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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Water Kefir Trials

I have been working on several projects recently. Don’t worry, I will be posting all my experiments… I have been creating decorations for a blog-worthy birthday bash, experimenting with sourdough, considering taking on Kombucha, and playing at flavoring some water kefir.

Water Kefir is a fermented drink full of beneficial bacteria. I have never been a fan of yogurt and the thought of popping probiotic pills rubs me wrong, but the process of making my own beverage with the probiotic benefits intrigues me.

So… Here I go!
I spent $12 for 1/4 cup of water Kefir grains, also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts), on Amazon. They remind me of tapioca since they are a bit slimy.
When I got my grains, I added them to a mixture of organic sugar, molasses and water and let them sit for 2 days.
You can see the grains at the bottom eating up all the sugar.
I decided to do a second fermentation to let it become naturally carbonated. Sounds cool right?! I don’t like soda because of the ingredients and how it makes me feel when I am done drinking… so I am excited to see how it comes out! (I am jumping up and down in my seat. Just so you know.)

Batch one: I removed the grains and separated my completed Kefir into 2 containers. One contains blue berries and black berry with cranberry juice. The other has a slice of ginger and 2 tablespoons of Lemon juice.

After I let this batch ferment for the 2nd time, I had a bit of a dilemma. I was going to be out of town for 3 days. What do you do with your grains? I had read about exploding jars when you let it sit too long and I didn't want to come home to a mess. I also didn't want to kill off my new grains… I did read that if you give the grains sugar water and put it in the fridge it will be okay while you are away. Although this is a little contrary to the idea that the grains need to stay warm and at room temperature, I thought I would try it. Into the refrigerator it went with a ½ cup of sugar in a mason jar.

I was a little disappointed when I came home to discover that ½ of my grains were gone. I decided to compensate for the missing grains by adding extra sugar (1/2 cup instead of 1/3 cup) to the next batch and let it sit about 6 hours longer than I did previously. I think the adjustments paid off since many of my missing grains came back! (these grains multiply, by the way)
Just so you know the type of Molasses I used.
Also used a mixture of Turbinado and dehydrated Cane Juice
While Batch #2 is fermenting on my counter, I was able to try my finished water kefir! Yum. I have to admit that I was a little worried since the informational paper that came with the kefir grains said, “Sometimes after shipping, the grains are reluctant to ferment. You may need to repeat this process up to 3 times before they are fermenting heartily.” Luckily, I didn't have any problems and my water kefir turned out nice and bubbly.

I was pleasantly surprised with the taste. I liked the berry juice version better since the one with the lemon tasted a little more yeasty. The berry version tasted like a mild wine cooler. It was sweet, but not in a lip-pucker way, more in a cheap wine or grape juice sort of way. I liked it. My husband was a little confused with the taste – but he was a real skeptic to begin with. By the 3rd batch, I think it started growing on him.

I flavored Batch 2 in 4 jars (or I meant to…)
1.       Berries and Cranberry juice (like previous batch)
2.       Berries, ginger slice, fresh crushed mint and cranberry juice
3.       Lemon juice, berries, little bit of cranberry juice and Lime juice
4.       Lemon juice, Lime Juice, ginger and mint (going for a mojito flavor…)
I got a plastic strainer to filter out the grains.
Supposedly, medal will react with the grains. Can't have that!
See my grains.
Sadly, I misjudged the amount of Kefir so I ended up with flavors #1-3 and the inch and a half of juice in number four got dumped to fill up #2 and 3. So we will see what I end up with…

I drank up the first batch, while the 2nd fermented for the 2nd time. (still with me?) I really like the light headed feeling I get when taking a big swallow. This is probably due to the carbonation or maybe the yeast. I drank a little to aid digestion before eating. I even gave some to my kids when they asked for some “soda” aka sparkling juice, and they really didn't seem to mind. Score for Mom!
See the bubbles on top? And this is after Fermentation 1!
Batch #2 went in the refrigerator after a couple more days and Batch #3 got divided and I tried some different flavors. I made a point to write down what was in each flavoring batch so I can duplicate the ones I like.
Batch #3 flavors to try: (1) Berry juice with apple slices and raisins; and (2) Berry juice with raisins.
I added egg shells to this batch for extra mineral umph.
Interesting shape they are in after fermenting. Discolored and thinner than before
After Batch #2, Look at all the grains I have now!
They really DO multiply when they are happy.
From Batch #2, I really liked the refreshing flavor of the mint and lime combination with fruit juice and berries! Wish I had added lime juice to Batch 3. Oh well, there is always the next one!

Speaking of the next one. My grains doubled! I now have enough to divide into 2 batches. Nice!

I hope this wasn't too confusing. Generally, I was drinking the previous batch while a new one was fermenting... I am looking forward to trying out more flavors to find the right fit for my family's tastes. Here is a great page on flavoring at Delicious Obsessions that helped me.

Have you tried any home fermenting?
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Shared at Saturday Show & Tell at Cheerios & Lattes, Anything Blue at Dedicated Housewife, I Should be Mopping the Floor Mop it Up, Old Fashioned Recipe Exchange, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways , Make it Pretty, Traditional Tuesday,