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Craving a fizzy (but healthy) drink? Water kefir to the rescue!

Spooning white sugar into a jar of water kefir with bottles of water kefir to the side.

Several years back, I remember reading somewhere about water kefir. It intrigued me because it sounded much like kombucha, but it didn’t require tea. I even ordered a dehydrated starter and followed the instructions to start my own, but it did nothing. The water tasted practically flavorless and eventually grew mold, whoops.

Fast forward a few years later, when another member of my family saw something about water kefir too and decided to give it another go. He ordered a LIVE kefir grain starter, made his first few batches, and we were hooked.

It tasted fizzy and delicious, used only three ingredients other than the starter grains, and fermented beautifully. In this article, I’m going to show you the basics of how to prepare water kefir for yourself and your family.

What is Water Kefir?

But first, what is water kefir, anyway?

When most people hear “kefir”, they think of milk kefir – a runny cultured dairy product that’s more like yogurt than soda. Milk kefir is packed with probiotics (way more variety and number than water kefir, from what I’ve read), but it’s quite a bit different in flavor and use. Water kefir is much lighter in flavor and slightly sweet, instead of sour.

What are the Benefits of Water Kefir?

The primary benefit of water kefir is that it’s a yummy natural source of probiotics and beneficial bacteria. (You can read more on this page.) Nutritionally, my research also shows it contains B vitamins (including B1, B6, and B12) and other nutrients too! Not bad for a soda substitute, huh?

How Do You Find Water Kefir Grains?

To begin, you’ll need to find a source for water kefir grains. (Those are the little translucent “grains” that rest at the bottom of the jar and culture the sugar water.) I highly recommend going with a live starter, since my dehydrated starter experience didn’t go well. Ask your friends if anyone has water kefir. Since it multiplies over time, maybe you can get some starter from them! If not, you can always buy a starter like we did. (Here’s what we used.)

An Important Ingredient Note About Water Kefir…

Before making water kefir, you need to know a few things about the ingredients:

  • Water – Make sure to use non-chlorinated, clean water. NO tap water! The chemicals in tap water could kill your cultures. While some of what we’ve read mentions using a mineral-rich purified water of some kind, we’ve used distilled water with great ongoing success.
  • Sugar – You’ll need a mix of two types of sugar for water kefir: brown (i.e., sucanat) and crystalized cane sugar (make sure it doesn’t contain anything else except sugar – no preservatives, flow agents, etc.). Both types of sugar are required to feed water kefir grains.

There are many different ways to make water kefir. This is the process we use and it has worked so well for us!

How to Make Water Kefir: First Ferment

To start, you’ll want to reconstitute your grains according to the package directions. This, I assume, varies depending on the brand, so I won’t put any details here. Yours might be different! Following the enclosed instructions should give you healthy, ready-to-ferment kefir grains.

Once your grains are ready, it’s time to make water kefir!

Large water kefir grains in a metal mesh strainer.

You’ll want to put about ⅛ cup of active kefir grains in a quart canning jar without any extra kefir liquid. To the jar of grains, add ⅛ cup sucanant and ⅛ cup white cane sugar.

Filling jar with distilled water.

Fill jars the rest of the way with distilled water. (Don’t stir. Just swirl a bit and the kefir grains take care of the rest.)

Screwing on a jar ring with a coffee filter underneath it on top of a jar of water kefir.

Cover jar with a coffee filter secured with a canning jar ring. Set the jar on the counter at room temperature and let ferment for 2-3 days. Bubbles are normal! You might even see bubbles racing up from the bottom of the jars and breaking the surface. It’s so cool to watch!

A bit of scum on the surface of the liquid is normal, as long as you don’t see any mold (mold is fuzzy – you can see some helpful pictures in a slightly different context of kombucha on this website).

How to Make Water Kefir Fizzy: Second Ferment

Once the kefir has finished fermenting, it is technically ready to drink. BUT it doesn’t really taste like much. It’s…well, I’ll just say it: I think it’s icky without carbonation to make it exciting. 😉

Straining water kefir into swing top bottles for a second carbonation ferment.

To make carbonated drinks at home, you’ll need swing top or grolsch-style bottles like these. Once closed, they’re completely airtight, which forces the released gasses back into the liquid. These jars come in multiple sizes. We typically use 16oz bottles, but you can also use 8oz bottles. (Just cut this recipe in half.)

