When I make water kefir I like to try a different flavor every time. Mixing up your sugar source is a great way to impact the flavor of your water kefir.
Some sugar sources I like:
- Cane sugar
- Black Cherry (or other organic) fruit concentrate
It’s probably a good idea to think of the flavor your sugar source imparts when deciding what your finished product should be flavored with, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Vanilla Bean
- Sassafrass Root
- Shiso/Stone Fruit (plum works great!)
- Strawberry Basil
- Any seasonal fruit
- Lemon Thyme/Lemon
- Parsley Lemon
- Lemon Mint
- Earl Grey Tea
- Dried cherries
I use one of two ways to flavor my kefir. If I want to use a really acidic flavor, I wait until bottling (or even drinking) and just mix in my desired quantity. So for instance, I would toss a tablespoon of lime juice and a tablespoon of lemon juice into a finished and strained quart of water kefir. Adjust quantity to your taste. A little more and you’ve got healthy Sprite! You can use this method with any juice. (I do sometimes put a lemon slice or apple slice in during primary fermentation. Dom suggested a lemon slice and it makes for a delicious and refreshing finished product!)
If it’s something less acidic, dried fruit, herbs, vanilla beans or ginger for example, just toss them into your strained kefir and let another round of fermentation take place on the counter. A few days should do the trick. As always, I recommend tasting along the way to see where your preferred flavor strength lies.
If you want to use fresh fruit it’s a little bit more of a pain in the ass. You don’t want to let your fruit ferment for much longer than 24 hours, and that might not give you a strong enough flavor. I like it. It’s subtle. But if you want bold fruit flavor, strain out your fruit after a day or two, and then add new, fresh fruit in and repeat everyday until you get the flavor you want. See why it’s a bit easier to use dried fruit? If you do go this route, a good starting point, quantity-wise is one chopped peach, pear, apple or plum or a large handful of slightly mashed berries per quart of kefir.
If you’re doing something like parsley lemon, you’ll want to do a secondary fermentation with the parsley and then add the lemon juice once you’ve strained out the parsley. Yes, I like weird flavors! Parsley lemon is great in a gin and tonic! Note that all probiotic benefit is likely killed the second this touches booze. But that doesn’t mean the tasty flavor is destroyed!
Have fun and tell me which flavors you’ve added to your water kefir!
PS – Cultures for Health has a great video that lays this all out very clearly!