Tag Archives: water kefir

Waning Moon Brew

4 Aug

Red Raspberry Leaf is traditionally known in the midwifery sphere as a uterine tonic herb.  Tonic herbs have the great effect of being generally good for you with minimal risk factors involved.  Uterine tonics are a great way to nourish the womb during pregnancy, and to give it strength for the act of childbirth.  Here’s a nice blog post about red raspberry leaf.  I started drinking raspberry leaf at the beginning of the year for menstrual cramps.  And, interestingly, my cramps this year have been significantly less severe:  except during the month of June when I was traveling and didn’t take my raspberry with me!  So, I think it’s working.  I was inspired to start drinking the infusion while reading Robin Rose Bennett’s book, “The Gift of Healing Herbs.”  She talks about drinking the tea after ovulation each month.  As my cycle has been corresponding pretty closely to the moon these days, it turns out that my raspberry leaf tea has become my waning moon brew.  The most basic infusion method looks like this:


Red Raspberry Leaf Infusion

Pour 1 Quart of Boiling hot water over 1 oz of raspberry leaf (about 1 c).  Let the brew steep for about 8 hours, or overnight.  Strain and consume.  Store unfinished infusion in the fridge.



red raspberry:  image from botanical.com

The taste of Raspberry Leaf infusion alone is quite astringent, so you may find that you want to reduce the amount of herb in your infusion.  The resulting brew will be less potent, of course, but if you drink more of it, you will still get the good stuff into you.  Another way to dilute the astringency of red raspberry leaf is to make it into a mixture.  Lately, I’ve been into mixing red raspberry leaf, nettles, and mugwort together, 1/3 cups of each in a quart infusion.  Nettles works kind of a like a general multivitamin tonic.  I drink this frequently anytime, anywhere.  Mugwort is a bitter herb, also, so you may or may not like this added to your brew for taste.  As Bennett, says, though, “mugwort moves energy in the uterus and can be especially helpful for women with clots.  Be aware, however, that it may increase the menstrual flow as it does this. (p. 317).”    So, use mugwort in your brew only if you find it helpful for your particular situation.

I often drink the straight infusion, or the infusion watered down, but sometimes a little extra oomph is fun.  Last month I discovered a delightful way to stir things up and make them into a probiotic ferment, by adding 1/3 infusion, 1/3 maple water, and 1/3 plain tibicos.  I bottled them together, and left them at room temp for a while so that the tibicos could process and ferments some of the sugars from the maple water and build up some bubbles.  Here is the recipe below:

Waning Moon Brew

1.  Prepare plain/ brown-sugar tibicos:

  • Fill a quart-sized jar with 1/4c of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of water kefir grains, and filtered water.  Mix well to dissolve the sugar. 
  • Cover with a cloth to prevent dust and flies from entering, and stir the mixture a couple times a day, for approximately two days, or until the brew is sour enough for your liking.  The longer you ferment, the less sweet it will be. 

2. Prepare your infusion:  

  • In another quart sized jar, put 1/3 cups each of dried nettle leaf, red raspberry leaf, and mugwort.  Pour boiling water over the herbs and let them infuse overnight, or about 8 hours.  Strain the herbs from the infusion, squeezing them well to extract all of their good stuff.

3.  Mix your plain tibicos, your herbal infusion, and 1 quart of either coconut water or maple water.

4.  Bottle the mixture into airtight bottles and leave at room temperature until they have built up some fizz.  BE CAREFUL not to leave them too long, or you can create a bomb!  See this post.  “Burping” your bottles periodically can help to prevent too much gas pressure build-up.

5.  Refrigerate your brew, and consume!




mugwort:  image from botanical.com

Dandelion-Burdock Soda: British and Beautiful.

16 Jul

Recently my sister went on a trip to England, and she sent me this picture of this during her travels.

