Q: What is kefir?
A: Kefir is a probiotic beverage made with either kefir grains or a powdered kefir starter culture. There are two types of grains: milk kefir grains and water kefir grains. Milk (dairy) kefir grains can be used with cow milk, goat milk or coconut milk. Water kefir grains can be used with sugar water, juice or coconut water. Kefir grains consist of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term "kefir grains" describes the look of the culture only. Kefir grains contain no actual "grains" such as wheat, rye, etc. Our kefir grains are grown in filtered water and organic sugar.
Q: What ingredients go into creating milk kefir grains?
A: Our milk kefir grains are grown using only organic milk.
Q. Does milk have the same benefits as water kefir?
A. Generally speaking water kefir is slightly less concentrated than milk kefir and therefore some individuals find they must consume more water kefir than they would milk kefir. However, due to water kefir's water (rather than dairy) base and great taste when flavored, it is easy to consume larger amounts of water kefir.
Q. What strains of yeast and bacteria does kefir contain?
A. How many strains are present in the kefir depends on a number of factors including the type of culture used. For example, milk kefir made with a powdered kefir starter culture generally will contain 7 to 9 strains of active yeast and bacteria. (See the individual product descriptions for the yeast and bacteria make up of the different brands of kefir starter.) Milk kefir grains generally contain a larger number of both live bacteria and yeast (more than 50 strains). Click here for more information on the numerous strains of yeast and bacteria that are generally known to comprise kefir made with milk kefir grains.
Q: Why should I make my own milk kefir?
A: In the case of milk kefir grains, homemade kefir will contain a larger number of probiotics than will commercial kefir (which is made with a powdered starter culture). Regardless of whether you use kefir grains or a powdered starter culture, making your own kefir costs significantly less than commercial kefir and you have complete control over the milk you use (e.g., organic, non-homogenized, raw, etc.).
Q: I want to consume kefir but I'm allergic to dairy. What can I do?
A: You might try water kefir. Water kefir contains no dairy and are grown in filtered water and organic sugar. (Please note: water kefir grains are processed in a facility where dairy products are processed.)
Q: Does milk kefir contain gluten?
A: No, milk kefir grains are grown in organic milk. (Please note: milk kefir grains are processed in a facility where gluten-based products are processed.)
Q: Are milk kefir grains reusable? Is the powdered kefir starter culture reusable?
A: Yes, milk kefir grains are reusable. Once a batch of milk kefir has finished culturing, simply remove the kefir grains and place them in fresh milk. The powdered kefir starter culture is also reusable several times. Reserve a small portion (see instructions on packet) of your batch of kefir and add it to fresh milk to culture the next batch.
Q: How long do dairy kefir grains last? How long does the powdered kefir starter culture last?
A: If cared for properly, milk kefir grains have an unlimited life span and can be used repeatedly to make kefir. Powdered kefir starter culture can be used a number of times but the exact number is dependent on several factors including personal hygiene, cleanliness of the container and utensils (soap is detrimental to kefir culture), etc.
Q: What is the process to make milk kefir?
A: The kefir grains or powdered starter culture are placed in milk and allowed to culture for a period of time on the counter (preferably at room temperature). Once the milk has turned to kefir, remove the kefir grains and place them in fresh milk. In the case of powdered starter culture, you will retain a small amount of the kefir to use as a starter culture for the next batch.
Q: How long does it take to make kefir?
A: Kefir generally takes 12 to 48 hours to form. The exact amount of time will vary depending on environmental factors, the most important of which is temperature. Cold retards the fermentation process so kefir will form more slowly in a cold area (and can be all but stopped by placing the grains in milk in the refrigerator). Heat speeds the process so kefir will form more quickly in a warm area and will be more likely to over-culture. We recommend standard room temperature whenever possible. Allowing the kefir grains to remain in milk longer than 48 hours risks starving the kefir grains and potentially damaging them.
