Water Kefir grains

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KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Water Kefir grains

I won an order of water kefir grains! Does anyone here use these? Got any tips? Any resources to share with me?

I haven't received them yet. I am starting the education process now, so I am ready to go as soon as they arrive.

I'd love to hear your process and supplies. :)
Jay Jay
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Re: Water Kefir grains

This post was updated on .
Karin,
I've not done this yet, but Cultures for Health has videos/written instructions for water kefir as well as milk kefir (I've used), as well as some others. I'm thinking empty Lorina or other latch top bottles might work once fermented.  I sold a bunch at our yard sale to someone who planned on using for Kombucha, so probably would work for the Kefir. Actually, anything that seals well should work.

Let us know how it works out.

ETA:
weblink for all Cultures for Health videos
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Thanks Jay! The blog where I won the kefir grains also linked to Cultures for Health (I believe that is the place where they are coming from) and I have devoured their site. I also googled and found other sites. Now my challenge is they contradict each other!

The type of water to use is controversial. Spring, filtered, tap, tap without chlorine....
(all with plausible reasons why one is better or worse than the others)

The type of strainer to use is controversial. Plastic, metal, natural non-metal (bamboo-looking).....
(not quite clear on these choices, but got the idea metal may be an issue for the health and welfare of the bacteria)

There are jars for the first fermenting process and then there are jars for the optional second fermenting process (also considered the flavoring process and/or the "soda" process)....and different "rules" for each phase....glass is generally preferred for the main part, but the top /cover / lid is controversial for each step......
(again, metal seems to be an issue, but also there were concerns about the various types of lids for several reasons -- pressure, bugs, chemical reactions, etc)

Geez!

I'm getting the idea that I'll be winging it and praying I keep the little bacteria alive. :)
Jay Jay
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Re: Water Kefir grains

TMI!!! :-)
*The strainer, my understanding is the "fragility" of the grains is such that metal might cut them. I got a nylon strainer for my milk kefir, but now use it constantly for lots of things. I know --has plastic! Alt might be the muslin bags.
*Water, definitely no chlorine if possible, otherwise ??? guess depends on the quality of your tap water. I make sauerkraut and kimchee, etc., and had same conflicting info, but after buying spring water once, decided "survival of the fittest" and used tap water. We have great water quality in this area, and I've had no problems.

Seriously, though, I'd go with what is most convenient and if it works, it works. I just like the Cultures for Health instructions because they're simple and easy to follow.

The basic thing to remember is that it's a fermentation, so gas is produced as the "grains" consume sugar and grow, and it continues to ferment even after the grains are removed. Thus breathing room during first (loose lid, filter, whatever), powerful ferment, then if you add fruits for a second fermentation and WANT the fizz then you need a tight lid of some sort, and room in the bottle for the gases, kinda like champagne. If you've watched the flavoring video, you've seen the latch top bottle sitting on her table. Would guess material of lid not too big a deal since the liquid shouldn't touch it, but narrow neck = less dissipation of gases, blah, blah, blah....
Refrigeration slows fermentation down to a crawl, but doesn't TOTALLY stop it. My main hesitation in making some has simply been forgetting and leaving too long in the sealed bottle (days) = explosion ;-(
I know some suggest adding the flavoring in the first ferment, but seems to me that'd contaminate the grains and affect flavor in future batches. Just my opinion, though.

When made my first batch of sauerkraut, I was paranoid about all the steps, particularly the idea of leaving at room temperature for so long (weeks). Over time, I've learned you can trust your nose and your eyes. With water kefir, the time frame is really limited but you still have to trust the process, as long as follow basic rules of sanitation.

-BTW, my milk kefir grains finally went belly up after 'bout 6+ months, but I think more because I wasn't constantly "feeding" (making a fresh batch) and would leave for 4-5 days or more. Frankly got tired of it, since normally not a milk drinker. It's a great product, though, and if I had little kids or used more dairy, I'd have kept it up.

