How to Make Kefir

by Ann Marie Michaels on September 5, 2008

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How to Make Kefir

Would you like to know how to make kefir? Kefir is a delicious probiotic cultured milk drink. It’s tangy and sour tasting, kind of like a more liquid version of yogurt. I like to drink it straight but if it’s too sour for you, you can put it in a blender and add a little fruit and maple syrup or stevia to make a kefir smoothie.

Making kefir at home is so easy. And it’s so good for you. In fact, I think kefir, especially kefir made from raw milk from grass-fed cows, is a magical drink. As a probiotic, kefir is much more powerful than yogurt.

A while back, I posted about my friend Millie whose son is recovering from Asperger’s. Yes, I said recovering. It’s not a life sentence. He is recovering via diet — GAPS/SCD (Gut and Psychology Syndrome/Specific Carbohydrate Diet) — and probiotics.

Amazingly, Millie hasn’t used any strong probiotics with her son. She just uses kefir. She feeds him kefir and also the kefir grains. I will post her protocol soon.

The other great thing about kefir is it is so inexpensive to make. This is because the kefir grains actually reproduce. So you only need to buy them once and they will last you for years and years — if you’re lucky, a lifetime! I always give some of my kefir grains (and other ferments) to friends who live close by. That way if I ever happened to accidentally kill my grains, I could always ask a friend for some more. you can also freeze your grains or dry them for storage.

Here’s a tutorial on how to make kefir.

How to Make Kefir

Equipment Needed:
Mesh strainer
Pyrex glass measuring cup (or just a mason jar)
Rubber spatula (or just a wooden spoon)
Mason jars (I like using the quart size but I’m out right now so I’ve been using 2 pint size jars)

Kefir Grains

Ingredients:
1-2 tablespoons kefir grains — where to buy kefir grains
2 cups milk (preferably organic, raw milk from grass-fed cows) — where to find raw milk

1. Put 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains into a clean pint-sized mason jar. (The more kefir grains you use, the faster it will culture.)

Kefir Grains

2. Add milk. Leave a half inch to an inch of room at the top. If you want a thicker kefir, add a little cream. The more cream you add, the thicker your kefir will be. I love it thick like yogurt.

Adding Milk to the Kefir Grains

3. Cover the mason jar with a lid and set it out on the counter (or in a cupboard — NOT in the fridge!) for anywhere from 12-36 hours. The kefir grains will culture the milk. It cultures faster in a warm kitchen than a cool one. You will know when it’s ready because it will start to look thick and clumpy. The longer you leave it out, the more tangy and cultured it will become. If it separates into a clear liquid and clumps, it’s REALLY ready.

4. When it’s ready, pour the kefir out into a strainer set on top of a glass Pyrex measuring cup or a glass bowl or mason jar. It’s important to use glass or plastic. Do not use stainless steel or metal of any kind.

Straining the Kefir Grains

5. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir the kefir until all the liquid passes through the mesh and you are left with kefir grains.

Straining the Kefir Grains

6. Some people like to rinse their grains. I don’t normally rinse mine. I do it every once in a while — maybe once every two to four weeks. I find that my kefir grains grow more quickly when I do not rinse them. If you do rinse them, ONLY use filtered water. Do not use tap water. It will kill them. (What does that tell you about the tap water we drink?!)

Kefir Grains

7. Now put your grains back into a clean mason jar, add some more milk and start all over again.

That’s it! I told you it was easy!

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{ 179 comments… read them below or add one }

jhazen September 5, 2008 at 1:12 PM

I just finished a big release at work, so now I’m looking forward to creating more balance in my life. I’m looking forward to making time to do some cooking at home.

Here’s one of my skeptic questions: What’s wrong with using metal? You seem to be having good success with what appears to be a standard metal strainer.

cheeseslave September 5, 2008 at 2:31 PM

Hi, John!

Go to this page and do a search on the page for “metal”.

http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html

About 1/4 down the page it says: METAL OBJECTS and KEFIR GRAINS

It explains the reasoning behind this.

Dom says stainless steel strainers are fine. What you don’t want to use is a stainless steel bowl or other metal container.

Sorry if I was unclear.

Erica September 5, 2008 at 7:49 PM

Well, I could have used this when I first started making kefir, haha!! I use a stainless strainer also, but just tap it all through. Rarely ever rinse my grains. If I let it sit too long, I may rinse with a little milk, but that’s about it.

jaly September 5, 2008 at 8:47 PM

Did you say ‘online store’??? I can’t wait!!!

cheeseslave September 5, 2008 at 11:42 PM

Hi, Erica,

MEEE TOOOO! LOL!

I think it helps to have pictures. All of this stuff is so alien in the beginning. Kefir? Grains? Straining? What?

Ann Marie

cheeseslave September 5, 2008 at 11:46 PM

Yes, Jaly, I’m thinking of putting a store up.

I have some great ideas for t-shirts and I want to make some cooking DVDs.

I’d love to sell some healthy snack foods too.

I’m excited about it! :-) :-) :-)

Lune September 6, 2008 at 2:43 AM

Love the new look!!!!!!! Totally clean and food-like! Hey I was looking at your poll, I think that the store with t-shirts and stuff would be great – you obviously have had some good responses to it already, I say GO FOR IT!!!!!! I’d buy stuff.

I have a couple of designs that I have wanted to see on merchandise for a while now, you probably have seen them on my (other) blog. Shall I send them to you??? Hey, I will put them onto flickr and then post the link here, you can see what you think. You can use them for t-shirts or mugs or tea towels if u like!!!! (I think they would link in really well to WAPF stuff).

Lune September 6, 2008 at 2:53 AM

done! I can do designs with other tag lines – if you have any ideas!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/constantstateofflux/sets/72157607138639195/

cheeseslave September 6, 2008 at 11:06 AM

Lune, these are great! I didn’t know you did that raw milk one.

I’m going to email you offline…

Lisa September 7, 2008 at 1:39 PM

Thanks for posting this, Ann Marie. I’ve been interested in making kefir before and always wondered the exact steps in making it. I think I have a friend that I can get some grains from. Do you make water kefir and if so, do you have plans to do a tutorial with photos?

cheeseslave September 7, 2008 at 1:53 PM

Hi, Lisa,

I do use water kefir grains to make kefir soda pop. I plan to do a tutorial on that soon.

