My family loves our raw goat-milk kefir. Even the children love it! It has many benefits for your health, and is well worth the price of a starter of “grains”. Kefir can be produced in most milk from mammals, as well as milk substitutes, such as soy, rice, and coconut milk. Grains that have been adapted can create kefir from sugar water and juice as well.
I always have people asking me how hard it is to grow kefir, and how to do it. It is actually quite simple. The first thing to remember is that kefir is produced from 27+ strains of living bacteria. Anything alive needs to be fed on a regular basis, and have temperatures it will be comfortable in. These are the keys to producing good kefir.
First, you have to feed kefir. The bacteria actually consume sugars. This means that in dairy, they utilize the lactose and casein, and in sugared drinks they use up the sugar itself. Not all sugars are equal, and kefir will not do well on empty sugars such as refined table sugar. It also finds ultra-pasteurized milk to be low on nutrients and it will struggle to survive in such an environment.
The bacteria are very hardy, and will survive for a long time on low-quality “food”, but once you try raw dairy or less refined sugars with it you will never go back. For instance, when I make kefir with raw milk, I end up with a thick beverage that is mildly soured and very pleasant to drink. The grains will double in number and size within two days, and will be healthy (denoted by large clusters of stringy grains). When I switch over to pasteurized milk, the grains cease to grow and become grainy and dry looking. They also change color, usually a sickly yellow, over time. The kefir produced in pasteurized milk in quite sour and unpleasant, as well as very acidic. I can’t stand to drink it, and it’s never very thick. It doesn’t seem to have the same health-giving nutrients either, or at least not the same levels.
I am not going to get into the water-kefirs in this post as I don’t find them to be as healthful, though they do make a very tasty beverage. Below is the detailed process in making milk kefir, and it is the same for any dairy or dairy-substitute.
- Start with a clean glass jar. I like a wide-mouth mason jar, usually 1 or 2 quart in size. We drink a lot of kefir!
- Be sure the glass is dry. Chlorine from tap water will kill the grains!
- Add your kefir grains. You will need around 1/4 cup of grains for 2 cups milk.
- Pour milk over the grains, leaving a 1/2-inch or more head-space at the top of the jar. Some people say to heat the milk to wrist temperature, but I find it works fine straight from the fridge or fresh from the goat.
- Cover with a cotton cloth or paper towel secured with a rubber-band.
- Allow to sit at room-temperature for 18-48 hours. The longer it sits, the less sugar content (i.e. less lactose and casein) and the more sour.
- Using a plastic strainer, separate the kefir from the grains with a wooden or plastic spoon.
- Return grains to the same jar or a fresh one, whichever you desire, and start a new batch. I usually give them a fresh jar once a week.
- Now you can allow your kefir to sit covered with a cloth for another 24 hours to double the vitamin content, or drink it. Some people like to blend it with fruit or sweetener, but I blend it by itself to make it foamy and drink it straight.
- Kefir grains cannot come in contact with metal or chlorine. Always use plastic, glass, or wood with them!
- Kefir develops faster and thicker if you gently shake the jar or stir up the grains a couple times a day while it is growing.
- Never cover growing kefir with a tight cap. The bacteria create gas as a byproduct of consuming the sugars and if capped tightly it will explode the container!
- If you need a break from making kefir, store in a little milk in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer in an air-tight container after rinsing with spring water, for up to a year.
- Start slow when adding kefir to your diet. It is very good for your body, but it can hit your digestive system hard if you are not used to it, or if you have been eating foods containing refined sugar.
- When you have more grains than you need, share them with others, or blend them with your kefir drink. They are rich in kefiran, which is the main part used by some to treat digestive and other health disorders.
- Do NOT buy powdered or prepared kefir from a store. It is not the same and only contains a few strains of the bacteria. It will not give you the same benefits, and is quite costly, and in the case of powders, difficult and time-consuming to prepare.
Note that I am not a health practitioner or consultant. Always use common sense when trying something new, and consult your health-care provider if needed. The information in this post is meant for sharing what I do; you are responsible for how you use it.