Kefir is a probiotic rich drink made by introducing a culture of “kefir grains” to milk (usually dairy) or water and sugar.
First of all, some people think kefir grains are made
from grains like wheat. They are not. The “grains” terminology is simply
a name for the firm gelatin-like cultures that make kefir. So the facts
are, while kefir is not made with grain, you want to know whether you
can make your own kefir grains at home without buying them.
Most people say “no”, but it has been done. In 1990
researchers made kefir grains for the first time and documented their
method in a scientific paper. It was not easy, and it was made using
goat hide bad and bacteria from sheep intestines.
For most people, buying the culture, or buying kefir
grains are the only ways to make kefir at home. The great news is if you
buy kefir grains they will last a lifetime.
Powdered kefir starters have a limited number of
bacteria, as they are developed to be standardized and consistent every
time. They also lose their potency with subsequent brews so you need a
new packet of starter every 3-6 batches. Kefir grains are inexpensive
and you only need to buy them once in a lifetime. Once you start brewing
your grains they grow and get stronger. Live kefir grains also provide a
wide range of bacteria and yeast similar to what would be found in your
intestine. Since the idea is to create a healthy microbiota in your
body, kefir grains are superior.
Kefir grains can not be made. Real kefir “grains” are
passed from one owner as their supply grows into more than they can use
themselves. Kefir grains are a very precise community of bacteria and
yeast that exist together without one overpowering the other. In
nature, the formation of milk kefir grains is a relationship that
develops occasionally in raw milk and prevents it from going bad. In
most parts of the developed world, milk is pasteurized, so the formation
of grains just would not happen.
Kefir is a food with benefits (not a drug), but some
people still have an adjustment period. If your digestion tends to be
finicky, start with 1/4 cup after a meal once every day, and listen to
your body. If you tolerate this fine, then increase the amount,
eventually moving it to BEFORE meals, as the good bacteria will aid in
digesting your food. There’s no real limit. Just drink it when you want.
The kefir grains will keep indefinitely as long as you
follow the instructions for storage. Once kefir is made, it will keep
for a very long time. Remember that fermentation was a way of keeping
foods safe to consume before refrigeration. Use your own judgement, and
trust your nose and taste buds. Bad kefir smells bad and tastes bad. You
Kefir does not cure inflammatory bowel disease. It could help though.
When brewing kefir for the first time, it is sometimes
hard to know if it is ready. It may take some trial and error before
you really know. The “readiness” of kefir depends on several things. It
is not always as easy to see the readiness of milk kefir. It is also
less forgiving, in that, over fermented milk kefir will separate into
curds (a thick top layer) which float to the top, and whey (a watery,
slightly yellow liquid) on the bottom. If your milk kefir separates,
you can still use it. Just shake and strain as usual. It will be more
Here are some ways to tell if your kefir milk is ready:
Mostly your milk kefir readiness is determined by personal preference.
Yes they can (after all they are made up of live
bacteria and yeast), but sometimes you might think they are dead but
they are only sick! They are pretty resilient little guys. If your
grains have a white film, a really stinky smell, and are doing nothing
in the sugar water, then they may be dead, but they may just need some
Many people assume that because yogurt and milk kefir
are both cultured dairy products, there aren’t many differences between
the two. This is actually not true. There are several differences
between yogurt and milk kefir, including how each is made, the types of
bacteria present in each, and their flavor and consistency.
Milk Kefir is a mesophilic culture, which means it cultures at room temperature, despite which type of starter culture you use.
The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the
intestinal tract. Kefir also contains a far larger range of bacteria, in
addition to containing yeasts.
There are two types of yogurt starters: mesophilic and
thermophilic. Mesophilic means that the yogurt starter is cultured at
room temperature. Thermophilic means the yogurt starter is heat-loving.
The beneficial bacteria found in yogurt help keep the
digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found
in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called
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