Learning to Make Milk Kefir

KEEF-uhr. Keh-FEER! Keff–ur? Urr…

Whatever you want to call it, this is a must-make staple of a Real Foods diet. Delicious dairy cultured with these curious little clusters of “grains” I kept hearing about — I had been dying to get my hands on some for quite a while. I’d mastered my first weird homemade hippie beverage, and I was anxious to move on to new territory.

Well, thanks to the generosity of a fellow blogger, to my delight, I received a package of kefir grains in the mail from Stacy of the fabulously entertaining and helpful, frugal homemaking blog, Stacy Makes Cents! Since the grains multiply as you use them to culture your dairy, you’re eventually left with an overabundance of them that you can pass along to others. Neighbors, friends, or even people who live thousands of miles away on a rock in the middle of the ocean! :D

My lovely kefir grains. Thank you, Stacy!!

Why kefir?

I mentioned in a previous post that making kefir out of pasteurized milk is a great way to restore nutritional value to a sub-par, processed product. I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the teachings of a traditional diet — it’s that everything’s better fermented! Nutrients and enzymes and vitamins just pop up out of nowhere, thanks to the fortifying power of fermentation.

So of course, dairy is no exception. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to start with superiorly-nourishing raw milk, making kefir out of it can enhance it even further!

How it’s done

This is yet another DIY real food that’s ridiculously easy to make.

Step 1: Put kefir grains into a glass jar.

Plop.

Step 2: Pour milk (or cream) inside.

And just try to take a picture of it without spilling.

Step 3: Leave it alone. (for 12-24 hours, ish.)

Ready to stick in the cupboards overnight.

Step 4: Strain out the kefir, leaving behind the grains.

I used a cheesecloth and a rubber band…

…like so.

Step 5: Refrigerate what you made, pour some milk back into the jar and do it again! (If you want.)

 

Some things I learned about kefir

Kefir does not taste like milk. Haha, uh, yeah. When I wrote that post about raw milk alternatives, I was thinking — yeah! Just ferment the milk, and then you can still drink it! It’ll be just as good with cookies as normal milk! Weeell… maybe not. Don’t get me wrong — it’s great! If you add some stuff to it.

I made a little berry smoothie out of some of the kefir I made, and that was delicious! There’s lots of ways you can flavor the kefir to turn it into a tasty drink. Plain kefir just tastes kinda odd, kinda tangy, and kind of like yogurt’s weird liquidy cousin. It just needs a little bit of assistance in the flavor department. But then again — I’m speaking only from experience in kefir-ing sub-par, pasteurized dairy — maybe plain raw kefir would taste just fine to me!

It will basically turn into yogurt if you leave it out too long. Which is cool, if that’s what you want. Leaving it out to culture for a full day results in a much thicker kefir, like this:

Kinda lumpy. Couldn’t really strain it through the cheesecloth cause it was so thick, so I just spooned out the grains.

A 12-hour one looks like normal milk:

Easily strained into a bowl.

Kefir grains need a little love. They are happiest doing their job — being busy culturing milk in a cupboard — but can be stored in milk in the fridge for a few weeks without being used. In case you screw up a batch (still not exactly sure how that happens, maybe leaving it out too long?), it’s best to have some reserves. Give away some of your extras (the grains grow with each batch) to nearby friends and family, so that way if you kill your grains, you’ve got some spares. Every couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to rinse off the grains in *filtered* water — tap can hurt them.

What to do with it

I loved my berry smoothie, but here’s some more ideas I’d like to try.

  • Make kefir ice cream! Just kefir-up some cream, and use it normally in a homemade ice cream recipe.
  • Healthy hot chocolate — add in some cocoa, honey, and vanilla, and I bet it would make a great hot cocoa!
  • Or chocolate “milk!” Probably do the same thing, just without heating it!
  • How about making a probiotic Italian soda?! Make a flavored water kefir soda, maybe add some simple syrup, then top with sweetened kefir cream. I bet that would be tasty!
  • Cook with it! You can substitute buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream with kefir in any recipe.
  • Kefir cream cheese! Just put thicker kefir into a cheesecloth, tie it up, and let the whey drip out of it for 6-8 hours. You can add herbs or whatever to flavor it, and even make it into a dip!
  • Creamy chai tea — just steep a couple chai tea bags in a jar of kefir overnight. You could even go a bit further and make a pumpkin smoothie out of it!