Q: If my house is colder than 68°F, will it take longer for the milk to kefir?
A: Yes, cold retards the fermentation process so it will take longer to make kefir. Alternatively, if your home is warmer than standard room temperature, the process will take less time.
Q: Do I need to stir the kefir during the culturing process?
A: You can stir the kefir while it's culturing but it's not necessary.
Q: How will I know if I've successfully made kefir? How do I know if I shouldn't drink it?
A: When milk turns to kefir it thickens. We always recommend that you refrain from consuming anything that looks, smells, or tastes unpleasant.
Q: What does kefir taste like?
A: The taste of finished kefir varies greatly based on the type of milk used (cow versus goat for example) and the length of time it is allowed to culture. Generally speaking, milk kefir has a sour taste and an effervescent texture. If you have not tried kefir before, we would recommend purchasing kefir at the grocery store to try (generally located next to the milk and yogurt) before purchasing a starter culture.
Q: How long can I store the kefir in the refrigerator?
A. This is dependent on a number of factors including how cold your refrigerator is and whether you use raw or pasteurized milk (raw milk will last longer). We always recommend that you do not consume anything that looks, tastes, or smells unpleasant.
Q: Do I need to rinse the grains off between batches?
A: No. There is no need to rinse the grains unless they stop making kefir effectively (which can sometimes be attributed to a buildup of yeast on the grains). If it becomes necessary to rinse the grains, use filtered water if possible to avoid chemical exposure.
Q: Do I need to make a full quart of kefir each time or can I make smaller batches?
A: Making a full quart is not required. Many of our customers find that making 1-pint batches better meets their needs.
Q: Do I need to wash the jar/container between batches of kefir?
A: We recommend using a clean container for each batch of kefir.
Q: How can I flavor my kefir?
A: Kefir can be blended with fresh or frozen fruit after the culturing process is complete. Be sure to remove the kefir grains or a portion of the kefir (if using a powdered starter culture) prior to adding fruit.
Q: How can I use my kefir?
A: Milk kefir can be used in a variety of ways. It can be consumed as a beverage (either plain or flavored with fruit). It can be added to smoothies. It can even be drained (using cheese cloth or a yogurt cheese maker) to make kefir cheese. Just mix with some herbs and spread on crackers, bread, etc. Delicious!
Q: What is the difference between kefir grains and powdered kefir starter culture?
A: There are three primary differences between milk kefir grains and powdered milk kefir starter:
- Kefir grains have a larger number of probiotics (50 or more) than the powdered starter culture (about 6).
- With proper care, kefir grains can be used for many years to make kefir. Powdered starter culture can be reused for a number of batches. (A small amount of each batch is used to culture the next batch.) Exactly how many batches is dependent on a number of factors (personal hygiene, cross contamination, container and utensil cleanliness, etc.).
- Powdered kefir starter culture has a smaller initial investment cost than do kefir grains.
Q: Can the milk kefir grains (dairy kefir grains) be cultured in goat milk or coconut milk?
A. We have many customers who have reported excellent results using our milk kefir grains to make goat milk kefir and coconut kefir. When culturing in non-dairy milk, it is advisable to return the grains to dairy milk every few batches, or to alternate between dairy and non-dairy milks.
Q: Can I use UHT (ultra-high temperature aka ultra-pasteurized) milk to make kefir?
A: We do not recommend using UHT milk with any of our starter cultures (including yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and cheese starters). The process by which UHT milk is pasteurized leaves the milk essentially sterile for purposes of culturing and therefore you are likely to have less than satisfactory results when using it to make cultured foods.
Q: Can I use non-homogenized milk to make kefir?
A: Yes. Non-homogenized milk makes wonderful kefir. The only difference you will see when making kefir with non-homogenized milk is that the cream will rise to the top of the kefir just as it does with the milk so the top layer of the kefir will be more yellow in color.
Q: Can milk kefir grains be used with raw milk?
