My Love Affair with Water Kefir: 10 Reasons It’s One of my Favorite Foods

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I’ve been giving quite a few interviews of late and inevitably every interviewer wants to know what is my favorite cultured food? That’s an easy question because water kefir and kombucha are my favorites and when life is hectic, the two things I can manage to keep going in my kitchen. Many people have never heard of water kefir and so I’d like to take an opportunity to explain my devotion to water kefir as one of my favorite fermented foods.

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  1. It’s delicious. Really delicious. It’s sweet, can be bubbly, I can flavor it a hundred different ways. Whatever fruit, juice, or even herbs I have on hand can be used.
  2. I have no problem drinking a lot of it—if anything I usually run out before my next batch is ready. There are days when I get so tired of plain water. I realize I’m not really supposed to say I dislike water but it’s the truth at times. Water kefir keeps me hydrated and I’m so much more motivated to drink glass after glass.
  3. My kids love it. Another reason we often run out before the next batch is ready.
  4. It’s extremely easy to keep it going. I generally spend about 5 minutes every 48 hours making a gallon.
  5. It’s cheap to make. Water kefir can be made with plain sugar and water. It can be flavored with a bit of juice, fruit, or herbs. The cost of sugar and flavorings is very minimal particularly in comparison to the probiotic boost this gives us each day.
  6. It’s sustainable. As long as I take care of them, they continue to produce a new batch of water kefir every 24-48.
  7. It scales easily—the kefir grains typically grow and grow and over time can be used to make many more batches. I can also cut back to just a few quarts if we won’t be home as much for several days.
  8. I can use water kefir as a starter culture. I will typically use water kefir as a culture when I make cultured fruits, vegetables, and condiments. I know it might seem strange at first glance but I make a flavorful cultured salsa using a quarter cup of water kefir in place of whey in the recipe. I also use ¼ cup of water kefir per can of coconut milk to make coconut milk kefir for our morning smoothies (click here for instructions on how to make coconut milk kefir this way).
  9. It makes amazing popsicles and granitas. Blend fresh or frozen fruit with water kefir. Freeze in popsicle molds or use to make granitas.
  10. I can serve it to people who don’t normally eat or drink anything cultured and they love it. Over the years I’ve run into very few people who don’t like water kefir. As a society we’ve gotten so far away from eating cultured foods regularly that sometimes it can be a challenge to convince a new potential convert of how tasty cultured foods truly are. But water kefir is sweet and appeals to kids and adults alike. It’s also easy to teach others to make and is a great “first” cultured food.

Have you tried water kefir? Why do you love it?

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Comments

  1. Sharon says

    I LOVE water kefir. I drink lots too, and loved all of your ideas for using it more. Do you use the water kefir grains to make your coconut milk kefir or the beverage? I wasn’t sure after reading your article.

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      I use the actual finished water kefir instead of the kefir grains for coconut milk. While it is possible to use the kefir grains themselves, it really is a foreign culturing medium for them so inconsistent results are common. I have much more consistent results using the finished kefir and it keeps my grains healthier too.

  2. says

    What a great endorsement! More motivated now… I can’t believe the questionable drinks people (sometimes even me) buy–and so costly. I’m going to try water kefir next week.

  3. Angelique says

    When do you add the herbs to the keifir water? Does it depend on the herb? I’m thinking about giving lemon verbena, lemongrass, cinnamon basil or lemon rose scented geranium a try.

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      I prefer to add herbs after the grains have been removed. I really try to avoid adding anything except water and sugar to the grains. This keeps the grains in optimal health while still allowing me a lot of flexibility for flavoring options. Just remove the grains, add the herbs, and let the whole thing sit for 1-3+ days.

