Sparkling Cider and Hard Cider with Water Kefir Grains

One of my favorite things this time of year, besides pumpkin flavored everything, is apple cider.  Back home in Minnesota, we had a number of apple orchards to choose from to visit each year.  Not so much here in North Dakota (anyone want to start an apple orchard here?).  There are still plenty of organic local apples to be had if you look hard enough.  Your neighbors are your best bet.

We planted 4 apple trees 2 years ago and are still waiting for them to produce fruit.  Hopefully next year?  In the meantime, I was able to score a bushel here and there.  Enough to make lots of apple sauce and a gallon of apple cider.  I’ll have to make a visit home soon to pick up more fresh apple cider to play with.  Some for hard cider, some for Apple Cider Vinegar.

One question I get asked frequently is concerning the alcohol level of water kefir and kombucha.  When made correctly, they shouldn’t have more than 0.5% alcohol, a low enough level that I do feel comfortable serving small amounts to my children.  Sometimes people want to make them alcoholic on purpose and it’s actually quite easy to do.  It’s all about sugar content.  Use too much sugar and you get alcohol.

Apple juice contains more sugar than the typical recipe for water kefir which is why it turns alcoholic pretty fast.  I measured the specific gravity of my apple cider and it had almost twice the sugar of my water kefir mixture.  Diluting the apple juice is one way to make it non-alcoholic.  The other say is to ferment it for a shorter period of time but then you end up with quite a sugary drink.


Stopper Airlock on One Gallon Jug.

Sparkling Cider (mostly alcohol free)

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cup filtered water
  • minerals (Concentrace, clean egg shell, or 1 tsp molasses)
  • 1/4 cup water kefir grains
  • Optional: cinnamon stick and 2 cloves
Apple cider can contain twice as much such as my normal water kefir solution, which is 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 quart of water.  Adding water to the apple cider lowers the sugar content making it less likely to become alcoholic.  Mix apple cider, water and minerals (I use a quick squirt of Concentrace in mine) in your anaerobic jar like a Pickl-it or a glass jug like pictured.  Add kefir grains.  Don’t forget to fill your airlock with water.  Let set for about 24 hours.  Strain off kefir grains and bottle the apple cider in swing top bottles or capped beer bottles.  Let set another 12-24 hours to build up carbonation.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

Hard Cider

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • minerals (Concentrace, clean egg shell, or 1 tsp molasses)
  • 1/4 cup water kefir grains
  • Optional: cinnamon stick and 2 cloves

Mix apple cider and minerals (I use a quick squirt of Concentrace in mine) in your anaerobic jar like a Pickl-it or a glass jug like pictured.  Add kefir grains.  Don’t forget to fill your airlock with water.

To make the cider less alcoholic, ferment for a shorter time, 12-24 hours for a less alcoholic drink.  For more alcohol, extend the time.  To keep your grains healthy, I wouldn’t suggest letting it go longer than 48 hrs.  If after 48 hours, you would still like it stronger, remove the grains but let the cider sit out longer with the airlock in place until at the desired strength.  Bottle, let set out another day to build carbonation, refrigerate and enjoy!

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32 comments to Sparkling Cider and Hard Cider with Water Kefir Grains

  • hortenzia

    Hi ,
    i would like to ask if I
    can use apple juice instead of apple cider for the receipe?!

    Thanks Hortenzia

    • Melanie

      Definitely! Choose a juice that tastes good to you unfermented and it will make a great hard cider. Works with grape juice too for a nice “wine”.

  • addie

    Made this a few days ago after looking up “kefir beer”. Oh man, it’s super strong. I just woke up from a hard kefir cider induced nap.

  • […] Cider is very easy to make.  My brothers brew beer and from talking with them, making cider sounds much much simpler.  Make it hard or make it non-alcoholic.  Make it with kefir grains for an additional health boost.  My directions are here: Hard Apple Cider with Kefir Grains. […]

  • […] we go… Sparkling Cider and Hard Cider with Water Kefir Grains – Pickle Me Too It doesn't mention anywhere how high the alcohol can go, so I'm thinking not too high. But I like […]

  • Part

    How important is an anaerobic jar? What if a canning jar is used?

