How to make dairy (milk) kefir -- video tutorial

Kefir in jars on counter

All about kefir

How to make homemade kefir

Maple-sweetened kefir

Where to obtain kefir grains

Kefir is a cultured milk product, similar to yogurt. It contains healthy bacteria along with all the goodness of milk (protein, calcium, etc.). I first heard of kefir 3-4 years ago, when a friend decsribed it to me and gave me some of her extra "kefir grains" -- the culture used to make kefir.

At the time, I didn't particularly care for the taste of plain kefir (it's very similar to the taste of plain yogurt) but loved adding it to smoothies! I've also made kefir pancakes, and kefir can be substituted for buttermilk in many recipes.

With the busyness of baby #3 (Ruth), I stopped making kefir for a while. Six months ago, I got some fresh kefir grains and started making kefir again. The children are older now (ages 6, 5, 3, & 1 rather than 3 &2!) and have been helping me consume the kefir with no problem!

Why I love making kefir:

It's healthy. (Better than drinking plain milk!)

It's affordable: a one-time cost to purchase the culture, called "grains", and then the only expense is milk. Even better, find a friend who makes kefir and is willing to share the extra grains. (Or start your own, and be that friend for others.)

The kids love it. Plain, sweetened with maple syrup, in a smoothie, or stirred with some jam -- the kids love having kefir for a snack or breakfast!

It's super, super easy. It's probably the easiest thing I do in the kitchen! :)

I asked Yehoshua (6) to take a video of me one day when I was ready to "make kefir". As you will see, it took just a couple minutes. I love Yehoshua's enthusiasm when I am describing how one can eat kefir and he chimes in with his favorite ways to eat it. ;)

Kefir grains

To make kefir, you need the culture ("kefir grains", pictured above) and some milk. I use regular whole milk from the store, but you can of course use organic milk, raw milk, etc. A tablespoon of kefir grains will make a cup of kefir daily, and the grains will grow fairly quickly, so you'll soon be making as much kefir as you could ever wish for -- and have grains to give away to friends! :)

Making the kefir

Add some milk (cold, from the fridge is just fine!) and allow the milk + kefir grains to sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours. The result is what you see in the video above: thick, creamy kefir! Remove the grains, add fresh milk, and wait another 24 hours for more kefir! :)

Kefir grains

These are the same grains as the photos above -- 8 days later, you can see the grains have probably grown by about 50%.

More about kefir:

Podcast about how I started making kefir (4 minutes, mp3)

All about kefir

How to make homemade kefir

Maple-sweetened kefir

Where to obtain kefir grains

Comments

your camera man is so cute! We can't wait to start making our own kefir!

Is there any way to save the grains without adding milk to them daily? For example, if you make kefir at home, but are going out of town, is there any way to put your grains on hold until you return?

(Since they can be at room temp. I guess I could always take them with me.)

Yes; you can refrigerate the grains in some milk during that time! :)
If you scroll down to the comments on this post (and the others linked above), I think practically any and every question about kefir has been asked! :)

Yes, I just put my kefir grains in a clean glass and put fresh milk over them and and cover with the jar lid and then put in refrigerator. That can last for a week. If you still do not wish to make more keifir, just repeat the above steps, using fresh milk enough to cover grains. This can be done indefinatley. I have heard about drying them or freezing them back, but this seems much less complicated, and it works!
Chris

We've been making Kefir for years now. Most kefir sites say not to use any metal when handling your kefir. It can kill the grains. It looks like you've never had a problem but for all those "newbies" be careful if you use metal.

God Bless,
Katie

Hi Katie! :)

I've heard that as well, and I do understand how it could be detrimental to culture the kefir in a metal container. I have been using a stainless steel slotted spoon (or fork, as in the video) for, well, over 5 months... but the utensil is stainless steel and only in contact with the kefir/grains for a few seconds. I'd be interested to know how the metal can kill the grains (especially if it's *any* contact with *any* metal... what scientifically is happening?). :)

Another thing I heard online (in several places) for a while was that blending the kefir (like to make a smoothie) destroyed some of its beneficial properties. I could never find any reasons why or how that would occur, though, and haven't heard that "rumor" in the past couple years... still curious about that one though! :)

Tammy,

I don't know why they say that. I've never used metal. I actually went and bought a silicon colander to strain my kefir grains when I got them because of everything I've read. Some of the people were complaining that their grains were dying and they were using metal colanders. So they seller said to never use metal. I honestly don't know why. But I would like to know the reason too. I'm guessing it's the same reason you don't use metal when using a sourdough culture/starter...although I don't know why you don't use metal for that either..haha.

