Water Kefir Soda
Water kefir is a naturally carbonated, probiotic fermented drink made from the tibicos culture, also known as water kefir grains or bug. It is technically a SCOBY, a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast, and can be purchased online, or if you’re lucky enough to know someone who has some, ask them to share a little with you. The grains that I’m using came from another farm in Costa Rica that I visited recently.
Making the water kefir soda is a 2-step process that takes 48 hours per step, or 4 days total until you can enjoy a refreshing glass.
Step 1 – Fermentation (Batch process)
The first step is done in a large volume container depending on the amount you wish to produce. The instructions given below are for a 6-liter (1.5 gallon) jug which will produce three 2-liter bottles of soda every other day. A large 5-gallon container could produce twice that amount. Whichever size container is used, the ratio of ingredients is always the same 1:1:8, or 1 part Water Kefir grains, 1 part Tapa Dulce syrup*, and 8 parts water. In this step, the grains are always kept pure, that is, no flavoring is added during this part of the process.
*Tapa Dulce Syrup:
Tapa de Dulce is a naturally evaporated sugar cane juice readily available in Central America. It can be purchased in blocks or granule form. To make a syrup, I dissolve a 600g Tapa Dulce block in 2 cups water either on the stove top or in a solar oven, if available.
IMPORTANT: Always make sure that the syrup has cooled to room temperature or lower (stored in the refrigerator is fine) before adding to the kefir grains.
IMPORTANT: Use only plastic containers and strainer, and plastic or wooden utensils when working with the kefir grains. DO NOT USE metal as it will kill the grains. DO NOT USE glass bottles as the building pressure of the fermentation process could cause the bottles to burst.
2 cups Water Kefir grains
2 cups Tapa Dulce syrup, cooled
16 cups water
1. Place the water kefir grains in a clean 6-liter jug.
2. Mix the Tapa Dulce syrup with the water first and then slowly pour into the jug with the kefir grains. Alternatively, while pouring the water into the jug, slowly add the syrup (this method will most likely require the use of a funnel and second set of hands). The main point to keep in mind with this step is not to pour the syrup directly onto the grains as it will shock them.
3. Cover the jug with a cloth and rubber band to allow air in and to keep the dust and bugs out, then set aside in a cool area for 48 hours. The color of the liquid will change from a deep brown to a light orange and the kefir grains will happily rise and fall like a 60’s lava lamp.
Step 2 – Bottling and Carbonation
In the second step, the kefir grains are strained out, the liquid transferred to individual bottles where the carbonation process takes place, and flavoring is added, if desired.
(3) 2-liter plastic bottles, with lids
Plastic or glass measuring cup
Plastic or wooden spoon
6-liter jug of kefir soda from Step 1
3 T Water Kefir grains
3/4 cups Tapa Dulce syrup, cooled
1. Using the plastic strainer and funnel, strain the kefir soda into the three clean 2-liter plastic bottles, adding an equal amount of soda to each. Reserve the Water Kefir grains for later.
2. Add 1 tablespoon Water Kefir grains to each bottle.
3. Add ¼ cup Tapa Dulce syrup to each bottle.
4. Add desired flavoring to each bottle (see flavoring options below).
6. BURP each bottle 3 times per day, at morning, noon, and night. (Slowly loosen the lid to relieve pressure then reclose. This may need to be done a little at a time to avoid the soda from bubbling over.) NOTE: This step is IMPORTANT! Failure to do this could result in the bottle bursting or the lid flying off creating a huge mess and potentially dangerous projectile!
7. After 48 hours, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator to halt the carbonation process.
8. Refrigerate till cold, then enjoy!
9. Clean the 6-liter jug, measure out 2 cups of the reserved Water Kefir grains and start a new batch. Healthy water kefir grains should “grow” with each batch, resulting in more than the original 2 cups. Store the extra in a glass or plastic container in the refrigerator. Keep a little extra on hand in case something happens to the batch you’re fermenting so you never lose it all, and if you like, share the rest with friends!
Here are some of my favorites for flavoring the Water Kefir Soda:
1. Passion Fruit – Add the seeds and fruit of the Passion Fruit to the soda bottles at the beginning of Step 2, 1 per bottle, or if the fruit is particularly large, ½ fruit per bottle.
2. Lemongrass Ginger – Make a tea of lemongrass and ginger, strain and cool to room temperature (or refrigerate). Add ½ to 1 cup tea to each bottle at the beginning of Step 2.
3. Beet – Scrub and peel a beet, discarding any dirty parts. (Add the raw beet to your garden salad or cook in your favorite dish.) Add the peels to a pot of water and boil for several minutes. Strain and cool to room temperature (or refrigerate). Add ½ cup of the beet water to each bottle at the beginning of Step 2.
4. Orange – Add the juice of 1 orange to each bottle at the END of Step 2, after the 48 hours and before transferring the bottles to the refrigerator. Adding citrus at the beginning of this step will tend to inhibit the carbonation process.