Milk Kefir (pronounced keh-FEER) is a wonderfully delicious slightly carbonated fermented milk beverage similar to yogurt (or buttermilk). Kefir is simply milk that is fermented at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24 hours. It has many wonderful health benefits, a great flavor and is also usually tolerated well by the lactose intolerant. It's much easier to make than yogurt - no heating or incubating involved, and kefir has a much larger spectrum of probiotics than yogurt. The reusable, sustainable grains also make it more economical.

Kefir has gained in popularity lately, due to interest in eating more responsibly and locally, as well as more economically, combined with a greater awareness of the health benefits of probiotics from cultures and whole foods.

But with that popularity has come a load of misinformation and deceiving products on the web. Authentic kefir can only be made by real kefir grains, not from any kind of packet or powder (or from incubating store-bought kefir). Kefir available at the stores are simply imitations. This is due to regulations on consistent products with known ingredients, bottling procedures and packaging and shipping standards. As with most nutritious foods, real kefir can only be made and experienced at home.

Milk Kefir originated roughly 2,000 years ago in the Caucasian Mountains between Europe and Russia, which makes kefir one of the oldest milk ferments in existence. If you have more questions you can check out Yemoos Nourishing Cultures to see photos, FAQ's, health benefits and other information on milk kefir.

Now, lets get started!

Step 1: Supplies

There isn't a whole lot you need. Milk kefir is quite a simple ferment:

A. First, you will need milk.

*Make sure the milk isn't ultra-pastuerized or 'lactose-free'. Raw milk is best, but if you don't have access to raw, simple basic whole milk works well. Skim or low fat milk will work, but the grains prefer the full range of nutrition found in whole milk. 

B. Second, you will want  a strainer on hand - fine plastic/nylon or stainless steel. Aluminum and other metals can leach when coming into contact with acidic liquids such as milk kefir. Stainless steel is considered safe for short term contact.

*Strainers with large holes (like pasta strainers) don't work well - the smaller grains may pass right through into your kefir drink, rendering it gritty and lumpy (and unstorable - it will continue to ferment quickly in the fridge). Though its not a health hazard to drink them, you will lose part of your culture.

