Last updated
Fermented water kefir with grains on the bottom and a floating piece of grapefruit peel Ripe Water kefir (also known as Tibicos), after 2 days.jpg
Fermented water kefir with grains on the bottom and a floating piece of grapefruit peel
Tibicos grains average 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in dimension. Wasserkefir-Kristalle.jpg
Tibicos grains average 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in dimension.

Tibicos, or water kefir, is a traditional fermented drink made with water and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) held in a polysaccharide biofilm matrix created by the bacteria. It is sometimes consumed as an alternative to milk based probiotic drinks or tea-cultured products such as kombucha. Water kefir is typically made as a probiotic homebrew beverage. The finished product, if bottled, will produce a carbonated beverage.



Tibicos cultures are found around the world, with no two being exactly the same; but typical tibicos have a mix of Lactobacillus , Streptococcus , Pediococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria, with yeasts from Saccharomyces , Candida , Kloeckera and possibly others. Lactobacillus brevis bacteria has been identified as the species responsible for the production of the dextran polysaccharide that forms the "grains." [1] [2]

As with milk kefir "grains", the microbes present in tibicos act in symbiosis to maintain a stable culture. Tibicos can do this in many different sugary liquids, feeding off the sugar to produce lactic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas, which carbonates the drink.


The origin of tibicos grains is unknown. [3] Tibicos grains form as hard granules on the pads of the Opuntia cactus found in Mexico. [2] These granules then could be reconstituted in a sugar-water solution for propagating the tibicos grains. [3] [4] Another study found a similar tibicos culture made from a bacteria cultured from known stocks with similar properties. [5]

Tibicos are also known as tibi, water kefir grains, sugar kefir grains, Japanese water crystals and California bees, and in older literature as bébées, African bees, Australian bees, ginger bees, vinegar bees, bees, Japanese beer seeds, beer seeds, beer plant, ale nuts, eternity grains, [6] and balm of Gilead. [3] [7] Pidoux in 1989 also identified the sugary kefir grains with the ginger beer plant. [2] Different ingredients or hygienic conditions might also change the bacteriological composition possibly leading to the different names found in scientific literature.

Tibicos are used to brew a variety of tepache known as tepache de tibicos. [8] The ginger beer plant is also a form of tibicos. Kebler attests that they were used in Kentucky circa 1859 to brew a "home drink" and were referred to as "Japanese beer seeds." [7]


Tibicos colony under microscope (200x) Kefir wodny (Tibicos).jpg
Tibicos colony under microscope (200×)

The basic preparation method is to add tibicos to a sugary liquid and allow it to ferment 24 to 48 hours. Make sure the water stays at a room temperature range of 68°-85°F (20°-30°C) . If the room is closer to the 85 degree range, shorten the fermentation period. [9] A typical recipe might contain the tibicos culture, a citrus fruit, and water. It is important to not use ingredients that will inhibit the fermentation, such as chlorine in tap water or preservatives in dried fruit (sulfites). The fruits used may be changed and mixed to create different flavors.

Additional precautions should be taken to keep the cultures healthy. The use of reactive metals such as aluminium, copper, or zinc should be minimized, since the acidity of the solution can draw these metals out, damaging the culture. Instead, plastic, lead-free ceramic, or glass containers should be used. Culturing grains in a glass jar and using clean plastic or wooden utensils when handling the grains is recommended.

See also

Related Research Articles

Yogurt A food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk

Yogurt, also spelled yoghurt, yogourt or yoghourt, is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as yogurt cultures. The fermentation of lactose by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and characteristic tart flavor. Cow's milk is commonly available worldwide and, as such, is the milk most commonly used to make yogurt. Milk from water buffalo, goats, ewes, mares, camels, and yaks is also used to produce yogurt where available locally. The milk used may be homogenized or not. It may be pasteurized or raw. Each type of milk produces substantially different results.

<i>Lactobacillus</i> Genus of bacteria

Lactobacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, aerotolerant anaerobes or microaerophilic, rod-shaped, non-spore-forming bacteria. They are a major part of the lactic acid bacteria group. In humans, they constitute a significant component of the microbiota at a number of body sites, such as the digestive system, urinary system, and genital system. In women of European ancestry, Lactobacillus species are normally a major part of the vaginal microbiota. Lactobacillus forms biofilms in the vaginal and gut microbiota, allowing them to persist during harsh environmental conditions and maintain ample populations. Lactobacillus exhibits a mutualistic relationship with the human body, as it protects the host against potential invasions by pathogens, and in turn, the host provides a source of nutrients. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic found in food such as yogurt, and it is diverse in its application to maintain human well-being, as it can help treat diarrhea, vaginal infections, and skin disorders such as eczema.