Ann Marie

Ellen September 8, 2008 at 8:44 AM

Thanks Ann Marie.

:D

Dana September 8, 2008 at 3:08 PM

Hi Ann Marie,

I went to GEM Cultures (dot com) to explore buying kefir grains. They post this caveat with all their dairy cultures:

“We do not recommend the use of Raw Milks as they can carry a heavy bacterial load that can compete with these Dairy Cultures, alter the taste and can cause illness to the user.”

What do you think? Of course, ideally I’d want to go with raw milk. Is this a disclaimer they have to put up for legal reasons?

Thanks so much. Your website is marvelous!

cheeseslave September 8, 2008 at 7:34 PM

Hi, Dana,

I saw that too when I bought from them. I don’t know why they say that. It’s a question for Sally Fallon!

I have asked this question before on the Discussing NT list and they all said they make their kefir with raw milk, have been doing so for years, and have never had any problems. Some suspected it was for legal reasons.

It does not make any sense to me. Why would they say that when people have been making kefir with raw milk for thousands of years?

And why on earth would you want to destroy all the wonderful enzymes and vitamins in raw milk?

I’ve been using the same healthy hearty kefir grains since February and they just keep growing. I’ve never used anything other than organic raw milk from grass-fed cows.

By the way, I just started selling kefir grains. I don’t have my store set up yet but I sold some last week. I’m selling them for less than half of what GEM Cultures sells them for. $10 for 2 TBS worth + shipping.

If you are interested in buying some, email me at inasnit at gmail dot com. I’m going out of town on Friday morning but if you email me tomorrow or the next day I can get them in the mail to you before I go.

Ann Marie

Dana September 8, 2008 at 8:03 PM

Thanks, Ann Marie! I am emailing you right now…

gfcfmom September 13, 2008 at 3:40 PM

This is fascinating. My son is allergic to milk. I wonder if you can use a non dairy source to make kefir. Just curious.

Dana September 15, 2008 at 12:26 PM

The kefir grains you sent arrived! I made my first batch on Saturday, mixed it with a bit of maple syrup, and am drinking it with gusto. I am making my next batch now. Thanks a million. Cannot wait for your online store!

Gratefully,
Dana

cheeseslave September 15, 2008 at 9:29 PM

Hi, Dana! That’s great! Enjoy!

I will open the online store soon! Hopefully by mid-October.

I am looking forward to it.

Ann Marie

cheeseslave September 15, 2008 at 9:36 PM

GFCF Mom,

You can use kefir grains and coconut milk or coconut water.

Have you ever heard of SCD or the GAPS diet? Dr. Campbell-McBride healed her son of autism using GAPS/SCD. She recommends giving kefir in very small amounts very slowly and then building up. But you could start with coconut milk or coconut water.

I think your grains will poop out faster though without dairy, so I would save some and put them in some milk.

Go to this page: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html

and scroll down to this part:

WATER-KEFIR a NON-DAIRY KEFIR

Ann Marie

Lauren September 15, 2008 at 9:57 PM

Ann Marie,
It was great meeting you at the Deidre Currie Festival! I have an idea for one of your FAB picture tutorials for those of us who are just getting into the NT way of eating. How the heck do you make whey? I have the NT cookbook but I feel like I need more info. We had my first batch of homemade sauerkraut tonight, I think it needs more time but it will work :)

Lauren

cheeseslave September 15, 2008 at 10:42 PM

Hi, Lauren,

I’ll happily do a tutorial on making whey and cream cheese.

I’ll add it to my list of to dos.

Ann Marie

Julie September 16, 2008 at 8:47 PM

Hi, I came to your site via Kelly the Kitchen Kop. I love kefir. Here is my question about it. The lady I bought kefir grains from said not to use raw milk because the natural bacteria in the raw milk competes with the kefir grains. It seems like you are doing fine using raw milk. Do you heat your milk first then or do you use cold milk? Thanks in advance!

cheeseslave September 16, 2008 at 9:28 PM

Hi, Julie,

I have heard that before. I actually posted a response to this question — see the comments above.

I do not heat the milk — I use raw milk. My grains are very hardy and I’ve never had a problem.

Carys September 17, 2008 at 1:37 PM

Ann Marie, what texture are your water kefir grains? The pictures I’ve seen online they look smooth and gelatinous, but the ones I bought from ebay last week are sort of grainy (like a cluster of little clear bits instead of one solid clear bit) and fall apart into bits. I do like the water kefir, though, but I was looking forward to the gelatinous bits *g*

Carys

cheeseslave September 17, 2008 at 2:37 PM

Hmmm I’m not really sure… maybe you can take a picture of yours and post them on Flickr?

I can take a photo of mine when I get home.

cheeseslave September 17, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Remind me please – in case I forget

Hillori October 3, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Hi Ann Marie,
I wanted to know how often do you use new milk for grain storage and what do you do with that jar of milk that the grains have been stored in?
Can you just pour the milk and kefir grains into the new batch?

julie October 9, 2008 at 8:22 AM

Hi Ann Marie,
I made kefir from your grains. Should I have started out with a pint of milk (2 cups) to the batch of grains? I started with 4 cups based on what was stated on the invoice “enough for 4 cups”. My kefir is on the thin side after 48 hours of culturing. Today I strained it out, the grains are fine, they have multiplied, I think. The kefir is just not as thick as I am used to ( I have been using powdered kefir starter in the past).

cheeseslave October 10, 2008 at 8:44 AM

Hi, Julie,

You can use as much or as little kefir grains as you like. The more grains, the faster it will ferment.

If you want thicker kefir, what I like to do is add a little cream. The more cream you add, the thicker it will be. I have added a LOT before and my kefir came out like yogurt — yummy with fruit and nuts.

Play around with it and see what you like.

