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Water Kefir FAQs


Water kefir grains for making the probiotic fermented beverage Follow Me on Pinterest

Are you a new water kefir brewer? Are you an experienced brewer, but just want a little refresher? Then, this page is for you! I wanted to address some of the most common questions I am asked regarding water kefir. If you have a questions that’s not on this list, please feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer it!

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1. What is water kefir?

Water kefir is a lightly carbonated, probiotic beverage that is incredibly simple to make. In my opinion, it is the easiest of all fermented drinks to make. All it takes is sugar water and kefir grains. You can also use coconut water for a less sweet, more fizzy beverage. The kefir grains feed on the sugar and minerals in the water and naturally ferment it to become tart and fizzy. True health starts in the gut, and kefir (both water and milk), is a great way to get those beneficial yeasts and bacteria into our system.

To learn more about water kefir, check out these posts:

How to Make Water Kefir

52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria – Week 23 – Water Kefir Revisited

Water, Water, Everywhere, and Lots of Drops to Drink!

2. My kefir grains are multiplying so fast that I have them coming out of my ears! What do I do?

This is a great problem to have, in my opinion! When you have more kefir grains than you know what to do with, you can (a) Eat them plain – I just pop them in my mouth and chew. They have an interesting texture and not a lot of flavor. (b) Add them to smoothies or your morning yogurt. In other words, eat them, but if the thought of eating them plain grosses you out, then blend them in to something else. (c) Give them away to friends and family. Not only does this help them get started on the probiotic, fermented beverage road, it is a fun way to connect with people on a different level. Food is such an integral part of our lives.

3. My kefir grains don’t seem to be doing anything. Am I doing something wrong?

Probably not. As long as you’re following the basic recipe found here, then you should be fine. Kefir grains will sometimes be a little dormant the first few batches of kefir you make. It took about 8 batches before my grains really got up and running at their full potential. Since then, they are multiplying like crazy. So, give them some time. Experiment with the minerals you add to the water. Try placing the jar in different parts of your house. If the house is too cool (below 68 degrees), the grains will be really slow to work their magic. On the other hand, if the house is too warm (above 78), the grains will ferment rapidly. Just keep trying it and if they still seem to be defunct after 10-12 batches, then try again with some new grains (affiliate link).

4. How do I know if my grains are bad?

Kefir grains really don’t go bad. Because of the high levels of good bacteria, it is rare that bad bacteria will survive long enough to make them go bad. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that kefir grains are capable of eliminating infections like E. Coli and H. Pylori. A safe way to check if your kefir grains are still functioning properly is to smell your kefir when it’s done. If something’s wrong, you will definitely know. In all the experimenting I have done and people I have talked to, I have not once heard of a bad batch of grains. Your finished water kefir should be very mild in flavor, slightly sweet, and a tiny bit yeasty. If something is off, you will know either by smell or taste.

5. Where do I get grains?

This is one of the most interesting part of kefir. While there are lots of places to buy grains online (affiliate link). I think the best way to get started with some kefir grains is to get some from your friends or family. Like a reader once told me, they’re kind of like heirloom seeds – passed along from generation to generation. I think it’s really cool how we can share these with one another, in all corners of the country and world! If you can’t find any locally or through a friend, then I recommend my affiliate partner, Kombucha Kamp. They are a great company and not only provide fantastic products, but they have lots great information on their site.

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6. I would love to try fermented beverages, but I’m a little nervous to start.

I completely understand how you feel. When I first started experimenting with fermented and cultured foods, I was nervous and intimidated too. It took awhile for the courage to build up. As a matter of fact, I STILL get nervous when I ferment! The biggest thing for me is overcoming the stereotype that foods must be refrigerated and if they sit out on the counter for days or weeks, they’ll go bad. Even to this day, I sometimes have a little fear when taking that first bite or drink of the fermented food. But, I’m starting to overcome that! Water kefir is a great way to start experimenting with fermented beverages. It’s really easy to make and pretty much fool-proof. And, with all fermented and cultured foods, you will be able to tell if something’s wrong with a batch by the smell. If these foods go bad, there’s no way you could get past the smell to eat them, so you needn’t worry about getting sick.

