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Kefir Mini-Guide

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#1 chunkylard

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 12:28 AM

I've been seeing a lot more lately about kefir on this forum, which is great because I've been experimenting with kefir for a while now and have recently gotten back into the habit of fermenting foods.
Disclaimer: Take everything in this mini-guide with a grain of salt. This collection of information is gathered through my personal experiences with food fermentation and may not reflect everyone's experience and results.


What is Kefir?



Simply put, kefir is a liquid that has undergone anaerobic (without oxygen) bacterial fermentation. Kefir is often times synonymous with "milk kefir," although kefir also refers to the kefir grains themselves which can be used to make a variety of "kefir" drinks. These "kefirs" include liquids such as milk kefir, goat milk kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut water kefir, fruit juice kefir and kombucha (fermented tea.)

Kefir is a fermented food, but not all fermented food is called kefir. There are two primary types of kefir grains - dairy kefir grains and water kefir grains. The primary difference between these two is that dairy kefir grains are made up of a different matrix (colony) of bacteria than water kefir grains. Read on to get a bit more info as to the benefits of using either strain of grain.

You can probably purchase kefir grains from local dairy farmers in your area, but otherwise you can purchase them online. You can even use some probiotic supplements but these are less effective than getting high-quality kefir grains.


Why Ferment?



Fermenting foods is useful for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it has the ability to increase the bioavailability of nutrients (the amount of nutrients that you're able to actually absorb and utilize.)

This can turn an already healthy food into something with an added kick of nutritional value. Foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut are relatively healthy in their non-fermented forms, but fermenting makes it even better!

When you ferment a food, whether it's kefir or anything else, you are also lower the pH of a food by producing lactic acid (and sometimes acetic acid) thus making the drink more acidic and forming carbon dioxide. You will find that with kefir in particular, the drink will be slightly fizzy (like a soda) after it is fermented. This is not something to worry about - it means that the fermentation process is working properly. When the acidity of a food is lowered, the proteins contained within that food become easier to digest (the same process occurs when you marinate meat in vinegar, wine, lemon or lime.) In addition, alcohol (ethanol) is also created but the amount is extremely small and you don't have to worry about getting drunk off it (unless you want to in which case ferment it for a week and you'll get really cheap mock wine. Posted Image)

Fermentation reduces several less-than-redeeming traits of an otherwise healthy food. Primarily, fermenting food greatly decreases the amount of sugar in a food (natural or otherwise.) This is a benefit for obvious reasons, but a benefit that acne sufferers should pay particular attention to.

There is also some body of evidence that fermentation is capable of reducing phytates/phytic acid content in food. These nasty little things are found in bind to minerals in our food and bodies and make them unavailable for absorption. This is one of the reasons why whole grain bread is nutritionally useless - it has a high phytic acid which makes the vitamins and minerals contained within pass right through us during digestion. Fermentation can reduce phytates in food and thus lets us absorb more of the minerals within said food. This doesn't just include dairy products, but grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables as well.

Finally, fermented food of any kind is a potent source of probiotics - however, your probiotic boost will only be as good as your kefir grains. Ideally, you want grains that contain MULTIPLE strains of bacteria, because there are many sellers out there that sell grains with only one or two species of bacteria. Less is not more in this case, you want variety. Different strains of bacteria occupy different areas of your intestinal tract and these beneficial bacteria are responsible for nutrition absorption, assimilation and producing many anti-inflammatory compounds.

Dairy Grains vs. Water Grains



Dairy Grains:
-Thrive on lactose (sugar found in dairy.)
-Are also able to utilize sucrose, glucose and fructose as food.
-Different bacterial species than water kefir grains (although some strains overlap)
-Ferments best at room temperature.

