Coconut Water Kefir Recipe

Making coconut water kefir could not be simpler.

Making coconut water kefir could not be simpler.

I have a large number of fermented beverages in my fridge, so for a long time, I haven’t been particularly interested in trying to make coconut water kefir.  I have plenty of probiotics in my life and the aforementioned drinks got so onerous that they actually bent the hinge on my refrigerator door  (the hidden costs of fermentation addiction, amirite?).  Without a catalyst it may have been years before I got around to making it, so I have to thank a private fermentation client for the push because coconut water kefir is amazing!  Unlike regular water kefir, it isn’t too sweet for my tastes. It is also incredibly simple to make and requires only two ingredients, including the culture.

But before we get to the how-to part of this, I have to share a little love.  I have previously written about water kefir, and the experience I had making it.  A few months after I got them, my grains died from over-acidification, and I didn’t replace them.  When I decided to order new ones, I chose to get them from a new-to-me culture source, Yemoos. and it’s a whole new ball game.

These things came out of the package super plump and glistening like wet opals.  During their first two days of fermentation, they doubled in volume.  During their second go, they doubled in volume.  At that point, I realized I had some gems on my hands, and I threw half of the newly doubled batch into a vat o’ coconut water. It’s a keeper.  Whether you have digestive issues or not, I can’t imagine many more desirable drinks than this savory/sweet, two-ingredient, organic gatorade.

This is one of the brands I've tried.  It is certified organic, comes frozen from Thailand tastes like your tongue went to paradise and costs what sending your tongue to paradise might cost.

This is one of the brands I’ve tried. It is certified organic, comes frozen from Thailand tastes like your tongue went to paradise and costs what sending your tongue to paradise might cost.

Coconut Water Kefir Tips

  • You can use any type of coconut water (not milk!) but raw is better.  I’ve tried:

-Zico, the pasteurized, shelf-stable version.
-Harmless Harvest, which is certified organic and totally raw.
-Exotic Superfoods Coconut Water, which is also certified organic and is frozen upon harvest in Thailand before being shipped to a Whole Foods Market near you.

The tastiness of these products is directly correlated to the price.  Exotic Superfoods Coconut Water was CRAZY expensive, but tasted like sweet, sweet clouds slinking down my throat.  Harmless Harvest was also extremely satisfying; a little umami, a lot decadent  (though not quite as transporting or silky as ESCW).   Zico tasted nothing like the raw versions, but it still fermented and didn’t taste bad. Plus, it was less than a third of the price of ESCW, so it makes a reasonable option for the cost-conscious.  The choice is up to you.  I’m sure the living enzymes in the raw coconut water provide additional health benefits, but I can tell you that all three worked quite well as kefir since I ended up with slush-colored, barely bubbly, fermented liquid after 48 hours of culturing in each case.

  • Grow your grains in sugar water instead. Coconut water kefir is not going to make your grains grow as quickly as they will in a nice bath of nutrient-rich sugars and fruits.  In fact, in my week-long observations, my grains in sugar water doubled (or more) every two days, while the grains in coconut water barely grew.  Therefore, I would recommend that if you’re going to culture in coconut water, maybe give them a break every week or so by culturing them in sugar water instead.
  • It’s lightly fizzy. Coconut water kefir  doesn’t get as fizzy as regular water kefir, so if you’re a bubble-junkie, you might want to stick to the old way.  You can get a good bubble through bottling, though it won’t be as intense as sugar kefir.
  • Add nothing. Coconut water kefir requires no added sugar!
  • Timing is everything. Do not let your coconut water kefir ferment for more than 48 hours.  Water kefir grains aren’t that acid tolerant and over time, longer fermentation periods will make them unhappy and eventually underproductive. Want it more acidic? Let it ferment for another day AFTER you’ve strained out the grains.  It’s a great way to get a less sweet product without damaging your grains.
  • Secondary Fermentation. Adding a bit of juice or a few slices of fruit is a great way to make your coconut water kefir taste fantastic! This is best done after you’ve strained out the grains.
  • To rinse or not to rinse. Rinsing grains is controversial.  I haven’t been able to discern a difference between doing it and not doing it, but I haven’t done a scientific, long-term study.  I will update here if I come to any conclusions of my own. If you do rinse your grains between each batch as some recommend, use filtered water that doesn’t smell overly chlorinated.
  • EXPLOSION RISK. Every case of explosion I’ve heard about (other than my own beet kvass mishap) has been with water kefir.  Do not let it ferment too long, and when you bottle it, use one plastic bottle (at least). When that bottle is firm, stick it in the fridge!! If bottling in glass, be VERY attentive.  Exploding glass is basically a bomb.  I will often do secondary fermentation in glass Ball jars and burp them every 1-2 hours or even more frequently.
The color will change during fermentation, but the most important change will be in the flavor.  It will be less sweet and more tangy than the plain coconut water.

