Water Kefir: Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned

Were getting all kinds of involved in fermentation over here on our little homestead.

You see, while most of you are out there planting, harvesting and enjoying the great outdoors, those of us living in hotter locations are locked in our houses huddled under the nearest air conditioning vent.  So, as any good hermit would do, I took to caring for extra “creatures,” i.e. all my fermented cultures.  My first foray into new fermentation territory is with water kefir.

Water Kefir

Water kefir.  Have you made it?  Are you familiar with it?  If not, here you go – from the Cultures for Health website – http://www.culturesforhealth.com/water-kefir-frequently-asked-questions-faq :

Kefir is a probiotic beverage made with either kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture. There are two types of grains, milk kefir grains and water kefir grains. Milk kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk, or coconut milk. Water kefir grains can be used with sugar water, juice, or coconut water. Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term kefir grains describes the look of the culture only. 

If you’re interested in making water kefir, I highly suggest getting your grains from Cultures for Health via their site – http://www.culturesforhealth.com/  or on  Amazon (unless, of course, you have a fermentation friend in your area, in which case, you can just wait for theirs to multiply and mooch). There are also links to additional sources at the bottom of the post.

Since there are already SO many great posts out there in cyberspace about HOW to make water kefir, I’m not going to try to do that topic any justice.  Instead, in this post, I’m going to focus on some of the things I’ve found that many of these posts have left out or things/advice I really had to search out.  If you want some great posts on HOW to make water kefir, here they are:

Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned


  • Have all your supplies ready to go and don’t skimp.  You need: 

Quart size mason jars 

Ball Regular Mouth 32-Ounces Mason Jar with Lids and Bands (2-Units), Pack of 2, Clear

Ball is known for their glass jars for canning. You will get 3 quart-size Ball jars, along with lids and bands.

Flip top bottles 

Otis Classic Swing Top Glass Bottles with Lids – Set of 6, 16oz, Flip Top Stoppers-Second Fermentation, Kombucha, Water Kefir, Brewing Beer

You can store a variety of liquids in these 16oz flip top bottles. The caps are stainless steel and durable plastic caps which makes them leak-proof and seal securely. They are easy to clean in the dishwasher.

Plastic strainer 

HIC Nylon Mesh Strainer, 4-inch

When making water kefir, you want to use a plastic strainer. This double-ear fine mesh strainer can be used for sifting, straining, draining or sieving foods and ingredients. It sits securely on pots, pans, and mixing bowls. Top-rack dishwasher safe.


You’ll get 36”x144” of 100% cotton that can be used for straining, polishing, staining, crafts, or even in the garden.


Delove Small Funnel Set of 6, Plastic Funnels for Kitchen Liquid, Spices, Powder, Cosmetic, Lotion, Essential Oils, Food Grade and BPA Free

This set of four various size funnels comes with a funnel brush and dropper. They have differing spout sizes which make them suitable for pouring items from one container to another.

Sugar from your local stores

Spring water from your local stores

100% juice of your choosing from your local stores

Kefir grains from the source listed above or the list below

  • Don’t start your kefir right before you go on vacation or you’ll be carting your jar of kefir grains + water around with you in the car on your trip.  It will feel like you have a child, trust me on this.
  • Don’t worry about the alcohol content.  Even if you’re pregnant, you can still drink water kefir. You may read about there being a “high” alcohol content in water kefir (from the second ferment), but don’t freak out.  Extensive further research will prove that there is GENERALLY less than 1% alcohol content.  (Of course, this can vary but it is a general guideline.)  Should you drink gallons?  Probably not.  Can you drink a glass or two?  I’d say yes.
  • Do the second ferment.  You can drink the kefir after the first ferment, but it is flat.  The second ferment brings the carbonation and tastiness.
  • Always “burp” your bottles during the second ferment.  Gas builds up quickly and you don’t want any explosions


  • The initial step of water heating then cooling can get time consuming and can mess with your ability to keep up with your grains.  I find that filling my mason jar 1/4 full of hot water, dissolving the sugar in that much water and then filling my mason jar the rest of the way with COLD water works perfectly.  My water is instantly at the right temperature.  (You’ve got to be careful.  Water that is too hot can kill your grains.  I used a thermometer the first few times until I got used to what the proper temperature felt like on my finger.)
  • After the second ferment, you may see a ring around the bottle where the level of kefir sat for a couple of days.  It is really annoying to get rid of it.  I’ve found that hot water + 1 tbsp of rice in the bottle, cap tightly and shake well will usually get rid of the ring.  I’m sure there is some kind of bottle brush that would work too.

Lessons Learned:

  • Buy the plastic strainer.  I was being an EXTREME cheapskate and thought I could make the cheesecloth do double duty.  Not worth the hassle.  I bought the strainer a week later.
  • Use spring water.  I was using purified water (not my tap water which I KNOW has yucky stuff in it) and the grains QUICKLY began making less bubbles.  Spring water is important because of the minerals it contains.  I’ve read that you can add minerals back into purified water with drops but haven’t tried it myself.
  • Don’t worry so much about what sugar you use.  Obviously, I wouldn’t suggest using GMO sugar beets or non-organic cane sugar, but don’t get too freaked out about the 5 tbsp+ (!!) that you put in initially.  The whole point of the sugar is that you are giving the yeast and bacteria something to eat.  You’ll see after the first couple times you drink it that, despite all the sugar you put in the mason jar, the beverage really isn’t sweet at all.  I just use organic white cane sugar.  Pretty easy to find.
  • If you need to go out of town and don’t want to take your grains with you, put them in fresh sugar water in your mason jar, screw a lid on tight and stick it in the fridge.  They will generally keep for a few weeks this way.
  • And most of all, just get started!  You can read blog posts and directions until you are blue in the face but really isn’t that hard.  Give it a try and find out how fun and tasty it is!