From my traveling sister in England.  (I've blurred out her student's face for privacy)

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve actually seen this soda in New York (yeah, we have everything here).  But, it’s not so common, and it is British in origin anyway.  Nevertheless, her picture and enthusiasm inspired me to try making some of my own dandelion-burdock soda.  I chose a roasted dandelion root, which gives the brew a nice roasted, nutty flavor.  The burdock adds a pleasant sweetness to the drink.  The combination of dandelion and burdock is great therapeutically, as well.  As my friend Maya commented “double ammo for your liver!” Read my article on burdock here, and dandelion here. For my first batch, I went for simplicity and didn’t bother to add any ginger, although I might play with this same soda the next time I make a ginger bug.

Here is how I made my Dandelion-Burdock soda, with tibicos aka water kefir.  Over fourth of July weekend I brought a bottle up to New England for a taste-test from my newly returned sister.  She liked my version better than the commercial brew, which she says was much sweeter and less herbal.

Dandelion-Burdock Soda

In a herb pot or saucepan, combine:

1 and 1/2 Tbsp roasted dandelion root

1 and 1/2 Tbsp burdock root

1 quart of filtered water.  

Bring the herbs and water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.


This is my handy herb pot from chinatown: the best $7 investment I’ve made in a long time! The clay pot keeps my brew hot for longer during steeping time. Any saucepan will do, though.

Turn off the heat and allow them to steep for an additional half hour. Filter your herbs as you put the tea into a 2 quart container.


The leftover “wort” (herbs) after steeping and straining.

Add an additional:

1 quart of water

1/3 cups birch syrup*

1/3 cups sucanot*

Mix your ingredients well, and test the temperature of the liquid.   It can be warm but should not be painful to the touch before you add your culture, or you will burn the tibicos– it is alive, after all!  They traditionally call this temperature “blood warm.”


1/2 cup of tibicos grains.

Give the whole thing a hearty stir, and cover it with a breathable lid, like a cloth napkin or a paper towel, and secure the towel with rubber bands to keep flies out. Taste test your brew the next day to see if it is done.  If it is too sweet for your taste, leave it another 12 hours and test again.   Fermentation could take up to 48 hours, depending on your taste and the ambient temperature.  Each time you check on it, give the tibicos a stir.  When the brew is sour enough for your taste, bottle it, and put it in the refrigerator.


The brew, wedged between my kombucha an djun ferments, on my fermentation shelf. Fermentation time for tibicos is much shorter, though!

You may want to leave the bottled brew at room temperature for a few hours to build up some fizz, but beware of leaving it too long.  Tibicos has exploded in my refrigerator, (see my cherry explosion article).  If in doubt, it’s a good practice to “burp” your container after leaving it for this secondary fermentation.  I recently have taken to using old wine bottles for my secondary fermentation, as opposed to Grolsch bottles.  If the pressure in the wine bottle builds up too much, the cork will pop out and you will get a mess, but you avoid the danger of exploding broken glass!


*These are the sweeteners that I happened to use:  Sucanot also goes by the brand name rapadura, or evaporated cane syrup.  It’s just unrefined sugar.  You can find it at most health food stores.  Birch syrup is particularly pricey and hard to come by, so this can be easily replaced with maple syrup or additional sucanot.  I bought some online to try out making birch beer over a year ago, and I’ve had the leftovers sitting in the fridge ever since.  Usually, I deem it too precious to use for any old occasion.  I finally got over that and decided to use it up!


There is the tibicos and the birch syrup, mid-process.

Cherry Explosion (and a new recipe)!

2 Jun

English: explosion symbol

It’s been a rough couple of days.  The heat in New York is oppressive, and to top things off, our refrigerator decided to give out yesterday afternoon.

Recently, I made a batch of cherry soda with tibicos (water kefir).  I left the bottled brew out only a few hours for the secondary ferment, but it was enough to create TONS of fizz!  I think this is due to the heat.  The first  bottle I opened up in the sink spewed all over the sink area before I could hold the bottle cap down to contain the fizz, and I lost 3/4 of the bottle all over the place.

Grolsch:  My bottle of choice, up till now.

