The history of Water Kefir is probably the most shady of all the fermented drinks.
No one really knows where it came from and how it was made but it has been passed down from one generation to the next with great care. Some say it originated from Mexico where sugars from an Opuntia cactus plant solidified on the succulents surface, forming these little ‘grains’ they called 'tibicos'.
The problem is we can’t repeat/recreate this process now so either the yeasts and bacteria that helped the process are no longer in the atmosphere... or it was never made that way in the first place.
Water Kefir is a fizzy probiotic rich drink made from a mixture of sugar, water and 'kefir grains' which are a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast held in a polysaccharide. The yeasts and bacteria fed off the sugar leaving behind carbon dioxide, a tiny bit of alcohol and lactic acid. This results in a savoury, tangy, fizzy drink. Amazing really!
I'd say if the Cactus story is true then originally water kefir grains would have been added directly to the juice of the cactus, as I can't imagine sugar grains being used hundreds if not thousands of years ago, but I could be wrong. Our palates have changed so much over the last few hundred year, just look at the evolution of chocolate to see how our palates have gone from a bitter to a sweet taste. So the recipe I'll give you is with sugar but feel free to experiment by using a coconut water or fruit juice (not orange juice) instead of actual refined sugar.
1L spring water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water kefir grains
1 dried apricot or fig (optional)
Pinch salt, pinch bicarb (optional)
Lemon peel (optional)
Second ferment ideas
Orange and turmeric
Strawberries and basil
Boil 1L of spring water and pour it over the sugar to dissolve, place aside to cool.
Once cool, pour the sugar water in to a jar with all the other ingredients.
Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a tea towel and secure it with a rubber band.
Leave for 24-48 hours on your benchtop
The apricot should rise and float.
Pour off the liquid into a narrow neck flip top bottle and add your secondary ferment flavours. Seal the bottle and leave on your bench for another 24hours to create a good fizz then transfer to the fridge.