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How To Use Water Kefir Grains (Without Sugar) To Heal Your Gut

Robyn Openshaw - Updated: September 19, 2023 - - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Water grains, for gut health

Did you catch my Facebook Live where I ate 10-year-old RAW cabbage and lived to tell about it? We talked about the importance of fermented and cultured foods, getting over the fear of both making and eating them! Make sure to check it out here!

In this article:

Many modern health problems are related to a lack of healthy organisms in the digestive tract. And these billions of teeming flora are our main protection against viruses and bacteria. 

People who have taken antibiotics have severely depleted healthy flora, which leads to getting sick over and over, inflammation in the gut causing many modern diseases, and an inability to digest foods and utilize nutrients.

What Are Water Kefir Grains, and How Do You Use Them?

Making water kefir is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to get tons of live probiotics to your gut.

Water kefir “grains” are actually little cultures of good bacteria that eat prebiotic sugars, creating live probiotics and enzymes that are essential for gut health. (You use them over and over. Generally, you don’t have to buy more, but I keep giving them away so, I bought a new package. And, wow are these good.)

The directions on water kefir tell you to:

  • Make a sugar-water solution.
  • Add the grain.
  • Let it sit for a few days while the fermentation process supposedly eats up all the sugar.

This will leave you with the resulting probiotics and enzymes. That’s the marketing premise behind store-bought kombucha, by the way. But if the probiotic organisms consume all the sugars, why does it taste so sweet?

Why You Don’t Need Sugar To Make Water Kefir

I don’t EVER use sugar to make my water kefir grow, despite what the directions say.

First, I use the BEST SOURCE for grains, and second, I use organic coconut water. The coconut water provides natural prebiotic “sugars” to feed the culture.

Need proof? Check this out!

In about a week, these kefir grains formed a MOTHER on top. I’ve never seen any store-bought grains do this. (They’ll still ferment stuff even without a mother, but this is so cool!)

The Mother | Scoby

The mother, called in some applications, a “scoby,” is a colony of live probiotic organisms that form into a mass, actively making more kefir grain babies and clear evidence that culturing is going well.

How to Make Water Kefir Without Sugar

Despite what the directions on the kefir grains say, I don’t EVER use sugar to make my coconut-water kefir grow. There are enough natural sugars in the coconut water for the kefir grains to “feed” on and ferment them into a great probiotic base for your drink. 

Buy coconut water, ideally organic, with no additives. And then, you’ll need water kefir grains (I like these). Put 2-4 Tbsp. of kefir grains in a clean glass jar. Pour 3 cups of coconut water into the jar. Stir gently, and then cover with a lid and let sit at room temperature for 3-5 days. Taste it, and if it is very sweet, it needs to ferment longer. 

Every day, after it’s ready, I strain the coconut water kefir into my blender to make a Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie, leaving the grains and the beautiful, jelly-fish-looking large, flat “mother” in. Then, I add another cup or so of coconut water to the jar of water kefir grains. 

The coconut liquid is so fermented, in just a day or two, in the summer, it might even be fizzy like soda and wonderfully tart when I pour it out. 

Water kefir can ferment for many days, even up to two weeks, if you want a very tart-tasting product that is even higher in probiotics. (Watch it carefully, because in a very hot and humid climate, it may eventually mold.)

Kefir made from coconut liquid should be refrigerated after about 2 days, as it ferments quickly.

I recommend keeping a quart jar of water grains in sugar-water or coconut water on the counter. And just drain the liquid off it every one to three days, in something you make regularly, like a smoothie recipe.

Best Water Kefir Grains

The coconut liquid is so fermented, in just one day, that it’s fizzy like soda and wonderfully tart when I pour it out! Best grains ever!

Masterclass to Rehabilitate Your Gut Health

And if you don’t know WHY you want to culture foods to rehabilitate your gut health, you really need to join us for my FREE VIDEO MASTERCLASS going on right now. You’ll also learn about:

  • What foods fight inflammation and which cause it
  • Foods that rehab your gut
  • How to beat your food addictions fast
  • My 5 best tips to eat super healthy-super cheap!
  • How to make 12 simple shifts in a year, for the healthiest year of your life

Kefir FAQs

Q: What if I have to leave town for a week? Can I put them in the fridge?