Katie

Well, the acidic nature of the kefir could react with metal if you were allowing the kefir to culture in a metal container.
I definitely think glass is the best type of container for culturing kefir!
I just am not sure that contact with a stainless steel spoon (for a couple seconds at most) would kill kefir grains. :)
Silver has antibacterial properties and since kefir contains (good, healthy) bacteria, it does make sense that exposing it to silver or culturing it in contact with silver could be harmful to the kefir grains. :)

Cute little man:)
Have you ever done water kefir? I have some water kefir grains and have not msutered up the courage to try them:) So they sit sealed for now:)

I'm not sure if Tammy does the water kefir, but you may want to check the following site out. She seems to have a pretty good handle on the stuff! Good luck!!

http://commonsensehomesteading.blogspot.com/search/label/%22water%20kefir%22

I have done water kefir. It's fun, and pretty good, but for various reasons we prefer milk kefir. :) I should do a post about water kefir some time though! :)

I stated this farther down in the thread, but we purchase raw milk and cannot afford to use it for kefir. My kids guzzle a gallon a week just on their own. So, to get our probiotics, I turned to water kefir.

What are you waiting for - it is amazing! The entire family loves it, begs for it, and we experiment with different juices to flavor it with. I wrote a blog on it, if you're interested:

http://lifeonthefrancofarm.blogspot.com/2010/10/water-kefir.html

I contacted via the website you provided to get the kefir grains in my area. I haven't gotten a response and it's been over a week. I am on a very very limited income. Does anyone have any other sources of the kefir grains for free or for postage cost only?

Do you mean this website with lots of kefir grain listings?? :) Maybe try contacting more than one person there? I haven't used that list myself though...
Aside from that, Etsy is probably the cheapest place to get kefir grains. Since the grains need to be cared for (grown) and then shipped, I think $10 is a very reasonable amount to be paid for the time and effort that has gone into them... BUT, I do understand being on a limited income, so... do you know anyone else in your area who might be interested in helping split the cost of getting the grains, and then be willing to share them with you? :)
 

Tammy-The last several video posts I haven't been able to see the video portion. It shows up in the post as a blank white spot. I don't have a login here. I requested one some months ago but I don't think the approval came through. I'd love to see the last few videos. The tour of your new kitchen as well as this kefir one,etc. Can you help me out? Sorry I have to ask. I've tried several things to attempt to solve it on my own.

The videos are uploaded on Facebook... so could your computer be blocking Facebook? :) Anyone should be able to view them. Have you tried opening up my site in a different browser (e.g. FireFox, or Internet Explorer)? I haven't heard of anyone else having trouble viewing them...

Secondly, if you tell me what user name you registered, I can make sure the account is approved and email you with a new password! :)

Oh, yes Facebook is blocked so that must be the problem.

my username is threekstrio
thank you :)

I have some kefir grains and have been making it for quite a while. The problem is, I really hate the taste! Even when mixed into a smoothie or some sweetener, I just can't get past the slightly yeasty taste. It could just be my grains, but I have no idea. They still haven't perked up to be big and plump. They are kind of yellowish too, instead of white. Any ideas?

What was your source for the kefir grains? Were they dehydrated at one time?

Honestly, I have gotten fresh kefir grains from two sources, and have tried drying my own grains to use later (as a backup, or just to take a break from making it), and the ones that had been dried never did return to their original healthy state.

How long do you usually culture your kefir? If it's yeasty, I'm thinking maybe a shorter culturing time... Then again, Joshua says my kefir smells yeasty sometimes and I don't even notice or taste it... but it's not been so yeasty that the flavor overpowers fruit and sweeteners in a smoothie...

