Water Kefir - The scrumdiddlyumptious traditional alternative to lemonade
Briefly: What is Water Kefir (“Japan Crystals”)?
Water Kefir at a glance:
Water Kefir is a delicious, light, and traditional alternative to lemonade – a perfect refreshment drink for everyone who likes it sparkling but rather wants to forgo on artificial flavors and additives. The “little brother” of the Kombucha tea fungus likewise produces power enzymes by the help of yeasts and bacteria which clump together and finally show up in small shimmering “crystals” – all happening naturally while fermentation without further ado. The sweet-sour sparkling taste reminds of young and sweet new wine or bitter lemon. Fresh and untreated Water Kefir is not available in stores but may be easily produced at home: all you need is our organic Water Kefir starter-kit with Japan Crystals. Water Kefir can be marvelously fermented with all kinds of dried fruits and citrus fruits as well as healthy herbs and valuable spices such as ginger and cinnamon; Water Kefir is always ready for a new exciting taste experience.
Interesting Facts about Water Kefir (“Japan Crystals”)
"What’s that funny fizz-around?"
Recently, a delicious refreshing drink has been attracting more and more fans throughout all Europe – the fizzy champagne look-alike Water Kefir (also known as “Japan Crystals”).
Water Kefir cultures consist of so-called Kefir crystals: bright white in color and almost transparent little grains of different shapes and sizes which look like rock crystals or diamonds in the close-up. With thorough care and good living conditions, Japan Crystals will usually grow very quickly while producing a delicious sweet-sour drink which reminds you of young and sweet new wine or bitter lemon.
The production of Water Kefir is quite simple: you only have to set up a batch with water and your Japan Crystals which you then “feed” with sugar, lemon slices and some dried figs or raisins. You may also use other dried fruits such as the very healthy and recently worldwide popular goji berries. A good portion of the sugar is processed by the microorganisms into various products which pass into the beverage: lactic acid is one of them and makes your drink sparkling-sour like lemonade for example. To learn more about these processes, please also read our dedicated page about Ingredients and Effects of Water Kefir.
Fermentation begins just a few minutes right after you have added the Japan Crystals. Carbon dioxide develops and some crystals will rise to the top where they bump into each other finally splitting apart and sinking down again (because the carbon dioxide bursts them) – there’s a lot of exciting action in your fermentation container! At warmer temperatures, when and where the crystals feel especially well, so much more carbon dioxide develops that even bigger figs will make their mind-blowing journey from bottom to top and vice versa.
Water Kefir Action in your Mason jar
Accountable for this exciting activity are the yeasts in your Japan Crystals which start fermenting the sugar. Besides carbon dioxide, they also produce some alcohol (after 1-2 days 0.5 to 2.5 %) for what the lactic acid bacteria are already happily waiting: they will then process parts of the alcohol and other substances into lactic acid.
At the same time your Japan Crystals will grow due to the strong increase of bacteria and yeasts – a doubling of them per batch is no oddity. The crystals mostly grow up to a size of about 1 cm before they split apart, and sometimes they may also clump to bigger chunks reaching the size of a walnut. Water Kefir is just an amazing and exciting study object!
Your drink is ready after about 2 days. It will be slightly clouded, bubbling like champagne, and when enjoyed cool very refreshing in taste. During fermentation, a great amount of yeasts and bacteria enter the drink. These valuable microorganisms are just like all other yeasts very rich in vitamins (in particular vitamin B complex and vitamins D and C) whereas the lactic acid bacteria may settle in your intestinal tract for a time supporting your well-being.
Where does Water Kefir come from?
Just like for his “big brother” the Kombucha, the origin of Water Kefir is likewise not clearly known. The Kombucha expert Guenther W. Frank reports on his website that the first historical reference of Water Kefir was given by Mr. M. L. Lutz in the year of 1899. Lutz had discovered the Japan Crystals on some Mexican prickly pear cactus (genus Opuntia) where they were growing in the sugary condensation water resp. sugar excretions of the cactus.
It is documented that Water Kefir was already known and very popular in Switzerland under the name “Tibi” in the 1930s. In Paris, the Japan Crystals were called “graines vivantes” (“living crumbs”). Kombucha expert Frank also assumes that the so-called "French Water Kefir" must have had been the same or a similar living community. French winegrowers greatly used it "to improve the water". Also, a relationship to the "Ginger Root Plant" which was used for brewing ginger lemonade in America and England has long been rumored. It is nowadays assumed that the production of the famous Ginger Root Beer actually took place with Water Kefir. But then, after the Second World War, our Water Kefir largely disappeared from European households because all of a sudden it wasn’t considered hip anymore to produce food yourself at home. Natural, organic high-quality lemonade became unfashionable; instead the global age of sugared, preserved industrial sodas began. Only in the last few years, with the resurging appreciation for traditional food and its natural production, Water Kefir has been rediscovered as a healthy, inexpensive and delicious “house wine” again.
Today and in our region we know Water Kefir under the name “Japan Crystals” or “Japanese Seaweed”, presumably because it once again has started its triumphal march through Europe from there; therefore, it may be speculated whether our Water Kefir has more than just one region of origin.
In recent years the so-called “Water Kefir Ferments” became available especially throughout organic food stores. They produce a fermented drink just similar to genuine Water Kefir but may provide unfortunately only a shorter lifecycle. In contrast to genuine Japan Crystals, the ferments do not continue to grow and are dead after a few batches already. Genuine Water Kefir, on the other hand, stays alive with good care for a lifetime producing lots of delicious and healthy lemonade just for you.
Note: All information and tips on our website have been selected and verified by us with great care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee for the currency, completeness and validity of the given data. We assume no liability for any damage and or accidents.
When following our recommendations, tips, and notes, please also use your own personal judgment and experience in the proper and safe handling of food.