Milk kefir is a fermented dairy product similar in many ways to yogurt and buttermilk. It's how kefir is cultured that makes it really unique — instead of heating the milk, adding a culture, and keeping it warm as you do with yogurt, all you need to make milk kefir are kefir grains.
Kefir grains are not really grains at all (don't worry, gluten-free guys). These "grains" are actually tiny, rubbery, knobby-looking cell structures that are home to the bacteria and yeast that ferment the kefir. These grains are the milk kefir equivalent to the scoby used to make kombucha.
Milk kefir #dairyfree is great for anyone who loves yogurt. It is is tangy, about as thick (and creamy!) as a smoothie, and full of those good-for-you probiotics we hear so much about. Think of milk kefir as drinkable, pourable yogurt. You can make it yourself right on your kitchen counter!
Health Benefits of Kefir:
Like yogurt and other cultured and fermented products, milk kefir is full of probiotics, which aid healthy digestion. The fermenting process also changes some of the protein structures in the milk, making it easier to digest. Some people who can't tolerate milk often do better when drinking milk kefir.
How To Make Milk Kefir
1 cup milk, preferably whole fat and dairy free
1 teaspoon active kefir grains
1 pint-sized glass jar
Cheesecloth, paper towel, or clean napkin
Small strainer (preferably plastic, but metal is ok)
Storage container with lid
Note: Avoid prolonged contact between the kefir and metal both during and after brewing. This can affect the flavour of your kefir and weaken the grains over time.
- Combine the milk and the grains in a jar: Pour the milk into a clean glass jar (not metal) and stir in the kefir grains. The milk can be cold or room temperature, either is fine.
- Cover the jar: Cover the jar with cheesecloth, a paper towel, or a clean napkin and secure it with a rubber band. Do not screw a lid onto the jar as the build up of carbon dioxide from the fermenting grains can cause pressure to build in the jar, and in extreme cases, cause the jar to burst.
- Ferment for 12 to 48 hours: Store the jar at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Check the jar every few hours. When the milk has thickened and tastes tangy, it's ready. This will usually take about 24 hours at average room temperatures; the milk will ferment faster at warmer temperatures and slower at cool temperatures. If your milk hasn't fermented after 48 hours, strain out the grains and try again in a fresh batch (this sometimes happens when using new kefir grains, when refreshing dried kefir grains, or when using grains that have been refrigerated).
- Strain out the kefir grains: Place a small strainer over the container you'll use to store the kefir. Strain the kefir into the container, catching the grains in the strainer.
- Transfer the grains to fresh milk: Stir the grains into a fresh batch of milk and allow to ferment again. This way, you can make a fresh batch of kefir roughly every 24 hours. To take a break from making kefir, place the grains in fresh milk, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
- Drink or refrigerate the milk kefir: The prepared milk kefir can be used or drunk immediately, or covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Activating Dried Kefir Grains: If you bought your kefir grains in a dried form, rehydrate them by soaking them in fresh milk at room temperature. Change the milk every 24 hours until the grains begin to culture the milk and make kefir. It may take 3 to 7 days for the kefir grains to become fully active.
- Making More or Less Kefir: You'll need about a teaspoon of grains to ferment 1 to 2 cups of milk. You can also ferment less milk than this, but fermentation will go more quickly. Your grains will start to multiply over time, allowing you to ferment more milk if you like. Maintain a ratio of about a teaspoon of grains to 1 cup of milk.
- Taking a Break from Making Kefir: To take a break from making kefir, transfer the grains into a fresh container of milk, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to a month.
- What to Do if Your Kefir Separates: Sometimes kefir will separate into a solid layer and milky layer if left too long. This is fine! Shake the jar or whisk the kefir to recombine and carry on. If this happens regularly, start checking your kefir sooner.
You can drink milk kefir just as it is, straight-up or you can also add milk kefir to smoothies and other drinks just as you would use yogurt or regular milk.
Kefir is fantastic for baking, too! Use it in place of yogurt, milk, or buttermilk in any recipe you make.
Note: The kefir grains work best with whole-fat animal milk from goats and and sheep. Coconut milk works well also but you can use any milk.