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

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 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)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

 

56 Responses to How I Make Water Kefir (aka homemade soda)

  1. Dani says:

    I have been making water kefir since Wardeh taught the lesson on it during her GNOWGFLINS fundamentals course. I think grape juice is also my favorite way to flavor–that, and ginger. If I do the ginger just right (with a little lemon and a few raisins), it really does taste like a natural ginger ale–well, it does to me anyway. I take about 1/2 to 1 oz of ginger, and chop it up small; there’s more surface area to lend it’s flavor that way. I think orange and cherry would be good also, but I haven’t tried either yet.

    My grains multiply like CRAZY–it’s weird that yours don’t at all? Maybe try an extra eggshell (be sure to peel the inner membrane off) and a small dollop of a good quality organic molasses–start with less rather than more molasses, because if the palate isn’t used to the flavor of molasses, it might be a stronger flavor than you like at first. Some people put their grains in a muslin bag, but I do my ferment like you do–I leave the grains in the bottom of the jar to “float” freely (and they will float–the fermenting creates enough carbonation carry individual grains to the surface, and when the bubbles release, the grains fall gently down again. It’s so fun to watch!). I put the eggshells into a muslin bag–even crushing the eggshell a bit. That way, the grains can do their thing and have as much room to grow as they like, and not have to pick out pieces of eggshell. My grains are so active that the eggshell is usually completely dissolved, and just a little residue remains to be washed out of the bag. One word on using molasses (aside from the “don’t use so much that you don’t like the flavor of your water kefir anymore”): you will have more film at the top of your fermenting jar–not that this should scare anyone; just skim it off, being careful not to skim out any floating grains.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Dani – Thanks so much for your tips! You all in the comments are truly a blessing and so helpful. I am trying the extra egg shell, adding molasses, and am feeding them more often. Really appreciate your advice.

    [Reply]

  2. Jenny says:

    Wow. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try this. I’ve been following your blog for a few months and honestly am not aware of the benefits of fermentation – but your blog has given me enough info to peak my curiosity. I have a major soda habit — and I have Crohn’s diesease… so this is definately worth a try for me!! But my husband already gives me a hard time when I make my own yogurt – I wonder what he’ll say to this!! hehe

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Jenny – I would definitely stay away from soda and grains and even dairy for a period of time while incorporating a ton of fermented foods into your diet.

    [Reply]

  3. Kara Bagley says:

    I have been brewing water kefir for the last month. I started with 2 tablespoons of grains and now have 4 cups! I am going to dehydrate them because we can’t keep up. I have even been using it in my garden to build helpful microorganisms. Great stuff!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Kara – Could you share your method since it appears that I (and others) are having a hard time getting the grains to multiply? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  4. Karen says:

    I just got some water kefir grains last week so I am excited to read the comments to find ideas. I love Dani’s ideas of ginger and lemon for ginger ale.
    I just tried cranberries today. My grains have multiplied enough that I gave the
    extra grains to my chickens. They loved them! Will come back later to read any more ideas! Thanks Shannon.

    [Reply]

  5. Helen says:

    @Jenny – Fermented foods such as water kefir, fermented veggies and kombucha are great friends to have to treat Crohn’s disease… have some fun with it, get your hubbie and your friends curious about it, and of course get them to taste it, and before you know it they’ll all be making their own too! These foods / drinks are so delicious and make you feel so good! For a rundown on different fermented foods and their benefits checkout: http://healthfoodlover.com/hfl/2010/06/guest-post-all-about-fermented-foods-with-naturopath-helen-padarin/

    Thanks for a great blog on water kefir Shannon!

    [Reply]

  6. Emma says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t heard the tip about egg shells before, so I’m going to give that a whirl. My kefir grains are definitely smaller than when I first got them, which makes me think they’re not doing too well.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Emma – I am struggling with that as well. I did some research last night and am thinking that 1/2 cup of sucanat per half gallon is necessary as well as feeding them (rotating them out) every 48 hours. I am trying this now.

    [Reply]

  7. Heather says:

    You’ve inspired me to give my water kefir grains another try…. although they have been sitting in the fridge for a few weeks (months?) now… are they still usable?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Heather – Not sure. If they were not fed enough sugar to begin with it may be a problem. I say give it a go and see what happens :) .

    [Reply]

  8. Jeanmarie says:

    I recently started brewing water kefir sodas again after a break of a few months. This batch of grains multiplies like wild! I don’t know why.

