Water Kefir Troubleshooting

by lydia on June 24, 2012

I have received numerous questions lately in regards to the process of water kefir (tibicos) fermentation. I’d like to address those on here for you. And please, if your question is not addressed, feel free to contact me and I’ll add them to this post.

1. How many grains do you need to start brewing? Can you reuse the grains?

There are various recipes for water kefir out there, the recipe I came up with uses 1- 1 1/2  cups grains to 15-16 cups water, or 1/2-2/3 grains to 7-8 cups water and so on, you get the idea. The grains reproduce each time you brew and can be used again and again so long as you feed them regularly with fresh sugar water. (a basic ratio of 1/4 cup grains to 1 quart water). They should last indefinitely, so long as they are properly cared for.

Here is my post on how to brew water kefir anaerobically

2. Does water kefir taste like kombucha? Are the benefits of water kefir the same as kombucha? How is water kefir different from kombucha.. either in the healthfulness or ease of prep?

Water kefir and kombucha are two totally different types of brew and do not taste the same. Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea using a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts), whereas water kefir is fed on mineral rich sugar water. Water kefir tastes like a mildly sweet bubbly soda type beverage. Both water kefir and kombucha have saccharomyces boulardii, a strain of bacteria and yeast. They both have a lot of the same benefits due to that fact and that they are probiotic beverages, though there are some differences. The difference in brewing is that kombucha has an initial aerobic portion of the ferment, once the scoby forms it becomes anaerobic, and the brewing process takes longer than that of water kefir. Water kefir can be ready in as little as 2-3 days, whereas the minimum for kombucha would be 7-10 days. Water kefir is an anaerobic ferment, therefore the end result is lactic acid bacteria as opposed to the glyconic acid in kombucha.

3. What is the alcohol content?

The alcohol content is VERY low and only occurs in the second ferment from what I understand. If you want your brew to have the least alcohol possible, keep the second ferment brief to one day or less. I’ve accidentally allowed a few bottles ferment longer and I could taste and sense a bit more of an alcohol content, but it’s still not much. So if you are pregnant or serving this to children, keep the second ferment to 1 day max. Here’s an interesting experiment on the alcohol content in WK. Also, if you add any fruit juice to the second ferment that can create alcohol, but again, just keep the second ferment brief. The alcohol content will still be very minimal.

4. Is it safe to drink during pregnancy?

If your concern is alcohol, than see above. It has very minimal alcohol, so I’d say it’s safe on that front. As for the probiotic effects, if you are used to consuming fermented foods then continue to do so as you were. If it’s a new food/beverage for you and you are not used to any probiotic foods or supplements, I’d say introduce it very slowly. Try a small glass with 1-2 ounces and see if it cause any kind of reaction. The issue with fermented foods some people have is that it can cause a ‘die off’ effect, as the beneficial bacteria and yeasts go in and do their thing. It may be unpleasant to you and if so back off and introduce it even more slowly. I’d suggest limiting your consumption to 4-8 ounces a day, since it is a very cleansing beverage. Save the deeper cleansing for when you are finished with pregnancy and lactation, but go ahead and enjoy a small amount. It will benefit you during your pregnancy and it’s a very good idea to be getting those good bacteria into you for your baby. You may want to double check with your doctor or a holistic doctor if you have any heavy metal toxicity in your body while you are pregnant or nursing. I would not recommend starting anything cleansing while you are nursing, but if you are already accustomed to fermented foods, beverages or probiotics it would be okay to drink a small amount during lactation.

5. Why is my water kefir not fizzy?

First and foremost, the grains need to be happily nourished. Try bottling after the first 48 hour brew. Strain out the grains, and pour the water kefir into some kind of wire stopper bottles, add a pinch of sugar or some fruit juice to the bottle. Let sit out for another 24 hours, then check again. If it’s still not fizzy, let it go a few mores hours up to another day (though you likely won’t need to and may not want the added alcohol). The carbonation occurs mostly during the second ferment. If this trick doesn’t work, consider how you are brewing. Have your grains sat for any length of time without refeeding?

Are you using quality water? If you are using reverse osmosis water, are you sure to add minerals to the brew? If you are using tap water, it likely has chlorine in it which will inhibit the growth of the grains. Make sure you are using good quality filtered water, not tap and preferably not distilled as there are no minerals and distilled water will pulls minerals out of the grains (just like RO, so you must add extra mineral drops to the brew).

Do a little troubleshooting, try to be consistent in how you brew and see if that helps. I have had a batch here and there not get very carbonated, but for the most part it is always quite fizzy.

Consider checking the pH of your water kefir, it should be somewhere between 3.0-4.6. You can add a tiny pinch of baking soda to the water kefir before bottling it and see if that helps as well. I wouldn’t add it to the bottles individually, simply because a little goes a long way and likely the one pinch for the whole batch will suffice. Consider purchasing ph strips to test your brews if you want to be more certain.

6. How do I store my kefir grains when I am not using them?

Store your grains in a sugar water solution, using the same ration of sugar to water as you would in brewing. Water Kefir grains stored in a Fido You can keep them in the fridge for a long time, so long as you change out the sugar water regurlarly. I make sure to do it once per week. Though if you find you need to go away for longer they should be okay once in a while for a longer stint (3-4 weeks), just be sure to refeed them as soon as you can and maintain a regular feeding schedule.

7. Is there any dairy in water kefir grains?

NO. Water kefir grains are fed on mineral rich sugar water, not milk.