Water Grains:
-Sometimes called tibi or tibiscos, or simply water kefir grains.
-Thrive on sucrose and fructose.
-Ferments best at slightly above room temperature.
-Are also able to utilize glucose and lactose as food.
-Different bacterial species than dairy grains (although some strains overlap)

As you can see, it doesn't particularly matter which type of kefir grain you use because I guarantee you it will work either way but if you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, it may be better to get a specific strain.

You can use fruit juice or coconut water with dairy kefir grains or milk with water kefir grains and it will work, albeit not as effectively.

You want to avoid using pasteurized milk if you're going to use that as your liquid medium to make kefir. In addition, it's better to use raw goat's milk rather than cow's milk. If you can't find unpasteurized raw milk where you are, you're probably better off just making coconut water or coconut milk kefir.





Kefir Fermenting Methods:



Materials you will need:
-Large jar with a lid, ideally you want it to be glass and not plastic and you want the lid to be glass as well. As long as it's not metal, you can use it but glass is ideal.
-Non-metal strainer Posted Image (many people find that metal from spoons or strainers can negatively affect the kefir grains. I use a plastic strainer) or cheesecloth. [Optional but makes life much easier] If you don't have a cheesecloth or strainer, cut up an old t-shirt into 12 inch by 12 inch pieces.
-STERILIZE ALL EQUIPMENT. Rinse the jar and then place it in boiling water for a minute or so.
-Wooden spoon to stir.

Now, onto the actual kefir making process.

1.) Take your liquid medium and place it in the jar.

2.) Add your kefir grains/probiotic. I like to use about 5 half-inch size grains per 1 cup of liquid. You can add more or less to alter the taste and rate of fermentation. The more you add, the quicker fermentation will occur and the more tangy and sour the final product will be.

3.) Stir in the grains well. Make sure they're spread out within the liquid rather than just sitting on the top or sinking to the bottom.

4.) This is optional, but you may add in a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar. This creates a better "atmosphere" for the bacteria in which to live and prosper. I take this extra step with my grains and they seem to do quite well.

5.) Cover the jar with the lid tightly. Some people leave their kefir lightly covered or not covered at all, which I would not recommend because it's been my experience that kefir grains prefer anaerobic fermentation in an oxygen-lacking environment rather than an open system. It should work either way but it will be faster if you close the jar.

6.) Place it in a dark, but slightly warm area. You can even place it outside under a box or something. Cupboards/pantries which are being hit by sunlight are good spots as well.

7.) Allow 24-48 hours for fermentation to occur. You may leave it in even longer if you wish but by this time most of the sugar will have been digested and fermented by the bacteria.

8.) Strain the kefir grains through the plastic strainer. The slightly syrupy liquid that runs through is the kefir and will contain some of the kefir bacteria as well.

9.) Store the remaining kefir grains and allow them to multiply so you can reuse them.

10.) Drink up! Posted Image


Another method is the "Drip Method." It's also called the Straw Method sometimes. This method is slightly more complicated but can sometimes ensure a higher quality product if you do it right. The benefit of this method is that you can be sure the product is about as completely fermented as it's going to get.

The only difference with the drip method is that you need a straw or tube of some sort and that this method will only work with a plastic jar.

Instead of adding in the probiotics/grains before you close the jar, in the drip method what you do is:

1.) Fill the plastic jar with the liquid which you will make into kefir.

2.) Close the jar.

3.) Cut a small hole in the top of the plastic jar and stick a straw through to form an airtight seal around the hole. Make sure the straw not touching the very bottom of the jar but is hovering about 2cm from the bottom. Angle the straw on a slight diagonal.

4.) Squeeze your kefir grains into the straw. As many as will fit.

5.) Plug the top of the straw with a piece of paper towel or tissue and go about your business. Make sure the straw is resting diagonally.

6.) Every 6 or so hours, wiggle the straw around a bit. Keep the straw diagonal.

7.) After 24-48 hours, all of the kefir grains should have traveled INTO the liquid and there should not be any remaining in the straw. If there are still any remaining, you should leave it for another couple of hours until it's gone.