    The secondary fermentation is the key to both delicious and bubbly water kefir soda and also kombucha. Great post! I just forwarded to a friend I gave a good supply of grains to.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Jeanmarie – I am working on the grain multiplication now. Thanks for letting me know about it!

    [Reply]

  9. Jeanmarie says:

    I forgot to mention… I don’t bother with the eggshells. I think I tried that once. Instead, I use a pinch of dolomite powder and a shake of ConcenTrace trace minerals solution. Seems to work!

    [Reply]

  10. Deanna Frey says:

    Oh this sounds delicious! I have never made kombucha or kefir but would love to try it.

    [Reply]

  11. doradufran says:

    I do love water kefir, I prefer it brewed in apple juice & enjoyed sparingly. I also enjoy whey soda when I don’t have water kefir grains.

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    doradufran – what exactly is whey soda?

    [Reply]

    Mare Reply:

    @Shannon,
    Here is a really good whey ginger ale recipe: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/lacto-fermented-ginger-ale/

    [Reply]

  12. I made water kefir soda a couple of times and loved it–mine got enough fermentation going that it had a bit of an alcoholic zing to it! I found it too much at the time to keep up with the grains–instead I make homemade ginger ale from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions that is a “traditional” ferment just using lime juice, ginger, salt, sugar and whey. It’s not carbonated, but I just add sparkling water to it and voila! Ginger ale!

    [Reply]

  13. April says:

    What exactly IS a pastured egg shell?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    April – It is an egg that comes from a chicken who was raised outside with a proper diet.

    [Reply]

  14. Ina Gawne says:

    Hi Shannon – I would like to try this, but each time I try the link to find where to buy the kefir grains, it does not work. Could you let me know where I might purchase them? Thanks Ina

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Ina – I emailed you privately.

    [Reply]

  15. Olivia says:

    I am now making and using dairy kefir…I love it, but have ordered the water kefir grains as well. I expect delivery of those today…my question is how much can you consume without any adverse impact? I read something about “die off” but have not been able to find a lot of information on that subject. Will someone please advise…how much is considered normal daily consumption?

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Olivia – Great question! I think that most ferments should be introduced slowly. If you’ve never had either milk or water kefir start with maybe 1/2 glass per day of each then increase to a cup each after a few days and so on. I really don’t think you can have too much of either. Most importantly, though, if you start to feel weird, icky, or “die off” symptoms just cut back for a few days and slowly work your way up. Your body really does respond to certain foods and is a good indicator of what to eat/not eat if we only listen.

    [Reply]

  16. yusuf germino says:

    hello kefir fans

    just started with both water and milk kefir, i got mine adopted from yemoos.com courtesy of a friend from canada

    only after 10 days, i was able to share 3 tbsp of healthy grains to a friend who is suffering from HPilory, i hope it works

    i myself is enjoying my daily smoothie with the milk kefir and a glass a day of water kefir just before i go to bed

    it feels light in the stomach and there is, i don’t know, nice mood

    i am blessed to have it sent on the post as dried grains and went through strict postal rules in the middle east

    hope to bring them home to the philippines later when i go on vacation and share with friends here

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Yusuf – I agree. Both the water and milk kefir make us feel well. Thanks for your comment.

    [Reply]

  17. Carolyn says:

    I started making water kefir a month ago with just sucanat and unsulphured apricots. It got fizzy and seemed to be working really well, and I liked the taste even if I left it got really strong, but my grains weren’t multiplying at all.

    This week I added eggshells for the first time, and it tastes horrible. Instead of a vinegary taste, it’s kind of like when you steep green tea for way too long and it kind of makes you want to gag.

    Do eggshells normally affect the flavour? Does it matter if my shells are brown instead of white? (the brown slime they turn into as they disintegrate is kind of off-putting, so I might switch anyway)

    [Reply]

  18. Kara Bagley says:

    They seem to grow the fastest when I use coconut sugar, but I think I just got a hold of really good grains. Everyone I have sold them to have gotten the same results. I have a water softener, and someone thought that could be it.

    [Reply]

  19. aimee says:

    hi! i love your website, thank you for the wonderful information!

    my parents killed my water kefir grains while we were on vacation :(
    does anybody have some that they would like to give away? or i would be happy to buy them!!!

    thank you!!!!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    aimee – Oh no! Mine have been neglected, I am sorry to say, but Cultures for Health carries them here: http://www.nourishingdays.com/resources/#starters

    [Reply]

  20. [...] This week I discovered Simple Bites, an awesome family food blog focused on healthy eating.  It is a division of Simple Living Media, which is focused on encouraging people to lead simpler lives.  I have enjoyed reading all of their blogs, especially searching through the recipe archives.  This cupcake recipe looks like fun for Easter, and I am interested in kefir water now because of this post…. [...]

