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Home > How to > How to activate water kefir grains: step-by-step guide

How to activate water kefir grains: step-by-step guide

If you are looking for tips on how to activate water kefir grains, this is the article you need to read. We will discuss ingredients, describe the process step-by-step and look for answers on most common issues with activating.

preparing probiotic beverage
Water kefir is a fermented beverage, filled with probiotics and other healthy ingredients. Kefir is made by leaving special reusable living cultures, called kefir grains, in water and sugar solution to ferment for about 48 hours.

Water kefir is not just one of more delicious and fresh beverages, it’s also very rich in live microorganisms. So, to take advantage of all the benefits, homebrewing is the way to go. First step in preparing water kefir at home is obtaining the kefir grains. Whether you get them fresh or dehydrated, it’s quite probable that you will need to activate water kefir grains first.

Even fresh grains, if they weren’t used for fermenting, for example if they travelled by mail or were stored in the fridge, need to be activated before use. The same is with dehydrated grains, which need to be rehydrated first too.

dehydrated water kefir grains
Dehydrated water kefir grains are reusable live culture for the preparation of water kefir which needs to be activated before first use.

What equipment and ingredients I need to activate water kefir grains?

You will need water kefir grains, glass jar with a lid, water and sugar and optionally some additional minerals.

  • You can use white sugar and replace a part with unrefined brown sugar. We recommend the ratio of 5 parts white sugar and 1 part unrefined sugar.
  • Add a pinch of baking soda to the water.
  • Use tap water if it’s not chlorinated. If you are not sure, leave it in an open bowl for a few hours so chlorine can evaporate. When using filtered water, add more minerals by using more of the unrefined sugar or by adding molasses.

If you have fresh grains, they probably arrived in liquid. Strain them and rinse them with room temperature water before you start activating them.

Activation step by step!

  1. Pour 200 ml water in a glass jar.
  2. Add 30 g of sugar mixture and baking soda.
  3. Stir until dissolved.
  4. Add kefir grains.
  5. Close the lid and leave to ferment 48 hours.
  6. Strain the grains and discard the water.
  7. Rinse the grains in room temperature water.
  8. Repeat the steps 1-7. After few batches you can leave out step 7.
  9. Repeat the steps 1-6 until you notice kefir grains are active (7-14 days).

Our packs of Organic water kefir grains include 5g of dehydrated grains. They reconstitute to 30g fresh kefir grains. For activating this amount of kefir grains, we recommend using 200 ml of water with sugar diluted in it.

activate water kefir grains
When you activate grains and, they will rehydrate to their previous size. Once they start fermenting you will notice bubbles coming from them, especially if you gently shake the jar.

How do I know my grains are active enough so I can use them to prepare kefir?

You will notice some signs that your grains are becoming more active.

  • The smell will change. You will notice the distinctive kefir smell that will start becoming more and more intense.
  • Bubbles. Once the kefir grains become active you will notice bubbles coming from the grains. Shake the jar gently to check for them.
  • The water is not as sweet. During activation, the water will still taste sweet, not all sugar will be consumed until the grains are active enough. Less sweet it becomes, more active the grains are.
activate kefir grains
The grains are translucent and crystal-like in appearance. To the touch it feels like holding jelly like substance. If you crush them they will become mushy.

It can take up to a month for grains to reach complete activity, but you can start preparing kefir before that. After you will be fermenting for a while you will notice, that grains start to grow and adjust well to the ingredients and the environment conditions you ferment in.

Another factor that is important with fermentation is the temperature. Recommended temperature for fermenting water kefir is 22-26 °C. Ferment in a dark place or at least do not expose to direct sunlight.

Establish a routine with your kefir preparation. If the grains are fed regularly and without long breaks, they will be more active and will grow and multiply.

The grains are live microorganisms

It’s crucial to get used to idea that the kefir grains are live microorganisms. Even though we know a lot about them and know the recipes for keeping them healthy, something unexpected can still happen. For example, grains slow down or stop working without any apparent reason. Try giving them a possibility that they are only taking a rest and be patient with them.

For more details on caring for water kefir grains, visit our Learn center.

We didn’t answer all your questions here? Let us know in comments.

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  1. Hello,

    I wonder why some grains are transparent white, does it come from raffined suggar ? In my culture they’re more yellow / light brown, I use can sugar and fruits every time.

  2. Hello, that’s really useful! I am confusing why my kefir grains can’t be activated. Now I know it takes times and your recommendations are reasonable. Thanks a lot! I will try again.

  3. Hello,

    I have followed the instructions and my grain don’t seem to be active 🥲

    They are now thick and fluffy. But there is no kefir smell or bubbles and the water is still very sweet. There are no signs of fermentation.

    Have you got any tips to help them?



    • Hi Joe,
      many things may affect the activations of water kefir grains. It could be a problem with water. Did you try adding some minerals, for example a piece of ginger root or any other fruit (fig)?

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