Milk kefir can be made with a variety of milks (from animals and vegetables.) Learn how to make kefir at home and benefit from this probiotic beverage.
I mentioned using kefir in my smoothies the other day, in fact I love adding it to smoothies like my son’s favorite Popeye smoothie. I also love making kefir ice cream with it and kefir sour cream! They are delicious.
Some of you, though, may not know what kefir is, or how to make kefir at home.
Kefir is basically a fermented milk product similar to yogurt. It’s a bit thinner than yogurt, though, and is said to have more beneficial bacterial strains in it; it also includes yeasts.
How to make Kefir
If you can get your hand on some milk kefir grains, it is much easier to make kefir than yogurt because you don’t need to heat anything up.
When you first get your fresh kefir grains, it’s a good idea to make a cycle or two of kefir that you discard before using it. The grains can become slightly traumatized during their trip in the mail, especially if it takes several days to get to you, and the first batch or two of kefir that they make can taste a little bit off. Whether or not you choose to do that, though, is really up to you.
Some people choose to rinse their grains in water at first. It’s a good idea to use distilled water or at least filtered water if you choose to do that because the chlorine in tap water can damage your grains. I usually just run a quick cycle in milk if I feel like the grains need a good cleaning for some reason or other, though.
Once you have your grains clean and ready to go, the process is very easy. You only need to put some kefir grains in with your milk in a glass container, and leave it out (not in your fridge) for a day or so. The longer you leave it, the more sour it will become. It depends upon the temperature where you have your grains, and the ratio of kefir grains to milk as to how quickly the kefir forms.
Over the hours, the milk will start to ferment, and you will see the kefir and whey separating. The whey is the yellowish liquid that separates from the kefir, just like the liquid that floats on yogurt. To obtain your kefir, you mix together the kefir and grains and then strain out the grains from the kefir using a plastic or stainless steel strainer. Don’t use strainers made from other types of metal.
Save your kefir grains for your next batch!
It’s as easy as that.
To keep the kefir grains alive, you have to keep putting them in new milk.
If you won’t be able to tend to the grains for several days, it is best to put the grains in milk and then put them into the fridge for up to a week or so. If you will be gone for longer, they should either be dried or frozen. To be honest, though, I haven’t really tried either. When I stopped making kefir towards the end of my pregnancy, my grains ended up dying off and I had to buy new ones a few months ago. I’m glad I did, though, as he seems to like kefir, just as he has always loved yogurt. Making kefir is easier and quicker than making yogurt, though, which I used to make him regularly when he was a baby.
How to Make Kefir at Home
- 1 Tbsp. milk kefir grains
- 1 cup milk You can also use vegetable milks like coconut milk.
Add your grains to a glass container and pour in your milk with them. Stir them together and cover the container to keep bugs and dust out. (If you seal your jar with a tight lid, your kefir will become more carbonated.)
Let your milk ferment with the grains outside of the refrigerator for about 24 hours. You can check on your kefir periodically to see if the whey is separating from the milk kefir, and shake the jar if you remember to help the process along.
When you start to see small pockets of whey, the kefir is probably ready, but you can taste it at the different stages to find the stage that you prefer.
Stir together your kefir and grains and pour them through a strainer (stainless or plastic) into another glass container to strain out your kefir grains. If your kefir is thick, you can try to help the process along by stirring the kefir and grains in the strainer or tapping the strainer against your container.
Put your grains back into their jar and add some more milk to repeat the process. You can now drink your strained kefir or use it in a recipe.
Kefir grains can also be used to ferment other types of milk like coconut milk and nut milks. It can even be used to ferment juice.
Juices fermented with kefir grains become fizzy. The grains can be harmed in the process, though, so it is good to use excess grains just in case. Once you start making kefir often, that shouldn’t be a problem because the kefir grains multiply quickly when cultured in milk.
There is another type of kefir grains, known as water kefir grains, that are better adapted to fermenting juices and sugar water. I have tried using them, but never am able to keep them up because I get sick of trying to keep so many living things alive; feeding my husband and son, the dogs, the hens and watering the plants inside and outside have me busy enough. When I start to accumulate too many other living organisms like milk kefir grains, water kefir grains, sourdough starters, kombucha SCOBYs, etc., it just gets a bit too overwhelming and I have to decide what is really most important to me. Using excess milk kefir grains for water and juices is good enough for the occasional use for me.
I did love making kombucha for awhile, but got out of the habit when pregnant, too, and haven’t obtained a new SCOBY to start with it again; maybe someday soon I will.
So, what can you do with milk kefir?
You can drink it as is, sweeten it, strain it to make a thicker kefir, or strain it even more to make a kefir cream cheese. Basically anything you can do with yogurt, you can do with kefir.
You can also use it as a buttermilk substitute or use it to kick start other probiotic fermentations, like using the whey for fermenting veggies or making homemade probiotic ketchup (another post?). For lots of ideas and more information about kefir, check out Dom’s website; it’s pretty comprehensive and dedicated to kefir.
We, of course, mostly use it in smoothies, but I do use it for other things like making frozen kefir, something I plan on showing next time.
This post is also available in Español.