When you make kefir at home, you ensure that you have a fully fermented product with plenty of probiotics and no added sugars. Many of those store bought kefirs and yogurts are not fermented very long and are sometimes flavored or loaded with sugar.
Kefir is very easy to make and doesn't require heating or special devices. You can make kefir with pasteurized or raw milk. The method for both is very similar. If you are using pasteurized milk, make sure you are not using an ultra high temperature pasteurized milk because there are not enough probiotic bacteria in the milk, and your kefir will not ferment properly. It's also best to use whole, organic, and non-homogenized milk. I am currently using the organic Kalona SuperNatural milk because we do not have access to local raw milk.
If you are like me and don't have access to raw milk, you can either avoid dairy all together or ferment it. We are choosing to do fermented dairy and making kefir is an easy and daily staple in our home. Eventually, we would like to get a dairy cow, but that is not in the works right now.
What Do You Need to Make Kefir?
I prefer to sterilize everything before I use it to reduce the chances of mold growth. Not everyone does this, but I use a clean mason jar for each batch of kefir.
A Starter: You will need something to kick start the fermentation process. Some people use a powdered starter, others use a previously made batch of kefir, but I prefer kefir grains. Kefir grains can be reused over and over, and they produce a reliable final product. I've never had mold issues with kefir grains.
Mason Jars: I would recommend having a couple glass quart to half gallon size mason jars on hand to make kefir.
A Clean Cloth or Coffee Filters
A Non-Reactive Strainer: Avoid using metal strainers when making kefir. I also don't use cheese cloth and nut milk bags because the holes are too small for the thick kefir to pass through. Instead, I recommend using a rubber, nylon, or plastic pasta strainer (technically you could use wood as well). You want the holes to be big enough for the kefir to pass through but not the grains.
Small or Medium Mixing Bowl: I use this to catch the kefir when I am straining it. Make sure its not metal.
How to Rehydrate Kefir Grains
If you have purchased dehydrated kefir grains, you will need to rehydrate them. To do this, you will need to use pasteurized milk for this process and later you can switch to using raw milk if you desire.
- You start by putting the grains into a clean jar and add a half cup of milk. Cover the jar with a clean cloth or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Let the jar sit for 18-24 hours (start checking it at 18 hours). If it doesn't thicken or become sour, then you will need to repeat this process again. Strain out the grains and add them to a clean jar and new milk. Once it does start to sour and thicken, move on to step 2.
- Everyday repeat the same process in step 1 but increase the amount of milk by a half cup each day until you reach four cups of milk. Once you have a fully fermented, four cup batch of kefir, your grains are completely rehydrated and you can follow the regular instructions below for maintaining the kefir grains.
How to Make Kefir
Take a clean mason jar and add the kefir grains to the jar.
Fill the jar with the desired amount of milk.
Secure a clean cloth or coffee filter on the top of the jar with a rubber band and leave it on the counter for 24 hours (in warmer temperatures, the kefir may ferment in less than 24 hours).
After 24 hours, strain out the kefir grains using a strainer over top of a mixing bowl.
Add the strained kefir grains to a clean jar with new milk and make another batch of kefir or store in the refrigerator for later use.
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How Do You Know It Is Done?
You will know your kefir is done when it is soured (like yogurt) and thickened. If it smells off or has separated into a thicker yogurt and whey, it is possible you over fermented it or didn't have the correct ratio of grains to milk.
When you are not making kefir, store the grains in a smaller amount of milk in the back of the refrigerator. Pasteurized milk will last for about a week and raw milk could last for a couple weeks (it will depend on the expiration date).
This milk will partially ferment and have a slight yeasty taste. I typically discard this milk (or you could feed it to pets) and start with new milk when making a new batch of kefir.
If you forget about your grains for a month or more and the jar smells bad (especially pasteurized milk), I would personally discard the whole jar and buy new grains.
- 1 glass mason jar quart to half gallon size
- 1 Rubber band
- 1 coffee filter or clean cloth
- 1 non reactive strainer
- 1 small to medium mixing bowl
- 1-2 tablespoon kefir grains
- 4 cups milk avoid ultra high temperature pasteurized
- Take a clean mason jar and add the kefir grains to the jar.
- Fill the jar with the desired amount of milk.
- Secure a clean cloth or coffee filter on the top of the jar with a rubber band and leave it on the counter for 24 hours (in warmer temperatures, the kefir may ferment in less than 24 hours).
- After 24 hours, strain out the kefir grains using a strainer over top of a mixing bowl.
- Add the strained kefir grains to a clean jar with new milk and make another batch of kefir or store in the refrigerator for later use.