You might have heard of regular kefir or milk kefir and are wondering what the heck water kefir is. Simply put, water kefir is a fermented drink that's made from either sugar water, coconut juice, or diluted fruit juice. It is also known by other names such as Tibicos, Japanese water crystals, and California bees. People who are not keen on drinking dairy, have allergies or intolerance to milk, but want the benefits of having fermented food in their diet frequently look to water kefir as a solution.

How are water and milk kefir different?

Other than the obvious difference in taste and appearance, there are a few differences between these fermented drinks.

Although both of these products use kefir grains (which contains both yeasts and bacteria) to ferment, the grains used are not the same and contain different strains of microorganisms. There are some overlapping microorganisms but each type also have their own unique strains.

Additionally, water kefir may not have some of the nutrients, that its milk version has, particularly certain vitamins and minerals found only in milk. This is because the kefir takes on the nutrient profile of whatever is used to make it. 

Water kefir grains are used to make it

Water kefir grains are used to brew sugar water, coconut juice, or diluted fruit juice into a bubbly drink that provides many health benefits. These grains are translucent and may take on the color of your fruit juice or be a little brownish if you use brown sugar like I do.

A brief description of the water kefir-making process

Usually, a jar of sugar solution is used and the amount of sugar to use would depend on how you want the resulting drink to taste as well as any instructions that may have come with the grains.

The jar of grains and sugar water is covered with a cheese cloth and left to ferment for the next 24 to 48 hours. Fermenting time varies depending on the room temperature and the desired taste of the water kefir. During fermentation, the grains break down the sugar and produce other beneficial byproducts. The resulting water kefir is something that is sour and fizzy -- like soda!

I use Keysands' grains to make my kefir

Keysands Dehydrated Organic Water Kefir Grains (Crystals, Tibicos)
Amazon Price: $4.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2014)
If you need to get the grains for water kefir-brewing, I highly recommend getting them from Keysands. I bought mine months ago and they are still brewing me lots of delicious fermented water.

Shipping was fairly quickly by international standards and the grains came well-packed. I also received a full page of instructions that clearly described how to rehydrate the dried grains and how to use them after they were rehydrated.

If you are living in the United States, you might wanted to get the fresh grains instead but for anyone who's located outside of the states, these dehydrated grains are most suitable because of the long shipping times.
What is water kefir
Credit: Sy

These were the dehydrated grains that I received from Keysands along with the full-page instructions.

Rehydrated water kefir grains
Credit: Sy

Following their instructions, rehydrating the kefir grains took a few days. The photograph above shows what I got after they were rehydrated.