7. How do I know when my kefir is done?

The time that it takes for your kefir to ferment is going to depend on a few things, primarily the temperature of your house. Between 68 and 78 degrees is optimum temperatures. Also, it will vary depending on if you use water and sugar or if you use coconut water. The sugar/water combination will take anywhere between 12-48 hours, depending on the temperature of your house. The coconut water kefir, however, seems to take much less time, typically between 12-24 hours. The best thing to do is to taste it periodically during the fermentation process and let it go until it tastes right to you. Some people will like a sweeter kefir, some like it less sweet. Once you find a flavor that you like, you’ll know how long you can let it go without opening the container.

8. My kefir smells yeasty. Is that normal?

Yes. Kefir grains are very interesting in that they adapt to their environments, meaning that they take on the “flavors” of the natural bacteria and yeasts present in your house. So, if you do a lot of baking, then your kefir will most likely have a more yeasty taste and smell than non-bakers. It is completely normal to smell some yeast in your finished kefir. Remember that kefir grains are sources of both beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Over time, your grains will adjust to your home. It’s also important to understand that the yeasts present in kefir are not the same as a harmful yeast like C. albicans Candida.

9. I don’t like the taste of water kefir, but I still want to drink it. What should I do?

Flavor it! That’s the wonderful thing about kefir – it’s a clean slate that allows you to flavor it any way you want! You can add lemon or lime juice, fruit juice, dried fruit, fresh ginger, stevia (both plain and flavored), vanilla extract … the list goes on and on. Experiment and find your favorite combination. My two favorite combos are lemon juice with fresh ginger and fresh squeezed tangerine juice. And, if you make a flavor combination that doesn’t quite work, then just try to gulp it down anyways. Get those good bacteria in there!

10. Can I overdose on kefir?

No, you can’t overdose in the traditional sense. However, if you don’t consume a lot of probiotic foods, it’s important to introduce them slowly to your diet. If you consume too many probiotics at once, you might experience some gas, bloating, loosened bowels, etc. However, this isn’t harmful and it’s a sign that your body is cleansing itself. Just start slowly with an ounce at a time and then work yourself up depending on how you feel. Most people won’t experience any adverse reaction, so it’s not cause for a lot of worry.

11. How many batches of kefir will my grains make?

If your grains are well kept, they will last forever! As long as they are receiving adequate nutrition and minerals, then you have a kefir source indefinitely.

12. Water kefir seems to have a lot of sugar in it. That concerns me.

I completely understand. From the research I’ve seen, the grains will consume around 80-90% of the sugar in a batch of kefir. What is left can be compared to a piece of fruit. However, if you are concerned about the amount of sugar in your water kefir, I recommend using coconut water. You don’t have to add any extra sugar and you end up with a much less sweet beverage.

13. What kind of water do I use?

Water is important when it comes to making water kefir. You want to use spring water, well water, or filtered water with minerals added back in. Never use city water from the tap, as the chlorine will kill the grains. If you don’t have access to filtered water, you can boil tap water and let it sit out in order for the chlorine to evaporate. If you use filtered water, it’s important to add minerals back in because the grains need minerals to survive. You can use a drop of liquid minerals, a small pinch of unrefined sea salt, a clean egg shell or some blackstrap molasses. I personally use reverse osmosis water, because I strive to avoid fluoride and that is the easiest way to do that.

14. Is there a specific kind of sugar I should use?

The best type of sugar to use is organic cane crystals, sucanat, or rapdura. You should not use honey because of it’s natural antibiotic properties. Don’t use artificial sweeteners of any kind. Also, stevia will not work because it doesn’t contain any natural sugar.

15. Can I give water kefir to my children?

Yes! This is a great source of probiotics and children need those just as much as adults do. Water kefir (especially coconut water kefir) is a great substitute for soda. I have heard of a number of families who switch to a real food diet and replace their commercial sodas with water kefir with great success. I think most children are going to love it if it’s flavored right. But, it all comes down to your comfort level as a parent and what you think is best for your child.

