Water Kefir Grains


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Water kefir grains are a great fermentation tool that help you make fruity, probiotic drinks, cultured infusions, and probiotic fruit compotes. They are versatile, inexpensive, and easy to use. They are a great introduction to home fermentation.

How to Make Water Kefir from Water Kefir Grains

Water kefir is extremely easy to make. It can be as simple as putting water kefir grains into fruit juice until the juice is fermented, straining off the grains to reuse them, and drinking your cultured juice. Your grains will take on the color of the juice which, to me, is unsatisfying. I also do not always have juice ready for the water kefir and so I find my two-stage water kefir process best in my kitchen.

The process is simple:

  • Make a solution of sugar water of 1/4 cup sugar in a quart of water.

  • Allow the sugar to dissolve.
  • Add kefir grains to the sugar water. A couple of teaspoons of water kefir grains is plenty; more is fine too.
  • Allow the water to sit for one to two days.
  • Strain off the grains from the water.
  • Add a juice, infusion, or anything else your imagination and palate will allow, and let it sit until the mixture tastes great. It might be too sweet at first. If so, let it sit until the sugar reduces. (Some of my batches sit for a week.)
  • Begin the process again with your water kefir grains.

Getting Water Kefir Grains to Grow

Follow Me on Pinterest If you love water kefir and want to share it with your friends, you will want your grains to grow and reproduce so that you can give them away. It is a great way to spread the fermentation goodness among your social circle.

However, many people have trouble getting them to grow. If they are not growing, be sure to follow some water kefir grain basics:

  • Use sugar in your fermentation, not honey or syrup. Grains like sugar. Experiment with white sugar and unrefined sugar for best results.

  • Make water kefir daily. Giving the grains a new batch of sugar water tends to get them going.
  • Keep your grains in a warm spot, but not too warm. In the summer, your kitchen counter is probably fine. Depending on your household temperatures in the winter, find a warm spot for them. (Very hot spots such as near a wood burning stove may be too hot.)
  • Experiment with minerals. Julie at Cultures for Health recommends using a mineral-rich water or sugar to help grains grow.
  • Get your kefir grains fresh, not dehydrated. Dehydrated grains are simply less likely to grow after they are re-hydrated, though they will ferment your beverage nicely.

All that said, your grains may not grow for you. I discuss in the video at right that there are unknown factors (unknown to we consumers in any case) that are at work in our kitchens. My kitchen is a prolific producer of kefir grains even using a refined white sugar and water with virtually no mineral content. Some of us just get lucky. See the video on YouTube (water kefir grains).

Storing Water Kefir Grains

You will inevitably need a storage plan for your water kefir grains. When you go on vacation or otherwise need a break from kefir-making, simply place your water kefir grains in the refrigerator in their regular sugar water mixture. The refrigerator will slow the fermentation and they will keep nicely for a couple of weeks. At that point, ideally you would change the water and either start culturing again or put them back in the refrigerator.

It does happen to the best of us, however, that those grains sit in the refrigerator for many weeks unattended and you wonder if they will ever be the same. Take them out of the refrigerator and make a new batch of water kefir everyday for a while. Water kefir grains are extremely resilient and they will probably be just fine.

For longer term storage, some people have good luck freezing them. It might be worth it to freeze a partial batch as an experiment. If it works, you will have a back-up supply. Place them in a baggie with some sugar water, freeze, defrost later and see what you get. Alternatively, you can dehydrate them like you would dehydrate any other food — in a dehydrator like the Excalibur. Dehydrated grains do not tend to grow but I am not sure at this point about previously frozen grains. It is worthy of a kitchen experiment.

Reinvigorating Water Kefir Grains

If your water kefir grains sit too long and get funky or remain stored in your refrigerator too long, your best bet is to start using them again. If they are slimy or otherwise funky, simply rinse them before culturing again. Your beverages may not be prime for a few batches. You may actually just culture the grains in sugar water and change the sugar water each day for a few days before you bother making a water kefir beverage. Check out wisdom for troubleshooting from Cultures for Health.