Ann Marie

julie October 10, 2008 at 9:32 AM

Thanks for the information about adding cream. I will try it next batch.
Julie

Bee February 8, 2009 at 11:06 PM

When I read this post a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to jump right in and make some kefir. Couldn’t you just make kefir… from kefir? I wondered, if you’re too impatient to mail-order microorganisms? I used to make perfectly acceptable yogurt from generic grocery-store yogurt, so I gave it a try. I used a few tablespoons of kefir (lifeway) and about 2 cups of organic whole milk, and set the jar in the cozy 100-degree warmth of the pilot-lit gas oven. After 12 hours or so, it certainly resembled kefir; I’ve made a few batches since then with good results (it even turned to curds and whey when I left it too long.) Of course, I don’t know the bacterial make-up of the home-grown, so it’s possible it proliferates only some of the culture strains, or something; but I thought I’d pass it on.

Erin February 9, 2009 at 10:21 PM

Ann Marie,
I’ve been a bit more successful with my Kefir (with Raw Whole Milk, of course!) but I am still really curious to know if it’s ‘kosher’ to use milk that is sour or at least on its way ‘out’? I mean you let it sit on the counter & basically clabber anyway, right?
On the ‘dairy’ line, I’m really curious about raw milk butter vs. cultured butter? (I have some cream that is ‘on the verge’… any ideas on what I can do with it besides sour cream?

Erin’s last blog post..Pay it Forward

cheeseslave February 10, 2009 at 6:20 AM

Hi, Erin, Sure you can use expired milk for kefir. And as for the cream, simply use it to make cultured butter or sour cream. Just leave it in a warm place overnight.

Jack July 30, 2009 at 7:15 PM

Hi,

Can anyone share how to kefir on alternate days so I don’t have to do it every day? Keen to hear how others kefir and if you do it daily, every other day etc? And if it makes a difference to the grains effectiveness if dormant for a day or so?

Cheers.

Jack August 12, 2009 at 6:49 PM

Anyone kefiring on alternative days?

Amy August 20, 2009 at 11:04 AM

GREAT Tutorial! I loved it so much I linked it to my blog post on Kefir. I think it’s grand when I can stick to the general idea/amusing stories and find a blog with the details to forward my detail-lovers to. I too love bacon and butter and cream and cheese and things we are not supposed to eat, (shall we add eggs to that list?) Sigh. When shall we all find a balance and stop this crazy swinging labeling this or that food evil? I like your profile pic. Dessert in Paris, I understand. That’s how I’d feel too. :)

David September 25, 2009 at 10:09 AM

AM,

Quick question: a website that I’m thinking of buying kefir grains from (gemcultures.com) recommends NOT using raw milk from grass-fed cows because the bacterias in the milk could compete with the bacterias in the grains. Is this true? I’ve also been reading that most people make kefir from raw milk. Do the kefir grains differ in function, or is it safe to use raw milk?

Thanks in advance.

Mischele December 22, 2009 at 6:17 PM

Jack,

The grains can be kept in the frig in a little milk between kefiring. (I use 1/2 to 1 cup milk for 1/4 cup grains) I usually kefir two days in a row and then keep the grains in the frig for the rest of the week. The milk the grains sit in while refrigerated will also kefir, but at a much slower rate than on the counter. My grains are doing just fine despite their weekly “dormant” days. Hope this helps.

Mischele

Sabrina Thorn December 31, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Hi Ann Marie,

A friend gave me some kefir grains last Sunday. She helped me put them in milk in my pantry but they were behind the Kombucha and totally forgot about them till today! Do you think its still good? Should I toss them?
helpless,
Sabrina

cheeseslave December 31, 2009 at 6:47 PM

Sabrina – I’m sure they’re fine. I’ve kept mine in the fridge for weeks on end.

alexander October 21, 2010 at 8:04 AM

Hi,

Is it possible to use plain yoghurt instead of milk when making kefir?

Marta October 25, 2010 at 6:02 PM

Hi,
Can you use raw goat’s milk to make kefir? Does it keep as long as cow’s milk?

Susan January 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM

I have made kefir with raw milk and it doesn’t turn out as well as when I use pasteurized. I’m not sure why. Also, when I store the grains in raw milk, they develop a very strong cow-ish smell that is difficult to get rid of. I only get my raw milk straight from farmers (can’t purchase in stores in my state).

I have also found that rinsing them quickly with water after they’ve been stored for a longer period (+3 weeks) seems to re-energize them. Also, a couple times I’ve left them until they smell alcohol-ish. I rinsed them and put them in small amounts of milk (a cup or so) every 24 hours for 4 days and they refresh very well. They are hardy little buggers!

D. January 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM

Well, you can either use metal or you can’t, it’s a simple question. If you are using a metal strainer, that rather nullifies the idea that other metal shouldn’t be used. Who is Dom? He seems to be running on two tracks with this idea. If you’re going to use a metal strainer, line it with cheesecloth or a tea towel if you feel metal is not a good idea. Still, it’s just as easy to use a glass bowl, unless metal is all you have. It’s plastic I’d stay away from, personally.

Also, I have a question (for anyone who can answer). My kefir grains don’t multiply, or “grow” and produce more. Should I just leave them out on the counter in a small bowl of raw milk and keep changing the milk daily until I see them growing or should I buy new ones and start over?

D. January 20, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Hi Lauren, I have tried repeatedly to make the sauerkraut using the recipe in the NT book and have finally had to switch over to the Amish way. With the NT recipe I just ended up with salty cabbage. The Amish use just a 1/2 cup or so (per pint jar) of boiled water poured over the top of the veggies in the jar. I boiled water, let it cool for about 7 minutes and then poured it over the cabbage and salt mixture. I let my kraut sit on the counter for 10-12 days before it’s actually done fermenting. I can’t imagine it being done in 3 days!

Live and learn, I guess. I don’t think some mildly warmish / hottish water is going to kill off enzymes.

