Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Experimentation in Fermentation: Water Kefir

I've been experimenting in the New Year with fermentation.

A glass of strawberry secondary ferment water kefir
I have tried kombucha and I don't like it.  That one's not for me.  I've tried milk kefir and it is ok, and I like it better after a secondary ferment.

What I've really wanted to play with is water kefir.  I did extensive reading online about water kefir, including this great post from Nourishing Kitchen.  Water kefir is basically a probiotic soda, and you can flavor it in many many ways. 

It is really simple.

I ordered my "grains" from Amazon.  Let me be clear - these are only called grains because of how they look.  They are a culture of healthy bacteria and yeast.  They reproduce if you treat them well.  I am planning on gifting some grains to local friends, because in the week that I have had them, they have already doubled. 

I will not go into detail about all the nitty gritty of water kefir - I'll just let you know what I did, and how we liked it so far.

There are two stages of fermentation for water kefir.  For the primary fermentation, you need to feed the grains some sugar.  They metabolize the sugar and use it to grow.  I've seen primary ferments that include nothing but sugar water, and some that have extra things in them.  I've tried a few different combinations so far.

Primary ferment happy and bubbling
For my first go round, I used about 4 c of water (I just used my tap water, which is not highly chlorinated.  I've seen advice to use spring water, or boil your water if you have town water.. my grains seem perfectly happy in plain tap water), then stir in a couple tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses.  I've read that the molasses adds extra minerals. 

I also added some lemon slices and ginger slices.

The primary ferment should go about 48 hours.

Once the primary ferment is done, just pour it through a strainer into another container (I used  flip-top jars with rubber gaskets) and add some flavorings.  For my first go-round, I added slices of blood orange and half a vanilla bean.  Close the lid and leave this out at room temperature for another 24 hours. 

To stop the fermentation, pop it in the fridge.  Your secondary ferment should be a little fizzy - I haven't had much luck with it getting bubby myself yet, but I have read that it has to do with the kinds of bottles I am using.  I will have to do some more experiments with that.

So far, I've done two full rounds. 
Happy grains!

My grains have more than doubled, so I've got some larger jars on order to do a larger batch of primary ferment instead of two smaller ones.  I have added dried mango and dried figs (this made the grains go crazy and multiply like mad!) and raisins. 

My second batch of secondary ferment was with strawberries (I loved this one!), and I currently have some orange bubbling away, and also some with ginger and fig.  All dried fruit is unsulphured.

The good news = I love this!  I've been enjoying a small glass once or twice a day, as I've heard that it is good to start slowly when drinking probiotic drinks, because you are introducing new flora to your gut, so you don't want to overwhelm your body.

The less good news = the kids do not like this.  It's slightly vinegary in flavor, it is not sweet at all, and they don't really like anything even slightly fizzy.  I'm going to keep trying them.  I told The Girl that it is so good for her, she just needs to get over the initial dislike.  It's different from anything I've ever given them before, so I can see why they don't immediately love it.  BUT = that's not going to stop me from trying.

I am having great fun with water kefir so far, and I think it is worth trying.

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