Water kefir drinks can be a healthy and tasty way to quench your thirst while potentially adding more beneficial gut friendly cultures to your diet.
Water kefir is made from what is referred to as “grains”. They are however not actual grains in the traditional sense , but rather clusters of bacteria and yeast living in a symbiotic relationship. These clusters of bacteria, yeast look like little crystals, or “grains” of jelly. The bacteria and yeasts in the grains utilize sugar to produce lactic acid, ethanol (a negligible amount), and carbon dioxide (which creates the fizz).
The beneficial bacteria and yeasts present in the water kefir grains, metabolise the ingredients into an array of beneficial acids and infusing it with beneficial microorganisms, additional B vitamins as well as food enzymes
The word Kefir is derived from the Turkish word ‘Keif” describing a state of ‘feeling good’. Some also speculate that it originated in Mexico where it thrived in the sugary water of the Ountia (prickly pear) cactus. There is also a similar story of water kefir originating in Tibet much further back, when monks gave Mother Teresa of Calcutta the grains as a gift. The grains were later introduced to Europe and the west by the British Soldiers after the Crimean War in the 1800’s. This story however most likely refers to the Ginger Beer Plant which is extremely similar to water kefir, but it is still a separate culture. Some suggest that one might have evolved from the other.
Some further reading :
Pidoux, M. (1989). The microbial flora of sugary kefir grain (the gingerbeer plant): Biosynthesis of the grain from Lactobacillus hilgardii producing a polysaccharide gel. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology,5(2), 223-223.
Waldherr, F. (2010). Identification and characterization of a glucan-producing enzyme from Lactobacillus hilgardii TMW 1.828 involved in granule formation of water kefir. Food Microbiology,27(5), 672–678-672–678.
Lutz, M. (1899). Recherches biologiques sur la constitution du Tibi. Bulletin De La Societe Mycologique De France,15, 68-72.M