I also put some chopped celery, green & red peppers, and green onion (with tops) in with my cabbage sometimes and it turns out quite nicely. Sort of a pared down version of kimchi or something. I like to fry pork chops in avocado oil or coconut oil, and when they’re done browning I take the chops out of the pan and put a jar or two of my kimchi type sauerkraut into the juices left in the pan. You can just let it cook through until it’s warm, or you can let the juices kinda boil away and fry it. Either way is very good. Then I take the sauerkraut out of the pan and put the chops back in to cook longer, if necessary. This is sooooo good with mashed potatoes (made with homemade butter from raw milk and some homemade sour cream). One of our favorite autumn / winter meals.

But we like to eat raw sauerkraut right from the jar, too. Very healthy fermented food.

When I make butter (I have several ways to do this) I save the whey and that’s how I get mine. Is someone else saying there’s a different “whey” we should be using?

Deb January 24, 2011 at 1:15 PM

I just stared making kefir and don’t really understand why folks used the strainer at all. Why not just fish out the kefir grains with a slotted spoon? I have begun to do that and it works fine; plus it requires less clean up. I have my fermented kefir in a quart mason jar. In the mornings I fish out the kefir grains and place them in a clean quart mason jar. Then I pour fresh raw milk over them (about 3 cups) and loosely place a lid on the jar which will sit until the following morning. Finished!! Later in the day I make a smoothie for the family using the 3 cups of kefir. I have to clean a slotted spoon and a empty jar…all so easy!!

cheeseslave January 24, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Sounds like a good idea!

For me, it’s just as easy to rinse the strainer.

D. January 24, 2011 at 7:38 PM

I just read recently that you can make kefir using almond milk, but I don’t know the details. I didn’t read the article because I wasn’t interested at the time and was looking for information on how to “grow” my kefir grains as they seem to be pooping out on me! I have made my own homemade almond milk (for many years) in the past, but since we can no longer purchase unpasteurized almonds i don’t know how (or if) the milk would even turn out. You could try making kefir with the boxed almond milk from the store, but I have no idea how that would work either.

D. January 24, 2011 at 7:46 PM

The slotted spoon sounds like a much easier idea, and I happen to have a wooden slotted spoon! Can anyone, someone, please answer my question about the kefir grains?? How do I keep them “growing”?

I use only raw milk for my kefir, unheated, just cover my jar with a tea towel and set it on top of my fridge. I also set my little jar that I’m using to try to grow my kefir grains up there. It’s not very much heat though. Do you think I need a warmer spot?

Deb January 25, 2011 at 5:25 AM

Does your kefir flow through the strainer and only leave the kefir grains?My kefir has the consistency of thin cottage cheese (small curd) so it doesn’t flow through the strainer so well; I end up wasting a lot of product when I rinse it.

thanks!!

Deb January 25, 2011 at 5:39 AM

How long have you had your grains? I have read that it may take a few days to get them going again if you had the grains mailed to you. I can’t help you much since I just started making kefier about a week ago. I ordered mine from someone in Ohio (I live in Georgia) and have done nothing special with them yet they have almost doubled in quantity.

Hopefully someone knowledgeable can help you!!

Also, I’m with you about the metal…seems too contridictary. I have seen many sites that say not use a metal spoon but then use a metal strainer. I can understand the difference in storage containers, but how can using a metal spoon cause damage but not a metal strainer??

D. January 25, 2011 at 9:54 AM

I’ve had my grains for about 8 months and they’ve never changed in size or quantity in that whole time. I just don’t understand it. They make kefir, so they’re active, but they just won’t grow. They are in tiny little pieces, never in a bunch. They look like cauliflower florets which have broken into very tiny chunks. I tried giving them a rest in the fridge with fresh milk over them for a couple of days, but that didn’t seem to do anything. I read that hint on some other web site I think. I have about 2 tsp of grains and I can only make a small batch of kefir, which is fine, but I wanted to share the grains with a friend and that never did happen!

Any ideas will be welcomed.

M. February 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM

D., as to your understandable frustration over your ‘no growth’ kefir grains, I would like to offer a suggestion. It may sound weird but, just get them the heck off your fridge! I have a strong suspicion that the direct vibration as well as an overabundance of emf is keeping them stunted.

Your question actually twigged a memory that brought me to this conclusion.
When I was a kid a kind visiting uncle bought my mother a budgie. This dear little bird became ill with a strange (apparently) viral foot infection that disturbed him SO much that one day he actually bit off a ‘toe’ and then had to be chloroformed to end his misery. Years later as an adult I kept my own birds and so did a lot of research into their proper care. A well known author of budgie care books mentioned that one should never, ever place a bird’s cage on a fridge – birds are very sensitive to vibration and this would cause enormous discomfort and health issues. Well, guess where my childhood avian friend used to have his caged perch??

I know a kefir grain is not a bird:-) Neverthless, it is a living and reproducing organism. I think I will stop there.

So give the grains a big hug and some fresh milk (with all the fat) and set them away even from electrical sockets. Change the milk every 24 hrs for a time so they get lots to feed on. Have patience and I think they may reward you. And I would really be interested to hear if they become active again.
Do post!

cheeseslave February 3, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Wonderful suggestion! Thanks, M!

D. February 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM

M.

No, I hear you about the energy and the frequencies floating through the air and stuff. It’s highly possible that the top of my fridge wasn’t such a bright idea! I used to put yogurt and kefir and stuff inside my oven and let the pilot light do the warming, but we purchased a new stove a couple of years ago, and I hate it — if we have no electricity, I have no flame because it’s not a constantly lit pilot light and, consequently, it’s not a warm oven. What I wouldn’t give to have an old-fashioned stove with a deep well and a continual pilot. I mean, you can get them but they are very spendy and too big for my postage-stamp kitchen! But since my kitchen IS so small, it would be impossible to keep stuff away from an electric currant or even frequencies that might be in our home. That would actually be true for any room. I use the top of my fridge to make yogurt and regular kefir and it works fine for that, so I’m thinking my grains are just funky somehow. I ordered mine from the Happy Herbalist and may have to try to re-order some new ones, but I’ll have to wait a while. It’s too cold for them to be shipped to this area this time of year. Two days ago our daytime high was -11 F degrees and today it’s almost +45 F degrees. Go figure weather.

I’ll use your “energy avoidance” idea, though, to do some online checking and see if I can find more information along those lines.

