I have received a ton of question around Kefir. So I thought I would compile them all together and help take the fear out of fermented milk. When people hear the words fermented milk they immediately shut off. Seriously people, this stuff is the best stuff in the world for your entire well being. When I encourage people to make it at home, they look at me like, there is no way in hell I can make this stuff. Then they look at me and ask, are you sure it’s safe to drink? So lets take the fear out of it and start feeding our bellies with homemade Kefir.
What is Kefir: Kefir is a probiotic. It is a fermented milk that has the consistency of a drinkable yogurt.
What are grains: Grains are essentially little SCOBY’s, Symbiotic Colonies Of Bacteria and Yeast. Grains provide the milk with the necessary bacteria and yeast to create the fermenting process. They are only called grains, they DO NOT contain any wheat.
What kind of milk do I use: Preferably raw organic goats milk.
Next would be organic pasteurized whole milk. You do not want to used Ultra-Pasterized milk. When milk is pasteurized it is heated to a certain temperature inevitably killing off natural bacteria while still leaving some to live in the milk. When milk is Ultra-Pasterized, the milk is heated to such a high temperature that is kills of any and ALL bacteria, leaving no nutritional value in the milk what so ever. If you notice, that is why Ultra-Pasterized milk products have such a high shelf life.
You can use raw whole milk but you would want to acclimate your grains first. Using 25% raw to 75% pasteurized milk and then with each fermenting session increasing the amount of raw milk. Raw milk has tons of good bacteria already present. So sometimes if the grains you purchases or inherited were not acclimated to raw, they tend to compete with the other bacteria.
If you are looking for a non dairy option, coconut milk is the way to go. Coconut milk has natural lactose, which give the grains enough to feed off of to create the fermenting process.
How do I acclimate my grains: If you get fresh grains the first thing you should do is give them some fresh milk. Most likely you will receive 1-2 tablespoons of Kefir grains. To acclimate them place them in a quart size mason jar, pour milk to the top line and place in a cool dark place for 24 hours. After 24 hours, drain grains using a plastic strainer, place grains back in jar and pour more milk and do the process all over again. After the third time, your grains should be good to go. If you receive fresh grains in milk from a friend, those bad boys are ready to rock right when you get home.
When you buy dehydrated grains, some can take up to 2 weeks to acclimate. Usually dehydrated grains will come this a set of instructions to properly hydrate them.
Where do I buy grains: We have grains available for purchase here. When I first purchased my grains I purchased them from amazon. Just be sure you look into the company and feel good about who they are.
I am lactose intolerant, can I still drink Kefir: The grains feed of of the lactose in milk, which is basically the sugar. The fermenting process turns it into lactic acid making it much more easily digestible. 99% of lactose intolerant individuals can drink kefir with little to no problem.
One trick you can do is put a drop of kefir on your skin, let it dry and wait 24 hours and if you do not see any inflammation, you are good to go.
How long do I ferment for: Ideally, 24-36 hours. That doesn’t mean that you can’t strain your grains at 22 hours or if it hits 38 hours it’s ruined. That is just a guideline. The weather has a tremendous impact on any fermentation process. I’ve allowed my kefir to ferment 48 hours and I have also strained it at 18 hours, both perfectly fine to drink.
What size jar do I use: Best size jar to use is a 6 cup mason jar. You can use any size or style of jar you prefer, just make sure you can place a lid or coffee filter over the top during the fermentation process.
What milk to grain ration do I use: The best ratio I have found to make a great batch is 2-4 tablespoons of grains to 6 cups of milk. Now, I have also used about a cup of grains in about 6 cups of milk and my ferment comes out perfectly fine. So again, it’s a guideline. Fermenting is giving, it does not need to be exact. Adding more grains will speed up the fermentation process. Not having enough could make the process a bit longer. You need to play around and find how your grains like to react.