These bottles last such a long time in my experience! We’re still using the first set we bought years ago, and I think we’ve only broken one. There’s another that we still use that doesn’t really seal as tightly as it should, but it still works even with a partial seal.

In each 16oz swing top bottle, pour in 1 teaspoon sucanat AND 1 teaspoon cane sugar. Using a strainer and funnel, strain the water kefir liquid into the swing top bottles, leaving a bit of space (maybe 1” or so) at the top of each bottle to allow the fizz to expand somewhat.

Close the swing top bottle lids and place them in the refrigerator. If your ferment isn’t well established or just doesn’t seem very active, you can also leave the swing top bottles on the counter for a day. This will give you a stronger carbonation, but our starter is active enough, we don’t do this anymore.

Put the grains back into the quart jars and then repeat the process all over again. Over time, the kefir grains will multiply, which means either starting more jars or finding loving homes with friends who want to try water kefir too. 😉

Flavoring Water Kefir

We like our kefir plain. However, I have friends who will sometimes add fruit or fruit juice during the second fermentation. We tried this briefly with apple juice, which definitely boosted the mixture’s fermentation power to almost bursting…and then became hard cider within a week, haha. Another friend of mine uses grape juice, which I think would be good. Feel free to experiment!

When I asked my friend Joy, she told me this is how she does it: After the first ferment, she strains out the grains and adds 1/4 cup or so of juice and lets it sit for a day or two. (She doesn’t add any extra sugar.)

Bubbly water kefir in a jar.

How to Serve Water Kefir: IMPORTANT WARNING

Kefir gets fizzy and builds up pressure quickly, especially if you shake the bottles, use an active starter, leave them at room temperature, or fill the bottles up very high. The first time you open a bottle, you might want to do it over the sink. (We’ve had geysers around here, haha.)

If you decide to ferment the bottles on the counter, also be sure to burp them occasionally. These bottles can explode if the pressure isn’t relieved regularly, so be careful!

Water Kefir FAQs

Water Kefir vs. Kombucha

Water kefir is a little different than kombucha. Kombucha uses a starter called a SCOBY (shorthand for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) and is fed with a mixture of sugar and brewed tea, while water kefir grains are fed in plain sugar water. Kombucha has a stronger, more complex flavor.

What does water kefir taste like? Water kefir is fairly mild by comparison to kombucha, a lightly fizzy, slightly sour (but not overpoweringly so) drink.

How to Store Water Kefir

Water kefir can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week or so. We drink water kefir regularly, so we just replenish the bottles every few days and bring the oldest bottles to the front of the fridge. (If your starter is especially active, you’ll probably want to burp the bottles.)

How Do You Clean Swing Top Bottles?

These swing top bottles can be a little challenging to clean, but I don’t have much trouble with water kefir. We do have one of these bottle cleaning brushes. But most of the time, we just thoroughly rinse out the bottles with hot water and allow them to air dry before we make the next batch in them.

Recipe Card

Water Kefir

Water kefir makes a lightly flavored, fizzy drink that's rich in probiotics and other goodies.
Prep Time4 days
Total Time4 days
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fermentation, water kefir
Servings: 5 16-oz bottles


  • Quart Jars
  • Jar Rings
  • Coffee Filters
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Jar Funnel
  • Bottle Funnel
  • Swing Top Bottles
  • Measuring Spoons


  • Water Kefir Grains active & ready to go
  • Sucanat
  • Organic Cane Sugar
  • Distilled Water do NOT use tap!


  • Activate your water kefir grains according to package instructions OR get some active grains from a friend who already does water kefir.

Water Kefir: First Ferment

  • Put about 1/8 cup of active kefir grains into a quart jar.
  • Add 1/8 cup sucanat.
  • Add 1/8 cup organic cane sugar.
  • Fill jar to the top with distilled water.
  • Cover with a coffee filter + canning jar ring. Let ferment for 2-8 days at room temperature.

Water Kefir: Second Ferment

  • In each clean swing top 16oz bottle, pour in 1 teaspoon sucanat AND 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar.
  • Strain water through a mesh strainer and into the swing top bottles.
  • Place lids (do NOT shake) and put directly in the refrigerator (if active) or allow to ferment on the counter for 1 day before putting in the refrigerator (if not yet active). Be careful while opening the bottles for the first time, as it may spew. 😉
How to Make Water Kefir

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