Thanks so much for the input. Sorry to hear about your budgie friend. What a shame. When I was growing up (eons ago) we had a blue parakeet. My parents got it from some friends of theirs from Oshkosh, WI who owned a tavern. That bird had a “foul” mouth. Seriously, even though the pun was intended ;->) He would swear and cuss like the patrons from the bar, I suppose, but he also said “cheerio” every morning to the first person who came into the kitchen! He also said “drink your beer”. Too funny! We had a birdcage on a tall stand with a hanger.

M. February 3, 2011 at 2:07 PM

Hi D.
I just popped in again to see if you might have picked up my message.
I also forgot to ask whether you wash your grains with water before starting a new batch. If so, don’t continue this. Leave a little of your last batch in the jar when you add fresh milk to help increase the kefiran.
And don’t over or under ferment. You probably know all this anyway.

It is virtually impossible to shield your home from emf. That’s a whole other topic. I only mentioned moving the culture away from electrical sockets since your grains seem in need of a little pampering. Experiment before you order new grains. It can be fun.
I know Happy Herbalist and they are a reliable supplier. The grains should have arrived healthy and they seem able to at least make you some kefir. They must just be feeling a little cranky about something.
And yes, those little birds can be cheeky devils!

D. February 3, 2011 at 2:26 PM

The first time I ever used my grains I rinsed them with my filtered water (we use a ceramic filtering system in our home) but then after that I decided to just leave a little “culture” with them – so they’d have familiar company. I usually wait about 24 hours before using new milk, would that be about the right timing?

Nicola February 9, 2011 at 7:41 AM

How can I tell if my kefir has gone bad? How long can you leave the kefir out without adding fresh milk? Mine was out for 3 and a half days without adding fresh milk. The grains had been frozen before so I heard it would take a little bit longer for them to come back to life. Is a lumpy type consistency normal and safe?

D. February 9, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Hi Alexander, I don’t know if this is something Anne Marie would recommend, but I used some of my homemade yogurt (and probably store-purchased yogurt would be fine, too) with my kefir grains because I was out of raw milk, and I LOVED it!! It made a thick kefir that was nearly like Greek yogurt, which I adore.

Now, if I could just get my kefir grains to multiply . . . : -(

I may purchase some commercial kefir (I think Lifeway is the only brand available here) and add that to my grains and see what transpires. It can’t possibly hurt them because they’re doing nothing now. I mean, they make kefir for me, but there are so few of them I can only make about 1-2 cups of kefir at one time. Such a slow process that way. I would like to be able to have staggered or rotated kefir batches at all times.

D. February 9, 2011 at 10:24 AM

You can, fo sure. I use goat milk quite often, in fact. Goat milk is naturally homogenized so it won’t get as thick as cow milk kefir (or yogurt either).

Here’s another idea for using goat milk. I make a shortcut ice cream using goat milk and no one whines about it! It is sorta thick, like a milk shake, but tastes so much like the real homemade ice cream I grew up with. My Dad was an ice cream aficionado! If you’d like to give this a go, just whip a teaspoon of vanilla and as much sweetener as you like into a quart of fresh goat milk, using a glass bowl. Put the bowl into the freezer with a cover on it. I use a saucer/small plate if I don’t have a cover. When it is starting to freeze (after about 30 min), take it out and beat it very well with a hand whisk. Even just a plain old spoon will work, but you might end up with a few lumps. I don’t mind the lumps but some people don’t like them. Put back into the freezer until almost frozen. Take out and mix well again. Back into the freezer until as hard as you’d like. Most of the time we can’t wait any longer and eat it like soft serve ice cream or add a bit of milk and beat it well, making milk shakes. Use flavoring of choice, or add spices if you wish.

The goat milk is great for people who can’t have cow milk products. It’s easier for some people to digest and great for kids.

M. February 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Hi D.
I thought I would check in to see if you had posted any change in the development of your kefir grains. It’s been almost 3 weeks
and even a small increase in size should be apparent by now.
(I’m a bit of an experiment hound and get really excited when I’m able to solve even a little mystery.)
Sorry for not answering your last post – I was so busy with other things. Yes, I find 24 hours to be ideal. But then I don’t live in a very warm climate. And I don’t even wash my jars every day. Frankly, they are washed maybe every 2 weeks.
Every morning I just remove the grains, put what I am not drinking right away into a clean storage jar (that goes into the fridge) then put in more fresh milk, a little extra fresh cream, the grains, top loosely with a lid and cover well with a kitchen towel.
I wash the jars with baking soda only, no detergents.
My grains grow huge and healthy and my kefir has never been ‘off’ in any way.
Anyway, I hope you eventually post your progress and hope for news of a happy outcome.

D. February 22, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Still no luck. I think I’ve killed the *&^%$(# dang things!

I’ve tried everything known to man – – er, woman, and nothing is helping. Those little critters are not doing anything. I don’t live in a warm climate either. Actually, I’m beginning to think I live on a roller coaster. Last week Tuesday & Wednesday it was in the upper 60’s during the day. Over the weekend and yesterday the daytime high’s weren’t out of the below zero range. Yesterday’s high was -6°. Yep, 6 degrees below zero. Today it’s 35°. Go figure weather.

That’s one of the reasons I was keeping my critters in a jar on top of the fridge, but then someone here told me not to do that because of the sound/energy waves and currents and stuff. But it’s the only really warm spot in my kitchen, and that may be why my grains are doing nada now.

I, too, use a mixture of raw cream and raw milk in a small clean jar. I usuallly let the cream/mix mixture come almost to room temp before adding the grains so as not to shock the lil’ buggers. Is that the right thing to do?

I clean my jars with Sal Suds (from Dr. Bronner) and then I rinse in filtered water, and then I spray the inside of each jar with a mixture of essential oils (4 thieves – my own blend) and then I rinse and rinse and rinse some more. Then they air dry upside down on a towel on the counter, with a spoon handle under the opening to prop it just a little for circulation. Once they’re dry, I take a clean tea towel and run it around the inside of the jar just because that’s the way my mama washed her jars. ;->

I think I need new grains, to be honest. These are complete duds.