I got them on Etsy, and to my knowledge they were not dehydrated before they arrived. They came in milk. BUT... it did take around 3 weeks for them to get to me, which may have really damaged them, I'm thinking.

I usually only culture for 24 hours, though sometimes I go over if I forget about my grains.

I've tried finding grains more locally, but I can't find anyone close by who even knows what kefir is! (I'm in Manitoba, Canada)

If they arrived in milk, then they were fresh. But 3 weeks is a long time in transit. :( I mailed some fresh grains to a friend in Canada and it took a couple (2? or 3?) weeks to get to her and I think she had to nurse them back to health a bit... last I heard they were doing okay though!

24 hours or even up to 48 hours shouldn't hurt your grains... the "yeasty" phase may be just that -- a phase that will pass...

I wish fresh kefir grains were more readily available!

So I was told your not to use any metal with kefir because it kills it but I saw in your video that you used a fork so is the hole metal thing a myth then??

See comments #5 and 7 (scroll up).

I don't think it's quite as simple as "if a stainless steel fork touches your kefir grains, they WILL DIE". :) On the other hand, I culture my kefir in glass jars and wouldn't use any other container to store or culture it. :)

I have tried making Kefir in different parts of the house hoping it would come out thick and smooth like yours. But it is always either too thin (after about 12-18 hrs). Or turns to curds and whey (at about 24 hrs). We live in Texas and right now the mornings are about 40 deg but heat up to about 80 deg in the afternoon. So the temperature in the house fluctuates throughout the day. I still use the thinner Kefir for smoothies, pancakes and baking etc. And the hens get the curds and whey so nothing is wasted. But, do you keep your home at a "regulated" temperature? My Kefir grains are nice and plump (a lot like cauliflower) and are actually multiplying, but for some reason, my "Kefir" just isn't Kefir.
Thank you for your help.

Yes, our house is usually a fairly consistent temperature (about 64 degrees right now in the winter), but in our apartment it wasn't as consistent last fall/summer -- like in the mornings, the apartment was probably 60 degrees, but later in the day, 75 degrees -- and I don't recall that making any difference...

I do know that the first time I made kefir (when we lived in Ohio) it just did not get super thick. It was like a runny yogurt consistency. I got live kefir grains from a different source this last time (last year) and they have made THICK kefir from the start. If your grains look healthy and plump and are growing, I'm not really sure what you could do to change the thickness of the finished kefir! :(

Where did you get your grains? Were they fresh or dehydrated? How long have you had them? :)

One thing I have noticed in recent months is that my kefir grains go through little "phases"... like some weeks I will be getting super thick kefir, and then other weeks not quite as thick. Sometimes it is very "stringy" and then other times not. And sometimes the grains don't seem to grow for a week or two, and then suddenly they are tripling in size in 1 week! I'm very consistent with caring for the grains (changing the milk regularly, keeping in the same environment) so I think it's mostly just that it's a living culture and doesn't produce 100% consistent daily results.

I just got kefir grains this week and am having fun with it! What do you do with the extra grains though? MIne are already growing and we can only use up so much kefir, lol. I know I can give away some, maybe freeze some to have in case I ever kill mine... not sure how to freeze it though, in milk? Do you ever freeze the actual kefir to use later if you made too much? Do some people eat the grains or something? I feel like kefir grains are going to take over my kitchen! Thanks for all the help!

Hi Christy,

I have given away extra kefir grains (I don't sell them, just pass them on to friends or relatives), and also eat the grains. I think they taste like chewy gummy bears! ;)

I have tried dehydrating kefir grains (to have a "backup supply") but didn't like how they re-hydrated for me and never tried again. I have never frozen kefir, because it will keep in the fridge for quite a while (weeks) and if I get too much ahead, then I eat or give away a lot of my grains (I might only keep a tablespoon, and go down to making 1 cup each day again for a while).

Sometimes the grains grow faster than others. If you have a cup of kefir grains, when they grow you will be getting a LOT of extra grains, whereas if you have a tablespoon of grains, when it doubles you still only have 2 tablespoons. :)

You can also use more than 1 tablespoon of grains per cup of milk, if you have extra grains...

