Water kefir

Text and photos: Anna Plaszczyk

29 June 2019

It improves metabolism, regulates liver functions and strengthens the immune system. When applied externally, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. For some people – it is an equivalent of milk kefir, for others - a non-alcoholic champagne. Water kefir – a non-dairy probiotic, which can be made at home.

The origin of water kefir grains is not known. Scientists have discovered them in Mexico in some species of cacti. They are called Tibi or Tibicos. Contrary to a popular opinion they have nothing to do with the real algae.

Water kefir consist of many lactic acid bacteria and yeasts such as Lactobacillus (L. casei, L. hilgardii, L. hordei, L. brevis, L. nagelii), Leuconostoc (L. mesenteroides, L. citreum) Acetobacter (A. orientalis, A. labarum), Streptococcus (S. lactis) and fungi: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Hanseniaospora valbyensis, Zygotorulaspora florentina, Lachancea fermentati. The water kefir grains ferment in sweet water, producing sweet, sparkling, refreshing drink, containing about 1.5-3% of the sugar in the form of fructose. It is rich in vitamins B1, B6 and B12, it also contains vitamin PP, K, iron and folic acid.

This drink with specific flavour, resembling more a kind of alcohol-free champagne than the traditional milk kefir, supports the intestinal flora and regulates bowel function. It is recommended during and after an antibiotic therapy. Water kefir cleanses the body of toxins, stimulates the immune system and combats harmful fungi and bacteria. Water kefir helps in digestion and it stimulates the metabolic functions of the liver. It is recommended for people with Helicobacter pylori infections, one of the causes of peptic ulcer disease. Water kefir helps in the treatment of urinary tract infections, it is used for allergies or atopic dermatitis.

Where can you buy water kefir grains? The easiest way to find them are auction sites or asking among friends. The kefir grains will multiply quickly and everyone who is growing them at home can split it in two and give their friends a part of it in a short time.

Water kefir can be made of sweetened water, from almost any juice or coconut water. You can also prepare kefir -based fruit drinks - with lemon juice, mint, dried or fresh fruits. While preparing water kefir, you should remember not to use chlorinated water (directly from the tap) and metal tools. Colonies of water kefir die in contact with the metal! Therefore, kefir should be prepared in glass or plastic dishes, using wooden or plastic spoons.

Basic recipe:
3 tablespoons of water kefir grains
1 litre of boiled, lukewarm water (or spring water)
3 tablespoons of sugar (preferably cane sugar)
6 raisins with no sulphite

Kefir grains should be rinsed on a plastic sieve, put into the sweet, lukewarm water with the raisins. Raisins can be earlier blanched in hot water. A jar should be covered with gauze. The jar should not be twisted, because during fermentation, a large amount of gases are produced that can literally blow the jar up.

Water kefir grains should ferment in water with sugar for 24 to 48 hours in a warm sunny location. After this period, a sparkling drink should be strained with a fine, plastic sieve. Sweetened water with raisins should be again added to the grains. The drink is carbonated, slightly sweet and ready for consumption.

The drink, thanks to its fermentation, can also be used to prepare other refreshing fruit drinks or lemonade. We can add to it fresh or dried fruits, juices or purees. After one or three days a carbonated fruit drink will be ready.

Strawberry water kefir:
1/2 kg of strawberries
2 tablespoons of sugar
1,2 litres of water kefir (without crystals!)

Blend strawberries with sugar, add kefir and mix thoroughly. Put it away for 24 hours. If you want it to be more sparkling – it should ferment even longer, but control the degree of fermentation from time to time. The speed of the process depends on the quality of the fruits, temperature, and power of the original water kefir.

Water kefir crystals can double their volume even within two weeks. The speed of this process depends inter alia on the amount of sugar used in solution, environment temperature, and finally - the frequency of kefir production. It is good to give excess of crystals to friend, or - prepare masks from them. Also the finished drink can be used to wipe the skin, especially the one with problems.

Face Mask:
1 tablespoon of crystals
1 tablespoon of herbs - depending on the needs and type of skin problems
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of oatmeal

Brew herbs in a small amount of boiling water. Grind oatmeal in a coffee grinder. The crystals should be shredded into a pap, remembering to avoid metal tools. Add oatmeal and brew to the crystals. The mask should have the consistency of a cream. We put it on the face for 10-15 minutes.

If you have to travel - leave crystals in a glass jar in the refrigerator, with a small amount of water and with plenty of sugar. Remember to close the jar with a gauze, and no a cap!