For the best fully comprehensive FAQs on Water Kefir click here for the Yemoos.com FAQs page
Otherwise, the most common questions will probably be found below:
Q: Why are you calling Water Kefir ‘Tibicos’?
A: Tibicos is a more correct term. The SCOBY culture is native to Mexico as it is found naturally occurring on the pads of the Opuntia (prickly pear) cactus there. Tibi is the name the people of Central America have given the culture and Tibicos is the name of the drink made from them. Unfortunately Tibicos is currently more commonly known as Water Kefir, based on the Turkish term ‘Kefir’ which refers to a culture that grows only in ruminant milk. Tibicos feed on sucrose, Kefir feeds on lactose. We want to avoid the confusion here! They’re not related, and they’re not interchangeable.
Q: Can I make Tibicos without sugar?
A: Yes, but in the long term it may affect the health of the Tibi crystals. Coconut water kefir/Coconut Tibicos is made using just Tibi and coconut water, and it is possible to use fruit juice to make Tibicos, but prolonged use of these may deteriorate the health of the SCOBY crystals – reproduction may slow or cease, and the crystals may become soft and slimy. If drinking Tibicos made without cane sugar is important to you, consider alternating brews – one brew make with juice/coconut water and keep for you to drink, next brew make with sugar and added minerals from dried fruits, salts, baking soda and lemons to feed the SCOBYs, then next brew back to the juice/coconut water and so on.
Q: Is it really necessary to avoid metals when dealing with tibicos?
A: Anecdotally, the crystals are said to have adverse reactions to metal. Far be it for me to question this information that comes from generations of fermenters, but do bear in mind that stainless steel is such because it is a low/non-reactive metal alloy and should not be a problem, and that a lot of sieves have nylon mesh, not metal. Brief contact with metal sieves and implements should not be enough to cause an adverse reaction, but for storage they should absolutely be kept away from reactive metals, and storage in a glass or non-lead ceramic container is strongly advised. We use glass jars for storage and either stainless steel sieves or plastic colanders with our grains and have never had any problems.
Q: How do I know when my Tibicos is ready to drink?
A: The fruits in the brew should be floating, when you tap/swirl or move the brew you should see a few bubbles rising, and the brew should taste tangy. A secondary ferment is ready when there is considerable fizz, and you find the sweetness/tang balance is to your taste.
Q: What happens if I leave the Tibicos fermenting for more than 2 days?
A: The Tibi crystals will continue to ferment out all the sugars. The brew will turn sour, ethanol levels will rise, and the health of the crystals will begin to decline. This will make re-brews with these crystals in the near future difficult as crystals in poor health do not convert sugars well and do not create a highly probiotic brew like healthy crystals do. Unhealthy crystals tend to decrease in size and become slimy.
Q: My Tibicos has a thin white layer on top. Is it mould? What did I do wrong?
A: Nothing! In most cases anyway. This layer is called Kahm yeast, and can sometimes occur when brewing with fresh lemon, fresh fruit or coconut water. It is not detrimental to your health, but can add a bitter taste if mixed in. You can either dab it with a cloth or paper towel or scoop it out with a spoon to remove; the brew is still safe to drink! In the unlikely event the layer has thick furry spots or blue/red colours, discard the entire batch and sterilise your equipment before starting again.
Q: I’m going away on holiday for an extended time – what do I need to do to keep my Tibi crystals alive?
A: For short holidays eg. a week or two, the kefir grains will be OK kept in the fridge – they may be a little sluggish once woken up and may take a brew or two before they make a fizzy drink or start reproducing again.
For extended holidays/overseas travel, air dry them (just by spreading drained Tibi on baking paper then allowing to air dry until they become tiny hard crystals) then store in a cool, dry space. Re-starting a water kefir brew with dried water kefir grains will require patience – while they miraculously rehydrate in a matter of minutes, they may not make a good fizzy brew nor start to reproduce more grains for several weeks.
Q: My Tibi are reproducing so fast – what can I do with all the spare crystals?!
A: You can compost them, give them to a friend, dry them and store for safekeeping just in case anything happens to the live working ones, or add them to smoothies for an extra probiotic element