  4. Cheleste says

    I have just started making water kefir and can never get enough of it. I try not to drink it all at once so it’ll last till my next batch it ready.
    I love it with lemon (lemonade!) and with the blackberry syrup I’m making from the plentiful blackberries this time of year.
    I’m always thinking of things I’d like to try it with and have a supply of “ideas” in my cupboard.
    I’m glad you said you drink it all day because I was afraid I’d overdo it. My husband is liking the new drink and I’ll be making some for him to take to work soon too.
    The “other drink” for me tends to be an herbal infusion which is not sweet at all but usually has some peppermint and/or lavendar in it. I’m thinking of trying to culture my water kefir grains in that once to see what happens, but mostly I love having two very healthy ways to keep hydrated every day.
    Meanwhile, I’m still planning on trying to make other cultured foods as well. I keep thinking I’ll be the healthiest old lady I know some day, now that I know the secret… Great article!

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      We are big fans of water kefir lemonade here too. Blackberry syrup would be amazing! I’ve also had really good luck mixing finished water kefir with a nettle infusion. Half water kefir, half nettle infusion. It tastes amazing and you get all the wonderful benefits of both.

      With any cultured food, just start with small amounts and work your way. Listen to your body. Drinking it all day works for me but it may not work for everyone.

      Enjoy!

  5. Katherine says

    I am wondering how it compares to the probiotics in milk kefir and kombucha. Which is the best source? I am very interested in water kefir because I like fizzy drinks but don’t want to have soda.

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      It’s honestly hard to compare them because they simply contain different sets of beneficial yeast and bacteria. It’s sort of an apples and oranges thing–both fruit, both good for you, different sets of vitamins. I would try using milk kefir in a morning smoothie, and then drinking water kefir and/or kombucha throughout the day to get the benefits of the various cultures.

  6. Diane says

    I have taken sugar out of my diet … I am highly reactive to it… Does the keifer grains eat it all up… ? Can I use coconut sugar..??? Can I use raw honey that has not been pasteurize…?

    thank you kindly,

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      About 80% of the sugar is removed by the grains during a standard 48 hour fermentation period. Most of the remaining 20% is converted to fructose (from it’s original glucose-fructose state). So for a standard water kefir recipe where you are using 1/4 cup sugar per quart of water, you’d end up with about 3% sugar in the final product. This is a small fraction of what you’d find in most fruit juices for example.

      Coconut sugar can be used. To the best of my knowledge there isn’t much in the way of long term data on using coconut sugar in terms of the health of the kefir grains so there is a risk that long term you may have to replace your kefir grains.

      Raw honey is a bit problematic. It can certainly be used but keep in mind that honey is antibacterial and consequently can be hard on the kefir grains long term. As with the coconut sugar, it would just be important to keep an eye on your kefir grains and if they start to break down or your finished kefir seems to be getting sweeter than previous batches, you may need to replace your grains.

      • Barbara says

        I’ve never tried water kefir making. I’m a long time milk kefir and kombucha maker. I’ve recently eliminated sugar (fructose) from my diet, do you have to use sugar for water kefir? I do with kombucha and worry about that. I really like the sound of water kefir though.

        • Anita Abrams says

          I’m also required to eliminate sugars from my diet and am wondering what alternatives there are for making water kefir? For example, would it ferment just using lemon or orange rind?

          • Judy, RN, BSN, MPH says

            HI:
            I’m new to kefir, but not to the problem of sugar in our diets. the amount of sugar after fermentation is marginal. If Julie’s figures are right, about the amount you would get in 1-2 grapes per glass of kefir (say 6-8 ounces). Cells cannot absorb nutrients without glucose in one form or another. It doesn’t need much, but some is essential. I would suggest that if you want to try water kefir start with just a little bit and gauge how your body responds. Increase accordingly. Of course if all you drank was kefir water all day then you would have more sugar intake. Sugar per se is not bad for us, it is the abuse of sugar. If you are watching overall health, the benefits of the kefir should far outweigh the problems of the sugar.

  7. Rose Holtman says

    Hello …. I have a question, I’m kind of new to Kefir and started drinking milk kefir, I don’t do dairy … well at least for the past 7 months and I think the milk kefir constipates me. I have a little concern I need addressed before I try this. I had a pretty bad bout of candida, which is a yeast overgrowth in my stomach and sugar has been a no no for me. Can I still do the water and sugar kefir even though I try to stay away from sugar … my candida is gone now, but sugar gets me nervous. I do eat sugar from time to time but not much.

