Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Make Kefir

We've already talked about how awesome kefir is, the benefits it has, what it tastes like, and how it's different from yogurt (see post: Everything You Always (?) Wanted To Know About Kefir). So let's gather our supplies:

What do I need to make kefir?
You will need:

1 TB of Kefir Grains
What are kefir grains?
Kefir grains are not really grains. There's no gluten, rice, or anything else "grainy" about them. I've heard them described like little bits of gooey cauliflower. You could also say they are little curds (like the curds in cottage cheese) that have magical powers to ferment milk. Mmmm, okay. Let's just say they are squishy. You can either purchase kefir grain packs (like from Cultures for Health) or you can find a friend who already has kefir going. Believe me: they have plenty to spare. Grains multiply like bunnies -- they are the ultimate "friendship bread!"

One more thing...
Kefir grains don't like metal. These are growing and active little guys. You don't want to kill or injure them. So make sure that you aren't using metal spoons, bowls, strainers, etc. Once you've strained the liquid, then you can use metal -- like in a blender. But when you're dealing with the grains, NO METAL. :)

So let's make kefir.
1. In a clean glass jar, measure out your kefir grains. For every 1 cup of milk, use 1 TB of grains.
2. Add the appropriate amount of milk.
3. Put the lid on and set on the counter to ferment at room temp for 24 hours.
4. Done. Seriously, it's that easy.

There's a few more helpful steps, though. 
Getting ready to strain the grains
4. Use a dry erase marker to write on the lid what time you're kefir is going to be done the next day. The last thing you want to do is second-guess yourself. :) If you forget the time, you'll know it's done when it smells like yogurt. Some people recommend burping the lid or shaking your jar during this 24 hours. You can. I never do.

5. After 24 hours, place your strainer over a bowl and dump out the grains and milk-turned-kefir. Strain. Use a plastic spoon to stir the grains around to help strain. It might be a little thick.

6. Using your funnel (if you lack perfect aim, like me), dump the milk-turned-kefir WITHOUT THE GRAINS into a new clean jar. Note the date on the lid and store in the fridge. Kefir will keep several weeks.

Now you have a choice ... immediately make more kefir (following steps 1-6) or put your kefir grains in "storage mode." 

Storing Kefir Grains
L-R: Extra kefir grains covered in milk and
ready for storage; fresh liquid kefir ready for eating;
kefir fermenting for tomorrow
Remember: kefir grains are living creatures. They will keep growing and need food to live. You can't just store them dry in the fridge. So, once you're done making your kefir, put the grains in a small glass jar. Add some milk to cover them. They will keep for awhile this way, but you'll notice the milk gets really thick and slowly turns to kefir. The grains don't really "stop" eating ... the fridge just sloooooows them down. So if you haven't made kefir in a week, go back and add some fresh milk, stirring the stored kefir grains with a plastic spoon. But, ideally, you're making kefir regularly -- right? *wink*

Kefir grains make the perfect gift. They're hard to kill -- and I'm the type of person who can't keep houseplants alive. Even the no-water-only-add-2-ice-cubes-every-few-weeks-hybrid-Irises. Yup. But my kefir grains keep growing! You'll even start to recognize some of your grains.

Look at the size of this one!

Monster Kefir Grain!
You could even name your kefir grains. Yes, these are the thoughts I have late at night when I'm sleep deprived and rocking a baby. :)

Happy kefir making!


  1. What does kefir taste like? Also, does it have any particular nutrition/health benefits? I am not a yogurt fan, but my husband adores it and I could see making it for him even if I don't enjoy it. Finally, any particular difference using raw vs. pasteurized milk for it?

    1. Those are great questions! Did you see this post? It answers some of your questions: http://bentkitchen.blogspot.com/2012/03/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about.html

      Kefir tastes like liquid yogurt, with a little bit of a carbonated zing. It has both beneficial bacteria (like yogurt) AND beneficial yeasts (unlike yogurt), so it's a good bang for your buck. It's worth it to eat both yogurt and kefir -- they have different bacteria profiles.

      Using raw milk will yield raw-milk-kefir, which is super nutritious. But you can definitely use pasteurized milk. I wouldn't start by using organic milk, because most organic milk has been ultra-heat-pastuerized (UHT), and the enzymes are all dead in it.

      Feel free to ask if you have more questions! :)