Milk Kefir is a fermented dairy milk drink, very similar to yogurt or buttermilk. What makes Milk Kefir different is how it is cultured and how it has been fermented.
Milk Kefir is made using Kefir grains, which are referred to as the ‘starter’ agent. Kefir grains are rubbery-like cell structures which contain the bacteria and yeast that drive the fermentation process.
Kafir is incredibly simple to make. The main components are milk, kefir grains and a container. The kefir grains are soaked in milk and left covered at room temperature for at least 24 hours. During this time the bacteria and yeasts ferment the natural sugars in the milk which are more widely known as ‘lactose’ into lactic acid which in turn activates and promotes the bacterial growth.
How Do You Make Your Own Kefir?
The great news is that you can easily make your own kefir at home. Like many if not all fermented foods, making your own kefir really couldn’t be more simple.
Here’s an easy step-by-step guide:
- Pint sized glass, or a similar sized glass jar or glass bowl
- Paper towel, napkin, cheesecloth
- Elastics band or string
- Strainer (basic sieve or muslin)
- 1 teaspoon kefir grains
- 1 cup of milk (best results from whole full fat animal milk eg. cow, sheep, goat milk)
- Pour the milk (cold or room temperature) into your freshly cleaned container of choice.
- Stir in the kefir grains.
- Cover with a paper towel, napkin or cheesecloth, securing it with a piece of string or elastic band.
- Leave this now to ferment at room temperature, away from direct sunlight for at least 24 hours and check it every few hours.
- The kefir is ready when the mixture has thickened and has a tangy taste and this usually takes around 24 hours. Simply test it with a wooden spoon. Don’t panic if it seems a little thick, it will thin out in the next step.
- After 24 hours have passed you’ll need to strain out the grains. Take whatever container you’re planning to store the kefir in and place your strainer (muslin or seive) over the top and simply pour the kefir mixture through the strainer in order to catch the grains.
- The milk kefir can be consumed straight away or covered securely and refrigerated for around a week.
- The remaining kefir grains can either be put into fresh milk and left at room temperature to ferment again for another batch of kefir, or simply add the grains to fresh milk and put them in the fridge for when you do wish to make another batch.
NB: Try to avoid the use of metal when you’re making your kefir as it’s believed to be harmful to the kefir grains and thus to the whole fermentation process.
Where Do I Get Kefir Grains?
The great thing about kefir grains is that they’re reusable. Once you’ve made one batch of kefir, the strained grains can simply be put back into fresh milk and kept refrigerated for when you’re ready to make another batch. The strained grains can be kept in the fridge for one to two week and if you want to keep them longer, just change and refresh the milk to be sure that you’re ‘feeding’ the grains as best as possible.
Most people will buy their kefir grains from health food shops. Whether you’re buying in person or online, just like anything, there is a huge choice so be sure to do your research so you know you’re buying from a reputable company.
Homemade vs Shop Bought Kefir
Homemade kefir is by far the better option to shop bought. Making your own kefir means you’re in control of what goes in and thus you can adapt the recipe to suit your individual taste. Shop bought kefir can contain added sugar and flavourings. We all know that making and growing our own food products is a great way to save money and this is especially true with fermented foods like kefir which are on a whole consumed on a daily basis. Making your own kefir will not only be cheaper but also more environmentally friendly given you won’t be paying time and time again for the packaging of shop bought alternatives.
Is Kefir Good For You? What Are the Benefits of Kefir?
Like many other fermented food products such as yogurt, kefir is jam packed with probiotics (good bacteria) which are famed for their numerous health benefits, with the aiding and boosting of our digestive system being top of the list. Kefir can also be a good option for people who may be lactose intolerant due to the fact that the fermentation process, has an effect in changing the milk proteins which make milk easier to digest.
Here’s a little round up of kefir’s health benefits:
- Rich in Vitamin B which boosts our mood and energy levels, improves skin and hair health, helps improves our memory
- Contains Folic Acid which our bodies need to make new cells and is especially important for women trying to get or who are already pregnant as it can help prevent birth defects
- Probiotics help digestion, boost immunity, lower blood pressure
- Helps boost our bone density
How Much Kefir Should I Drink a Day?
There really isn’t a huge need to worry about over consumption of kefir, it really is up to you and your body. Some people might have just a few ounces each day whilst others may have double or triple or more. Like with anything we consume, we all react differently, so simply try increasing and decreasing your daily amounts and you’ll soon find out which works best. Start gradually, say with around 100ml per day and then slowly increase it to between 200-300ml a day which is the equivalent to 1 cup.
What Is Kefir Used For?
Kefir is most widely consumed as a drink but you can treat it in the same way as yogurt, milk or buttermilk so for instance it can be used in baking, added to smoothies or simply enjoyed with your morning bowl of granola! It’s a pretty versatile product and it’s really up to you how you’d use it.
Is Kefir High in Fat?
Kefir is rich in protein which keeps you feeling fuller for longer so it’s actually a great option if you’re conscious of your diet trying to manage your weight. If you are however following a strictly low fat diet and weight is a serious concern but you still want to enjoy kefir, simply opt for a lower fat milk.
Kefir vs Yogurt
It’s understandable that many people are a little perplexed over the difference between kefir and yogurt given their dairy base, and although they have a lot in common they are very different products. The main reason people opt for kefir is because, compared to yogurt, it boasts around three times as many probiotics (due to the fermentation process) which as we know have been proved to have huge health benefits, especially on our digestive and immune system. Although kefir may contain more fat than yogurt, as well as the higher does of probiotics, it’s also higher in protein. The other big difference is the consistency, with kefir being thinner and thus easier to drink whilst yogurt is much thicker.
Unsurprisingly, my personal and overarching preference, especially when all these health benefits are concerned would be kefir.
Is Kefir Safe To Drink?
The common side effects associated with kefir include stomach ache, abdominal cramps, bloating and constipation. Like anything we consume, side effects will vary from person to person. Some may experience little if any noticeable side effects whereas others who perhaps may have more sensitive stomachs will take a little longer to get used to the introduction of the rich probiotics that are so bountiful in kefir. Either way, kefir is on the whole completely safe and has few side effects. The health benefits far outweigh any concerns anyone should have with regards to it’s safety.
Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of Grow Zone and growing Food all winter. See my full About Page here.
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Co written with Hannah Bramley, a Private & Virtual PA and Lifestyle Management Consultant based in the UK. With a background in managing and ensuring the organisation and preparedness of others, Hannah is now a freelance Personal Lifestyle & Business Consultant, with the ability to turn her hand to any task. Self Sufficiency being just one of her new found interests since the events of early 2020. She is a fitness guru, an ardent foodie, a social media wizard and entrepreneur, with a passion and natural flare for organising, bringing people together and making things happen.