and I just assumed that veggies would be my sole gardening adventure. Then, about 5 years ago, my world was shattered with constant, daily headaches. After trying a myriad of pills (all with devastating side effects), I desperately researched ‘natural remedies’ and accidentally discovered the world of medicinal herbs (click here for my 15 herbs for headaches post).
Medicinal herbs did not seem too far away from my gardening obsession. After all, many medicinal herbs are also beautiful plants suitable for any garden. However, those that have journeyed into healthy living probably already guessed how my story goes from there: first it’s medicinal herbs, then tinctures and DIY salves, then DIY lotions, deodorant….the list goes on.
There are so many wonderful ‘from scratch’ things you can make! It’s a delight, really.
I have many goals for 2015 and one of my newest adventures into a #LifeFromScratch is diving into the wonderful world of making water kefir. Why water kefir? A few years back, my husband got terribly sick with some serious mystery illness; sick enough that we went to the hospital. The doctors were stumped and simply put him on some super-powerful antibiotics. Those antibiotics may have gotten rid of the mystery illness, but it left my poor hubby’s digestion in some terrible distress.
We tried probiotics in pill-form, but it didn’t help. Since natural remedies worked for my headaches, I started my research on figuring out what to do to help my husband recover. First, we tried kombucha. No offense to kombucha lovers out there, but I do NOT care for the taste. My husband didn’t either.
Before giving up, I decided to buy some water kefir grains and give that a chance. We’ve been drinking water kefir daily for a few months now, and we LOVE it! Not only has it been helping my husband’s digestion issues, but it is super tasty and WAY healthier for our home than a lot of juices from the grocery store.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir is made up of water and kefir grains which makes a bubbly juice that you can flavor however you want. Kefir grains are NOT grains, but instead are clumps of good bacteria and yeast. Water kefir is a wonderful probiotic to help aid your digestive track, and it’s also a super tasty beverage that makes a great alternative to store-bought juice or soda in your home. Your kids will love it!
Here are some of my favorite reasons to love water kefir:
- Loaded with vitamins, minerals, beneficial enzymes, and other great stuff for your body.
- Many people say it helps not only their digestive system, but it improves their moods and energy and boosts their immune systems.
- Many people prefer the taste of water kefir to kombucha, so it might be a good starting place for your family for getting into healthy/probiotic beverages.
- Water kefir is quicker to make than kombucha; it is ready to drink in just 48 hours.
- Water kefir is a great healthy alternative to soda. If you are trying to break a soda habit, try drinking water kefir instead!
- You can have tons of fun with flavoring water kefir. You can add fruit, juice, herbs….really, you can be very creative with it!
Although water kefir is fairly simple to brew, there are a few specific pieces of “equipment” you’ll need in order to make water kefir effectively.
- Mason jar or glass jar for the first ferment. It should be at least slightly larger than the amount of water you are using (see ingredients for the ratio).
- Flip-top bottles are best for the second ferment but when I started, I just used mason jars. Just make sure you use glass jars/bottles, and if you want it to be fizzy, get the flip-top bottles.
- Plastic mesh strainer (metal can harm kefir grains) OR a mesh strainer with lots of cheesecloth (this is what I use currently…but trust me, plastic mesh strainers make water kefir super easy!
- Plastic or wooden mixing spoon (again, do NOT use metal because it can harm the kefir grains)
- Large glass mixing cup, optional
- Funnel, optional
- A typical ratio of ingredients:
- ½ cup water kefir grains to half gallon water to ½ cup sugar.*
- The sugar is for the yeast to eat. I just use organic white cane sugar. Do NOT use honey, it may negatively affect your kefir grains.
- You can find water kefir grains here, here, and by asking a friend who is brewing water kefir
- If you can, use unfiltered well water; it will probably be high in minerals that will keep your water kefir happy and healthy. If you use filtered water (like me), you should occasionally add some minerals to the first ferment for your kefir grains. I usually add 1 tbsp. molasses every 4-5 batches (NOTE: this is why the pictures for this kefir batch are slightly brown. I had just added molasses). I have also read of people adding a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of baking soda, or a clean eggshell.
- Additional fruit/juice/etc. See notes for some suggested delicious flavor combinations.
- In your glass large mixing cup, add 1 cup hot water. Mix in the sugar (see ingredients for ratio). Stir with plastic/wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining water (cold). Make sure this sugar water is not too hot and then pour it into your first ferment glass jar. Add the kefir grains (and any additional minerals you might be adding).
- Cover your jar (with paper towel, a light cloth, cheesecloth, etc….it’s to keep out bugs/hair/dust) and let it sit, out of direct sunlight, for 24-48 hours. The longer you let it sit, the less sweet it will become as the grains consume more of the sugar.
- After 24-48 hours, prepare your flip-top bottles (or other glass bottles that you are using) for the second fermentation. I use a funnel and add a bit more sugar to the bottles as well as whatever flavor combination I am using for the day into the bottle. For the one in the picture, I used 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice and 5 frozen raspberries. See the notes of other flavor combination ideas. The more sugar you add to the second ferment, the more fizz you will probably get in your finished product.
- Now pour your water kefir through your mesh strainer and transfer the liquid into the prepared flip-top bottles.
- Rinse your grains (with non-chlorinated water!), clean out the jar from the first ferment, and start your next batch.
- Now, back to your second ferment bottles. Put on the lids (this is why flip-top bottles are so great for this!) and leave out at room temperature for 24 hours. I usually then strain my second ferment because I use frozen fruit and I don’t want chunks in my beverage. Open them carefully: you might get the ‘geyser effect’.
- Enjoy your delicious water kefir beverage. Get excited for your next batch. Repeat.
**If your house is cold in the winter, you might need to add more time to your fermenting days. My house is usually between 60-65 degrees in the winter, and I found out through trial and error that I needed to do the first ferment for 3-4 days.
**Water kefir and milk kefir grains are NOT the same thing. Do not buy the wrong ones for this job.
**My first few batches were not very fizzy. I was new to fermenting, new to water kefir, new to figuring out the temperature of my house in relation to my water kefir, etc. This might happen to you, too, but don’t give up! Keep experimenting until you get your desired fizziness. Let me just say, when my 4th batch was finally fizzy, it was also my first ‘geyser effect’ experience. I was so happy that my water kefir was a success that I laughed as I peeled raspberry chunks from my ceiling and combed out raspberry mush from my hair. Yes, my husband thinks I am crazy. 🙂
**If you are going to be away from the home for a while and can’t take your kefir grains with you, put them in some sugar water in a glass jar, screw on a lid, and put it in the fridge. They should be fine for a few weeks.
A few second ferment flavor combination ideas (I always add some sugar too!) :
Lemonade or Limeade
1 tbsp. lemon juice or lime juice
Raspberry Lemonade (my favorite!)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4-6 raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp. lime juice
4-5 strawberries, slightly bruised (fresh or frozen)
Peach Ginger Lemonade
4-6 slices peaches (fresh or frozen)
1 inch ginger, grated
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 part cranberry juice
3-4 parts water kefir