Can you tell? Love fermentation! It's science + tradition in the kitchen :-)))
Go for it!
Sandra Sandra
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Have you read this article about water kefir on the Chocolate and Zucchini blog? She also recommends using non-chlorinated water (chlorine will kill the microorganisms) and a non-reactive (plastic or stainless steel) strainer. I haven't found a local supply of kefir grains yet but would love to give the recipe a try when I do. Hope you'll keep us updated on the progress of your water kefir!
Jay Jay
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Re: Water Kefir grains

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Regarding finding kefir grains locally: I attempted to find kefir, emailing someone who had listed themselves, but gave up after not hearing for a few weeks. Might work for others.

ETA:
Here's another list (I think this is the one I used).
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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TMI can be a GOOD thing, Jay!!! Thank you for typing all of the above.

I feel similarly with regards to "survival of the fittest" and using what is convenient. Seriously, if it is not convenient to a certain degree (I expect homemade to require some extra effort), then it is likely to fall by the wayside real fast.

The benefit of tap water is the minerals. The benefit of our reverse osmosis filtered water is no chlorine (and other added things to our city water). We currently use R/O water for direct drinking and tap water for all cooking. Water kefir on the surface would fall into R/O category for me, but I'm willing to switch off and see how it works. When I water our edible plants, I fill the water bucket directly from the hose bib (no hose due to various issues - lead being one) and let it sit. Generally, I water from the bucket using a watering can one day, refill the buckets and leave 'em until I water again. I haven't had a garden with a toddler or child young enough to be in danger with this practice, but I used to fill my daughter's turtle pool/sand box hours in advance when she was little to let the chlorine evaporate.

I have several SS strainers. I don't own a single other type...

I was thinking...maybe I could use a piece of cloth (clean, tight or loose weave?) over the jar for the first process with a rubberband (these keep coming into our house from our CSA) or the ring of a mason jar lid (we have 2-3) and then just tip the whole thing over and let the kefir drain into another container and the grains would end up in the cloth. Would this work okay???
Jay Jay
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Sounds like a great idea! Actually, sounds brilliant! The grains look like they get pretty big, but reference the video yourself to judge. I suspect they're pretty tough.
Letting your water sit will surely dissipate any chlorine, I'd go with R/O off, though (just an opinion, of course, as depends on your local water quality).

BTW, if you're getting the grains from C4H, there's written instructions included. Duh. As my Mom was so fond of saying: "if all else fails, read the instructions". Finally hauled mine out (been keeping in fridge) and read the paperwork.
You inspired me to go ahead and make mine, so left out some water last night and will be adding the grains today.
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Thanks, Sandra, for the link! I just read the whole thing, including the comments. Nice additional info to add to my data bank...LOL
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Yippeeee Jay! Good for you getting them going. Are yours water kefir or dairy kefir? Please share your process.

I do plan to read the directions when they arrive. I have watched at least 3 videos on the process already, too. Hearing from others is nice, as well. Many different perspectives are helpful. :)

I checked the mail today, in hopes they arrived super early. LOL
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Oh, I forgot about equipment...

I have one Ikea narrow-neck bottle (1L -- very similar to Lorrina bottles) for the second fermentation and/or "storage" (as temporary as it is).

I'll have to hunt around to see if we have a 1L wide-mouth jar for the first fermentation. We don't have an EMPTY one right now, but there might be one in use somewhere in the pantry / freezer / fridge that I could swap for something different (or 2-3 somethings different...LOL).

I'm going to try the cotton cloth idea for straining the grains. I already have a piece of muslin that is cut and ready to use! :) I really don't want to buy a new strainer of any kind. There has to be a way to do this without plastic. These things (kefir grains) have been around longer than plastic, right???

I think that's all I need as far as durable materials go.

I still need to find the natural sugar with the molasses already in it (rapadura???). I've casually looked in 2-3 places in my regular day-to-day activities and have yet to see it. I have some organic cane sugar left, but it won't go far if I am making water kefir every 24-48 hours. It was a fluke I found that HUGE bag for $7 and I'm not sure I can find it again. We've had it for quite awhile. I did see some molasses for a good price in bulk at Costco (Grandma something brand???), but I don't know anything about buying molasses yet... It seems easier to buy the type of sugar that already has it (less processed, too).

