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I was graciously sent some kefir grains from a nice lady in Oregon and we've been enjoying their bubbly goodness for a couple of months. 

I didn't really know anything about their culture when I got them, but some research and experience has lead me to these conclusions:

The grains like unrefined sugar, with the minerally brown parts still attached to the sugar crystals.  Dissolving the sugar in water before adding it to the jar seems to speed fermentation (at first I was just adding water and sugar directly to the kefir jar and stirring a few hours later).  The brown sugar kefir kind of tastes like apple cider, in my opinion.

Fruit juices make really wonderful different tasting beverages, but they tend to leave a sludge in the bottom of the jar.  I decided my grains seemed to be drowning in the sludge (very little bubble activity), so I gave them a bath in a fine mesh strainer and then returned them to a clean jar.  Bubbles returned with gusto.  Now I rinse them whenever the fruit sludge builds up. 

Many recipes I found online recommend adding lemon juice to the mixture.  I've added it a couple of times, but I prefer the sour flavors that develop from the lactic acid production of the culture itself. 

On the advice of a friend I soaked some dried figs in water and used the strained brown sweet liquid as the kefir food.  Really good, different flavor. 

Also, according to this website, kefir reached the western palate through espionage and deception.  Good story, even if it's not true.  Can anyone confirm or deny it?
 
Jami McBride
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I sell water kefir grains and I live in Oregon, but I didn't sell you yours Marina 

When flavoring your kefir you want to do that in the second ferment stage, this way you won't kill or sludge your grains.  Lemon and some other additives have been known to retard the growth of the grains or even kill them.  The only additives you should add to the first ferment are molasses & eggshell for providing the extra minerals the grains need, and ginger (if you like) which acts like a tonic for the grains along with the minerals keeping your grains strong and healthy.

First ferment - 12 to 24 hours on your counter depending on your room temp.  Then remove the grains, flavor with ginger, lemon/lime or fruit and cap tight for your second ferment .

Depending on what you add, and if it contains it's own sugar, you may or may not want to add an additional pinch of sugar for your second ferment just so your organisms have something to eat on while they continue to work for you developing your delicious kefir soda flavor.

At this second ferment you can even bottle your kefir, and refrigerate to slow things down if things are fermenting to fast, like in the hot days of summer.  You don't want that peach kefir to explode on you

Chill before drinking for a refreshing and healthy soda pop substitute.

 
Jami McBride
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Just FYI - ginger isn't necessary - it is a good additive if your grains are struggling or showing almost no signs of bubbling.  Works like a kefir grain tonic.

I use rapadura or cane juice for sugar, but the cane juice isn't high enough in minerals.  You add boiled (for killing bacteria) eggshell and you can see it become covered in bubbles, soon the egg cups are filled with grains and then the shells are gone - and only the thin outer layer of color remains - very cool and you get your calcium too!
 
                    
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Oops!  Jami can you erase Robert's post?  That was me, forgetting that I was on his computer. 

That's the first I've heard about first and second fermentation stages OR eggshell - thanks for sharing, Jami.  Knew you'd have a lot to contribute.  smiley  I'll try those changes and see what the difference is like.

Feeding brown sugar every other time (at the least) and rinsing the grains after fruit juice seems to be working for me.    I've killed a batch (waited too long on the carrot juice) and sent some to a friend, and I still have twice the amount of grains I started with.  I feel like reproduction is a good sign of the culture's happiness.  Should add I've been using Heavenly Sugar (so shoot me, it's a brand name), it's a pretty dark unrefined sugar.

I'll try and report on Jami's recipe though!  Minus the ginger...I don't buy it anymore.  Hopefully it's not necessary in the long run?

And yes, temperature alters the fermentation time dramatically.  It's been a pretty cold May and I've been keeping the jars in the warming oven of my stove - otherwise it was taking days to taste like anything.  At higher temperatures it does it's thing waaaay faster for sure!

We haven't been carbonating it, I like the barely fizzy quality when it's fermented with a loose lid on the jar.  And I think in the very warm environment of the warming oven explosions could be a real danger.  That's a mess I don't want to clean up.
 
                    
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I like the flavor of the molasses!  The major difference we've noticed is that the drink doesn't have any sour flavors after the egg shell's been in it a day. 

