Milk Kefir

Kefir

Milk Kefir

If you’re looking for a super easy way to get into fermenting, kefir would be my number one recommendation (after fermented vegetables).

Why?

Because it’s seriously low maintenance. Unlike yoghurt there’s no need to mess around with sterilizing jars and heating to specific temperatures.

The only tricky thing is getting hold of some kefir grains (which are a unique combination of bacteria and yeasts – another SCOBY similar to kombucha). They look like little grains or glass beads. But with the marvels of the modern internet this is only a mouse click away.

Oh and… Kefir happens to contain the most diverse collection of bacterial and yeast strains of any probiotic. So it’s probably the best for your gut.

If you’re not a dairy-person there are alternatives using coconut milk and water which I’m planning to try in the coming months, however I imagine the principle is the same if you want to experiment on your own.

makes: 1.5 cups
takes: 24 hours

1.5 cups milk
1-2 heaped tablespoons kefir grains

1. Place milk and kefir grains in a glass jar. No need to sterilize first but do make sure it’s very clean.

2. Seal with a lid and leave on the kitchen bench for 12-24 hours. It’s up to you how funky you let it get. It’s ready to drink when the milk has thickened slightly into a drinking yoghurt consistency (similar to whipping cream). But you can keep fermenting it until you get chunky curds and whey and the kefir is slightly sparkling like champagne.

3. When you’re happy with the consistency, strain to remove the kefir grains and place the kefir in a clean jar or bottle. You can drink straight away but I prefer to refrigerate before consuming because the colder it is the less funky it will taste.

4. Wash kefir grains under running water to remove any chunks of milk curd. Return kefir grains to the original jar (or use a clean one if you like – I generally reuse the same jar for a few rounds before getting a clean one). Add more milk. And repeat.

5. If you don’t want to be making kefir every day, pop it in the fridge. Will slowly ferment in the fridge. When you’re ready for more kefir just get it out and leave at room temperature for another 12 -24 hours or until you’re happy as in step 2. I generally make a batch once a week.

6. Over time your grains will grow, when you have more than 2-3 heaped tablespoons, it’s time to either increase your batch size or get rid of some of the grains. Either pass on to a friend, compost, feed to your chickens or place in the freezer as a backup in case something happens to your main kefir grains.

Variations & Substitutions

no kefir grains – you really need these! Just do a google search – there a plenty of places online.

dairy-free – try coconut kefir or water kefir (you’ll need to make a sugar solution or use fruit juice to feed this). As far as I know different types of kefir require slightly different grains, however I am planning to see if I can coax my milk kefir grains to ferment some coconut milk.

more tangy / funky / sptitzy – keep warm for longer until you’re happy with the taste. The fermentation will continue in the fridge (much more slowly) so the flavour will only continue to taste more sour.

thicker – again, ferment for longer. Or put it in a warmer place.

flavoured kefir – once your kefir is fermented feel free to use it in smoothies or anywhere you’d normally use yoghurt like baking, marinades and sauces.

Problem Solving Guide

kefir fizzy / spritzy / gassy – this is normal for kefir. and I love it! However if you prefer a milder less acidic drink, next time just ferment in a cooler place or for a much shorter time.

too funky – kefir does have a naturally ‘funky’ flavour. My Irishman calls it ‘Doctor Funkenhausen’. Drinking it when it’s super cold tones down the funkiness. Next time experiment with a shorter fermentation time.

mould growing – strain and wash your kefir grains thoroughly in water. Discard the milk / kefir liquid with the mould. Start a new batch with a clean jar and lid and fresh milk.

kefir not thickening / no tangy flavour – sounds like your kefir grains have died! Try leaving them in a warmer place for longer but if it hasn’t thickened after 24 hours it’s time to get some new grains.

going on holiday? – if it’s 2 weeks or less just pop your kefir in the fridge with fresh milk. It will be happy while you’re gone. For longer term you can feed it with more milk before you go (say 4 cups). Or if you want a break from kefir, wash the grains and freeze in a ziplock bag indefinitely.

And don’t forget you can get help and ask specific questions on the Ask Jules page.

Prepare Ahead

A must! Keeps in the fridge for 2-4 weeks, however the probiotic bacteria and yeast will die off over time so for maximum health benefits drink sooner rather than later. Don’t freeze the milky kefir liquid as it will split. The washed grains can be frozen indefinitely if you want a break from fermenting.

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