Are your kefir grains too small and not multiplying? Are you looking to add more bubbles to your water kefir? Maybe you need to take a break from brewing and hibernate your grains for a bit. Learn how to have the healthiest water kefir grains ever with this comprehensive guide to water kefir grains.
Water Kefir Grains
Water kefir is a cultured drink also known as Tibicos. This drink is thought to have originated in South and Central America. Originally, tibicos was a fermented drink made in Mexico from the sweetened juice of the prickly pear cactus since water kefir grains naturally form on the cacti. The grains naturally form on the pads of Opuntia cacti as microbes feed off the sugars and water in the succulent.
Grains for Kefir
We make water kefir by culturing sugar water with water kefir grains. These “grains” do not contain any actual grain. They are called grains simply because of their shape. The kefir grains are just symbiotic microbial communities living in a polysaccharide matrix. Sounds complicated, right? Just think of it as a mixed population of little microbes who build little houses to live together. Water kefir is similar to kombucha, but kombucha contains mostly yeasts, while water kefir has a heavier bacterial population.
Most of the microbial species living in these little water kefir grain communities are probiotic. Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus hordei, Streptococcus (Lactococcus) lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are just a few of the great microbes that live within water kefir grain communities.
These microbes provide gut health benefits! When they ferment the sugar-water liquid into water kefir, they produce beneficial and healthy byproducts called “postbiotics”.
How to Store Kefir Grains
Normally when brewing water kefir, people use a sugar-water mixture for the primary fermentation and feeding the grains.
When I make my primary fermentation mixture, I add a pinch of salt and some pure, organic maple syrup or molasses. This provides nutrients and conditions to select for more beneficial bacteria to thrive within the water kefir grain communities. This also provides essential nutrients to encourage the microbes to multiply and build the kefir grains. This method encourages A LOT of growth and multiplication. If you want to share grains with friends, I highly suggest using our feeding instructions.
Want to know my secret, though? I let my water kefir grains sit in primary fermentation for a week at room temperature about once a month. This room temperature “resting period” helps keep my grains big and structurally strong because the long primary fermentation allows more microaerophilic and anaerobic bacteria to thrive in the grain communities.
The awesome thing about water kefir grains is that they are reusable forever, as long as you take care of them! You can share some with friends, and eventually brew gallons of water kefir at a time.
My Grain Feeding Recipe (1 Quart):
- 2 Grams Sea Salt
- 50 Grams Organic Unrefined Cane Sugar
- 5 Grams Organic Molasses (or sub honey, apple juice, maple syrup)
- 1 Quart of Purified Water (about 1000 mL)
Combine all of the ingredients and mix until it’s all dissolved, bring to a boil, then allow it to cool. This makes about 1 quart/1 liter of primary fermentation-feeding liquid.
I recommend using organic molasses. Just 5 grams of molasses provides the microbes in the grains with manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B6, selenium, iron, and calcium.
You do not have to feed your grains like this or with salt every time you make water kefir to see better growth and stronger grains. You can try feeding them this way once or twice a month.
How to Store Extra Kefir Grains
To care for your kefir grains and continually make fresh water kefir, place them in a new batch of sugar water mix every 24-48 hours.
To hibernate them, make a fresh batch of sugar water mix, add the kefir grains, and refrigerate immediately. When hibernating your grains in the refrigerator you will need to put them in a fresh batch of sugar water every two to three weeks.
Water kefir grains can also be dehydrated for long term storage! I teach our students how to do this in The Cultured Guru School of Fermentation.
Where to Buy Kefir Grains
Here are my favorite places to buy kefir grains: