Prep Time: 10 minutes
For Initial Fermentation
1/4 cup water kefir grains
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
2 dried, sulphured figs, dates or any dried fruit
1 lemon, cut in half
For the Secondary Fermentation
1/2 cup fruit juice OR 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
Bring about 6 cups of filtered water to a boil, then stir in the sugar. Continue stirring the sugar into the hot water until it dissolves, then allow it to cool to room temperature.
Place the water kefir grains into a 2-quart jar, Pour in the sugar water, and drop in the figs and lemon. Cover the jar loosely with a lid, or with cheesecloth secured with cooking twine to allow air in but to prevent stray debris from spoiling your water kefir. Allow the water kefir to ferment for 2 to 3 days. The longer it ferments, the stronger its flavor will become.
When the water kefir acquires a flavor that suits you, strain it through a nonreactive (plastic, wood or stainless steel) strainer into a pitcher. Discard the spent lemon and figs, but reserve the water kefir grains which can be immediately recultured or which can be stored in water in the fridge for up to 1 week.
While the water kefir can be enjoyed as it is, after its initial fermentation, you can also ferment it a second time. Secondary fermentation allows you to flavor the water kefir, and the secondary fermentation process, which occurs in a tightly capped bottle (like these) allows carbon dioxide to develop, producing a fizzy water kefir.
For the secondary fermentation, pour either 1/4 cup fruit juice of your choice or 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar into each of two flip-top bottles (like these). Then pour the water kefir from the pitcher into the bottle, filling them within 1/2 inch to 1 inch of their openings. Seal the bottles, and set them on your countertop to ferment a further 18 to 24 hours, keeping in mind that warm temperatures will speed up the fermentation process while cool temperatures will slow it down. Transfer the bottles of water kefir to the fridge for 3 days to allow the bubbles to set. Open carefully over a sink, as the liquid in the bottle is under pressure, and when you release the bottle's seal, the water kefir may fizz and foam.
Sugar Substitutes. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts that make up water kefir grains and produce water kefir need caloric sweeteners in order to live and reproduce. I use organic cane sugar in my water kefir; however, you can substitute unrefined cane sugar, jaggery or honey. Keeping in mind that honey has some antimicrobial properties and may weaken water kefir grains over time.
Website with some ideas of flavored water kefir.