  21. Jamie says:

    I am just finishing my second batch of water kefir. I used dried cherries to flavor. My questions are: When you make a new batch of water kefir do you rinse the grains before putting them in the new jar? Has anyone tried to flavor with actual grapes instead of grape juice? What do you do with the grains if you are going to be on vacation for say 2 weeks? I have Kirkland (Costco) brand organic brown eggs that are cage-free. Would this be considered “pastured?” Thanks in advance for your help.

    [Reply]

  22. [...] Kefir Grains Cultured Soda: Use kefir grains to culture water kefir (soda). See the how-to at Cheeseslave and Nourishing Days. [...]

  23. [...] Kefir Grains Cultured Soda: Use kefir grains to culture water kefir (soda). See the how-to at Cheeseslave and Nourishing Days. [...]

  24. Jenny says:

    Well I just got some milk keifer grains from a friend yesterday and tried my first shot of it. Not too bad. They suggested sweetening it a bit but honestly, I tried it both ways and its not that bad unsweetened. Now that I have keifer grains, I looked up this post again to see if it uses the same grains. Bummer! But I still want to try water keifer. (I’m the “Jenny” with CD that posted in December) — but now I have a child allergic to eggs. I kinda doubt the egg white protein would be existant in this once it’s done, but I’d rather try it with those other mineral supplements instead. Soon, I will be ordering those along with my water keifer grains! I really do want to try it. Thanks for the great blog – I really enjoy reading it.

    [Reply]

  25. Theresa says:

    I like water kefir and the ideas regarding adding eggshell are intriguing. I, like others, are surprised yours aren’t multiplying. I started with 1/4 cup of grains, using a 1 qt container to brew, I was able to batch 2 at a time by the 4th batch. Certainly not as prolific as a Kombucha SCOBY, but consistently gaining volume none the less. Are you sure you started with water kefir grains, not milk?

    Instead of fruit juice I had pieces of fresh or frozen fruit and/or ginger to the 2nd ferment. Technically you can eat the probiotic rich food after removing from the brew but I haven’t had the stomach for it yet.

    [Reply]

  26. Beth Hodge says:

    I’m new to this site and have to wonder, how does this differ from corn whiskey? No wonder everyone feels better. I think you all are drunk. Please correct me if I’m wrong, and I admit, I frequently am.

    [Reply]

  27. Viki says:

    I’ve been making water kefir for over a year now and love it. Making 2 gallons at a time(sharing with another family!). I love using the fruit that I dehydrate for my second ferment, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, pears and pineapple. Right now I’m mixing peaches with dried mint and it is really refreshing. I always rinse my grains(have well water) before starting another batch and have had great success with large grains and moderate growth. I also have carbonation after 24hrs on my second ferment by making sure that the jar is tightly sealed- using canning jars and two piece lids. Once I mixed my extra grains with pomegranate juice and wow did it get really carbonated on the first ferment! Don’t be afraid to experiment with any extra grains always saving “pure” grains. I have great success using organic cane sugar or Zulka brand cane sugar found at WalMart in the Mexican aisle or online. Sucant was to strong for my taste.

    [Reply]

  28. herblady says:

    I would like to know how to make the water kefir with the lowest amount of alcohol content and the highest amount of probiotics. Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

  29. Sarah K. says:

    Does your water kefir fiz as much as soda? I have been trying to get mine really fizzy, but no matter what I do it only gets just a little fizz at best.

    I know that my grains are healthy because they are almost doubled every time I make a batch. I was able to make two quarts after my first batch!

    [Reply]

    Shannon Reply:

    Are you doing a 2nd ferment on your water kefir, using juice, etc after removing the grains? That is the best way I have found to achieve carbonation.

    [Reply]

  30. Sarah K. says:

    Thanks for the reply! I am doing a second ferment and since I wrote the comment I have had a couple of fizzy batches, but I am not sure why it isn’t consistent. I guess I’ll just keep having to experiment.

    I do think it helps if I let my first and second ferment go for 36 – 48 hours as opposed to the 24. Maybe my house is a little colder.

    Oh, and I did try putting about a quarter cup of raspberries that had been frozen and then thawed into a little over a half gallon of WF for the second ferment and it terned our really good. – I just wanted to mention that because I haven’t seen anyone say that they had used frozen thawed fruit and thought someone might be interested.

