Recipe Fruit Flavoured Water Kefir

SatNavSaysStraightOn

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Kefir or kephir, is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains. The drink originated in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains, but being allergic to all things dairy, I have needed to look at water based kefir, or tibicos, which is a traditional fermented drink made by culturing water, sugar, and fruit with a starter culture. The starter culture contains various beneficial bacteria and yeasts that produce a slightly tart, effervescent drink.

Sounds straightforward enough doesn't it? Well the first thing you need to get your hands on isn't the flavour, or the suitable sugars but the water kefir grains (also known as California bees or Japanese water crystals). The "kefir grains" contain no actual grains such as wheat, rye, etc, but refers to the looks of the culture itself.

So the recipe I tried initially had some interesting ideas of what water to use, but it all made sense when you read up on the requirements of the cultures. They need sugars and minerals. So my really pure rain water that is my tap water where I live (in rural Australia) is actually unsuitable! It doesn't contain enough nutrients for the cultures so I have actually had to purchase some pure spring water. Luckily large containers of spring water are really cheap in Australia so that hasn't affected us much. Incidentally most tap water will also be unsuitable for use because of the chloride and fluoride that is used or added to the water to kill bacteria. Exactly not what is needed because you are wanting these bacteria to live. However, they are additions that are easily removed by simply allowing your water to stand for 48 hours before using it. You will see the bubbles coming off the water, stir it to get them out before use.

And finally, as with all fermentation, it takes time: days literally and how long it takes depends of the temperature where you keep your water kephir, when they were last used, how healthy they are and so on. My batch took 3 days for the initial fermentation but looked considerably healthier afterwards, so they should be a touch quicker next time round. Like sourdough starters and many others, you keep re-using the water kefir grains, so although the initial purchase of them can be pricey (mine were out of date, so free), they pay for themselves if you keep using them and keep them alive.

So what do they look like?
These are my water kefir grains in a brown sugar water solution (as in my sugar is brown).

 
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SatNavSaysStraightOn

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So roughly speaking you need water, sugar, a date or prune (or fig), the water kefir grains and a lemon or lime. Add some warmth and some time and then flavour the resulting mixture and you're done.

Ingredients
1/2 cup of water kephir grains
2 * 1L of spring/non-sparkling mineral water
75g of a brown sugar (you want the nutrients from the sugar) (mix coconut or palm sugar with raw brown sugar if you want to - bear in mind that your drink will have a browner look if you do use brown sugars, but it is better for the water kefir if you do).
2 dates/prunes/figs or similar
1/2 lemon or lime (cut in half again)

Method
You'll need 2 clean, sterile kilner jars or fermentation jars that will hold roughly 1.5L of water and you'll also need something to cover the open jars with - they need air. I used some spare cheesecloths, but you can use a clean tea towel, either way a couple of strong elastic bands will also be useful to secure the cheesecloth to the tops of the jars.
  1. Day 0 - Dissolve the sugar in the water - if you need to warm the water to achieve this, make sure you allow it to cool before you put the water kefir in to it in a minute. You don't want to cook them.
  2. Now divide the sugar water evenly between the two jars and add 1/4 cup of drained water kefir grains to each jar (keep the drained water solution), 1 date/prune/fig and 1/4 piece of lemon/lime to each jar and stir. If you have any existing water kefir water left over (you may have kept the water that your water kefir grains were in before you drained them), you can add 1/4 cup per jar as well. It contains loads of bacteria that are good for this process and will kick start it.
  3. Now cover the jars with the cloth, secure with an elastic band and leave on the counter (mine went onto the mantelshelf because the nights are cold here at the moment) and leave it to do its work. This can take between 2-4 days depending on the temperature and all of the stuff I mentioned before.

