What is Water Kefir? 

What is a SCOBY?

A SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It is a polysaccharide matrix of bacteria and yeast, that occurs naturally however with water kefir you can't grow grains from a brew like you can with Kombucha. For water kefir you need to be given the culture, or buy the culture to be able to grow your own. 

A kefir SCOBY is also known as a water kefir ‘grain’, named purely after its shape.

Whilst there are some of stories, no-one actually knows where they originally came from. A popular theory is that they originated from the Opuntia cactus in Mexico. This theory is persuasive because the tibicos microbiological culture that is part of the water kefir grains grows on this plant. Remarkably, water kefir grains have been shared person-to-person for centuries.

As kefir is made, the grains multiply and can be shared or stored. We think that The Fermentary probably has now accrued one of the biggest colonies of water kefir grains anywhere. 

Is water kefir safe for people with coeliac disease?

Yes. Although we say ‘water kefir grains’, water kefir does not contain any gluten. ‘Grain’ only refers to the grain-like shape of the starter bacteria (SCOBY).

What are CFUs?

In microbiology, colony forming units (CFUs) refer to the individual colonies of viable bacteria. Put simply,  a high number of CFUs is good – it means there’s a bunch of good bacteria that will assist with maintaining gut health. Bacteria commonly found in water kefir are also prevalent in the human microbiome which suggests that drinking water kefir regularly could assist in balancing and replacing or enhancing necessary gut bacteria. 

How many different types of kefir are there?

There are two types of kefir that are commonly made: milk kefir and water kefir. While the processes and the SCOBY differ, the resulting product is the same: a naturally-carbonated, slightly fizzy fermented drink.

Why does The Fermentary’s water kefir range contain alcohol?

Anything that ferments creates alcohol. Therefore, any kefir product that has been naturally slow fermented will always contain a low amount of alcohol that occurs as part of the fermentation process. Throughout history, fermenting has been a method/vehicle for preservation and to achieve higher nutritional value.

The only way to make a completely alcohol-free drink is to heavily dilute it which is normally achieved by inverting the process – by adding a small percentage of the natural kefir drink (almost like a cordial) to flavoured and water sweetened with non-fermentable sugars like xylitol and erythritol. And, because the natural fermentation process hasn’t been followed, these drinks then require force-carbonation. These unnatural methods affect both the health benefits as well as the flavours and mouth-feel of the product.

Why does The Fermentary’s water kefir range contain sugar?

Sugar is a SCOBY’s food source – it eats sugar as part of the natural fermentation process.

In making water kefir, the kefir grains (SCOBY/good bacteria) eat 97% of organic, raw sugar that we feed it, with a minimal amount naturally found in the final drink. The only way to make our products sugar free is to dilute them which, in turn, reduces its natural health benefits and superior flavour.

Do I need to keep water kefir in the fridge?
Yes. Water kefir will continue to ferment if left unrefrigerated, becoming fizzer and slightly more alcoholic over time.

How long does water kefir last after opening?

Our recommended ‘best before’ date is 12 weeks from date of bottling. We recommend storing it in the fridge, and drinking it within 1-2 days after opening. It will not go ‘off’ as such; it simply won’t be at its peak deliciousness.