Water quality... How does one go about figuring out one's water quality??? I cannot even seem to figure out EXACTLY where our water comes from...ugh. San Diego didn't use to fluoridate the water and then I heard and read they were going to start. Researching that was a big headache and it was never clear if the city did or did not start doing so. I live within city limits, but this is a very large spread out city.
Jay Jay
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So, i started rehydrating the water kefir grains 'bout 8 hours ago and they're already "blossoming", but no bubbles yet.
I had already dissolved the sugar (some sort of organic, whitish sugar from WF) last night before I processed the need to let the water aerate. Just left sitting on the counter covered with a fabric "coozy" (my cover of choice) until added grains this AM. I'm leaving mine sitting in the warmest corner of a pretty cold kitchen.
The molasses you're talking about is a classic, but not sure the sugar content high enough as is, so would definitely use a "sugar" -as usual, just an opinion, so if you've read otherwise, would like to know. According to C4H, if all else fails, white sugar will do just fine. What I remember is to NOT use honey because of its antibacterial nature.
Water, your guess is good as mine! We get ours from the Hetch Hetchy, which is known for it's high quality. I know it's fluoridated, but other than that it's great. Whomever you pay water bills to should have a website with an annual report as to water quality, if you can decipher! Whether important to know, don't know.
Your equipment sounds perfect, and am sure you will find an appropriate jar (probably it's more the approximate proportion of sugar to water, than absolute volume in container). I think you're going to find it all to be super easy.
So sanitation, room temperature, and sugar:water proportion.
Here's hoping we both like the final product!
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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I used your link above, Jay, and found someone who lives six miles from me who has dairy kefir grains. I went to her house today and she was a WEALTH of information! She gave me about 2 teaspoons of her dairy kefir grains and taught me how to make it. She also does water kefir and kombucha and all sorts of things!!!! She gave me a little of her water kefir and offered me a scoby, but I declined since both kefirs require TLC as it is and I have at least read about them already. I know nothing about kombucha. She said the offer is open-ended. She was very nice!

A good friend of mine knows another lady (local) who does all these things, too, and she introduced us via facebook yesterday. That lady sent me very detailed answers to my questions!

Even right here in the same city, different methods and equipment and ingredients. LOL

Clearly this is not an exact science!!!! YIPPEEEEE!!!!!

So, a little of this and a little of that...and I got started today.

I found a few inexpensive wide-mouth LARGE glass jars in one shopping center. I know where I can order the 2L canning jars when/if I need to go that big (Ace Hardware), but I focused on ~ 1L jars for now.

I bought whole milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. (This should be easier than it was!!!!) We usually buy Trader Joe's cream top or regular organic or Strauss cream top at the co-op or Whole Foods -- when we even buy milk (not a required item in our house). I wasn't near any of those places today and had a friend with me. Every organic brand was ultra-pasteurized at the store I was in (Vons), so I bought regular milk. The lady I got the kefir from said she uses regular milk. She's actually tried all types of milk (raw cow, raw goat, organic, regular, whole, 2%, 1%, skim) and said the bottom line was to use whole milk that was not ultra-pasteurized. I would prefer organic, but this was an unusual situation.

I measured the dairy kefir grains and used the lady's ratio of 1 teaspoon grains to 1 cup of milk. I have 1-2/3 teaspoons, so I measured out 1-2/3 cups of milk. Filled the clean wide-mouth jar with milk and added the kefir. I stirred it with a wood chopstick and covered the 1 pint Mason jar with a piece of muslin and a rubberband. I set it on the small counter between the stove and fridge. I don't really know where the warmest or coolest spots are in our kitchen. The lady on facebook also mentioned putting it in the warmest spot in her kitchen.