    Thanks again Shannon! I really enjoy your blog and especially recently reading about your life off grid. I wish I could talk with you some time and ask questions – I’m so interested. :)

    Blessings to you and your family.

    [Reply]

  31. Cassey says:

    I have tried water kefir 3 or 4 times now. I haven’t been able to get any carbonation yet, but I’m now in the middle of a 2nd ferment – this is the first time I added fruit juice instead of just fruit or fresh lemon juice and some sugar. But this time I’m seeing a LOT of white stuff accumulating in the bottom of the jars or floating around. I’d strained the grains out, so this stuff wasn’t in there 24 hours ago when I started the 2nd ferment. Anyone know what it is? There’s quite a bit of it. It’s making me not want to drink it, but it looks like maybe I finally have a few bubbles in one of them so I’d like to try it. Thanks for any help!

    [Reply]

    Missy Reply:

    @Cassey, Cassey, I believe the stuff at the bottom would be new kefir grains if they were allowed to grow-kefir dust…. don’t let it gross u out. I have found that my bottles that have more of this get bubbly more quickly….I use grape juice also for second ferment- and also BLACK CHERRY CONCENTRATE!!! Just a tablespoon in each bottle. Gives it good flavor.

    [Reply]

  32. Prue says:

    Hi, I’ve been making water kefir since January, and while I don’t like the taste of the the sugar/molasses kind, my husband can’t get enough of it! He’s a diabetic and says it makes him feel great. I prefer my kefir made with grape juice. I didn’t do a lot of research into different recipes, but my grains grow like crazy and I use brown sugar/molasses with tap water for hubby’s batch, and straight up grape juice for mine, both batches are fermented and fizzy after 48 hours. The grape tastes just like wine.

    We love it! I will admit, my grains don’t grow from the grape juice, but if I rinse them and make a batch with brown sugar/molasses, they grow like crazy. I’ve got about 4 jars of them in my fridge just to store them!

    Does anyone know how to dehydrate them easily? Thank you!

    Have a blessed and wonderful day!!

    [Reply]

  33. S says:

    Organic pineapple juice & a pinch of baking soda will make my grains grow like crazy! I started out with 1 cup and now have 7 in only 2 weeks!

    [Reply]

  34. Rory says:

    Hi All,

    I had great success with multiplication by adding a small amount of ginger, bicarb of soda.

    [Reply]

  35. [...] Kefir. I find this beverage to be even more like soda in that it isn’t quite as tangy as kombucha. When mixed with just a [...]

  36. doris hall says:

    hi I love my water kefir I am trying out everything I read on all these sites I am a diabetic tryin to feel good It aint happening yet but I read I am in the cleansing stage How long does this last and can I drink too much or not enough? Does anyone know?I want to let my husband try it but I want to feel better first so he will see. He does not like new ideas like I do. Thanks much

    [Reply]

  37. doris hall says:

    my grains are growing and I am learning how to flavor the second fermemtation I love it and been giving some away already Getting some fans of MY WATER KEFIR. But I too am getting that white gook in the bottom of my juice. Do I drink that too or what? My friend just shook it into the juice kefir and drank it all up together ? She said Shoot I just want to get feeling better. Thanks much Love reading all this.

    [Reply]

    Missy Reply:

    @doris hall, As I commented above, I believe it is just new kefir grains forming. (They don’t just appear from nowhere- they have to start small: ) This type of thing happens with Kombucha too. I personally don’t drink it and just let it settle- but I am sure it is good to drink! Probably full of minerals since kefir grains multiply more rapidly if minerals are plentiful! Happy Fermenting!

    [Reply]

  38. [...] so headed into the kitchen to drink and subsequently prepare a fresh batch of blackberry cream water kefir. Step one was simple (insert comic laugh): simply boil some sugar [...]

  39. JPo says:

    I have been making water kefir for a few weeks now. I have also been seeing the white funk on the bottom of my jars, have noticed my grains not really multiplying, and have noticed my second ferments are not as fizzy as they were when I did my first few batches. A friend of mine suggested that I was letting each batch go too long (3-5 days) and that the white stuff on the bottom was an over growth of yeast. Not sure now if that’s the case of it the white gunk is new “grain dust” like a previous commenter suggested. I am also struggling because I am now making a new batch every 24 hrs or so, but have more water kefir than I can drink by myself! I only make a quart with each batch, but still! Anyone know how long does it stay good in the fridge after the second fermentation? Also wondering what I should do when I go on vacation for 4, 5, 10 days at a time. Thank you!

    [Reply]

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