I've been brewing WK for a couple of months now and it's been a rollercoaster! ;) My grains were growing slowly so I tried adding molasses to them. They really liked that for a little while and started producing more grains but we were getting tired of the same flavor. I tried raisins, dried unsulphered mangoes, etc. and they were so so. I decided to try distilled bottled water to see if it was my H20 and they totally took off! I used that water twice and then they started dying off again. I tried a different brand of distilled water and nothing. Still nothing now even though I added molasses again.
The only other major thing I did recently was start adding fresh ginger. My boys like ginger a lot so I added a couple of chunks and instead of putting it in my reusuable tea bags like I had been, I just put it right in w/ the water/grains. Now it's not fermenting the water much at all, it's turned almost to silt and there are only a few viable floaters moving. Arg! Could I have killed them off w/ the ginger?? I can't believe it's been such a delicate balance for me with getting these guys to grow! I finally felt like I was making progress and now they seem like they are toast.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
I haven't made water kefir yet (my grains are en route right now)but I was just reading about putting eggshell in the first ferment to add minerals to the water. Apparently some water doesn't have a high enough mineral content to keep the grains healthy. Maybe leave the ginger out until you feel like your grains are healthy again and do a second ferment with ginger.
Here is the post I was reading:http://www.cheeseslave.com/2009/06/05/how-to-make-homemade-soda-pop-with-kefir-grains/
Becky- Wife to DH, Mama to "Nani" (July '08) "Coco" (July '10) and expecting one very wiggly baby boy in May 2013!
Sometimes when my grains aren't growing as well, I also give them a break, so to speak, by just putting them in some sugar water, refrigerate it for a few days, then bring them back to room temperature and start the brewing process again. What I also do is I always do a two-step brewing process, partly because I like to experiment with different flavors all the time so I don't want to contaminate my crystals. I brew the water kefir grains in sugar water only (sometimes using sucanat, organic cane sugar, combo of both, occasionally with a piece of eggshell, sometimes with a pinch of baking soda). Then after a couple of days when the water has been fermented, I strain it into a bottle with an air tight lid, add whatever fruit juice (my ratio of water kefir to juice is about 3:1 or 4:1) I want to experiment with and drink it when it's all nice and bubbly.
hope this helps!