Since then, I have had better luck opening bottles:  I place the bottle in a bowl, cup my hand  the cap and push down hard so that when the fizz bubbles out, it deflects off my clean hand and bubbles down the sides of the bottle into the bowl.

Then, the fridge died.  We are currently waiting for a new relay switch to arrive in the mail.   In the meantime, our refrigerator is packed with ice from the bodega to preserve our foodstuff.  I learned the hard way that it hasn’t been quite cool enough for my tibicos:  this morning, from a room away, we heard a “bang!” from inside the refrigerator.  I opened the door to find that not only had my cherry soda escaped, but it went the crazy way:  breaking the glass bottle into tons of little shards.  Not fun to clean up, but also scary!  Someone could have gotten hit in the face with that bomb!  I posted the incident to my Facebook fermentation forum, and one fellow fermenter recommended always leaving at least 2 inches of space at the top of the bottle.  She said the same thing  happened to one of her bottles before she started leaving the extra space.  I used to just leave one inch… not anymore!  I may even consider switching to plastic bottles, although the thought hurts me so….


Before all of this this bad excitement, I have slowly adapted my original cherry soda recipe into something even more fabulous.  The first ferment is the the same as the original recipe.  When I bottle it, I add to a single Grolsch bottle (12 oz bottle):

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp cherry concentrate

1 tsp wild cherry bark

Let the bottled brew sit out at room temperature for a little bit (maybe not too long at all if it’s hot in your kitchen!) to build up some bubbles and to create a secondary ferment.  You can  “burp” the bottle during this second ferment, to allow some of the CO2 buildup to escape.  You could also just put the bottle with the flavorings straight in the refrigerator.  Cooler temperatures significantly slow fermentation but do not completely stop the process.  After a couple of days, the cherry bark should be sufficiently infused into your brew.  Strain the bark out of your soda when you pour it.

Prunus serotina (Wild Cherry)

leaves of the wild cherry, photo credit Wikipedia

About Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina):  

Wild cherry bark should be stored in an airtight container away from light.  It is most commonly used to ease coughs, although it treats the cough symptom, not the healing of infection.  It is useful along with other herbs to control asthma.  Wild cherry bark is also useful as a digestive bitter, and a cold infusion of the bark can be used as a wash for eye inflammation.  (Thanks to David Hoffman’s Holistic Herbal for this information)

Blueberry Brew

22 Sep

Violet Beauregarde


Fall is settling in, and the equinox snuck up on me and was gone before I barely noticed it.  That means that temperatures have been a little lower lately.  Hallelujah!  For tibicos, that means that the fizz is settling down.  My last few batches have required a little bit more time in their secondary fermentation to build up the same amount of bubbles, now that my kitchen is not 100 degrees!

Meanwhile, I’ve developed a soda hommage to Sunday morning blueberry pancakes.  Blueberry Brew: sweetened with maple syrup.  Mmmm!  If you’ve been following my recipes, this one might look familiar to you, because it’s the same form I’ve been following for any simple tibicos fruit ferment:

Combine in a glass jar:

4 c water

1 generous handful of  dried blueberries

1/4 c maple syrup. 

1/4c tibicos (water kefir) grains

Mix. Cover your jar with a towel so the culture can breathe, but so flies can’t get in.  Let it sit for about two days, stirring a couple times a day if you think of it.   Warmer temps will make it ferment faster:  it’s ready when the taste is sour enough for you.  The brew should bubble when you stir.   If it tastes ready to you, bottle it in an airtight bottle.  Leave the bottle at room temperature for a day or so:  bottling will allow the brew to build up bubbles.  If  you keep it bottled for too long at room temp, beware of explosions!

Here’s the Blueberry Brew. What a satisfying color!