Where to Buy Water Kefir Grains

In shopping for water kefir grains, you will find both dehydrated and fresh grains. Both grains will ferment your beverages well, though the dehydrated grains will need three days to one week to rehydrate and begin working for you. Once they do, you will set to make your own water kefir at home.

However, one difference to keep in mind is that grains that have been dehydrated are less likely to grow. If growing your grains so that you can give them away (or even eat them as some people do), your best bet is to find a fresh source of water kefir grains. In fact, your best bet is to find a local source so that the grains do not have to be shipped.

Shipping fresh water grains is a great option if you do not have a local source. You can find them on various websites, including eBay. Most vendors are going to ship them at the beginning of the week so you are sure to get them as soon as possible without the weekend prolonging the delivery. Be ready to culture them when you receive them to get them going again. Do not order the water kefir grains when you are going to be out of town and unable to attend to them.

Your best bet for dehydrated grains are at Cultures for Health.

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54 Responses to Water Kefir Grains
  1. Rachel B

    We purchased water kefir grains from culturesforhealth.com and have had wonderful results with them. We use a combination of rapadura and organic cane sugar or, if no rapadura is available, have added cleaned egg shells (from pastured/local org farm) for extra minerals. Ours are proliferating like mad! We have also added a small amount of molasses on occasion, though it is not our taste preference to use molasses or to use only rapadura.

  2. Very interesting. I had heard of water kefir before but never saw any other info on it. Thanks a bunch.

  3. Fran Kozicki

    Thank you so much for this article! I have water kefir grains, and they have not been as vibrant as when I first got them. Now I have severaql different things to try! I had read a couple of times not to leave you kefir grains ferment for longer than 48 hours, or you may starve them. By doing this, I now get sugar water instead of the sweet tart drink I am used to. I will try your suggestions and see if I can revive them!

  4. Wow. I hadn’t heard of kefir grains before. Thanks for broadening my horizons!

  5. Jen

    I have been experimenting with water kefir and milk kefir for about a week. Thanks for the tips. Very timely! :)

  6. I have never tried Water Kefir before but I think it worth trying.

  7. Raphaela

    I have been leaving the water kefir grains in the sugar water for 2 days, then straining them and repeating the process. I put the strained water in another jar and add about 1/4 cup minced raw cranberries. Fermented that on the counter for a day or 2. The result ia s delicious, not too sweet “soda”. The strained cranberries make a great flavoring for homemade raw milk yogurt as well as a wonderful addition to salads.

    • Amanda Rose

      Raphaela — That sounds great. Yes, those berries now fermented goodness. :)

  8. Kristy

    Are water keifer grains and milk keifer grains the same thing?

    • Amanda Rose

      They are definitely different, Kristy. Some people do use their milk grains to ferment juice, but the water grains are much better suited for it.

  9. BeccaOH

    I’ve been working with water kefir grains for a couple weeks. A friend mailed me some, and the shipping didn’t seem to hurt them. But I really don’t know what water kefir is supposed to taste like. LOL Seems a bit sugary sweet to me, but I’ve been drinking a lot of tart kombucha. Thanks for your tips. I bookmarked them.

    • Amanda Rose

      Becca– Let it sit longer and it will reduce in sweetness. When I’m ready to drink it and it’s still too sweet, sometimes I’ll mix it with water or seltzer

  10. Audrey

    I was wondering if you cover your water kefir with a lid? I use mason jars for my milk kefir, but have a hard time keeping up with it, so I let it ferment slowly in the fridge. Works fine for me. Are water kefir grains different? Should I put a coffee filter over it with a lid ring to keep the bugs out or should I put the 2 part lid to seal out the air? Is it better to have the jar close to full for bubble formation?

    • Amanda Rose

      I put a tea towel over the jar to allow the air to escape but to keep the bugs out. You can get fancy with an airlock and end up with a fizzier beverage too.