D. February 22, 2011 at 2:20 PM

I should clarify something from my last post. I didn’t mean to imply that the 4 thieves blend is something I concocted on my own. I just meant rather than buying someone else’s expensive blend of oils, I make my OWN blend of the very same oils.

Just to be clear!

M. February 22, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Hi again, D. It was I who suggested taking the grains off the fridge. Your post did not clearly confirm that you tried this.
But now I see another potential obstacle – your use of essential oils. They have been the mainstay of my professional work for decades so please be aware that I have good knowledge & only the deepest respect for their blessings. The problem is that they are simply not water soluble. Rinse and rinse as you may, water will never completely remove their presence. Have you ever used them in a bath & noticed how they merely float in a film on the surface?
I figure you use your chosen mixture for its ability to disinfect. For purposes other than kefir making this may not be problematic. But I would have to recommend that you cut out this step in your jar cleaning ritual and utterly simplify by merely using baking soda and hot water. It really does a fine job. (Dr Bronner Sal Suds, as far as I remember, also contain some pine & fir oils, do they not?)
Then give the jar(s) a few final rinses with filtered cold water & set them to air dry. This is my method. And like I said in the earlier post, I don’t even wash my jars that frequently. I don’t mean to be pushy, I just want to help get those grains growing.
You have not said that they do not produce any fermentation. So I assume they are still active in some way.
Regarding their placement on the fridge, I was referring in my original post to the physical vibration that occurs when the motor runs that distributes the coolant. The emf is heightened at this time & compounds the problem.

Traces of essential oil left behind in the jar will also interfere with the grain’s development. I have for years been regularly making kombucha and the same rule applies there. Water, tea & sugar only (along with some starter from a former batch & the ‘mother’) If you want to flavor it, do so once fermentation is completed.
Anyway, D., it’s worth a try. As anyone who has active grains can tell you, kefir grains are fairly robust and will reward you if given the right conditions. And don’t worry too much about providing warmth. I turn the heat down at night & it isn’t exactly hot in our home during the day in winter – my kefir, left on the kitchen counter, is always bubbly & ready for me in the morning. And by the way, although many may find it questionable practice, I am in such a rush in the morning that I even shower the grains with milk straight out of the fridge, begging their pardon of course, when preparing a new batch. They still don’t let me down. However I would not do this to your grains in their present state.
Keep trying, if you have the patience.

M. February 22, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Hi Nicola,
Since I was just posting anyway and saw your query I thought I might leave a comment. 3 and a half days without replenishing with fresh milk will not kill your grains but you may not like the result of all that fermentation – ‘safe’ to ingest (but may cause constipation from over acidifying) By now you have surely tossed it and started again…and again.
And yes, I suppose it could be described as ‘lumpy’. If you over-ferment it will separate into a whey and solid portion. And after further progress, many weeks, you may begin to notice thin strands that elongate like a mucus forming around the grains. This is kefiran, a substance the presence of which you should delight in. In my own experience the more cream available in the milk, the more quickly and eagerly does the kefiran form.
Good health to you!

D. February 22, 2011 at 7:40 PM

I’ve been washing my raw milk jars with essential oils for several years now with no problem, because, of course, I rinse with scalding hot boiled filtered water which should get rid of excess oil. But maybe it doesn’t! I have had no problem with the milk though.

Also, Sal Suds is made for dishwashing because it also contains a form of SLS (not the bad kind) that helps things rinse immaculately clean. And yes, it does contain some sort of fir/pine oil – smells heavenly! Nevertheless, I’ll eliminate those two steps and see what happens, and thanks for the suggestions to do so. I’ve never given it much thought because it’s the way I’ve always done the cleaning process. I clean my whole house with essential oils, including my hardwood floors with no “oil” problem.

Also, I guess it WAS you who mentioned about the refrigerator! I just didn’t take time to go back and have a look-see as to who made the suggestion. Sorry! And no, I’m not putting anything up there now, but still not having any luck. I truly think maybe the grains just weren’t very good to begin with and I may just need to start with a fresh batch.

And you mentioned that your grains will “bubble” . . . mine NEVER did that from the beginning, even when I had them in a glass bowl with a saucer on top. That bowl had no oils on it because it went through the dishwasher and then I rinsed it with boiling water and let it cool. I always rinse all the dishes from my dishwasher with boiling water because of my infant day care bottles, spoons, bowls, etc. I don’t wait for someone to be sick to do this, I do it ALL the time. It’s just something I do. I know, I’m weird. But we hardly ever have anyone sick, either. I just don’t trust dishwashers (actually I hate them) but I don’t have time to wash everything by hand, including all the dishes my DH can dirty up in one day! Of course, when I cook or bake, I never dirty a dish . . . ;-> I have very little counter space, so I mostly use the dishwasher to store dirty dishes!

I’m gonna give this thing one more try. If nothing bubbles or grows or whatever, out they go and I’ll order new grains.

Thanks for the tips. All I can do is try, right?!

Renee Hartless April 19, 2011 at 4:28 AM

Hi Cheeseslave. I recently got the materials to make the coconut water kefir. I want to give them to my 5 year old boy who has been doing the GAPS diet for about 2 months now. In the GAPS literature I only see milk kefir mentioned. Do you know if the sugar in the coconut water is a problem? I dont see coconut water on the legal list for SCD or GAPS. Has anyone had experience with using this successfully on the GAPS diet? Thanks so much. I love your blog!

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Marie June 22, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Hi-thank you for this article on making kefir. I have a question. If I buy a gallong of raw milk, and use the whole gallon to make kefir, will it go bad? In other words, it’s just me that will be drinking the gallon and I can’t drink very much in a day.

Thank you.

ForTheLoveOfBUTTER June 28, 2011 at 8:36 AM

AnnMarie,

Just wondering if you ever got a chance to post about Millie’s protocol for using kefir & kefir grains to help her son heal. I am really interested in trying this out and any tips you have would be really helpful.

We’ve been drinking raw milk kefir. We recently got some new grains that have been raised on raw milk, and they are pretty powerful (I’ve been getting lightheaded for a little while after I drink the kefir – about a cup or so at a time).

