How To Make and Grow Water Kefir Grains

Tibicos, (water kefir grains), in a strainer

Growing your own water kefir grains is not difficult, if you are careful, and you tend them properly you can make huge quantities of tibicos, the water kefir grains. You need a few tibicos as a starter, quality water, sugar, and some various fruits. To improve the process, you may also add minerals to your water.

Tibicos, or water kefir grains, the more popular name, are microorganisms colonies encapsulated in a polyssacharide shell, with a white translucid aspect. The colonies are formed from various bacteria and yeasts, and they live in a symbiotic relationship, helping each-other thrive. You cannot make the tibicos from scratch, you need at least one viable grain of the proper microbial combination as a starter. If you are a microbiologist, and have a lot of time in your hands, you could probably do it, but it's way more effective to get a starter from someone. 

The main food of the sugar kefir grains, (yet another name), is, you guessed it, sugar. They eat sugar in any form, but the cheapest sugar to use is regular refined sugar. However, they will consume any type of sugar, from stevia, (0 calories and safe for diabetics' consumption), to fructose, and sugar-alcohols like xylithol. Some sugars like xylithol will have an impact on the colony's balance and composition, due to the fact that xylithol is a bactericide. But fruit juices, stevia, refined and unrefined sugar, agave nectar, and anything else should be good as a food.

Where To Get Water Kefir

You can get water kefir from a friend, if theirs multiplied properly, or you can buy it from reputable seller. Taking it from a friend is the easiest and cheapest solution, however, this might not always be the best solution. Tibicos are relatively stable and they will kill any bacteria or yeast intruder, that is not in the original culture. However, sometimes opportunistic bacteria can infiltrate in the micro-environment and change the perfect probiotic balance. The soda made with these tibicos will still work as a probiotic, but it won't be as effective as the original one, or it will cause side effects.

The best way is to use kefir grains from a reputable seller, that tends their cultures properly and don't allow them to get contaminated by opportunistic yeast and bacteria. When you buy them, you usually buy them dried, and then you rehidrate them. Due to this process it might take up to four weeks until your grains will start to grow. Have patience, it is the best way to do it. 

What To Feed Water Kefir Grains

As I shown earlier on this page water kefir grains can be fed almost anything that contains sugar. However, not all sugars will make them grow and multiply properly. In order to make the grains grow, you need to feed them properly at the first fermentation. I found that if you regularly feed them refined sugar, they will still grow, but it won't be as fast as they can grow. So the key is to give them some unrefined sugar such as Sucanat, or Rapadura, or Panela. The unrefined sugar contains many minerals, which are normally stripped down from the refined white sugar. 

Another trick is to give your little guys some trace minerals at the fermentation time, regardless of the sugar used. A great source is ConcenTrace, just add a dash to your gallon of soda. Some of the minerals will be used by the cultures, and some will remain in your soda, and you will drink it. Some people put a half of eggshell in the fermentation jar, and this will give your tibicos enough minerals. Other mineral sources can be: dash of unrefined sea salt or baking soda. Do not put too much eggshell in the jar, I found out that it slows down the fermentation. Although I didn't try it, I assume that any mineral source will slow down the fermentation in large quantities.

Besides the sugar, your cultures need some fruits. Add two or three slices of lemon every time you make a new batch, and add some dried unsulphured fruits such as dried figs, cranberries, raisins, etc... The trick is to rotate the fruits, give them a dried fruit for a week, then give them something else. My cultures love figgs, cranberies and raisins.

Insted of the concentrace, you can add a little blackstrap molasses to your culture, it als helps tibicos grow faster.

Water Kefir Soda in mason jarTips and Tricks for Growing More Tibicos

  • If your primary purpose is to grow the water kefir grains, and not to make soda, you can add slightly more sugar to the water, add 20% more sugar.
  • Use a very fine sieve, so the "baby grains" don't get through the holes. The small grains are new symbiotic formations, and they are constantly growing. You need to keep as much as possible of the babies. 
  • Do not wash your grains, they don't need washing anyway, and when you wash hem you wash away the babies. Always leave some of the soda from the previous fermentation, this helps to retain as many as possible little grains. 
  • If you want the grains to grow, use only high calorie sugars, and do not use sugar alcohols, or stevia.
  • Do not use honey with your grains. Honey has antimicrobial properties and might slow down the growth of the tibicos, and even modify the bacterial composition. You can use it on the second fermentation, however, be aware that it might change the bacterial/yeast balance.
  • Do not use any other fruits with prebiotic properties, or antibacterial. Some of these are coconut, prebiotic fibers, kiwi fruit.
  • Always use dechlorinated water. Water kefir grains do not like chlorine, and it will slow their growth considerably, if you give them chlorinated water. Check this article on how to dechlorinate water.