I imagine it's the calcium counteracting the acid from the lactos, but we like the sourness!  Still haven't tried the two ferment stages....we're so busy that right now the first ferment is about all we can manage to keep up with.    But cherry season is almost here and I'm totally going to try some with cherry juice. 
 
Lf London
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What are the differences between kombucha and kefir? I assume they both promote health,
does one do this more than the other. I know kombucha can help with weight loss.

Where can I order kefir grains to make water kefir. I am allergic to dairy and would like to consume this product regularly,
kombucha too.

I noticed in the news that the feds/revenooers think that commercial unpasteurized kombucha has enough alcohol to be
regulated as an alcoholic drink and taxed. 
 
Jami McBride
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You will read many thoughts on the differences between the two on the Internet.  However, both are cultures that create fermented beverages.  Some say Kombucha is more detoxing while kefir is simply probiotic and not so much detoxing, but it too will clean you out.

I have made and drank both for years, and while they do taste very different and can have a bit different effect on one's body they are more similar in that they both promote health in the gut, which our immune systems are based on.

We enjoy Kombucha a bit more, preferring the strong twang.  Both are a bit alcoholic, bubbly and very slightly sweet when made right.  Very easy to make once you get the routine of fermenting incorporated into your life.  Your body becomes used to the light-headed feeling from drinking either to fast, and the detox or cleaning effects you can have in the beginning.

For some, most really - you will want to start drinking out slowly building up over a few days.  I did a demonstration on Kombucha at a tea party once and had one guy just love the stuff.  He drank 2 glasses while I taught the group on fermenting.  His wife later said he was a mess that afternoon as his body went through detox *grin* I told him only 1/2 a glass if you eat a typical diet. . . . .

My daughter used to become icky after drinking kombucha when returning from a weekend at her dad's house where they eat typical processed foods.  She is also slightly sensitive to chocolate and had to remember not to drink -K- after indulging or she would have icky stomach/gut until the -K- had done it's job    They eat better at her dad's house now so this 'reaction' no longer occurs.

Realize that strong reactions to either of these drinks only happen in extreme situations, like with someone who has poor over all health, diet or a lot of toxicity and then drinks a large glass or more of fermented beverage.  This is not the case for those with very clean systems, pure diets, etc. who will only notice lightheadedness or nothing much at all while drinking.

I sell both cultures, and/or you can find sellers all over the net.

 
Lf London
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Jami McBride wrote:

I sell both cultures, and/or you can find sellers all over the net.




Thanks, Jamie. I will consult with you further when I get around to making some of these brews.
 
Janice Rae
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Hey Jamie -

I have a small amount of water kefir grains - about a teaspoonful.  When I started out with about a tablespoon, I gave half of them away thinking that they would reproduce quickly anyway.  They have been hanging on like this for months and months - happily making fizzy drinks, but not reproducing.  I recently started adding an egg shell and also put them into a little muslin bag.  Even though I was really careful when rinsing them, I'm thinking that having them in the bag will insure that none go missing.  So these guys go into room temp sugar water (boil the water, add 1/4 cup sugar and then cool).  I add some sliced fresh ginger, a fig and a few goji berries plus an egg shell.  I leave them be for two days - swirling them around every so often and then take out the bag of grains, rinse and put it into a fresh mix.  Is there anything that I can do to encourage them to grow and reproduce??  Our house is air conditioned.  Should I put them out in the garage where it is warmer?  Thanks!  By the way, I just take the mixture that has been with the water kefir for the two days and put it all into the blender.  Our blender liquifies the fig, ginger & goji berries (I remove the egg shells first) and that's what I consider the finished beverage.  It's very refreshing, but sweeter than I'd like.  I think if there were more grains, they would process more of the sugar.  Maybe I'm adding too much sugar to the water for them anyway?

It's all good -
Janice
 
Jami McBride
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Sounds yummy Janice 

One thing - don't rinse them. 
If you are having issues with residue, fruit bits or such sticking to your grains then do not add your fruit until the second ferment.  Just grains, sugar, water, molasses, egg and maybe ginger to the first batch.  None of these will mix with your grains and can easily be picked out if left in good size pieces (except for molasses of course).