8.) Once all the kefir grains are inside the liquid, stir the kefir with the straw still inside and plug it back up once again. Wait another hour or so before removing the lid and straining the kefir grains out.






Is Fermenting Dangerous?



Not unless you introduce some sort of external pathogen into the mix (which is another benefit of keeping your kefir in a closed system such as a sterilized jar, which reduces the risk of contamination with anything unwanted.) You'll know your kefir is done fermenting when it tastes right. It should taste slightly tangy, slightly sour and a bit bubbly. Almost like really weak champagne, although if you start to get an alcohol buzz from it, you probably let it ferment too long.

In addition, if you don't want to save your kefir grains and let them multiply for whatever reason (waste of money in my opinion, but they're your grains) yes, you can eat the grains themselves as well. They taste sort of like very soft, soggy and sour spaghetti.


Storing the Grains



When you're done fermenting, store the grains in the refrigerator if you're not going to be fermenting for extended periods of time (more than 1 week.) Otherwise, leaving them in a dark cupboard or pantry in a jar will suffice. The cold will usually deactivate the bacteria and they will go into a hibernation of sorts, but when you use them again, they wake right up and work the same with no visible damage to their effectiveness.

I would also recommend that if you're planning to leave them alone, you add some fruit juice or any other sugar-containing solution just so they have something to feed off of in the meanwhile. (If you're not using dairy kefir grains, I would recommend just using sugar+water.) It's better to keep them slightly damp, even if that means just adding a small amount of water to them. Bacteria in general tend to thrive in moist environments rather than dry environments.

If you follow these steps, you will be able to use you kefir grains until the day you die.
Hopefully this helps some of you who have been asking questions or wondering how to make kefir and encourages those of you who have been playing around with the idea.

Easy Recipes and Things to Ferment


Ferment everything. When I first received my grains, I thought I'd spend all day cleaning countless jars of kefir but in reality I was having trouble finding interesting things to ferment that provided variety.

"Sauerkraut" Applesauce

-1 medium size apple.

-1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

-1 12-16 oz glass jar. (I'd recommend a tall thin glass jar rather than a mason jar. You can even use a tall glass.)

-Kefir grains.


1. Remove the apple core and dice the apple into small chunks or put it in a food processor/blender.

2. Once you have your apples sauced, stir in the cinnamon.

3. Add a few kefir grains into the bottom of the glass jar.

4. Add about 1/3 (~4 oz) of the applesauce.

5. Add more kefir grains in the "middle" of the jar at about the 1/3rd mark.

6. Add another 1/3 of applesauce.

7. A few kefir grains on top. Push them slightly into the applesauce.

8. Ferment for at least 72 hours.


Ketchup

-4 medium tomatoes.

-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper/paprika

-1 teaspoon ginger

-1 teaspoon sea salt.

-12oz glass jar.


1. Cut open your tomatoes and remove the seeds. Blend the tomatoes along with the spices and salt or use a food processor to puree it.

2. Strain the gooey tomato liquid and toss it out or use it to cook something else.

3. Using the same 1/3rd method as in the applesauce, mix your kefir grains and tomatoes in the jar.

4. Ferment for at least 48 hours.


Supposedly this makes digesting nightshades easier but I think it also tastes better than regular ketchup.


Green Tea Kombucha

-2 green tea teabags.

-16 oz. glass jar.

-2 Tablespoon honey or

-1 cup of fresh fruit juice. Strain the pulp out or use a juicer or

- 1 cup of coconut water.

-1 teaspoon rosemary

-Kombucha-specific grains are best, but you can use dairy or water kefir grains as well.


1. Heat 3/4 cups of water in your glass jar and seep the tea bags in it. Leave the tea in there.

2. Add sugar and kefir grains.

3. Ferment for 48 hours.



Pineapple "Wine"

-Whole pineapple slices in water/pineapple juice.

-1 teaspoon Oregano

-Any size glass jar.