Try it!

You can order kefir grains from our friends at Cultures for Health, if you don’t know someone who can spare a few for you. Then, you can kefir up all your dairy to your heart’s content! Oh and check out all CFH’s recipes and tips for making kefir treats. They look awesome!

Click here for Kefir Starters

Thanks again to Stacy for making my kefir adventures possible!
Have you tried making kefir yet? If you’re already a kefir lover, what are your favorite ways to use it? Got any more tips we should share?
{This post is being shared with Simple Lives Thursday!}

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28 Responses to Learning to Make Milk Kefir
  1. I’m so glad it’s working out! :-) I usually let mine ferment for 24 hours to get the thickness I like. I use a strainer that I sit inside a funnel…..and I have to stir the mixture with a spatula to get it to come through. I find that helps make it really creamy.
    I do hope you’ll post a recipe for hot chocolate! :-)

  2. Carol says:

    Kefir that has sat out too long is cream cheese, just strain to remove the whey. The longer the grains sit in the milk the stronger the flavor becomes. If you have kefir that is tasting more sour than you care for since your grains off with cool water, rinse well, all those little nooks and crannies need to have the stray kefir removed so the flavor does not move on to the next batch.
    I leave mine sit out for 24 hours and remove the grains from the jar and whisk the kefir and place it in the frig to cool and whisk again just before drinking.
    Excellent substitute for buttermilk, I replace milk and in some recipes water with my kefir. You will learn to love it!
    Just remember when you cook it at high temps in baking and such it loses its probiotic benefits.

  3. Susan W says:

    I can remember having kefir over 30 yrs ago! I was 21, had just moved out to the Desert Southwest from PA. You’d would’ve never seen it there. Probably have it now. I like it w/ raspberries. Couldn’t drink it too often or I would have to stay near the bathroom.

    Nowadays I make homemade yogurt and make them in tall mason jars, make 6 of them 2X’s a week. My yogurt sets up beautifully in 5 hrs. I like to make East Indian “lassi” beverages from the yogurt: blend it together with peaches, mangoes, strawberries. Mango & peach lassi I like to add a pinch of cardamom.

  4. Elia says:

    I purchased Kefir grains from Cultures for Health and couldn’t be happier. We were buying the kefer already made and it was costing an arm and a leg, now we’ve been purchasing milk from a local dairy and using it to make the kefir :)

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Doesn’t it just make you scratch your head at how expensive this stuff is in stores, when it’s so easy and cheap to make at home?! Same thing with kombucha. And yogurt. It’s crazy!

  5. Bethany says:

    Interesting! I’ve been curious about Kefir for some time now but not curious enough to actually look it up myself. And look… you did it all for me. Except I’m embarking on day 1 of no-dairy for 2 weeks to see if it’s the cause of my digestive issues. Milk I could live without but I will be a very sad girl if I can’t even work with the fermented dairy… I guess we’ll see. And yes I’m curious about the hot chocolate! For some reason I’ve been drinking a lot of that lately, which is now being made with coconut milk and is quite good.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Ooh coconut chocolate milk sounds awesome, I’ll have to try that! If you’re having digestive issues, I highly recommend looking into the GAPS diet! You’ll be able to have fermented dairy on it, while you work on healing your gut so you can eventually enjoy any healthy foods without a reaction. I’m gearing up to do it myself and will be sure to write about it!

  6. Minnie says:

    That looks yummy and I think I would be able to manage that..