16. Does water kefir contain alcohol?

Yes, but it is a negligible amount. All fermented beverages (kefir, kombucha, etc.) are going to contain a small amount of alcohol. The amount of alcohol depends on the amount of fermentation, as well as the tightness of the lid. Most people have said that it contains between 1 and 3 percent alcohol. One of the best known real food bloggers, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, actually did her own independent study to find out how much alcohol was in her kefir. She found that it was 0.64% alcohol by volume using her recipe. You can read the full study here.

17. What types of bacteria and yeasts are in water kefir?

From what I have read, water kefir is FULL of all sorts of strains of yeasts and bacteria. I found a comprehensive list of strains on the Cultures for Health website. You can read the full list here.

18. Do I need any special supplies to make water kefir?

Nope. That’s the beauty of it. It’s simple and easy for anyone to make. All you need are the kefir grains, an anaerobic fermenting jar (affiliate link), and bottles for the second. For the second ferment, I use the flip-top hermetic glass bottles (like Grolsch beer bottles). I have found them at Sur la Table, Ross, TJ Maxx, and even online. The hermetic bottles work great for making the kefir more fizzy during the second ferment. Always leave a half inch to an inch at the top and use caution when opening because it can build a lot of pressure in there.

19. Can I store my kefir grains if I need to?

This answer depends on who you talk to. Some people say that you are not able to store them since they are live, active cultures. Others say that you can refrigerate them in sugar water for up to two weeks. I have read reports of people who have frozen and/or dehydrated them and had success with that, however, I have not personally tried that. When I need a break from making kefir, I put all my grains in a glass jar with some extra-sugary mineral water, and then just leave them on my counter. I have had no problems leaving them like that for a few weeks on end – I change out the sugar water every week or so. If you refrigerate them, they will be slow for the first few batches, while the cultures “reactivate” so to speak. I recommend taking some extra grains and experimenting with the storage process that works best for you.

20. Can I feed my animals kefir or kefir gains?

Yes. Animals all need good bacteria in their guts too. I recommend feeding them milk kefir instead of water kefir because it has less sugar. You also want to feed them kefir in moderation – maybe a tablespoon or so over their food until you see how they react. It’s not going to harm them, but it could have similar effects as it does on humans who are introducing new, beneficial bacteria to the gut. Start slow and feel it out as a pet owner. You can also sprinkle a few of the grains on their food.

21. How do I flavor my water kefir?

Thanks for asking! Check out this Water Kefir Flavor Guide for lots of ideas on how to flavor your water kefir.

Do you have a question that is not included in this post? If so, let me know and I’d be happy to add it to the list! I’d also love to hear about your water kefir experiments and what you’ve found works best! Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

For more information on water kefir, check out these posts:

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About Jessica Espinoza

Jessica is a real food nut, coconut everything enthusiast, avid reader and researcher, blossoming yogi, and animal lover. She has had a life-long passion for food and being in the kitchen is where she is the happiest. Jessica started Delicious Obsessions in 2010 as a way to help share her love for food and cooking. Since then, it has grown into a trusted online resource with a vibrant community of people learning to live healthy, happy lives through real food and natural living.

Discussion

46 comments

  1. can water kefir grains be converted to milk kefir grains?

    reply 

    Phisheadgd
    Posted 04/22/11

    • Great question!! You know, I am not 100% sure. I have read that they can. I’ve also read that you can convert milk kefir grains to water kefir grains. However, I can’t find a definitive answer anywhere and I personally have not tried it. I have an email in to a kefir guru and as soon as she responds, I’ll post it on here! :)

      reply 

      Anonymous
      Posted 04/23/11

  2. My water grains turned brown and stopped multiplying.  Are they going bad?

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    Eblacano
    Posted 06/10/11

    • Potentially. If you add them to sugar water or coconut water, are they creating kefir? What kind of sugar are you using? If you use sugars other than plain cane sugar, they tend to turn brown. But, if you are finding that they don’t turn the water into kefir after 24-48 hours, then they could possibly be dead.