I’m interested in eating the kefir grains, but I’m a little nervous about having too much to start with (I don’t want to detox too quickly – been there, done that, no fun! lol). Any suggestions?

cheeseslave June 28, 2011 at 2:23 PM

You can freeze it

cheeseslave June 28, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Yes I know about Millie and yes it is good to eat the kefir grains. Eat your leftover ones.

Try starting out with just 1/4 cup or less — then work up to a whole cup. You can even start with as little as 1 teaspoon per day and increase by 1 teaspoon each day.

ForTheLoveOfBUTTER July 5, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Eat a whole cup per day? How is it possible to keep up with growing that many grains?

Our grains have actually been growing faster than we expected. We got 1/4 Cup to start and our 1/4 Cup turned into 1 Cup in about a week and a half to two weeks, but I can’t even imagine how we could grow enough grains for us to eat 1 Cup per day. Plus, we are both going GAPS and trying to use the grains for probiotic benefits.

Any suggestions? How did Millie grow this many grains to use for her son?

LeahS July 11, 2011 at 10:15 PM

I have a hard time keeping up with my kefir. I need to revive it tomorrow.

Linda xo July 23, 2011 at 10:28 PM

I’ve been buying a kefir & bleu cheese dressing at the health food store, but now you’re inspiring me to try creating my own. Still, after reading this thread I’m also a little intimidated. It seems like there’re some variables…maybe it all just ultimately boils down to personal preference.

Jenna Hoskinson August 6, 2011 at 7:17 PM

just got some keifir grains from a friend and have it fermenting on the counter now :)

Rebekkah Smith August 14, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I just purchased my first kefir starter! Can’t wait to start making it! I’m just starting to move into doing homemade, traditional milk stuff – kefir, whey, yogurt, cream cheese, etc.

I know that kefir has some alcohol in it. Is it safe for my kids to drink? If it really is this healthy, I’d love for him to drink it every day!

BocaWife October 12, 2011 at 8:08 PM

I just made my first 2 qt of kefir. WhooHoo!

Tracy Bell February 6, 2012 at 2:19 PM

OK, so I have a question for you. I just received some grains and was told to add milk and refrigerate them to get the kefir going. I did for a couple of days. It still curdled and looked right, however, I just want to make sure that I have not ruined the grains and need to acquire more.

thank you!

Sincerely,
Tracy Bell

Jeanne February 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Outstanding!!! Thank you. I need pictures and the explanation is very clear and simple. I was wondering about the part where you say no not use stainless steel and your strainer looks like it is stainless steel. I was thinking you meant not to store the finished product in anything but glass or plastic but just want to make sure. Wild fermentation is my bible but he doesn’t have any pictures. Thanks again. Jeanne

Jeanne February 9, 2012 at 11:11 AM

Outstanding!!! Thank you. I need pictures and the explanation is very clear and simple. I was wondering about the part where you say do not use stainless steel and your strainer looks like it is stainless steel. I was thinking you meant not to store the finished product in anything but glass or plastic but just want to make sure. Wild fermentation is my bible but he doesn’t have any pictures, picture is worth a 1000 words. Thanks again. Jeanne

Alycia February 25, 2012 at 6:49 AM

I must be a compete dummy, but I am struggling with hydrating my kefir grains. I forgot one day to strain the grains into the next batch of fresh milk and when I eventually went to do to it was so thick that I could not find the grains. So I did the best I could to separate and put back into fresh milk but there is still cottage cheese like particles in it. Still being hard to located the small grains. Is it okay, and what do I do from here. Also, is the raw milk okay to sit out for a 12 hour period to cultivate? I am so wanting to make kefir milk but it’s getting the best of me ;( Any sugguestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Hi, thought you might love to know that Organic Pastures sells unpasturized almonds.

Shesmine March 4, 2012 at 12:07 AM

I think the point she was making about the metal is do not use metal for the long term production and storage of kefir. The very short term use of a metal strainer would not be harmful whatsoever.

Ben Coomber March 5, 2012 at 8:01 AM

This is awesome, sounds so easy to make, going to source some grains in the UK and get to work, sounds awesome. Thanks :)

Geri March 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I don’t have any grains, I just have about 2 cups of raw, plain, organic kefir???? Cant find an article for that…can u help?

Geri March 5, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Oops, forgot to check the email notification option.

Fiona Winter March 6, 2012 at 9:57 AM

How long will the grains keep in the freezer and do I cover them in milk first?

Helen Humphreys April 7, 2012 at 1:44 AM

Love your website. Great information. Wonderful learning tool for all. Keep up the good work.

John Lightbourn May 17, 2012 at 2:16 AM

You say not to use metal of any kind, but you are using a metal strainer?

Mrs H May 22, 2012 at 5:44 AM

THANK YOU for posting this!! I am making kefir today, using your recipe :)

Tasha June 30, 2012 at 9:51 AM

The only thing I would say is that this is a bit contradictory because it says not to use metal of any kind when you are straining the kefir into the jar. I know you are talking about the jar, but the strainer is metal and then stirring the kefir in the metal, agitates the metal even more, killing the flora of the kefir. It would be better to use a plastic strainer.

jamie August 1, 2012 at 2:05 PM

thanks for the info on how to make kefir! i’m excited to start my first batch…one question: is it okay to use a metal/mesh strainer even though i’m not supposed to store it in metal? i’m hearing conflicting advice and unfortunately only have metal strainers at the moment (or i’d just use plastic to be safe). thanks!

Renny November 12, 2012 at 4:56 AM

I have a couple of questions & am VERY new to making kefir. I am using raw grass fed cow’s milk…II received my grains from a friend. My first batch of kefir curdled, at 36 hours & the second batch is working now & I have let it go too long…but how long is too long? When does kefir become inedible/not drinkable? Is there an ideal kefir grain to amount of milk ratio? I think I could realistically use about a quart a day. Thanks!

Renny December 7, 2012 at 2:36 PM

& last, but not least, I did not stir my kefir the first several times of making it…& the grains have become sour smelling. I was also going to question the stringy substance forming on my grains, but I see above that it’s ok…is it ok that the grains are a little sour smelling? I have rinsed them in milk & the smell reduces & they are still making kefir-just want to be sure all is well!

