Water Kefir

Water kefir is a fizzy fermented beverage made by adding a water kefir culture (also known as WK or tibicos) to a sugar-water mixture. The culture is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts, (aka SCOBY). WK SCOBY cultures are organized into loose “grains” (see picture). They are not actually cereal grains. Contrast this with a kombucha SCOBY, which forms a single slimy pancake-like structure to keep its culture together.

WK grains should not be confused with milk kefir grains, a dairy culture. Although they look similar, WK grains are more translucent, and they are made up of different microorganisms. WK and milk kefir are not interchangeable.

The tibicos culture is believed to have originated in Mexico from a cactus in the genus Opuntia. I recently tried this recipe with white sapote, a tropical fruit also from Mexico. But any fruit will do.

WK is mildly alcoholic, usually around 0.5 to 1% alcohol by volume (abv). You can learn how to make it more boozy here.

Water Kefir
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 3 quarts/liters
  • 3 liters/quarts/96 fluid ounces filtered water
  • 110g (about ¾ cup by vol.) water kefir grains
  • 150g raw sugar/ ¾ cup/200 ml raw sugar
  • 3g by weight / ½ teaspoon/2 ml by volume molasses
  • 75g (about a 3-4 inch sized piece) fresh ginger
  • 1 slice lemon, ½" thick
  • (Optional) ½ oz/ 15g by weight a few slices/pieces of fresh or dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, grapes, berries, apple slices, sapote, e.g.)
  • (Optional) ¼ cup fresh fruit or ½ cup fruit juice, or 1 tablespoon/15 ml herbs (chamomile, lavender) for secondary fermentation
Make Solution for Primary Fermentation
  1. Dissolve the sugar in water in a 1 gallon or larger glass or ceramic container. You can heat the water to hasten dissolution, but cool it to body temperature (100°F/37°C) or lower before adding grains.
  2. Add molasses and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Slice fruit or add dried fruit to container.
  4. Grate ginger, then add to a muslin bag.
  5. Add muslin bag to container.
  6. Add water kefir (WK) grains.
  7. Cover with a clean dish or tea towel, or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
  8. Store in a warm place for 2 to 3 days. (Taste it after 2 and if you like it, you're ready to bottle and/or secondary ferment.)
  9. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a swing top bottle (or other container that can seal). The grains and fruit will be left in the strainer. Remove the fruit pieces from the strainer and discard. Do not throw away the grains!
Transfer to Bottles for Secondary Fermentation (Optional)
  1. Optionally, add some fresh fruit, fruit juice, herbs, or other flavoring. A little goes a long way (e.g. ½ cup per quart/liter of WK).
  2. Close the container(s) and let ferment for up to one more day (less in warmer weather). BE CAREFUL WHEN OPENING: Contents will build up pressure.
  3. Move to refrigerator.
Care and Feeding of WK Grains
  1. The grains you strained out from the primary fermentation will probably have multiplied. Add the grains to a fresh solution of sugar water by dissolving 1 Tablespoon/15 ml sugar to 1 cup/ 250ml of water. Store in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.

The WK grains LOVE dates (the fruits from a palm tree) Given enough time, the microbes will suck every last bit of fructose out of whatever you put in there.

Looking for water kefir (tibicos) grains? Check out these from Kombucha Kamp! (Disclosure: Fermenters Club is an affiliate of Kombucha Kamp and receives a small commission from each sale.)


Pomegranate #waterkefir after just one day in secondary #fermentation. Into the fridge you go.

Posted by Fermenters Club on Wednesday, February 5, 2014