What Is Water Kefir?

Exactly What Is Water Kefir?

If you have been around the edges of the “alternative health” world you may be wondering what is water kefir & how to make it? Water kefir is know by a few different names including Tibicos, tibi, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees.

Wikipedia says Kefir was mentioned in older literature under such names as bébées, African bees, ale nuts, Australian bees, balm of Gilead, beer seeds, beer plant, bees, ginger beer plant, ginger bees, Japanese beer seeds and vinegar bees.

So, now we know what it is called … 🙂

Exactly What Is Water Kefir?

Water Kefir grains are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that live together in a symbiotic matrix. In appearance they translucent and sort of gelatinous, although not “rubbery” as the milk kefir grains are. They are also not as robust when handled and break easily. Here is the what is water kefir wiki:

Tibicos are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria. As with kefir grains, the microbes present in tibicos act in symbiosis to maintain a stable culture. Tibicos can do this in many different sugary liquids, feeding off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas, which carbonates the drink.

Tibicos are found around the world, with no two cultures being exactly the same. Typical tibicos have a mix of Lactobacillus, Streptococcus, Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria with yeasts from Saccharomyces, Candida, Kloeckera and possibly others. Lactobacillus brevis has been identified as the species responsible for the production of the polysaccharide (dextran) that forms the grains.[2][3] Pidoux (1989)[3] also identifies the sugary kefir grain with the ginger beer plant.

Certainly opportunistic bacteria take advantage of this stable symbiotic relation which might be the reason for the many different names/distinction in the scientific literature. Different ingredients or hygienic conditions might also change the fungal and bacteriological composition, leading to the different names. People who do not wish to consume dairy products may find that water kefir provides probiotics without the need for dairy or tea cultured products, such as kombucha. The finished product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage.

Photos of My Water Kefir Grains:


What is Water Kefir Grains

These are Water Kefir Grains

Close Up Of Water Kefir Grains

How Do You Make Water Kefir?

Water kefir is made by putting the culture grains into a mixture of sugar and water and allowing it to ferment. Different additives may be used for flavoring and to enhance the nutritional properties of the end product. A typical recipe will contain the water kefir grains, sugar, a citrus fruit and water.

Normal fermentation should be accomplished in 24 to 48 hours, depending on the warmth of your climate. It is important to use ingredients that will not inhibit the fermentation, such as chlorine in tap water or preservatives in dried fruit (sulfites). The fruits used may be changed and mixed to create difference tastes, but it is important to use citrus or acidic fruit for the safety factor, as a pH of 3.0 to 4.6 is desired.

Precautions should be taken to keep your culture healthy. When you are handling your kefir grains, don’t use any reactive metals such as aluminium, copper, zinc, or soldered metals – which contain lead. These metals can be eroded by the acid and inadvertently cause poisoning. Stainless steel, plastic, non-lead-glazed ceramic or glass are preferable. Culturing grains in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid and using clean stainless steel or plastic utensils when handling the grains is recommended.

What Does Water Kefir Taste Like?

Well, the one I make the most often tastes a lot like a weak ginger beer! Water kefir is easily flavored and it seems to specially like ginger. It is usually rather sweet to the taste and not unpleasant, although some say it is an acquired taste.

One of the best things about water kefir, is that since it is water based (unlike milk kefir) you can drink a lot more of it. For those needing a real pump up with friendly bacteria, water kefir is a great way to go.

I also find that some children are a bit put off by the appearance of milk kefir, as sometimes it can be a little lumpy. So, in this case water kefir is a great way of getting children to consume lots of friendly bacteria – in a drink they will love.

What Bacteria Is In Water Kefir?

While water kefir grains composition can vary greatly, they usually have a quite specific group of bacteria and yeasts present. Below is a general list of those that are know to make up water kefir grains:




Species Lactobacillus

  • L. acidophilus
  • L. alactosus
  • L. brevis
  • L. bulgaricus
  • L. casei subsp. casei
  • L. casei subsp. pseudoplantarum
  • L. casei subsp. rhamnosus
  • L. casei subsp. tolerans
  • L. coryneformis subsp. torquens
  • L. fructosus
  • L. hilgardii
  • L. homohiochi
  • L. plantarum
  • L. psuedoplantarum
  • L. reuterietc
  • L. yamanashiensis

Species Streptococcus

  • S. agalactiae
  • Sr. bovis
  • S. cremeris
  • S. faecalis
  • S. lactis
  • S. mutans
  • S. pneumoniae
  • S. pyogenes
  • S. salivarius
  • S. sanguinis
  • S. suis
  • S. viridans

Species Pediococcus

  • P. damnosus

Species Leuconostoc

  • L. mesenteroides

Species Bacillus

  • B. subtilis
  • B. graveolus

Species Saccharomyces

  • S. bayanus
  • S. boullardii
  • S. cerevisiae
  • S. florentinus
  • S. pretoriensis
  • S. uvarum

Species Kloeckera

  • K. apiculata

Species Hansenula

  • H. yalbensis

Species Candida

  • C. gueretana
  • C. lamica
  • C. valida

Species Torulopsis

  • T. insconspicna

Read More About Kefir and Fermented Foods:

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One Response

  1. Marlon Macahilas April 26, 2013