Is your milk kefir separating or curdling? Don’t throw it out! Here is everything you need to know about over-cultured milk kefir. Including how to prevent it, and why you actually might want over-fermented kefir.
Why milk kefir separates into curds and whey
One of the wonderful properties of milk is that acidity causes it to separate into curds and whey. This is the basis of cheesemaking. It doesn’t matter whether the acidity comes from lemon juice, vinegar, or bacterial culture.
In the case of milk kefir, acidity is a byproduct of fermentation. Kefir grains convert the lactose (sugars) in milk to lactic acid.
How to stop kefir from separating
It is easy to stop milk kefir from separating as long as you maintain the right culturing conditions.
Here are some of the main reasons why kefir separates:
- Too many grains: Milk kefir can quickly multiply if the conditions are right. I recommend sharing your extra grains with your friends and neighbors. Check out this post on milk kefir basics for the proper ratio of grains to milk.
- Left to culture for too long: Milk kefir that cultures at room temperature for longer than 24 hours will start to separate. If you’re going away on holiday, store kefir grains in the fridge or take them with you.
- Too warm: Milk kefir cultures very quickly at temperatures above 22 C or 77 F. If it’s warm in your home then kefir can start to separate within 12 hours. Just keep an eye on them, and pop them in the fridge if you need to slow everything down.
How to remove grains from curded milk kefir
The way to remove grains from over-fermented kefir depends on the type of grains you have.
- If your grains are large, they tend to float after a few hours of culturing. They’re really easy to remove, even from separated kefir. Just look for them at the top of the curds, and remove them with a spoon or fork.
- The tiny, individual balls don’t tend to float after culturing. You will need to strain them from the over-cultured kefir. If you want to save the kefir whey, then drain the whey first. Otherwise, shake up the kefir to mix the curds and whey. Then press the kefir through a fine mesh strainer to collect the grains.
How to use Over-Cultured Milk kefir
Here are six ways to use separated milk kefir:
- To drink your separated milk kefir, shake it to combine the curds and whey. It will be effervescent, sour, and packed full of probiotics. In fact, well-cultured kefir is more easily digested by those with lactose intolerance.
- If the flavor is too strong, use it in a smoothie or popsicle.
- Drain the whey to make a simple kefir cream cheese.
- To make a firm, feta-like cheese, press the curds in a cheese mold.
- The probiotic whey can be used as a starter culture for other ferments.
- Over-cultured kefir is a perfect replacement for buttermilk in baking. Try making buttermilk muffins, pancakes, or soda bread.