Cultures for GI Health
The History of
Water kefir, a delicious water-based probiotic beverage, has many coveted health benefits. It origins are unknown but it has global appeal.
Water kefir grains also known as Tibicos, are found on the pads of the Opuntia (prickly pear) cactus in Mexico. In sugared water, these grains propagate and make a flavorful beverage.
The origins of water kefir grains has been hotly debated with speculation that the grains were discovered in China, Russian and Mexico.
Tibicos grains are also known as sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals, tibi, vinegar bees, ginger bees, beer seeds, beer plant, ale nut, eternity grains, balm of Gilead, California bees, African bees, Australian bees, and Japanese beer seeds.
What is Water Kefir?
Water kefir, also known as Tibicos, is a fermented water based beverage that requires a culture similar to a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) known as grains. When raw sugar is dissolved in the filtered water the microorganisms feed on the sugars creating beneficial by-products including, probiotics and some vitamins and minerals. It is a great alternative to kombucha, milk kefir and particularly commercial sodas.
A symbiotic matrix of
Bacteria and Yeast
Water Kefir Health Benefits
Most water kefir grains contain a blend of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc genus bacteria. They also have a significant amount of Saccharomyces, Candida, and Kloeckera yeasts.
L. brevis bacteria has been positively identified as the species that causes the cultures to form as grains.
A study in Frontiers in Microbiology suggests that kefir water is one of the best dietary sources of probiotics available and may contain close to 60 different strains of yeast and bacteria.
in Water Kefir
Water Kefir Health Benefits
Which Microbes Are in Tibicos?
As living cultures, water kefir grains differ somewhat in composition by origin, location, temperature and other variables. The kefir water even varies each time it is made with the same mother culture.
Tibicos contains several of the most beneficial probiotic and yeast strains. As one of the best dietary sources of probiotics, water kefir can contribute to overall health by maintaining a healthy and varied intestinal flora.
This list includes some of the highest concentration species. It is by no means comprehensive. For a more detailed list of microbes please visit Yemoos.
Unlike kombucha, water kefir is caffeine free. For those who need to monitor their caffeine intake, it is the perfect substitute. The flavor profile of water kefir is much milder as the tannins in teas create a sharper bite with a kombucha culture.
Vitamins & Minerals
Water kefir has a number of unique health benefits. There is a concentration of b vitamins in the beverage, including the important concentrated with b12, b9, b6, and b1. It also has magnesium, vitamin k, electrolytes, and enzymes.
Other Possible Water kefir
May Help Fight Cancer Cells
Research indicates that probiotics may play a protective role in the prevention of cancers. In addition, the gut balancing effects of water kefir may help to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and postoperative inflammation.
May Boost Immunity & Reduce Inflammation
Probiotics are known to have an important role in system wide immune function. Water kefir with its multiple strains of microorganisms, has the capacity to contain bad bacteria. When the microbiome has a wider variety of species there is less probability of an undesirable overgrowth.
May Support Weight Loss
When to Skip the Water Kefir
Any condition that affects the immune system, is a reason to consider talking to your physician before trying water kefir or any other fermented foods. While generally there is little risk of any major concerns, there have been some individual reports of a higher risk of infection in those with compromised immune function.
Ethanol is a by product of any fermentation process and water kefir is no exception. However, the alcoholic level is barely perceptible. However, in order to completely avoid alcohol, you will want to pass on the tibicos.
As with all fermented products, there can be a little digestive discomfort when first adding these foods. If you have bowel changes, gas, abdominal pain or cramps, stop or cut back the amount until you feel better. In moderation, water kefir should cause no major digestive problems.
How to Make Water Kefir
In order to make water kefir you have to have the tibicos. There are 2 options, the living cultures or the dried. If you cannot start your water kefir immediately upon receipt of the grains buy the dried. I chose the living grains. You can purchase quality living grains here. The dried grains need a few days to be reactivated before using. A dried grains starter kit is here.
Surprisingly, these grains can grow with a variety of sugars (see the picture). The drink will look and taste different based on what you choose. The unprocessed sugars have more vitamins and minerals to feed the cultures.
If you use basic sugar you will need to add additional ingredients with minerals. Unsulphured dried fruit, or mineral drops can be added to supplement the sugar, we recommend these drops.
It is important to not use ingredients that will interfere with the fermentation process, such as chlorinated water or the sulfites in some dried fruit.
Also it is important with all fermented foods and drinks to limit exposure to metal as the acidic nature can cause metals to leach, and damage the cultures. Glass is preferred, although plastic or non reactive ceramics will also work.
What Kind of Sugar
Should I Use?
Our recipe templates are designed to be flexible and easy to follow.
