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Flavoring Water Kefir – Part 2 of 2

How To Flavor Water Kefir

How to flavor water kefir - LivingHomegrown

In my last post, I gave you the whole scope on how to make water kefir – a fermented probiotic beverage made with sugar water, yeast and bacteria.

I talked about: what water kefir is, the benefits and how to do the first ferment.

Yes, you can drink water kefir after the first ferment with no flavoring at all, but it doesn’t taste very good at that point. If you want to do that, I suggest you use it in smoothies or add it to other beverages, etc.

Important: Remember to start out with small amounts of kefir until your body gets used to it. I started with just a spoonful each day and slowly increased. It will be populating your intestines and you don’t want an unpleasant experience by doing that suddenly.

The magic happens when you flavor it!

Now, I don’t want to make this more complicated than it needs to be. The truth is that you can throw in some flavorings and drink it.

Done.

And there are a gazillion different ways to flavor this beverage. Your only limitation is your imagination.

But I know from teaching this that people have a lot of questions. So, rather than give you one option and answer all the questions in the comments, I wrote a comprehensive post below giving you ALL the details of how to do this a number of different ways.

I hope you refer back to it for inspiration every time you make a new batch.

HowToFlavorWaterKefir

The most important thing you need to know is that after your first ferment, you either:

  • Add flavor and drink it OR…
  • Add flavor and do a second ferment (for more fizz and more intense flavor)

Why Don’t I Just Flavor It During the First Ferment?

Well, some people DO add their flavoring during the first ferment and never do a second. There is nothing really wrong in doing this. As I said in my first post, there are many methods for making water kefir.

However, I like the two-step method much better because…

Flavoring AFTER the grains are removed:

  • Will keep your grains from absorbing any color or flavorings. Then you are free to flavor the next batch however you want.
  • Is easier to judge the length of the 1st ferment because you know exactly how much sugar is in there.
  • Keeps your grains healthy. Fermenting in some juices is hard on grains.
  • Keeps your grains clean. Fruits tend to break down while fermenting and the bits can get mixed into your grains when you strain them out.

So, if you follow my method for the first ferment, then use one of the following flavoring methods outlined below for your next step.

1 – Straight Flavoring:

(No 2nd fermentation)

After following the fermentation steps for creating your batch of water kefir, you can flavor it by doing one of the following:

Fruit Juice: Add ¼-1/2 cup organic fruit juice per quart of water kefir (depending upon how you like it). I use unsweetened bottled juice or actually juice the fruit myself. Some choices of juice are: blueberry, cranberry, cherry, lemon, lime, peach, pomegranate, and strawberry. My favorite flavor?  I add 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice and drink. It tastes like kefir lemonade.

Extract: Add 2 tsp. vanilla extract to get achieve a “cream soda” flavor. You can add more or adjust to your liking.

Crushed berries or other fruit: Add about 1/2 cup crushed fruit per 1 quart. You don’t get a strong flavor unless you go on to do a second ferment (outlined below). But this will give you a light flavor if you are in a hurry.

Spices: Add spices such as sliced/shredded ginger, dried lavender, fresh lemon verbena, cinnamon sticks, etc. You will get a light taste if you add and then drink. (I suggest using a reusable tea bag for ingredients that float around). If you want a stronger flavor, then add any of these and go on to the second ferment.

2 – Flavoring & Fizz with A Second Ferment:

This is a great way to get more fizz in your drink. Even though you have strained out the grains, the remaining liquid still has yeasts and bacteria that will eat the new sugar (in the juice or fruit) during a second ferment and give off carbon dioxide.

Step-by-Step:

  1. After adding one or more of the flavorings below, seal the bottle (flip-top bottles are recommended) so that carbon dioxide can build up. If you do not want more fizz, just cover the container with a paper coffee filter and rubber band.
  2. Let the mixture sit for 1-2 days to get a second ferment.
  3. Strain the liquid if you need to. Otherwise, transfer your bottle to the refrigerator so it can chill before consuming.
  4. Then (carefully) open your bottle and drink.

How to Flavor Water Kefir - Living Homegrown

Some tips:

  • You can use different sized jars or bottles, but I highly recommend using flip-top bottles for the second ferment due to the carbonation. You will be sealing the jars to get carbonation to build. If you use regular canning jars and seal them shut, there is a risk of bursting the jar as the pressure builds up. (I like the clear flip-top bottles, but you can also get brown bottles)
  • However, using wide-mouth canning jars with lids is easier when adding fruit (You don’t want it stuck in the bottle). Just be sure that you “burp” the jar every day. (You can also set the jar in a tub on the counter in case it cracks or breaks)
  • No matter what type of bottle or jar you use, I recommend that you burp once per day to release the pressure. (To “burp”, just slowly open the container to release the gas and then reseal.)
  • If you have one flavoring you do all the time, you will learn how much pressure tends to build and you may not need to do “burping” of the container. You will know how much gas builds up and when you should consume it. But when doing a new flavoring, you may get more pressure than you realize – hence the burping of the bottle is recommended.
  • In warm weather, be ready because your bottle may fizz and overflow when opened. Keep a towel on hand or open over the sink.
  • If you do not get any fizz (or very little), don’t worry. It may be that you did not have much yeast in that batch or that the sugar content is low or that the temp is not right. It happens.
  • If you want more fizz over all, use a spoonful of molasses in your initial ferment or just a half spoonful during the second ferment.
  • Always leave some headspace in the bottle. Don’t fill it to the top or it will overflow.
  • If you use whole fruit, chop or crush it first to release more flavor and juice and remove it after 24 hours. Some fruits get slimy after that time.
  • If you use dried fruit, make sure it is free from preservatives and sulfites.

How to flavor water kefir - Living Homegrown

Sample ideas:

(Add any of the following to 1 quart of water kefir. You can also do combinations like lemon juice with ginger)

Juice: (1/4- 1/2 cup) grape, apple, cherry, peach, lemon or lime juice, etc…etc…etc.

Fresh or frozen fruit: (a handful or two) Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries – All berries work well and a combo of different berries is really good. Also try cherries, papaya, peaches, kiwi, etc…etc…etc… Crush or chop the fruit first.

Citrus peels: Add a strip or two of orange, lemon or lime peel. Or add about 1 Tbsp. of zest (Always use organic fruit – no pesticides)

Ginger: 1-3 tsp. grated fresh ginger or a few slices. This is a very popular flavoring

Dried fruit: mango, papaya, pineapple and apples are all popular choices.

Dried Lavender: 1-3 tsp. lavender flowers (tied in a reusable tea bag for easy removal)

Raisins: ¼ cup raisins. This was suggested by a friend who swears it gives a slight Dr. Pepper taste. I have not tried it yet.

Fresh herbs: A sprig or two of mint, lemon verbena, or fresh lavender all add a little zing to the mix.

Do You Have Any Other Ideas for Flavorings? 

Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to try some new combinations. And as always, feel free to leave questions too.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.