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.
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.
COCONUT WATER KEFIR
1/2 cup water kefir grains
3 cups coconut water
- Place your kefir grains in a quart jar or similarly sized container.
- Pour the coconut water into the jar.
- Cover loosely and let it sit for 48 hours (not longer).
- Using a non-metallic, fine mesh strainer, pour the culture liquid into a storage container or clean jar.
- Rinse the grains in filtered water and put them in a clean jar. Repeat the process.
- 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.
Like cultured vegan- and paleo-friendly things? How about cultured cashew cheese?