Earlier this year, we wrote about our recent obsession with homemade yogurt. Not only is it a fun project, there are several practical benefits to incorporating this DIY as part of your routine, namely: reduced waste, and (this one was news to me) reduced cost. That’s right – it turns out that making your own yogurt is significantly cheaper than buying it from the store!
Despite all this, making yogurt on a regular basis isn’t for everyone. Though the process itself is relatively straightforward, it does demand some commitment to the required timing (scalding the milk, keeping the mixture warm for X hours,…). Enter: kefir! Kefir is the solution for anyone wanting to enter the realm of homemade probiotics with minimal effort. No – it’s not the same as yogurt, but it does boast the same environmental, economic, and health benefits (along with the satisfaction of DIY). All you need to get started are some kefir grains and some milk – and just like that you have a never-ending supply (growing, in fact) of kefir! Here’s how it works:
- 1 tsp kefir grains
- 1-1/2 cups milk (we like whole milk, but any percent is fine)
- fruit, to taste (optional)
- maple syrup, to taste (optional)
- clear container with lid
- medium mesh strainer
- immersion blender (optional)
- Add kefir grains to milk.
- Cover container and let sit at room temperature for about 24-ish* hours.
- Your milk is now kefir! Pass the kefir through a strainer to separate the grains.
- Refrigerate the kefir until ready to use.
- If desired, add frozen/fresh fruit and/or maple syrup and combine with an immersion blender.
- Repeat Steps 1-5.
* Note that the ambient temperature will impact the time required to transform your milk into kefir. Depending on what room temperature is at your home, this means it may take more or less time. In fact, some resources suggested using the oven with the light on to ferment the kefir, however with our oven we found the temperature was way too warm, so we prefer to leave ours on the counter (this also saves on electricity and frees up our oven). You may also find that you prefer the kefir to be more or less sour, and will want to adjust your timing based on this as well. Eventually, you will become familiar with the visual cues that indicate when the kefir is “just right” for your liking, and these will be a much more reliable indicator than the clock.
FAQs, Tips, Troubleshooting:
- How can I tell when my kefir is ready? Kefir is visibly thicker than milk. You will see the contents of the container thicken, and should also observe a separation of whey from the kefir. Exactly how fermented/tart you want the kefir is up to you, within reason. If you don’t leave it long enough, it will still be milk, and if you leave it too long it likely won’t taste any good and your grains might die (at a certain point I expect it may become unsafe to consume, too!).
- Where do I get kefir grains? Kefir grains are available to purchase through various sources online. You might also have some luck at your local health food store. We bought ours online from Kefir Garden. Ideally, you can find a friend with some extra grains to share with you for free!
- Speaking of extra grains, what do I do with any extra grains? Give them to a friend (see above) and explain how great and easy it is to make your own kefir! You can also save them in the freezer and use them for experimentation (e.g. with non-dairy milks, see below). Beyond that, you can just eat them (blend in a smoothie, drink with your kefir, etc).
- What if I don’t want to make a new batch every day? You can slow down the activity of the grains by storing them in the fridge (short term), or in the freezer (longer term). This will allow you to put your kefir production on hold for a short time, and also to build up a larger supply of grains (e.g. to share with family and friends). To use out of the fridge is the same as outlined in the steps above. To use from frozen, let the grains thaw in milk and they will be ready to use – just note that the process may take a little longer (or you may want to use a little less milk) for the first few cycles, until the grains fully “wake up” from their freezer nap.
- Scaling the recipe: you can easily scale the recipe to make larger/smaller batches as required. As with time and temperature, the ratio doesn’t need to be exact. There will likely be some fluctuation in the timing due to the other variables anyway, so just be mindful that with any variation the results and time required will change.
- What about other (non-dairy) milks? We haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve read that it is possible to use the grains to make kefir out of non-dairy milks (e.g. soy milk, oat milk,…). It’s recommended that you do this with extra grains that you have, because from what we gather the grains may not reliably survive the process. I’ve also seen kefir water but I think this requires a different strain of grains altogether, so it would not work with your (milk) kefir grains.
- Rinsing the grains: We’ve seen mixed things on this. Some people suggest rinsing the grains with water in between batches, others claim that the water may damage the grains (due to chlorine and other additives) and suggest using milk to rinse them. Honestly, we just strain well in between batches and have never found a need to rinse the grains.