Ferment for 48 hours.


Yes, you can use canned pineapples. Just try to find one without any unnecessary stuff added to it.


Coconut Milkshake Kefir

-Coconut milk, although you could use coconut water too.

-Tablespoon of whey.

-Glass jar with a lid

-Optional: Tablespoon of raw chocolate cacao powder.


Stir well and ferment for 24 hours.

After a few hours, be sure to stir or shake the kefir as you will find that the fat in the coconut milk fat and water will separate. The fat will float to the top and the kefir grains will be left at the bottom. You want to ensure even fermentation so stir it if it settles.


Add 2 drops liquid stevia or half a teaspoon of stevia powder. You can even put this in the fridge until it becomes slightly solid and have an ice-cream like treat.


You can make your own whey at home or purchase lactose-free whey protein from grass-fed cows.

I wouldn't really recommend using whey protein powders for this but I've done it and it worked fine.


Whey concentrate > whey isolate > whey hydrolysate/hydrolyzed whey


"One-Step Kefir Drinks"
These require no particular special preparation apart from the kefir grains and a glass jar stored in an appropriate place. You leave it alone for 24 hours and you're pretty much done. As always, go by taste and not numbers. If you've fermented it for a day and it still tastes normal, ferment for another 12 hours.

-Fruit juices/smoothies
-Vegetable juices/smoothies.
-Sugar + water
-Milk kefir
-Coconut water kefir



Things I wouldn't recommend fermenting:

-Anything with high fructose corn syrup, fructose syrup, glucose syrup, agave nectar or xylitol as an added ingredient. I put a few kefir grains in agave just to see what would happen. They all died overnight. ,

-Anything that's already tangy, sour or astringent such as grape juice, blackcurrant juice, etc. It makes the kefir taste bad.


Edited by chunkylard, 28 March 2012 - 06:38 AM.


#2 Thehoper

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 08:52 AM

awesome post man. My grandma wanted to know more specifics on kefir, now I can just email this to her lol. I just had some more raw goat kefir in a smoothie, I drink 3-4 cups a day.

One thing I seen is how you cover the container completely avoiding air to get in when making the kefir. I always put plastic wrap over mine and poke holes with a toothpick. All the sources I've read on kefir say to allow some air, but what you say about restricting the oxygen is very interesting.

#3 chunkylard

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 12:16 PM

Thanks smile.gif
There seems to be a lot of confusion out there on the matter when it comes to the specifics like closing the lid/keeping it on or stirring it while it's fermenting/leaving it alone and whatnot. This method has worked for me for months and my grains are still going strong.

As for covering the top, when I leave a lid on, the kefir seems to be made faster (probably within 9 hours as opposed to the usual 12 or so) per cup. It's going to work either way but covering it speeds up the process. Regardless, you'll never have a vacuum in there because the second you put the lid on, you'll be trapping in the air that's already there. The only reason I would keep the lid on lightly is perhaps because one time I left it fermenting for a bit too long and when I took the lid off I got SPRAYED with kefir. The pressure in the jar built up and when the lid was released it sprayed me. tongue.gif

Edited by chunkylard, 03 September 2011 - 12:20 PM.


#4 Thehoper

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 01:56 PM

lmao! ah man that would be some great youtube sh*t. Thanks for the advice, I started my next batch of kefir a couple hours ago, and after I read this I put a lid on it and sealed it this time, will see the results!

#5 alternativista

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 07:16 PM

When you buy the grains do they tell you what probiotic strains are in them and what they do for you? In one of the older fermented food threads I've gathered info on various strains usually in yogurt and/or in supplements and what they help with like e coli, gut permeability, yeast infections etc. I know lifeway kefir has these strains but I think they are added.

Also have you seen such a thing as oat kefir? I recently came across instructions for oat yogurt.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium Breve protect you from e. coli.
L. Rhamnosus is supposed to be the most beneficial for Candida.

