Versatility and Flavour

Tibicos (water Kefir) is so versatile that once it’s fermented, it can be flavoured in so many ways by fermenting it a second time without the culture!

Second Fermenting Tibicos

Once a batch of tibicos (water kefir) has been brewed and the Scoby removed (strained), the plain ferment can be second fermented by adding in an additional sugar source and flavouring it with fruits, herbs and spices. The process takes about 12-24 hours on the bench before it is then transferred for storage to the fridge. You could also just drink it straight away or freeze it as ice cubes or ice blocks.

Flavouring tibicos is easy, fun and creative. I tend to add about 1/3 of the volume in juice as the sugar source, so for a 750ml bottle of water kefir, I add 250ml of juice such as apple, blood orange or berry juice. To this I can then add spices such as vanilla, cinnamon or cloves.

When second fermenting tibicos (water kefir), you can add fresh or frozen fruit such as lemon and ginger or any of the berries. It is however worth noting that the tibicos will drain the colour from the berries so you may prefer to remove them after 24 hours and add fresh ones when serving. They really do give their all to the ferment in terms of flavour and colour! I really like the berry tibicos for this as they look beautiful and taste great.

If you have access to dried fruits when the fresh alternative is out of season you will have to ensure they are organic and sulphur free. Dried fruits will rehydrate which means you will also need to make sure you can remove them from your bottle otherwise you’ll lose your bottle to the expanded fruit! This is not a nice option when the bottles are favourites.

I currently have second ferments on the bench of:

·       Fresh blueberry & sliced vanilla pod

·       Apple juice, cinnamon and cloves

·       Fresh pineapple chunks and sliced vanilla pod

·       Pineapple sage leaves and its red flowers

·       Fresh basil and cucumber slices

There’s popping and there’s exploding

Tibicos (water kefir) has such an amazing potential to flavour and colour as a probiotic drink so that it visually pops even before you taste it. It appeals to your eyes before your tongue gets to taste it or your gut receives its beneficial bacteria.

The caution comes in that by adding an additional sugar source for the bacteria to consume and putting it in a capped bottle, all the gas that the bacteria produces can become explosive.

I tried to demonstrate this in a recent class but, as I had been so cautious in the preparation there was a mere fizz when I opened it. Not a bad thing in a class but also not the demonstration I was looking for!

In a previous class I patiently burped a strawberry and pomegranate tibicos while discussing second ferments but it was so gassy that I put it in the too hard basket for the class demonstration. One of the students took up the challenge and even though it took several minutes to release the gas he did not release any of the tibicos (water kefir). A fantastic demonstration! It seriously can gush out that fast and that ferociously that you will lose most, if not all of it.

It can become so gassy if:

· you have added a high concentrate of sugar, such as in adding grapes or grape juice to the fermented tibicos

· you have left it for a long time since you last burped it  

· it has sat at a warmer temperature out of refrigeration so has fermented faster than anticipated

· there is little room in the bottle for the accumulating gas to occupy.

In all cases please focus when opening tibicos (water kefir) and ensure you can recap it if it is obviously going to escape from the bottle in the next second or two. I have marks on the ceiling in my kitchen where I casually went to burp a tibicos before my morning cup of tea, which is code for, before I was fully awake, and it just flew out all over me, the windows, the bench, the floor and the ceiling. I was then fully awake! It took ages to clean up, let alone explain to my husband why the tea took so long to make……haha. He didn’t notice the ceiling for weeks….but he did notice the stains eventually!!

What….Explode!

The point is that second fermenting your tibicos (water kefir) is a great way to enjoy it but it will demand your respect. You are working with a live culture that is very responsive. I’ve had it escape from the bottle, others have had their bottles explode.

To avoid any explosions you can:

·       use plastic bottles to store your tibicos

·       leave plenty of room at the top, so only half fill a bottle

·       burp them regularly

·       refrigerate

·       add less of a sugar source to the  second ferment

·       let the gas continually escape by not capping the vessel tight

·       learn from the mistakes of others

Please don’t be put off tibicos (water kefir) by these cautions. It is a great probiotic drink with worthwhile health benefits as I said in my earlier blog but I don’t want to hear afterwards that you were unaware of this side of its potential. 

Potential…..yes there is still more

Second fermented tibicos (water kefir) can be used fresh in slushies and smoothies, or frozen into ice cubes or ice blocks and it can even be added to blends of fruits or vegetables that are then dehydrated into fruit straps or vegetable biscuits. It really is very versatile!

It’s great for our Aussie summer entertaining as tibicos rehydrates and refreshes at the same time as it delivers beneficial bugs to your gut.

But as with all good celebrations…more does not necessarily mean better. Over indulgence with tibicos may have impacts so, as always, start with small amounts and mix it up a bit with other ferments and loads of truly nutritious whole foods!

Enjoy

……. it any way you like and have fun!

So, what flavours and combinations will you create from yours?

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