What is Kefir

Updated on June 2, 2021

What is Kefir for Cats and Dogs

Kefir is a probiotic rich drink made by introducing a culture of “kefir grains” to milk (usually dairy) or water and sugar.

Can I Make Kefir Without Grains?

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.

What’s Better… Kefir Grains or Powdered Kefir Starter?

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.

Can I make my own kefir grains?

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.

How Much Kefir Should I drink?

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.

How Long Does Kefir Keep?

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 will know. 

Does Kefir Cure Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Like Crohn’s or IBS?

Kefir does not cure inflammatory bowel disease. It could help though.

Is My Kefir Ready?

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 sour tasting.

Here are some ways to tell if your kefir milk is ready:

  • It has been fermenting 24 hours
  • It smells yeasty and slightly tangy
  • The grains are floating on the top
  • The kefir forms unique rivulet pattern when tipped against the glass.

Mostly your milk kefir readiness is determined by personal preference. 

Can Kefir Grains Die?

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 TLC.

What is the difference between Yogurt and Kefir?

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

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.

Yogurt

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 transient bacteria.

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