Bifidobacterium lactis can prevent damage to intestines from wheat

Lactobacillus paracasei assists in the growth of desirable bacteria

Bifdobacterium bifidum creates healthy natural intestinal flora, which aids in the synthesis of B vitamins.

More strains and info on this post on assorted fermented foods: http://www.acne.org/...d...&hl=ferment


Edited by alternativista, 08 September 2011 - 01:35 PM.


#6 chunkylard

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 09:29 PM

QUOTE (alternativista @ Sep 3 2011, 08:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When you buy the grains do they tell you what probiotic strains are in them and what they do for you? In one of the older fermented food threads I've gathered info on various strains usually in yogurt and/or in supplements and what they help with like e coli, gut permeability, yeast infections etc. I know lifeway kefir has these strains but I think they are added.

Also have you seen such a thing as oat kefir? I recently came across instructions for oat yogurt.


It really depends on the source but if I had to wager, even those that DO tell you all of the strains contained in the grain matrix unless they do some sort of spectrophometric analysis. I got mine in a small package and the ingredients label had the names of about 8 different bacteria strains with the amounts of each in CFU. I'm not sure if this is cost-effectiveness or what but I've never seen more than 8 listed, although it's very possible that some have more than 8 but the primary 8 are on the label. They don't really specify what each strain does but if I remember correctly, my packaging just had some generic statement on it like "intestinal bacteria are a health food suitable for anyone of any age and have been shown to x, y and z."

I'm 99% sure Mercola sells some kefir starter grains that list the different species as well. That's not where I got mine from though, I got mine from Whole Foods but this was a while ago and I don't remember the specific brand.

I saw a recipe for oat yogurt somewhere actually but I read on some forum that fermenting groats of any kind can form ethanol much quicker than other sugar-containing sources for one reason or another. Never actually seen it myself but you should be able to use regular old water kefir grains.

#7 maistro

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 06:06 AM

I'm very interested in making my own kefir since reading about it on here and few other sources. I would like an additional income of calcium but i do breakout from dairy so that's where the problem lies. I've just bought some long-life goat milk from the supermarket to test it as i'm not confident in rice and soy milk doing the job.

Would you say that i could make some good kefir with store bought goat milk? Obviously i'd like raw unpastureized grass fed but i'd say this is the next best thing. It's illegal to sell raw here anyway. I just want something to drink with my sandwiches or pastry pies!

#8 chunkylard

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 07:10 PM

You can definitely use goat's milk. It would probably taste a bit "lighter" than cow's milk kefir but there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to make kefir from it. Goat's milk in general is less problematic than cow's milk.

If you're looking for calcium, milk is not the way to go. Pasteurized milk of any kind is completely useless as a source of calcium. There's a million and one other foods where you can get calcium that's actually absorbed by the body.

#9 maistro

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 03:29 AM

I eat sardines and green vegetables. The only other source of calcium i've herd of is almonds but they break me out so my choices are really limited. I think dairy is useful in getting a bit of a boost, unpasteurized like i said would be ideal but unfortunately it's illegal to sell where i reside.

I guess the main benefit of using the goat milk i've bought with kefir would be improving my gut health which i do need and i read goat milk has properties which aid the gut so that's good to hear but i'm wary of it's affect on acne as it still is dairy so it will be very moderate, i'm hoping that if i mix it with the kefir it won't be much of a problem.

Thanks for this thread when i go to the store to purchase the grains i'll check back here on instructions.

#10 chunkylard

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 05:15 AM

Bump.

For anyone who wishes to get kefir starter cultures/grains, google the Kefir Lady. No credit card required. She sends you some instructions and tips as well if you're a first time buyer so your batch can be as potent as possible. She's also got several different cultures depending on what you plan to make your kefir with.

#11 Drifty

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 05:45 AM

Thank god for food traditions, we have at least 5 different brands of kefir in every store over here. Absolutely delicious stuff, cheap too.

