Making milk kefir- a step by step guide
Milk Kefir is a wonderfully delicious slightly carbonated fermented milk drink which is quite similar to yogurt. Kefir is simply milk that is fermented at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24 hours. I absolutely love milk kefir and recommend it to almost every client because it has so many amazing health benefits and is tolerated well by the lactose intolerant. The key health benefit of kefir is it’s huge spectrum of beneficial bacteria which is far more diverse than even the most expensive probiotic supplements on the market.
Milk Kefir originated roughly 2,000 years ago in the Caucasian Mountains between Europe and Russia, which makes kefir one of the oldest milk ferments in existence. Traditionally milk was fermented in a sheep’s bladder which would be hung in a doorway so that it was knocked as people passed through to keep the grains circulating.
Making milk kefir
There isn’t a whole lot you need to ferment milk and you can buy the whole kit along with the grains from Happy Kombucha. You will need:
Milk- Raw milk is best, but if you don’t have access to raw use organic whole cow or goat milk. You can also use soya milk if you prefer.
A strainer- this should be plastic as metals can leach when coming into contact with acidic liquids such as kefir.
A bowl- to capture your strained kefir
A jar with a breathable lid- to ferment your kefir in
A jar or bottle- for storing your strained kefir in the fridge
A sterile wood or plastic spoon- to help strain the kefir.
Preparing the grains:
If you’ve just received your kefir grains in the mail, store them in the fridge until you are ready to feed them. To prepare your grains, strain off and discard the kefired milk they are in. Sometimes they are ‘naked’ and thats ok too – either way, give them a quick rinse with spring water or a bit of milk if they’ve been in transit for a couple days.
Feeding the grains:
Simply place them in a sterile jar and fill with milk! Make sure the jar is big enough to have at least a couple inches space between the milk and the lid. A good ratio is about 1 teaspoon per 1 cup milk in the summer and 1 tablespoon per 1 cup milk in the winter (milk ferments faster in the summer)
Fermenting the milk:
(a) Cover the jar with something breathable like a paper towel or coffee filter.
(b) Place the jar in a cupboard or other area that has a relatively cool and stable temperature.
(c) Let it ferment for about 24 hours.
To determine when it is done, barely tilt it and see if its still runny like milk, or slightly gel-like. When its gel-like, it’s ready.
Straining the milk:
(a) Place your strainer over a bowl
(b) Tip the whole jar of kefir, grains included, into your strainer and let strain.
*You may notice the top is lumpy – this is normal – the grains usually float to the top at the end of the ferment. Gently stir and encourage the kefir to strain through into the bowl, leaving the grains behind in the strainer. Don’t worry, no matter how thick, it will all eventually get through.
Bottle and repeat
Once your kefir is strained place your grains back into their jar. You can rinse or wash the jar if desired, but it’s not necessary every time. Stir your strained kefir to smooth out any chunks and then enjoy! You can also bottle it to let it ‘mellow’ a bit in the fridge, which also allows it time to increase in B vitamins and folic acid.
* If bottling and storing ensure that there is at least 1/2 inch of space between the kefir and the lid. I have exploded bottles of kefir more than once and it makes a terrible mess! You can store it with the cap on loosely, or simply ‘burp’ it once a day to allow any built-up air to escape.
Now simply feed your grains fresh milk and repeat!
I love to enjoy kefir just as it comes but it is also delicious blended with fruit to make a smoothie or as a milk replacement with your morning granola and fruit. Enjoy!