Updated: Mar 29
One of the biggest trends in bartending in recent times has been the implementation of fermentation techniques in creating ingredients such as kombucha, fermented sodas & 'beers'. Personally here at Cocktails For You we always worry about the use of fermentation techniques in bars due to the chaotic nature of fermentation as well as the unstable results in can provide without a careful procedure. Himkok bar in Oslo has one of the best fermentation setups in the world with a whole section of their building dedicated for creating fermented ingredients. So we wanted to share one technique for creating home-made sodas that is probably the most stable as well as providing the most consistent results in the volatile environment of a bar.
Water Kefir What exactly is Kefir? Water kefir is a probiotic, naturally fizzy, fermented drink that tastes rather like lemonade, but milder. If you’ve heard of kombucha or kefir milk, then you’re along the right lines. These non-alcoholic fermented drinks have grown in popularity in recent years, known for their gut-loving properties, natural fizz and interesting flavours.
Water kefir is made by soaking water kefir grains in sugared water. These grains aren’t actually grains as you might think of them, like wheat or barley. Rather, they’re a starter culture made of the beneficial bacteria that will transform your water into a fizzy fermented concoction. The History of Kefir The history of the drink is full of legend & myth regarding how Kefir was discovered & how it came into be. It all started in the Caucasus region! We won't let facts get in the way of a good story...
This amazing drink has an amazing story as well. The “Grains of the Prophet” is what some people call it. They were jealously guarded for centuries in the Caucasus region. The legend says that these grains came from the prophet Mohammed himself. He gave the grains to the Orthodox people and taught them about the miracles of kefir. These people accepted the gift and regarded it as part of the tribe’s treasure. They continued the tradition of making the kefir drink from generation to generation and were quite possessive with it. They didn’t want to share their sacred grains with the rest of the world. However, they couldn’t stop the spread of the stories about the miraculous drink that kept them alive and healthy for 120-150 years. Even Marco Polo mentioned this magical drink in his chronicles. The stories spread, but the people weren’t very interested in kefir until they learned about its powerful effect in treating tuberculosis and some intestinal diseases.
It began in Russia, where these weird stories were converted into pure science. The first scientific study about this beverage was published at the end of 19th century. Russian doctors were determined to obtain the secret of this miraculous beverage, which seemed to have some amazing effects on health. However, that was not an easy task. The locals didn’t want to share their grains, which made the commercial production impossible. Desperate in their wish to take the grains from the locals, Russian doctors contacted two brothers called Blandov. The Blandovs were the owners of Moscow Dairy and had a lot of holdings in the Caucasus region. One of the brothers, Nikolai Blandov, decided to help with this mission. He sent a young and beautiful girl named Irina Sakharova to get the grains from a local prince, Bek-Mirza Barchorov. Although fascinated with her beauty, the prince refused to give the sacred grains. Disappointed Irina and her party departed home.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Prince Mirza was in love with beautiful Irina and didn’t want to let her go. Irina was stopped on her way back by locals who took her back to the prince. She was told that she was to marry Prince Mirza according to local traditions. It was a daring rescue mission that prevented this forced marriage. The prince was taken to the Tsar, who ruled that the prince must give ten pounds of kefir grains to Irina in order to recompense the insult. Irina succeeded in her mission after all – kefir was finally discovered and shared with the rest of the world.
Make your own soda with water Kefir: Ingredients
2 Tablespoons hydrated Water Kefir Grains ¼ cup sugar – organic preferred *1 quart of chlorine free water*
*Using a sugar with higher mineral content, such as rapadura, piloncillo or turbinado will help the grains reproduce. You can also use molasses but avoid raw honey. *If using purified water through a filtration system, then you may also add one of the optional additions to remineralize it. To dechlorinate water, allow to sit for 24 hours or boil for 10 minutes then cool to needed temp.
Half Gallon Glass Jar or One Gallon Glass Jar Mesh strainer or cheesecloth Cloth with rubber band Fermentation Cap, or plastic lid Spoon Measuring Cup and funnel Bottles or jars for finished Kefir
Add ¼ cup of sugar to the jar. Add water to the jar. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Add 2 TB of kefir grains to the sweetened water. Cover with a plastic lid, cloth cover or Fermentation Cap. Let sit for 24-48 hours – no longer than 72 hours or the grains will begin to disintegrate.
The water kefir recipe will produce a slightly fizzy beverage with a pleasantly sweet taste. Once it has the flavor you prefer best, then strain the kefir through a strainer or cheesecloth to recapture the grains. If you prefer a tangier brew, do a second ferment of the water kefir in the bottle to yield a deeper flavor. After you remove the grains, add flavors for a second fermentation or drink straight. Develop your own favorite water kefir recipe based on experimentation. A Visual Guide by Joshua Weissman