C. As for the other supplies, you will need a bowl to capture your strained kefir, a jar and breathable lid to ferment your kefir in, and a jar or bottle for storing your strained kefir in the fridge. A sterile wood or plastic spoon is also handy to help strain the kefir. You may want to have some yummy fresh fruit or other vanilla extract on hand to flavor your kefir, though it is yummy plain, too! 
<p>Hi, thanks for this great 'able.</p><p>Can I make cheese with the kefir?</p><p>Will extra-long straining and hanging produce something like <em>Paneer </em>or <em>Labna?</em></p>
yes! And yes, exactly. :) Add some salt or whatever your taste buds fancy :)
where can i find the kefir grains??
Alberto that's awesome! I'll be making the cheese!, I also ferment my kefir longer than 24 hours. Thanks for your interesting post. Cheers
<p>Thank you for that further clarification. So I really didn't know what the grains were. </p>
<p>There seems to be, among the comments, some confusion about the word 'grains'. I am far from an expert on making kefir and remember my own confusion at the beginning. Grains refers to the curd part of the mixture - as in 'curds and whey' in the nursery rhyme. You pour off the liquid and the lumpy bits you have left in the strainer are called the 'grains'. </p>
Yes, sort of! The grains are very solid gummy bear textured pieces that are a mass of live probiotics. They do not disintegrate or squish into liquid when touched, they remain solid, and stretchy. These grains ferment milk into kefir. It's important to clarify further, when milk kefir over-ferments there is naturally going to be curds and whey from the milk. Just like making cottage cheese. And those curds are NOT the grains, they are just chunky bits of milk (which would disintegrate when squished between the fingers).
<p>You say:</p><p>&quot;give them a quick rinse with spring water or a bit of milk&quot; but I have read never to rinse them in water, only milk, if they are milk kefir grains</p>
<p>It is a rinse and whether it's milk or water doesn't particularly matter. The only concern regarding water is to check that it's not heavily chlorinated. The milk and water are both rather inert to the grains. </p>
<p>You have a typo, you need a space between this:</p><p>atleast</p>
I am just learning about kefir, as I am trying to become more health-conscious, and trying to add more healthy, nutritional food to my diet. This sounds really good. I'm wondering, though, can you store this in the jar at room temperature, or does it need to be stored in the fridge? And what is the shelf life? Can the grains be purchased at Whole Foods?
<p>I love keifir, milk kefir and kombucha SCOBYs. I have always maintained that these cultures should be given and received freely and I try to post up in a local craigslist or freecycle to make sure anyone in my area can come get some from me for free. (I do understand if someone is across the country and wants to buy from a reputable source that is going to guarantee a live culture) <br>The SCOBYs multiply quickly and you will find yourself actually THROWING AWAY excess to keep them from transmuting your liquids too quickly, why not give some to a friend and keep SCOBYs readily available? You never know when you might need a return of the favor!</p>
SCOBYS? This is the first time I'm hearing abiut this. Is it better than kefir grains?<br>
<p>SCOBYS are for kombucha, a black or green tea mixed with sugar and allowed to ferment with a scoby for a week or so. It is just a different culture. The health benefits of milk kefir and kombucha are equally good in different ways. And some people naturally will take to and benefit from one more than the other. It is very individual.</p>
We wholeheartedly agree! Older scobies don't fare so well sometimes but if you have fresh ones on hand to share then we encourage it. :)
Kefir (the part you drink) can be stored in the fridge. It is best consumed within a week or two, but lasts indefinitely (becoming very sour and/or high in alcohol as it slowly continues to ferment). Live grains can only be purchased from a few online sellers including ourselves. You can also sometimes find them locally in listings.
<p>anyone use a metal strainer? </p>
stainless steel is ok to use with kefir. It is a top choice material in the kitchen due to it's mostly inert state. Plus, straining involves a very short amount of contact (vs fermenting in a metal container, which we don't recommend, although commercial yogurt is made this way all the time).
<p>thank you!</p>
<p>Kefir is a fermented milk product that originated centuries ago in the Caucasus mountains, and is now enjoyed by many different cultures worldwide, particularly in Europe and Asia. It can be made from the milk of any ruminant animal, such as a cow, goat, or sheep. It is slightly sour and carbonated due to the fermentation activity of the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that make up the &ldquo;grains&rdquo; used to culture the milk (not actual grains, but a grain-like matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars that feed the microbes.with my best wishes,melissa from www.cavediet.net</p>
Awesome! I love it when my mom makes pancakes from kefir.
I usually make lassi ( I buy off the shelf kefir and mix it with my own homemade yogurt ), but I love the idea of someday making the kefir part as well!<br><br>In terms of grains, are all grains equal? Can they be stored in the freezer, if so for how long?<br><br>I know for my yogurt, I've cultivated many different strains, and I freeze a portion of every batch to be thawed and used the next time I make yogurt.. which can often be weeks later.<br><br>So many machines for yogurt, but not (m)any for kefir.. It's be nice to see a &quot;progurt&quot; like machine that can simultaneously yield lassi, with all the probiotic benefits of yogurt and the yeast benefits of kefir!
All grains are very similar, but the equality is hard to measure. It depends on how well the grains are cared for, what they are fed (regular or raw milk) and locality can even play a part - subtly enhancing the kefir grains over time with the local flora of your environment. The best thing to do is to find grains from someone you trust takes great care of them. And you may never find you get exactly the same grains from that one person either, as they are living and constantly changing through the seasons and in response to different milks etc. It is fun to gather from many sources - then you can have a nice variety to work with.<br><br>Yes you can freeze them, or dry them. They can be pat dry and stored in an airtight baggie in the freezer for several months. I'd recommend making a new back up in 3-4 months time, though they will survive to a lesser degree far longer than that usually. They can be stored in milk in the fridge for several months, too.<br><br>You do not need ANY kind of machine for kefir. It ferments at room temperature in a jar with a cloth over the top - simple as you can hope for. And with far greater health benefits for many people compared to yogurt.
Keffir is a BIP yogurt! Thinner and tastier than commercial yogurt.<br> <br> The 24 hours periods is a standard. But Arabs used to keep it longer (48 - 36) depending on the effect they desired to achieve on their intestinal flora... You should find out about this!<br> <br> Drinking this you should feel healthier.<br> <br> Keffir grains should be put in the mesh after being separated from the milk. And washed under running water for a while. You could help them with your hands to let them clean and healthy. Then, you could put them rinsed in a jar and in the fridge until the next use.<br> You'll notice that after a month of constant use, your keffir grain family has doubled in number. That means that they require the double amount of milk to achieve the same taste as before. So, it is time to find a friend to receive the half of your colony, unless you want to keep on increasing the daily keffir production until becoming a community service...<br> There are other things that you could do with your keffir super-production. It is recommended to produce it on a daily basis. It is healthier. But if you have an excess of production you can always make some cheese...<br> <br> <strong>LABNA CHEESE</strong><br> <br> 2 liters&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; yogurt or thick keffir<br> 75 cc&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; olive oil<br> 1 tablespoon&nbsp; salt<br> 1&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; lemon (juice + grinned skin)<br> <br> * Mix all well.<br> * Then put a clean cloth over a bowl and the mixture over it.<br> *&nbsp; Make a bag by joining the four corners of the cloth together and tying it up with a thin rope.<br> * Let the bag hang over the bowl for a while until all the liquid drains out.<br> *&nbsp; Leave the bag hanging for a day at the shadow and fresh air.<br> <br> * After a day, find a nice and clean jar and fill it with the cheese like this:<br> * With a teaspoon take a ball of cheese and compress it a little.<br> * Then rub it with black pepper and put it into the jar with some olive oil in it to separate each ball.<br> *&nbsp; Repeat with the rest of the cheese.<br> *&nbsp; Leave it at the fridge for a day.<br> *&nbsp; Enjoy!<br> <br> Alberto

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Bio: We grow, research, photograph and offer nourishing, time-honored organic cultures such as Milk Kefir, Water Kefir, Kombucha, and Sourdough. We enjoy drinking (and eating!) the ... More »
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