The lady I met today had a fresh batch of cheese she made from the kefir. She gave my friend and I a little taste. YUM!!!!!!! Tasted similar to goat cheese. I think she called it queso fresca. She says she uses the kefir for smoothies for her kids (she has at least two and she runs a daycare) and to make cheese and she drinks the kefir as is. She showed us her kombucha and let us taste it. Tasted just like vinegar! She said she uses it in place of vinegar in all recipes. Something to think about for zero waste and all the vinegar many of us use.... Not sure about it's cleaning powers, though. ;)

She also showed me her water kefir. She uses a mesh bag to hold those grains (she said she made it, I didn't ask what type of fabric but it looked like fine mesh tulle) and adds half an eggshell, one dried fig (non-sulphered), and half an apple (not sure if it was fresh or dried now that I think about it) in addition to sugar and water. We discussed water and sugar in detail. She said she has tried all types of water. For the most part, she uses filtered water and the added eggshell for minerals. She uses tap water, too, but less often. She stirs it vigorously and lets it sit overnight... or she blends it in her blender for 5-10 minutes... to aerate it and dissipate the chlorine. The lady on facebook said she buys her water from a local well water source (close to her and not far from me, either). The facebook lady buys her sugar (rapadura) online. The lady I visited buys her sugar (Zulce? brand) from Food For Less.

I've never had water kefir before, but I was surprised when I smelled them as I was setting them up tonight. They smelled like sourdough bread to me, very yeasty! Is this normal?

I hope I didn't kill the water kefir grains. I forgot all about the chlorine issue with tap water. I measured the water kefir grains (1.5 oz) and was busy adjusting the calculations. I had poured 3 cups of tap water into a wide open glass pitcher and let it sit on the counter while I was working on some other things. I heated some filtered water up and mixed it with organic sugar (forgot to look for rapadura or sucranat at Vons). I stirred THAT vigorously with a wood chopstick to dissolve the sugar. Then, I just automatically poured the 3 cups of tap water into the wide mouth glass jar with the sugar water and added the water kefir grains. I covered the jar with a cotton dish towel and rubberband. I'm planning to do the double fermentation method, so I didn't add anything else at this point. I put that jar on the counter above the dishwasher, by the sink, across the room from the dairy kefir jar. That counter is the breeziest area of the kitchen. I generally dry things (herbs/flowers/etc) on that counter. I tucked it back against the wall, but maybe I should move it? I didn't want to put either jar on top of the fridge at this point. I might forget all about them since this is so new...
Jay Jay
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That is so awesome you found someone locally!! All the information you've shared is really helpful for me, too, as I haven't found anyone here. It's also good to hear your methods.
Wanted to respond to two things right away;
Just smelled mine and it IS a bit yeasty. Hadn't really done the sniff test before, so great observation. Also, doubt you've done in the grains with the water, but Imaybe taste the water tonight and again in a day or so. I know that the C4H teacher said the rehydration water might taste a bit icky, but I'd think you could at least tell if the sweetness is decreasing, which would indicate the grains are chowing down on the sugar. Also, the video indicated you'd see a difference in the clarity of the water, and mine is definitely getting cloudy --a good thing (I think).

That's great you got some of the milk kefir grains, and got them started! The milk kefir does have a nice taste, I think a bit like a liquid yogurt. I remember now that I started having some trouble when used a low fat milk, and like I said, ultimately just stopped since wasn't using it up. I remember using regular supermarket whole milk at one point, and it didn't seem to matter.
Would love to hear how she makes the cheese -- guess a web search is in order!

The only caution I've heard is if you have more than one "thing" culturing, try to keep them apart so don't cross-contaminate. Clearly the woman you met today is having no problems, so, again, probably not a biggy. Finding the perfect spot is challenging! I'm pretty forgetful, so I schedule reminders on the computer to check on stuff. I also wrote the date on the jar with a sharpie --yes, i would forget!

Huh! Didn't know that about kombucha. Will be reading up on that, too. What a neat idea to use as a vinegar substitute. Another pet, hmmm. Bagged idea of making wine vinegar since we don't drink much wine, but maybe this??

Man, I'm jealous of the connections you've made, but it really is terrific. Congrats on your efforts! Very cool, and inspiring.

KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Thanks Jay! I feel like I have two more babies...LOL

Last night, I strained the kefirs. The lady I visited said to do the first batch of each for just 24 hours. I forgot why????