A: Yes, I have no problems putting my water kefir grains in the fridge.

If you’re looking for more information, check out this article from Cultures for Health.

Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on March 28, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

Read Next: 9 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut — Could You Be Affected?

Photograph of Robyn Openshaw, founder of Green Smoothie GirlRobyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that help support the GSG mission without costing you extra. I recommend only companies and products that I use myself.

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Health Concerns, Immunity

14 thoughts on “How To Use Water Kefir Grains (Without Sugar) To Heal Your Gut”

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  1. Ceecee says:

    12 oz of coconut water every day sounds expensive. Why not let the grains eat the sugar? Pour off the liquid from the grains after about 2 days and refrigerate until the sweetness or non-sweetness you require. If you top it with a tight top it will create a bit of a fizz. Be sure to open it or drink it so the pressure doesn’t build up and break the container. As for the grains: Add new sugar-water to the grains every 2 days or so.

  2. Robin says:

    I am allergic to coconut and cane sugar. Any other substitutes that would work?

  3. Kim Jamieson says:

    Is this drink ok for people with systemic Candida? Either the coconut water or the sugar fed kefir water? I can’t tolerate sugar at all…. 12 blueberries a day is my max. The Candida is triggered so easily & I am desperate to regain my health.

  4. Brenda Moulder says:

    I had been making kombucha with green tea and sugar, can I use the scobi from that to start a sugarless coconut batch? ( If they are still good, it has been in my cupboard for several months)

  5. Elena says:

    Is this the same like Kombucha?

  6. Wendy says:

    Great question, Robin! As I too am ‘highly’ (off the chart) allergic to coconut. Actually a lot of people are: they just do not realize it, as it is over-used of the recent years. Does anyone know yet, an alternative to coconut water? Many would love to hear. As I’m brand-new to this I have not the answer….yet.

    Thank you for your post! Awesome!


  7. Lisa says:

    Are you using coconut water to activate the grains also? Warm coconut water or room temp? Do you have a video on activating and using daily?

  8. Mark T Kraemer says:

    This is sold out on Amazon. Probably because of your recommendation. I was able to get some from the Cultures for Health website.

  9. Tammy says:

    So you only have to wait one day to start using the keifer water? And you just keep putting in new coconut water every day, and for how long? How much coconut water do you put in with the grains?

  10. Karen Queen says:

    I went to Amazon to order the Kefir starter grains and it said "currantly unavailable and don’t know when or if will be available again. Any suggestions where I might find some water kefir grains or a acuby?

  11. Doug Eppley says:

    You can go to They have everything you need for Kefir Water, Kefir Milk, Cultured Food, and Kombucha. The Green Smoothie Girl and Cultured Food Life programs work very well together for your health.

  12. Sharon says:

    I’m a little confused about the directions as I have never made water kefir before. Am I right in assuming the one adds the kefir grains (how much?????) to the carton of coconut water? Put a lid on the jar and leave on the counter for about a week. By this time the "mother" forms on the top. I can then pour the liquid off to make a smoothie, leaving the mother and grains in the jar. Now I add another carton of coconut water to feed the mother and grains for 24 hours, then pour off liquid, and keep repeating the process.?

    Is this procedure correct OR am I missing something?

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Angela says:

      It is very easy actually. I ordered my water kefir grains off amazon from a company called florida sun. 1/4 cup of grains per each quart jar. Add 1/4 cup dissolved sugar water to that and then fill the remaining with more water until its full. Cover loosely to let the grains breath and keep in a warm dark spot for 2-3 days. Then take another empty jar and fill it 1/4 full with your choice of juice, pour off the fermented water kefir liquid you started with into the juice and cover tightly, put in a warm dark place for 24-48 hours. Burp the jars regularly to release pressure. This is called the second ferment. You can find videos online. Then start the whole thing again adding the dissolved sugar to the jar with the grains, the grains will eventually multiply as well if you take good care of them. The second ferment should be fizzy and even though it tastes sweet the kefir water eats all the sugar.

  13. Deanna Pucci says:

    The brand of grains Robin recommends in this article are from Amazon (I hate ordering from this co.) and not very good reviews. Is there a better source?

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