All About Water Kefir: Benefits, Preparation, Storage, And How it Differs From its Dairy Counterpart

You might have seen people religiously making water kefir for themselves, and for the right reasons. After all, it's fizzy, delicious, and has many health benefits. In addition to being rich in probiotics, this tasty beverage can also reduce the risk of cancer, strengthen immunity, and increase the overall quality of life. Best of all, you can make it at home with only a few simple ingredients.

So what is water kefir, how does it benefit your body, and what makes it different from milk kefir? Read this article to find out.

What is Water Kefir? 

Water kefir refers to a carbonated beverage that is produced with the help of water kefir grains via the process of fermentation. It also goes by several other names such as California bees, tibicos, and Japanese water crystals. The discovery of water kefir actually dates back to the 1800s.

Unlike the regular type of kefir which includes milk from goat, sheep, or cow, water kefir simply includes the use of water. It is not only extremely delicious to drink and very easy to make but can be a nutritious addition to your daily diet as well.

Benefits of Water Kefir

The following benefits can be expected if you continue drinking water kefir for some time.

#1 - Better Gut Health 

Perhaps the biggest benefit that you can derive from using water kefir is through its probiotic-rich composition. Probiotics refer to the beneficial bacterial strains present in the gut that are responsible for regulating almost every aspect of your body. (1)

Yogurt is normally considered a probiotic-rich natural source according to most people; however, water kefir is much richer and provides the body with a wide range of yeast and bacteria. In fact, some evidence suggests that kefir grains may include as many as 56 different strains of yeast and bacteria inside them. (2) Imagine the benefits it will provide to your gut health.

Inside your body, these probiotics can help keep the balance between good and bad bacteria and optimize all digestive processes while regulating the metabolism.

#2- Cancer Prevention

While the research is still limited to studies involving test tubes, current evidence is strongly suggestive of the potential benefits of water kefir to slow down the growth of cancer.

One study, for example, found that it was possible to block the growth of breast cancer cells with the help of kefir extract. (3) Similarly, it was also found to be beneficial against the cancers of the blood and colon. (4,5) However, more research is still required to find out how kefir can prevent cancer.

#3 - Immune Boost

Due to its high probiotic level, consuming water kefir to your daily diet can also help strengthen your immune system. Plenty of research has shown that certain probiotic strains can reduce the risk of UTIs and respiratory infections by enhancing immunity. (6,7)

Many animal models have also presented kefir as a potent way to suppress inflammatory pathways that trigger asthma. (8) Another study that continued for six weeks also concluded that people who used kefir daily were better able to control their inflammation and strengthen the immune cells in the body. (9)

Water Kefir vs Milk Kefir – How are They Different?

The main difference between water kefir and milk kefir is their grains. Kefir grains are usually much more economical and sustainable. You can easily recycle them multiple times if you use them with care. Both grains are delicious and healthy but are used differently to produce different types of kefir.

There are many differences between milk kefir and water kefir, the latter being a cheaper and more suitable option for vegans and lactose-intolerant individuals.

Mentioned below is a summary of the differences between a water and a milk kefir.

Appearance 

Water kefir has a bubbly appearance and a yellow hue. On the other hand, milk kefir is white, creamy in consistency, and may appear similar to cottage cheese.

Content

Water kefir is non-dairy in nature and may include organic sugar water, coconut water, or plain water. Milk kefir, on the other hand, uses cows' milk. However, other sources of milk such as goat, sheep, camel, and buffalo can also be used. Some people also use non-dairy milk like soy milk, almond milk, nut milk, and coconut milk for making milk kefir.

Usage

Water Kefir can be used as a base for popsicles, salad dressings, and gelatin dressings. You can also add flavor to it and use it as an alternative to juices and sodas.

Milk kefir can also be flavored. You may add it to smoothies or use it as a base for salad dressings. It also serves as a good alternative to yogurt, buttermilk, and butter. You can also use milk kefir to make cheese by removing the whey part from it.

