Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Growing Cultures

I love fermented beverages. The fizz, the tang, the slightly sweet/slightly vinegary taste really speaks to my palette. I was first introduced to Water Kefir about a year ago while taking a class on the fermentation process with a friend. We were sent home with a jar of water kefir grains and a head full of knowledge. I managed to keep those kefir grains alive for about 6 months, until one day I decided to try fermenting orange juice. The result was gross and my poor kefir grains never recovered. Lesson learned. If I want a citrus taste to my kefir, I add it after the main fermenting is done, and not directly to the vessel which contains my grains.

Recently I had another friend pass along some of her excess grains. (They multiply, in case you didn't know.) We're back in business! Currently I'm brewing a batch of plain sugar water. Once I strain my kefir grains out, I'll add a dehydrated fig to the bottled water and allow it to continue to ferment gently on my counter for a few days before placing it in the fridge. I like to add the resulting water kefir to my green smoothies. Water Kefir Grains - translucent and gelatinous.

Brewing my water kefir. This jar usually sits on top of my fridge, where the slightly warmer temperature helps the grains do their thing.

I'm also in the process of brewing my own kombucha tea. I acquired a kombucha SCOBY -symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast- from a different friend (we're all fermenting freaks, right?) and got to work. The process is similar to water kefir, but the SCOBY looks very different from kefir grains and you ferment tea, rather than water. Here, take a look:
You can see the SCOBY floating up near the top of my gallon glass jar. Kind of gross looking, actually. It's like a weekly science experiment in my kitchen. With each brew, the SCOBY mother creates an off-spring. Pretty soon I'll have SCOBY's to share with local friends. Once the 10 day minimum main fermentation process is finished, I fish out the SCOBY and start a new batch brewing. The original tea is bottled with a teaspoon of sugar and, if I want, some fruit. It's allowed to ferment on my counter for an additional 3 days before I pop it in the fridge to stop/slow down the fermentation process.Kombucha passion fruit tea with (L-R) mango, blueberries, fig, and straight up.

These drinks are not only full of beneficial bacteria, but they taste delicious to boot. Home brewed kombucha is a much milder flavor than the kombucha tea you can by in the health food stores. If you have the opportunity to try your hand at either water kefir or kombucha tea, jump on it!

Simple Mama


  1. wow what an interesting post. i've never followed the process of fermentation before. must be so much fun to watch each step along the way.

  2. Love it! I have water kefir and kombucha brewing right now! :-)

  3. I want to brew water kefir and kombucha! I wish you were a local friend of mine. :) Those different kombuchas look awesome!

  4. Ooh we have kombucha growing successfully and have enjoyed many a batches from it. I am completely intrigued with the passionfruit...yummy pink color. Did you just use passionfruit tea?

  5. Can Kombucha mushroom and water kefir work together?

    Does anybody know if a Kombucha SCOBY and water Keifer crystals can be used to ferment the same culture? That is, the Kombucha SCOBY floats (and ferments) at the top of the sugary tea, and the water Kefir crystals reside (and ferment) at the bottom of the tea?