      I wish I had some extras to send you, but I actually just had my water grains go bad on me, but it’s because I forgot about them and they ran out of food! :( The jar got shoved behind some stuff on my counter and when I finally checked it, it had been almost two weeks. I tried making another batch and the grains sat there and did nothing. I’m going to have to start over!

      reply 

      Anonymous
      Posted 06/10/11

  3. Do you use the coconut water from a carton or the actual coconut. I really prefer the coconut water, but it’s too much trouble to open up the young coconuts and not to mention costly.

    reply 

    Alice
    Posted 07/07/11

    • I use coconut water from a carton. I agree that fresh would be so much better, but it’s just not feasible for most people. I am actually preparing a coconut water comparison post that should be live middle to late July, where I am going to compare a lot of store bought coconut water brands. There are so many on the market, it can get confusing!

      reply 

      Anonymous
      Posted 07/08/11

    • Ok my reply looks like three years late, but when I went shopping I found dehydrated coconut water how do you think that might work, I’m presently hydrating some that were sent to me and When they start multiplying I’d like to give this a try, any opinions on this?

      reply 

      Lori
      Posted 08/05/14

      • Hi Lori – I’m not sure how well the dried coconut water works. I’ve never used it before. If you do try it, I’d try a very small batch with just a portion of your grains, just in case it doesn’t work and the grains die. Happy experimenting! :)

        reply 

        Jessica Espinoza
        Posted 08/07/14

  4. I started making water kefir about 4 mos ago. My grains were not producing so I looked up videos on YouTube for some answers. I added an clean eggshell, a pc of lemon and another batch I used only maple syrup to sweeten. In two days the grains reproduced which I was glad about, but when I strained them out from the liquid, they’re just a bunch of mush. Theres no shape to them. They look like cream of wheat or something. What would cause the grains to turn mushy?

    reply 

    vickie stauffer
    Posted 01/25/12

    • I had that happen too. And, it seemed to vary from batch to batch. Some would be mushier, some would be firmer. I noticed that once I added the egg shell and some molasses (for the minerals), they started holding their shape better. I’m going to throw a post on the blog’s Facebook page and see if anyone knows why they change texture like that. I’ll let you know if I find out anything.

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/26/12

  5. I have been reading about Kefir for over a year now but have never purchased any. I am really interested in getting started with this seemingly amazing probiotic. Would anyone be interested in sharing some? I would be willing to pay whatever is necessary. Thank you for this forum on Kefir. I’ so excited at the prospect of not just getting Kefir but having a community of people that can keep it going in order to keep sharing in the event someone else’s stops producing. What an amazing website. Thank you all so much. It’s a good thing to have a network of sorts as we all move toward this self sufficiency.

    reply 

    Terry H.
    Posted 04/20/12

  6. I accidentaly used non-filtered tap water with the grains. Does that mean I’ve killed them? :(

    reply 

    Ab
    Posted 05/17/12

  7. What do i do with it after its done? Can you put it in the refrigerator? How long is it good for (how quickly does it have to be consumed)?

    reply 

    Me
    Posted 05/22/12

    • You can drink it after either the first ferment or the second ferment. I personally like to do a second ferment and add some fruit or fruit juice. After the second ferment, keep it in the fridge. It will keep for weeks. I seal mine tightly and it gets pretty fizzy. Hope that helps! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 05/25/12

  8. Hi, I’ve really enjoyed reading your post and appreciate all the links you’ve provided! I just started growing my kefir here in Hawaii and boy have they flourished! I am lucky to get a few free coconuts my bf loves to husk for me to use with my kefir (and I get all that really soft yummy coconut meat too!). I had not realized that you do not have to add sugar to the coconut water! I think that is why mine were coming out really fermented like a combination of beer and wine! My friend claims to have gotten a buzz from drinking it. Thank goodness I read your post as I will not be making that batch, unless requested! I wanted to share a recipe I stumbled upon accidentally that was just so delicious. I added some plain kefir water (48hour fermentation w/white and organic sugar and spring water) to some Serendipi Tea Strawberry Kisses Tea, sweetened with honey, about half and half of each. I am thinking about trying it with some of my other teas. Do you think it would be okay to use the tea as water for the kefir? I will try and see if all goes well. Oh, the person asking about why their kefir is mushy looking, my kefir started out that way but each batch they got bigger and bigger. Now they are the size of my thumbnail! Glad to see so many interested in this delicious healthy drink. If anyone in Hawaii wants any grains, I have a lot to share!