 
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SatNavSaysStraightOn

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We're not quite done yet because there is a second fermentation stage that does not involve the water kefir grains, but does involve adding some flavour to the water kefir.
So first you need to store or re-use your water kefir grains, so either make up another batch as above and carry on to make more, or make up a smaller batch of sugar water enough to cover the grains twice, remember to add a date/prune/fig and some lemon/lime, and then put them into the fridge to store. You'll need to refresh the solution every couple of weeks.
  1. Day 2-4 - Once the mixture no longer tastes sweet and the date/prune/fig is floating and has been for a while, (don't double dip when you taste the water) you are ready for the next stage but do make sure that it has fermented fully and if in doubt, just give it a tad longer and see if it changes - overnight won't hurt. Mine did change, so I hadn't left it long enough first time around. You want to drain the liquid off collecting it all in another container. Also make sure you keep what is caught in the sieve because that contains your water kefir grains. The lemon and date/fig/prune are done with so you can fish those out and dispose of them.
  2. Prepare your fruit flavouring. I made up 2 different fruit flavours which both turned out to be enough to have done both jars just by themselves, so you'll need less fruit than you think! So basically 1 whole orange and 1 lemon is enough to flavour everything made in stage 1


For any fruit flavour the process is much the same. You are going to need either the 2 kilner jars from above or a 2-3 litre fermentation bottle (ideally wide mouth and something that will build up some pressure without going bang! If you opt for the easy one and use the kilner jars you were using before, then you need to make sure that you are around to periodically open the lids and release the build up of pressure (this is what I did). If you use something with an airlock system, you will not get the fizziness that the kilner jars can create, but you won't need to worry about the container potentially going bang!

Method - Stage 2
  1. Prepare your fruit and mash it up a touch (watch for pomegranate juice going everywhere and where an old t shirt or apron whilst you squish the fruit up!).
  2. Using 2 of the kilner jars from above (cleaned and sterilised), or a large 2 litre wide mouth fermentation bottle, add the squished fruit to the jars and then add the kefir water from above to the jars as well. You want to fill them to within an inch of the top - the less air in the system the more gas pressure that can build up making your final drink more sparkling.
  3. Seal the jars, swirl the fruit around a touch and put aside for 24 hours or so. The sealed kilner jars will need the pressure releasing so periodically (every couple of hours or so) carefully open the jars and then close them again. If you are needing to release the pressure too often or the contents are spilling over the sides, consider putting the jars in the fridge to slow the process down.
  4. When the bacteria have done their thing after 24 hours, you have 2 options. The first is to leave the fruit in the kefir water, but it will carry on fermenting, and you will need to watch it. Your second option and probably the better option, is to bottle the flavoured kefir water up into dedicated vessels such as kilner bottles or beer bottles with the swing lid. Make sure they are clean and sterile (as always) and fill to within an inch of the top, seal and put into the fridge ready to drink.
 
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SatNavSaysStraightOn

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SatNavSaysStraightOn

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lol, writing it up took much longer! Its literally a 10 minutes prep and setup, leave 2 days (but check on every now and again), 10 mins, leave another day, 5 mins and done.

I think people get too used to instant this and that - open a bottle of coke... well coke took time to make, just someone else's. And this tastes 100% better and is much better for you because all of those sugars in the fruit and the sugar water at the start are all consumed by the bacteria. It makes a probiotic drink that is really refreshing (and I can't have normal probiotics, so getting one of those in the supermarket isn't something I can do, though they are starting to sell water kefir in places, it isn't the norm).
 

rascal

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lol, writing it up took much longer! Its literally a 10 minutes prep and setup, leave 2 days (but check on every now and again), 10 mins, leave another day, 5 mins and done.

I think people get too used to instant this and that - open a bottle of coke... well coke took time to make, just someone else's. And this tastes 100% better and is much better for you because all of those sugars in the fruit and the sugar water at the start are all consumed by the bacteria. It makes a probiotic drink that is really refreshing (and I can't have normal probiotics, so getting one of those in the supermarket isn't something I can do, though they are starting to sell water kefir in places, it isn't the norm).
Now you make it seem easy!! :)

Russ
 
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