  • KefirThinMint

    I just did this with a gallon glass jug of store-bought organic cider. This cider is shelf-stable, so I’m assuming it’s been pasteurized and thus doesn’t contain anything active that would compete with the kefir. Anyway, I just opened up the jug and dumped in about 1/4 cup of kefir grains and a scant teaspoon of molasses, then left it on the counter with the lid off and the opening covered by a paper towel held in place by a rubber band. After it started bubbling well – about six hours, just to give the kefir a head start against any chemicals or organisms that might be on the spices – I added a cinnamon stick and some cloves. Best “hard” cider I’ve ever had. Definitely will be doing this again.

    • Yay! Isn’t it great? Just a word of warning, I found out the hard way to check the label. I bought 100% apple cider in the refrigerated section and didn’t notice it contain potassium benzoate until after it had been with the kefir grains for a couple days. It almost killed my kefir grains.

      • Jaimie

        Does wearing out your kefir with the potassium benzoate affect the taste/alcohol levels in the cider? I have a good stash of kefir grains not currently in use that I could spare..

  • Karen Tracy

    Do the probiotics survive the alcohol? Choosing to make it hard cider, or even just bringing the alcohol content up a little, do we sacrifice the beneficial bacteria being in it? At what percent alcohol do the beneficial yeasts and bacterias die? Thank you!

    • I have not found any info yet about how much alcohol they can survive in but I’m assuming is higher than the amount that would be produced in the hard cider just because wine producers trouble with LAB’s affecting their wines. All speculation but I’m guessing because of the alcohol, the content won’t be as high as a regular brewed water kefir. The hard cider is just a treat. I wouldn’t consider it a “healthy” drink. For sure healthier than regular hard cider though.

  • […] Sparkling Apple Cider Water Kefir from Pickle Me Too Fuzzy Navel Water Kefir from Common Sense Homesteading Nectarine Blueberry Water Kefir from Divine Health From The Inside Out Cinnamon Coconut Water Kefir from A Harmony Healing […]

  • Janet

    Where is a good source for the kefir grains?

  • Robert

    Is there any reason why I shouldn’t put the kefir grains in a tea bag for ease of removal?

  • […] your WK.  I’m not going to go into huge detail, you can read more about alcohol and WK here: Hard Cider or Sparkling Apple Cider.  The gist of it is, use no more than 1/4 cup of sugar per quart of water and you will be fine. […]

  • Erin

    Is the shelf life for the cider the same as the water kefir?

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  • […] Dinner: 3 fried eggs with sauteed mushrooms and some Hard Kefir Cider. […]

  • Sarah

    I just started doing water kefir a month or so ago, and wasn’t that excited about fermented sugar water. Then I did a few batches of apple cider and have been tipsy ever since! Not really, but I do absolutely love fermented apple juice & cider. I also tried a few batches of white grape juice, which were delicately divine. I’m glad I came across this post!

  • Jennifer

    I know I’m a little late in the apple season to start this, but better late than never =). I know you would be using it at various stages of fermentation, but can you use a continual brew method like I do for my komucha?

    • I do kind of a continual brew thing with my water kefir. Water kefir brews a lot faster than kombucha so a continuous system isn’t really necessary but I have found my grains seem happier if I leave about 25% of the water kefir in with the grains. For instance, if I’m making a quart, I’ll leave 1 cup of water kefir with the grains and add fresh sugar water to that.

  • nancy

    Hi, I was wondering if you have ever left kefir out longer than a week (without grains). I left my grape (wine) kefir out for over a month and it’s getting more alcoholic like I hoped for but I haven’t seen any posts at all about this topic. Everyone is saying different things. On one site, it says kefir is only good for a few days at room temperature, on another, it says a week to a month. Does anyone have experience with leaving kefir out to ferment longer than the regular or standard time and how did that go?

  • Nathan

    Will making the drinks alcoholic harm the kefir grains? Or can you keep using the grains to make more batches?

  • Charity

    Hi: can you tell me where you got your bottle that is shown which looks like it releases some of the gases gradually? After my 2nd attempt of making kefir soda and only 12 hours later it wants to explode!
    Also do you know if I make a soda using Kifer water and juice for more then 2 days will it contain alcohol no matter what fruit juice I use?

    Thank you for your time and knowledge!

    • Anna Cole

      Go to a wine and beer making supply shop. I just got an airlock and a cork (um, that’s not the right name, but the rubber stopper) for $3. 🙂 It will fit the beer growler I already own.

  • karuna

    sparkling cider is for pussies – give the hard cider to your kids and let them enjoy life, quit shielding them from reality, which is enjoying the pleasures of life.

  • This looks great! I’ve always wanted to make hard cider at home but never knew how exactly I should go about it. Now I do! I can’t wait to try this at home. Thank you for sharing!

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