      • Tanya

        I’ve had great success making a fizzy drink in a sealed bottle by doing a second ferment with a 1:4 ratio of fruit juice to water kefir, but I would warn your readers to be very cautious using this method. A sealed bottle exploded on my countertop over the weekend (glass spread across 4 rooms, chips taken out of drywall, doors). Thankfully it happened in the middle of the night when everyone was safely out of the way, so there were no injuries. I shudder to think of what might have happened if anyone had been in the kitchen. So, my suggestion would be to err on the side of too short of a second ferment at first and gradually add time until you achieve the desired result. Also, if you change the type of juice used for the second ferment, don’t count on the same amount of time being necessary. Finally, it might be wise to keep the bottle in a towel or box to prevent the spread of glass just in case something goes wrong.

        • Amanda Rose

          Holy cow, Tanya! I actually just cover mine with a cloth — first or second stage. I use an airlock if I’m going for serious bubbles. Airlocks cost a buck or so and are better than cleaning juice off your ceiling. :)

  11. Deb

    One reason water kefir grains may not reproduce well is lack of minerals. The amount minerals in water is different from location to location. Some add crushed egg shells to compensate for this.

  12. Hi Amanda,
    What a great tutorial video and a great post. I can’t wait to try your method. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday!
    See you soon,
    Miz Helen

  13. We have extra water grains for sale. 1/3 cup in Sucanat for $ 8.00 (free shipping in US). You will be able to make lots of kefir water with this amount of grains & my can they multiply :) trt1@usa.com

  14. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasure’s Whole Health Weekend Link-Up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! :)

  15. Missy

    I did a little batch of water kefir using the method above. People talk about it as if it tastes like soda or something. It tastes more like wine to me- I used grape juice. Is this what it’s supposed to taste like? I wouldn’t exactly call it “yummy.” What am I missing here?

    • Amanda Rose

      Missy,

      I wouldn’t say it tastes like a cola, but it can get a fizz and you can control the sugar level to make it more sweet if you wish. Some people simply don’t like it at all and think it tastes like rotten fruit, but that seems to be an unusual response. In any case, I’d play around with it some more and see if you can get a flavor you like better. This summer we’ve been adding it to seltzer water for a little more fizz and refreshment.

      Amanda

  16. Jill

    I havent had good success on my water grains before, tried several batches, using different things but never got the bubbles I thought you were looking for signs of fermenting. I put them in the fridge for a month at least to give myself a break from trying, now I read this and wonder if my flaw was not to let the sugar disolve, I just clumpd it on the bottom for some reason. Im going to give it a few days and see how that goes. Thanks for the tips!

  17. Cee

    I made my first batch of water kefir and apparently let it sit too long – there is a brown ring where the water level is at the opening of the jar, and the kefir tastes like vinegar! (Apple cider vinegar!) Can this be saved? Is the brown ring mold? Ack!

    • Amanda Rose

      You can definitely end up with vinegar if you let it go too long. I usually have about five batches in progress and if the oldest one is too sour, I’ll mix it with one of the others and drink it anyway. At times, I have just thrown a batch out when I didn’t have time to deal with it. The brown ring isn’t going to hurt you. I’d clean the jar well before reusing it.

  18. How much water kefir can you drink a day. With all these different flavors you can make, I want to be sure to drink only what is good for you
    Thanks,
    Rise

    • Amanda Rose

      Rose,

      I haven’t ever hit a limit. I don’t drink it very sweet or, if I do (because I don’t want to wait longer for it to sour), I mix it with water. In the summer I probably have a half gallon or so diluted. The problem with figuring out any “dose” is I just dilute mine to taste with no mind to quantity.

      Amanda

  19. Thanks

  20. nelly fox

    I am diabetic….how can I make it with out to use sugar? Can I use stevia?