  7. Kefir Cream Cheese=something I MUST try!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Yeah!! Well you’re already a cheese-making queen over there with your ricotta — kefir cream cheese will be a cinch! ;)

  8. […] Learning to Make Milk Kefir by Butter Believer. “Delicious dairy cultured with these curious little clusters of […]

  9. […] Learning to Make Milk Kefir by Butter Believer. “Delicious dairy cultured with these curious little clusters of […]

  10. Mary Korte says:

    I love my kefir. I let mine go for 24-48 hours, it completely separates into curds and whey. I use a stainless slotted spoon to fish out my grains and I never rinse them as that weakens them. I am blessed with raw pastured milk to kefir and it is so good. When I first had it I found it tart and hard to drink but now I can drink it straight as I am used to the flavor. My favorite smoothie with kefir is 1 cup kefir, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 scant tbsp raw cacao powder, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and either a 1/2 cup of cherries or 2 tbsp nut butter. Blend it up with a 1/4 cup of ice and it is the perfect breakfast.
    I kefired some cream and made butter and buttermilk out of it, the best ever! I can’t wait to do it again when I can afford the cream.
    Thanks for sharing about kefir, it is great to see folks exploring this healthy option.
    I can’t tolerate milk very well (even pastured jersey milk) but make it into kefir and I have no trouble with it at all.

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Oh wow, your smoothie recipe sounds amazing!! Definitely must try that. And I’ll try letting my kefir go longer for a day or two like you do — it’s still weird for me to leave milk “sitting out” so long, but I’ll take your word for it that I can do a two-day ferment! Those curds and whey won’t kill ya, right?! ;) Thanks, Mary!

  11. Rachel says:

    I love kefir! I’m not able to drink it straight, but I love making smoothies with it. I put all my smoothie fruit in the freezer because I’ve found that makes the consistency in the final smoothie that I like best. I always put a banana (frozen) in my smoothies but from there it differs. Sometimes berries, or mango and pineapple, or sometimes peanut butter (natural of course). I like a good blob of honey in with each smoothie too.

    I use kefir in place of any buttermilk or sour cream in recipes. Coupled with sprouted spelt flour it makes the BEST pancakes ever! Has a wonderful sourdough type flavor, without all the time involved in actual sourdough.

    Not as common of a use but I mix kefir sometimes with my chicken’s feed and put that out for them. They gobble it up. Figure the good stuff that helps me should do the same for them! (They get apple cider vinegar in their water occasionally as well but that’s off topic)

  12. I’ve made water kefir before but not milk kefir. Your article makes me want to try it! But unfortunately, where I live, I’ve no access to raw milk. What we have are only commercially produced milk which I don’t feel safe about. I supposed ‘kefiring’ commercial milk won’t make it healthier and safer to drink? What do you think? Thanks, great article!

  13. […] and for tying a bundle of yogurt or kefir to so you can drain out the whey. Plus, when you make kefir and kombucha, you can’t use a metal spoon to stir because it can hurt the culture. Wooden […]

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  15. […] metal ones, and they won’t scratch your new pots and pans. Plus, you need wooden spoons for making kefir, as metal or plastic ones can hurt your […]

  16. Brittany says:

    do you eat this in place of taking probiotics in capsules?

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Well, I haven’t made kefir in a while since I moved and my kefir grains didn’t come with me, but I’d like to get some more and start making it again. I don’t currently take probiotics. I have heard of some people drinking kefir and even eating small amounts of kefir grains to act as a probiotic supplement, though.

  17. Luci says:

    Hi, thanks for perfect way how to make kefir. I´m just wondering if someone from you don´t know how to make it all at home. I mean, here in Brazil, I can´t buy the grains.
    Thanks a lot for your answer :)

  18. Diane says:

    Hi!

    Is store bought Kefir just as equally healthy as homemade? I recently moved to Sweden and discovered it in the Dairy aile.

    Thanks, great article!:)

    • ButterBeliever says:

      Thanks, Diane! I’m sure it’s a perfectly healthy drink, but my guess is that store-bought kefir will have been fermented for a shorter time than homemade, so it will have less beneficial probiotics. If making it yourself is impractical, though, I don’t see anything wrong with buying store-bought!

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