Most of us have heard of kombucha by now, probably tried it and may even make it at home. And most of us have tried ginger ale, likely via the popular Canada Dry variety, but possibly some of us are making ginger beer as well. Then, there is hard apple cider, another easy DIY drink, with the bonus option of waiting for it to turn into homemade apple cider vinegar. Fermenting has become a popular pastime, but even for those who haven’t tried it yet, this is a great place to start.
In the ever-increasing list of healthy fermented beverages, water kefir represents another vegan option for those of us unable to partake of the better-known milk-based kefir. Luckily, water kefir tastes terrifically refreshing, offers friendly bacteria for major probiotic benefits (as seen in other fermented beverages) and can be flavored in many different, delightful ways. Plus, it’s absolutely simple and affordable to make at home.
Here’s What You’ll Need
The ingredient list for water kefir is short and sweet: water, sugar and water kefir grains. Dehydrated water kefir grains are available online for around twenty dollars and are used indefinitely, as long as they are fed. As for the water, it needs to be chlorine-free, and with regards to the sugar, organic raw would be the best choice. Coconut sugar and blackstrap molasses may also work well.
Often, the grains come in a starter kit, but if they don’t, the list for making water kefir is also pretty commonplace, especially for those who have fermented before. We’ll need a wooden spoon (specifically avoiding metal), a glass jar, a strainer, a porous cloth such as a piece of old T-shirt or cheesecloth or even a coffee filter, and a rubber band to keep the cloth fixed atop the jar.
Here’s How You Do It
In order to make kefir, the first step is to dissolve the sugar (about a quarter-cup) into a small amount of hot water. Add this mixture to about a gallon of chlorine-free water, which should be at room temperature before adding it to the kefir grains in a large jar or crock. Cover the jar’s mouth with cloth, fastening it on with a piece of string or rubber band. Let the mixture ferment for about 48 hours.
Once the water kefir has fermented, the kefir grains can be taken away with a non-metal strainer, the now slightly effervescent drink should be stored in a new glass container, such as a mason jar. At this point, a new water kefir can be started with the same grains, and the prepared drink can be stored away. Or…
Here’s How to Get Creative
While the first fermentation kefir is perfectly pleasant to drink, things can get a little funkier and flavorful. Probably the most popular choice of this is a carbonated fruit juice, achieved by adding a couple of ounces of fruit juice, especially organic apple, grape or pomegranate for a second fermentation.
There are other options. Adding a bit of real vanilla extract can work well for making something similar to a cream soda. A bit of lemon juice just before drinking it makes for nice, probiotic lemonade. Or, dropping in a few prunes or raisins will make for a much healthier version of Dr. Pepper. And, there are many other varieties to explore.
Why It’s Worth Doing
The main point for drinking fermented beverages is to get healthy bacteria into our guts. Primarily, this aids in digestion, keeping our stomachs balanced and healthy, but water kefir, like kombucha, has also been linked to many other marvelously miraculous medicinal qualities.
While that is all well and fine, and of course, we are all happy to do something for the good of our body, in reality, water kefir and all these great flavor variations are just damned tasty drinks, and they don’t require that acquired taste factor that many other fermented items often do. So, we get the beneficial boost and something sweet to sip.
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