Next Fermentation Workshops are on February 10th!

Learn how to make your own probiotic drinks such as
Milk Kefir and Kombucha at our summer workshops.

Click here for details.

Water Kefir (or more correctly, ‘Tibicos‘) is often confused with Milk Kefir because of its similar name. However, there is actually no connection between the two cultures as they both comprise of different bacteria and yeasts that ferment different products:
Milk kefir grains ferment the sugars in animal milks
(lactose) while Water Kefir grains ferment the plant sugars (sucrose) in a sugar water solution. One is simply plant based while the other is animal based and they cannot be combined or used in their opposite medium.

Being a non-dairy based product, Water Kefir or Tibicos is the perfect alternative to Milk Kefir for those who are dairy intolerant, lactose intolerant or vegan in diet and still wanting a wide spectrum pro-biotic drink to aid digestion and support good health.

Water kefir/Tibicos, being a water based ferment is therefore a nice liquid drink akin to a home made fizzy soda, especially when put through a second ferment with fruit juice.

Tibicos also has a higher source of lactobacteria than the popular Kombucha Tea so Tibicos/Water Kefir has even more power to make a fizzy pop that rivals supermarket brands. Even better, it comes without the huge sugar content, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives you get from the store.

Like kombucha, the Tibicos culture is a SCOBY, Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts, but this one grows as grains/crystals called 'tibi' – pretty to look at, and kinda smell like bread yeasts. These guys are higher in lactobacteria and therefore make for a more potent probiotic than Kombucha; and due to the high content they make a healthy brew not within in weeks, but days, so the brewer has to be quick much like Milk Kefir!

They feed on boring old sugar water, but also like extra minerals, and individual brewers end up with concoctions that can contain any or many of the following: sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, molasses, coconut water, fruit juice, dried fruits, fresh fruits, citrus, crushed rinsed egg shells, baking soda, mineral salts.

The flavour and effervescence of the brew after the first day or two can be a bit lacking, a bit like flat, yeasty lemonade, but a second ferment with fruit or fruit juices in sealed bottles at room temperature for a further day or 2 will turn this into a delicious, fruity soda pop. Again, the tibi eat the sugar, and even in the second ferment where the grains are not present, the process continues thanks to the probiotic content, so you are still left with a soda pop that is not overly sweet like the store-bought poisons sodas. However the sugar conversion process is not as effective as it is in kombucha, and for those concerned with sugar in their diets (eg. diabetic/pre-diabetic/paleo/GAPS/weight watchers/nutritarians of all descriptions), you may want to check your brews with a hydrometer for sugar levels, or let the second ferment brew longer (this increases the alcohol level though!), or brew every second batch with nothing but coconut water (coconut water kefir), and just consider the sugary batch the one that nourishes the grains and the coconut water batch as the one that nourishes you!

Other than being an impressive fizzy pop, drinkers of Tibicos/Water Kefir also benefit from a wide range of probiotics that colonise the Gastro-intestinal tract. A typical Water Kefir brew contains bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. alactosus, L. brevis, L. bulgaricus, L. casei subsp. casei, L. casei subsp. pseudoplantarum, L. casei subsp. rhamnosus, L. casei subsp. tolerans, L. coryneformis subsp. torquens, L. fructosus, L. hilgardii, L. homohiochi, L. plantarum, L. psuedoplantarum, L. reuterietc, L. yamanashiensis, Streptococcus agalactiae, S. bovis, S. cremeris, S. faecalis, S. lactis, S. mutans, S. pneumoniae, S. pyogenes, S. salivarius, S. sanguinis, S. suis, S. viridans, Pediococcus damnosus, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Bacillus subtilis, B. graveolus, and yeasts such as Saccharomyces bayanus, S. boullardii, S. cerevisiae, S. florentinus, S. pretoriensis, S. uvarum, Kloeckera apiculata, Hansenula yalbensis, Candida gueretana, C. lamica, C. valida, Torulopsis insconspicna.

With those flora colonising the digestive tract, Water Kefir drinkers find themselves rarely ill, and tend not to succumb to tummy bugs nearly as often nor suffer long with such ailments like the rest of the population do. Having a wider range and much higher level of probiotics than yoghurt, this is also the ideal probiotic supplement for the lactose and casein intolerant.

In summary:

  • Wide spectrum probiotic
  • Made with SCOBY crystals/grains
  • Brews in 24-48 hours
  • Naturally occurring in some subtropical fruits
  • Non-caffeinated
  • Sweeter tasting than kombucha
  • Best second-fermented with juices so that it tastes like fruit soda
  • Lactic acid fermentation

For the complete story of Water Kefir/Tibicos, Click Here to visit our dedicated Tibicos website

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