    • Amanda Rose

      I don’t think the grains would live on stevia. What you would want to do is use the sugar but let it ferment long enough that there is little sugar left. If you have someone in your house to taste it for you, that might work out. The problem is that there is a fine line between “no sugar” and “vinegar.” Actually, there may be no line at all. It’s vinegar. You might be able to sweeten the vinegar-like drink with stevia. But this could actually be a great option for you to get the benefit of fruit in your diet without the sugar.

  21. I’ve found that making gingerbeer with my kefir grains (adding the ginger with the grains still in) tends to pep them up if I’ve been neglecting them. The bugs in them seem to love ginger. And I use some treacle (is that the same as molasses?) in my recipe which also helps.

  22. lisa

    I got some water grains from somebody I traded some milk grains for. Im on my third batch and still not quite right. I let it ferment for 2 days, using raw sugar, 1/3 cup to 1 quart spring water. It tastes like sugar water. I also tried to second ferment 1 batch with vanilla and ginger, tightly closed for 2 days and not the slightest bit of carbonation. Its about 70* in my kitchen. What else can I try?

  23. Herblady

    I I wanted to eat the grains, how much would I do per day for health benefits?

  24. Thanh

    lisa,
    You should try the following:

    1 litre dechlorinated water
    1/4 c. granulated sugar
    1/4 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 c. apple juice
    6 thin slices of fresh banana

    Ferment at room temperature for 2 days. You should clearly see activity (bubbles at the top) after 24 hours.

    To carbonate, I then add about 1/3 c. juice to water kefir. Once in a bottle, let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge.
    I was ready to give up on my kefir grains, until I tried the above. You will get a very nice carbonated drink. I have to burp the water kefir a few times a day, in fear that the bottles will burst.

    Hope this works for you.

  25. Maria Tetralina

    Can I make water kefir with kefir grains that I use to make milk kefir? Should I soak the milk kefir grains with water first?

    • Amanda Rose

      You can use milk grains for water kefir, but the milk grains are not quite as happy. It’s probably best to alternate — make a couple of batches of water kefir and then put them back in milk. To make the water kefir, I would rinse the grains well if only to keep milk curds out of the water kefir drinks.

      Amanda

  26. Susan

    I first put mine with maple syrup or molasses and white sugar with spring water. Great growth but the taste was awful. I then took one batch and did a second fermentation with a few figs and it taste great, not a sickly sweet taste. They grew so much I have to store some in the frige for awhile. I’ll add some to spring water and sugar and hope they slow down in the fridge.

  27. Great instructional video. I will be coming back to it, as it is something I’d like to implement in my daily diet.

  28. Jan

    I did get my initial water grains fresh and followed the recipe I was given:

    2 T. grains
    2 T. Rupunzel sugar (didn’t have so used cane sugar)
    2 c. H2O (RO water but added a pinch salt)

    Let sit out on kitchen counter 70* for 3 days. No noticeable bubbles. For second fermentation added 2 c. grape juice & was instructed to add 2 T. cane sugar but did not (it’s already too much sugar for me) and waited 24 hours. No carbonation. Caved & added the 2 T. sugar and got carbonation within 24 hours. Tastes great but I cannot handle this much sugar! It is putting my cortisol levels through the roof.
    I know there has to be some sugar to feed the grains, but what is the least amount I can use and still get results? I did like Susan’s idea of doing figs on the second fermentation.

    • Amanda Rose

      Jan,

      Let the second fermentation go as long as necessary until you get the lower sugar level you are looking for. In cooler temperatures, it could be a week. In the heat of the summer, it might be two days

      Amanda

  29. Colleen

    I’ve never tasted nor made any Kefir, but just received my first batch of grains. I was told to use 1 Tbsp of Molasses and 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar. I mixed these with hot spring water (about 1/2 quart)to let the sugar dissolved. Once the water was at room temperature I added my water Kefir grains. The jar is sitting in one of my cabinets. It has now been 18 hours and I don’t see any signs of fermentation. How will I know if my grains are fermentating?