    reply 

    Gina
    Posted 06/07/12

    • Hi Gina! I hope you’ll see my message, a year and ½ after your post… I live on Oahu and am looking for someone to share their water kefir grains! Please send me an email if your are still able to share. Thanks! My email address is glocka27@gmail.com

      reply 

      Andee
      Posted 01/30/14

    • I realize this post is from a while ago. Are you still making your kefir? Have you tried milk kefir? I got mold twice and have to re-buy grains and start over. It is similar with water kefir? Thanks!

      reply 

      Shelby
      Posted 07/01/14

  9. When storing Kefir Grains, do you need a tight seal or will a coffee filter or paper towel with a rubber band work? I currently have a batch fermenting but I have many grains left over…and not enough jars! :) I just need to buy more jars!!
    But, until then, what is the exact proper way to store them on my countertop?
    Thank you!!

    reply 

    Sarah H
    Posted 06/13/12

    • When I am storing extras, I keep them in the fridge in a small jar of sugar water. I switch out the sugar water weekly and that seems to keep them happy! Does that help? :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 06/13/12

      • Thank you, Jessica! Yes, that does help. I have heard they can be stored on the countertop as well. I was curious. Our house is usually kept at 78 during the summer (Texas). So I was wondering if that was warm enough or too warm.

        reply 

        Sarah H
        Posted 06/13/12

        • The temp should be fine (my house gets hotter than that during the summer). Just know that the warmer it is, the faster it will ferment, so what might normally take 24-36 hours in the winter might only take 12-24 hours in the summer. If you store the grains at room temp., you’ll probably need to change the sugar water more often because of the warmth. That’s just my two cents though. It’s all about finding what works best for you in your little eco-system! :)

          reply 

          Jessica
          Posted 06/14/12

          • Thank you!!! I’ll try it out on the counter for now and we’ll see what happens!! I guess I can always put it in the fridge to slow it down, too. :) I love having options!

            reply 

            Sarah H
            Posted 06/14/12

  10. Hello! I just stumbled across this site searching for ways to store extra water kefir grains.

    I am interested in an answer to Sarah’s question regarding how to store extra water kefir grains. Does the jar need to be tightly closed? OR do you cover with a coffee filter or paper towel?

    Also, is there a ratio of how much sugar to grains you need to use when storing extra kefir grains?

    Thanks so much! ;)

    reply 

    Patricia
    Posted 07/14/12

    • Hi Patricia – Thanks for stopping by! Great question – I need to go through and update this FAQ page! I used to store my water kefir grains on the counter, in a mason jar and sugar water, but now, I store them in one of my small Fido jars in the fridge. To store them, I make strong batch of sugar/mineral water and then store them. I’ll switch out the water every 10-14 days with fresh sugar water, if I need to store longer. So far, I have had no problems with this method and my grains come back to life really fast when I need to start brewing again. I have completely moved away from Mason jars and now am using Fidos exclusively for my water kefir. When I can afford it, I will get a couple Pickl-Its and use those, but for now, the Fidos will have to do. :) Let me know if that helps!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 07/14/12

  11. I have extra kefir grains and live in Lancaster California if anyone wants some?

    reply 

    Jackie
    Posted 11/18/12

  12. Would love some kefir grains in Hawaii Gina. LMK thanks!

    reply 

    Cgrl
    Posted 12/13/12

  13. Hi. I would like to know if the water kefir grains would be beneficial to put in my septic tank to keep it clean or would it have the opposite effect?

    reply 

    Jim Goldstone
    Posted 01/16/13

    • Hi Jim – Never had someone ask that question before. I honestly don’t know the answer, but I would say it’s better to just use the kefir grains to create your own food, rather than share with the septic tank. Thanks for stopping by! :)