8. Should I cover my water kefir while brewing or not? Use a lid or a cloth cover?

Unfortunately I’ve seen it both ways, however since it is an anaerobic fermentation process that you are seeking to achieve with water kefir (unlike kombucha) you need to cover it while brewing. It is best to do it in an airtight vessel, such as a jar with a swing top wire lid or a Pickl-It Jar.

9. My WK grains have lost their pebble shape and have become mushy and sludge like. Have I ruined them?

They should not be mushy and sludge like.

Let’s trouble shoot; Are you using an airtight vessel to brew in? Are you maybe using too little sugar or going to long in between brews? Is your water clean pure water with no chlorine? Do you add minerals or every use unrefined blackstrap molasses?

Here’s what I would try – rinse them off with pure water and set them in a fresh sugar solution (1/4 cup sugar to quart of water) in an airtight vessel for 2 days. Strain them out – look at them if they are still sludgy and mushy rinse them again and try one more time in sugar solution. If they start to perk up again, refeed them yet a third time for 2 days and then start a new brew.  Refer to my post, here for brewing instructions


Consider what vessel you brew in, if you use a mason jar with 2 piece lid they are not truly airtight. Look for a wire stopper container like a Fido – they are very affordable and you can get them at a BB&B or a Marshalls, Home Goods or TJMaxx or even online. It will be worth investing in the long run. I use a Pickl-It jar for my brewing.

10. After the second ferment in an air tight bottle (already flavored and remineralized), how long can these bottles be stored in our pantry?  Do you refrigerate the 2nd brew during its 24-48 hour time and let it stay in the fridge until consumed OR in a dark place, again, until  24 hours are over and then move to the refrigerator?

The second ferment needs to be done in a dark cupboard for 24-48 hours (or less if you prefer). You can go a little longer if you wish, BUT it will slightly increase the alcohol content and could get very carbonated. If you second brew for 48 hours or more be sure to put it in the fridge first before opening it. Just trust me on this one! (unless you like sticky water kefir all over your kitchen!)

Once that phase is over it’s time to move to the fridge. The finished bottles of WK won’t  last long in your pantry, you have to refrigerate them. In the fridge they can last awhile, kind of like beer. (I’ve read you can keep homemade beer for up to a year) Keep in mind that it may continue to ferment at a very slow rate, so if it’s already very effervescent to begin with it may be more like champagne. (this is just my hunch though) If you had a cold basement you could store them there as well, but it would have to remain consistently cool like the temp of your fridge. I have a second fridge in my basement just for this purpose.

11. Can you convert milk kefir grains into water kefir grains, or can you use them to brew water kefir?

I have never done this personally, but have read many places that you can. Read here about how to convert.

Also, from Dom’s Kefir site;

But I’ve discovered that a variety of water-kefir may also be cultured with milk kefir-grains in place of SKG, by transferring milk kefir-grains to a sugar solution. When doing so, the first few batches take 4 to 5 days to ferment. This is because of the sugar-water media and the microflora of milk kefir-grains has to adjust to utilize the new media. [This period is scientifically referred to as Lag phase]. But after three or so batches, the organisms have adapted sufficiently to the new media, and from that point on, fermentation occurs within 24 to 48 hours. This is because the native microflora of milk kefir-grains need time to adapt to the new source of energy [sucrose and fructose instead of lactose or milk sugar]. So one should expect this to occur, if they want to use milk kefir-grains in this manner. I recommend brewing with patience for the first few batches if deciding to transfer milk kefir-grains to a different medium in any recipe explained below.

If you are going to use milk kefir-grains for this, do not use all your milk kefir-grains, but only spare grains. I suggest to keep milk kefir-grains, transferred to a sugar-solution, for that purpose only. So, once the grains have established in fruit-juice and sugar-water-based medium, do not transfer the grains back to milk later down the track.

12. Why does my water kefir smell like sulfur?

If you are not fond of the sulfur smell of your grains, then consider giving them a ‘rest’. Make sure you are brewing in optimal conditions, clean water with no fluoride, enough sugar and minerals, but not TOO much of either. You can rest the grains in a Fido in the fridge to let them have a time to ‘reset’. You may also gently rinse the grains prior to storing them in clean water -though usually this is not necessary, however if you notice the grains are off in other ways -such as slimy or not really reproducing -rinsing is okay. You can rest your grains for 1 week to a month. Just make sure they have enough ‘food’ (aka -mineral rich sugar) to eat during that time.

Those are the questions I have run into in regards to brewing water kefir. If you have a question that is not on here, feel free to ask in the comments. Or you can do some further reading, here and here. Just remember wherever you read about water kefir that it is an ANAEROBIC ferment. It must be airtight while brewing, not covered with a filter or cloth like many sites mention. When you ferment that way, that is an AEROBIC ferment and you are not getting the good bacteria count that is desired in the brew and are likely getting undesireable bacteria. For more on a true anaerobic ferment, read here. I recommend using a Pickl-It or Fido jar, as even a mason jar with a two part metal lid is not airtight. Though I have used a large gallon honey jar with a screw top lid with success, it is not perfectly airtight, but would be a good starting point until you could get a better jar like the Pickl-It or Fido. Keep in mind that when brewing beer you need special equipment to do the job right, the same goes for the anaerobic lacto-fermentation that water kefir requires.

Also, check out my friend Jessica at Delicious Obsessions post; ‘Water Kefir Revisited‘, where she discusses switching from an aerobic method of water kefir brewing to anaerobic in airtight Fido jars. She is having fabulous success with it too! If you are needing to purchase water kefir grains, I recommend buying LIVE FRESH grains, it’s worth the little bit extra you will spend vs. the dried grains. Kombucah Kamp is a great place to purchase water kefir grains!


