My water kefir grains are happy. I know this because they’ve been multiplying enthusiastically. Almost too enthusiastically…but I appreciate the work they do to transform fresh-cut pineapple (arguably the byproduct of pineapple peel wine!) into refreshing probiotic soda.
These water kefir grains are tiny, but numerous – not the big, crystalline grains I’ve sometimes seen, but they are very active. They ferment their sugar water well and provide fizzy first ferments, currently increasing by about 15-20% with each batch. According to Yemoos’s Water Kefir FAQ, “smaller grains will reproduce much more rapidly than larger grains” – which is what I’m seeing.
In the past, these “pets” haven’t grown well. I use dechlorinated water with added minerals from sea salt, Himalayan salt, raisins, baking soda, and blackstrap molasses (alternately, not at the same time). For years, I covered the first ferments with a breathable (usually paper towel) cover. It was only when I began to do an anaerobic ferment that noticeable growth began and fizziness increased.
With the last batch, I also slipped in a pinch of calcium carbonate – on hand for making remineralizing tooth powder – to see if the extra calcium might encourage them to grow larger. Smaller grains are more effective at fermenting their medium, but the smallest grains can actually slip through a mesh sieve and end up as grit in the bottom of an otherwise enjoyable beverage. I’m also going try mixing the feed up a bit by offering the grains white sugar plus blackstrap molasses to see if it impacts growth.
So what happens to all those extra grains? First, I keep an extra jar of “back up” grains in the fridge just in case my working ones have an issue and need to be replaced. When that jar is full (as it is now), extra grains are added to the dogs’ food – they’re edible and full of probiotic goodness. Our dogs will eat (in limited quantities) surplus kombucha SCOBY, milk kefir grains, and water kefir grains…happily.
With all the ferments I have going, why keep making water kefir? Arguably one of the tastiest live beverages, it’s one of the most effective thirst-quenchers and stomach-settlers I’ve encountered:
- In the summer, when dehydration occurs quickly, I find water kefir the most hydrating of my fermented beverages, especially when I add the ingredients to help replace lost electrolytes (note that this Community Chickens recipe indicates that it’s good for chickens, other animals, and people).
- Ginger water kefir (add sliced or minced fresh and/or candied ginger to the second ferment) soothes an uneasy stomach naturally. While ginger is particularly effective for settling stomachs, any flavor of water kefir works for me. Read more about ginger’s health benefits here.
Among its many health benefits, pineapple is a digestive aid, and fresh pineapple water kefir helps keep my gut happy. And when my gut’s happy, I’m happy. A few crushed cubes of pineapple added to the finished water kefir 1F, some time (24 hours) to infuse, et voilà: fizzy, tart, and sweet pineapple water kefir!