Water Kefir

We take tibicos, more commonly known as water kefir, very seriously on the bus. Tibicos is a starter culture composed of opaque little beads of lovely that produce lactic acid, ethanol (small amounts), and carbon dioxide when reconstituted in sugar water. It is believed to be born on the pads of the Opuntia cactus, native to Mexico. We more lovingly refer to our “grains” as tibi.


Not only does this culture produce one of the most delicious fermented beverages, but it is also the highest maintenance culture of our collection. We have three water kefir cultures each unique in scent and taste – our first from Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, an intentional community in Tumacacori, AZ, the second from a woman in New Orleans, and our third from Hex Ferments in Baltimore, which was a culture they received from author Sandor Katz.

This post serves to discuss maintenance and how to keep your tibicos healthy. I’ve found that these feeding guidelines keep kefir bubbling through hot summer heat as well as through the winter. Keep in mind we do not have refrigeration on the bus – these tibicos cultures have weathered temperature extremes and remain happy, so we’re hoping to shed light on the way tibicos responds to the love you give it.

Important note here! Dairy kefir and water kefir are not related. Although results may be interesting, and possibly even delicious, this does not mean you can reversely feed your water kefir dairy and your dairy kefir water to keep them in good health. However, I encourage you to experiment if you’re curious. I don’t, however, recommend experimenting unless you have extra of your culture to play with.


1 tbsp tibicos

1 quart water (hard water & spring water are best – avoid water with chlorine)

½ cup unrefined organic sugar

5 thin slices of ginger

½ crushed shell of egg

1 tsp of molasses

1) Add sugar as you heat your water and thoroughly dissolve sugar.  At this time you can also add the ginger. I like to slice my ginger thinly to expose as much surface area as possible. Add molasses too and stir.

2) Allow time for the water to cool. You’ll want the temperature to be 100 degrees or less (comfortable to the touch) before adding to your tibicos.

3) Combine tibicos with water mixture.  Add your half crushed egg shell. Cover your container with a cloth and rubberband or use another method to allow air flow.

4) In a day or two, depending on temperature and other conditions, you’ll notice fizz on the top layer of your water mixture. Your tibicos is feasting.

5) OPTIONAL: Secondary Fermentation Add more sugars. My favorite is to add fresh pressed apple juice with Cinnamon and licorice after the grains have been brewing for a day in sugar water. I let the grains get groovy with the apple juice until it’s to my liking, then I bottle my elixir in sling top bottles and refrigerate. Before it ferments further, bring to potlucks and woo the crowd!

6) When you aren’t making delicious elixirs, add other nutrients to your tibicos, especially if it’s stressed. I use water strained from red beans, and add sugar as I would with regular water. The tibicos perks up within a matter of hours. Make sure to store yours in the fridge with a loose lid (I use plastic ball canning lids) when you’re not conducting experiments, and then feed once a week to keep it in good health.

6) Taste and smell your tibicos regularly. Every culture is different. Get to know yours and how quickly it ferments while in storage – in and out of the fridge.


Practice different combinations with your water kefir. You can simply purchase a natural fruit juice (no additives or preservatives) at the store, add your grains, and then adjust the sweetness with sugars for your grains to eat through.

If you have any questions, you can also send an e-mail: tara@fermentationonwheels.com.

Happy fermenting,