How To Make Kefir at Home
Adding milk kefir to your daily routine is a simple way to add a healthy new habit this year.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage made using cow’s milk and kefir grains. It’s not as thin as buttermilk, but not quite as thick as yogurt. However, it is a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy bacteria! In fact, kefir contains more healthy bacteria and probiotics than yogurt.
Unlike yogurt, which is made using a process of heating milk, incorporating two live and active cultures, and then allowing it to ferment, host and grow bacteria, and thicken, kefir is a product of both bacteria and yeast fermentation. If you’ve been curious about how to make kefir at home, keep reading!
This might sound a little funky, and it is! But, kefir tastes very similar to yogurt. And, it’s much, much easier to make.
So many benefits
Because kefir is a powerhouse of probiotics, many people notice improved digestion and an overall better feeling tummy, even some who can’t tolerate dairy. Why? Because the kefir grains feed on lactose, the usual trigger for dairy-sensitive people, and uses it to convert into healthy bacteria. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor or dietician if you’re susceptible to lactose-intolerance or fermented foods. Learn more about the benefits of kefir.
All about kefir grains
It’s really not known where these symbiotic little grains originated from, but we do know that they can’t be man-made. The only way that kefir grains can go on is by allowing them to multiply during the cultivation process. Remember, kefir grains are a living organism! By feeding on lactose at the optimal temperature, they’ll continue to replicate over time.
Kefir grains look similar to cottage cheese, but they’re actually very durable. They’re a bit rubbery and, if rinsed clean, are nearly translucent. I find that my grains double in both size and quantity every 2-3 batches of kefir. Ideally, you’ll want to keep 1 tablespoon per batch, to avoid over cultivating your milk. You’ll also want to keep them small.
• Use a clean pair of kitchen shears to cut them into smaller, tinier bits. They’ll survive, I promise!
• Pop them into a small blender or NutriBullet to blast them into smaller pieces.
Doing so will allow them to work more efficiently.
Making your kefir
You’ll need to start with some kefir grains (I’ve linked a few sites in the recipe card), a glass jar, and some organic whole milk. You can use 2%, but I find that whole milk works best for consistency and you’ll get more protein in each serving.
Follow the directions for waking up or rehydrating your kefir grains before proceeding.
Start by adding 1 tablespoon of activated kefir grains to 1 cup of whole milk. Ensure that your grains are small and able to travel around the milk to ferment it thoroughly.
Gently stir the grains to make sure that they don’t all settle together.
Use a fitted lid to rest on top of your jar, or tie a paper towel over the top of the jar using a rubber band.
Keep your kefir jar somewhere it won’t get much direct sunlight and won’t’ overheat. However, it’s important to make sure that it gets enough heat as well. At least 65º is optimal, and nothing over 80º.
During the cooler months, you’ll notice that kefir can take anywhere from 48 or more hours to completely ferment. You’ll also notice that you get a thicker consistency, the slower it works. Look for these pockets of whey separating from the thickened milk to know that it’s ready to be strained.
The longer you allow it to go, the more separation you’ll begin to see. If you need to slow down this process, simply place the kefir jar into the refrigerator for a day or so, before straining.
Another way to know that your kefir is ready is by testing the consistency at the top of the jar. Once it begins to firm up, you’ll know it’s been fermented properly.
Using a nylon mesh strainer, pour the entire jar over a medium-sized bowl into the strainer. Be sure to scrape all of the contents from the jar into the strainer. The whey will quickly seep through, but you’ll need to help the thickened dairy strain.
The best tool for separating the kefir from the grains is a mini silicone spatula or scraper.
Gently stir the contents in the strainer and press it into the mesh. This will allow the kefir to separate while the kefir grains stay inside of your strainer.
Set your mesh strainer aside and tend to the kefir and whey in your bowl. Using a mini silicone whisk, gently stir the contents together. Store in a new, clean glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You’ll know if it’s still good with a simple “sniff.”
Troubleshooting the fermentation process
One lesson I learned the hard way—don’t keep two different types of kitchen cultivations too close to one another. I set my jar of kefir next to my jar of sourdough, and the kefir colonies were invaded by the sourdough! The kefir went rancid.
But, the great thing about kefir grains, is that they’re incredibly resilient. They can be rehabilitated and restored with a few rounds of fermentation. You can follow this very detailed guide to troubleshooting kefir.
Ways to use kefir
Other than drinking it each morning, there are ways to enjoy this powerful probiotic.
Substitute kefir for yogurt
Try a bowl of kefir with:
• Raw, unfiltered honey
• Crushed pistachios or almonds
• Fresh berries
• Sprinkle of chia seeds
• Homemade granola
• Fresh figs or stone fruit
Use it for baking
When a recipe calls for plain yogurt, whole milk, or buttermilk, kefir will be there for you. I love to use it in my sourdough pancakes and when baking muffins. Even my decadent chocolate cake calls for buttermilk, but guess what? I use kefir. Simply swap it 1:1 in your next recipe!
Blend it, baby
Kefir increases your smoothie power by about 500% (this is an uneducated exaggeration); but seriously, it’s wayyy better than using Greek yogurt. You’ll still get the protein, but you’ll get nearly three times the probiotic power.
Add this healthy habit to your day by turning milk into probiotic-rich kefir.
1 cup organic, whole milk
1 tbsp active kefir grains*
- In a clean glass jar, add 1 tbsp of live and active kefir grains.
- Add milk and gently stir.
- Lightly cover the jar with a lid (don’t tighten it close) or a paper towel and rubber band.
- Let sit at room temperature away from direct sunlight for 24-48 hours.
- Check the top of the milk every 12 hours and strain using a mesh strainer once firm.
- Use the remaining kefir grains and repeat.
If purchasing kefir grains online, you’ll need to follow directions to “wake them up.”