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LydiaLydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.

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{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth June 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

Thank you! Any thoughts on reviving grains that look sad and seem to be withering away? I followed directions to put them in the fridge with bottled spring water, to which I’ve added mineral drops (10 to a quart), blackstrap molasses (about a 1/2 tsp), and a pinch of baking soda. So far, they still look sad. Just started my second go-round of this attempted remedy. Can they be brought back to life, or should I just scrap it and start over?


lydia June 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

Elizabeth, I am not sure what exactly you mean by ‘sad’ looking grains. Are they producing a decent ferment? Does the brew remove the sugar or does it remain sweet? That is one way to tell if they are actually still working. Otherwise, I’d spend some time ‘re-nourishing’ them every three days for about 2-3 feedings then try to brew a small batch again and see how it goes. Try brewing in an airtight vessel as well. If after that, you don’t have success you may want to purchase new healthy grains.


Elizabeth June 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

They shrank. They do seem to still be working, but they are getting smaller and not larger and I am concerned about the trend. I was not using an airtight vessel, and will make that switch. I will try another cycle or two of the re-nourishing before giving up. Thanks!


Crystal June 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Urg. I was told to brew with a cloth. How can I know that it’s safe to drink? I just started making it this week.


lydia June 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

Crystal, I would just start a new batch with a lid from now on. You can drink it if you wish, I know people who do it this way solely, but it’s up to what you feel you are comfortable with. When you brew it aerobically you can’t control what type of bacteria is proliferating in there is all.


Rita June 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

This is great thank you! I have one more question. I have been making kefir for about 7 months now and my kefir grains have grown a good bit since I’ve gotten them. Bit lately when I make a brew it has been stinky. I finally threw it all away and the grains themselves smelled funky. Could this happen because I have too many grains in my jar? Also what do you do with all the extra grains?


lydia June 26, 2012 at 7:14 am

Rita, I am not sure why your grains got stinky. Could be they weren’t get enough food? I keep my extra grains in a sugar water solution in the refrigerator and make sure to change the sugar water weekly. You can also use them in smoothies or things like that to get more a probiotic effect if you wish. I’ve used them that way before.


Donna June 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm

many thanks for this info. do you have a name brand and amount for minerals to add. i’m using RO water. thanks


lydia June 26, 2012 at 7:16 am

Donna, I’ve used Concentrace mineral drops because they are cheap, but they are not the best out there. Since you have RO water you may want to source out a better quality mineral drop, or use both Concentrace and cleaned out pastured egg shells. I’ve also read that you can use some coral or limestone, but have yet to try this myself. Another option would be to always use a bit of organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses when you brew.


Lisa June 26, 2012 at 2:21 am

Hi Lydia! This is great info, thanks. I’m wondering if the 2nd ferment is necessary. Right now, I brew for 48 hours, then strain and bottle and refrigerate. Should I instead be straining, bottling and sitting it out at room temp another day?

Thanks, I’ve been confused about this.


lydia June 26, 2012 at 7:17 am

Lisa, you certainly do not have to do a second ferment at room temp. I like to do this to add flavor and a bit more carbonation. What you are doing is completely fine to do.


Chaya June 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I have been brewing water kefir with a coffee filter as a top, not a sealed container. It seemed to work fine for me. I add some ginger slices, or candied ginger and a slice of lemon or lime . I also was brewing kombucha and they were somewhat close together, within a few feet of eachother. I now have a kombucha? skin forming on top of my water kefir brews. I am guessing this is what the skin is? I think the WK, got innoculated with kombucha? What do you think? Are my water kefir grains ruined? I have removed it many times and new one keeps forming. I am basically feeding my grains, while they sit. I am not eating any sugar currently, so I am not drinking it. It is on stand by. And I have read that it is not ideal to refrigerate WK, although I have done it once or twice for long term storage….I have heard of dehydrating them, but that seems like it might damage them?


gee June 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Dear Lydia,
can n’t you make WK without sugar??


Deanna June 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Do you also make kombucha and milk kefir? Is it beneficial to drink all three? How much is ideal to drink of them a day once your body gets adjusted? Thanks!


Jonathan Swaringen August 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm

You can’t make WK without some kind of sugar. The whole idea of water kefir is converting some type of sugar into beneficial bacteria and some alcohol.

My understanding of it is that some alcohol is produced in both first and second ferments. The longer it ferments the more bacteria you generate the more alcohol, and the less sugar you get in the end product.

At some point the kefir grains will have consumed all the sugar and start to die because they live off the sugar. The sugar is like their food source.

This is why you don’t do first ferment for over 3 days…perhaps less with high temperatures which speed up the fermentation process.

You can use many kinds of sugar…table sugar, organic sugar, maple syrup, honey…fruit juice. Basically any kind of sugar which contains glucose. I read that fructose is left behind…so I’m guessing its glucose that feeds it not fructose. Honey or other sources of sugar which have anti-bacterial properties might damage the grains or give bad outcomes though due to their nature.


Elsha August 3, 2012 at 12:27 am

I’m brand new to this but I got some WK grains that had been stored in the fridge for probably only a few days or less I think. Nothing much seems to be happening and I’ve started over a few times. First 2 batches for 48 each with filtered water and now 48 hours with spring water. I’ve also added 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for minerals. I see very few bubbles and it still tastes too sweet I think. How long does it take to reactivate from the fridge and if I start over do I discard or can I drink it? I am now going to get a couple of fido type jars as I have been covering with a folded paper towel as was recommended. I’m a little discouraged. Thanks for any help you can give me. Elsha.


lydia August 9, 2012 at 6:52 am


I’d say you need to get those grains in an airtight vessel and the second ferment as well. I add a touch of sugar to the second ferment to help with fizz, water kefir is very sugar greedy!! Good luck!


