Let’s Make Kefir!

What is kefir? Kefir is a fermented milk drink filled with probiotics. It is almost like a tangy liquid yogurt. I have been making my own kefir for almost two years now and I like to think I have the process pretty down pat.

Why make kefir? For one, it’s easy and doesn’t take a lot of time. It is also a great way to add awesome nutrients to smoothies, baked goods and drinks. I’ve even managed to hide some in my toddlers milk, and she drank it! Did she notice a different taste? Probably. Did she throw the cup and scream? No. Now that is what I call a success.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • kefir grains. I used over two tablespoons but you could probably use as little as a teaspoon, it would just take longer to ferment. Alternatively, you could make a smaller batch and it should take about the same time. To find kefir grains, check out Culture’s for Health.
  • a glass jar with a plastic lid
  • a plastic or wooden spoon
  • a plastic strainer with small holes
  • milk, preferably raw or whole milk
  • a plastic funnel

There are many factors which determine how long it takes to make kefir. Typically, it takes 24 hours. However, if it is exceptionally cold in your house it could take up to 48-72 hours, and if it is hot it will take a shorter amount of time.

Another factor that could vary the fermenting time is if your grains are dormant. The grains I was using here were dormant since they had been stored in the refrigerator for well over a month. If you are in a rush to get to the finished product and your grains are dormant, try setting them out to reach to room temperature and use room temperature milk rather than cold milk.
Also, if you are switching the type of milk used, say from pasteurized to raw or vise versa, it may take a couple of brewing batches to get the kefir to the ideal taste.
Now pay close attention or you might miss the process. Place your kefir grains in the glass jar and fill it up with milk, leaving about an inch of head space. Stir very well and cover loosely with the plastic lid. Set in an area out of direct sunlight and check on it in the next day or two.
how to make kefir
This was my kefir after two days. It was around 70 degrees in my house during those days.
Notice the beginning of separation on the top of the jar? I could havestopped here but for a more tangy taste and for demonstration purposes, I left it alone.
whey beginning to separate from kefir
If you plan on drinking your kefir plain, I would stir it, strain it and call it a day. However, if you will be using it mainly for baking and smoothies, let that baby sit.
This is another two days later. This is sometimes referred to as over-fermentation.
whey separated from milk kefir
See the separation of the whey and grains? Yeah, it’s done.
milk kefir
But don’t worry, it is completely fine to use. That is what’s great about kefir, it is so forgiving. If you happen to forget about it, like I so often do, chances are it will be okay.
So at this point, stir it with a plastic or wooden spoon to reincorporate the whey with the kefir and strain it through a plastic strainer with a funnel underneath.
use plastic for kefir
Since it is so thick, it will take some convincing to strain through the small holes of the strainer. Do this by pouring only a little at a time and using a spoon to help push it through the holes.
Oh yeah, kefir can react badly to metal products, that is why I specify to use plastic material. Plastic is the best to use but stainless steel can also be used. If you do opt to use stainless steel, make sure that it is 100% stainless steel and not just coated with the stuff.
Once all the kefir is strained out, you can either repeat the process and make another batch or you can return the grains to the glass jar and cover them with an inch or two of milk. You can rinse the jar before adding the grains like I did if that helps you sleep at night. There is no reason to rinse the grains, though. Store the jar in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Like I mentioned previously, I have stored my grains untouched for over a month, sometimes even up to three or more months and have never had a problem.
Now to use your fresh kefir, the possibilities are endless… well, almost. You can make some kefir muffins, use it in banana bread or any baked goods recipe that calls for milk or yogurt like blackberry crumb cake or homemade cheerios. You can even use it to make ice cream, which tastes more like frozen yogurt. You can also put it in smoothies or even mix it with cranberry juice for a drink to enjoy.
Do you use kefir? If so, what are your favorite ways to use it?

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