Do strain your grains from your finished kefir.  And do taste your kefir before straining - it may need more or less time, as you say depending on room temp, amount of grains to sugar ratio..... etc.  So taste and be flexible on ferment times.  Yours sounds a bit on the sweet side.

You do not need to boil the water, even my grainy natural sugar dissolves in the water with a bit of stirring.  I just mix 1/2 cup sugar into 1/2 gallon jar, stir to dissolve and then add back my grains.

The grains do NEED minerals to reproduce well (egg shell, molasses) and the do NEED good mineral incorporated water - no distilled water, no tap water with heavy metals and chlorine, etc.

So your issues to check would be your water, and the time you ferment, and no more rinsing (which sets your grains back, by causing them stress.  Only rinse in extreme situations, and only once lightly).  I've never rinsed my grains in all these years.

I hope this helps 




 
Janice Rae
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Thanks so much for the great advice!  I will immediately stop the habitual rinsing of the grains when transferring them to a fresh jar.  Good to know!  Sounds like I'm adding more sugar than needed for the amount of water too.  Also I may try adding a small amount of ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops to the water.  I moved them out to the garage to see if the higher temperature is more to their liking.  In the winter they will just have to tough it out, but maybe I can get them to reproduce a bunch this summer.
One more question for now - What quantity of grains are you adding to your 1/2 gallon of sugar water?  Thanks again!

It's all good -
Janice
 
Jami McBride
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Awh the mineral drops are supposed to be good for those using well water and such.  So that is a great idea.

I use approximately (no longer measure, just eyeball it) same amount of sugar to grains.  1/4 cup grains then add 1/4 cup sugar, and I always use 1/2 gallon jar just because I don't want a faster ferment nor more finished kefir *grin*  I always have so many grains, it's more like cut back to 1/2 so I don't overwhelm my 1/2 gallon jar!  And I can leave it to long (forgetting about it) on the counter (4-6 days) in this case I just taste, add enough sugar to balance the taste and strain off, cap and leave one day for the balance between the flavors to develop and the carbonation.  Then drink.

So please please please understand, that fermenting is forgiving - train your taste buds and you'll do just great!

 
Emma Olson
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Besides being a detoxifying agent are there any other health benefits of kefir and kombucha? I have heard they aid in digestion and replenish your stomach's natural enzymes. Is this true?

What is the typical alcohol content in them? I know that recently they were pulled off the shelves recently to determine the content, but I haven't heard anything about it since.

Thanks!
 
Jami McBride
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Kombucha tea does contain a trace amount of alcohol, usually .5% to 1%. That means that drinking an entire gallon of kombucha is the equivalent of drinking a half can of beer. To put it another way, kombucha tea has the same amount of alcohol as a fermented piece of fruit (leave an orange out in the sun for a day).

As for the health benefits - there are many clams, but you will need to try it for yourself.  Different people experience different levels of healing. 
 
                                              
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Hello All
I'm brand new to permaculture forums.  I found you while looking for info on kefir which I'd like to try for health.  Unfortunately, I have nowhere to get it but must make a day trip to find some so I thought I'd make my own.  Can I make it as I do yogurt from milk and yogurt, so kefir water from a portion from purchased kefir milk?  I am interested in the kefir waters as I'm unable to get grassfed organic milk in my region, nor goat milk.
Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
Kat
 
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Water kefir is a different beverage from milk kefir, both have good benefits.  You may want to Google them and decide which you want to try.

For water kefir you buy the grains and use pure water, sugar and a mineral source. 
 
                    
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water kefir is making for our family for a couple of months ....t is flavored soda minus all the processed sugar, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. its a nature’s way of making soda and by far, one of the healthiest and easiest to make at home.

http://superwall.com.au/
 
                        
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Try putting an inch or two of dried Kombu in the water kefir when you set it up so the grains will get lots of good minerals and I assume you will too when you drink it.  It doesn't make it taste any different.
 
Len Ovens
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Add ginger for nice ginger ale.
 
                        
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I do, that's my favorite.  I've tried concentrated cherry juice and lemon/lime. I keep going back to ginger.  A little lemon can be added to the ginger too.  But I always put some seaweed in for the minerals.  When I strain everything to bottle it, I add a little bit of Stevia (the concentrated kind from Trader Joe's) just to make sure it not too sour or yeasty tasting. 
 