  8. says

    How can I store my water kefir grains if I won’t be using them for a few weeks? I’ve made sugar water to put them in and stored them in the fridge but I’m not sure that I haven’t killed them.

    • says

      Beverly Dreffs – You could use it once the fermentation is complete, but more as an additional sweetener. The initial sugar is needed to feed the water grains, keep them happy, alive, and producing the beneficial microorganisms during the fermentation process. During the 2nd fermentation the sugar (or juice) is used to create carbonation. A good portion of the sugar will be eaten up by the grains, if you allow it to culture for up to 72 hours for the 1st fermentation and 3-5 days for the 2nd.

  9. Melody says

    I’m interested in trying water kefir but I read somewhere that it takes a lot of grains to brew a batch. How many packages of the Cultures for Health water kefir would I need to buy to brew my first gallon? Thanks in advance for your response.

    • says

      Melody – I currently brew 1/2 gallon from one package of the grains. If they grow they can produce more. Since water kefir is a quick turnover in comparison with kombucha, I find that our family does well with about 1/2 gallon at a time.

  10. Waunita Carnes says

    I have been drinking Kefir Water for about 4 months. I have noticed I am not lactose intolerance anymore. I can eat milk products again. Another thing it is doing is getting rid of the rough spots on my back and stomach that old people get. I praise God for this.

  11. says

    I’ve been making 1-2 gallons of Kombucha for quite some time now but hadn’t even heard of WATER kefir until now! So if I want to make 2 quarts, I wouldn’t need to increase the kefir grains ( 3-4 T) just the sugar, from ¼ C to ½ C? If I chose to make a gallon, I would need 6-8 T of the grains and 1 C of sugar? Also, if I heat the water to dissolve the sugar, do I need to wait until the sugar water has returned to room temp before adding the grains? I love the short culture time!

    • Nor'easter says

      Good questions, Debbie! I look forward to the answers, too. I’ve been making kombucha fairly regularly as well as the whole family enjoys the bubbly refreshment and I know it’s good for us! Going to begin dairy kefir soon and would very much like to try water kefir as it provides different strains of bene-bacteria.

    • Julie Feickert says

      Yes, be sure to allow the sugar water to return to room temp. If it’s too warm it will kill the grains. The proper ratio for 1/2 gallon of water is 1/2 cup sugar and at least 3-4 T. of grains. For a gallon, you’d use a cup of sugar and I’d probably have at least 1/2 cup of grains in there.

  12. alexandra says

    Hi, I’m switching from making milk kefir yogurt to coconut water kefir as I no longer want to have dairy on a daily basis. Would I follow the same process? I would like to make coconut water kefir using raw coconut water. There is a farmer’s market on my street where I can buy actual coconuts versus store bought packaged ones. I’m still only a newbie in the culturing world but I figured using fresh coconut water would be even better – with water kefir grains. Am I on the right track? :-)

    Alexandra

    • Julie Feickert says

      You are on the right track! Coconut water kefir is a lovely probiotic drink. Water kefir grains will work best although some people do have luck converting their milk kefir grains (they won’t multiply though and likely won’t work quite as well). If you’re going to be mainly culturing coconut water I would suggest resting your grains in sugar water for 24-48 hours in between coconut water batches or at least every few batches. The sugar water will keep them well fed and healthy so they do the best possible job culturing the coconut water.

      • Brendan says

        great article I’m learning heaps from it, Thank you
        do you add sugar to Coconut water too or is it sweet enough?

  13. Karen says

    I made the kefir water and drank it. Now I have the grains with a little bit of water left in the jar. Do I make the sugar water mixture and add that to the jar to make more?

    • says

      Jean – Water kefir grains are very likely still viable even when they do not multiply. Do they still make good water kefir? Do they smell “off”? Those are usually better indications of a culture gone wrong, in my experience, than not multiplying.

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