How to Keep Your Water Kefir Grains Alive and Healthy
If you can see your water kefir grains they are alive!
Water kefir grains have been around for centuries and they can be frozen, dehydrated and very warm and they still continue to work.
Kefir grains can grow to be quite large, however that does not mean that they are better. In fact, when the grains are smaller, there is more surface area involved which produces a better kefir (they also tend to grow more easily at a smaller, more manageable size as well).
Temperature is a large factor in getting the water kefir grains to ferment. They need to be kept consistently warm and there are numerous tips in my post about 10 Ways to keep your ferments warm in winter.
Something that you need to know as well, is that if you live in a cooler climate, water kefir grains struggle in the winter and don’t multiply as profusely and aren’t as plump as they are in the summer. Don’t worry, it isn’t a YOU problem, the babies don’t like the cold. You will see that your kefir grains will be continuously morphing themselves from season to season and year to year. They may not multiply as much but they will still make wonderful, probiotic rich water kefir.
I strongly suggest that you leave your first ferment for 48 hours instead of 24 in the winter. That way more sugar gets eaten up.
The second problem that people have is that they don’t give the grains a chance to acclimatize to their specific water. You need to do the exact same process and use the exact same ingredients, two to three rounds before the grains will begin to fully produce. Changing the variables like the types of sugar or the amount of sugar confuses the grains, so be prepared for almost no action the first couple of times, when you change things. The bottom line is that whatever you do, keep it consistent.
Always do the second ferment, even if you are questioning if the fermentation is working or not. The first ferment doesn’t produce fizz ever because you need to seal up the water kefir in order to build the CO2.
As well, the second ferment eats up more of the sugar as it builds the CO2. Use pineapple juice for your second ferment on your first few rounds. Water kefir loves the sugars in pineapple juice and makes for a very fizzy drink.
I strongly suggest that once your grains are acclimatized, you don’t use pineapple juice in your second ferment because it makes the drink too fizzy and opening the green bottle after the second ferment is too unpredictable.
So there you have it. If you can see your grains, they are alive and well.
Keep the first and second ferment consistently warm, don’t change your variables and ALWAYS do a second ferment.
The beauty of water kefir is that you can stop and start at any time. The best way to put your grains into dormancy is to put them into plain water in your first ferment jar in the fridge. That way they will get good and hungry and will be raring to produce when you are ready to start again. They can sit in the fridge for up to three months.