The color will change during fermentation, but the most important change will be in the flavor. It will be less sweet and more tangy than the plain coconut water.




1/2 cup water kefir grains

3 cups coconut water


  1. Place your kefir grains in a quart jar or similarly sized container.
  2. Pour the coconut water into the jar.
  3. Cover loosely and let it sit for 48 hours (not longer).
  4. Using a non-metallic, fine mesh strainer, pour the culture liquid into a storage container or clean jar.
  5. Rinse the grains in filtered water and put them in a clean jar.  Repeat the process.
  6. You have the option of  doing a secondary fermentation on the finished coconut kefir.  It is recommended by Dom, the Kefir King, for increasing nutritional content and it’s a great way to incorporate bubbles and other flavors. If you want to do that, just keep the vessel you strained your kefir into at room temperature for another 24 hours.  You can add a variety of fruits or juices (a few slices of apple or pear, 3-5 pieces of dried fruit, or a half cup of the fruit juice of your choice are all great options).

NOTE: If you’re looking for bubbles, you’ll need a bottle with a seal.  Bottles that are intended to keep bubbles in are the best option.  Commercial kombucha bottles work great, as do some gasket sealed swing top bottles. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS GETS EXTREMELY FIZZY AND CAN EXPLODE. Do not store water kefir in a sealed bottle for longer than 24 hours at room temperature (12 usually does the trick) and do not store it at very warm room temperatures.  The safest bet here is always to do secondary fermentation in plastic bottles, like recycled soda containers.  That way, when the bottle gets hard you know it’s time to immediately stick it in the refrigerator.  This can be dangerous.  

You put the grain in the coconut and mix it all up. (Actually please, don't use shredded coconut to make water kefir.  I didn't mean to confuse you, I just didn't have any fresh coconuts around for the photos.)

You put the grain in the coconut and mix it all up. (Actually please, don’t use shredded coconut to make water kefir. I didn’t mean to confuse you, I just didn’t have any fresh coconuts around for the photos.)

Like cultured vegan- and paleo-friendly things? How about cultured cashew cheese?


  1. James says

    Can you ferment with the lid on?
    Does the ferment need to breath – if so why?

    I’m not actually using Kefir culture – instead I have used some wholefood probiotic powder blend mixed with coconut water in a jar with lid screwed on.

    I hope someone can clarify my questions. Many Thanks

    • Amanda says

      Hi James,

      Unfortunately I have never mixed a probiotic powder into coconut milk, so I don’t know how that will work. I’m actually not sure if it will ferment the coconut water. It might, I just have no experience with that.

      If you were fermenting with water kefir grains, you would actually be able to ferment with a cloth cover or a lid, because although kefir grains like anaerobic fermentation, they are generally submerged in the liquid, which does a good enough job. Even thought a few float to the surface, they’re there for such a short time, it’s nothing to worry about. Leaving the lid loosely attached is important, since CO2 will build up and could explode your container. Again, though, none of this applies to what you’re doing.

  2. Matt J. says

    I poured two small cartons of coconut water into non-transparent bottle meant for drinking water. After I drank out of the bottle, I left it in the car for about a day, including a time period when it was quite warm.

    So now when I drank from the bottle again, it definitely tasted fermented, though it still has some sweetness.

    So my question is: is it safe to drink, or do I have the wrong bacteria in the culture because, for example, I drank from the bottle exposing it to my mouth flora? What bacteria are naturally present in the coconut water that could be in the culture? Will they wipe out the mouth flora I exposed it to?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Matt,

      I can’t answer your question completely, but I would not recommend drinking that. There are so many factors here: was it unpasteurized coconut water or pasteurized? What was the temperature in the car? Was the water bottle you used spotlessly clean when you poured the coconut water in? There are others, too. I personally would not risk it. Fermentation is a simple and safe product, but there’s no way to know if what happened in your car is even fermentation.

      Thanks for writing!