Personally, if I don't have any friends who need kefir grains, I like to eat them :D Some people sell them on Etsy, but I haven't looked into the regulations for that because I don't think I want to invest the time and energy growing the grains to sell. :)

You could do a giveaway on your blog with your extras! I'll bet you have readers who would jump on that! ;)

Thanks for the help! :)

I just got kefir grains this week and am having fun with it! What do you do with the extra grains though? MIne are already growing and we can only use up so much kefir, lol. I know I can give away some, maybe freeze some to have in case I ever kill mine... not sure how to freeze it though, in milk? Do you ever freeze the actual kefir to use later if you made too much? Do some people eat the grains or something? I feel like kefir grains are going to take over my kitchen! Thanks for all the help!

Really enjoyed your video and helpful advice. Just curious though..isn't it pronounced K feeer? and not keefa? Also everything i have read says to use a nylon strainer along with a plastic spoon... thanks, Ana

hi Tammy,
i find that my kefir is curdling. have you had this problem?

By curdling, do you mean that the kefir is separating into some clear liquid (whey) and some thicker?

If so, I have had that happen. Just remove the grains and stir together. You could try varying the length of time you're culturing the kefir (anywhere from 12-48 hours is acceptable) or changing the temperature/location of the culturing. I haven't had any separate much at all in the past 6 months or so, so I haven't had to experiment with times/temperatures...

I just watched this for the first time and I lived hearing Yehoshua's sweet voice, his descriptions and his video work!!! LOL! That was really fun. This looks so much easier than water kefir and that isn't even hard.

Aww, thank you! :) Yehoshua LOVES doing the videos. :)

I think dairy (milk) kefir is the easiest thing possible! Seriously! I love it! :)

Hi,
I've been thinking about trying kefir, but really want to be concious of my fat intake. I buy plain yogurt and jazz it up but this seems like it's easier to make and once I get started, pretty cheap too.
I was wondering if you've used skim milk or 1 to 2% milk to make kefir and if it was good.
And if you put the grains, "on hold," in the fridge, how long will they keep? There are only three of us and I don't think we could keep up with the grains' production on our own.

Hi Tammy,
I bought kefir grains from a lady on Etsy. She sent a print-out of what to do and not to do.
She stated to never use a metal utensil in your kefir---however your kefir looks great and you use a metal fork to remove the grains, so I assume using the metal is ok??
My first batch was very runny--but I have a second batch going--which hopefully will be thicker, like yours. I am using whole low-heat pasturized organic milk which is not homogenized.
Thanks for the information!
Ava

Hi,

I got my dehydrated grains from etsy. I used organic unhomogenized whole milk but it seems like my grains are not doing well at all. Do you use regulare homo milk?

Thanks!

It's been a little while since you wrote...how are the grains doing now. Sometimes it just takes them a few batches of milk to get happy. I personally use raw, whole goat milk....since that's what I have. I have used store bought cow milk and cream too.....whole, skim, 2%, half and half, and once even chocolate. (it was all I had that day)

Probably, it's the 'dehydrated' part of your grains that is giving you problems....they are the hardest for me to work with. You will just need to give them extra time......I would have probably put them in cold milk, and put them in the fridge for a few days when I got them....to give them extra time to hydrate.

But don't give up on them yet...keep working with them. Use the milk you get off of them right now for making muffins, waffles, cornbread, and even milk gravy if your family likes that. I bet they will kick in and start working soon.....

Hi Tammy,

I'm new to all this. I ordered Kefir online and received it about 3 days ago. It came in a plastic container filled with milk. I'm assuming it was cultured off of genuine live kefir grains although now i'm not sure. My kefir has something in it, but it does not look like your kefir grains. When I strain my kefir, i am left with something that looks more like ricotta cheese and in the 3 days since i received it, i have not seen it grow. Did I get a starter culture or should i give the grains more time to develop?

thanks :)

Hi...I'm not Tammy, but I do Kefir, so I thought I'd jump in here

It sounds like you got some very small kefir grains. They will grow larger, but it does take a little time. Are they happy yet? How did the first couple of batches of Kefir come out? Tasty? Be extra careful when handling / strainging the tiny grains.....it's easy to lose them if your strainer has too large of holes.

