DIY Soda: Kefir Water
I have to update this post (original post 3/7/15). It’s been 3 months and I can no longer in good conscience refer to this as “lightly carbonated”. I have cracked open the lid and been sprayed too many times or had a glass fizz over while pouring it to not change the description. I guess my kefir grains are really happy now that they have gotten in a routine!!!
I don’t even know how I ended up doing this one. Somewhere, somehow, I read something about making ginger ale. Then I needed to know more, went down the Google rabbit hole, read about making Kefir Water/Kefir Soda, then I ordered these things called Kefir Grains, and now I’m writing this. It was not intentional, but it’s turned out to be pretty cool. Story of my life. LOL
So what the heck is this stuff? It’s a lightly sweet, lacto-fermented beverage made from sugar water or juice. The kefir “grains” are actually small translucent clumps of happy little bacteria and yeast just doing their thing, making what is basically a refreshing probiotic drink. Since it is not dairy based, I find it to be a nice beverage to have with meals, particularly breakfast. It is also lightly carbonated (when you first start, then it gets really carbonated), which I think is awesome. You can flavor it with fresh fruit, dried fruit (without sulfites–they don’t play nice with active cultures), juice, vanilla, ginger, whatever you feel like for the 2nd fermentation–this is also where the carbonating takes place. So, in 48-72 hours of starting, you are up and running. The first fermentation takes 24-48 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen (it’s winter/colder=lower activity of the grains, so I’m using the 36-48 hour recommendations until it warms up). The 2nd fermentation takes 24 hours, then it’s ready to drink. I put mine in the fridge and serve it with ice.
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I just did the first few batches in quart mason jars or empty wine bottles since I wasn’t sure what to expect–I thought this very well could be the nastiest thing of all time. Well, it wasn’t. I love this stuff!!! Within about a week, I was making a trip to IKEA to get some Korken bottles–glass bottles with stoppers. They seem to make the carbonating more efficient and since the boys really like the “soda”, I didn’t want them associating a beverage that is OK for them coming out of a wine bottle. Heh. In this picture, the bottle on the left has just 2 Tablespoons of grape juice concentrate in it for the 2nd fermentation and the bottle on the right is the new batch of sugar water (I use 1/4 cup raw sugar which is why it has a tan)–you can see the kefir grains at the very bottom.
I need to go back and get a 3rd bottle to keep up with the cycle.
Bottle 1, hours 1-24: 1/4 cup sugar and grains
Bottle 2, hours 24-48: strain grains out and add up to 1/4 cup juice or fruit
Bottle 3, hours 48+: in the refrigerator, the bottle we are drinking
So far, I have made grape, ginger ale, plum ginger (2 chopped dried plums and about 1 inch of sliced ginger root), apple, and I have a 2nd fermentation going right now with just some vanilla extract to see if it really does taste like cream soda (update: it tastes better than cream soda)! Frozen 100% juice concentrates are the easiest way to add flavors. I just put a can in a freezer safe container and use 2 Tbs as needed. Just mix the concentrate in a little bit of water, stir it well, and add it to your 2nd fermentation bottle. Give it a try–it’s economical, the grains don’t have to be replaced since you just keep reusing them, it’s zero waste since you reuse your bottles, and it’s healthy!!! No preservatives, no added colors, no artificial ingredients! And, if you get tired of it and want to take a break, you just dry the grains out and store them in the refrigerator. :)
So far, we have tried:
Just adding vanilla extract, about 2 tsp
Frozen concentrates: grape, apple, strawberry kiwi, berry blend
Fresh fruit: strawberry, raspberry, blackberry
Dried fruit: raisins, cranberries, plums
Ginger ale: slice 1 inch of ginger and add to 2nd fermentation bottle