How to Make Kefir and Related FAQs
Denise and I make our own Kefir as it’s a brilliant way to improve gut flora and prevent some infectious or chronic diseases like IBS.
We regularly have small quantities of kefir grains we can give to friends, clients and neighbours wanting to start making their own.
It can be hard to remember all the guidance so I’ve written these Frequently Asked Questions. Please review them until you are confident with the process. If you have additional questions please use the form and the bottom and I’ll respond.
Please note that although I’ve trained in Nutrition & Naturopathy I’m not a qualified practitioner. If you have any condition I recommend to first check with your physician before implementing any of my advice.
What Is Kefir?
Basically it’s fermented/soured milk, a bit like yogurt except it contains much more types of bacteria. It’s been widely used in Eastern Europe for centuries. In the West the tradition faded after WW2 (my mum, who lives in France, recently told me she still remembers the ‘cauliflower like’ grains, but they had to stop because of milk shortage during the war). It’s now getting popular again because of the health benefits and general trend towards fermented food.
What are the main Contents/Benefits of Kefir?
There are many documented benefits, here are the ones I noted:
- Probiotics: The University of Florida found that Goat Milk Kefir contains 150 billion colonies per tablespoon. To give you an idea the strongest probiotics in shops contains around 3 billion per cap.
- Proteins: Kefir is rich in the amino acid tryptophan, known for its relaxing impact on the body.
How to Drink/Use Kefir?
- You can drink it anytime but early morning and late evening seem to be good times.
- Kefir is great to emulsify oils, so use it whenever you make salad dressings, it will make your digestion easier. I would particularly recommend it for people who have had their gallbladder removed.
- You can use it like yogurt in recipes or smoothies.
- It can be use to make Sourdough Starter and Buttermilk.
- You can feed it to animals, it may help if they are unwell, in particular for digestive issues.
- The watery part may help with Conjunctivitis.
What are the Types of Kefir?
Note: Although you can make Kefir out of non dairy (water, coconut milk, etc) it can only be temporarily as the kefir grains will not survive, so here I will only discuss milk-based Kefir.
- You’ll find ready-to-drink pasteurised Kefir in Eastern-European shops, and probably soon in supermarkets eager to capitalise on new trends. You may be able to use it as a starter for a few batches though I’ve never tried.
- You can buy Kefir powder, which will work well at the beginning but you won’t get proper kefir grains and after a while you will have to buy more.
- Kefir grains are the real deal. They are living clumps of bacteria (and yeast) that feed on the lactose (milk sugar), multiply and in the process produce Kefir.
Does Kefir Contain Alcohol?
Yes it does, as alcohol is a by product of the fermentation process, however it is very low, between around 0.01 and 0.1% depending on how long you keep it fermenting for.
What does it Taste Like?
It’s tart and slightly fizzy (some call it “Champagne of Milk”). The taste will also depend on the type of milk. I find mine sweeter than at the beginning but it could just be that I got used to.
Is Kefir Suitable for Lactose Intolerant People? What about Gluten?
Lactose is the sugar inside the milk. As this is the part Kefir consumes, the amount of lactose will be much reduced. In addition the bacteria contained in the Kefir will help digest the remaining lactose. If you are lactose intolerant I recommend you use Goat Milk and try with small quantities to see how your body deals with it.
Kefir doesn’t contain Gluten.
Which Milk To Use?
I’ve tried Cow, Buffalo and Goat, Full and Half Fat, Pasteurised and Raw (unpasteurised)… I now use only Raw Organic Goat Milk because I find it tastes and works best, but other types of milk can be used. Don’t use UHT milk as it will probably not work.
Is RMD (Raw Drinking Milk) Safe?
EU law requires RMD to come with safety warnings on the label stating “it is not heat treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health”. It is true that some bacteria are helpful and others harmful. Pasteurisation and Antibiotics can’t discriminate, they kill them all. My view is that by building up the good bacteria you are lessening the chances of your gut retaining the bad ones.