The water kefir is tasty after the initial fermentation, however, the 2nd fermentation adds flavor and fizz that is worth the effort. Add fruit, juice, botanicals, herbs, anything you like, to a flip top bottle (see our recommended bottles). Give it another 24 hours and your tasty soda-like beverage will be ready. Water kefir is a guilt free way to get the health benefits of probiotics with maximum flavor.
- Prep Time10 min
- Yield1 Quart
- 3-1/2 cups filtered water
- 1/2 c boiling water
- 1/4 sugar
- 1/4 c kefir grains
- 1 tbsp sea salt or a few drops of minerals
- 1 piece of unsulphured dried fruit and/or
- 2 slices of citrus
Combine ½ cup of hot water with ¼ c of sugar in a jar, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Add 3-½ cups of room temperature water to the jar and let it cool to 85 or below.
Add a ¼ c kefir grains and then cover the jar with a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
Place the jar in a warm area and allow it to ferment for 24–48 hours.
Strain the kefir grains and reuse them to make a new batch of water kefir.
Add fruit, fruit or sweet vegetable juice, botanicals, herbs, anything you like, to a flip top bottle.
Pour the water kefir to fill the bottle leaving an inch at the top.
Burp the bottle in 12 hours to release some pressure and in 24 hours it will be ready to drink.
Other Uses for Water Kefir
Fermenting Grains and Beans
A tablespoon or two of water kefir added to soaking water will ferment whole grains and beans in 12-24 hours.
Water Kefir as Sourdough Starter
Using water kefir in the place of water in a bread recipe creates a delicious and easy sourdough. If you are using a yeasted recipe, the rising time will be much longer than the original. Like any sourdough, it is a living culture and it takes patience and monitoring to get the right rise.
Make Coconut Water Kefir
Coconut water kefir is another go to recipe. The potassium, magnesium and manganese found in coconut water provide additional food for the grains. Use part of your grains for coconut water or add water kefir to the coconut water.
Make Coconut Milk Kefir
Water kefir is commonly used to ferment coconut milk to make coconut milk kefir. By adding ¼ cup of water kefir to two cups of coconut milk you can culture non-dairy milk in 18 hours to create dairy-free milky kefir!
Tepache de Piña
The very popular drink tepache is made with water kefir. Tepache de piña uses leftover pineapple peel and core with cinnamon and star anise.
Water kefir can be used to fertilize house plants, flowers, your lawn, or your garden. Kefir can also be used in your hair as a clarifying conditioner and ph stabilizer (similar to apple cider vinegar). It can also be used in place of vinegar in many recipes and can be used in place of some of the salt in making lacto-fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut.
FAQs Water Kefir Health Benefits
This is a selection of the most frequently asked questions about the health benefits of water kefir.
The lemon and dried fruit have traditionally been used in the water kefir recipes. Lemon acidulates the water preventing contamination from bacteria and mold before the grains can get to work. Lemon and the dried fruit also provide some of the much needed minerals for the cultures to thrive (calcium, potassium and magnesium).
Most unsulphured dried fruit work well. Dates, raisins, figs, apples, apricots and coconut to name a few. These additions are not necessary, some cultures do just fine with sugar and water only.
Fresh kefir grains are a living culture and are ready to produce water kefir immediately upon receipt. If you are ready to get started yesterday and will be at home when your grains arrive this is a great choice.
However, if there is any chance you won’t be able to get to the grains for a bit, you should purchase the dried version to prevent losing the cultures. It will take a while for the grains to reactivate (follow the directions provided).
Anna Gulitza , Jasmin Stadiea , Mareike Wenningb , Matthias A. Ehrmanna , Rudi F. Vogela
The microbial diversity of water kefir
27 Apr 2011
Fiorda, FA, de Melo Pereira, GV, Thomaz-Soccol .V, Rakshit, SK, Pagnoncelli, MGB, Vandenberghe, LPS, and Soccol, CR.
Microbiological, biochemical, and functional aspects of sugary kefir fermentation – A review.
Apr 7 2017
Microbial species diversity, community dynamics, and metabolite kinetics of water kefir fermentation.
14 Feb 2014
Marsh, AJ, O’Sullivan, O, Hill, C, Ross, RP, Cotter, PD
Sequence-based analysis of the microbial composition of water kefir from multiple sources.
19 Sept 2013
Benjamin C. T. Bourrie, Benjamin P. Willing, and Paul D. Cotter.
The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir
4 May 2016
Bifidobacterium aquikefiri sp. nov., isolated from water kefir
1 Mar 2016
The information on this website is NOT medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before making any changes please seek advice from a medical professional.
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