Confetti SCOBY

5 Aug

I recently decided to use beets and sugar in a ferment with my tibicos grains. The resulting drink tastes just like beet kvass, so I wasn’t all that excited about it, but the fun part is that my grains got dyed a wild purple-red color! Here’s a shot of my recently beet-dyed tibicos mixed in with the rest:


Yogis drinking: Goji Beer

2 Aug

The yogi who drinks goji beer:  if you were questioning whether or not I am a certified hippie, you may have found your answer in this post…. anyway, the following youtube is a homage, if you can call it that, to yogis and goji berries.  The drink I’ve made is nearly identical to my cherry soda recipe.

Combine in a glass jar:

4 c water

1 generous handful of goji berries

1/4 c sucanot or rapadura. 

1/4c tibicos (water kefir) grains

Mix. Cover your jar with a towel so the culture can breathe, but so flies can’t get in.  Let it sit for about two days, stirring a couple times a day if you think of it.   Warmer temps will make it ferment faster.  The brew will bubble vigorously when you stir.  When you suspect it is ready, maybe even after day 1, taste it.  If it’s too sweet, let it go longer.  If it tastes good to you, bottle it in an airtight bottle.  Leave the bottle at room temperature for a day or so: less if it’s really hot in your fermentation place, like it is in my kitchen!  Bottling will allow the brew to build up bubbles.

Goji beer consumer

Goji Beer fanatic.  Feel the fizz!

If too many bubbles build, you will have a big explosion when you open it, and you will lose most of your brew, not to mention creating a grand mess in your kitchen.  At the talk I went to on Tuesday, Sandor Katz had a great suggestion:  if you bottle it in plastic, you can tell when the brew is ready because the bottle will be firm.  My only qualm is that the paranoid health fanatic in me likes to err away from plastics:  especially when I’m working with reactive fermentations.  Kefir will do a number on metal, so why wouldn’t there be plastic chemicals leaking into my drink…?  The plastic bottling is a good call to start with if you feel unsure how long to let the bottles sit, and certainly if you start to make larger batches, you could put a little bit into a plastic bottle and the rest into glass.

Beer?  So, is it alcoholic?

It can be alcoholic.  I’ve made some unexpectedly boozy kefirs lately.  According to Katz (Yeah, him again.  Keep in mind that talk was just two days ago.), if you let it ferment without exposure to air, like once you’ve bottled the stuff, then it will go into an anaerobic fermentation, which creates alcohol.  If the culture can breathe a lot, it should be less alcoholic.  Based on his premise, perhaps stirring more could help create a less boozy brew.  I’ve been pretty lazy about stirring.  I have a feeling that the high heats in my un-airconditioned apartment cause a more rapid fermentation process which might also lend to the alcoholic content of my stuff lately: I’ve only been bottling it for an afternoon and, whew!   I can feel the fizz.

More Root Beer: an improvement on a theme.

19 Jul

A while ago, I posted a recipe for root beer that contains licorice and sassafras.  This one is decent and nice if you want to keep your ingredients to a minimum, but I was a little unhappy with the licorice overpowering the brew.  Here is my new improved recipe, which calls on a third herb:  sarsaparilla.

Simmer for 20 minutes:

4 c of water

2T dried sassafras root

1t dried licorice root 

2 t dried sarsaparilla root

Let this mixture steep and cool off for about 20 minutes more, then strain it into a 2 quart or slightly larger jar.  Add:

1/3 c evaporated cane syrup (sucanot or rapadura) 

1/3 c maple syrup

4 more cups water

Test the temp.  You should be able to touch the water comfortably– if it’s too hot you will kill your tibicos!  Traditionally they talk about the brew being blood warm or milk-warm.  Add:

1/2 c water kefir grains

Cover your jar with a towel to allow air to come in and flies to stay out.  Leave it out of the way for 2 days, stirring occasionally if you remember.  After two days, taste the brew to make sure it’s fermented enough to your liking.  If you want, leave it another day.  When it tastes ready, bottle it.  Leave the sealed bottles out at room temperature for a day or so, then drink or store in the fridge.  Don’t leave them at room temp too long or they will explode with fizz when you open them!