#12 maistro

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 04:50 AM

*bump*

I was going to make some kefir tommorow, i am using these satchets http://www.naturesgo...sh-Yoghurt.html and raw cow milk.

Any comments? I believe grains are better but this is all i found for now, would it still do some good healthwise and hopefully not contribute to my acne if i know dairy does affect me?

#13 FaceValues

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 02:29 PM

When you say water grains/dairy grains do you mean using a dollop of whey or goat kefir in a jar of say, coconut water?

#14 spectacled_owl

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 06:45 PM

Just want to add some anecdotes as I've been making my own cows' milk kefir for a lil while now.

I got my grains from the kefir lady. She's awesome and sends you plenty of information and recipes. And my grains were really active right away.

The kefir lady uses goats' milk. I'm not sure if it is because of that, and/or the traveling dormant period the grains experience... but my first three batches of kefir tasted terrible. Like fermented vomit. Not how kefir should taste! I made a couple smoothies because I hated to waste it but man... it wasn't pleasant. By the fourth batch though, it was delicious. I did end up eating some of the grains though and used less than what I started out with. I didn't want to make a huge batch all at once and have it also taste like vomit. So anyway, the point here is that in the beginning your grains may have to adjust and you may also have to get your milk to grain ratios and ferment times/temps perfected.

Finally let me just say that kefir is awesome. Once your grains get going, you will have more kefir than you know what to do with. Eat or give away some grains when it gets out of hand. But having plenty of kefir to drink whenever I want it so great and makes me feel so good.

Everyone needs to make their own kefir. Do it. Right now!

#15 Likethesun

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 07:14 PM

I've been searching everywhere but would like some imput from you guys; is the medium (coconut milk probably, possibly cow's milk) i'd be using to make the kefir safe for an anti-candida diet, or will there be too much sugar left over after the process is complete? I'd really like to get more natural probiotic sources into my diet on top of using supplements.

#16 spectacled_owl

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 07:38 PM

Depends on how you ferment it. After 24 hours around 75 degrees, if it tastes pleasantly sour, there's probably no sugar left. I've never made coconut milk kefir though, but I imagine the ferment time and results are quite similar.

Another thing too, I don't know much about the candida diet, but it seems that kefir being full of beneficial bacteria would be a good thing.

#17 chunkylard

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 06:37 AM

Updated with some new info.

#18 BitterSweet098

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 10:09 AM

XX


Edited by BitterSweet098, 05 February 2013 - 09:21 PM.


#19 tim12

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 03:07 PM

Bump for a great topic!

I've been drinking kefir made with goat milk + heavy cream ( goat milk is pastured and mostly grass fed, same for the cream). I let it ferment for 48 hours at least, and I have to say; growing live kefir grains is one of the coolest things ever! I've made maybe 4 batches, and the amount of grains has easily quadrupled from the initial amount I got through an amazon seller.

I had some minor breakouts, but I seem to be adjusting well. I probably broke out because I started with a cup a day, because it's so delicious and I had poor self control, since I haven't had something this close to milk in a while :P

#20 dejaclairevoyant

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 03:30 PM

You only ferment your kefir for 12 hours? Wow... I've been doing mine for over 48 hours. When I did it 24 hours it still tasted sweet and my body can't tolerate even the slightest bit of sugar or I will break out horribly and have all sorts of problems. I've been making mine super strong. This is only my third batch and I haven't tried it on myself yet because I want to make sure I ferment it to the point there's no sugar left. I gave my first two batches to my boyfriend, but this one that I'm leaving for 2.5 days I'm going to try myself.

Edit-- I just read the part about how you keep the jar covered. See, everywhere I've read says to just cover it with something breathable like cheesecloth so that's what I've been doing. Maybe that's why I need to do mine for 3 days versus your 1 day?

Edited by dejaclairevoyant, 26 September 2012 - 03:33 PM.