Jonathan Swaringen August 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’m not sure…many possible issues. I recommend checking out Youtube Culturesforhealth videos…and also culturesforhealth.com

They have a live chat that is up quite a bit….I think maybe M-S no Sunday. Possibly not Saturday either..but Monday – Friday for sure.


lydia August 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

Cultures for Health does not brew water kefir anaerobically, but aerobically. Just something to keep in mind. Water kefir needs to be done anaerobically to maximize the benefits and avoid creating something else altogether.


Jonathan Swaringen August 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

Isn’t the only difference between Aerobic and Anaerobic air? So instead up putting a coffee filter with a rubberband you would put on an airtight lid? I’m currently using the airlock setup with the lid on so it should be anaerobic. Not sure how much air a coffee filter lets it but it is somewhat porous so some I guess.

First I’ve heard about anaerobic being better heh.


lydia August 10, 2012 at 6:05 am


Yes, air or oxygen. A coffee filter lets in a ton of air because it is porous. You only want aerobic for vinegar and the first stage of kombucha.


Elsha August 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Thanks so much for your replies. I have now started using a plastic lid which I tighten but realize it won’t be air tight. Things have definitely improved but it could also be they’ve revived after being in the fridge. I bought a jar in hardware store with rubber ring but how do I know if that’s a good quality jar? I don’t think so. Does the word Fido or Pickl It show up on their jars? Do they need to be ordered on-line? Sorry for all the questions! Elsha.


lydia August 10, 2012 at 6:06 am

The jars are certified hermetic and yes Fido will be on the top of the lid. Fidos can be picked up online, or at a Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table, or maybe a TJMaxx, Home Goods or Marshalls.


Chaya August 11, 2012 at 1:22 am

So I asked before, but I will ask again. I have my water kefir forming a kombucha scoby? I use a question mark because that is my best guess. I have removed many scobies with no luck, they keep coming back. I was not brewing my kefir air tight, and I think the scoby took over my water kefir. They were within a few feet of eachother, both with a coffee filter as a cover. Any experience or tips would be appreciated. I think I’ve figured it out myself? Please let me know-my first question was june 27, thanks


lydia August 11, 2012 at 7:35 am

I think that is exactly what happened Chaya. You need new grains. And either keep them apart or just brew your WK in an airtight vessel.


gee August 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

I tried it now with amasake water in stead of with sugar and it works fine :)


lydia August 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

Gee, You can use the grains to brew with things other than sugar water, but they will need to be stored in sugar water or re-fed in sugar water to continue working. WK grains are very greedy for sugar and minerals.


gee August 11, 2012 at 8:26 am



anniebobanny October 28, 2012 at 3:32 am

I\’m new to water kefir and brewing and all that, and I\’m wondering what everyone does with all the extra grains that you don\’t need. My initial batch was about 1/4 cup but now they\’ve multiplied by at least 10. Is it bad to store a lot together in the frig? Can I put some in the compost bin? Give it to pets? Eat it? And if I eat it, is there a limit of how much I should eat per day?


lydia October 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

You can do all of the above – start small if you do eat them and see how you feel. I actually give some to my pet guinea pig – animals need probiotics and enzymes too! I also put them into smoothies for the kids – they are especially good if someone is sick with a stomach bug.


Nat March 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

You could advertise and give them out to fellow fermenters. I got my water kefir grains free from an online ad- all I had to pay for was postage. Pay it forward :)


Renee December 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Hi Lydia, I love your Kefir information, thank you! I\’m new to it and was told to ferment with a cloth, not airtight, so I\’m going to try it your way. I have a question I hope you can answer, my current batch of Kefir is on the second fermentation, I added peaches, it is very fizzy, a little foamy on top, but it smells very yeasty and acidic, almost like vomit! I haven\’t made it before so I\’m not sure how its meant to smell! Is this normal? Thanks in advance, Renee.


lydia December 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm


How long did you let the second ferment go with the peaches? It can smell a little yeasty, yes – but vomit smell doesn’t sound good. It may have fermented too long, peaches have a lot of sugar, it could have become alcholic a bit. does it smell like sulfur?


Renee December 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thank you Lydia, it has been out on the bench for 2 days in quite warm weather! Maybe I have overfermented, it is very fizzy, no sulphur smell, but it does smell a bit like beer, but with quite an acidic note, I had a tiny taste, it is not unpleasant, I just can’t get over the slight vomity smell, maybe I should toss it on the garden and try another with a shorter second ferment and do the anaerobic ferment and see how I go? Thanks for your prompt reply :)


lydia December 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Well, first off it shouldn’t be out in the sun – it needs to be covered or in a dark cupboard. 2 days fermented in warm weather with a high sugar fruit may turn it a bit on the alcoholic side. If you are nervous or don’t like the taste, I’d pitch it and try again!


