We lovingly refer to the gut as “the second brain.” Not only because we tend to think with our stomachs, but because it handles digestion, weight management, blood regulation, and helps build a thriving immune system.
The bacteria living in our gut are called the gut microbiota, and there has been an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that consuming fermented foods and drinks may be good for our overall health.
Drinking water kefir could be your first step to unlocking the potential your gut offers, and perhaps you've even experimented with making your own or taken our free kombucha workshop.
Learning how to flavor water kefir can open a whole new set of doors for your culinary journey, so keep reading to find out how to do it, and why flavoring your water could be just what the doctor ordered.
What is Water Kefir?
There is a difference between milk or dairy kefir and water kefir. While the grains in both types of kefir feed on sugar, the starter grains for water kefir eat whatever sugar is in the sugar water base, whereas dairy kefir grains eat lactose.
They do both contain a mother culture known as "grains," which are symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast. However, because bacteria differ in each culture, they look very different.
The grains of dairy kefir are rubbery white clusters that resemble cauliflower. The grains of water kefir are translucent crystals or sharp tiny stones that stay apart from one another.
Before we start:
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The Benefits of Water Kefir
Water kefir is practically brimming with good bacteria. The kind that is thought to help our digestive systems function well and keep them going strong. These are called probiotics, and while we certainly get many forms of bacteria out there, both good and bad, probiotics may be critical for good gut performance.
A healthy, diverse inner ecosystem is invaluable for gut health, and water kefir can have up to 56 different strains of probiotics. With that in mind, there are a few secondary water kefir benefits we need to talk about.
Our gut flora benefits from increased probiotics because it also provides a home to our immune systems. Research has shown that probiotics can help prevent recurring urinary tract infections and reduce the risk of intestinal infection.
They can also decrease inflammation, which can boost our immunological response, giving our immune system the space to function more effectively.
Water kefir is the ideal low-calorie drink. And it's refreshing to boot. Drinking an adequate amount of fluids daily is essential for several biological processes, including sleep, concentration, infection prevention, joint lubrication, and more.
While it's always going to be best to get most of your fluids straight from the source (i.e., good, filtered water), water kefir can make it a little easier.
Plenty of people associate fermented foods and drinks with dairy, like yogurt or milk kefir. For those of us who may be lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, or just plain avoiding it, it can become more challenging to find excellent sources of probiotics.
Thankfully, other dairy-free fermented foods like kombucha, fermented vegetables, and even fruit, are readily available. This delightful drink is not only dairy-free but also vegan, as we make it only with sugar and water.
Naturally Low Sugar
Commercially available soft drinks contain significantly more sugar than water kefir. Even though we make water kefir by combining water, sugar, and water kefir grains, the yeast and bacteria present in the grains consume about 66-80% of the sugar in less than 24 hours.
Photo by Kayla Joy Creative
Why Flavor Your Kefir?
While water kefir is wonderful as a fizzy drink, it doesn't have a strong flavor on its own. You could simply add a slice of lemon and a bit of fig and have a delicious drink as is.
However, if drinking the same thing day in and day out gets tiresome, why not look at adding your own flavors? Luckily, it's really simple to go beyond the basics.
How to Flavor Water Kefir
Fruit and other flavorings get added during the second fermentation stage and you can add any flavor you want, from grape and apple to cherry and lemon. This is also the bottling stage, where you’ll add any flavors you may need. There are four ways to flavor your water kefir:
- You can add your first-stage strained liquid to fruit juice. Add ¼-½ cup (depending on how you like it) per 1 quart of water kefir.
- You can add around 2tsp of extracts like vanilla or maple for a sweet flavor.
- Try crushed berries and other fresh or dried fruits at about ½ cup per quart. Just remember to remove fresh fruit after 24 hours.
- Finally, try adding spices like dried lavender, shredded ginger, and cinnamon sticks for a more unique flavor.
Flavors and Fizz With the Second Ferment
- After adding one or more of the flavors above, seal the bottle so the carbon dioxide can build up.
- Let this mixture sit for 1-2 more days to get the second ferment.
- If you’ve used a sealed bottle, carefully open it up. If you don’t hear a resounding pop, it hasn’t fermented enough. When you’re happy, strain the liquid as needed, otherwise, pop your bottle into the fridge and enjoy once chilled!
Flavoring at the First Ferment
While second stage fermentation is more common, you can choose to flavor your water kefir at the first stage. However, this will inherently add that flavor to your kefir grains, so if you don't want a lingering taste in other bottles, we'd recommend flavoring at the second ferment!
Otherwise, the process is very much the same! Just keep an eye on variable fermentation times with extra added sugars.
Fun Flavor Options
When you're ready, you can experiment with all sorts of flavors. We like to use our kombucha flavoring packs, which come in a variety of full-bodied flavors. Take your pick from one of these:
Or try experimenting with your own additives! You can make water kefir lemonade by adding a quarter cup of lemon juice to each quart of water kefir, or try adding raspberry, pomegranate, and even blueberry juice into your blend, though not strictly at the same time!
Why not try adding in some strips of organic orange zest for a light, citrusy flavor? Or even a few teaspoons of vanilla extract to make a DIY cream soda brew!
Note: Because of the amount of sugar in the juice, a longer fermentation period will result in a greater alcohol level. When providing cultured juice to children, please use caution.
Photo by Kayla Joy Creative
Nurture Your Gut With Healthy Probiotics
When you choose to make your own drinks and food from scratch, it's overwhelming to know where to start. With that, however, comes a plethora of options for new, healthy recipes, and exciting flavors. If you are just getting started with water kefir make sure to grab your water kefir grains here as well as a strainer.
If you're looking at learning how to flavor water kefir for yourself, why not check out our kombucha flavoring packs? They're not only convenient and easy to use in water kefir but pack a real flavor punch. You'll be going back for another sip before you know it.
I'd love to know, have you ever made water kefir before? What has your favorite flavor been? Let me know in the comment section below.
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