What is Water Kefir? Origin, Benefits & Uses.
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What is Water Kefir? Origin, Benefits & Uses.

Tangy but not all-the-way tart like kombucha with less of that harsh acidic flavor of apple cider vinegar elixir – water kefir is a pleasant way to boost your gut microbiome.

Fruity, subtly sour, and mildly carbonated, water kefir is a probiotic drink that can please almost anyone.

Fruity, subtly sour, and mildly carbonated, water kefir is a probiotic drink that can please almost anyone. Tangy but not all-the-way tart like kombucha with less of that harsh acidic flavor of apple cider vinegar elixir – water kefir is a pleasant way to boost your gut microbiome. Made with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, it’s easy to brew, delightfully flavorful, and boasts a plethora of health benefits. There’s little wonder it’s become a fan favorite among health-minded and lactose-intolerant folks. 

This humble drink has a mysterious history, and a phenomenal range of health benefits, making it a rapidly growing functional beverage on the market. In this article, we cover:

1. What is Water Kefir?

2. Private Label Manufacturing of Water Kefir

3. More Uses for Tibicos

4. Why Water Kefir is The Beverage of the Future

What is Water Kefir?

Water kefir is a fermented beverage derived from a very specific composition of a culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). These microorganism colonies are encapsulated in a polysaccharide shell, appearing white, gelatinous, and granulated – thus giving them the term “water kefir grains.” 

Unlike milk kefir, which uses dairy as its primary fermenting agent, water kefir relies on a sugar-water solution. The end result? A bubbly, tangy, and slightly sweet drink that often draws comparisons with natural sodas or kombucha but with its own unique twist.

Where Do Kefir Grains Come From?

SCOBYs that can propagate themselves in sugar solutions have historically been found worldwide in different plants, all the way from the Caucasus to Tibet. Thus, there is a slight variation in the composition of the microorganisms found in water kefir grains in different parts of the globe–no two cultures are alike.

But the most popular and most strongly documented type of water kefir comes from Mexico, where a SCOBY grows at the base of the prickly pear cactus in the form of hard granules, known locally as tibi. This is the origin of tibicos, another name for water kefir. These tibicos grains are used to make traditional Mexican fermented drinks.

Because of its popularity, tibicos has become synonymous with both water kefir and water kefir grains internationally.

Private Label Manufacturing of Water Kefir

In the private label manufacturing of water kefir at scale, different stages of the process must be carefully monitored to prevent contamination and maintain the right temperature to support the fermentation process. 

While a warm temperature is required for fermentation, the drink, when ready, has to be stored in a cool temperature to prevent over-fermentation and retain its pleasant taste. The overall process is also time-sensitive because if the kefir is left to ferment too long, the beverage’s alcohol content can rise. Fed Up Foods’ Scalable Craft Brew Method™ ensures total alcohol compliance and also improves the quality of the live cultures with every brew.

Private Label Kefir Brewing Process:

Step 1: In specially-designed stainless steel tanks, organic sugar and filtered, hot, water are mixed to dissolve the sugar into solution. The ratio is typically 1 pound of sugar to 3 gallons of water. We can make anywhere between 450 gallons to 9,000 gallons depending on the need.

Step 2: The solution or “mash” is added to a temperature-cooled fermentation vessel along with kefir grains (bacteria/yeast). For 3 gallons of water, 16 ounces of kefir grains are used and the mixture is left to ferment over 2-5 days. When fermentation is done, the completed kefir beverage is cooled to about 45°F, then filtered into a separate vessel awaiting packaging.

Step 3: Kefir is packaged cold and kept cold throughout the distribution process to ensure a cold beverage arrives to the consumer.

Step 4: Different quality checks are performed along the way such as measuring pH, temperature, acidity content, alcohol content and final approval of finished products through human sensory evaluation.

Source: ScienceDirect

More Uses for Tibicos

Tibicos reproduce quickly with every batch, and very quickly, you’ll find yourself with more than you need for your next fermentation. But there are many other ways you can use the grains. Aside from being a primary fermentation agent for a delicious drink, the grains have many modern-day applications. Here are just a few of them:

1. Gifting

With every batch, tibicos multiply. For this reason, enthusiasts often share or gift excess grains to friends and family, fostering community ties and introducing more people to the world of fermentation. In many cultures, grains are preserved as heirlooms over generations.

Kefir grains leftover from production can be repurposed by manufacturers into DIY kits or gift sets for their customers.

2. Gastronomy

Because of their interesting texture, some innovative chefs and food producers incorporate water kefir or the grains themselves into cocktails and desserts, like jellies and jams, for a unique twist and added health benefits. Since the grains contain yeasts, they can even be used in baking. 

Water kefir manufacturers can trade surplus grains wholesale to the restaurant industry.

3. Industry

Because of their biomolecular makeup, water kefir grains have also been successfully used in various industrial applications. 

One is “..in the treatment of food processing wastewaters..turning organic matters into value-added metabolites”

Water kefir grains have also been used to retain heavy metal ions dissolved in aqueous solutions. 

Why Water Kefir is the Beverage of the Future 

5% of the US population is vegan, but that number is slowly and surely growing. Apart from that, about 30 to 50 million Americans were living with lactose intolerance, as of 2019. Furthermore, the plant-based food market is expanding at a breakneck pace – total revenue is expected to grow at 12.4 % through 2029, reaching nearly US$ 95.52 B

All data points toward the fact that people are increasingly opting for non-dairy, functional alternatives to almost everything, including their probiotics. 

Due to its versatility and applications beyond edible consumption, water kefir is now in demand as a plant-based, mild-tasting, fizzy probiotic. Unlike other probiotics, it’s not an acquired taste. It’s quite easy to like, making it a strong contender to other functional beverages. As a result, water kefir has started appearing in supermarkets worldwide, as global legislations including the EU and FDA have approved it. 

As one of the leading fermented beverage manufacturers in America, we at FedUp Foods leverage the latest biotechnology, regenerative ingredients, and sustainable practices to create some of the finest probiotic drinks in the country. We have perfected water kefir production at scale (among other beverages like kombucha).

Our in-house lab and product development capabilities allow us to remain competitive, innovate faster, and meet consumers’ demand for new tastes and experiences, saving valuable time and resources.

Want to explore working with us? Reach out to us today.