Water Kefir Problems

RIP! Sad news about our water kefir grains: After a long run of bad health, they stopped reproducing altogether. I finally gave up on them and am looking for some new ones. So far, no luck. If anyone reading this site has any suggestions about where to get some (a New Zealand source), I’d love to hear about it.

Water kefir, in healthier times

Since having this problem, I’ve heard from a couple of other people who have had the same thing happen. Like me, they felt they had taken very good care of the grains, and had followed the directions for keeping them healthy. I have been searching around for any more pointers for keeping a robust colony of water kefir, in hopes of having better luck with the next lot of grains I get (if I can find any!).

The latest edition of the Weston A. Price foundation journal, “Wise Traditions,” included an article which listed some interesting tips:
* Apparently, adding sea coral, limestone, or eggshells to the brewing water kefir will improve the growth of the kefir grains as well adding nutritional kick to the resulting drink. I can’t wait to try this!
*”be sure to rinse the grains between each batch to prevent a build-up of yeast that may reduce their growth.” Well, I was doing this already, but. . .
*”Dom’s Kefir In-site” (http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage) recommends using an un-refined mineral-rich sweetener, such as Rapadura or muscovado sugar rather than refined sugar. Yikes! I was actually using white sugar for our water kefir, so maybe that was part of the problem.

I’ve heard that you can convert dairy kefir grains for use in water/sugar instead of milk, but haven’t yet found much information about how to do this. I’m not sure whether the grains can be permanently converted to culture and propagate in other substances, or whether they will eventually fizzle out if they are not returned to the milk.

Fortunately our kombucha culture is still thriving, so we have at least one kind of delicious home-made fermented drink to enjoy while we are without any water kefir.

24 Responses to “Water Kefir Problems”

  1. Kate says:

    Hi, I haven’t tried this yet myself, but I remember meeting someone I shared an apartment with for a week who brought her own ‘yogurt plant’ with her to a holiday at the Gold Coast. I’d been wondering what it was ’cause I’ve never heard of or seen anything like it since. Googled kefir just now and the wikipaedia entry said that the grains can be stored up to 18 months if dried. Maybe when you get a replacement culture you can try that with part of it, so you don’t lose it all if it goes wrong. Anyhow, thank you for solving a 20 year old mystery.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Hi Karen,
    Unfortunately, all these vendors are selling milk kefir grains, not water kefir. . . which is the kind I’m looking for.
    Thanks for the links, anyway. It’s very kind of you.

  3. Michael Poole says:


    My water kefir grains, grown variously on Japanese black sugar (a very raw cane sugar) and Hokkaido beet sugar (high in polysaccharides) have been non-propagable for nearly 3 years. Nevertheless, they remained very active throughout and produced a good-tasting brew. When I returned them to my source just before I came back to NZ, he declared them to be healthy. Apparently, if the grains go sulky like mine did, they can take anything up to 10 years to decide to start growing again. It depends a lot on the quality of the water, which is lousy where I was.

    Incidentally, what you’re calling kombucha is actually koucha kinoko (black tea mushroom) in Japanese. The Japanese word kombucha refers to a hot salty brew (cha: tea) made from kelp (kombu) which is readily available in the supermarkets in powder form. I’m blowed if I can understand how anyone started to call a microbial brew kombucha.

    If you do succeed in finding a source of water kefir in NZ, I’m all ears. I’ve just got hold of some milk kefir, but I have no idea whether it will be as effective against my prostate cancer as the water kefir was. There was a lady in Lower Hutt who claimed to have it, but she’s stopped responding to e-mails.


  4. Rebecca says:

    Hi Michael,

    What you say about the kombucha is really fascinating. So, “kombucha” is actually a misnomer when applied to our tea fungus. I wonder how the mis-labelling started.

    When (and if) I get some water kefir propagating, I’ll post the news on this site. I’m hopeful that I’ll get some, and also hope that by using clean highly mineralised water I might keep it propagating well. We’ll see!

    Good luck with your ferments and your health.

  5. alattia says:

    I was given milk kefir grains, enough to make about a pint of kefir to start with, but within 4-5 weeks they doubled in quantity. So I thought to try out the excess grains in water, I had no problems with them, they took to it like ducks to water. Since then I only make milk kefir to keep some healthy grains as a backup in case one day my “water kefir” grains give up on me.
    When I first started to try water kefir, I thought to use good quality bottled water (nothing but the best for m’darlings), unrefined sugar and a dried prune, for company. The grains continue to multiply, now I am using them in green tea.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the kefir grains, Alattia. I’ve now got a healthy colony of water kefir grains again. Yay! I need to write a new post about them.

