Homemade milk kefir is made from kefir grains, which are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It traditionally used as a drink, but it’s also great for smoothies or as a buttermilk substitute. It can even thicken so that you use it like yogurt.
Homemade milk kefir is not the same as store bought kefir. Store bought kefir is usually just yogurt in a liquid form. Homemade kefir tends to have a stronger flavour and can even be sparkling when fresh.
Why make milk kefir
Milk kefir is the perfect dairy culture for home use.
- It is much easier to make then yogurt.
- It ferments at room temperature, and you don’t need to heat the milk before culturing.
- Milk kefir is a great replacement for buttermilk in baking.
- You can culture whipping cream for ice cream and cultured butter.
- You can use it to make soft cheese.
- Kefir can be used as a starter culture (either as whey or straight kefir) for most everything.
The most difficult part of making kefir is finding the kefir grains. Most health food stores carry a powdered “kefir” starter which isn’t actually real kefir, it’s just some of the bacteria strains found in kefir, and may not be robust enough to culture over and over again. If you want to maintain your own colony of kefir grains then you need to either buy freeze dried grains (affiliate link) or make friends with someone who has grains.
Here’s a picture of my kefir grains. When I was a Tracebridge, Katie’s grains were very different from mine… they were individual little grains that more like water kefir grains. So clearly there are a few strains out there!
Homemade Milk Kefir
Want to make milk kefir at home? Here’s everything you need to know about how to make your own probiotic and delicious kefir. It is so much easier than yogurt, and can be used for all sorts of delicious fermented foods.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 liter 1x
- Category: Beverage
- Method: Fermented
- 1–2 tbsp of kefir grains
- 1 liter of milk or cream
- Put the milk and kefir grains into a glass container.
- Leave in a warm location for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 48 hours depending on how strong you want the kefir to be. The longer you leave it the more sparkling and sour it will become.
- Remove the grains and reserve for future use.
- My kefir culture usually floats after 8 hours of fermenting, so I simply scoop it out with a spoon. If you have the tiny kefir grains then you will need to pour your kefir through a strainer.
- If you have too many grains or you leave your kefir out on the counter too long you will end up curdling your milk. This is perfectly good to eat! Turn it into kefir cheese for a delicious and probiotic cheese spread.
- See the sections below for more information on how to care for milk kefir grains.
Keywords: probiotic, healthy, easy, diy, gluten free, keto
Like all living beings, kefir does require a bit of TLC. Here’s how to care for your new “pet”:
- Kefir is happiest in fresh milk at room temperature. Try to pace your culturing with your consumption so that you can keep your kefir out of the fridge most of the time. If you only use a little bit of kefir, then just culture 2 cups at a time with 1 tbsp of grains.
- Alternatively, you can store your kefir in the fridge with lots of milk for 1-3 weeks. I’ve even left it for up to 4 weeks while we were on vacation. It wasn’t happy. But a few batches of milk later and we were back in business.
- Happy kefir will keep multiplying, so you’ll quickly end up with more grains then you’ll need. Though the grains are edible, I would recommend passing them along to a friend instead.
- If your grains turn a funny colour, then it’s likely that they’ve picked up some invasive mold/bacteria. Unfortunately the best way to fix this is to throw them out and start anew. (I’ve had my grains go pink on me a few times. Luckily I’ve shared with a lot of friends so I can borrow back more kefir grains!)
- Kefir can cross contaminate with other cultures (yogurt, sourdough, etc) so it’s best to culture them in a separate rooms of your house. (I’ve had kefir grow in my yogurt before.) I do all my kefir culturing in the kitchen, sourdough in the living room, yogurt in the dining room and other ferments in the bedrooms.
Weird, Wonderful and Completely Untrue Kefir Tales
There are a lot of stories going around about how to care for your kefir are not true. I’ve had the same culture kicking along for the past 7 years or so… so I’m pretty sure I know my stuff:
- You don’t need to wash your grains. They just need fresh milk to keep them healthy and strong. Water is unnecessary and probably harmful considering the potential risks of chlorine for our little friends.
- You can use metal utensils… unless you have really old-school copper or iron utensils… then the latic acid of the milk might damage your utensils. Otherwise stainless steel wont harm kefir grains.