Renee December 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Ok I’m going to have another shot! Haha, thanks for the advice, it wasn’t in the sun, but in a shady spot on a shelf but I’m going to try moving it into the dark pantry, doing it anaerobic, fingers crossed! :)


Elsha December 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Does anyone experience thickish kefir?? Things were going well for weeks and suddenly some grains I had stored for only 4 days in the fridge in my usual sugar solution produced thicker kefir whereas grains that had been stored for much longer in the fridge were fine. I tried different things I had researched online but in the end I discarded them. I am now brewing in 2 fido jars and yet I feel that one has a slightly thickish feel to it when I roll it around in my mouth. I only ever use natural cane sugar, good water and sometimes some baking soda for added minerals. Any ideas??

Thanks, Elsha.


lydia December 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

Was there any kind of shift in the temperature? I’ve not had thick water kefir, but I have had thick beet kvass. I can’t say for sure but I’m guessing it may be a temperature thing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad batch though. Wish I could help more….


Chaya December 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I noticed that Jonathan said you can use many types of sugar, but I would like to correct that, you CANNOT use honey! I have read that the antibacterial properties of honey are not beneficial in WK. In my experience, regular white sugar was the best for first ferment. I also like demerera, and turbinado. I found added a little unsulfured molasses was good for adding minerals.


gee December 12, 2012 at 6:51 am

I agree with Chaya!
As I am a vegan macrobiotic (Yes, I know, a strange combination :P) I do not use sugar, I use amasake (fermented sticky rice)


Elsha December 13, 2012 at 12:36 am

Thank-you for your reply. It seems better right now so who knows but I do have another question. Do you rinse/clean your jars thoroughly between batches? I rinse well probably every 3 batches or so. What is the thinking on this? Thanks so much again for your help!



Barbara January 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I’ve been making water kefir successfully for some time. I have so many grains now, I’m giving them away, selling them, etc. They are growing healthy..but all of a sudden there is virtually NO FIZZ..no effervescence..the first ferment is flat as can be and the second no better. Doing same thing I’ve always done. I use glass fido jars first ferment and wire stop bottles second ferment.. I use organic sugars only. I sometimes add lime, lemon(organic) or ginger root to first ferment.or unsulphured molasses..but only once in awahile. My grains got very stinky (sulphur smell).I had gone on vacation and took them with me..but they fermented a day or so longer..and there was temperature changes..still no biggie. I rinsed and bathed and got them all clean again..and growing like crazy..look great…NO FIZZ and I cannot figure out what i’m doing wrong. Only thing is it’s gotten cold…and usually under 70 degrees (66 at nigth)…would the cold air affect fizz? Any suggestions? I teach people how to make this..and everyone who purchased grains from me..is doing great. LOL..and while they keep growing…they are just suddenly not fizzing. Suggestions?


lydia February 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

I get less fizz in the winter Barbara. I also let mine go quite awhile longer in the winter to get it more active. Adding some ginger to a second ferment can also help. You could also do an aggressive refeed of your grains and find a warmer spot for them while doing so.


henry sanjaya March 12, 2013 at 5:29 am

can i convert water kefir to milk kefit,, if it can to do so,, how the process?


Tina March 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This was a very helpful post, thank you! I started fermenting some water kefir about 2 weeks ago and I noticed today that my grains smell a little funky. As we have an upcoming trip, I might rinse and rest them for a bit before trying again.

Odd question. I have a food sealer with an adapter for my mason jars. Can I use that to seal my jars, or would it not leave enough oxygen in the jars for the water kefir to ferment?



lydia March 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm


I really do not think that would work. Can you get a Fido jar local to you at like a Bed Bath and Beyond, or Marshalls or Crate and Barrell. They are pretty cheap and you could store the grains in one of those in the fridge while you are away.


Stacey April 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hi Lydia,

I’ve been making water kefir for a couple of months. Have really liked the taste. These last couple batches to me smell funny. They are growing and multiplying like crazy but very carbonated and really yeasty smelling. In the beginning my brewed kefir didn’t grow much as I was using reverse osmosis water and they weren’t doing well. Now the smell is completely different. I make them with mostly organic cane sugar, then add about 1 TBSP Sucanant and a pinch of Celtic salt with minerals. From there they sit on the counter not in sunlight but not in the dark either for 48 hours. Are my grains ok? What am I doing wrong and how do I fix them?


lydia April 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Stacey – you should have some detectable smell of slight yeast. If they smell bad to you, you could give the grains a rest/recover period in a Fido jar in the fridge with a sugar solution. I can’t say for sure that you are doing anything wrong – has the weather changed much recently?


Stacey April 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I live in MN and the weather has been odd. Warm then rain now lots of snow, in April! I’m putting them in the fridge and will see what happens. They grow and make carbonated kefir but the smell and aftertaste is yuck.
Thanks for your reply.


lydia April 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Sure thing Stacey! Every now and then I give my grains a rest if they have been working hard. Hope it helps!


Cherylin July 22, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hi Lydia,
I have been gifted some dehydrated water kefir grains from a woman who has been brewing kefir the aerobic way. My question is: will her dehydrated grains work for making an anaerobic water kefir? If yes, how do I activate these grains and what quantities of dehydrated grains, sugar and water do I use in the activation process? Once activated, would I just carry on with your basic instructions?


lydia July 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm


I’ve never had success rehydrating dried grains so I’m not sure I can advise you. Good luck – and yes, once you get them going just carry on with the instructions.


BB July 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I have been making WK for about 1 year and all of a sudden my Kefir is thick like syrup. I rested it in the refrigerator for 4 days and tried it again and it still thick. What can I do to change that?


lydia July 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I had that happen once. I think you might want to rest your grains longer – or use stored grains that have rested already if you have some. You can let the thick water kefir sit in a second ferment for a day or so to see if that helps too. Good luck!


