Water kefir grains (also known as Tibicos) are essentially tiny little SCOBYs. They are not grains, as in wheat, but in fact ancient grains. The microbes present in them work in symbiosis to create a stable culture. These grains are fed a sugar water solution (see recipe below). Once fermented they produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas (which carbonates the drink). Water kefir is very gentle on the gut and a great starting point when it comes to fermented drinks.
NB: chlorine found in tap water will harm your grains, so always use filtered or cool, boiled water. Metals should also be avoided as they could damage your grains. It’s best to use plastic or glass containers, and plastic or wooden utensils.
Why water kefir and other fermented food and drink is so good for us
When I first started taking gut health seriously in 2014, most people were still highly skeptical of the concept. Nowadays it’s becoming more and more mainstream, being discussed on programmes such as the BBC’s Trust Me I’m A Doctor. On the show, home fermented foods came out winning as a method of promoting gut health.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria (also known as good bacteria or beneficial bacteria). A lack of good bacteria is said to be the root cause of many autoimmune conditions – when we eat fermented foods we add these good bacteria to our intestinal flora. This increases our gut health, which in turn increases the health of our digestive system and boosts our immune system.
Fermented foods are also easier to digest than regular food, as a lot of the digestion work has already been done for us during the fermentation process. Whilst taking probiotic supplementation is the most convenient way of promoting gut health, there’s no denying that quality supplements are expensive. Even when we’re paying a small fortune, there are no guarantees they’ll yield any value for our gut. Home fermented food and drinks are the very best – and most cost effective way – of getting probiotics into our lives.
How to make water kefir in a 1L jar
- in a one litre jar or container, dissolve ¼ cup of sugar with a little boiling water (100ml or so)
- top up the jar with cold water, leaving a 50ml space
- add ¼ cup of water kefir grains
- place a mesh lid or thin cotton cloth on the top
- Leave to ferment for 2-4 days, how quickly it ferments will depend on the environment you are keeping your kefir
- you’ll know when the drink is ready when it’s fizzy and is not sweet anymore
- to decant, strain the grains and liquid through a fine mesh sieve, drink the liquid and use the grains to make your next batch