I bottled the milk kefir and put it in the fridge. I plan to use it today for a smoothie for DD and I after school. I bought organic frozen peaches at Costco for plenty of smoothies and we already have fresh-frozen CSA strawberries. She is pretty adventurous and we talked about all this stuff last night at dinner. My husband knew quite a bit about fermentation, which surprised me! I started a new milk kefir last night. I'll leave this one for longer.

I think the lady I visited said she leaves her out, but I automatically put it away in the fridge...

After I strained the water kefir, I had too much for one swing-top bottle. I added some fresh pressed cherry cider (purchased yesterday in the mountains) to the Lorrina-type bottle...leaving the neck of the bottle empty, as shown. I poured the rest of the water kefir in a small glass jar (wide-mouth) and added fresh slices of pear (organic, local - from our CSA) and ate the rest as dessert. LOL These are tightly capped and on the counter for a second (flavoring) fermentation, as shown in one of the C4H videos.

I also started a new water kefir. I eyeballed everything this time and I aerated the tap water (stirring vigorously in an open glass pitcher while the filtered water heated up). I didn't smell any chlorine and I am super sensitive to it.

Yes, the lady I visited has several cultures going! She was concerned her water kefir had been contaminated. I didn't quite understand the significance of everything she was saying, but I recall her detailed descriptions. She has the various cultures stashed away in different areas of her kitchen, but her kitchen is HUGE! She has paper coffee filters covering everything, even the cheese. I noticed she was quick to re-cover the cheese after giving us a taste. She did share a basic run-down of how she made the cheese, but my brain was on overload by that point!!! LOL Crunchy Betty recently had a blog post on making fresh goat cheese. I recall thinking the two processes were similar enough that I didn't need to remember every detail.

I left the dairy kefir where it was and moved the water kefir to the corner counter. It is still ~5 feet away from the dairy kefir, but now it is tucked back out of the breezy zone. I did this mostly because I harvested more things from the garden and have them drying on the counter where I originally put the water kefir.

The water kefir is cloudy, so I hope that means I kept them alive. :)

This is great to share this journey with someone, Jay! :)
Jay Jay
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Sounding good! My water kefir grains where dehydrated, from C4H, so am letting them sit another day before switching out..
Have you tasted either, yet?

I did a quick search regarding the milk kefir cheese, and the simplest version is like making yogurt cheese --somehow just let the whey strain off. Queso Fresco [sic] requires some pressing, but didn't pursue any further instructions. Save the whey If you do this, since it can be used as water substitute for breads, soups, etc. just like yogurt whey.

You might be interested in the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. She, apparently, has written a great deal on fermentation and how to use the various products. I plan on shooting up to the library tomorrow and checking out a local copy. I have Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, but use it primarily as a reference for Sauerkraut, Kimchee as those seem to be his strengths.
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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I am taking a naturopathic medicine class and the instructor has given us a rather long list of books to read. Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions is on this list. I put as many as our library system has on hold and have this one and half a dozen others in my huge pile of books right now. LOL

No, I have not tried any of them yet. I'll be trying all three in about an hour after I walk to DD's school and back.

Meanwhile, I am drinking my nettles infusion and refilled it a few minutes ago. I glanced at the milk kefir and it looked very different. I tapped it and gently shook it. It is a LOT thicker than the first batch. This one has only been fermenting for about 18 hours. The first one fermented for about 24 hours and is as liquid as milk.

Both the diary grains and water grains were given to me directly from the woman's strained batch. She waited until I was there to do it, just to teach me. (So nice!) She had a bowl of grains she was dehydrating, also, but she gave me fresh ones.

All of this is just so fascinating to me... :)
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Our first dairy kefir experience is delicious! I made a strawberry-peach kefir smoothie. YUM! My 10 year old finished hers in no time flat. :)
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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I found the answer to my unspoken question above about the difference in thickness in the first kefir and second kefir. Time isn't the only variable. Temperature is another variable. It is warmer last night and today than the previous night and day.
Jay Jay
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The smoothie looks yummy!

So your observations confirms what they say about how fast these will culture/grow: the warmer (up to some point) the faster.
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