Water kefir is a Turkish beverage that comes from the Turkish word ‘Keif’, which describes a good feeling or state of feeling good. As its name implies, we’re talking about a beverage that’s derived from water, with added sugar. Simply put, water kefir is a natural light soda beverage that’s much healthier than any ordinary soda you can buy at your local store. Its low glycemic load and practically no caffeine make it an ideal beverage for those on a diet.
As much as it’s easy to prepare, you’ll still need to take into an account the activation of water kefir grains.
How to Activate Water Kefir Grains?
Now we’ve come to the nitty-gritty of the topic. The activation of water kefir grains includes preparation of sugar water which plays an important role in the whole process. While the activation itself is slow (3-10 days), the preparation time is only about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your experience. Here are the required ingredients:
- Chlorine-free water (it’s recommended that you use boiled or bottled water)
- A pack of dehydrated water kefir grains
- Some cane sugar
- A jar with at least 1 liter of capacity
- A thermometer
Step 1: Preparing the Sugar Water
As we mentioned before, we need to start from the sugar water, as this is the most important ingredient. Pour 1 liter or 500ml of water into the jar and then add around 80g or 40g for each water amount respectively. We recommend that you begin with 500ml and 40g of sugar if this is your first time making sugar water. After that, you’ll need to stir the water for 5 minutes without stopping. This will pump up your biceps a bit, which isn’t that bad – you get to work on your arms while preparing a healthy beverage!
If the sugar doesn’t dissolve after 5 minutes, keep stirring until it’s completely dissolved. The process can be sped up by warming your water but not too much. Grab your thermometer and dip it into the water. The water temperature should be below 20C before adding grains as the higher temperature can kill them. Don’t forget to increase the amount of sugar when you increase the amount of water.
Let us do the math for you – 1l of water equals to 80g of sugar, 1.5l of water equals to 120g of sugar. And if you want to make a massive amount of sugar water, simply put 160g of sugar per 2l of water.
Step 2: Activating Water Kefir Grains
When you finish the preparation of sugar water, simply empty the entire bag of dehydrated kefir grains and cover it with some cloth. Don’t forget to add an elastic band to protect it additionally. The process should last about 3 days. In most cases, you’ll need to wait around 3 to 5 days, depending on the quality of the grains you bought. The temperature conditions in which you need to store your jar are anywhere from 20 to 28 degrees Celsius. After the process is done (3 days), use the sleeve to separate the grains from the liquid.
Repeat the aforementioned process. Boil the chlorine-free water, add some sugar and make the sugar water. Then pour the separated grains with this water and leave the culture for another 2 to 3 days at same temperature conditions. After 3 days, the grains should be translucent and plump. If they aren’t, simply let the culture rest for an additional day and check on it again. The reason we mentioned the temperature conditions is that they directly influent the speed of activation.
The warmer the place where you store the culture, the faster your kefir grains will activate. A temperature of 20C is a bottom limit and we don’t recommend going below that as grains will not activate. On the other hand, going with above 28C is going to completely destroy them. The ideal temperature is around 24 to 25 degrees. This will ensure that the grains are completely activated and ready for further brewing.
Difference Between Dry and Fresh Kefir Grains
When it comes to kefir grains, you can buy them in a fresh state or as dry kefir grains. Let’s start with the fresh kefir grains. These are recommended if you can get your hands on them and they are characterized by the speed in which they produce drinkable kefir. If you know someone who sells these, the best way of consuming them is right after they arrive, while they’re still fresh. However, the most common shape in which we buy kefir grains is dried. The activation of dry kefir grains is slower but the ending result is literally the same.
While the fresh kefir grains usually activate in a few days, dry kefir grains take up to 10 days. Dry kefir grains are also long-lasting, meaning that they can’t be damaged in transport as fresh kefir grains can. Another advantage of dry kefir grains is that they can be stored for an infinite amount of time and will not spoil over time. As with fresh kefir grains… well, they can get dry over time and lose some of the properties. Dry kefir grains can be stored anywhere you want – from your old cupboard to a chilling refrigerator, it’s your choice.
How Do Dried Kefir Grains Look Like?
If you’ve never bought or used dried kefir grains, you probably want to know how do they look. The exact color can’t always be pinpointed. Sometimes, dried kefir grains are fermented with the dried fruits which can directly influence the color. As for the size, it’s very small and comparable to peas or beans. Their structure can also be quite different, depending on how dried the grains are. A rubbery texture tells us that they aren’t fully dried, while a hard texture tells us that they are completely dried.
Of course, it’s recommended that they are very hard, as this is the condition that you want to look for. It means that the kefir grains are completely dry and ready for use.
How to Know When the Kefir Grains Are Activated?
First of all, it’s important to mention that no kefir is too old. Yes, the activation process can depend but if you keep your kefir in your refrigerator for a month or two, nothing is going to happen. Fully-Activated kefir should smell like wine, yeast or vinegar which may indicate that it’s already activated. Upon adding the grains, water will be completely clear. However, after some time, your water will begin to look cloudy, meaning that the activation process is happening.
The dried fruit added to your kefir should also rise to the top of the water level upon ending the process. In this case, kefir is ready to be consumed.
As you can see, activating water kefir grains isn’t that difficult. The important thing is to always use clear, chlorine-free water, even if it means that you need to buy water from the store. After all, it’s very cheap and won’t cost you a fortune. Be sure to thoroughly follow our guide above. Add the exact amount of sugar as it directly changes the flavor of your kefir. If you can’t buy fresh kefir grains, you can always get dried ones, which isn’t a bad thing and will not change the flavor.
If you’re a vegan and don’t want to drink milk kefir, water kefir will surely replicate the taste and feeling of drinking milk kefir.