I have been experimenting with the fermentation of foods for several years and today I would like to introduce you to a very simple water kefir recipe that overshadows any lemonade you buy and is also healthy and sustainable. With only 4 ingredients you can make your fizzy lemonade in just 24 hours, perfect for the warmer temperatures.
What is water kefir?
Water kefir is the name given to the drink, but also to the cultures that are needed to be able to produce the drink in the first place. These live cultures look like a collection of small crystals made up of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. Some of you may be familiar with milk kefir or kombucha, which are also fermented drinks. However, water kefir and milk kefir are two very different microorganisms that need different nutrients. Water kefir is made by fermenting sugar in a water solution. Milk kefir, on the other hand, is obtained through a fermentation process caused by lactic acid bacteria. The exact origin of kefir cultures is unknown, they were discovered on a species of cactus in Mexico, but they have also been used for a long time in Tibet and the Caucasus.
The water kefir and its healing effects
The probiotic properties of kefir are said to have all sorts of positive effects, even if it should be noted that the quantities of probiotics contained do not correspond to those of high-quality capsule or liquid probiotics. Study results on probiotics cannot, therefore, be transferred 1 to 1 to the probiotics contained in water kefir. Kefir is best known for improving healthy bacteria in the gut, and some studies claim it can also help prevent and possibly treat urinary tract and vaginal yeast infections and skin conditions. It is also very nutritious, containing a lot of protein, B vitamins, potassium, and calcium.
Why is kefir more sustainable and healthier than regular lemonade?
Quite simply because it can be used over and over again. In theory, for a lifetime. No plastic bottles and questionable ingredients and the quantity of sugar is entirely a matter of taste. Each time you feed the kefir, the crystals multiply so that you can gradually give small amounts to friends and family. Otherwise, the small tubers can be easily disposed of in the compost. The crystals consist of yeast fungi and lactic acid bacteria that feed on the sugar and fruits in the water kefir mixture and ferment them. In contrast to industrially produced lemonade, the sugar content is negligible. Depending on the addition of different types of sugar, dried fruits, different types of fruit, or (wild) herbs or flowers, you can always create different flavors. During fermentation, depending on the duration, carbonic acid, lactic acid bacteria, and small amounts of alcohol (between 0.2% and 2%) are produced. Unfortunately, kefir is therefore not suitable for diabetics, alcoholics, children, and pregnant women.
Where can I get water kefir from?
I got my water kefir as a gift and have given it away several times. You can ask around in your circle of friends or health food store or otherwise order it on the Internet. Make sure to look out for water kefir crystals as the milk kefir crystals won’t work for the lemonade.
For 1l / 35 fl oz of lemonade you’ll need:
1L / 35 fl oz filtered water
3-4 tbsp water kefir crystals
3 tbsp sugar (white sugar works best, but cane sugar, rapadura, and coconut sugar are also good)
1 sliced lemon
2 dried fruits (I used dates, figs are also delicious)
You’ll also need:
1 large flip-top jar or mason jar
1 wooden or plastic spoon (preferably not metal as it could damage the kefir)
1 plastic sieve (preferably not metal as it could damage the kefir)
1 flip-top glass bottle for the finished drink
Put all ingredients in the glass jar, stir and let the mixture ferment at room temperature for 24 hours. Squeeze the lemon into the finished drink, filter everything and pour into the bottle. The finished drink is slightly fizzy and smells a bit sour. Then rinse the kefir crystals with water and either prepare new kefir straight away or put the crystals in a flip-top glass jar with water and 2 tablespoons of sugar and put it to “sleep” in the refrigerator. The refrigeration slows down the fermentation process, but the kefir can continue to feed on the sugar until it is next used.
You might need to give it a feed to activate it before you make another lemonade. Therefore, you simply feed it with sugar and water and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Then discard the sugar water and start as described above.
You can experiment with the sugar quantities and ingredients. Some prefer more or less sugar, and there are also different preferences when it comes to dried fruit. It takes a few runs to brew the perfect kefir for yourself, experiment and let your creativity run free.