Kefir, also known as “Little bird’s yogurt” as we call it in Chile, is a probiotic drink that is very beneficial for health. It is made using “kefir grains”, which are colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeast.
Making kefir at home has many advantages over buying it ready-made. It allows you to obtain a fresh, natural, and customized product, controlling the ingredients and process yourself. It is also very affordable since the grains can be reused indefinitely.
In this article I will share everything I have learned about how to easily make delicious homemade kefir.
Ingredients and Materials Needed
To make kefir at home you only need a few basic ingredients:
- Kefir grains: These are small gelatinous white colonies. They contain the live bacteria and yeast that ferment the milk. You can get them from a friend who already makes kefir or request them in exchange groups on social media. I got my kefir grains from a dear teacher who taught artisanal cheese making. You can read this story in my article “My Old Kefir”.
- Milk: The kefir grains ferment any type of milk containing lactose, which is a type of sugar present in dairy. You can use whole, low-fat, cow, goat or sheep milk. Even plant milk like almond or soy works, as long as you add a bit of sugar, since it is needed for the fermentation process. The microorganisms present in the kefir grains feed on the sugar to produce lactic acid.
- Glass jar: For fermenting it is best to use glass jars with an airtight lid. Avoid using plastic.
- Strainer: To separate the kefir from the grains after fermentation. A fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth works well.
- Other: Spoon, rubber spatula, funnel. Optional: cloth, elastic bands to cover the jar.
Kefir Easy Guide – Step-by-Step
Making homemade kefir is very easy, just follow these steps:
- Activate the grains: If using new or refrigerated grains, first activate them by placing them in a cup of milk at room temperature for 24 hours or until thickened.
- Prepare the jar: Wash the glass jar and lid thoroughly with soap and water. Rinse well to remove any traces of detergent.
- Add the grains: Place the activated grains into the clean jar. Use a ratio of around 1 tablespoon of grains per cup of milk. It may vary slightly with room temperature.
- Pour the milk: Add fresh milk in proportion to the amount of kefir grains.
- Cover and ferment: Close the jar tightly or cover with a cloth secured with a rubber band. Allow to sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Fermentation time is approximately 24 hours.
- Strain the kefir: After 24 hours, the kefir will be ready. Using the strainer, separate the grains from the liquid, which is the kefir itself. Gently press the grains to extract the most liquid.
- Second fermentation (optional): For thicker, less sour kefir with more flavor, do a second fermentation. See next section.
- Store the kefir and grains: The kefir is now ready to drink. It can be stored refrigerated up to 10 days. The grains are placed in a clean jar with fresh milk to start a new cycle.
Second Fermentation (Optional)
The second fermentation gives the kefir a milder flavor and thicker consistency. It’s done like this:
- Place the strained kefir into a clean jar.
- Add flavorings and thickeners: fresh or dried fruit, citrus peels, spices, vanilla, cocoa powder, etc.
- Cover and let ferment at room temperature for approximately 12 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when the whey starts to separate from the curds.
- Refrigerate and consume within 1 week. Shake before each use.
Note: The second fermentation is optional, but gives the kefir a special touch. Try it with sliced peaches or frozen berries. Delicious!
Uses and Recipes
Kefir can be consumed in many ways. Here are some ideas:
- Plain, as a probiotic drink.
- Mixed with fruit pulp in smoothies.
- As the base for healthy shakes.
- Instead of milk on cereal, oats or granola.
- In pancake, waffle, sweet or savory crepe recipes.
- In cold soups like gazpacho.
- To marinate fresh or dried fruit for dessert.
- To make ranch dressing, golf sauce, or salad dressings.
- Instead of yogurt in fruit parfaits or fruit salads.
- In baked goods like cakes, muffins, brownies, etc.
One of my favorite recipes is a kefir smoothie with chia seeds, granola and berries. A delicious and very nutritious breakfast alternative.
You’re absolutely right, my apologies. Here is the smoothie recipe that I missed translating previously:
Kefir Smoothie Recipe
- Once you have your kefir ready, for approximately one cup, add one heaping teaspoon of chia seeds. Mix well and refrigerate covered.
- The next morning, thoroughly stir the smoothie, you can add any sweetener of your choice.
- Avoid using bee honey since its antiseptic properties may kill some of the kefir’s probiotics.
- Add one tablespoon of granola and some berries.
- You can also use fresh fruits.
Using Goat Milk for Healthier Kefir
In addition to cow’s milk, another excellent option for making homemade kefir is using goat’s milk.
Goat’s milk has some nutritional advantages over cow’s milk:
- It contains more calcium, phosphorus and B complex vitamins.
- Its proteins and fats are easier to digest.
- It has a lower lactose content.
- It does not contain the allergenic protein casein A1 found in cow’s milk.
Making kefir with goat’s milk allows us to obtain an even more nutritious and healthy drink.
Kefir grains ferment very well in goat’s milk. The process is exactly the same as with cow’s milk.
