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Water Kefir: Lemonade and Vanilla Bean Flavors

I got my first pickl-it jars about 3 months ago. I also got some water kefir grains that same week. I immediately began making water kefir and we have been hooked ever since.

We began small and have been building up over time. We did this for two reasons. First, like all probiotic foods it is a good idea to build up your dose to avoid too much “die off” or gut flora changes at once. In addition since this is made with sugar I wanted to be sure we could handle any residual sugar in our ferments and not ingest too much.

The good news is that it is helping everyone’s digestion. You may recall that my youngest has been seeing an enzyme therapist. We have seen huge benefits from that treatment and I am thrilled that her stomach aches are so much better but the enzymes were getting expensive! Also she still has stomach aches at times that I can’t explain. Well, the more water kefir she drinks, the fewer expensive enzymes she needs to take to prevent stomach aches with her meals. We still don’t have it all figured out (just tonight she has a stomach ache that is baffling me). But we are getting the same benefit from water kefir that costs me just pennies a serving as the enzymes that are considerably more expensive. This a very good thing and it gives me hope that we can finally solve this for her with real food instead of expensive supplements.

I’m going to share with you my basic water kefir recipe. I don’t feel the need to dress it up much.  There are more exciting second ferment recipes out there but this is what we like and happily drink. There is a bit of an art to fermenting anything and water kefir is no exception. What tastes good to you and your family is what you should make. My family has recalibrated our taste buds and so we need very little sweetness for foods to be tasty and satisfying. You may not feel the same. Feel free to use my recipes as a starting point and make your own delicious variations.

Water Kefir is made from sugar and will contain some residual sugar in it no matter how long you ferment it so be aware of that fact. If you are on GAPS this should only be consumed on full GAPS after significant healing has taken place. 

I was speaking with Kathleen, the maker of the Pickl-it Jar. She graciously answered my many questions about fermenting. One of those questions was about alcohol formation in ferments. Many have complained that their water kefir becomes very alcoholic very quickly. I was saying to her that I hadn’t noticed any significant alcohol in my pickl-it water kefir and asked why that might be. It turns out that one of the benefits to fermenting in an anaerobic container is that it strictly limits the amount of alcohol that is formed. So if you have been avoiding water kefir because it is so easy to make it too alcoholic have no fear!  Fermenting it anaerobically will keep that alcohol level very low.  The GT kombucha I drank the other day tastes more alcoholic than the water kefir I am making at home.

Just a note about the water kefir pictured above.  This is a 3L pickl-it so double the size in my recipe.  Also  for some reason the photo came out very dark. In part because it is such a large jar. It won’t be that dark if you follow my recipe.

Water Kefir Recipe Primary Ferment

  • 1.5L pickl-it jar
  • 1/2 cup water kefir grains (affiliate link) 
  • 1/4 cup Organic Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Organic Molasses
  • Shell from half an egg that has been well washed or a calcium tablet. I have a bottle of calcium tablets that I am using up making water kefir but once they are gone I will switch to egg shells.
  • Filtered water
  • A tea towel or other way to protect the pickl-it jar from light.

In a clean 1.5L pickl-it jar put water kefir grains, sugar, molasses, and egg shell or calcium tablet.  Then use filtered water to fill it to the shoulder.  Close the jar and insert the air lock and fill it with water to the fill line.  Wrap the Pickl-it in a towel to protect it from the light and set it aside for the next 1-4 days.

 Since we are on GAPS I let it go until I can’t taste any sweetness. I have found that this takes 4 days in my kitchen and climate.  You may want it to still be sweet or have a different climate.  The first couple of times that you make it you should taste a little every day to see when it gets to the right level for you.  Once it is how you like it you are ready for a second ferment.


Second Ferments

A second ferment is how you flavor your water kefir and also how you get it fizzy if you want that.  We like it fizzy so I do my second ferment in a flip top bottle.  Otherwise you could do it in a pickl-it to keep it from getting fizzy.  For a secondary ferment you will pour the water kefir through a strainer to separate the liquid from the solids.  At that point you should discard the egg shell if you used one. I find that my grains have usually doubled or tripled in volume and so I measure out my grains for my next batch and save, give away or discard the rest.  



Lemonade Water Kefir Soda

We find this to be very tasty and refreshing. If you want it sweeter you can add more sugar or some fruit juice or honey. This has nearly all of the sugar fermented out of it to keep it safe for GAPS.