Cherry Soda

12 Jul

On the 4th of July my boyfriend and I went to a family party where they were serving up a  bottles of Boylan’s soda.  Mike was gobbling up the cherry sodas.  I tried one, and it was good but a bit too sweet for my taste:  so the challenge began.  Make my own!  Looking at their recipe description, they add wild cherry bark and bourbon vanilla flavoring to their sodas.  I started a more basic cherry soda recipe last night, not including any vanilla or cherry bark, yet.  Here is a riff on the recipe from my tibicos post.


4 cups water

1/4 cup of tibicos (water kefir) grains

a generous handful of dried cherries

1/4 cup of white sugar.  

Mix, let sit covered with a cloth or towel for about 48 hours, or until it is fermented to your taste.  Stir every once in a while if you think about it.  When it tastes ready, bottle it.  Let sit in the bottle unrefrigerated for up to a day to allow fizz to build.

I put together the recipe last night, and when I tried it this morning, delicious things were happening!  I’ll give the update on the finished project after it’s bottled….

Root Beer with Moxie: recipe updated on 6/9/12

14 May

Happy post-Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  One of  my most poignant memories of Mother’s Day is the year when my father came home from a mysterious morning mission with a new puppy.  He climbed up the stairs, puppy in arms, and my mom woke up to a soft, slobbery pink tongue on her cheek.  This was a dog with a lot of spunk right from the get-go, so we named her Moxie.

Moxie is also a soda that originates from Maine– I don’t know of anywhere beyond New England where you can find it.

Moxie Soda gets it’s characteristic flavoring from gentian root.

In my quest to find awesome combinations of root beer, I decided to experiment with gentian root, the primary flavor of Moxie.  The following recipe creates a satisfyingly bittersweet/sour brew


4 c water

1 tsp gentian root

1 tsp licorice root

1 tsp sarsaparilla root 

2 T sassafras root

The roots in water, ready to be simmered

in a medium saucepan.  Simmer the combination for 20 minutes, and then allow it to steep for another half hour.  Strain the roots out and pour the resulting tea into a 2 quart sized jar.  Add:

1/3 c maple syrup

1/3 c sucanot (evaporated cane syrup).

4 c water at room temperature.  

Make sure that the resulting blend is cool enough that you can touch it comfortably, ala “blood warm.” so that you don’t kill your culture.  When it is cool enough, add:

1/2 c water kefir grains.

Stir, and cover with a cloth so that the mixture can breathe, but flies can’t get in.  Allow to sit for 2 days, stirring a couple times a day if you remember.  Before this brew is fully fermented, it is almost repulsively bitter, but I find it delicious when finished.  My boyfriend thinks it is still too bitter now.  If this is the case for you, play with reducing the amount of gentian root and increasing the amount of licorice for sweetness or dandelion for a more neutral taste.   After two days, bottle the mixture and let it build up pressure in the bottles for another day.  Don’t let it build up too much fizz, or you will lose half your drink when you open the bottles!  Then, store in the fridge until you are ready to drink.

Right after bottling: I poured the brew into two bottles and reserved a little to consume right away. The bottles sat out another day to build up more bubbles.

About Gentian Root (Gentiana lutea):

The following information is sourced from the New Holisitic Herbal by David Hoffman, which was recommended to me by the girl at Flower Power, where I bought my gentian root and my sarsaparilla.

Gentian Root,is a bitter which, like all bitters, stimulates the appetite and digestion via a stimulation of digestive juices, including saliva (sialagogue), gastric juices, and bile (cholagogue).  It is helpful for balancing a sluggish digestive system and lack of appetite.  Sluggish digestion symptoms that gentian is useful for include dyspepsia and flatulence.

Gentian flower.

