Dietary Info

What is water kefir juice?

What is water kefir juice?
Kefir juice is a gluten-free, low-sugar, vegan-friendly probiotic drink filled with friendly bacteria and made from fermenting water kefir grains. I am often asked what kefir grains are. In the picture, you can see me holding the water kefir grains. They are transparent in colour and can change shape over time. Sometimes, the grains can be small and other times they can be as large as 20p pieces.

Where do water kefir grains come from?

The origination of water kefir grains has not been fully researched, however, we have some information to share based on our research.

Water kefir grains are known by a variety of names, but most commonly are called tibicos, Japanese water crystals, and California bees. They are sometimes also referred to as Australian Bees, African Bees, Ginger Bees, Ginger Beer Plant, Sea Rice, or Aqua Gems, to name a few. [1]

The grains seem to come from Mexico, although can be sourced in other hot and dry locations around the world. According to research carried out by M.L. Lutz, the water kefir grains grow inside a cactus called the prickly pear and this cactus contains sugar water on which the tibias (water kefir grains) thrive on. It is believed that the grains form on top of the pads of the prickly pear cactus and are then harvested and reconstituted in a solution of sugar water. [2] In this sugary water, the grains (known as a culture starter) convert the sugars into bacteria.

The whole harvesting of the kefir grains is interesting to me. I have been cultivating my grains for over a year now and have seen them go through several unusual changes; they grow in size, multiply, and can even seem to stop working when overworked. Understanding how my grains change, I speculate that as the grains grow in the sugar water inside the cactus, they become too large and therefore are squeezed out of the cactus pads. If the grains are not harvested, then the grains fall and are absorbed into the ground where the nutrients will be absorbed by the cactus itself.

How is a juice made from water kefir grains?

I can’t let you into my little kefir secrets but it’s important to share the process to give you an understanding of how kefir grains are turned into juice.

First of all, sugar needs to be added to water. The grains are then added to the sugary water in an airtight mason jar (kefir grains ferment in anaerobic conditions. The grains are what’s known as a starter culture, they therefore convert the sugars in the water to different strains of bacteria.

We have sent our kefir juice off to the lab and can confirm that a bacteria known as Lactobacillus is one of the friendly bacteria living in abundance. At this stage, we do not know the exact strains of Lactobacillus but further microbiology testing will give us this information. (Stay tuned for more news). However, a microbiology lab in America has tested for the strains of bacteria and can confirm the following are found: Lactobacillus casei/paracasei, Lactobacillus harbinensis, Lactobacillus hilgardii, Bifidobacterium psychraerophilum/crudilactis, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Dekkera bruxellensis. [3] However, it’s important to note here that these grains were not sourced directly from Mexico and there is no confirmation of where these grains originated from. This information is important because we understand that the prickly pear cactus can be found in other hot and dry countries so different strains of bacteria may be produced after fermentation.

After our first stage of fermentation, which usually happens within 48 hours, we then remove the grains from the water and bottle the juice, putting the juice into a second stage ferment, where the cultures will continue to convert sugars into bacteria in anaerobic conditions. As a result, carbon dioxide is produced which means the drink becomes fizzy through natural carbonation.


Including water kefir juice in your regular diet

I always say that everyone everywhere should make sure they are including fermented foods in their diet.

This glass of water kefir juice has had a small amount of cranberry juice added to it, as well as ice. It is a great substitution for high-sugar fizzy drinks because it is gluten-free, low in sugar and vegan-friendly.

How I got into making water kefir juice.

My water kefir juice journey started when I discovered that I was suffering from Candida overgrowth (an overgrowth of yeast in the body which can lead to several fungal infections and other health problems). After my research, I made the gut health discovery which led me on a mission to increase my friendly bacteria and heal my gut. At the time, I was taking a high-strength probiotic but as I began to understand the complexity of the gut microbiome and how it needs billions of probiotics to make a difference in gut health, I decided to look for a more natural source of probiotics believing there had to be a way to get them into me through food. That was when I discovered fermentation and more specifically water kefir grains. Through research, I learned that the fermentation of kefir grains produces high amounts of probiotics, so I managed to source them online and start my kefir fermenting journey. In the beginning, I made lots of mistakes but I stuck with it and eventually found the perfect recipe. I started with only 210g and now have over 5kgs of grains being worked or living in storage.

A small glass of water kefir juice can make a big difference

I went down the water kefir juice route because I tried to limit dairy in my diet. I do allow some but like sugars, everything is in moderation. When you first include water kefir juice in your regular diet you don’t need much. Over time, you can include more if you like. A small glass of around 200ml daily is enough.

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