  3. Jolie says

    Hi Amanda,
    Do you have any extra water kefir grains to sell?
    Yours look big and healthy, I have some, but they are smaller than I would like.
    Thanks, Jolie

    • Amanda says

      Hi Jolie,

      Are you in Philly? I periodically do culture giveaway days when I work from a cafe and bring all of my spare cultures for anyone who wants them. My time is a little limited and I get a lot of requests these days, so I no longer ship cultures or set up times to give away individual cultures.

      I post these days on Craigslist, PUFN, the Indy Hall group boards and my social media accounts.

      Hope to see you soon!

  4. Dan says

    I want to ferment watermelon juice made fresh from a juice extractor. Do you think using your coconut water kefir process with the water kefir grains will work for this?


    • Amanda says

      Hi Dan,

      I would actually not recommend this method for fermenting watermelon juice, although I would never discourage anyone from experimenting! The reason coconut water works so well for water kefir is that the balance of sugars and nutrients is a very good one for the particular SCOBYs that are water kefir grains.

      Fermenting any juice is very simple though. Just add a bit of fermented liquid (finished water kefir, milk kefir whey, sauerkraut juice, rejuvelac, etc) and you’ll end up with a nice, bubbly and tasty liquid. If you skip down to the recipe part in this soda post, you’ll find my recommendations for a few other starters that work really well! You can add 1/2 cup finished water kefir to that list.

      The reason I don’t recommend adding your water kefir grains directly is that they are not, unfortunately, the most hardy culture. They tend to like what they like and die if you mess with their conditions to much. Most of the other cultures I’ve worked with and ALL of the other SCOBYs I’ve worked with have been way more tolerant. Having said that, water kefir grains reproduce like mad, so if you you want to throw some in there and see how it goes, just don’t use your primary or last set of grains. They will definitely ferment the juice. Probably very quickly and vigorously, so be prepared and take anti-explosion precautions.

      Fermented watermelon juice (I called it watermelon soda :-)) is extremely tasty, however you ferment it. Add some herbs like mint, basil or lemongrass for a wonderful experience!

  5. Maya says

    My grains were growing well and getting plump in the coco water, then I put them in sugary water and they deflated and became powdery and just sat there looking unhappy. Know what I might have done wrong?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Maya,

      What kind of sugar did you use? Were you adding any other nutrient sources? How many batches did you make in coconut water vs. sugar? Did the temperature change a lot during this time? Is your home particularly cool or hot right now?

      Sorry, but there are lots of variables. Actually not that many. :-) The question is mainly whether or not they were getting sufficient nutrients or even too many for your climate.

  6. says

    Hi Amanda
    I have just made a batch of coconut water kefir and want to do a 2.F. I have made some with elderflower I make my self – we love this taste in regular water kefir. It is my first time doing coconut water kefir and I am curios if you have a favorite taste to go with this for a 2.F

    • Amanda says

      Hi Pia,

      I think elderflower sounds AMAZING! It would probably be fantastic with coconut water kefir. My weird rule of thumb for pairing flavors with cocowater kefir for secondary is to pick things that would taste good in a kind of salty dessert. So decadent flavors like chocolate (using cocoa nibs) and cinnamon work really well. I tend to do those darker, warmer flavors in the winter and in the summer, I do a lot of stone fruit. Peaches, really good apricots and plums all tend to add nice acidity and not suffer from the saltier taste of the coconut water kefir. If you end up with a favorite blend, I would LOVE to hear about it here.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Sheetal,

      Grains is just the word that is used to describe the kefir culture. They are actually not grains at all but Symbiotic Communities of Bacteria and Yeast! No grain is in the grains, oddly enough. So feel free to get your hands on some and use them at will.

  7. Frances says

    Hi Amanda
    I have been making milk based kefir very successfully for the past two years. Will I be able to make coconut kefir by adding some of the normal (rinsed) milk based kefir culture to coconut water? I hope so, water kefir grains are difficult to find in South Africa!
    Thanks for a great post.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Frances,

      The answer is kind of. Sorry to be cryptic. So the trick here is that milk kefir grains prefer to brunch on lactose and there is no lactose in coconut water or coconut milk. Having said that, even milk kefir grains don’t get destroyed by the occasional meal of sucrose or fructose, so you can feed them coconut water or coconut milk on occasion without any lasting damage. Just pop them back into milk to culture afterwards.

      Still, I would use extra kefir grains to test this out. I damaged some grains early on doing the conversion thing and they never really returned to normal (they were spares so it was alright).

      I hope that helps!