If you have access to fresh goat’s milk, I recommend trying making kefir with it. You’ll notice the result is slightly thicker and creamier. Your gut will thank you!
Kefir Health Benefits
Kefir is much more than a probiotic drink. Its nutritional and therapeutic properties make it a powerful ally for health and wellbeing. Some of the main benefits of kefir are:
- Strengthens the immune system, preventing and shortening the duration of colds, flu and infections.
- Improves gut health by increasing microbiome diversity and fighting pathogens. Helps with lactose intolerance, diarrhea, constipation and IBS.
- Contains nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins that promote bone and dental health. Can help prevent osteoporosis.
- Reduces chronic inflammation associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol and improves triglyceride and high blood pressure levels. Benefits cardiovascular health.
- Contains tryptophan, an amino acid precursor of serotonin. Improves symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Its high antioxidant and bioactive compound content helps combat free radicals. Can slow aging.
- By calming gut inflammation, it can improve IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, gas and pain.
Including homemade kefir regularly in your diet is an excellent way to care for your health from the inside out. Its probiotics and nutrients will help you feel better every day.
If you want to read more about the wonderful health benefits of kefir, I recommend reading the following article: The incredible benefits of kefir.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can kefir grains be frozen?
Freezing kefir grains is not ideal, since the extreme cold can damage the beneficial bacteria and yeast that reside in these small fermentation treasures.
Instead of freezing them, the best thing you can do is store your kefir grains under optimal conditions in the refrigerator. Keep them submerged in fresh milk to ensure they maintain their vitality and nutritional properties. This way, they’ll be ready to use in your recipes whenever you want, without worrying about the negative effects of freezing. So you can enjoy healthy and delicious kefir anytime!
Does kefir go bad?
Fermented kefir is a drink that can be kept in good condition for a period of 7 to 10 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. However, it is essential to watch for certain signs to ensure the kefir is in its best state.
One key indicator to watch out for is the presence of mold on the surface. If you notice mold growing on your kefir, it is advisable to discard it immediately, as mold can be harmful to health. In addition, an overly sour taste may be another sign that the kefir has passed its optimal consumption point.
Is it safe for pregnant women?
The answer is yes! Homemade kefir made from pasteurized milk is a safe and beneficial option for women during pregnancy. Kefir is known to be an excellent source of beneficial probiotics, which can be especially helpful for the well-being of pregnant women. These microorganisms help maintain a healthy balance in the digestive system and can help strengthen the immune system.
Of course, it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet during pregnancy. However, in general, homemade kefir made from pasteurized milk can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet during this very special time of life. Enjoy its benefits and taste!
Can kefir cause side effects?
It is important to note that kefir is a highly beneficial food for health, but on some occasions, some people may experience certain reactions when they first start consuming it.
One of the most common reactions is the appearance of gas or abdominal bloating. Don’t worry, this is usually temporary and is because the probiotics present in kefir are working to balance the intestinal flora. To minimize these discomforts, it is recommended to start with small amounts of kefir and gradually increase intake as your system adapts to this very healthy food.
Remember that each person is unique and may react differently. If you experience persistent or concerning side effects, consult a healthcare professional to receive personalized guidance. In most cases, the health benefits offered by kefir far outweigh any initial discomfort you may experience. Enjoy its probiotic properties and delicious flavor!
Can the grains be eaten?
Although it is not recommended to eat them whole, it is important to note that they do not pose a health risk. In fact, kefir grains are a valuable source of beneficial microorganisms that can provide numerous benefits for your well-being.
Why does whey sometimes separate?
It is normal that during the fermentation process, kefir solids separate from the whey. This is usually an indication that the primary fermentation is ready and you can strain the kefir. If the solids separate again after straining, just shake gently before consuming to incorporate the whey, and immediately refrigerate to prevent further fermentation.
Can it be made with soy or almond milk?
The answer is yes! You can enjoy the benefits of kefir with plant milk, making it an excellent option for those following a vegan diet or who are lactose intolerant.
The process for making kefir with soy or almond milk is quite similar to that of cow’s milk. However, it is important to ensure that the plant milk you choose contains a minimum of sugar or fructose, since these are the nutrients that kefir grains need for fermentation. If not, make sure to add some.
You may notice that fermentation in plant milk can be a little slower compared to cow’s milk due to differences in nutritional composition. However, the wait will be worth it when you enjoy a homemade, probiotic-rich plant milk kefir.
To learn more about how kefir can improve your health and wellbeing, I recommend reading my article on the benefits of kefir and also on how to heal your body from the inside out with fermented foods.
With these simple steps and a bit of practice, you’ll soon be enjoying the delicious benefits of homemade kefir. It’s much easier than it seems! I encourage you to culture your own grains and make this wonderful fermented beverage part of your daily diet.
Kefir Easy Guide
Below I’ve included a one-page quick guide that you can print out to have on hand. Enjoy!