How to make genuine fresh Milk Kefir
Milk Kefir is not only the best probiotic to make at home but also the easiest. It simply involves adding some fresh kefir culture to an amount of fresh milk (any kind of animal milk) in a glass or ceramic vessel
and leaving at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Once adequately fermented/cultured, it is strained through a sieve or fine holed colander to separate the culture from the cultured milk which can then be consumed as desired.
To make milk kefir all you need is:
1-2 tablespoons of the kefir culture (commonly call kefir grains).
1-2 cups of fresh animal milk - cow, goat, sheep, camel.
Glass or ceramic jar slightly more than the 1-2 cups.
(Preferably) plastic sieve or colander to strain the finished product though.
Fabric cloth and rubber band to cover jar.
The basic principle of making Kefir is simply;
1/ Add Kefir culture (grains) to a glass/jar/jug of fresh milk.
About 1/4 cup of grains maximum per litre of milk or 1 tablespoon of culture to 250 -300ml.
The amount of grains to milk is not critical, just understand that the more grains the faster they consume the sugars from the milk. If it is fermenting faster than 12 hours, then you need to reduce the amount of grains for that volume of milk or increase the volume of milk for that amount of grains. You want to aim for working out the rough ratio of grains to milk for the current temperature to achieve a 24 hour fermenting time so you can make of habit of 'doing your kefir' every morning at breakfast or after dinner in the evening.
Cover with breathable lid or cloth to allow air in but keep bugs and dust out.
2/ Leave at room temperature for approx 24hrs depending on temperature and you may want to stir it lightly once after a few hours if the jar is deep. As the grains typically float, a light stir or swirl of the jar will help the milk to culture more evenly.
3/ When the culture starts to 'split' or separate into 'curds' and 'whey' (white lumps and clear liquid), it is ready to pour off so strain/fork out grains via a colander and store the drained off kefir/yoghurt in a glass jar or jug in the fridge for drinking.
If you leave it a little longer till it has significantly 'split' and there is a large amount of whey settling at the bottom, it will obviously be more cultured and therefore more sour due to more sugar being fermented out. It may also need a good stir before straining.
Above - Strained/separated kefir grains or culture
(The yellowness to the above pic is the cream from using a full cream milk.)
Fermenting it too long too often may be detrimental to the health of the culture as the long term exposure to acid conditions isn't to their liking so always try and pour it off before too much whey collects at the bottom.
After pouring off the ready kefir into another jar, you may choose to leave it (with a cover on) at room temperature for another 24 hours to 'second ferment' or further culture without the grains in it. This is believed to further boost the pro-biotic content, but will also make it even more sour to the taste due to even less sugar.
Keep the ready to drink kefir in the fridge until consumed. It will keep for at least a month or two easy in the fridge and if left for a long time, will take on a cheesy flavour as the lactic acids start to take over (not a bad thing).
4/ Take the freshly separated kefir grain in your colander/sieve and repeat steps 1 to 3. Done!
Main questions usually are:
What's the best kind of milk, how many grains to how much milk and how do I flavour it?
Most any milk will work from any ruminant mammal (cow, sheep, goat), and if you're buying the typical milk from the shop, full cream is better than skim/low fat milk as the kefir grains love the fats and will culture the milk a little faster and give a slightly better flavour. Naturally, organic milk is best and the ultimate is raw organic milk, tho it is hard to come by for most people.
Generally though, even low fat milk still works fine as they all contain the necessary lactose sugars that the culture feeds on.
Many people talk about putting grains in coconut milk, almond milk or even soy milk. While adding Milk Kefir grains to such milk alternatives will work initially, there are no animal based sugars (lactose) in these plant based liquids so the grains will quickly starve, weaken and even die if used continuously in such milks. So if wanting to ferment milk alternatives with Milk Kefir grains, only do one or two batches then place back in some cows milk for at least two more brews to give them a good proper feed to remain strong and vigorous.
The ratio of grains to milk is around 1 Tablespoon per cup of milk though it isn't critical. Generally, the more grains the faster the milk will culture, but don't go over board. 1 teaspoon of grains is probably a little too few for a cup while a 1/4 cup of grains to a cup of milk would be way too much. A 1/4 cup of kefir grains would be good for 1 litre of milk.
The temperature also plays a big part so it's up to the individual to work out the right amount of grains for the given amount (and type) of milk at the current room temperatures to have it cultured in around 24hrs. For larger volumes or at colder temperatures it may take 2 or even 3 days to culture sufficiently.
Not all kefir is the same; some kefir grains will ferment a glass of milk much quicker than others depending on their health and size so it's not an exact science.
Flavouring, if desired, is wide open to stirring in some honey, fruit jam or fresh fruit, using it in a fruit smoothie or simply sprinkling the top with a little ground cinnamon. The choices are all yours... there are no rules other than don't heat it at all - you'll kill all the good bacteria in it.
Kefir is not just for drinking either. You can add it to salads, chip dips at the BBQ or on top of your breakfast muesli...
Going on holiday or just making too much and need a break?
To slow down your Kefir production, simply place some made up kefir in the fridge where the fermentation slows down considerably, but not completely as it will still need pouring off and re-milking every 7-10 days to keep it healthy. if you're off overseas for a few months, place the strained grains in a zip lock bag with enough fresh milk to cover them and place in the freezer. Here they'll be good for 3 months or so, but will take a few brews to fully recover their vigor on your return.
For a totally comprehensive run down on all things about making Milk Kefir, visit yeemoos.com here.
To buy some Milk Keir grains, click here.
Go Nuts with Milk kefir to improve your health (through better digestion) and liven up your kitchen experience.