Our bodies function at their ultimate when they are in balance. In order to ward off sickness, minimize allergies, have healthy digestion, energy, clear skin, and maintain a healthy weight, our bodies need to have a healthy gut system that houses both good and bad bacteria. When we consume weak foods with zero to little nutritional value, we can easily tip the scale to bad bacteria outweighing the good bacteria. But by nourishing ourselves daily with probiotic foods and beverages, it’s fairly easy to prevent the bad guys from taking over.
Many people have heard of or have tried kombucha — a fermented tea — but there is hardly any talk of its counterpart, water kefir. Water kefir grains make up various strains of good bacteria and yeast, and together have a very symbiotic relationship. Unlike the grains that we’re used to populating our diet (like wheat, rice and barley), water kefir grains aren’t grains at all. Instead, they are cultures that look a lot like translucent-to-cloudy gelatinous candies, and pack a pretty remarkable punch. Each of these cultures embodies billions of probiotic strains, valuable enzymes, pre-digested nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals (especially Vitamin C). Best of all, water kefir is more accessible than you make think, and lends itself to creating a myriad of unique infusions using herbs, fruit, and spices. Read on for a few of my favorite takes on the gut-friendly drink.
MAKING WATER KEFIR
1. Activate the kefir grains by using sugar water. Typically, you want to start out by adding ¼ cup of Demerara sugar to 1 quart of water, and immersing the grains for 48 hours. Demerara sugar is partially refined, thus holding some mineral integrity. Allow the sugar to dissolve in hot water, and let it cool before adding it to the grains.
2. Place the kefir grains into the sugar water. Cover it with muslin cloth and use a rubber band to secure it down. This will help keep dust or fruit flies from coming in. Allow the mixture to sit for 24-48 hours on your countertop. For a cooler spot, aim for 48 hours. If the temperature in your home tends to be warmer, the fermentation will speed up, so check it closer to 24 hours.
3. Strain the grains with a nylon mesh strainer before drinking.
4. From here you can explore different ways to flavor your kefir. Try adding fruit and blending it for a seasonal fruit drink, or infusing kefir with herbal teas, coconut water or fresh lemon juice for a probiotic lemonade. Be creative and have fun with it.
5. You can reuse the kefir grains by refreshing them in sugar water and continuing the process.
Ginger, Turmeric, Fennel & Lemon Water Kefir
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp. freshly grated turmeric
1 tbsp. fennel seed
1 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
1. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the fennel seeds (they have strong volatile essential oils that become released when crushed).
2. Strain the water kefir grains from the finished water kefir, and add the liquid to a quart sized jar, followed by the ginger, turmeric, fennel and lemon zest.
3. Use a plastic lid to cover the infusion and let it sit for up to 48 hours.
4. Strain the ingredients using a nylon mesh strainer, and pour the water kefir into a glass to drink.
Water Kefir Lemonade
6 tbsp. of lemon juice
1 quart water kefir
Fresh mint leaves (optional)
1. Add the lemon juice to the finished water kefir and stir to combine.
2. Muddle a few fresh mint leaves in for a refreshing coolness.
3. Drink now or refrigerate.
Tip: If you’d like to add a slight carbonation to your drink, use a funnel to pour the water kefir into airtight bottles. Leave them out at room temperature for another 48-72 hours before refrigerating. Though be sure to use caution when opening, as the contents may be under pressure from the natural fermentation.
Lyssandra Guerra is a certified Holistic Nutritionist based out of Oakland, California. Using a thoughtful path of whole foods, herbs, and daily rituals, she guides her clients in healing from the inside out. Her aim is to inspire others to eat smart, simple, and nutritious foods so that they can reclaim their health, vitality and glow.
Melanie Riccardi is a product and commercial photographer in San Francisco. Her desire for simplicity has influenced her minimalistic style.