December 27, 2018

The best way to store water kefir grains (and ginger beer plant)

Water kefir grains stored in a jar

Water kefir grains (and ginger beer plant) are very loyal. When its time to take a break for whatever reason, you can essentially stuff them in the back of the fridge and forget about them. They will sit there waiting day after day for you and when the day finally comes where you need them again, they will wag their bacteria tails and perk right back up with a couple good sugar feedings. You have 3 main options to store your water kefir grains or GBP when taking a break:

Fridge method: (storage for up to 6 months)

The fridge method for water kefir grains is probably the easiest and most convenient. It’s the method we recommend the most. Unlike taking a break from milk kefir grains, they typically recover better out of the fridge and the growth rate is rarely suppressed. A couple or so batches and they are usually back in business.

Step 1: Simply place your grains in a clean jar

Step 2: Pour sugar water (1 tablespoon of sugar per cup) or finished kefir or plain unchlorinated water over grains. Sugar water is the ideal liquid of choice, but plain water or finished kefir will also work quite well. The most important thing is that the grains are fully submerged in the liquid. If you plan to store for several months, we recommend that you store the grains with sugar water and change the sugar water about once every 2 weeks. But water kefir grains and ginger beer plant are quite forgiving and if you forgot to change the water, it will be fine.  

Step 3: Cover with lid and store in the fridge for up to 6 months. Make sure to avoid any cold spots that has the potential to freeze. We have heard reports of grains surviving in the back of the fridge for several years. Ideally, we recommend no longer than 6 months for a safer and easier recovery.

To reactivate grains: Simply strain the grains or GBP and use as usual. 

A note on fridge storing Ginger Beer Plant. GBP tends to be more gooey and slushier than water kefir grains due to the yeast content. If it’s gooey enough (where it looks like applesauce), then it can store without any liquid for a couple months without issue. Otherwise, store with liquid like you would with water kefir grains.

Drying Method: (Storage for to 1 year when combined with freezing)

Water kefir grains and Ginger beer plant tend to dry and rehydrate quite well with minimal impact. We still recommend using the fridge method first whenever possible. Larger dried grains tend to do better once rehydrated than smaller grains. Dried grains are a good option for keeping the grains stable on very long transits.

Step 1: Rinse grains with unchlorinated water

Step 2: Shake strainer to remove excess water

Step 3: Lay grains flat on a non-stick surface such as baking paper.

Step 4: Use a fan to run air over the grains. They should dry in about 1-4 day. You can use a dehydrator, but make sure it does not use any heat as that can damage the grains.

To reactivate grains: Put grains in jar of water for about 4-6 hours to re-hydrate and then use as usual. 

After the grains are dried you have 3 options:

1. Store the dried grains at room temperature for about 1 month safely

2. Store in the dried grains in the fridge for about 3-6 months

3. Store the dried grains in the freezer for about 1 year safely.

Freezing Method: (storage for up to 6 months)

This is the trickiest method for water kefir grains (and ginger beer plant) and is not recommended as the first line of storage / back-up. The reason is that the structure of the grains is highly susceptible to freezing damage. What can happen is that they look perfect out of the freezer for the first couple batches and then they will suddenly degrade or disintegrate due to structural damage to the grains that happened during the freezing process.

Step 1: Rinse grains with unchlorinated water

Step 2: Pat the grains dry with a paper towel.  Moisture causes expansion when in turn can damage the structure of the grains. It doesn’t hurt if they sit out for a bit and get extra dry.

Step 3: Place jar or bag of grains in freezer for up to about 6 months.

To reactivate grains: Put bag or jar of grains in fridge for around 1 day to thaw and then use as usual.