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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.

28 Comments:

  • Naomi says:

    Bought a kit. Looking forward to trying these, especially since we recently planted a lot of fruit trees and berry bushes.

  • Sun Kim says:

    I recently learned about kefir grains and tried to find out more info about it. Your articles of How to make water kefir part 1&2 was very precise and helpful. Thank you so much.

    • theresa says:

      You are welcome! I just had so many people asking about it that I thought it was time to write a comprehensive post about the whole process. Glad you found it helpful.

  • Olga says:

    Hi Theresa! Very nice article, but want to ask you a questions about problem I’m having with it. I just started to make water kefir recently, but having problem to get it fizz enough. It’s always very mild in fizz and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong? I hope you can give me a tip…

    • theresa says:

      Hi Olga,

      First know that the “fizz” is very unpredictable. I will do exactly the same thing twice and one time get a ton of fizz and the next time get none. The reason is that there are many factors affecting the amount of carbonation produced. Basically, the bacteria eats the sugar and creates the carbonation as an after product.

      Also, you won’t get fizz right away. Your grains need to have gone through several feedings before they get good at carbonation.

      For more fizz you need each of these elements:

      – Warmer temperatures. (If your kitchen is cold, you get less fizz)
      – Healthy kefir grains that are on at least their 4th round of fermentation. (Newer grains don’t fizz as much)
      – Enough sugar to convert
      – Important: Try whole sugars containing molasses to get the most fizz
      – A sealed environment for the fizz to build up (If you jar is leaking, the fizz leaks out too)
      – Give your kefir enough time to build up (48 hours is usually good – but an extra day will give more fizz)

      Water kefir is not an exact science, so don’t give up. Of all the items above, I think using whole sugar or adding molasses to your jar will get you the fastest results.

      Good luck!

      • Dawn says:

        Is there a limit to how long you can leave the bottle out on the counter for a second fermentation? (With hour refrigeration). I added fresh blueberry juice to kefir water after removing the grains and then forgot about it for over a week. Nice and fizzy, tastes pretty good, slightly weird but not stinky weird. is it safe to drink? How long before it goes bad?

  • Naomi says:

    Fruit was on sale here so I bought extra to dry. Looking forward to trying this with strawberries, mangos, kiwi, pineapple and combinations.

  • Penny says:

    Thank you for this article and the one before. I have always been on the fence about kefir but have tried it and love it. One question though. After it is flavored with the fruit and bottled, how long can it be stored in the refrigerator? I want to share some with some family members but want to be informed. Thank you.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Penny,

      Once I remove the grains and the flavoring has sat for 48 hours, I then treat the water kefir as a fresh juice drink. I refrigerate it and try to consume it within 7-10 days. Since there is some residual yeast, it probably lasts longer than this. But that is what I do – mainly because I have more batches coming up that need to be consumed.

      Just always smell the kefir. If it ever smells off or rotten, throw it out.

  • Crystal says:

    I’m new to all of this as well. I’m on my second ferment of grains and trying to get a fizzy drink. I’ve read your other comment about using a sugar with molasses so I’m picking some up today. Is there a way to tell that your water is fizzy without tasting it? Should i wait until it’s fizzy to add juice? TIA

    • theresa says:

      Hi Crystal,
      You won’t get “the fizz” until you seal the Kefir up in a bottle or container to during the second ferment. The fact that it is sealed up will cause the carbonation to appear. You should be able to see a few bubbles rising when you open the container. You don’t have to taste to check. When you go to the second stage of sealing up the bottle for the 2nd ferment, add your juice then. The bacteria will feed on the sugar of the juice. You would be creating an extra step and diluting your carbonation by waiting for the fizz before adding juice. And the fizz can vary based on temp and how active your fermentation is going. Sometimes I get very little fizz other times…pow! Tons of fizz. So be gentle with yourself as you try a few batches. The longer you do it, the stronger your grains become.

      Oh and yes, I have seen bubbles on the first ferment. But not usually.

  • Grammy Karen says:

    I am experimenting with my first batch of Kefir water. What I have found so far is: using 100% sucanat sugar will give you a very syrupy result while the 100% white sugar did not. However, after the activating and then the first batch of brew the sucanat jar was fizzy just with a coffee filter over it. The white sugar was not. I have added lemon juice and bottled it and set it to get fizzy. I mixed the sucanat and white sugar brews with lemon juice. I don’t think it will take long for it to make fizz. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

  • Linda Lourens says:

    I am feeding my Water Kefir Grains with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a teaspoon of Blackstrap Molasses. This is working well. The molasses gives the whole WK batch a very strong taste so now I want to do a second ferment with some fruit. Has anyone experimented with which is the best fruit to use to disguise the molasses flavour? Thanks for your help.

  • Britt Sailing says:

    I received my first order of WK grains a couple of days ago and just strained my first batch of “brew”. As expected, it just tasted like sugar water. I understand that the first few batches will be wasted as the grains get up to speed, but how will I know when I’ve got a good, consumable batch of WK as opposed to just sugar water? What should I be looking for in terms of taste, appearance, smell?

  • Katie says:

    Thanks for the great tips and instructions! I’m new to water kefir and am just on my 3rd batch (let’s chalk the first 2 up to the learning curve!). I tried 1/2 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice with a quart of water kefir and it turned out great. After a 2 day 2nd ferment even my 6 year old was loving it.

  • MARY KAVAN says:

    Do I add raisins to the first ferment or 2nd? You mentioned for more fizz add a spoonful of molasses. Is that instead of sugar during the first ferment or to be added during the second ferment? Lastly, if flavoring with lemon juice during the second ferment, do you add a tsp of sugar with that? Thank you!

  • Megan says:

    Hi Theresa
    I have a second ferment of water kefir from a friend. Can I keep some as a starter for my next batch of kefir or do I need the grains to produce another batch? If I can what quantity of juice/water should I add to this kefir?

  • Oleg says:

    Theresa, hello. Thank you for the article.
    I have question.
    After the water Kefir is ready (second or even first fermentation), how long can it stand inside the fridge (when will it expire and become bad)?
    More or less then a week?

  • Any says:

    Can I use cordial in second ferment ??
    I think it’s about 25% fruit.

  • Jessica says:

    If I have already refrigerated my first ferment can I take it back out and flavor it? Or Only do a second ferment at room temp straight from the first?

  • Julie says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t use cordial – too much sugar, and it would probably turn out too sweet. I have been using bottled juice with no added sugar – it’s something I’m trying to cut down on. I’m out of it today, so I’m going to try my home grown organic limes.

  • Veronica says:

    Good day, I love water kefir and just want to say I use flavored tea bags in the second ferment. I remove the tag which I then tie to the bottle. Two bags per 1.25 liters bottles

  • Billy says:

    It is so interesting how many different steps and ways there are to flavor your water kefir! I definitely want my water kefir to have some great and interesting flavors. Can’t wait to try making my own at home soon! Thank you for sharing!

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