  8. Rose says

    I had my kefir grains in organic milk for 6 months, I heard I can use COCONUT BEVERAGE, not to be confused with COCONUT MILK, I don’t want dairy in my diet, I transfered the milk kefir three days ago into the coconut Beverage I bought at Trader Joes, it does not have sugar, I heard SUGAR IS NOT GOOD FOR THE KEFIR, lots of confusion. Now my batches are smaller and the grains are getting smaller and I have NO idea whether I messed it up or not could you help tell me the process for COCONUT beverage and kefir seeds and do you put a coffee filter on top as if you were withe the milk?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Rose,

      Are you talking about milk kefir grains or water kefir grains? If you’re not sure, check out the photos on these posts. Milk Kefir & Water Kefir

      Milk kefir grains really like dairy beverages and tend to get unhappy very quickly in non-dairy. At worst, they’ll discolor, shrink and die quickly. At best, they’ll stop reproducing and then VERY slowly start to shrink over months and months. You can feed them non-milk for a batch or two and then culture them again in milk so they get back to greater health, though.

      With water kefir grains, I can tell you from experience that they do like sugar quite a bit. It’s their natural food. They do just fine in coconut water (I’m not familiar with the TJ’s coconut beverage) but they still prefer to have a drink of sugar water every 2-3 batches in order to keep growing and living the healthy life.

      Sugar is the food of fermentation. Adding sugar might potentially cause a problem in some ferments (like pickles), but most ferments need something sugary to eat. With milk kefir grains, it’s lactose, with water kefir grains, it’s sucrose.

      I hope that helps!

  9. Rebecca says

    I just found your instructions after searching how to make coconut water kefir.
    I have a question with the instructions-
    when you say to repeat the process, what do you mean? After 48 hours when you strain the culture, is not ready to drink and considered the final coconut water kefir? Im confused about the process of when to drink

    • Amanda says

      Hi Rebecca,

      It’s ready to drink at 48 hours. By repeat the process, I mean repeat the whole process. Place the grains in to fresh coconut water and start again.

      I hope that helps!

  10. Gabriellr says

    I put my first batch of coconut water kefir up earlier today and noticed the grains look like powder at the bottom. Did i kill them? Rinsed 1/4 cup grains in Britta filtered water, put 4 cups raw coconut water (straight from frig – could that be the problem?) on top and screwed on the lid loosely. The coconut water was pink – got it from whole foods. Should i toss the batch?

    • Amanda says

      Hi Gabrielle,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “put up?” If you mean you drained it, and the grains looked small and powdered, that could be a problem. Try fermenting them in filtered water and a mix of a mineral rich sugar (like coconut sugar, molasses or succanat) and plain cane sugar with a slice of lemon and a date. Do 2-3 24 hour ferments like that and they should bounce back.

      I love that coconut water and when I feel like splurging, I do use it for this, so with my grains, it’s fine. Different cultures do have different bacterial make-up though, so maybe your culture was overwhelmed by the native cultures in the coconut water. I have had this problem with dairy kefir. My grains do not stand up to raw milk, but I know others who have great success fermenting theirs in raw milk.

      If your grains bounce back and start rapidly reproducing in the sugar blend, try using only excess grains for the coconut water version and maybe just adding them to the compost pile after the batch. WKG generally reproduce so quickly in sugar water that the problem is more figuring out what to do with the extras. I hope that helps

  11. Lea Huskisson says

    Hi Amanda – my daughter in law was given a kefir plant a few months ago – she has been making milk kefir. I am lactose intolerant and would therefore like to make coconut water kefir. Questions – what happens to the lactose when making milk kefir and can I use a piece of her kefir plant to make coconut water kefir? Many thanks lea

    • Amanda says

      Hi Lea,

      Some of the lactose is broken down during fermentation, which is one reason that some people who are lactose intolerant are able to eat certain forms of fermented dairy (kefir, yogurt and hard cheese, for instance).
      For all of the lactose to be broken down, you’d have to let it ferment for a very long time. The flavor might not be very nice at that point and the grains could be damaged by the high acidity. One option is to let it go through secondary fermentation. That means that you would strain the kefir out, and let the kefir (with no grains) sit a t room temperature for several days. It will get very acidic and be lower in lactose. Whether or not you like the taste is another story.
      Just to be clear, the grains that I used for the coconut water kefir are water kefir grains, sometimes called tibicos and they are a totally different organism from the grains used to make milk kefir.
      I hope that helps!

      Happy Fermenting!


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