Q: How can I tell if the grains/crystals are alive and working?
A: The signs of healthy grains are; bubbles are forming, water colour is changing from clear to cloudy, flavour of water is changing from really sweet to sweet/sour and you’ll notice you have more grains after several batches.
Q: Sugar is not allowed on my diet, can I have kefir?
A: The sugar is for the crystals; they consume it and convert it to fructose and yeast which gives the slight sweet and sour flavour. Fructose is allowed on most diets.
Q: Do I need to add molasses, isn’t sugar enough?
A: Molasses contains minerals that promote water kefir grain health and growth. If you want healthy grains that last forever, it’s best to feed them molasses too.
Q: Do I have to use unbleached calico cloth?
A: No, it is ideal, but they will be fine under a clean tight weave tea towel. You need to ensure that the weave and elastic are sufficient to keep ant and fruit flies out. I have these cloths for my cheese dripping, so I use them. Perhaps just buy one when you see them next.
Q: Should I warm my kefir overnight in winter months?
A: Kefir’s ideal fermenting temperature is around 20 deg C. At night when your kitchen/cupboard drops slightly below this the grains will just slow down their fermentation rate. This means in winter it will take longer to ferment so you do bigger batches. If you want to warm them, you could wrap them in a blanket and place inside an insulated bag, place beside the hot water system, or beside a fridge or even in your dehydrator (put a lid on though as the fan would cause some evaporation).
Q: Can’t I just put fruit in straight away and do it in one step?
A: Yes, you can. Lots of people do it this way. I choose not to as I don’t like wasting time picking fruit chunks and seeds from my grains every night and because I’ve tried it and had grains go slimy and die. I like to keep the grains clean in just sugar water, it’s so much faster and you don’t even have to rinse. Rinsing can be expensive if you’re using bottled water.
Q: Do I need to rinse the grains between batches?
A: No, not normally but if for some reason they get slimy you should rinse.
Q: Where can I get kefir grains?
A: First point of call should be your social network. Ask on FB if anyone you know has any, that way you’ll get them free or just for the postage cost. If none of your facebook friends have any, try joining a Paleo, Gaps or other Nutritional forum or FB group and ask there. If all else fails you can buy online. I’m happy to post them within Australia when I have excess, just send me an email.
Q: Can I use my water kefir grains in coconut water.
A: Yes, you can use juice from fresh young Thai coconuts or pure bought carton juice. I prefer to use plain sugar water as it mixes better with any fruit flavour. Also I love fresh coconut water and prefer to drink it fresh. Some people say you should ferment your grains in coconut water occasionally to improve their quality/growth, I’ve not noticed any benefit from this. In fact I believe the opposite to be true, if you regularly use coconut water, you should occasionally ferment in sugar water to give the crystals their required minerals.
Q: Can I use tap water to make the sugar water?
A: No, the grains require chemical free water. Tap water contains chlorine (& many other nasties) which prohibits the growth of bacteria good or bad. The crystals would die. Use bottled spring water or Reverse Osmosis (RO) alkalised filtered water. I have a RO alkalising filter in my kitchen. I bought 15L bottles of spring water for months before we purchased the tap. I’m very happy with that investment.
Q: How do I keep the grains alive while away on holidays?
A: There are a few options for this one:
1, store them in a capped glass jar in the fridge in a concentrated sugar water (double concentration) and taste for sweetness every 4 weeks or so to check they still have food.
2, freeze in sugar water.
3, dehydrate and store in air tight container for up to 6 months.
Q: Is it true that kefir can explode bottles?
A: Yes, It has happened to me. Since that event I always place my secondary ferment capped bottles in a deep bucket. That way if it happens again, I have a bucket of broken glass to clean up instead of glass, fruit and sugar water everywhere. I’m not sure why it happened, only one out of three bottles from the same brew exploded. I had just got these bottles (old whisky bottles) 2nd hand from a home brew supply. I guessing that one bottle had been fractured or had a flaw. If you’re concerned about exploding bottles, you can burp them daily to release gas, or just reduce secondary ferment time. Remember, the more fruit/juice you add, and the longer you ferment the more bubbles you’ll get.
Q: How much alcohol does kefir contain?
A: It depends on a number of factors; amount of fruit/juice and sugar added, temperature and brew time. If you’re making kefir for children, use minimal sugar/fruit (as per my recipes, others use more) and don’t brew for too long. You can always dilute their drinks 50/50 with water too. Most people say kefir is usually less than 1%. I’ve felt the alcohol effects on a few occasions when I’ve been thirsty downed a 600ml glass fast. Because of this I’m doing some experimenting with an Alcoholmeter to check on the 1% claim and will post about my results soon.
Q: How should I post water kefir grains?
A: There are two options, dehydrate and or send immediately after feeding in a small amount of concentrated sugar water solution. You can dehydrate on a bench for a few days or for 8-12 hrs in a dehydrator at 37 deg c. To rehydrate grains, place in a sugar water as per primary ferment recipe and leave for 4 days to rehydrate. After 4 days, discard water, rinse and then brew as per primary ferment recipe. Grains that have been dehydrated may take a few batches to reach optimal performance. Keep an eye on them and taste their water 6 hourly in summer or 24 hourly in winter to ensure they still have plenty of food. Once they are established you can draw out the brew time a bit more for a more sour taste if desired (for taste or if you’re watching your fructose intake).