water kefir grains in pyrex measuring cup

Water Kefir: powerful (and delicous) immune support

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A lot of people ask me, “What in the world is water kefir?”

I had never heard of water kefir either until a couple years ago. As I started learning more about how I needed to eat to improve my overall wellness and better handle my autoimmune issues, I began to understand the importance of including a variety of probiotics in my diet. 

I take a great probiotic supplement but I try to include other sources as well. Fermented foods are a fantastic way to increase your consumption of probiotics. I love kombucha but found I struggled a bit with making it – and buying it often certainly wasn’t in my budget. I tried milk kefir a few times and then a friend told me about making water kefir. It’s a lightly sweet, naturally carbonated drink that is simple and quick to make. All you need are the grains, water, and sugar.

Are they really GRAINS?

Water kefir grains (also know as tibicos) are not really grains but rather a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts that form “grains” from dextran polysaccharide predicted by one of the bacteria (Lactobacillus brevis). The microbes present in the kefir grains work together to maintain a stable culture. They feed off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas, which carbonates the drink. Water kefir grains are thought to have originated in Mexico where they were found as crystals on the paddles of a cactus plant. (1)

The grains drive and multiply with proper care. Many people choose to eat the extra grains (you can add to smoothies), or even feed to pets to add probiotics to their diet! I store my extra grains in a jar in the fridge, add a little sugar every few weeks. I am always happy to share a scoop with friends who want to start making water kefir.

The coolest part?

You can produce a batch of water kefir in just 24-48 hours. I generally add my kefir grains to sugar water made with organic cane sugar and a bit of coconut sugar to add minerals and let sit for 48 hours. At that point I strain out the grains and pour the kefir water into bottles with a little juice for a second ferment for another 24 hours. This increases the carbonation and creates a refreshing, fizzy drink with a great variety of probiotics.

fizzy water kefir getting pouring into a glass

What type of bottles? I save my kombucha bottles and reuse them. We run them through the dishwasher but you can also wash by hand with hot water. 

What type of probiotics are in water kefir?

Typically the grains have a mix of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria, with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida, and Kloeckera. Probiotics are amazing for immune function – after all the majority of our immune system is based in the gut. I’ve been able to do a better job of keeping the RA Monster under control by improving my diet: reducing dairy and wheat and increasing both anti-inflammatory foods and probiotics.

I love the ease of making water kefir. We experiment with different juices and fruits for the second ferment. It’s a great alternative to soda for those of you that find yourselves jonesing for a coke now and then. Our favorites have been apple juice, cranberry juice, and ginger. I’ll sometimes add a drop or two of essential oil during the bottling stage such as lime, lemon, or ginger.

I encourage you to give it a try. It’s simple, fun to customize flavors and will give you a great, tasty source for adding probiotics to your diet.

If you’re an elderberry fan and would like to amp up water kefir’s immune supporting power, try elderberry water kefir. And if you’re interested in other fermented foods, this fermented salsa is absolutely delicious.

water kefir grains and packaging from Florida sun kefir

If you’re interested in getting some grains (and you’re not near me ‘cause I almost always have plenty to give), these are the ones I purchased from Amazon.*

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