Deborah Donohue September 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

My second ferment keeps smelling like sulfur. The taste is amazing, my grains multiply by double & carbonation is good. My concern is how to stop the sulfur smell & is it harmful. Please help me find information. Thank you.


lydia September 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm

The sulfur is not necessarily harmful -may I ask you what vessel you use for both fermentations and how much head room is in each vessel Deborah?


Deborah Donohue September 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

For budget reasons I am using mason jars for both ferments. 1st ferment with a cheesecloth covering & 2nd ferment sealed with mason jar lid. Both have 2 inches of space. I have also done 2nd ferments in flip top bottles if Im using juice to add instead of fruit. Both ways of 2nd ferment leave the sulfur smell. I am about to try less time on second ferment to see if that helps.


lydia September 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

It could be that your grains need to be refreshed and rest a bit. Here is what I suggest read this post: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/rehabilitating-fixing-repairing-damaged-water-kefir-grains

Then, consider getting an anaerobic vessel for $25-$35 on Amazon -free shipping with Prime, I suggest at least a 2 liter: http://amzn.to/1eIBNrW (affiliate link)

And a few wire stopper bottles for your second ferments (you’ll likely need 4 or so for each 2 liter brew) -once you have them, you will always have them and get the best out of your brews.


Sanjana September 24, 2013 at 2:28 am

A friend gave me about 2 TBSP of Water kefir grains which i put in a glass jar with a litre of boiled, cooled, water mixed with 3 TBSP table sugar and 1tsp of palm sugar. I changed the sugar water after 36 hours and the resulting kefir is in glass bottles for a 2nd ferment. I added more sugar water to the kefir grains along with 5 slices of banana. Now 36 hours later, the resulting kefir is thick and syrupy. Is that normal? It smells quite ok but doesnt have any bubbles. What am I doing wrong?


lydia September 24, 2013 at 6:56 am

I’m guessing it was the banana. Banana is not really a good second ferment flavor option. I’d strain out your grains and start a new batch. Use a firmer fruit that won’t break down like that, dried fruit is good too, or even a little bit of juice or herb tincture.


Anonymous September 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thanks Lydia!
I rinsed out the kefir grains and added some boiled, cooled water with table sugar with a teaspoon of palm sugar and a little lemon juice. I read somewhere that the liquid has to be slightly acidic but I didnt want to add any of the syrupy kefir to it. Hope it works!


Steph October 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

What is reverse osmosis water and where do I get it? Isn’t it enough to boil tap water?

Also, you say air tight like a Fido jar, but they you say you use a pickle it jar, which is just like a mason jar, but you say not to use a mason jar. I’m confused.

I appreciate this info, I hope you get a chance to reply to my comment. Thanks!


lydia November 13, 2013 at 6:45 am


Reverse osmosis water is a form of fitration – any filtered water will do, just not distilled.
I store my grains in a Fido jar (without the airlock), a Picklit is a Fido just with the airlock lid – essentially, an anaerobic vessel. A mason jar is not anaerobic. I use an anaerobic jar to brew my water kefir in, and for the second ferment it no longer needs to be anaerobic. If you want the original recipe -check that out to see how to brew. Hope this helps clarify for you.


Marlo Hughen November 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I received live water kefir grains from a neighbor this week. They were in a small jar with sugar water that was brown and smelled badly. I want to say vinegary – but in a bad way. This is my first attempt at a ferment of any kind… so I took the grains home and put them with their liquid into a larger anaerobic jar with a sugar water mixture. It has been about 36 hours. It does not smell as bad, but the liquid has a jellyfish looking thing floating on the top. What is this thing? Is it good? bad? safe? I am not sure if I should rinse the grains and start over with a new ferment, or should I go ahead with the second ferment stage with this liquid? I cannot find any reference to this floating ameba type of thing in water kefir – only kombucha. (and I don’t know anything about kombucha)
Please help!! Thanks!!


lydia November 13, 2013 at 6:47 am


It sounds like your grains got infiltrated by a kombucha scoby. Does this person brew their water kefir and kombucha in the same location? I had to say this, but you are gonna need new grains and not from this same person (and this person needs new grains too). Double check with them about this -but I’m pretty sure that is what happened. I can recommend getting your grains from Kombucha Kamp -they will be pure.

Hope that helps!


marlo Hughen November 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

Thank you so much for your response. IF I may ask a couple more questions: Would you say then that the resulting liquid would be harmful from these grains, or that the bacteria is just not “as” beneficial? She told me she was just taking this jellyfish out with a fork & still “brewing”…
The other question I have is that after researching, I decided to ferment anaerobically… and I wonder about purchasing grains from someone fermenting in an oxygen environment – maybe it doesn’t matter, but the photos from the fermentation on the websites to buy from (I looked at your recommended source) are aerobically fermented. Thank you so much for your help – I am an information junkie and I cannot find any information on this particular subject (the jellyfish)!!


lydia November 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm


The resulting liquid may not be a true water kefir since it’s been infiltrated by the scoby. AS far as I know the two don’t work in tandem and I don’t know how or if your grains could recover to brew properly again. If it were me, I’d just get new grains so you don’t potentially waste your efforts.
I have not yet found an online source that brews water kefir for grains anaerobically. You could head over to this facebook group and ask someone to sell you some: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CounterCultures/ (ask to join and I’ll approve you) Or just go with the grains online from Kombucha Kamp (I don’t recommend the dried grains from Cultures for Health at all) and over time they will adjust to brewing anaerobically, unfortunately this is the best option I can recommend.