Ginger ale Soft drink flavored with ginger

Ginger ale is a carbonated soft drink flavoured with ginger. It is consumed on its own or used as a mixer, often with spirit-based drinks. There are two main types of ginger ale. The golden style is credited to the Irish doctor Thomas Joseph Cantrell. The dry style, a paler drink with a much milder ginger flavour, was created by Canadian John McLaughlin.

<i>Lactobacillus delbrueckii <span style="font-style:normal;">subsp.</span> bulgaricus</i> Subspecies of bacteria and the main bacteria used for the production of yogurt

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus is one of over 200 published species in the Lactobacillus genome complex (LGC) and is the main bacterium used for the production of yogurt. It also plays a crucial role in the ripening of some cheeses, as well as in other processes involving naturally fermented products. It is defined as homofermentive lactic acid bacteria due to lactic acid being the single end product of its carbohydrate digestion. It is also considered a probiotic.

Kombucha fermented tea beverage

Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly consumed for its supposed health benefits. Sometimes the beverage is called kombucha tea to distinguish it from the culture of bacteria and yeast. Juice, spices, fruit or other flavorings are often added to enhance the taste of the beverage.

Zymology study of biochemical process of fermentation

Zymology, also known as zymurgy is an applied science which studies the biochemical process of fermentation and its practical uses. Common topics include the selection of fermenting yeast and bacteria species and their use in brewing, wine making, fermenting milk, and the making of other fermented foods.

Ginger beer Carbonated beverage

Traditional ginger beer is a sweetened and carbonated, usually non-alcoholic beverage. It is produced by the natural fermentation of prepared ginger spice, yeast and sugar.

Probiotic microorganisms said to provide health benefits when consumed

Probiotics are live microorganisms promoted with claims that they provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora. Probiotics are considered generally safe to consume, but may cause bacteria-host interactions and unwanted side effects in rare cases. There is little evidence that probiotics bring the health benefits claimed for them.

<i>Lactobacillus acidophilus</i> species of bacterium

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a species of gram positive bacteria in the genus Lactobacillus. L. acidophilus is a homofermentative, microaerophilic species, fermenting sugars into lactic acid, and grows readily at rather low pH values and has an optimum growth temperature of around 37 °C (99 °F). L. acidophilus occurs naturally in the human and animal gastrointestinal tract and mouth. Some strains of L. acidophilus may be considered to have probiotic characteristics. These strains are commercially used in many dairy products, sometimes together with Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus in the production of acidophilus-type yogurt, or acidophiline. Its genome has been sequenced.

Pediococcus is a genus of gram-positive lactic acid bacteria, placed within the family of Lactobacillaceae. They usually occur in pairs or tetrads, and divide along two planes of symmetry, as do the other lactic acid cocci genera Aerococcus and Tetragenococcus. They are purely homofermentative. Pediococcus dextrinicus has recently been reassigned to the genus Lactobacillus.

Leuconostoc is a genus of gram-positive bacteria, placed within the family of Leuconostocaceae. They are generally ovoid cocci often forming chains. Leuconostoc spp. are intrinsically resistant to vancomycin and are catalase-negative. All species within this genus are heterofermentative and are able to produce dextran from sucrose. They are generally slime-forming.

Lactic acid bacteria type of bacteria

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are an order of gram-positive, low-GC, acid-tolerant, generally nonsporulating, nonrespiring, either rod-shaped (bacilli) or spherical (cocci) bacteria that share common metabolic and physiological characteristics. These bacteria, usually found in decomposing plants and milk products, produce lactic acid as the major metabolic end product of carbohydrate fermentation. This trait has, throughout history, linked LAB with food fermentations, as acidification inhibits the growth of spoilage agents. Proteinaceous bacteriocins are produced by several LAB strains and provide an additional hurdle for spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms. Furthermore, lactic acid and other metabolic products contribute to the organoleptic and textural profile of a food item. The industrial importance of the LAB is further evidenced by their generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, due to their ubiquitous appearance in food and their contribution to the healthy microbiota of animal and human mucosal surfaces. The genera that comprise the LAB are at its core Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Lactococcus, and Streptococcus, as well as the more peripheral Aerococcus, Carnobacterium, Enterococcus, Oenococcus, Sporolactobacillus, Tetragenococcus, Vagococcus, and Weissella; these belong to the order Lactobacillales.

Fermentation in food processing Converting carbohydrates to alcohol or acids using anaerobic microorganisms

Fermentation in food processing is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation usually implies that the action of microorganisms is desired. The science of fermentation is known as zymology or zymurgy.

Food microbiology study of the microorganisms that inhibit, create, or contaminate food

Food microbiology is the study of the microorganisms that inhibit, create, or contaminate food. This includes the study of microorganisms causing food spoilage; as well as, pathogens that may cause disease especially if food is improperly cooked or stored. Those used to produce fermented foods such as cheese, yogurt, bread, beer, and wine. Then those researchers with other useful roles such as producing probiotics.

