This is for you, Clee; Thanks for the push to get busy over here again. :) And thanks go out to all my followers for hanging in there while I've all but abandoned this page. A big Hello! goes out to all those who joined since my last post! :)
I wasn't raised on soda, barely knew what it was. It wasn't until my thirties that I started in on it, and became addicted (at the time it was Barq's Root Beer). Eventually it became evident that I didn't need all that caffeine and sugar, so I followed conventional "wisdom", and started buying diet soda. (Ick!)
Then, I figured out my body *really* does *not* like artificial sweeteners! :(
A couple years ago, I discovered Tibicos, aka "water kefir" (pronounced ke-FEAR; first half as in kettle, second half as in afraid, with emphasis on the second syllable.)
These little critters are sooo cool; fun to watch brewing, and a great replacement for sugary soda. They are a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) somewhat like the kombucha that's all the rage these days.
They are really easy to do. Simply mix the tibicos crystals with water and sugar (yes, sugar. But don't worry, the tibicos eat most of that to make the brew) on a 1:1:1 ratio (well, sort of...)
One tablespoon tibicos, one tablespoon sugar, one cup water (chlorine free).
Once you source your crystals, you typically will get enough to start out with a quart. But don't use a quart jar; you need some room for the brew to off-gas. Unlike kombucha, this brew is done with a lid on.
I use a half gallon jar, filled with spring water to the half point. Add in 4 tablespoons of muscovado, and my water kefir (tibicos) grains. Four tablespoons will be good for that amount of sugar water, but they will grow! Once you have more than 6 tablespoons, it's a good idea to take some out. (You can dry them for later, or pass them on to a friend.)
Cover & let it sit, for 1-3 days, depending on the temperature, and your personal taste. When my house is less that 70* I like to let it go 3 days. The longer you go, the less sugar is left (and the more tart the taste!) But, don't let it go too long, the tibicos need to eat! On warmer days it only takes a day. Taste as you go, and find out what you like.
When you deem it ready, filter out the crystals and start a new batch with them (this is an ongoing project! But you can store them in the fridge for a few days in the sugar water if you need a break. They will consume the sugar slower that way, and buy you some time.)
The filtered out liquid can be consumed as is, but I prefer to give it some flavor by second fermenting it with juice.
So, into the half gallon jar (filled half way with finished water kefir) add in four cups of whatever juice you want for flavor. Be sure it is free of any additives that could kill the brew though! Organic is best.
My fave is two cups grape juice & two cups apple juice. All apple works well too. You are only limited by what you can find (or juice yourself). Strawberry nectar (Bionature) works well, as does pear. Just be sure you are getting pure juice. Don't want to kill your brew!
Then let it sit for another day or two, at room temp, until as bubbly as you like. Then pop it in fridge, to slow down the ferment. It's ready to consume at this point.
You can put it in individual serve bottles for the second ferment, but due to pressure buildup, sometimes they will break! I find canning jars work best, as the lids let some of the gas escape. (As an aside: the lids that come with canning jars contain BPA. I use Tattler lids.)
I've also had great results with adding in honey, water, and lime for the second ferment, instead of juice. (Roughly four cups water, 2-4 tablespoons raw honey, and the juice of one or more limes. All to taste, bearing in mind some of the sugars will be consumed by the the beneficial bacteria in the finished brew) Cherry lime is fantastic! (1-2 cups cherry juice in place of the same amount of water.)
For those of you following an all raw diet, fresh juiced will work just fine. Just be sure to only use it in second ferment. If used in the initial brew (with the water kefir crystals) little bits of the pulp will get incorporated into the critters, never to come out again! Same goes for putting dried fruit into the brew. Works for flavor, also feeds the crystals and can help them grow faster, but sometimes little bits get trapped! It doesn't really *seem* to be problematic, but a bit unsightly.
I've seen folks recommend using egg shell. I really didn't see it was all that helpful. Muscovado has minerals in it, so that is feeding the critters' needs. But even when I used evaporated cane, it still worked fine without the shell.
Pictures will come eventually... really need to come up with an easier way to get those uploaded. :^P