I am sitting here drink a bubbly bottle of fermented probiotic goodness as I type this blog post.
But what the heck is water kefir and why should you care?
Probiotics have been all the buzz for several years now.
Ten years ago you may have only heard the term "gut health" thrown around by in-the-know west coast Yoga types, but nowadays you're likely to hear it coming out of your grandma's mouth.
These things may just seem like a trendy fad, but there is actually some serious science backing up the hype.
For the very abridged version of the story:
There are good guys in your gut and there are bad guys. God put the bad guys in there, so they could break down your body at death (not the happiest topic, but it's true). They were meant to be there in small quantities and the good guys were supposed to proliferate and make a healthy body.
Well, in our modern world of stress, sugar and processed foods those bad guys get out of balance and all kinds of bad things begin to happen. "Leaky Gut Syndrome" happens when there are literally holes in the gut lining. Food leaks into the blood stream, where it does not belong, and you experience minor symptoms like bloating and gas, major symptoms like depression and cancer and everything in between.
Probiotic supplements are excellent and everyone should be on a good one (not just any old probiotic you find at Walmart), BUT it isn't the entire answer to the problem. To create a diverse inner ecosystem you'll want to introduce many different strains of good bacteria.
Enter fermented foods.
So, why take the extra effort to make your own fermented foods at home?
Yogurt and kefir from the store just don't cut it. They are fermented for a very short amount of time and by the time you get it from the store it was probably already made weeks ago. The good bacteria are most certainly dying off by this point. Plus, they are almost always filled with sugar and made with non-organic milk.
When you make fermented foods at home they are teeming with good bacteria and can help repopulate your gut with the good guys. You have likely fermented them for days, or even weeks for some ferments, so they are going to help your body significantly more than that store bought yogurt.
One of my most favorite fermented drinks is water kefir.
I love to do a second fermentation with grape juice that makes it bubbly and delicious.
Let's get into the process:
Step 1: Acquire water kefir grains.
(Oh I forgot to mention they multiply rapidly when you make kefir constantly. The extras can be fed to your chickens, thrown in the compost pile, blended into your smoothies for added probiotics, or sold on the internet ;))
Bring one cup of water to a boil.
Add 1/2 cup organic brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
Add 1/2 cup water kefir grains to a half gallon jar.
Fill the jar almost to the top with filtered water.
After the sugar water has dissolved and COOLED completely, add into the jar with the rest of the water and the water kefir grains. If the sugar water is still hot it can kill the "good guys" in the water kefir grains, so make sure it cools off first.
*In case you are brand new to fermenting, the "grains" aren't actually grains at all. They are actually just little symbiotic colonies of good bacteria that feed on sugar. They are ALIVE.
You may be saying at this point, "Hey...I thought sugar was bad!"
Well, you would be right about that, BUT, those little good guys in the kefir grains loooove to feed on sugar and when they consume it they turn the sweet sugar water into something sour and fermented. The resulting liquid will have negligible amounts of sugar left and whole lot of beneficial probiotics.
Place the lid on loosely and allow to ferment for 24 to 48 hours.
If you are a person who gets squeemish with such loose directions, please know that you can't really mess this up. As much as I would like to tell you to leave it out on your counter for exactly 32 hours, 12 minutes and 54 seconds, there are just too many variables.
If it is hot outside, it will ferment faster. If the house is less than 68 degrees, the process will slow down.
If you have been making water kefir for several weeks and your jar is almost full of grains, it will ferment a lot faster than if you have only a couple of tablespoons.
You definitely just have to give it a little taste test and if it still tastes like sweet sugar water, you need to wait a little longer.
Sometimes I forget about my water kefir (and milk kefir, for that matter) and leave them out on the counter for three days (sometimes more, not that I would recommend that), but I have never had a problem.
The end product always tastes great.
So, basically, all you're doing at this point is putting some water kefir grains into a jar of sugar water and letting it sit out.
Step 5: Use a small fine mesh strainer like this one or a thin tea towel to strain the kefir grains from the fermented liquid.
Step 6: The second ferment (optional)
Acquire some Grolsch flip-top bottles.
Add 1/4 cup of grape juice to each bottle.
You could also experiment with other juice flavors to change it up a bit.
Fill each bottle the rest of the way with strained water kefir, using a funnel like this one or a thin tea towel.
Close the flip top lid and allow to sit out for 24 more hours.
When you go to open the bottle, make sure to open it slowly. These things can sometimes be quite explosive. I have lost half my soda by not taking care to open it slowly!
If there is hardly a "pop" sound at all when opening the lid, your soda probably isn't fermented enough.
When this happens to me, i simply close the cap and set it back out on the counter for another day. I like mine to be really bubbly!
I hope you are not intimidated by this process. It truly is so simple, and once you get it into your daily routine it's no big deal at all.
Now, go forth and fill your gut with good bacteria! ;)
What happens when you let the second ferment go too long:
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