  • 16 oz flip top bottle (like the kind that Grolsh beer comes in) 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, 
  • 1 tsp sugar
  •  Primary ferment water kefir

In the clean flip top bottle put the sugar and lemon juice. Then fill the bottle just to the shoulder with water kefir from a primary fement.  Close the flip top securely and wrap in a towel and place on the counter for 12-24 hours.  Move the bottle to the fridge and wait for it to be well chilled before attempting to open it.  This should be very fizzy.  Depending on how warm your home is and how long you let it sit out it may be so fizzy that it explodes everywhere when you open it or it may be somewhat flat. There is some trial and guess to getting it right for your climate. 

Vanilla Bean Water Kefir Soda

This is my children’s favorite water keifir soda. I find it to be a bit blah but they love it and get very excited about it. The best thing is that I can reuse the same vanilla bean many times over so making this flavor of kefir soda is very quick and easy.

  • 16 oz flip top bottle (like for Grolsh beer)
  • 1 wholeVanilla Bean
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • primary ferment water kefir

In a clean flip top bottle insert one vanilla bean and the sugar.  Pour in water kefir to fill to the shoulder.  (In the above picture the vanilla water kefir is in the larger bottle.  I simply doubled the sugar but did the rest the same). Wrap in a towel and set on the counter for 12-24 hours before moving it to the fridge. Wait for it to be well chilled before attempting to open it.  This should be very fizzy.  Depending on how warm your home is and how long you let it sit out it may be so fizzy that it explodes everywhere when you open it or it may be somewhat flat.  There is some trial and guess to getting it right for your climate. 

Do you make Water Kefir?  Do you have a favorite secondary ferment recipe that you would like to share? Please do so in the comments.

Many of my blog posts contain affiliate links. Purchasing through an affiliate link allows me to keep blogging and sharing what I learn with you. It is a bit like leaving a tip for service and is very much appreciated.
Thank You! –PattyLA


  1. I like to add sliced ginger and lemon juice to mine. Do you know if there’s any benefit to eating leftover water kefir grains? I’ve heard people eat milk kefir grains.

    You mentioned in your post about your recent dental work that you were trying out a new probiotic. I was wondering if you’ve found it helpful and would recommend it. Were you taking another kind of probiotic before this?

  2. My family’s favorite secondary ferment is simply organic grape juice. They love it! I usually get SO much carbonation that I have to be careful opening the bottles! (Yes, I have sprayed my ceiling several time! Haha!)

    • Hi, can you tell me how much grape juice you use? Thanks lots!

  3. My family’s favorite water kefir is usually the batches I have used fresh ripe fruit in the second ferment. Strawberry, Peach or Pineapple have been well-received. I use juice in the winter, when local fruit isn’t an option and they drink it, but they RAVE about the fresh fruit WK.

  4. This is interesting, I haven’t heard of water kefir before. You keep talking of water kefir grains in this post. Are they different from ‘normal’ kefir grains one would use to make kefir from milk? And would normal kefir grains do the job?

    • Yes water Kefir grains are different. I have heard that you can “convert” milk kefir grains to making water kefir but I do not know how well that works long term. Dom’s Kefir site has some info about that.

  5. I ordered some water kefir grains and it is about 2 tbsp of grains. Do you think I can use the same ratios of ingredients a few times until they grow to 1/2 cup? Can you use grade b maple syrup instead of molasses? Can’t wait to get this going!

    • Yes that will work to use the same ratio.
      I have heard from others that maple syrup does not taste great in WK but have not tried it myself. I’m not sure how it compares mineral wise.

  6. I have a few questions for you. What’s the difference between Black strap molasses and just molasses? I used black strap first and my KW turned really syrupy. Is that normal consistancy?
    I just bought reg. molasses and it’s pretty thick as well so I’m guessing will have the same consistancy. It seems that a thickness like that wouldn’t get fizzy in a second ferment? And do you add the egg every batch? I thought I had more questions but I think that’s all:) Thanks!

    • Hi Kristikka,
      I have not had my WK go syrupy but I have heard of that from others. Are you using a pickl-it jar? Molasses is very thick but you only use a small amount so it won’t make the mixture thick.
      I add egg shell every time.


      • Yeah, I used a pickle it and followed your recipe. Maybe my grains are tired from making coconut kefir or they got kind of sandy from the crazy heat this winter in Texas. I’ll try adding less molasses.

  7. Hi Patty. So….do you consider the sugar to be completely gone after 4 days? I’m assuming there might be some left, correct? we all have candida so that is a big concern here. Mostly for me.

    • You really will need to test it. After 4 days it is not sweet tasting to me but our ability to taste sweet can change over time. Also now that it is winter I am having to let it go longer than 4 days to get fully fermented as much as I want it to.

