This is an update on My Water Kefir fermentation adventures. Being the usual kiasu Singaporean, I drove around town and got my kombucha and milk kefir starters shortly after I started water kefiring. Here's my thoughts about the 3 fermented brews. Before I start going into each type of fermentation brew, let me explain the terms 1F and 2F which is commonly used by brewers.
1F = first fermentation. This is usually 24 hours with the starter grains for water kefir. For milk kefir, the 1F can be as short as 5-6 hours in our climate. For Kombucha, this can be anywhere from 7-30 days.
2F = second fermentation. After the starter grains or Kombucha scoby are removed (harvested) and placed into new starter liquid, the remaining fluid from 1F is left (without grains or scoby) to ferment further (usually with fruits added) on countertop for another 24-48 hours for water kefir. I prefer to do my 2F in the fridge for Kombucha and milk kefir.
You can google up these fermented drinks - they each have different probiotic bacterias and may work differently for different people. For me, only the milk kefir moves my bowels quickly replacing the need for me to drink coffee in the morning. 2F water kefir is drank like a soda at home whenever we have the cravings. Kombucha is my go-to drink in the morning to jolt my systems up when I am out of milk kefir. Do not expect these drinks to be elixir for any illness but at least they are healthy supplements of good probiotics to our bodies. Use good ingredients to ferment your drink - whether its organic fruits (if skins will be left in the ferment) or better quality water (not much minerals and nutrients for the kefirs in regular tap water) and raw sugar (nothing refined).
As it is not sweet like water kefir, I love the rich cidar-like taste. Just a little bit is quite satisfying. The only downside is the longer wait for the first fermentation to be completed compared to water kefir which is just 24 hours. Then the (2F) second fermentation does yield better taste when fruits are added. Look at my scoby.
1 litre tea (i use Pu'er) brew hot with sugar (below quantity added)
75g raw sugar
Some starter fluid from the last brew
1 TBSP vinegar
Kombucha starter scoby (add scoby into the sugar vinegar liquid only after it has cooled to room temperature)
Disfected, dry and clean jar/container large enough for 1 litre of tea
- Cheese cloth with rubberband to cover the top of the jar/container
After my initial brew, I stopped adding the vinegar to reduce the tartness as my starter was already quite sour. As I only have Pu'er and black tea at home, I have only tried these teas. Any tea that does not contain oil (like Earl Grey contains bergamot oil) should be fine.
Make sure you disinfect your container before use and your container is large enough for the scoby to grow (do not use narrow neck bottle as it will be hard to clean the bottle or for your scoby to come out).
Boy, my grains do work very hard. It just takes me about 5 hours on the counter to get my yogurty probiotic drink. However, milk kefir is really an acquired taste. Unless you work on a second fermentation with fruits, the milk kefir along from 1F taste quite horrible. I have gone rather used to the taste and will just gobble the milk kefir neat down my throat quickly. To make milk kefir more palatable for my kids, I add fruits in 2F (another day or two to thicken the milk kefir), then serve with fresh cut fruits and honey in addition to cereals. Milk kefirs are quite easy.
Milk Kefir Formula (you multiple according if you have more grains)
- 1 TBSP milk kefir grains
- 1 cup of whole fresh milk
- Clean, dry, disinfected container for 1F
- Clean, dry disinfected container for 2F
- Plastic strainer to strain your grains out
This is the most fun drink and allows one to get really creative in the 2F. The trick to getting fizzy water kefir is to harvest the first fermentation and transferring the fluid into a narrow neck flip-top bottle with 1/2 to 1 lemon juice added (my lemons are quite small). Just plain lemon juice will get your fizzy lemonade by the end of your 2F which could be 1 or 2 days additional after the initial 1F.
In addition to the lemon juice, you may add tiny fruits that can pour out of your narrow neck bottle easily such as pomegranate, cranberries, cut grapes to further flavour your water kefir to taste, according to my kids, like "ribena soda".
Warning, this can get really fizzy and you will need to burp frequently over your sink during your 2F to prevent explosion or champagne pop overflow. Passion fruit seeds taste really good during 2F. Extract grape juice can colour your water kefir wine-like and yield a sparkling wine-like taste.
For younger kids, almost all of them will prefer water kefir.
As I try to ramp up my production of kefir grains due to overwhelming request for donor grains after I started sharing my experience, I have tried different combination of sugar and water. This is the formula (multiply accordingly if you have more grains) that gets the grains happiest (grow faster) :-
Water Kefir Formula
- 250ml bottled mineral or spring water
- 1/2 TBSP Sucranat
- 1/2 TBSP Raw sugar
- 1 TBSP grains
- Plastic sieve to strain out your grains from 1F
- Disinfected, dry and clean flip top bottle(s) for 2F
- Disinfected, dry and clean jars/containers for 1F
I strongly encourage you to try and experiment with different fermentation timings and different types of fruits. Its really quite fun to ferment with the kids!
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