Lactobacillus brevis is a gram-positive, rod shaped species of lactic acid bacteria which is heterofermentative, creating CO2 and lactic acid during fermentation. There are approximately 16 different species in L. brevis group. It can be found in many different environments, such as fermented foods, and as normal microbiota. L.brevis is found in food such as sauerkraut and pickles. It is also one of the most common causes of beer spoilage. Ingestion has been shown to improve human immune function, and it has been patented several times. Normal gut microbiotaL.brevis is found in human intestines, vagina and feces.

SCOBY syntrophic mixed culture associated with kombuch production

SCOBY is the commonly used acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," and is formed after the completion of a unique fermentation process of lactic acid bacteria (LAB), acetic acid bacteria (AAB), and yeast to form several sour foods and beverages such as kombucha and kimchi. Beer and wine also undergo fermentation with yeast, but the lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria components unique to SCOBY are usually viewed as a source of spoilage rather than a desired addition. Both LAB and AAB enter on the surface of barley and malt in beer fermentation and grapes in wine fermentation; LAB lower the pH of the beer while AAB take the ethanol produced from the yeast and oxidize it further into vinegar, resulting in a sour taste and smell. AAB are also responsible for the formation of the cellulose SCOBY.

Kefir Fermented milk drink made from kefir grains

Kefir or kephir, is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains, a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture. The drink originated in the North Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains.

Microbial food cultures are live bacteria, yeasts or moulds used in food production. Microbial food cultures carry out the fermentation process in foodstuffs. Used by humans since the Neolithic period fermentation helps to preserve perishable foods and to improve their nutritional and organoleptic qualities. As of 1995, fermented food represented between one quarter and one third of food consumed in Central Europe. More than 260 different species of microbial food culture are identified and described for their beneficial use in fermented food products globally, showing the importance of their use.

Lactobacillus pontis is a rod-shaped, Gram-positive facultatively anaerobic bacterium. Along with other Lactobacillus species, it is capable of converting sugars, such as lactose, into lactic acid. Lactobacillus pontis is classified under the phylum Firmicutes, class Bacilli, and is a member of the family Lactobacillaceae and is found to be responsible for the fermentation of sourdough, along with many other Lactobacillus species. This microorganism produces lactic acid during the process of fermentation, which gives sourdough bread its characteristic sour taste.

Jun or Xun is an effervescent fermented health tonic roughly similar to kombucha but feeding on a dominant base of green tea and raw honey rather than a dominant base of black tea and concentrated Cane Sugar. So little credible information exists about Jun that even its most basic characteristics are in dispute: some claim its true definition to be an exclusively anaerobic lactobacillus ferment, and others that it is similar to kombucha in including yeasts. The fermentation process requires a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) similar to that used to make kombucha. It is suggested that, in the absence of a definitive jun SCOBY, a kombucha SCOBY can be gradually adapted, but there is some debate about this.


  1. Horisberger, M.; Bauer, H.; Bauer, Heinz (December 1980). "The structural organization of the Tibi grain as revealed by light, scanning and transmission microscopy". Archives of Microbiology. 128 (2): 157–161. doi:10.1007/BF00406153.
  2. 1 2 3 Pidoux, M. (June 1989). "The microbial flora of sugary kefir grain (the gingerbeer plant): biosynthesis of the grain from Lactobacillus hilgardii producing a polysaccharide gel". World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology. 5 (2): 223–38. doi:10.1007/BF01741847.
  3. 1 2 3 Laureys, David; De Vuyst, Luc (April 2014). "Microbial Species Diversity, Community Dynamics, and Metabolite Kinetics of Water Kefir Fermentation". Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 80 (8): 2564–2572. doi:10.1128/AEM.03978-13. ISSN   0099-2240. PMC   3993195 . PMID   24532061.
  4. Lutz, L. (1899). "Recherches biologiques sur la constitution du Tibi". Bull. Soc. Mycol. France. 15: 68–72.
  5. Stacey, M.; Youd, F. R. (November 1938). "A note on the dextran produced from sucrose by Betacoccus arabinosaceous haemolyticus". Biochem. J. 32 (11): 1943–1945. doi:10.1042/bj0321943. PMC   1264277 . PMID   16746830.
  6. Sopp, J.O. (1917). Hjemmelagning av øl og vin. Kristiania, Norway: Norli. p. 83.
  7. 1 2 Kebler, L. F. (June 1921). "California bees" (PDF). J. Pharm. Sci. 10 (12): 939–943. doi:10.1002/jps.3080101206.
  8. http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19950314684.html;jsessionid=DC91A19C32DD763E770932398B531AFB
  9. https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/water-kefir/encouraging-water-kefir-grains-to-multiply/