Marie January 8, 2013 at 1:27 PM

I am so disappointed that I just got my cultures for health delivery of kefir grains and went out to buy a really good gallon of milk – and just learned that I have to rehydrate the grains for 5-7 days! My milk won’t last that long – looks like I have to find someone to give it to as we don’t drink it. Add this to your directions so someone else doesn’t have to make this costly mistake.

Erica January 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM

I’ve been making kefir from grains I received through my co-op. I noticed that every other batch is better than the last (thicker). Any reason why this is?

AZRN March 7, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Your son is probably intolerant to the pasteurization process of the processed milk. Raw milk is alive, & I don’t know any drawbacks. You can leave it in the car overnight, & it isn’t rancid the next morning. However, the dairy industry wants to be able to sell you milk from infected cow udders, in order to keep their costs down. That’s why it’s pasteurized now. With the sanitary conditions in dairies, we don’t have to worry about contamination in that manner. & the cows are tested yearly for TB… so there you go: large corporations selling you a substandard product in large quantities.

Dutchie March 24, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Hi,
I have some questions. I have this jar with kefir&grains still left in it on my counter for several months now….it’s actually half lquid (whey?) now and bottom half still looks white. Now I’ve read you can use milk kefir as a starter immediately to make sourdough bread,instead of having to go through the tedious days of making a starter and want to do that, but I was wondering if I could still use this kefir or whey from the countertop?

Or do I need to make new kefir? and if so,would the grains be dead by now?

sealwife227 March 25, 2013 at 12:58 PM

I’m excited to try making my own but I noticed kefir for sale in my grocery store and was wondering what’s the scoop on those brands? Do you know anything about:
Yakult
Glen Oaks drinkable yogurt
Life Way Kifer

Thanks!

Valerie May 6, 2013 at 7:24 AM

What does it taste like??

Debra June 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Hi AnnMarie,

Are you still selling your Kefir grains? If so I would love to buy some…. I am a newbie but excited to start making my own!

Thanks
Debra

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Narelle November 15, 2013 at 12:10 AM

Hi there,

I have been given some kefir probiotic drink which has been made using fruit juice and I have over the last week been adding different types of fruit juice to it.

My concern is that there are not grains in the bottom of the bottle, but what looks like a fine powder. Could you explain this please? Would this product still be good and active, or have we got something different here?

I would appreciate your input.

Many thanks
Narelle

Alyssa January 6, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Can you store the kefir grains in almond milk, or does it have to be organic cow’s/goat’s milk? Also, I’m a little unclear…after I strain them, can I eat the grains, or do I put all the grains in a clean jar to reproduce? Do I only eat/drink what is leftover once grains are gone? Is it safe to blend that up with raw veggies/fruits? How long can they stay in the fridge without going bad? Mine have been in there for about 8 weeks or so…is that too long?

Dea February 6, 2014 at 7:32 AM

Thanks so much for the kefir encouragements! I LOVE LOVE KEFIR! Through quite a healing journey, it was kefir that began to re-nourish me and truly restore energy and health. I am so grateful for this amazing POWER FOOD! I found your site through Chris Kesser’s site. Super helpful! If anyone needs encouragement to try this amazing food, please check out my humble blog at WellTaught.com. Thank you for your awesome Cheeseslave site! Will be checking back often.

Kelly March 9, 2014 at 11:52 PM

So cheeseslave can I store the liquids in fridge? This is my first time making kefir…

Julia March 23, 2014 at 2:36 AM

The gains can make kefir from almond/soya/coconut milk however you have to put them in normal cow/goat milk as they “eat” lactose, they will die in a week or two if you keep them in almond/coconut milk. You can store the grains in the fridge for ever, just add a little fresh milk weekly to the jar you keep your grains in to feed them a little lactose.

Julia March 23, 2014 at 2:47 AM

I thought you are not meant to use anything metal as it harms the grains.. I bought a plastic strainer

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Shannean April 11, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Would love to try kefir but my son is dairy free:(

Coconut Lover April 22, 2014 at 11:23 AM

You can still make kefir is you are avoiding dairy.

Coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, etc can all be made using milk kefir grains, water kefir grains or prepared water kefir. Here is a link to how to do it:
http://www.yummycoconut.com/coconut-milk-recipes/coconut-milk-kefir-recipe/

Alternatively, you can make water kefir, which is made just using water and sugar thus avoiding any possible contact with dairy.

Kefir on My Face April 22, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Non reactive metal like stainless steel is OK to use with your grains. Anything that does react can cause issues because of the high acid content of the kefir. It can cause the metal to leach off into your grains and into your kefir.

Of course, this probably also occurs with plastic. It is best to use untreated wood and glass if you can.

Jane April 28, 2014 at 12:48 AM

I love kefir so much. This is a great piece and I’ve already bookmarked it.

One of the resources I keep going to is http://www.yourkefirsource.com/kefir

I think she updates it almost every month with new email questions she gets. Love it.

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Question: Does the bacteria in kefir grow like those in yogurt? If I use some premade kefir to replace some milk when I make yogurt, will it add more probiotics to our yogurt too? I understand the grains are required to make the kefir from scratch, but once it’s made, can you just use some of what you made as a starter for the next batch like you can with yogurt? Or is there something different about the way the bacteria in kefir grows?

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Penny May 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Good morning!!!

I am a Canadian living in China, and I don’t have access to any raw milk of any kind (this includes coconut milk. Is it possible to use boxed milk to make kefir? I don’t have access to any water kefir either and cannot find it at all in China.

Thanks!

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Maria June 3, 2014 at 4:35 AM

Hi guys,

I’ve been suffering from gastroenteritis and IBS and only God knows what else for the past 5 months. I am slowly learning what my gut likes and what I need to avoid. I literally cannot wait to try this.
I have a quick question: how do I store the grains? I’ve just purchased some but at the end of the month I’ll be going for 2 month holiday. Where do I keep them in the meantime? Can they be stored in the fridge?
Thanks a million,
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