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


Robyn Openshaw - Updated: October 8, 2021 - - 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

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

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  1. Emily says:

    Love your work.
    I’m very new to water kefir — 1 week. I’ve been using coconut water. I love it. I think I’ve got a small “mother” going. Do I want to leave her with her baby grains? Or should/can I separate just the mother without grains?
    And should I be rinsing my grains at all before I start a new batch?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Hi Emily, good job! Don’t separate them, and no need to rinse.

      1. jodie says:

        hi just clicked through to those grains. first ingredient is sugar in with the grains. but i guess that would diminish fast, as they would eat it up and then if you use your method of using the coconut water (and its natural sugar it contains) as their food source.

  2. angelava says:

    I just bought these kefir grains about 2 weeks ago and am on my 3rd batch of water kefir! If you’re using coconut water, how much are you adding for each batch – the same 3-4 cups as you would the water? And are you making a batch daily? I couldn’t go through that much at a time, lol! Currently I’m letting it culture for 48 hours and that is working well, I just don’t know what changes I would need to make for coconut water. Thanks!!

    1. Melanie says:

      I believe Robin uses about 12 Oz of coconut water daily as that is what the hot pink breakfast smoothie calls for and is ldft to ferment for 24 hours. You can alternate between coconut water and sugar water. Nothing else is needd to ferment the coconut water, just pour it into the grains. Hope this helps.

  3. michele says:

    DO you ever need to do anything or replace the mother/grains?
    Or do you just forever add coconut water?

    1. Melanie says:

      The mother/ grains are living and will continue to make kefir as long as you continue feeding them. They will also multiple so you may have to reduce them if you get too many fire the amount of kefir you want to make. When you reduce them you can eat the extras for more healthy probiotics.

  4. Sharon Outlaw says:

    When starting this do I leave my jar on the counter or in the refrigerator and then after the same question…store on counter or in fridge? Sorry if you covered this and I missed it. Thanks.

    1. Melanie says:

      During the fermentation process leave it on the counter. After you have removed the grains you can store the finished kefir in the fridge. Add more sugar water or coconut water to the grains and start a new batch.

  5. Barbara Fuller says:

    Have you heard of alkaline water sticks Sounds confusing I want the link

  6. Barbara Fuller says:

    Listening on face book from my email

  7. Vickie Hawkins says:

    boxed? coconut water? how much?

  8. Saby says:

    would love to try this….how much coconut water do I use in a large mason jar please?

  9. michele says:

    If using water, how much sugar do you use?

  10. Michele Olsen says:

    I am currently allergic to coconut. Is there anything else besides sugar water that I can use?

  11. Lynn says:

    If I take a day or week off, do I store the grains on the counter or in the fridge?I have the grains and the coconut water. I’m excited to try this and make a new one each day (leaving it on the counter to ferment)for my smoothie.
    My question is:
    When I go out of town, can I just store the grains /mother in the jar in the fridge? Them when I’m back in town pour in a new box of coconut water to my grains, move it to the counter to make a new batch?Tia!

    1. smitchell@cox.net says:

      I need to know this also. Wish someone could tell us.

    2. Suzanne says:

      Lynn, I had the same question and found this. I hope it is helpful.

      http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/water-kefir/how-to-take-a-break-from-making-water-kefir/

      1. Lynn says:

        Thank you so much Suzanne! Very helpful!

  12. Shannon Fitzpatrick says:

    Ditto on Michele Olsen’s question. ..what if we can’t have coconut water? I also cannot tolerate ANY sugar at the moment. Thanks

  13. Doug Eppley says:

    When the mother forms, can it be used to ferment the coconut water?
    After several uses the grains begin to multiply. Can the mass of grains be divided and used to make two batches, then four and so on? If I can do this, I can share with my friends.
    I want to make this a very large part of my life and would like to work on making many flavors so it doesn’t get old. I can always make different flavors.
    Thank you for answer, ideas and more.
    Happy life to all.

    1. Ceecee says:

      Yes, divide to make 2 batches, then 4 etc and share with friends.

  14. Candace says:

    The organic coconut water you recommend is in a can – isn’t that lined with BPA?

  15. Wendy says:

    Same question as Candance, you said pour the box of coconut water , but the link to Amazon is in a can…. is there another good organic brand to use?

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