June 27, 2011 in Kefir
Q. I would love to make water kefir but I’m nervous about using sugar. How much sugar is left when the water kefir has finished culturing?
A. Water kefir grains are accustomed to being cultured in sugar water although juice or coconut water can also be used. Keep the following things in mind when making water kefir with sugar water:
Water kefir grains tend to do best with a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar to 2 quarts water (6% sugar solution). We strongly recommend not changing this ratio. If too little sugar is used, the kefir grains will not work as effectively (and will eventually become damaged and even die) and you may actually end up with more sugar in the finished batch than you would if you had used this ratio (due to inefficient consumption of the sugar by the water kefir grains).
During a standard 48 hour fermentation period, the kefir grains will consume all but about 20% of the sugar. The remaining 20% will have been almost entirely converted to fructose rather than the original glucose-fructose combination. Fructose is generally much more digestible than glucose-fructose.
Ultimately a 48 hour fermentation period will yield water kefir consisting of approximately 1.38% fructose. This amount of fructose accounts for the sweet taste of the water kefir.
A couple more tips for water kefir sugar:
- We recommend using organic sugars whenever possible as many non-organic sugars are processed with chemicals that are hard on the water kefir grains.
- White sugar makes the most mild tasting kefir (we recommend Organic Evaporated Cane Crystals); whole sugars containing molasses such as Rapadura and Succanat will make a stronger tasting kefir.
- Finished water kefir will taste fairly sweet (but nowhere near as sweet as the sugar water you started with). This is not an indication that the kefir grains malfunctioned but rather a byproduct of the small amount of fructose that remains.
- If you want to encourage your water kefir grains to multiply, use either a whole sugar (e.g. Rapadura or Succanat) or add 1 t. of molasses to 1/2 c. white sugar. The minerals in the molasses promote growth of the kefir grains. Click here for more information on encouraging kefir grains to multiply.