Taste

Most people prefer keeping water kefir as plain because it already has a sweeter taste as compared to its dairy alternative. However, this sweet flavor tends to reduce the longer you ferment it.

Milk kefir, on the other hand, has a tart or sourer taste and may feel as if it's carbonated.

Water Kefir Recipe: Making Your Own Dairy-free Kefir At Home

Water kefir is extremely delicious, healthy, and best of all, very easy to make. The taste of this beverage usually varies according to different factors, but in most cases, it has a bit of sweetness to it with a flat aftertaste.

To make water kefir at home, take a jar and add half 118 ml of hot water to it. Now put around 50 grams of sugar and dissolve it by mixing. Next, add 710 ml of water (at room temperature) followed by water kefir grains.

Place the jar somewhere safe and cover it with a lid. Make sure that the temperature is between 68–85°F as it will allow proper fermentation to take place. Let it stay for 24 to 48 hours.

Once the product is ready, you can separate the water kefir grains from the mixture and use them again in a new batch of sugar water.

Drink water kefir as it is or try experimenting with different flavors by adding mint leaves, fruit juice, or some vanilla extract at the end.

How To Consume Your Water Kefir

If you are new to kefir, start by slowly introducing it to your body. Half a cup of water kefir per day is usually considered a safe amount for most newbies. Chances are you will probably start feeling the beneficial effects of this drink really soon, especially if you are not habitual of consuming fermented foods and beverages previously.

In some users, water kefir may cause a mild reaction initially which shows up in the form of loose stool. What’s happening is that the probiotics inside water kefir are flushing out the bad bacteria while repopulating the good ones. This problem may sometimes continue for up to 2 weeks but is not a sign of trouble.

As soon as the colony of good bacteria is re-established inside the gut, the uncomfortable symptoms will go away. Then you can consider increasing the daily dose and drink as much of this beneficial beverage as you like.

How to Store Water Kefir

There are several ways to store a finished water kefir drink: You can:

  • Keep it in the refrigerator (approximate temperature: 40° to 45°F)
    for up to three weeks
  • Store it in the freezer (approximate temperature: 0° to 25°F) for up to two months
  • Let it be at room temperature (approximate temperature: 68° to 78°F) for no more than 3 to 4 days

According to experts, the most appropriate storage option for water kefir is refrigeration.

Other Dairy-free Kefir Beverages To Try

Other Dairy Free Kefir's to try

Not fond of the usual milk varieties of kefir? Here are a few options to try.

Coconut Milk Kefir

A popular alternative to the regular dairy kefir is the coconut milk kefir. It is a flavorful drink with a little tanginess that you can prepare using milk kefir grains or water kefir grains according to your preference.

Coconut Water Kefir

You probably already know that coconut water is a healthy electrolyte drink. It can also be a great substitute for regular dairy in preparation for a kefir drink. To prepare it, you will need fresh coconut water, preferably taken from young coconuts.

If the fresh version is not available, consider trying pasteurized coconut water which is commonly available in most supermarkets. Throw in some water kefir grains and you will have your coconut water kefir in no time.

Almond Milk Kefir

Almond milk kefir is different from regular milk kefir as it has a lot less thickness. This is mainly because of a difference in the amounts of protein in both types. The final drink tastes like a tangy beverage with a sweet almond flavor as an undertone.

In contrast to dairy milk, almond milk is relatively low in protein, fat, calories, and most importantly, sugar.

Concluding Thoughts on Kefir

Water kefir is a non-dairy substitute for all the kefir fans out there who do not wish to use the regular milk for whichever reason. Rich in probiotics, water kefir is an amazing natural solution to balance your gut health, cut down the risk of infections, and boost immunity. Moreover, it is easy to make and can be stored for months using the correct storage technique. Give it a try and watch your health blossom!

To Your Health and Happiness, Doctor Danielle

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