Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Water Kefir and Jun -- What?

As I continue on my fermenting and culturing journey I have found some of the most amazing, sharing, giving people.  Yes, there are plenty of people selling Kombucha mushrooms or Kefir grains online but the majority of fermenters will just mail them to you or invite you to pick them up from their homes.  Keeping it local is always nice and it is rarely bad to meet new people.

In addition to the probiotics that grow during fermentation, the sugar in these drinks is converted to acid giving the drinks a nice tart flavor.  Adding fruit or fruit juice of some kind to the second ferment creates more probiotics and more glucuronic acid which is reputed to bind up toxins in the body so they can be flushed out.  The really wonderful result of this second ferment is lots of carbon dioxide creating a delightful fizzy drink.

Here is a wonderful site that lists a good analysis of what Kombucha can have in it.  Jun will, of course, have different probiotics.  I have been unable to find any good information on whether glucuronic acid is also produced by Jun fermentation.


Honey, green tea (with honey already added) and a Jun scoby

Jun is one of my latest probiotic beverage adventures.  The same wonderful stranger who sent me the healthiest, productive kombucha scoby sent me a Jun scoby 1.5 weeks ago.

Jun is different from Kombucha. Kombucha is made from black tea or black and green tea and sugar while Jun is made from green tea and raw honey.  Each will have different probiotics and complement one another. Kombucha takes approximately 7 days for the first ferment and Jun 4 days.  Jun is apparently a mystery ferment, not very common.  You won't find much information on the internet for some reason other than on forums asking about this mysterious brew.  Kombucha is commercially brewed and sold raw but I do not believe Jun is available commercially yet.

First batch of Jun
Jun scobys are  much more delicate and smooth than Kombucha scobys.  They grow much slower and tend to be less readily available for sharing.

I chose to use organic green tea and wildflower raw honey.  After combining the tea and 1/4 cup of honey I added my little scoby and the Jun from the bag then covered with a cloth.  Now I wait 4 days to try this brew that has a reputation for its zing.

First brew finished in 4 days and was perfect blend of zing and fizz.  It is difficult to describe the flavor or Jun but it is like a slightly beer-like but with no grains and very little alcohol.  I forgot to photograph the results of the first brew cycle.

I transferred the Jun scoby to a 1L container so the scoby can grow a little wider.  Below are the results of this brew cycle.  

Jun at end up 1st ferment, 2nd brew -- notice two scobys now

As always, I love to experiment.  When I didn't have a Jun scoby I wondered if it was possible to grow one from Kombucha if I just used green tea and honey instead of the black tea and sugar.  I decided to attempt to make Jun without a geniune Jun scoby before I received the Jun scoby from South Carolina.  I grew a scoby from a bottle of GT Kombucha.  I then placed that first, tiny scoby in a small batch of green tea and honey.  I did this a couple more times using only green tea and honey.

KT turned Jun (left) and Jun (right)
Kombucha turned Jun

Kombucha turned Jun scoby
I admit there are the slightest differences in the appearance of the two scobys.  The Jun, however, tastes so alike that I cannot tell the difference.  I am confident that the probiotics in the two batches are different to some degree.  The Jun scoby is smoother than the KT turned Jun scoby.  Each batch I brew using the two scobys the differences seem to be minimizing.  Is my KT turned Jun geniune Jun? Not really.  I will always keep the two different brews labeled. 

What is a second ferment exactly? I took the Jun from both batches and rebottled them.  One I added sliced ginger and the other I left plain.  I then left the bottles out for another 24 hours minimum to increase carbon dioxide content (more fizz) and give the Jun time to incorporate the ginger flavor into the brew.

Ginger infused Jun in a Fido brand swing-top bottle
-- I use a tea strainer to filter out yeast and ginger

Floating sliced ginger and yeast

I label my bottled brews using medical tape (because that is what I had on hand and this tape is too thin to be useful as medical tape) a permanent marker.  What is neat about this tape is that it is reusable.  I just stick it to the cabinet when I wash the bottles.

Jun and Kombucha bottled in Grolsch swing-top bottles for 2nd ferment
After second ferment is complete the bottles are chilled in the refrigerator before serving.  Again, I use a tea strainer on top of the glass when I pour Jun, Kombucha or Water Kefir to catch the wonderful floating stuff like fruit, ginger and yeast (which are nutritious but not particularly enjoyable to drink).