  7. Tulip says:

    Rebecca, if it possible, I would like to buy some water kefir grains from you.
    I live in Auckland.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi Lola,
    I do have spare water kefir at the moment. I think I’ve already been in touch with you via email. Did you get my message? If not, please reply here on the website, and I’ll try to resend the message to your email.

  9. Janice says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    I’d love some help with obtaining a water kefir if you had any left to spare. I do live in Dunedin though.

    Thanks for your time

  10. Rebecca says:

    Please note:
    Early in 2008, I gave up on trying to find anyone in NZ with healthy water kefir grains to share. I took the plunge and imported some from Australia. This was a hassle and cost a lot. . . but the reward was a healthy colony of water kefir which I hope has spread all around New Zealand by now! They propagate like crazy (about 150% every day or so), so I’ve always got extra if you can’t find a local source.

  11. deran says:

    Hi, I am a total novice, am just getting my head around milk kefir let alone water kefir! Am allergic to dairy, soy, most nuts and goats so how do you use water kefir? As a plain drink? Same benefits? Would love to gat hold of some. :-)Deran

  12. Rachael says:

    Hi Rebecca

    I found your site when looking for extra Kefir recipes. Your post about the demise of your crystals is interesting. Mine are still propogating but have shrunk in size and just look a little ill. They still make a lovely drink though so perhaps they are just splitting off??? I’m not sure.

    Since your new crystals have arrived, and are doing well, have you learnt any new tips you could share for keeping our crystals extra healthy. I am using boiled and cooled water, brown sugar and grated ginger juice.

    Also, I am keen, if you still have it, to get hold of a split of your ginger beer bug. Is this possible?\

    Great blog BTW. Lost of interesting posts to read.


  13. Lara says:

    Hi, i’ve had milk kefir before and an desperately trying to get a hold of some again. If there’s anyone in the Auckland area with some grains to spare please get in touch with me, i’d love some.

  14. Patricia says:

    Hi were you lucky to find new Kefir Grains? I am looking for some, too :))


  15. janice says:

    hi, I have just discovered keffir grains an am trying to source some in or around chch, can anyone help me please

  16. Dave says:

    I’m in Helensville, [Admin Edit: Posting phone numbers not allowed. Thanks, Kevin]. I currently have milk kefir grains available, probably enough for half a dozen starter kits. Free, but you’ll need to collect them.

  17. Franca says:

    Hi question to a post from a long time ago… when you start using milk grains in water,do they reproduce? or just survive while you feed them the unrefined sugar?

  18. Donna says:

    I just finished my first batch of water kefir (or tried to). I used 6 cup filtered h20, 4 tlbsp raw cane sugar, 2 tbsp brown raw sugar both organic, 3 apricot dried (no sulfur) 2slices of fresh ginger peeled, 1 slice lemon cut into halves and 1/3 cup kefir grains.

    My end result is slimy, and kind of this and stringy. there was no layer to skim off. It smells fine has a slight tang, but the consistency is not appealing.

    Any ideas or suggestions??

  19. corinne says:

    mine really like dates. They grew three times as fast : )

  20. Rose says:

    If you’re using water kefir grains because you are lactose intolerant, you can easily transfer milk kefir grains into rice milk. I’m growing mine in gluten free, calcium enriched rice milk and they’re growing just fine.

  21. Janete says:

    Ebay has a plethoria of Kefir grains. I purchased some water kefir grains and they are multiplying and very healthy and it was so reasonable!!!

  22. Mike Hegi says:

    I am trowing away a lot of grains!
    They will reproduce / double their quantities every batches!
    Do not put anything in the grain at the first fermentation do it for the second if you like after you remove the grains from the liquid. In my opinion Lemon, Herbs, egg shells and other is not controllable and do not mix anything with the grains.
    Use pure organic cane sugar and organic unsulfured molasses
    I use 100 grams of sugar ad 20 grams of molasses in 1500 gams of water and ferment for 48hours with 25 grams of grains

  23. Jo says:

    Hi I just bought a bread making book to make gluten free bread and I see I need Kefir milk or water as a starter. hadn’t heard of it before so I googled it and found this site. Does anyone have kefir milk or water in Hawkes Bay?