Making Kefir

My passion for fermentation started with kefir. I first heard about kefir in the 2010 documentary The Whole Truth about Raw Milk, and shortly thereafter began buying quarts of it from an Amish farmer. I loved the carbonated, refreshing tartness—unlike anything I had previously tasted. And drinking it after exercising helped me get past a fitness plateau I had reached. I read the instructions about how to make kefir in Nourishing Traditions, and decided to buy my own grains.

I purchased kefir grains from a vendor online. They arrived in a tiny sealed straw, about an inch long. I added them to a jar of milk, set it on a countertop, and began my fermentation journey.

Fit a strainer to a canning funnel to drain the finished kefir into an empty jar.

Fit a strainer to a canning funnel to drain the finished kefir into an empty jar.

Kefir grains added to milk are ready to strain in 24-48 hours. Amazed at the ease of making kefir, I started sharing with it friends and scaled up my production to produce two gallons each week.  Even lactose intolerant friends could drink kefir without ill effects, because the kefir grains feed on the lactose sugars in the milk.

Gently stir the kefir to separate the kefir grains from the cultivated milk.

Gently stir the kefir to separate the kefir grains from the cultivated milk.

Kefir grains multiply quickly. The tiny grain I began with grew larger and split into new colonies. I usually keep enough grains to cover the bottom surface of a jar. Once they start taking over their environment, I either snack on them or compost them.

Use a silicone spatula or plastic spoon to place the kefir grains back in their original jar.

Use a silicone spatula or plastic spoon to place the kefir grains back in their original jar.

I’ve seen the recommendation that kefir grains should only be handled with silicone or plastic utensils, purportedly because they can react to metals. While I can’t attest from personal experience, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did react to metals, because they have more astonishing characteristics.

Give the kefir grains fresh milk to drink.

Give the kefir grains fresh milk to drink.

For instance, kefir grains can be trained to make coconut milk kefir, ginger beer, and funky fusions with kombucha mothers. Kefir also tastes great in smoothies and can be used to inoculate sourdough bread starters.

Cap the jar of kefir grains and milk with a paper towel or breathable cloth and leave in a warm place.

Cap the jar of kefir grains and milk with a paper towel or breathable cloth and leave in a warm place.

Beyond its benefit as a beverage, kefir can be strained through a cloth at room temperature to produce kefir cheese, which works as an amazing probiotic substitute for both cream cheese and sour cream.

Store your new kefir in a jar and serve chilled.

Store your new kefir in a jar and serve chilled.

Since beginning my kefir adventure, I’ve scaled back my production to about a quart a week, not because my initial fondness for kefir has diminished, but because it introduced me to many more food projects. I recommend reading the history of kefir in Wild Fermentation.

Gently stir the kefir to separate the kefir grains from the cultivated milk.
Making Kefir
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 3 minutes
Passive Time
1-2 days
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 3 minutes
Passive Time
1-2 days
Gently stir the kefir to separate the kefir grains from the cultivated milk.
Making Kefir
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 3 minutes
Passive Time
1-2 days
Servings Prep Time
1 quart 3 minutes
Passive Time
1-2 days
Ingredients
Servings: quart
Instructions
  1. Place kefir grains in a quart jar of milk in a warm spot for 1-2 days. Cover with a cloth, and rotate the jar periodically to agitate the grains.
  2. Warmer air temperatures speed up fermentation. Taste the kefir after 12 hours. When it achieves a tartness to your liking, strain the kefir into a new jar and refrigerate. Add fresh milk to the grains in their original jar, which can start a new batch immediately or be stored in the refrigerator for a couple months.
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