Kefir is widely touted for its health benefits, but what is it exactly? And how do you make it? I’m going to show you how to make what I believe is the most nutrient-dense form of kefir – Raw Milk Kefir.
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I have talked a lot about the benefits of raw milk in the past, and how I believe it is one of the best superfoods with so many bioavailable nutrients. And there are SO many things you can make with raw milk and cream. Some of my favorites are this Raw Milk Ice Cream, Raw Milk Yogurt and Raw Sour Cream. But one of the healthiest things to make from raw milk is raw kefir. It is high in nutrients and probiotics, and it is full of beneficial bacteria for digestion and gut health. Homemade kefir is a great way to support your immune system, and it’s super easy to make!
what is kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink, traditionally made with cow’s milk or goat’s milk. It is made by adding kefir grains to fresh milk. These are not the grains we think of when we hear the word, like wheat or oats, but little grains-like colonies of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. They kind of resemble cottage cheese. After a 24 hour fermentation process at room temperature, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir. Then the kefir grains are strained off of the liquid and can be used over and over again.
In other words, the kefir grains are the starter culture (a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture), and kefir is the liquid produced in the end. The kefir grains’ lactic acid bacteria turn the whole milk lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid. This is what gives kefir a sour flavor like yogurt, but it is a thinner consistency. Yogurt is often thought of as one of the best probiotic foods in our diet, but kefir is actually a far better source of probiotics!
where to get kefir grains
The easiest way to acquire kefir grains is to get some from a friend or another person in your area who is already making kefir. Because the kefir grains feed on the milk sugar during fermentation, the grains multiply with each batch. This means that there are always extra grains leftover at the end that are very easy to pass on to another person to start making their own kefir. Like a sourdough starter or kombucha scoby, people are usually more than willing to share.
If you do not know anyone locally making their own kefir, you can buy dehydrated live kefir grains from Cultures for Health HERE. Follow the easy instructions to rehydrate your grains and you’ll be on your way to a delicious fermented drink in no time.
Kefir grains are infinite, meaning that they can make a limitless number of batches of kefir without wearing out or needing to be replaced. If you want to take a break from kefir, the grains are easily stored dormant in the fridge or dried for rehydration later.
can you use different types of milk to make kefir
Raw cow’s milk is definitely the best way to make kefir and other dairy products because of how nutritious it is. If you don’t have access to fresh raw milk from a local dairy farm or you’re concerned about the safety of raw milk, you can use store-bought milk from the grocery store. The nutrient profile will change if you use ultra-pasteurized milk, but your kefir cultures will still work just fine. Raw goat milk also works great!
Non-dairy milk like coconut milk or other sweet milk can be used to make kefir following the same process. It just has to contain some sort of sugars for the kefir grains to digest.
what you will need to make your own raw milk kefir
how to make raw milk kefir
To make raw milk kefir, pour the raw milk into a quart glass jar and stir in the live kefir grains. Cover with a coffee filter and rubber band and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain the grains out of the kefir. The kefir likes to stick to the grains, so you will have to use a spoon to gently separate the kefir. You can do this by gently stirring the grains and pressing them against the bottom of the strainer.
The liquid strained off of the grains is the kefir! Store it in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. In the refrigerator, the kefir will separate from the whey, which is super normal. If it has sat for a few days without being shaken or stirred, there will be a thicker white layer on the bottom (kefir) and a yellowish clear layer on the top (whey). Just shake it back together before using.
Your kefir grains are ready to be used for another batch of kefir immediately! Measure out 2 Tablespoons of kefir grains to start your next batch and discard the rest. I typically refill my mason jar right away and let it ferment for another 24 hours. This routine produces about 2 1/2 cups of kefir every day.
more about kefir grains
If you do not want/are not able to use a batch of kefir every single day, you can put your grains to “sleep” in the fridge. Submerge the kefir grains in a little milk and put a lid on. When you are ready to make kefir again, just strain off the milk that you stored your grains in and add your grains to fresh milk to start a new batch.
how to store kefir
After you’ve strained your kefir, it has to be refrigerated. You can store your kefir in a sealed mason jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you are not able to use it up before then, you can also freeze kefir. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays and add it to a smoothie.
experiment with your fermentation time
If you taste your kefir and it is way too sour and strong, try straining the kefir sooner than 24 hours. The longer you let the kefir ferment, the stronger the taste will be. The weather also impacts how quickly the kefir ferments. If it is warm weather, you may want to strain your kefir earlier than you would in colder weather. I like to strain mine when I just start to see the whey separate and looks like this:
If you’re new to fermenting, you may have to acquire a taste for kefir. The taste is not always easy to tolerate right away, especially for young children. A creative way to still be able to consume this probiotic drink full of probiotics and live enzymes is to make kefir smoothies! Blending a few cups of kefir with frozen berries, bananas and a little honey or maple syrup will make a refreshing, tangy and delicious smoothie.
print this recipe for later
- 3 cups raw milk
- 2 Tablespoons kefir grains
- Pour the raw milk into a quart glass jar and stir in the live kefir grains.
- Cover with a coffee filter and rubber band and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Strain the grains out of the kefir. The kefir likes to stick to the grains, so you will have to use a spoon to gently separate the kefir.
- Store the kefir in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.