About Sarsaparilla (Smilax officinalis):  

Sarsaparilla is often used as a general tonic to improve overall function in the body.  It is indicated for skin irritation, particularly psoriasis, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Sarsaparilla, image borrowed from foundinthefells.com

Root Beer, and how many times can you say “Sassafras”

4 May

Probably my favorite thing to make with water kefir, so far, is root beer.  It’s a simple twist on the basic kefir recipe ( see my “Tibicos!” post): it’s just made with an herbal tea instead of just plain water.  This recipe is adapted from Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast.  She uses birch syrup in her recipe.  I imagine birch syrup to have some kind of wintergreen-like taste to it, like when you scratch the bark of a black birch and smell the sap of it.  Unfortunately, birch syrup is impossible to come by on the East Coast as far as I’ve seen,  and it’s very expensive to order from Alaska.  I use maple instead.

The licorice taste tends to overpower the sassafras in the following recipe, so most recently I tried omitting the licorice and using  3 T sassafras.  The resulting sassafras beer is much less sweet, more tangy and bitter.  Also quite satisfying.  You might play with your own herbal ratio.  Also, check out latest root beer recipe, using sarsaparilla.

Simmer for 20 minutes:

4 c of water

2T dried sassafras root

1T dried licorice root.

Let this mixture cool to a “blood warm” temperature.  You should be able to touch the water comfortably– if it’s too hot you will kill your tibicos!  Strain out the herbs, put the tea you just made into a 2 quart jar, then add

1/3 c evaporated cane syrup (sucanot or rapadura) 

1/3 c maple syrup

4 cups water

1/2 c water kefir grains

Cover your jar with a towel to allow air to come in and flies to stay out.  Leave it out of the way for 2 days, stirring occasionally if you remember.  After two days, taste the brew to make sure it’s fermented enough to your liking.  If you want, leave it another day.  When it seems ready, bottle it.  Leave the sealed bottles out at room temperature for a day or so, then drink, or store in the fridge.  Don’t leave them at room temp too long or they will explode with fizz when you open them!

About Sassafras:

Sassafras is a common woodland deciduous shrub.  It grew all over in Rhode Island, where I grew up, and it’s very easy to distinguish by it’s leaves with three fingers.  I used to love to pick a leaf and smell it while on my daily hikes in the woods when I was a kid.  The sap of the leaves has a fresh, tangy smell that apparently acts as a natural insect repellent to protect the plant.

Today I looked it up in Medicinal And Other Uses of North American Plants by Charlotte Erichsen-Brown.  The book looks at herbalism as sited throughout history.  According to this source, sassafras also goes by the names:  saxafras, saloop, ague tree, cinnamon-wood, and smelling tree.  It was use by the Iroquois as a tonic– as a blood purifier, to heal venereal diseases, for rheumatism, after childbirth, and as a diuretic. It’s also considered a particularly good herb to use for purification in the spring.

Leaves of the sassafras. I pilfered this picture from sassafrasgrove.com

Despite all this wonderfulness, you won’t see sassafras in the ingredient list of any root beer you buy.  It was banned from root beers and teas in 1960.  Why?  One component in the oil of the sassafras plant is safrole.  There was a cancer study done, and when as much as .5 to 1 percent of their food was safrole, rats developed liver cancer.  (Never mind that safrole is also present in cinnamon, black pepper, and nutmeg).  Safrole is chemically related to myristicine and asaraone and is suspected of being hallucinogenic in large doses.  Wikipedia has an interesting write up on the stuff.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safrole.  I imagine it might not be a great idea to drink sassafras essential oil or isolated safrole, but it’s interesting how a study on an isolated substance has come to demonize this one whole food that contains it.  It’s also interesting how a lab study curbed the popularity of sassafras, but we can still sell and eat Sweet and Low to our hearts’ content, so long as there is a label warning us that it could cause cancer.

In spite of the sassafras ban, it is still possible to buy the dried root at herbal stores.  I don’t know why that’s ok and putting it in a tea bag is not, but I won’t complain.  In Manhattan you can get it at Flower Power on East 9th street, Integral Yoga Natural Apothecary on West 13 st, and Dual Specialty store on 1st ave in the East Village.  I’m sure there are other places, too.

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