  8. Hi!
    I am just making my first batch of WK, and have started my second ferment. A couple of questions – 1. Is it okay to use bottles with screw tops that “Kevita” brand water kefir was purchased in? I would think they are strong enough glass, as the store-bought kefir is explosively fuzzy from the store. I do have the flip-top bottles, and I may buy more, but usually I keep those for kombucha, as I make HUGE batches of that at a time, and it usually uses all the bottles I have.
    2. I tried to use some dried blueberries in the first ferment in one of my batches, and they floated to the top, developed a slime, and didn’t allow the kefir to become fuzzy at all. The same thing happened to my kombucha second ferment. When I looked at the label, it said they were just dried blueberries, no chemicals or preservatives. I’m confused. Dates worked fine, as did dried ginger, but not the blueberries. Any thoughts on this?
    3. What’s your take on using fruit for the second ferment with the lemon juice, but not adding additional sugar?
    4. I don’t care for the taste of the molasses. I’m thinking that the sugar should be enough to sweeten the water, and the eggshell is there for the minerals, so why is the molasses necessary? Could anything else be used?
    5. Has anyone ever tried honey to sweeten the water?

    Thanks so much! You are a wealth of information, and it is much appreciated!

    • Hi Ann,
      1. Those bottles will likely work. It is best if you don’t switch back and forth between kombucha and water kefir in the same bottles since they are such different ferments.
      2. I really don’t know about dried blueberries. I haven’t ever used them to ferment with.
      3. Fruit is fine for a second ferment. It can get very fizzy very quickly so keep an eye on it. You will need more than the 1 tsp of sugar I use per bottle though since it isn’t as concentrated.
      4. You can try it without the molasses. You may need more minerals than the egg shell can provide though. Some other ideas for minerals are dates, concentrace drops, and multi mineral pills. If your grains stop growing when they were before it is likely that they aren’t getting enough minerals.
      5. If you use honey to sweeten you need to boil it first since raw honey is anti-microbial and is likely to kill your ferment. This is especially bad in the primary ferment when it will have contact with your grains.

      Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!

  9. Hello!

    I’m making my first batch of water kefir soon, and am planning on attempting a fizzy second fermentation. Would it be safe to use a mason jar for this? I’m worried about the pressure buildup. Perhaps as long as I don’t screw the lid on really tightly?

    Thank you!

    • The only way to make it fizzy is in a bale top jar. It won’t get really fizzy in a Mason jar since they leak air.

      • Thanks! You’re right…it’s not very fizzy…but I’m also not worried about the jars exploding, so I don’t mind. =] Broken glass + pet paws = bad combination.

  10. What kind of filtered water do you use?

    • Catherine for water kefir it is important that chlorine be filtered out of the water since that can kill the kefir grains.

  11. 1) I read on that fermenting the water kefir during the first ferment longer than 72 hours can starve the kefir grains and harm them. What is your experience with this?
    2) Is there a reason you use organic sugar + molasses instead of just unrefined rapadura or sucanat sugar?
    Thank you.

    • 1) my experience was that for 9 months of following this recipe my grains nearly doubled every time I strained out my water kefir every 4 days. I supplied tons of people local to me with grains and still had them coming out my ears. I had to stop making water kefir after about 9 months and have not been able to resume it but I assume that I would continue to have the same sucess.

      2. it is cheaper to use sugar and molasses instead of rapadura. Plus I have to keep refined sugar on hand for making kombucha so I just have to stock one kind of sugar.

  12. Adding ginger is not good for the probiotic effect. Ginger is antiseptic. Mint, berry’s etc..have also antiseptic properties. Google your ingredient first to see if it is antiseptic! You can use them, but you have not the good probiotics and that’s what you want from the Kefir.

  13. Can you flavor the 2F with coconut water? Will there be a good taste?

    • Use anything you want. I haven’t done that so I can’t say what it will taste like.

  14. I love WK..however my only concern with your method is that u r using less sugar than the basic formula calls for…and then going 4 days instead of 48 hours. While I understand your need to eliminate the sugar…it’s important not to forget the science. The grains are alive and need to eat…in order to ferment and bless you with just be sure you feed them often enough so they don’t weaken over time…and continue to produce hardy grains…

    • I continued to make WK using this method and the same grains (minus the gallons of grains that I gave away or composted) for over a year without them dying at all. They grew and thrived. In fact many people wondered how I had such wonderful thriving grains after they managed to kill them and come back to me for more. Because of some life circumstances I had to stop for a while and haven’t restarted but this method did not harm my grains in the least.


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