Rob Sigg
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Jami,
You seem to know alot about kefir grains. I have some, but I gave alot away to friends to try. Mine don't really seem to be multiplying. Any tips on how to take some grains specifically for growing more? I currently have some in apple juice that we change out and drink every 24 hours, then I have some in just plain sugar water and then some in prune juice. None of them really seem to be multiplying. Any tips? Thanks!
 
                        
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Kefir grains seem to thrive on minerals so be sure you are using a natural sugar and not white sugar.  I use "Sugar in the Raw" which is turbinado sugar, a half cup per half gallon of water.  You could use brown sugar or agave or pure maple syrup.  I'm sure each would give it a different flavor.  Be sure your water doesn't have chlorine, and don't dare use distilled water.  I really think the seaweed gives them a lot of minerals.  If you don't have any, a pinch of sea salt might help.  After straining the grains, rinse them in cool water before starting another batch.  Hope this helps.
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks Pat, Ive been using turbinado sugar, I might not be giving them enough though. No chlorine or distilled water. Ill try the salt. I only rinse my grains every few weeks, only because I have to get the chlorine out of the water by evaporation which takes time.
 
Jami McBride
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
Jami,
You seem to know alot about kefir grains. I have some, but I gave alot away to friends to try. Mine don't really seem to be multiplying. Any tips on how to take some grains specifically for growing more? I currently have some in apple juice that we change out and drink every 24 hours, then I have some in just plain sugar water and then some in prune juice. None of them really seem to be multiplying. Any tips? Thanks!


Sorry, I just saw this message.

Yes, I recommend you keep your grains pure (clean water + organic cane juice or rapadura sugar) and only use 'extra' grains in fruit juices or in experiments.  Always keep your mother grains growing strong in a clean medium.

If it were me I would rinse the grains (this one time only), and put them into the filtered-clean water + CJ sugar + mineral source - I use molasses and cleaned egg shell.  Keep doing this until your grains regain their health and begin to multiply.  Then simply remove a few to culture a couple of batches in fruit juice or whatever.  I only add my 'flavorings' to finished kefir without the grains.

All the best!

P.S. Only rinse grains in extreme emergencies, such as this one, as it changes the balance of the grains setting them back a bit.
 
Rob Sigg
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perfect, thank you!
 
Rob Sigg
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OK I did as you suggested, now how often should I change the water, sugar and egg mixture? Thanks!
 
Jami McBride
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Hey Rob,

That all depends on your kitchen temp (if you keep your in the kitchen that is).
It can take anywhere from a couple days to as long as a week+ in the winter.  The hotter it is the faster it ferments.  I'd say usually in two days you should start to see bubbles around the egg shell, small K-grains may start to float up and down (can you say sea monkeys) taste it, it is done when it no longer tastes real sweet at all.  Fermentation always takes a bit of fineness.

If your finished Kefir is thick it has fermented to fast due to heat and/or has to many minerals added, and this isn't good for the health of the grains.  So move it to a cooler location like a closet, basement or sit it on tile near a draft - ceramic pulls the heat out of anything well.  The case of to many minerals seems to happen for people using the mineral drops, I've never experienced it myself.  So if this applies to you, and you get thick kefir back off the drops!

It does best between 75 to 85 degrees, so adjust it's placement as necessary.  During ideal temperatures I would ferment mine for about 5 or so days until the half of egg shell was gone and only the brown pigment layer was left. 

When your kefir is done pour it out straining the grains as you do, and refrigerate or add fresh juice and then chill.  Replace the water, sugar and additional egg shell for the next batch   

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.
 
Rob Sigg
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OK, Ive had mine in for less than a week. Typical temps are 72-75. Its still bubbling and I havent noticed any real breakdown of the eggshell yet, so I guess I will wait some more. Getting my chickens today, so I wont have any issue getting eggs!!
 
Jami McBride
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I thought of one more thing....

Because your grains have been in juices and such it may take them a while before they completely breakdown a half a shell.  Also thickness of the shell is a factor too.  So don't let the shell be your done indicator, use your taste buds 

You can move a shell from batch to batch just like you do with the grains, until it is spent.