What kind of lid do I use: I used coffee filters with a rubber band at first, which worked great. However, sometimes my rubber band would break off. So I now use plastic mason jar lids. You can find them at any grocery store where they sell canning supplies. Plastic mason jar lids are not air tight, so it is perfect for keeping gnats out while still releasing CO2.
There is a lot of separation during my fermenting process, what is that: Separation is totally normal. When the grains feed off of the lactose it begins to separate the curds and whey within the milk. So you will most often times see a layer of yellowish liquid. Absolutely normal. That separation could occur super quick on a hot day or if you have to many grains for the amount of milk, either way perfectly safe to drink.
Is my Kefir supposed to have a strong smell to it: YES!!! The beautiful thing about grains is that they are a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, (SCOBY) so they will smell yeasty. They will smell sour. When they don’t smell is when I question my batch. If I do not smell a strong yeasty smell I usually allow my kefir to ferment a bit longer. Now with any ferment, your nose is the best thing you have to determine if something is not right. If in your gut you feel it’s not right, dump that batch and start a new one. BUT 99% of the time it’s a perfect ferment.
Why is my kefir sometimes really thin and watery: It could be the weather. If it is colder outside than usual, it may take your ferment a bit longer to reach desired consistency. Also, if you have to much milk for the amount of grains you have in your batch, you will end up with a thinner batch. Sometimes just letting it ferment another 24 hours will help thicken it up.
My kefir is super chunky, how do I make it smooth: Ok so you finished your ferment, you added your pureed fruit and it’s still really chunky, throw it all back into the blender and blend that puppy for 30 seconds or so. It will come out super smooth and delicious. It may seem a bit thin at first, I tend to find that after having out in the fridge for a bit, it will start to thicken up.
After each batch I strain out, I will puree 3 bananas for my 6 cup kefir batch and it helps thicken it up perfectly. I also add any seasonal fruit to add natural flavoring.
How do I store my grains when I do not want to make a batch: You can store your grains in the fridge if you’re not up to making a batch. Place them in any size glass jar, I use a quart size mason jar. Fill that bad boy up with milk and allow to sit in fridge for a week or two. When you start to see major separation, add more milk or make a batch. By placing them in the fridge your grains will hibernate.
My grains look different then from when I started, why: Grains are alive. They feed off of every batch you make, so they will grow and multiply. You may start with 1-2 tablespoons of grains and in a few months have 1-2 cups worth. They will look more plump than usual, thats ok, that just means you are loving your grains the right way.
I store my grains in the same jar I always have when I am not fermenting, but lately there is a lot of separation, quicker than usual, why: Your grains are multiplying and growing and they need more space and more milk to make them happy. Transition your grains to a bigger jar.
Can I rinse my grains: There really is no need to rinse your grains. After every batch just move your grains around as much as you can to get the kefir off of them. But if you must rinse them for any reason, you can do so by pouring milk or filtered water over them. Do not rinse your grains with tap water. The fluoride, bad bacteria and other chemicals found in tap water will kill your grains.
My Kefir is super sour, how can I sweeten it: I have found great results with 100% organic pure maple syrup. You can use fruit, agave or honey. However, there is some back and forth about honey. Because honey is an antibacterial and antimicrobial, some say it will kill off any bacteria found in the kefir. Some have great results using it. I’ll let you decide.
What are the nutritional benefits to Kefir:
What is the difference between Kefir and yogurt: Kefir is considered a drinkable yogurt but is not considered actual yogurt. Kefir contains mesophilic strains, which are microorganisms that thrive in natural temperature. That is why we place our kefir in our pantry to ferment. Kefir contains about 10-40 strains of probiotics.
Yogurt contains thermophilic strains, which are single-celled organisms that are activated through heat. Which is why yogurt is made by heating up milk to a precise temperature. Yogurt also contains only about 4-10 strains of probiotics.
I hope I took some of the fear out of making homemade kefir. It sounds intimidating but once you find your groove it is super fun and the best thing you can give yourself and your family. I am always happy to answer any other questions. Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Happy questions answered!
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