Water Kefir


Most people have heard of kefir (kuh-FEER), the fermented milk drink available in healthfood stores, the very same fermented milk drink that would curl your toenails. I have never once really considered attempting to ferment kefir at home until I heard of water kefir.  A new friend that lives in Tennessee offered to mail me some kefir grains.  I envisioned wheat berries that had been soaked in probiotic milk.  I was not even close.  My kefir grains arrived in two zip bags the color of honey looking like applesauce.  Interesting.

Following my friend's instructions I added succanat to warm water, poured the tiniest bit of molasses and one raisin.  Finally, I measured two tablespoons of grains and poured them into the water solution.

Because I had heard on one of my Facebook groups that water kefir thrives in a closed Fido jar I thought I would do a little experiment.

Experiment: Cloth covered vs. closed Fido jars
Some people claimed that their water kefir loved to be closed up in a Fido jar.  Most ferments need oxygen, but water kefir doesn't seem to have that need.  So 2 tablespoons of grains went into each jar.  Twenty-four hours later I tasted each batch and decided they both needed a little more time so I left them until noon.

When I strained out the water kefir grains I was pleased to find that they had doubled in both batches.  What was really interesting was that the closed Fido batch's grains were a lot bigger and the brew had a richer flavor.

I flavored one second ferment with vanilla extract and the other with fresh ginger and bottled them in flip-top bottles, one Fido and the other a Grolsch.  Looking forward to tasting our homemade probiotic soda.

I tasted my ginger water kefir and really like it.  The kids weren't impressed with either flavor.  I will definitely need to do a longer ferment since it has gotten cooler now.  Going to give them 2 days for first ferment and 1.5-2 days for second ferment.

What I like about water kefir is that it is dairy free and has no caffeine.  Kombucha has a much richer flavor, lots more fizz but it does have caffeine.

I drink a cup of Kombucha or Jun in the morning and evening then drink Water Kefir in between along with plenty of fresh water.


  1. Hi!
    I'm so glad I fund your site – you seem to be an investigator, like me… ;)
    I also brew Kombucha and water kefir. And now I came across this new thing: Jun, that I'm very curious about!
    How is it developing? Do you think the Jun-culture REALLY is another base culture, or is it just kombucha fed green tea and honey?

    I said I brew kombucha – but now I'm thinking maybe it is Jun that I'v been making all along, since I always only use green tea and honey?! :-o
    And I have no "real" Jun (or Kombucha) to compare with, so I can't really tell what it is I'm making?

    1. I am not sure there is any real way to know exactly what is in the Jun or Kombucha scobys I use outside of a lab. I do know that I "made" a Kombucha scoby live in green tea and raw honey and the results taste just like the Jun I brew with the Jun scoby send to me. Purists will say that Jun is its own separate colony of organisms very different from Kombucha but I'm not sure myself. They are probably correct.

      I still brew two batches of Jun, one with the scoby sent to me and one with the scoby I transformed from Kombucha to Jun.

      I do know that true Kombucha is brewed using either black tea, oolong, or a combination of black and green tea. Sugar is the sweetener for Kombucha though some people do use honey. Does this change the colony? Probably over time it does.

      Sorry I don't have more definitive answers. There is virtually no information online about Jun.

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  3. Do you have an extra Jun scoby I can get from you.

    1. No, ma'am. You can buy Jun scobies online, though.

  4. I've read this about the difference between Kombucha and Jun:Further, research into the microbial composition of Jun indicates that its dominant culture is lactobacillus casei rather than the dominant culture in Kombucha which is acetobacter xylinum. This difference in microbial composition also accounts for the difference in flavor and brew condition for the two medicinal tonics.

    1. Do you have sources for the information on the differences. When I started fermenting there was no information on Jun. It was this mysterious drink that some guy made and sold in California saying that it was descended from . . . Of course, there was no provenance provided. And that is the crux of the matter: If KT is fermented with green tea and honey, over time does the dominant culture become lactobacillus casei? Where did the first Jun culture come from and has its purity been proven? I can tell you there is a huge difference between how Jun and KT affect my body. Eventually, someone will do some long-term studies on the different cultures that we are just beginning to enjoy in the US. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Water kefir grains can be used to culture sugar water, juice, or coconut water. A powdered kefir starter culture may also be used to culture coconut water or fruit juice. Water kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term kefir grains describes the look of the culture only. Water kefir grains contain no actual grains such as wheat or rye. Jun is a Lactic Acid ferment of Green Tea and Honey. Very similar to Kombucha, with the difference being that Kombucha is a Acetic Acid ferment by the Gluconobacter species of bacteria. Ginger Beer Plant is also similar to Jun using the same lactobacillus bacteria with the difference that GBP ferments ginger.

    Source: Delicious Probiotic Drink