Related Content

Brewing Water Kefir SodaWater kefir soda is very simple to brew, and it is very tasty. Water kefir, also called sugar kefir, is a sweet acidulated drink, a little fizzy, made by fermenting sugars with kefir grains. Most people look at water kefir for its amazing healing qualities, due to the enourmous amount of probiotics. However, this probiotic beverage is one of the best tasting sodas you'll ever drink, if brewed properly.

Water KefirWater kefir soda is not only a very tasty soda, but it is incredibly healthy. It is a great replacement for the milk kefir. The health benefits of water kefir are attributed to the unique probiotic cultures in the tibicos, and the high concentration of these. Water kefir soda is one of the easiest, and inexpensive ways to get your probiotics from fermented foods and drinks, instead of paying for supplements.

Sea Buckthorn Flavored Water KefirWater kefir soda is delicious as it is, and it is healthy, but flavored water kefir is even better because has more nutrients, and it tastes even better. We can use various fruits or fruit juices to flavor it, but we can even use certain aromatherapy plants, or even some therapeutic herbs. We can use the water kefir soda as a base for our healing plants, this method will allow the active ingredients in the fermented plant to be easier absorbed in our bodies, and to get them in a delicious form.


Although your heading says How To Make and Grow Water Kefir Grains, there is no where in the article to tell you how to grow Water Kefir Grains. Very disappointing.

Peter, I am sorry for your disappointment. I reworded the introduction to make it clear that, even though in theory you can make your own tibicos, it's way more efficient to buy the starter.

peter, that is because the grains "grow" themselves. we give them food, then they grow.... if you want to start making your own colonies, you obviously have to buy the individual microorgansims.... (stupid unless have a labratory / are a microbiologist and know stockists of select organisms. no 2 peoples kefir will be the same... probably (monkeys on a typewriter probability) in summary; the article was VERY helpful and details all you need to do, to help, the grains, grow (themselves, being living organisms).... and have a kefir drink at the end... thanks for the article ! it was very well written as i am sure was the original worded one.

What do they look like when they start to form? Do they grow on the top of the water and sink usually? Do I have to strain the water out every 2 days or can I just add more sugar/minerals at that rate? When you say adding dried fruit, do you mean to the first ferment with the actual grains? Thanks!

Dashaina, the kefir soda is full of the microorganisms part of the tibicos. When properly fed and cared for, some of the strains start to produce the shell, which is a polysaccharide. That becomes the home of the whole micro-colony. They look exactly like the bigger tibicos, only they are very tiny and they can easily pass through the strainer. They also sink to the bottom of the jar. That's why is advisable to only remove 3/4 of the kefir soda. If you don't strain at all the medium becomes too acidic. Dried fruit usually goes with the first fermentation. The second fermentation is always soda only, the tibicos are removed.

great stuff. thanks a lot!

Hi there. Am I able to make water kefir from what is in the bottom of a bottle of good quality, expensive shop bought kefir? I have a feeling that it should be possible, but would like your advice on how. Cheers.

You should be able to, the culture is there. However, depending on how they flavor, and if they do second fermentation, and how they do it, the cultures could be out of balance. If it doesn't work the first time, keep trying.

will kefir water interfere with birth control pills?

There is no scientific evidence that they do or they don't interfere.

Is it possible to grow tibicos from water kefir made with a starter? My wife needs bifido bacteria and we cannot find any kefir grains with bifido strains

The starter are tibicos, right? Yes those tibicos will grow bigger and bigger, and then will make other smaller ones. I hope I understood your question.

I want to make coconut milk kefir. I'll buy the water kefir starter but it's expensive and don't want to have to continue to purchase it, I want to let the starter continue to create more. How do I modify what you have here for soda kefir to a continuous starter used for batches of coconut kefir?

The best is to follow the supplier recipe.

Thank you for the informative article. I have been making my own WF for approximately 4 months. I received the grains from a friend who suggested I keep the grains in a dark cupboard to help with the fermentation process. This worked well at first but now I don't see as much bubbling during the first or second fermentation process and i have been noticing a yeasty odor. Do you have any recommendations?

Carol, you might need new tibicos. It happened to me before. The culture gets contaminated and bad microorganisms start to proliferate. You could try to add some lemon juice to the first fermentation to increase the acidity. This would in theory kill the opportunistic bacteria/yeast. That being said, a yeasty odor is normal because the tibicos contain a lot of yeast.

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