Where can I Buy Raw Milk?
It’s not easy to find as there are so few farmers making it, because of the legal restrictions and because it doesn’t keep fresh very long. Some health food shops (for example Gaia in Twickenham, though last time I bought some it was bad) stocks frozen raw milk. I purchase my raw goat milk from Debbie Vernon who comes to Twickenham Farmer’s Market every 4th Saturday of the month. I buy enough for the month and freeze it. If you want to buy from her I recommend to text your order the day before (I can provide her mobile when I see you). I may want to freeze extra in preparation for winter as most of the fresh milk is used for feeding the kids, so little is available to buy.
How Much Kefir should I Drink?
That will of course depend. Start with a small quantity to see if it agrees with you. To give you an idea, I use around 10 pints a month just for kefir, that’s for two people drinking around 50-80ml each a day. If you have health issues you may want to increase the quantity. Debbie feeds kefir to her own goats when some of them are unwell!
What do I Need to Make Kefir?
- Kefir Grains (preferably) or Kefir Powder (only works for a while then you need to buy more).
- Glass Jug (clean and dry), between 1 and 2 litres.
- Glass Jar (clean and dry), ideally with a spout.
- Small Mesh Plastic Strainer (avoid metal).
- Wooden spoon or chopstick.
- Kitchen paper (or Small Linen Towel).
- Elastic band.
How do I Make Kefir?
- Place the grains in a clean and dry glass jug
- Cover with fresh milk, preferably whole and unpasteurised
- Add a clean towel (paper or linen) on top and seal with an elastic band
- Leave at room temperature between 12 and 36 hours. The duration depends on how strong you want it, how many grains you have (the more grains the less time), the temperature (activation will be quicker if the room is warm).
- Stir it a few times a day or when you notice it starts to separate. Use a wooden chopstick to stir gently, enough to make it homogeneous.
- Use the plastic strainer to fill the glass jar you will use to drink.
- Keep enough kefir to cover the grains.
- Leave both the jug and jar in the fridge (leave the jug covered but not the jar). Don’t set your fridge too cold and leave in the less cold part.
- Two days before you run out of Kefir start making your new batch.
How to Keep my Kefir Grains Healthy?
I read many warnings about Kefir, that it shouldn’t be left in fridges, shouldn’t be exposed to light etc… In my experience the grains are not that fragile, however I recommend the following:
- Keep away from chlorinated water (chlorine kills all bacteria and therefore Kefir).
- Avoid contact with metal.
- Don’t have your fridge set too cold (mine is set to 6 degrees Celsius).
How often should I Clean the Jar?
With time the jar will show marks of kefir that has dried and thickened like cheese. I don’t believe it is a problem, and some people even argue that it makes the Kefir taste better. I’m not sure about that. Personally I clean it around once a month, when it start to look to messy. Sometimes I’ll collect the thicker part to use like Cottage Cheese. So this is really up to you, as long as you make sure your clean jar is dry.
What’s the Size of Kefir Grains?
That will depends on the type of milk. When my Polish friend gave me some they were quite large, around two inches in diameter, she was using semi skimmed Cow’s milk. I use full fat raw goat milk and the grains are between 1 cm and 1 inch. Smaller grains mean more surface so quicker activation.
How to Kefir Alive if I go away?
- If you go away for a few days keep the kefir in the fridge, covered with kefir or milk.
- If you go away for a few weeks, add a pint of fresh milk to the grains and leave in the fridge. At your return the mixture will have separated but after a stir it should be ready.
- If you go away for longer then try freezing the kefir and add fresh milk when you are back.
Could you Help me Getting Started?
If you leave nearby I certainly can, get in touch with Denise or Serge, or find Serge on the Olio app or Nextdoor.co.uk. Please note we only have around 2 lots a month to give away so you may have to wait. We don’t ship it and will give to people living the closest first. When you come round please bring a small clean glass jar and have some milk ready, or ask me if I have some frozen to spare. I can also add you to my WhatsApp forum where we share questions & answers.