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 01/16/13

  14. Hello?
    What size pickl it jar would you suggest for someone just starting out? Do you need more than 1 for the initial fermentation? What size flip tops and how many for the second fermentation? Thanks!

    reply 

    Chanty
    Posted 02/18/13

  15. I had my first bottle of grape flavored kefir water explode! It was a 17 oz bottle and it was only half full of kefir with a half of a cup of grape juice and half a tsp of sugar. So from what I understand I should have had more kefir water (half a quart) for that much juice and if I get the proportions right then I shouldn’t have a problem but to be honest I’m a little gun shy of exploding bottles now when dealing with grape juice. BTW I have had no problems with any of the recipes that you have listed and all of the ones that I’ve tried have been great!

    reply 

    Jim
    Posted 08/05/13

    • Hi Jim – Sorry to hear about the exploding bottle! I hope that no one was injured! :( There is always a risk of that whenever you are doing any sort of fermented beverage that builds up lots of carbonation. I have also had that happen (more than once) and I think if you ask anyone who ferments regularly, they will also have a similar story. I have typically had it happen when I have overfilled the jar or bottle. You must have had some powerful kefir if it exploded the jar with it only half full. Grape juice is often higher in sugar than other juices, so I would try using less (if you do use it again) and maybe omitting the additional tsp. of sugar. Hope that helps!

      reply 

      Jessica
      Posted 08/06/13

      • I saw one comment online that suggested “burping” the bottle once a day to prevent excessive buildup of gases. Would that have any negative impact on the process?

        reply 

        Jim
        Posted 08/06/13

        • Burping is definitely worth a try. I rarely burp mine, just because I always forgot. But, when you’re brewing during the summer, it can build up a lot of pressure very quickly. Definitely give that a try and see how it works for you.

          reply 

          Jessica
          Posted 08/06/13

  16. Hi Jessica, I’m finding lots of info on the health benefits of kombucha. As I already ferment and enjoy water kefir, yogurt & sauerkraut, I’m not sure I have the time to add kombucha to the list and not sure if it’s necessary. If you had to choose between water kefir & kombucha, which would you choose and why? Thanks for your input,
    Mary

    reply 

    Mary
    Posted 02/26/14

    • Hi Mary – If I had to choose, I’d go with water kefir, simply because I prefer it to kombucha. Water kefir is easy to make and is also a fast ferment, so it’s more of an instant gratification. :)

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 02/26/14

  17. The link in this (or maybe another) article for the flip top bottles will not work for me. Can you post here what you use?

    reply 

    Laelle Martin
    Posted 02/27/14

  18. Hello,Jessica I just start to made my water kefir for 2 weeks , my kefir grown n look very good .. But may I ask how come i cannot feel any fizz in my water , only discover the first time have a little bit , nothing on the 2nd , 3rd even the one I have now … Actually I can see the air bubbles on the 1st fermentation (not much) , however after flavouring and put into the flip top bottle the bubbles all gone. I really want to make this fizzy drink to replace the sofe drink as my husband use to drink in the day. Pls help ..n thank you

    reply 

    Susanna
    Posted 04/10/14

    • Hi Susanna – I am not sure why it would not be getting fizzy during the second ferment. The only thing I can think of is that it is fermenting too long during the first ferment, and the grains are running out of food during the second. Try adding a small pinch of sugar or some dried fruit to your second ferment and see if that helps. The added sugar gives it more food. Also, were you using dehydrated grains or fresh grains? If they were dehydrated, it will take them awhile to get back up and running at full steam.

      reply 

      Jessica Espinoza
      Posted 04/15/14

      • I am having the same issue! I brew in 1 gal jars and have a little fizz 1st fermentation and flat kefir after flavoring. I use spring water and 1 cup sugar in 1st fermentation, then am add 100% juice to 2nd. I use about 14th of juice to 2nd. Am I doing something wrong? Am I adding enough sweet?

        Please help Terri

        reply 

        Terri
        Posted 09/10/14

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