Making Homemade Milk Kefir

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If you’ve delved into the world of fermented foods then surely you’ve heard of milk kefir. There are lists of up to 100 things kefir can cure, but it’s easy to be skeptical of these types of claims.

But if you’ve made kefir yourself and consumed it on a regular basis then you know where the word kefir comes from. In the original language kefir literally translates to “good feeling” because of how it makes one’s body feel after drinking.

I’ve been making kefir off and on for some time and can attest to this good feeling. I’m told it is the enzymes, probiotics, B vitamins, and calcium that are in large supply in kefir that give us this feeling. I can’t say I know for sure about any of those things. What I can say, though, is that everyone in our family tends to do better when consuming this cultured milk product.

Kefir vs. Yogurt

Milk kefir is slightly thinner than yogurt and slightly thicker than milk. It has a tangy, slightly yeasty flavor not that different from plain yogurt. Kefir is different than yogurt, though, in that it contains both bacteria and yeasts and contains many more types of bacteria strains than yogurt. For this reason it is generally considered better for you than yogurt.

It is also easier to make than yogurt since it does not require a warm temperature of 110 or so degrees and can be cultured on a kitchen counter.

How to Make Milk Kefir

You have two options in obtaining a kefir culture: get some kefir grains or get a powdered starter culture (cultures for health is my favorite source of both). Some of the properties of the milk kefir are slightly different between the two starter cultures, including the various strains of bacteria present. Both cultures produce a healthy milk kefir and are made in a very similar way.

Right now I am using a powdered starter culture because I haven’t been able to get my hands on some good kefir grains since I killed my last batch in a cross-country move followed by having a new baby.

Making kefir with the starter culture is as simple as:

  1. Add packet of starter culture to one quart of cow’s milk (raw or lightly pasteurized) or two cups of goat milk. I honestly don’t know why there is a discrepancy in the amount of milk needed to make your first batch with the starter, I just know that using 2 cups of goat milk worked for me so I’ll continue with that.
  2. Stir the starter into the milk really well with a wooden spoon. Cover loosely and allow to culture at room temperature until it has thickened slightly and has a tangy smell to it, about 12-24 hours depending on temperature. Refrigerate.

You now have a batch of kefir that can be used up to seven times as a starter culture in the following ratios:

  • 6 tablespoons per quart of cow or goat milk
  • 2/3 cup per half gallon cow or goat milk
  • 1 1/3 cup per gallon of milk

To make the most of this starter I like to culture at least a half gallon at a time. Because each packet will be used seven times and there are six packets per culture purchased I can make between 20 and 40 gallons of kefir from this purchase.

Making kefir from grains is my favorite way because it is both more economical and more sustainable. The process is exactly the same in time and method. The only difference is that after each batch you remove the kefir grains (a collection of gelatinous bits and pieces) and place them in a new vessel which you then cover with milk to make your next batch.

Kefir may take some time to get used to because of its unique flavor, but it is easily masked in smoothies or over granola. Eventually you come to appreciate both the flavor and the life-giving qualities of this cultured food.

Have you ever made or consumed milk kefir?

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16 Responses to Making Homemade Milk Kefir

  1. Katie, where in MN are you? I enjoy kefir and buy it sometimes, the idea of making my own is intriguing so I might be interested in getting some Kefir grains from you.

  2. Katie I am KaBha on PTE. You can find me & send me a message. Also does anyone know if Kefir expires? With it being a fermented product I have no clue. I seems like it would just keep doing it’s thing but maybe eventually there can be too many bacteria etc…(or do bad ones develop) in there to make it safe to drink. Or how soon do you need to consume it after making it if homemade?

  3. I make both dairy and coconut kefir on a regular basis. Fermented coconut milk is SO thick and tangy and a little naturally sweet, it is beautiful dolloped over fresh fruit.

    • Do ;you use only coconut milk in a can? I love coconut yogurt and kefir but want a reliable source. I tried the Trader Joes coconut milk in the half gallon and it never set up for me. Is there any source besides the can for qood quality coconut milk?

      • Are you talking about the coconut milk beverage in the paper carton? That is not just coconut milk, it also has a couple of other things in there, like sugar, flavoring and stabilizer. That could be the reason that it did not work for you. You have to get coconut milk, just coconut and water. Anything else in the can or carton can affect the kefir process.

        Trader Joe’s light coconut milk is just coconut and water but their coconut cream has a stabilizer in it.

        Another note on using canned, make sure you use something that tastes good to you. Once it has been turned into kefir, it will taste just like it did before but sour. So, if you don’t like it before it is kefir, you probably won’t like it after either.

        Also, if you are using grains that are used to dairy milk, you will need to culture your coconut milk for about a week before the grains get used to the new food source.

        Here is a link to how to make coconut milk kefir using milk kefir grains or using water kefir grains: Coconut Milk Kefir.

        Good luck!

  4. we were able to score some milk kefir from friends of ours to use as our own starter kit … i keep reading on line about kefir, but most of what i find is how to start kefir. since we already have a small jar of milk kefir, what do we do to maintain it? do we separate out the grains and just add new milk?? any idea how long kefir will “keep dormant” if left in a refrigerator?? :) thank you!!!

    happy tuesday!
    coley

    • Kefir grains should be strained out using a plastic colander of some sort. Don’t use metal utensils etc as it will eventually kill them. Then pop them in new milk. I don’t know how long you can keep in the fridge but I did do it while gone for a week and then quickly changed the milk 3 times in one day to perk it back up. If you ever think you ‘killed’ it try changing the milk (with room temperature milk) several times in one day and it usually will come back. Extreme heat will kill it though.

    • I have heard of some people “accidentally” leaving their grains in milk in the refrigerator for years.

      They go dormant in cold. Some people freeze them to store them also.

      I have also heard of people using finished kefir that has been refrigerated for around a year also. Some people said it became alcoholic and some said it became vinegary.

  5. I am lactose tolerant, although I can eat yogurt. I use Almond Milk for cereals and cooking. Any idea how this would work with Almond Milk? Many thanks.

    • From what I have read, the kefir grains actually eat lactose. So, if you are intolerant and not allergic, you may be able to drink cow’s milk kefir.

      Another interesting fact, pasteurization actually kills the enzyme normally found in cow’s milk that helps you consume lactose. So, you may also be able to drink raw cow’s milk.

      As far as making almond milk kefir. Milk kefir grains or water kefir grains can ferment non dairy milks like almond milk but they will not thrive in these sources. Milk kefir grains need dairy milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc) and water kefir grains need sugar and water. So, if you want to make almond milk kefir, just switch the grains to their “normal” food source about every 4 batches to keep them healthy.

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