Choosing Equipment for Making Dairy Kefir
If you want to make dairy kefir at home, there are a few supplies you will need to gather, primarily a culturing container and a cover for the container. Beyond that everything else is optional.
Choosing the vessel you use to make kefir is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make before the process can begin. While a number of options exist, some are clearly superior to others.
Glass. Glass is hands-down the best option for brewing kefir. Glass won’t react to the acidity of the brew. Unlike plastic, glass doesn’t scratch easily (damage to the container can harbor foreign bacteria) nor does it generally contain chemicals such as BPA. Glass containers are also relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain. Good options include canning jars in pint, quart, and half-gallon sizes.
Plastic. Although technically plastic can be used to brew kefir, we do not recommend it for several reasons. First, plastic can be damaged and scratches in the plastic can harbor foreign bacteria. Second, plastic (even food-grade plastic) often contains undesirable chemicals that can be harmful to the kefir grains. In short, using plastic to brew kefir greatly decreases the odds of brewing a safe batch.
Ceramic. Do not use ceramic as most of the glazes used to coat ceramic contain lead.
Porcelain. Food-grade porcelain is generally safe for brewing kefir. Avoid porcelain pieces such as vases or decorative pottery that are not-food grade .
Crystal. Crystal contains lead. Do not use crystal to brew kefir.
Metal. Metal is generally detrimental to kefir and should not be used as a culturing vessel or for any item that will have contact with the kefir grains. The only possible exception is stainless steel. Because it is relatively inert, some people feel it is a reasonable alternative to glass. While we do not recommend using it, some people do have success doing so.
Besides the material from which the vessel is made, there are several other factors to consider when choosing a container for making Kefir.
Size. Kefir can be made in a pint, quart, or half-gallon size jar. Generally speaking, if you are starting out with less than a teaspoon of kefir grains, we recommend culturing no more than a pint at time although once the grains are fully acclimated to their new home, they may be able to make up to a quart at a time. As the kefir grains multiply, it is possible to brew a half-gallon or even a gallon at a time. On a practical level, when choosing the size of your culturing container, consider how much kefir you will consume as each batch of kefir will take only 18 to 48 hours to culture. It is better for the health of the kefir grains to continually make small batches than it is to make large batches and then take breaks.
Lid. While a lid should not be used during the fermentation process, it is handy to havie a container with a lid to use for storing the kefir after fermentation is complete. Alternatively, finished kefir can be transferred to other storage containers.
It is important to employ an effective cover system for your kefir culturing vessels. Bugs such as fruit flies as well as transient yeasts and bacteria from the air can easily find their way into your kefir and ruin the whole batch. An effective cover system should not be air-tight but rather allow the mixture to breathe, both using oxygen and expelling gas during the fermentation process. A good cover system will also be secure against invaders. Effective coverings include tight-weave dish towels or fabric, multi-layered tight-weave cheese cloth (known as butter muslin), a paper towel, a paper coffee filter, etc. The cover should be secured with a tight rubber band as not doing so invites ants and fruit flies to sneak under the cover. Do not use a tight lid. Doing so will inhibit airflow needed for effective fermentation and also allow gas to build which can make removing the cover dangerous. Undesirable options include loose-weave fabric and screens which will not keep out tiny bugs or transient yeasts and bacteria.
While only a vessel and covering are required for making kefir, there are several additional items that are useful as well. Please note, it is critically important to the health of the kefir grains that they not come in contact with reactive metal (stainless steel is fine). This includes jewelry such as rings, measuring cups, utensils, strainers, etc. Glass, plastic and wood kitchen items are far safer for the kefir grains.
Strainer. Once the kefir has finished culturing, there are several ways to remove the kefir grains so they can be placed in fresh milk. Some people simply use their fingers to fish the kefir grains out. (Be sure your hands are very clean and free of soap residue.) However, many people find it far easier to use a fine mesh strainer to find the kefir grains. Straining the finished kefir also has the added benefit of blending the kefir and breaking up particularly firm coagulated portions. We recommend using a Plastic Fine Mesh Strainer for this task.
|Milk Kefir Grains|