Making kefir is easy

A month ago I purchased a ‘make1L’ nume SA kefir grains and this is what I have done with them since.

The grains came chilled and as soon as they arrived, I put them in a 1-liter Consol jar and filled it with fresh spring water. Any natural or distilled water will do, if chlorinated – boil and cool, and I added a roughly measured 100g o
f brown sugar.

I’m no good at following instructions but in my defense I like to follow guiding principles so I can test the edges of possibilities to learn the limits.

The guiding principles for kefir grains/scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to grow is they need sugar which they consume and turn your water or milk into a probiotic rich drink in 24 hours on average.

The difference between milk kefir and water kefir is simple. Milk already has sugar in it naturally called lactose and so you don’t need to add any sugar to feed the scoby. This helps you to understand how little sugar you need to add to your water – you only need to match the sweetness of milk and milk is not obviously sweet. This of it as adding a bit of sugar to your water rather than a bit of water to your sugar.

Once I had added the water and sugar to my kefir and sealed it tightly with the jar lid, it felt like an anti-climax. If the proverbial- a watched kettle doesn’t boil then kefir might seem like it will take an age to ferment. To make the wait longer, a cold front rolled in and the temperature dropped and after waiting a full day, my kefir still tasted like sugar water.  You see, the green zone – the ideal temperature for most living creatures to thrive is between 22 and 27 degrees Celsius; colder than this and your kefir just waits and does little to nothing and warmer makes fermentation go quicker. Too hot and your kefir may ferment quickly and build up an explosive fizz, so be sure to burp your bottle often when making water kefir. 

I surrendered to the simple truth that it wasn’t going to be anything else other than kefir however long it took. Nature is inclined to run its course regardless and with the kefir grains making up the dominant portion in the water, it was unlikely any other bacteria would form there except kefir. Likewise, it was just as near impossible for the mix to remain just sugar, water and kefir without any development.

After a couple of days and a lift in the weather, I saw the kefir grain in the water had puffed up and the occasional bubbles rose when I tapped or moved the bottle. It’s a strange kind of excitement to see this happen and it is a sure sign kefir is in the jar. I tasted it and was happy with the taste.

I then drained the liquid from the grains into a clean jar, topped up the grain jar with fresh water and about 75g of sugar and sealed it up for another round. I divided the kefir water I harvested into two and used apple pieces in one for a second ferment to flavour the kefir. In the other I experimented with Lemon Verbena to get a herb flavoured kefir. Now it is important to remember that there is sugar in the apple that the bacteria feeds on so fermenting continues despite the lack of grains. Leafy herbs have very little to no sugar so I added a teaspoon of sugar to help the second ferment to work. 

For the second ferment I left my kefir in the ambiance of room temperature until the tasted good and then refrigerated them to stop the fermentation process and I enjoy my fizzy flavoured kefir water every day. Remember to burp your second ferment every few hours to avoid exploding bottles. The fizz builds up during the second ferment.

Kefir is easy to make and predictable in it’s process, the best influences are time and temperature. Water kefir helps to demonstrate the principles while milk kefir doesn’t need sugar and ferments much faster. For this reason, if you make milk kefir, use a cheese cloth or linen to close your jar with rather than the jar lid to avoid building up too much gas in your jar.

Kefir is the best natural probiotic drink, delivering trillions of very important gut bacteria to balance your health and improve your immune system. nume Sa believes a healthy tummy means a happy life. Get your own kefir grains today and start making this famous and popular, naturally fizzy drink now in time for the holiday season.

Written by Viv Brown