Marlo Hughen November 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Thank you for your continued support on this matter! I ordered the water kefir grains from Kombucha Kamp and they are living in a jar now – but I used an unrefined sugar that turned the water very dark & I can’t even see them! I will check on them tomorrow.
Regarding the kefir grains that had been infiltrated by kombucha scoby, possibly, I wanted to see what they would do. They have multiplied rapidly. I decided to rinse them and totally clean their jar (I am brewing anaerobically) and give them a clean new batch. No new jellyfish thing grew this time, and they are moving up and down in the sugar water. They seem happy, and that first brew that had the jellyfish in it did carbonate – I decided to taste it and it tasted fine. They do not smell badly… and I changed their sugar water today & they did not feel slimy or mushy. I am just wondering, do you think I should see any “evidence” that they are “not working properly” or do you think they would be reproducing this rapidly (about doubled, possibly tripled in a week) if they were not working properly? I am more curious than anything. I have no vested interest in keeping them, but I have found I rather enjoy having them on my countertop, and I hate to throw them away when they appear to be thriving…
On the new batch of sugar water I also added ginger and lemon to the first brew. I have not seen anyone say how soon you should consume the water kefir after the second brew – can you tell me that? Or is it on the order of days or a week or more?
Thank you so much!


lydia November 22, 2013 at 11:56 am

I recommend consuming it before it has been 2 weeks -it will start to lose it’s efficacy a bit. The lactic acid bacteria need ‘food’ and since there is not much of a food source (sugar) left after fermentation, they will die off.

Franchesca April 20, 2014 at 1:27 am


I had the same thing happen to my grains! A jellyfish grew! But I never fermented next to a Kombucha, and I bought them on Amazon. I have been searching like crazy for someone to say something about a slimy body growing at the surface, and I’ve seen NOTHING until now. I was wondering how the experimenting went with the funny grains. I was considering doing the same– to see if I could somehow make them well again–f you had success. I will buy some new healthy grains to make drinkable kefir in the meantime.


Chris Campbell February 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I just received a new batch of water kefir in the mail which has taken off incredibly well. However it multiplies and ferments very fast in the refrigerator. When I leave it at room temperature, it turns to slime within a few hours. Not sure what I’m going to do with all this extra kefir, but how can I slow it down, if not in the refrigerator?


Carrie Timlin May 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I have dehydrated grains from a website – the direction for making water kefir tell me to boil water. I cannot seem to find a reason why. I have done a few internet searches.
We have well water, no chlorine, no flouride. Can I just use warm water to dissolve the sugar and then let it cool? Can you explain the purpose of boiling water? Thank you.


lydia May 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Probably just to dissolve the sugar – I add hot water to my sugar to dissolve it too -just a little bit and then add room temp water to fill before adding my grains!


sherrie May 25, 2014 at 12:04 am

Hi Lydia, I’ve been brewing water kefir for about 12 months now but for some reason that are pretty small and don’t grow at all it makes lovely bubbly kefir, but I cannot pass them on to others not sure why..I cover my glass jar with a cloth but was just reading I should put on a sealed lid I will try that ..I use 2 litres of rainwater raw 1/2 cup of raw sugar, I tried molasses, organic coconut sugar, a pinch of celtic or pink Himalayan salt for minerals, I just tried bi carb the last few times…any ideas…I make milk kefir and kombucha and they are all producing greatly so I’m at a
loss.. any help will be greatly appreciated


lydia May 25, 2014 at 9:41 am

Do you brew them all together with only a cloth over them? Water kefir and kombucha should be brewed well apart from each other for one thing. Have you ever rested your grains in sugar water for awhile and then tried again? Some people don’t have a good of luck with getting their WK grains to rapdily reproduce. Mine grow like gang busters but my milk kefir grains never do. Sometimes it’s just an enigma. But I’d switch to anaerobically fermenting them after you let them rest in a strong sugar solution. Hope that helps!


Anonymous May 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm

hi Lydia
I store my grains anaerobically after brewing, resting them in sugar water. This resting container has lots of bubbles that sit on top of the liquid. Gas bubbles comes out but infrequently. I’m worried that the grains in the sugar water should not be making so many bubbles and perhaps have soured. When I brew, I get very carbonated water kefir. Is there something wrong with having bubbles sitting on top of the storage liquid? I brew using coconut water. Is that maybe a problem?


lydia May 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Ok – are you leaving the stored grains at room temp? Also, coconut water does not have enough sugar in it, as compared to the sugar solution for regular water kefir, so you would need to add some sugar to each batch to equal the same amount of grams. Is there anything added to your coconut water or is it fresh from the coconut?


Anonymous May 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Hi Lidia , my kombucha is on one side of my kitchen and water kefir the other…yes I’ve rested them in sugar water, didn’t make any difference ..maybe you are right about it just being an enigma..because I had heard from a few people who are never able top brew kombucha ..and my milk kefir is working great …that’s for replying back to me so quickly..


Donna May 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I had the question about abundance of bubbles but can’t find it now. I use Trader Joe brand coconut water and add sugar as if I were using water. the grains rest at room temp. The bubbles got to an inch big and then overnight all popped and now there’s only a skim of bubbles. The grains are reproducing abundantly. Is there a smell that would tell me the whole solution has gone bad?


Ronnie June 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

I’ve never read that “bad bacteria” will somehow overtake the good bacteria if you brew water kefir without it tightly sealed…to be honest, to me, this sounds like an assumption based on paranoia… It maybe be anaerobic but from what I’ve read it is a myth that water kefir (or indeed any kefir) should be sealed from air in the first ferment, as the probiotics are being produced by the grains eating the sugar and pooping out the probiotics; the air or lack thereof has nothing to do with the process and provided you follow the basic rules of sanitation there should be no problems with contamination. Kefir wasn’t even originally brewed in airtight vessels so I don’t see why that would suddenly change.

