<…continuation from Kombucha and Water Kefir>
My choice to brew water kefir was its huge range of acceptable temperature for brewing: from 39F to 86F, with the ideal range from 65F to 82F.
This temperature range worked naturally for our climate in the NW without any mention of encouragement of harmful bacteria growing in this range.
To me, that was safe and low maintenance.
…and I took the plunge, and it had been fun.
I got my grains from Keysands and I got the live ones (rather than dried).
The ratio for brewing was super easy to remember: 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of kefir grains.
The kefir grains liked aerobic environment, hence I had it set up in a pitcher with cheese cloth on top, secured with a rubber band.
It took a while for the grains to “wake up” from their travel.
My first batch hardly had any activity and did not yield any extra grains after the first batch.
In subsequent batches, I could see bubbles actively forming – a sure sign that there was fermentation going on.
Every batch I brewed was supposed to yield double the starting amount of kefir grains; however, I had only been yielding about 1 tablespoon extra each batch.
I believe it was because I was brewing at the low-end of the desirable temperature range.
Turned out according to Keysands, I should add some refined sugar in my mix.
I used coconut and palm sugar that I bought from Trader Joe’s for my brew, which was 100% unrefined sugar.
By mixing little bit of refined sugar, there were more readily available sugar in the system for the kefir grains to digest.
Most instruction said that a batch could be done in 24 to 48 hours; however, I found the resulting drink still was too sweet for me, and I had been brewing them for 3 days (the longer a batch was brewed, the more sugars being digested by bacteria and yeasts).
I have also been playing around with second fermentation.
Second fermentation happened after the first brew was filtered and kefir grains removed.
Most of the time it was done to increase fizziness of the drinks; consequently, it was important to use air-tight containers.
If increasing fizziness was not important, I had second fermentation done in pitchers and the water kefir tasted perfectly delicious.
Juices or fruits were added to give flavors during second fermentation.
My goal was to keep my kefir grains clean, so I did not add anything other than sugar and water in my first brew.
So far, I tried dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried golden raisins, mango puree, guava juice, coconut and passion juice, Chinese sour plums and frozen cherries in my second brew.
My favorite was mango puree and guava juice because the flavors were stronger, while the dried fruit options seemed to have subtler flavors.
The Chinese sour plum was interesting since it made the brew sweet, salty and tart — a little foreign in the beverage, but also an element of surprise.
With my slow reproduction, I was able to give out kefirs grains to two friends so far.
I hope that as temperature warms up and with the addition of refined sugar, I could yield more grains to share with my friends.
The best part about kefir grains was that it could be consumed directly, and I would not have to run into over-producing problem as the kombucha mother.
The grains could also be stored in the refrigerator with some sugar water if a brewing break was needed.
I also loved the fact that the whole brewing process was not an exact science, and there were many trial and errors, adjustments and experimentation to brew for individual liking.
It had been fun journey!