My experience with kefir grains are that they shrink during hot weather and expand more in cool weather. I view them like my pets almost, with their own personality.

I do not allow metal to come in contact with my grains (I have water kefir grains, as opposed to milk). We drink all manner of flavored kefir water - lemon, strawberry lemon, cream soda, watermelon, grape. The water kefir grains are much more versatile, in my opinion. And we drink raw milk, so we're still getting lots of nutrition. I just can't afford to use my raw milk in kefir, and water kefir grains live on sugar water.

Darlene
www.lifeonthefrancofarm.blogspot.com

Hi Tammy,

I just started making my own kefir maybe 2 weeks ago. I ordered the grains on e-bay and they looked good when I got them. I'm not sure they still don't look good, but they are a bit different: bigger, yellower (not white white) and they don't seem to be growing anymore. Should I order more grains? Also, I should confess that I started making kefir with 2% organic cow's milk, then after I ran out of the half quart of cow's milk, I began using goat's milk. Another thing is my kefir is not nor has it ever been thick or even runny like yogurt. It's more the consistency of the milk, though it is cultured. My kitchen is fairly chilly (high 50's) in the morning and we don't tend to use the heater because the room will warm up some as the say goes on. I let the jar sit for 24 hours before removing the grains and then using it in my cereal. The flavor is a bit sour, but I happen to like that. Could the room temperature be affecting the thickness of the kefir?

Peggy

Hi Peggy!

I have had yellow-ish kefir grains and they seemed to do just fine. The color and shape changes slightly over time... some times they have a little yellow, and some times only a clear-ish white. :)

I do think your cooler kitchen temperatures could be the cause of runny kefir, and if it's that chilly in the morning then it could be causing the grains to semi-hibernate, close to being refrigerated for a bit.

I would suggest moving them to a warmer place and/or allowing the kefir to culture for longer than 24 hours, to see what the grains will really do. If they still only make milk-thickness kefir and are nor growing, you may need to replace the grains.

One more thing -- sometimes the kefir grains grow really slowly! I would use them for a month or two with no noticeable growth before deciding that they were not growing. :) Sometimes mine grow fast, and sometimes very slowly. I'm not sure exactly what makes all the differences! I haven't given away any kefir grains for a couple months, and am just finally having enough to give some away again. Other times, I need to give some away practically every week! :)

Hi Tammy, I'm a newbie at this...i havent even purchased any kefir grains yet because i'm trying to research b4 i take the plunge.

Sorry if these questions may sound dumb, as i'm really not too familiar with all this stuff...so i guess it's safe to keep the "milk" in the kefir out on the counter without refrigeration during the whole fermentation process??? (becoz we were always taught milk is typically kept cold so it wont spoil)

and how much of the kefir grains can we consume? it wont cause any indigestion given how rubbery some people claim theirs is?

i guess we can use any kind of milk...just plain store bought skim is ok?

between water and milk kefir, does one outweigh the other in the amount of good bacteria?

thanks very much! and great video.

Kefir can safely culture milk at room temperature because it is indeed culturing the milk -- and changing it.

I'm not sure how much kefir grains a person can safely consume. I have eaten up to 1/4 cup at a time, with no noticeable effects. But normally the grains do not grow quickly enough to have that much extra grains to eat! As far as consuming kefir -- I have drank up to a quart in one day; it's similar to yogurt and as part of a balanced diet there shouldn't be a problem. :)

You can use any kind of milk -- but skim milk will make a thinner kefir. I really prefer at least 2% milk -- but whole milk is even better! :)

I believe water kefir and milk kefir have different bacterias. I personally much prefer milk kefir. (Some day soon I will write a post about why!) :)

Tammy,
Does it make any difference whether the milk used is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized?

I don't have personal experience using ultra-pasteurized milk for kefir, but according to Cultures For Health's FAQ (among other sources), it's not recommended.  We just use regular "whole milk" from the store -- pasteurized, homogenized, "red cap" milk...

