This article was originally published in December of 2010.
Giving up soda in college was fairly easy for me. I had a severe stomach ache all of the time and one day I decided to try life without cherry coke. I started to feel a little bit better so I didn’t drink another drop of it for at least two years.
But who doesn’t enjoy a refreshing, bubbly beverage? How about a refreshing, bubbly beverage that makes you feel better instead of worse? Water kefir is a naturally fermented beverage that is like a cross between milk kefir (without the dairy) and kombucha. It’s easier to get down than dairy kefir (for me at least) and is much quicker to brew than kombucha.
The best part… when you combine it with grape juice (or other flavors) during the 2nd fermentation it gets really bubbly and tastes like a barely sweet grape soda. I like to drink a bottle in the afternoons if I’m hitting a slump or I’ll serve everyone up a glass at dinner when the meal doesn’t contain a lot of raw or fermented foods. It really does help with digestion.
Our method makes 4 (16 oz) bottles every 4-5 days and honestly, I wish the grains multiplied so we could make at least twice that much.
Here’s How We Make Our Grape Soda
- 1 half gallon ball jar
- 1 wide mouth jar ring
- 1 clean towel or coffee filter
- water kefir grains
- a wooden or plastic spoon (NO METAL) for stirring
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup sucanat
- 1/2 pastured egg shell
- hot and cold water
- grape juice (about 1 cup per batch)
- Obtain Water Kefir Grains. I have heard that you can use milk kefir grains, but they do not last as long. Water kefir grains are more suited for the sugar or juice that they will be living in and so far ours have lasted months. Get them from a friend or you can order them here. Follow the instructions on the package for getting started or ask your friend.
- Dissolve The Sucanat. Water kefir grains need minerals to survive, according to my research. So I use sucanat which contains the minerals of the molasses naturally present in the sugar cane. Add 1/3-1/2 cup sucanat to your half-gallon jar. Fill the jar 1/3 of the way full with very hot (non-chlorinated/fluoridated) water. Stir the sucanat to dissolve and add cold water to within 1/2 inch of jar lip. Stir until you are convinced the sugar has dissolved. The water should be just warm at this point. Test it with your finger and so long as it doesn’t feel hot you now add your water kefir grains.
- Add 1/2 egg shell. I know this sounds weird, but a few resources indicated that water kefir grains can not survive without plenty of minerals. Pastured egg shells are a great (free) source of minerals for your brewing. As long as they are healthy chickens go ahead and give your freshly cracked egg shell a good rinse and plop it in. Try not to freak out.
- Cover and Brew. Place your towel or coffee filter over the jar and twist on the ring or a rubber band. Keep your jar in a warm spot for 3-5 days. Try to remember to swirl your jar 2-3 times per day during this time period. When you are done you will have a brown, kefir-smelling liquid that will probably not have carbonation to it. The longer you let it ferment, the less sugar it will contain.
- 2nd Fermentation: Make it Bubbly and Yummy. At this point you are going to create flavor and carbonation. I like to place a funnel in old kombucha jars and pour the liquid slowly into four of these jars, leaving about 1 1/2 inches for juice. By the last jar you will have to take care to go extra slow and not pour off your water kefir grains. I then place the water kefir grains in a glass bowl with a bit of the brown water kefir and let them await the next batch. Now add grape juice or other flavorings to your bottles, leaving a bit of head space for carbonation. Cap tightly and leave in a warm space for 2-3 days, giving them a turn a couple of times per day to distribute the sugars. Because our kitchen is fairly cold I often times place the jars in a warm oven. If you do this leave a note on your oven dial so that you do not (like me) melt the lids to the bottles and lose the whole lot. Once your second fermentation is completed you should see obvious bubbles in the jars, especially when you open them. Leave them longer, in a warmer space if carbonation has not yet formed.
So that is how we are making our own homemade grape soda with water kefir grains.
Have you ever tried making water kefir? How do you flavor it?