Anyways, my water kefir reproduces and thrives far more when I loosely cap it as opposed to screwing it on tightly. I only screw it on tightly during the 2nd ferment and it’s always been super fizzy like soda (it’s fizzy even after the 1st ferment with it exposed to air).

I think whether we should tightly cap it or not might have more to do with temperature or maybe just our individual grains and how long we ferment them? I’ve never noticed any “bad bacteria” in my kefir (like i have never gotten sick if that’s when you’re implying will happen if it’s not sealed from air) but my grains act like they’re dying or damaged whenever I try to tightly cap it (i’ve tried it occasionally for a while as I DO like the idea of capping it).

It also ends up smelling like sulphur and sometimes even vomit when I try to seal it tightly during the first ferment, but the worst part is my grains eventually start acting as if they’re starving (maybe cause it ferments faster?) and I’ve noticed they’ll stop being so effective with eating the sugar, which means less probiotics. In short, I seem to have the complete opposite experience as you do! Weird, no?

Btw I live in SoCal where the weather is usually around the 70’s though lately the 80’s and 90s. Maybe that has something to do with it? I suspect if it was colder I might be able to cap it but as it is it just ferments way too fast when it’s fully capped and gets all acidic and yeasty. Just though I’d mention it, as you seem to be insisting that water kefir MUST be capped to get the best brew but that’s just not the case for some of us.


Danilo September 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

Hey, I`ve got one question… How to make the grains stop growing, or grow slower? I am feeding my grains with not organic brown sugar (a really dark and tasting like molasses one, seems to have plenty of minerals), and I am using simply filtered chlorinated tap water, I let them ferment for 48 to 72h, and I am always getting 3x or more grains every fermentation. So, what make them multiply, the amount of sugar, or minerals? Should I fed them white sugar when I have a nice amount of grains? Thanks!


Shiloh December 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I bought some water kefir grains and started to brew. It was working well until I noticed there were fewer grains each time I change the sugar water. I’m using raw cane sugar. I’ve also noticed that a glob started to form on the surface of the solution. When I changed out the water I let the solution brew on the counter with a lid. Over a couple of days the glob grew to cover the surface of the brew. The glob sure looks like a SCOBY forming. I’ve since put the glob in New sugar water to see if it will continue to grow. I have been brewing the water kefir on the counter covered with a coffee filter in the same place that I had kombusha a few months ago. Is it possible that a kombusha SCOBY has formed and taking overmy water kefir?


lydia December 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

It absolutely is – especially if you are not fermenting with an anaerobic vessel and both are in close proximity.
Unfortunately, you will need to start over with your water kefir grains :(


Shiloh December 28, 2014 at 2:39 pm

So does this mean I can brew kombusha without tea? Just use sugar water or juice?


lydia December 28, 2014 at 2:47 pm

No – it does not. I just means that you need to seperate your cultures and optimally brew your water kefir in an anaerobic vessel like a Probiotic Jar. You can occasionally brew water kefir in juice though. Kombucha feeds on components of the tea and the sugar -not just the sugar. You can add juice to your second ferment of kombucha for flavor.


John January 10, 2015 at 3:58 pm

There sure is a lot of differing information online on how to make water kefir. Do you recommend placing the water kefir in the dark to ferment, or leave it in the light ? Also, at this stage I can only source a standard Fido jar, and not the jar that has the piece on the top to allow gas to escape. Do I have to “burp” my water kefir during fermentation, or is it fine to just leave it ?


lydia January 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi John,

Yes, I do recommend either covering it or placing it in a dark cupboard to ferment to avoid the UV lights.

You will need to be careful that the gasses don’t build up too much without an airlock -so yes, burping it will be necessary.

Have you looked into the Probiotic Jars yet? Here is my affiliate link to check them out


Melanie January 14, 2015 at 9:05 pm


This is an interesting site. I am looking for answers, my water kefir turned into vinagar. I had a glass mixed with water and stevia today, and it taste very good. My question is is the kefir still alive and is the vinegar ok to use.

Thank you


lydia January 21, 2015 at 2:31 pm

When the kefir turns to vinegar it likely doesn’t have much bacteria left – the colony of bacteria will collapse after a certain length of time because it runs out of ‘food’ (aka: sugar). You can use it as a vinegar if you like it’s not harmful.


Melanie January 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

Thank you very much. I have strained and washed the kefir and now they are in a air tight jar with molasses. Is that good.


julie Sofonea January 21, 2015 at 6:59 am

Love your site, and nice info. I have a question, on my second fermentation, I added 1/4 pineapple juice (or less) and after 2 days one of my 3 bottles was fizzy (the darker bottle) I and stored in cellar and quite cold around 45degrees . So I left the other two 1 more day (3 in total) In one of the bottles there is string white stuff floating. Any ideas, pass through coffee filter, throw?


lydia January 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Julie – It’s hard to say what is is without a visual – though I’ve only seen stringy floating stuff in kombucha – are you brewing kombucha nearby as well by chance?


John January 23, 2015 at 6:09 am

Hi Lydia,

Does the second ferment increase the healthy bacteria numbers ?

Also, do you know how many good bacteria are in a glass of water kefir ? My online research reveals which strains, but not a rough idea of the numbers.

New Zealand


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