Q: Is Water Kefir supposed to be cloudy? Could this be a sign of contamination?
Savannah and Samuel have just received some kefir grains, and with great excitement they prepare their first batch of water kefir. “This is too easy!”, they say with big grins while sipping down this healthy elixir. "It's much sweeter than I expected!", says Samuel.
But after a few batches their initial ecstasy switches to concern as they notice that their water kefir has become very cloudy, not-so-sweet, and with a much stronger odor. Could their kefir have become contaminated by mold or pathogenic bacteria? Being water kefir newbies, Samuel and Savannah do not know what to expect.
Although it is certainly the case that contamination is possible, it is unlikely due to the high content of competing bacteria present in the water kefir. The sugar water and low pH are the environment that water kefir strains thrive in, while most other microorganisms would find it a less than hospitable. Instead it is more likely that what Savannah and Samuel are witnessing is the healthy growth of their SCOBY. The cloudy solution is a result of properly replicating microorganisms that are feeding on the sugar, which replaces the sweet sugar water taste with a sour lactic acid flavor. As the bacteria and yeast colony gets into full swing, there is a “yeasty” smell that many will find to be foul, but it is a very different smell than that of putrefaction.
Notice the differences below in a freshly prepared container of sugar water vs the more cloudy fermented water kefir.
|Sugar Water||Water Kefir|
The brown hued sugar water (from using unrefined Morena sugar) gets converted to lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and ethanol. This in conjunction with the growth of microorganisms results in the shift to a cloudy white/yellow liquid as the final product.