Kefir grains need not be limited to fermenting just dairy. Kefir can ferment a wide variety of milk replacements and fruit juices. Almond milk, apple juice, grape juice, and coconut milk are all suitable drinks to feed kefir grains. In fact, any sweet beverages can be fermented by kefir grains into a more interesting and probiotic drink! If kefir grains are added to grape juice, they’ll ferment it into wine, apple juice will become cider, and they can even be used to brew beer. The diversity of yeast inherent in kefir (including Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces) can create very tasty ferments.
Saccharomyces cerevesiae, aka beer yeast, is an important member of the community of microorganisms within kefir grains. These yeasts feed on sugar (including fruit sugar), transforming them into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The recipe below describes how to make kefir apple cider by fermenting apple juice. However any sweet drink can be used in place of apple juice. If you wish to create a drink with more alcohol content, consider allowing the kefir to ferment the juice for longer. Just as in wine and beermaking, be careful to limit the ferment's exposure to air, which can result in a vinegary taste.
Milk kefir grains cannot be used to ferment drinks other than milk perpetually. Their community of microorganisms is dependent on milk and does not find all the nutrients it needs in milk replacements. If kefir grains are fed these alternatives over and over, the grains will eventually loose their vigour and might die. An occasional feeding with dairy milk is all that is needed to restore the microbial balance the grains need to thrive. Interestingly, kefir grains take on the colour of whatever drinks you feed them, making them easier to find in dairy milk.
RECIPE: KEFIR APPLE CIDER
1 Tbsp kefir grains (our grains are superb for this, you can get them here)
1 litre of fresh, sweet apple juice (or other fruit juice)
Make sure the juice doesn't have preservatives in it as as potassium sorbate, which can kill the culture of kefir - along with the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. Mill Orchard (http://www.millorchard.co.nz/) produce the best juices we have found in NZ. Their juices can be found at New World, Pak 'N Save and Four Square stores throughout New Zealand.
Wash your kefir grains, rinsing off any curd and residue in water.
Toss the grains into the apple juice. Tighten the lid on the bottle, and leave to ferment at room temperature for 1-2 days.
Pour the juice through a sieve to retrieve the grains and fill juice back into the bottle. Grains can now be used to make more cider or go back into dairy milk. Rinse the grains first before adding to dairy milk.
Continue to ferment at room temperature for 1-7 days, checking on it daily, releasing the pressure that builds up from the fermentation by opening the bottle and shutting it again. Sample the brew occationally (every 2-3 days) and enjoy when the taste, effervescence and alcohol content are to your liking.
The kefir apple cider can then be transferred to the fridge and enjoyed within 1-2 weeks.
It is very important to release the pressure EVERY day! We have learnt the hard way and one bottle literally exploded after 4 days of not releasing the built up pressure.