Water Kefir 101: The Benefits & Brew
10 Minute Read
Cultures and civilizations have been enjoying fermented foods in various forms for thousands of years, but recently, fermented foods have made a re-discovery thanks to their rise in popularity and gut-health benefits. Now, colorful jars of kimchi, chutney, sauerkraut and kombucha line grocery store shelves making it easier than ever to find and enjoy them.
While we love to snack on kimchi and pile sauerkraut on our sandwiches, one of our favorite fermented foods is kefir soda, made from tibicos grains. If you also consider yourself part of the fermentation fan club, but you’ve not yet heard of water kefir or tibicos, you’ve come to the right place.
Grab a can of Summit Kefir Soda and sip on this delicious fermented beverage with us as we walk you through everything you need to know about these incredible grains.
We’re glad you asked.
For most people, when they hear the word kefir, the smooth and creamy dairy beverage is the first thing that comes to mind. And that’s not surprising since it’s one of the more well-known fermented foods out there. But for a moment, erase from your mind what you know about milk kefir, because water kefir isn’t at all closely related, even though the names seem similar. In fact, there’s no dairy in it at all!
Water kefir is a delicious, probiotic-packed beverage made from water kefir grains. These grains, also known as tibicos, aren’t actually grains either. They’re yeast and bacteria cultures that resemble the shape and appearance of grains.
When these tibicos grains are mixed with sugar water and left to ferment for 24-48 hours, you get water kefir — a carbonated, probiotic-filled drink that’s full of benefits. And since its base is made with water, flavor combinations with fruit, herbs, and spices, are endless.
The history of water kefir is a bit of a murky tale. Because of a lack of records, it’s hard to pinpoint just when exactly mankind started using these grains for fermented beverages. However, according to research (and a little speculation) the origins point to Mexico where in 1899, there’s documented evidence of tibicos in the naturally sugar-saturated water of the opuntia cactus plant (better known as the prickly pear cactus.)
Although both of these fermented beverages produce deliciously fizzy, healthy beverages, they’re not one in the same — the biggest difference being their mother cultures. Here’s the rundown.
Kombucha SCOBYs contain more yeast with acetic acid bacteria being the main bacterial species. Switch over to water kefir, and you’ll find that water kefir grains have less yeast with lactic acid bacteria being the dominant bacterial species.
Kombucha is also made with green or black tea leaves which gives it a little caffenation, and with water kefir, you won’t find any traces of tea.
Water kefir is ramping up in popularity not just for its delicious flavor, but as a healthier alternative to soda. But what exactly are the health boosting benefits? Let’s take a look.
Water kefir contains an abundance of beneficial probiotics. And although strains vary from culture to culture, there’s a whopping 70 varieties of microorganisms that can be found in water kefir grains.
A 250ml glass of water kefir can contain up to 2.5 billion healthy microorganisms. And many of the yeasts and bacteria have documented probiotic benefits. Even the lactic acid bacteria found in water kefir has been studied for its effects on reducing digestive system disorders.
Thanks to its probiotic properties, water kefir is also great for our microbiota — the teeny tiny microorganisms that live in our gut. You definitely want to be kind to this internal system because it plays a vital role in digestion, weight management, blood regulation, and the immune system. So to support your good gut bacteria, up those fermented foods and beverages in your diet!
While it may look like just another sparkling water from the outside, water kefir is so much more!
It’s rich in vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 and has excellent antibiotic and antifungal properties that help support the immune system. If you want to fight off a lot of fungi and bad bacteria in your body, have a glass of water kefir!
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As much as we love water kefir, brewing tibicos grains can be a bit finicky. They need a few special conditions to happily thrive.
Tibicos grains love minerals, so the ultimate water combo is clean, pure, and mineral-rich spring water, well water, or filtered water.
The live cultures at work in water kefir are sensitive and prefer an environment that’s right around room temperature. Excessive heat can be extremely damaging to the live cultures, so during the brew process, we make sure the sugar water cools down to room temperature before any grains are added.
To sweeten water kefir, our go-to is to use good ole’ unrefined cane sugar. As we mentioned earlier, water kefir thrives in a mineral-rich environment, and unrefined sugar is chalk-full of minerals.
The health of our tibicos grains is at the top of the priority list here at Buchi. Once our water kefir has had enough time to properly ferment and attain an optimal balance of taste and probiotic vitality, we strain out the kefir grains for the perfect drinking experience. The beauty of this beverage is that even without any grains, our water kefir soda is packed with enough probiotic goodness and beneficial bacteria that you can start your own batch from a bottle of Buchi. We even take it a step further and provide directions on our labels for you if you want to try to brew your own at home!
In 2022 we took some time to reflect on where we’ve come and where we want to go. As with any business, there are areas where we shine, and areas that are a bit challenging and might not serve us as they once did.