What is Water Kefir?
It is a water-sugar based beverage that is fermented using water kefir grains (aka sugary kefir) - translucent polysaccharide grains that contain bacteria cultures and yeast. This beverage is made with or without fruits - either dried or fresh (Randazzo et al., 2016). It is a great probiotic alternative for those who are unable to consume dairy or are not partial to the taste of the more acidic kombucha (Randazzo et al., 2016).
Photo Credit: https://www.mountainfeed.com/blogs/learn/17488945-getting-started-with-water-kefir-a-non-dairy-probiotic-beverage
What are Water Kefir Grains?
Water kefir grains are a type of SCOBY - a symbiotic community of bacteria & yeast. Unlike the SCOBY of kombucha, which are larger circular discs, water kefir SCOBY are small and translucent granules that multiply quickly when fed with sucrose (Katz, 2013).
It is unknown where these grains originated from but the first scientific report came Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck in 1889 (Fiorda et al., 2017). He linked the grains to ginger beer plants that were brought back by English soldiers from the Crimean War.
Ten years later, M.L Lutz founded a fairly similar grain called 'tibi' from prickly pear cacti in Mexico
(Fiorda et al., 2017). Both grains were thought to be the same specimen. However, Nathan and Emily Pujol, who run the website yemoos.com, breed & sell both of the cultures and argue that the two strains have major differences (Katz, 2013). Such differences include its size, shape, and color.
Photo credit: https://sourculture.com/products/water-kefir-grains
What are its health benefits?
One main health benefit of water kefir is its probiotic properties. It is due to the various probiotic abilities of the many microorganisms analyzed from the byproduct of the grains (Fiorda et al., 2017). Such abilities include being:
Differences between milk-based kefir
In contrast to the water-sugar based kefir drink is the milk-based kefir drink. This drink is similar to yogurt in consistency and taste but is made using a type of kefir grains that are similar to yogurt starter. Unlike water kefir grains, the milk kefir grains are large, white and gelatinous and contain lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and acetic acid bacteria (Prado et al, 2015). Similar to water kefir, its main health benefit is its probiotic qualities. However, its distinguishing benefit is its capacity to decrease cholesterol levels in individuals through the binding and absorption of cholesterol into the bacteria of the kefir before it is absorbed into the body (Prado et al, 2015).
Photo Credit: https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/our-top-10-favorite-kefir-beverages
How to make your own Kefir drink at home
It is fairly easy and simple to create your own kefir drink at home!
2 cups of Sugar (could add more to taste)
1 gallon (4 liters) of Water
4 tablespoons of Water kefir grains
Any dry or fresh fruit
1. Mix the water and sugar
2. Add the kefir grains along with the dry/fresh fruit of choice
3. Let ferment for 2-3 days in a glass bottle or jar with a lid at room temperature. The container could be loosely covered or sealed airtight (but "burp" the drink every day so that built-up pressure is released and to keep your container from exploding).
4. After 2-3 days, strain out the fruit particles and the grains (keep them for another time!) and transfer the liquid to sealable bottles.
5. Let that liquid continue to ferment at room temperature for another 1-2 days. Keep track of the pressure build-up!
6. Transfer to refrigerator when satisfied with the carbonation levels and ENJOY cold!
(Katz, 2013, Weissman, 2019).
*Here is a video to aid you in making your own kefir drink!*
Fiorda, F. A., Pereira, G. V. D. M., Thomaz-Soccol, V., Rakshit, S. K., Pagnoncelli, M. G. B., Vandenberghe, L. P. D. S., & Soccol, C. R. (2017). Microbiological, biochemical, and functional aspects of sugary kefir fermentation - A review. Food Microbiology, 66, 86–95. doi: 10.1016/j.fm.2017.04.004
Katz , S. E. (2013). The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing Co.
Prado, M. R., Blandón, L. M., Vandenberghe, L. P. S., Rodrigues, C., Castro, G. R., Thomaz-Soccol, V., & Soccol, C. R. (2015). Milk kefir: composition, microbial cultures, biological activities, and related products. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01177
Randazzo, W., Corona, O., Guarcello, R., Francesca, N., Germanà, M. A., Erten, H., … Settanni, L. (2016). Development of new non-dairy beverages from Mediterranean fruit juices fermented with water kefir microorganisms. Food Microbiology, 54, 40–51. doi: 10.1016/j.fm.2015.10.018
Weissman, J. (2019, August 9). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTBJ-kO41YM
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