The prettiest water kefir (Photo: Emma Boyd)

Recipe: Water kefir

An effervescent fermented beverage a bit like kombucha, water kefir is a refreshing drop for the warmer weather. Here’s how to make it.

As I sit here typing, my kids are sitting at the table colouring in, sipping the glasses of water kefir I just photographed for this recipe. Our middle boy Ahi has just commented on how delicious his drink is and I have to say I agree. I’ve been making water kefir since the start of the year, and have enjoyed experimenting with different flavours as the seasons change and with them the offerings from our garden. The most delicious flavour I’ve made yet has definitely been the rose, which initially I didn’t think would work so well with the subtle flavour of the kefir. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The delicate rose is perfect with the almost apple flavour of the kefir and, served with ice and a strip of lemon zest, it makes for a beautifully refreshing drink. As lemon in the secondary ferment doesn’t seem to work so well, add the lemon when you serve it. I hope you enjoy this drink as much as we do – a great one for the warmer summer months fast approaching!  

Water kefir grains (Photo: Getty Images)


Makes 2.5 litres (10 cups)

Primary ferment

  • 2.5 litres (10 cups) water
  • 150g sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water kefir grains*
  • 10 raisins

Secondary ferment

  • Rose buds
  • Ginger
  • Pear
  • Blackberry

To rest kefir grains

  • several tablespoons water kefir
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the primary ferment, boil the jug and dissolve the sugar in 2 cups boiling water. Add another 2 cups of cold water and stir well to cool the sugar water down. Add the remaining 6 cups water to a jar large enough to hold 10 cups (2.5 litres) of water.

Tip the water kefir grains into the jar then add the sugar water and the raisins. Stir, screw the lid on and let sit to ferment. The fermentation process can occur within 24 hours if your grains are active and the temperature is warm, or it may take up to 4 or 5 days. So taste your kefir after 24 hours and see how it’s going – it’s ready when it’s no longer sugary-sweet and is slightly fizzy. 

Once ready, pour the water kefir through a strainer to catch the grains. Put the grains into a little jar, pour over several tablespoons of water kefir so it comes 3-4cm over the grains then stir in the teaspoon of sugar. Put into the fridge until you make your next batch of kefir. Feeding it once a week if you’re not making batches that often. I have found that using rapadura sugar is good at this point as it gives the kefir grains minerals which seems to make them thrive. It is for this reason that you add the raisins to the primary ferment also. You can use rapadura sugar for the primary ferment but as it is strong in flavour it can overpower many of the flavours you might add in the secondary ferment.   

Now pour the water kefir into swing-top bottles. It’s important you use swing-top bottles as the pressure that builds up in the secondary ferment is so great it can cause regular bottles to explode. At this stage you can leave the kefir as is, which is lovely, or add flavourings to it. We’ve been enjoying rose kefir, which to make I add three little dried rosebuds or a teaspoonful of dried rose petals to each bottle. Make sure your roses are spray-free. Ginger makes a great addition also – add 1-2 teaspoons grated ginger, depending on how strong you like it. Another great combination is pear and blackberry. I add in four blackberries and some thinly sliced matchsticks of pear. The combinations are endless and I am looking forward to trying rhubarb in my next batch. I have to note that lemon doesn’t seem to work well for me – it lends the kefir an almost mouldy flavour.

Leave the kefir for 3-4 days until effervescent and it has taken on the flavour of whatever you have added to it. I find that at about 4 days both the flavour and fizziness are spot on. Once tasting just right, store in the fridge to stop it fermenting any further.

*Water kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship – like a kombucha SCOBY, but prettier! You can buy them from various suppliers online, easily findable on Google – I got mine from The Veggie Tree.

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