Water Kefir Primary and Secondary Ferments
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 *
- 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.
* I got my water kefir grains from Lydia at Divine Health
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.
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