    • Amanda Rose

      Colleen,

      If these are water grains, I would use white sugar especially in the beginning. They are now adjusting to a new home. When they become active, you should see little air bubbles floating to the top of your mixture. It may take a few batches to get them active, especially if they were mailed to you or dehydrated.

      Amanda

  30. Colleen

    Hi Amanda,

    My 2nd batch of Kefir was made with Organic White Cane Sugar. I used 1/2 cup of sugar to 1/2 gallon of water. The batch tasted sweeter than my first batch made with the dark brown sugar and molasses. My question is, why aren’t my grains multiplying? Also, the 2nd batch didn’t seem to be too bubbly???

    Thanks,
    Colleen

    • Amanda Rose

      Colleen,

      If the grains had been dehydrated, they may not multiply. If they have not been, I would just use the white sugar for a while. I use a little more sugar than you — closer to a cup that I dissolve and put in a quart jar with the grains. After a day or so, I strain the grains and add the liquid to a diluted fruit juice and let it ferment until it reduces in sweetness (~week depending on the weather). You might try more sugar but just let your final drink ferment longer. The grains may not be responding well to the molasses and brown sugar

      Amanda

  31. Elisabeth

    I have been experimenting with converting my milk kefir grains to water kefir grains. They are growing very well and seem very healthy. They look like little brains and have darkened a bit due to using demarara sugar and a handful of raisins in the fermenting process. I also have been adding a slice of lemon and a few slices of ginger. The stuff tastes great and my kids love it, very similar to the homemade ginger ale we have made in the past. I have been concerned though over the past few days about what I am doing. How do I know if the bacteria I am creating is not harmful since I am not using real tibicos grains? What signs would indicate that they might be going bad or might be producing dangerous bacteria instead of healthy probiotics? The mushrooms are turning brown due to the dark sugar, which one site said was a sign that they were dying, but they look really healthy to me.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer,
    Elisabeth

    • Amanda Rose

      Elisabeth,

      If they are still producing a beverage that tastes good, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ve experimented with a lot of abused grains and it tends to be obvious when they are abused beyond repair.

      Amanda

  32. Shelli

    Hi! I received my grains a few days ago and they have been multiplying like crazy since the first batch. I have been using coconut palm sugar and a pinch of baking soda as I was directed by the instructions that came with the grains and I only let it go for 24 hours but the end product always taste like apple cider vinegar. Do I need to ‘harvest’ it sooner?

    • Amanda Rose

      Wow, vinegar in 24 hours. Maybe you should try a shorter time. I’ve never used coconut palm sugar.

  33. Pat

    No one has mentioned alcohol content. I have cancer and do not feel comfortable consuming a sugar drink, especially one that is mostly fructose. If I reduce the sugar level by fermenting longer, the alcohol level will go up. It is enough to feel it (drinking 1/8 to 1/4 cup). Does anyone know what the alcohol content is on average?

    • Amanda Rose

      Pat — It will depend on the juice and sugar. I can make mine alcoholic with more sugar or with a high fructose juice, but generally I can’t taste a bit of alcohol in it at least in my set up.

  34. Jamie

    For anyone concerned about exploding bottles before getting back to burp your kefir – my son in law places a balloon over his bottles … this allows the gasses to inflate into the balloon causing it to expand. Then when he gets home from work he doesn’t have to worry about mopping up floors and walls or picking shards of glass from your sheet rock, he just burps them. Makes lots of bubbles!

    • Amanda Rose

      Great tip, Jamie!

  35. I hope this is not such a stupid set of questions but after you strain your grains, what do you do with these grains?! (I can’t seem to find this answer anywhere.) Can you keep using them over and over again or do they only work one time? Maybe most people have more grains than they need so they just get rid of the strained grains? Can you eat them? Can you throw them in the compost pile? I am obviously a beginner (I sort of feel out of my element!) and one of my friends just gave me some grains so I started 2 batches today in hopes of making some fruity sodas. Cheers

    • Amanda Rose

      Use them over and over. If they grow and start to take over your kitchen you can give them to friends, eat them, feed chickens, compost them, etc.

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