I am so sad to think that I starved my kefir grains. I started a batch and kept it in my cabinet as always, but out of sight out of mind! As our one and only bathroom is getting a remodel, I left to stay with my parents for a week and forgot my kefir. When I came home I anxiously took it out to see a dry-ish tan skin on top and super thick kefir. I did strain it and us fresh milk before putting the grains in the fridge, but I think they are goners.
Any suggestions?
-Heather K

I just did this too....found a jar of kefir I was planning on giving away behind some canning jars that was from early June......I figured that the grains had croaked, but they have revived very nicely. I use raw goat milk for my kefir but if you can't get raw milk....use full fat whole milk.

Try putting the grains into a jar, screwing on the lid tightly, and laying it on it's side. You want the milk to be about 1-1.5 inches deep. Let this stay on the counter where you will see it often. As soon as you see any activity...curds being formed, thickening, what ever......drain it off and do it again. Repeat this 3 or 4 times. Throw away this kefir.....or feed it to animals. I added a pinch of sugar to the first or second batches too. But don't stir or shake the container....let it be still. Also...the first time it took 4 days to make *something*...the next time it was quicker, and each time after it got faster. We keep our house on 78*, and the milk came both from the fridge and the milk pail (Warm). Try it....you may be surprised! They are actually very forgiving and tough!

I bought kefir yesterday in store, love it and the health benefits, but its expensive and that how I found this site. Where do I get the grains? I want to get started!

Is it possible to make kefir out of coconut milk? My kids can't have dairy. We don't have a kefir started but I do have a prescription strength probiotic that is costing us around $100/month for 1 of our kids. I would love to figure out how to give them kefir instead of the probiotic! I tried making yogurt in the oven with the coconut milk but it did not turn out well.

According to Cultures for Health:

"Add the milk kefir to the coconut milk and allow the milk to culture for 12-48 hours until the desired consistency and taste is achieved. Remove the kefir grains and place the kefir grains in fresh milk. Milk kefir grains can be used repeatedly in coconut milk but should be returned to cow or goat milk occasionally to revitalize them. "

I've been making kefir for a few weeks now, and the last two batches have come out very thick. That's not a problem as we like the thicker texture, but how in the world do you find the kefir grains?? Straining it through cheesecloth is pretty much impossible; the grains just seem to meld into the thick kefire. Does anyone have ideas on keeping it thinner?
Thank you!
Julie

Hi Julie,

When I have really thick kefir (which I have had for the past year or so), I don't strain it. It's too thick to strain through cheesecloth or even a plastic strainer.

Instead, I use a slotted spoon or simply a fork to gently remove the grains from the kefir. (Keeping "count" and knowing how many to "fish for" really helps!)

We used to use Jersey cow raw milk to feed our kefir. It was the only place in our area that sold Jersey cow milk. Our Kefir was extremely healthy, robust, and grew and fermented like Kefir weeds! Well, that farmer sold all of his cows to another farmer out of town! Waaaah! Now, we are using regular store bought milk and the Kefir doesn't seem to like it AT ALL! We eased them into it but...they are steadily shrinking. We used to use a quart jar to make the kefir and had to disperse the happy little guys among two or three quart jars in order to feed them properly. Now, we only have a small pint jar and the kefir barely covers the bottom of the glass! Our Kefir seems to be on strike, starving or pouting. What can we do?!

Do you stir or shake your kefir during the 24-hour fermentation period. I know a lot of people recommend this, but you didn't mention it. Do you find it's necessary?

Thanks!
Miele

I normally do not stir or shake my kefir while it is culturing. With healthy, active kefir grains I don't find that it makes any difference, actually. I am tempted to do it when I'm trying to revive grains that have been in the fridge for a while, though! ;)

Hi, Tammy, enjoyed seeing your site and reading all the comments. I'm trying to make keifer cream, and was wondering....does keifer keep cream from spoiling as it is sitting out on the counter? I want to make ice cream with it, but don't know if I should make it straight from the cultured keifer or heat to boiling after it is cultured.
The other question....does keifer prevent milk spoilage or cream spoilage? Thanks.

Is it possible to use lactose free milk? My husband and I are lactose intolerant. I bought some Keifer today and it said 99.9 percent lactose free.

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