25 Feb 2015 / FERMENT

Enjoy the benefits of fermenting drinks in your own home

This week, in the second of our series,  we discuss an aspect of fermentation that is rapidly growing in popularity: that of fermented drinks. Specifically water kefir, milk kefir and kombucha; what it is, why they are beneficial for you, along with a recipe for making water kefir in your own kitchen. Indeed we’ll show you how quick and easy it is to become part of the fermentation revolution!

Water kefir is a lacto-fermented drink made from a combination of water kefir grains and sugar water. The kefir grains consume the sugar and produce a beneficial combination of bacteria and yeast, forming the basis of beneficial gut bacteria.

It forms one key part of the recent swing back to fermenting in our society as the technique (in use for thousands of years) has now been found by science to have enormous health properties. This through the addition of beneficial gut bacteria that improves the balance of our gut health.

Milk kefir is a similarly beneficial probiotic fermented drink, generally made with dairy milk (cow or goat), while water kefir is usually made from sugar water, fruit juice or coconut water. This results in two completely different beverages.

Kombucha is different again essentially being a fermented tea. It is made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast ( called a Scoby ) to a cold tea mixture, along with sugar or fruit juice. Teas often used are Black Tea, Green Tea and Oolong Tea.

Science is only now catching up with ancient wisdom on fermentation with confirmation that the probiotics produced in fermented drinks help with digestion, prevention of allergies and are even helpful with controlling hypertension, blood sugar and diabetes. However the big gain is that beneficial gut bacteria regulates our body’s immune system and helps the body to deal with viral attacks. Some studies are now claiming that, such is the benefit of good gut bacteria, that it may not only help our general health but also extend our lives; which is about as impressive a health claim as you can make!

OK (I hear you say), this sounds healthy, easy and fun, but how do I make these at home?

It’s simple, for Water Kefir all you need are some water kefir grains, a form of sugar water, a container to put them in and a little (not much) time. To make a fizzier drink, it will require a second fermentation, and for that you will need some flip top bottles - used Grolsch Beer Bottles are perfect for this. As Water Kefir grains are quick to multiply, there are many people selling their excess grains online through sites like gumtree and ebay, making them easy to obtain.

Here’s one of our favourite recipes from the Raw Food Chef Russel James that returns great results time and again.

●    6 cups spring water
●    1/4 cup water kefir grains
●    1/2 cup coconut sugar
●    1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses
●    1/8 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate

1.    Place the ingredients in a glass jar which has been covered with tight mesh material.
2.    The kefir mix should then be allowed to stand at room temperature for around 48 hours.
3.    Strain the liquid and reserve the grains.
4.    The resulting water can be drunk as water kefir or added to other drinks or foods as a super probiotic boost.
5.    You should notice an increase in the volume of the kefir grains when you complete the fermenting process. Continue this method until enough grains have been made to make a variety of fermented drinks. While kefir grains do need a fairly large amount of sugar to feed on, they turn much of this into healthy gut bacteria in the process.

Healthy, thirst-quenching and easy to make, water kefir is the ideal place to start on your dip into fermented products. Not only will water kefir promote good bacteria, it can also replace the sugary, unhealthy fizzy drinks that we see lined up on our supermarket shelves and which have become a regular part of our society’s diet.

Now recognised as one of the major contributors to plagues such as childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes, these nutritionless drinks are becoming all pervasive in our culture thanks to endless advertising and shameless promotion at children.

So why not give water kefir a try? Get the kids interested in producing their own flavoursome (and healthy) drinks. You can experiment with endless varieties of flavours; Pear & Ginger, Pina Colada, and Strawberry Lemonade are a couple of my favourites!

Have you experimented with Fermenting Beverages before? Do you have any flavour combinations you can share. Please let us know in the comments below!

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