 
Rob Sigg
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Jami,should the lid be on or off during this time of rejuvination(sp?) ?

Mine seem to be not doing much over the last month. When should I see a double in volume? Thanks again!
 
Jami McBride
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Off, that is to say covered with cheese cloth or a wire-mesh sprout lid so it has air.

No one can say. . . . the grains will grow fast when happy with their conditions.  I know this makes it sound a bit personal, and it isn't, but your grains could be recovering just now.  You can be confident your giving them everything they need if you are using clean water, mineral source, warm temps and sugar. 

If you can get new grains you may want to start other batches and compare the two.

I hope this helps,
 
Len Ovens
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
Jami,should the lid be on or off during this time of rejuvination(sp?) ?

Mine seem to be not doing much over the last month. When should I see a double in volume? Thanks again!


On, but not sealed. Covered to keep flies out, but not to tight as pressure will build. I don't know about water kefer, but milk kefer grain doubles in about a week. After the kefer grains have been removed it is ok to seal it if you want carbonation.
 
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Ive been taking tap water and then boiling it for a few minutes. I let it sit to cool completely and then use it to refill my jar, add raw cane sugar or maple syrup and 1/2 egg. They might just be really weak right now...they do fizz cause I had the lid on so I know its working. Maybe they werent getting enough air. Thanks everyone.
 
Len Ovens
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Rob S. aka Blitz wrote:
Ive been taking tap water and then boiling it for a few minutes. I let it sit to cool completely and then use it to refill my jar, add raw cane sugar or maple syrup and 1/2 egg. They might just be really weak right now...they do fizz cause I had the lid on so I know its working. Maybe they werent getting enough air. Thanks everyone.

do try bottled water for one batch to see if that makes any difference. I am fortunate here that I can use water straight from my tap for fermenting (kefer, kraut, wild yeast for bread etc.) I hear some city water, boiling doesn't remove the chlorine. Well water should be ok... depends on what your neighbours are adding to the ground water. We sometimes get river water when our regular supply needs maintenance.
 
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Will do.
 
Jami McBride
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Len's right, 'bad' water can retard the grains for sure.  Maybe you could get one of those pitcher-filters for your ferment's water....?

Also using cheese cloth with a rubber-band will prevent flies access.  If you buy really cheep cheese cloth (thin and loose) use two layers    When I get fruit flies I just vacuum them off the cheese cloth using the hose attachment - easy peasy.
 
Rob Sigg
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Another few questions. Im getting like a cloudy slime in my mixture. Is that the formation of new grains or is it something else that I should handle?

Second question, can kefir be used to purify a liquid like water?
 
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cloudy slime doesn't sound good.  What sugar are you using, sometimes rapadura can cloud the liquid, but the slime issue is a concern.  Sounds like contamination, time to rinse and start over with pure water, sugar and a clean mineral source as listed above.

Kefir grains do not clean water they consume the sugars you put in the water as a food source and release the carbonation as a waste.  They also need some minerals for healthy reproduction as we all do.
 
Rob Sigg
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Im using spring water, boiled egg shell and maple syrup. Maybe thats the issue? I had to use the maple syrup because we only had white crap sugar at the time for emergencies, our normal store was out of the turbinado believe it or not.
 
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I'd go with the white crap, skip the maple syrup.

Consider asking the manager of your store to order you a 50lb bag.
It's spendy upfront but saves you $ over the long haul.  It still requires you manage your supply, but it is easier to manage large quantities as small quantities require more attention and action.  Large amounts have 'back up' already factored in - if you see what I mean.

If your local store won't order in bulk for you find a store that orders for themselves in bulk either because they have a bulk section or because they use a lot of organic sugar.  I encouraged a friend to start a buying co-op because the health food store was in a town 1 hour drive up north.  When contacting the store she found out they would deliver to her door for a order of $250 or more.  The minimum may have gone up now, but then so have the prices so it's still a great way to get bulk delivered to your door.

And then there is Azurestandard - you could become a drop-off site for them, or talk a friend into doing it 

We go through our organic evaporated cane juice 50lb pretty fast when making Kombucha, Kefir and Ginger beer!
 
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