A: Yes, milk kefir grains can be used with raw milk. There are some particular techniques for transitioning kefir grains to raw milk, but once they are transitioned, the method/instructions for making kefir are the same regardless of whether your milk is pasteurized or raw. Click here for instructions on how to transition your kefir grains from pasteurized milk to raw milk.
Q: How much alcohol does milk kefir contain?
A: As with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in the finished product. Although the amount will vary from batch to batch, for the typical brewing period, the amount should be quite small (usually less than 1%). Of course if you suspect your milk kefir contains higher levels of alcohol and you do not want to consume higher levels of alcohol, don't drink it! We always recommend you never consume any product that looks, smells or tastes unpleasant.
Q: Will kefir grains multiply?
A: Milk kefir grains are known to multiply, but at times they are reluctant to do so and therefore we do not guarantee kefir grains will multiply. Even if they do not multiply, with proper care, kefir grains can be used repeatedly to brew milk kefir. Generally kefir grains take 6 to 8 weeks following rehydration to begin multiplying.
Q: What supplies do I need to make milk kefir?
A; List of milk kefir supplies:
- Milk kefir grains or powdered milk kefir starter culture
- Milk: We recommend using organic milk
- A container: We recommend using a glass container such as a canning jar
- A covering for the jar while the kefir is culturing: We recommend a cloth or coffee filter secured with a tight rubber band (to keep the bugs out!)
- A non-metal spoon to stir the kefir
- A lid for the jar once the kefir is finished culturing
- A way to remove the kefir grains once the kefir is finished culturing: Click here for ideas on how to remove the kefir grains from the finished kefir
Q: Will kefir culture in a dark cupboard or in a window (exposed to light)?
A: Kefir doesn't require light to culture properly. Be sure to never expose the culturing kefir to direct sun.
Q: How do I take a break from making milk kefir?
A: To take a break from making milk kefir simply place the kefir grains in the fresh milk, place a tight lid on the container, and place it in the refrigerator. The cold will greatly retard the culturing process and they can keep this way for up to several weeks. If at the end of that period you require more time, simply repeat the process with fresh milk. If you desire a longer break period, you can also dehydrate your milk kefir grains by placing them on unbleached parchment paper in a safe location (room temperature) for several days until they are completely dry. Then place the dehydrated kefir grains in a secure container (a zipper-style plastic bag, glass or plastic jar, etc.) and in a cool dry place. They should keep this way for at least 6 months.
Q: If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the kefir culture?
A: When items are being actively cultured (and don’t have lids), we suggest keeping a distance of at least several feet (and preferably more) between items. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them.
Q: Where can I view the instructions for making milk kefir from kefir grains?
A: Click here to view our milk kefir instructions.
Q: I just received my kefir grains and they don't appear to be working.
A: Upon arrival, milk kefir grains generally take a few cycles to properly kefir milk. Regional differences in milk mean the kefir grains must adapt to the new milk before they can create kefir. We recommend using small amounts of milk during this period to reduce waste. Simply place the kefir grains in about a cup of milk and allow it to sit for up to 48 hours. If the milk has not turned to kefir, discard the milk and place the grains in fresh milk. Repeat this process until the milk kefirs reliably within 12 to 48 hours. (The time will vary depending on the temperature.)
Q: My kefir seems to have separated into curds and whey. Why did this happen?
A: Kefir will separate if it over-cultures a bit. To prevent this from happening in the future, simply reduce the amount of time you allow the kefir to culture or reduce the temperature at which it is culturing (i.e.,move it to a cooler area of the house).
Q: I've been making kefir for awhile but the taste of my kefir seems to have changed? Why?
A: The taste and texture of kefir depends on several factors including time the kefir cultures, the temperature of your home and the ratio of kefir grains to milk. If the temperature of your home has changed (e.g., changing of the seasons), you may need to adjust the amount of time you allow the kefir to culture. If your kefir grains have multiplied, then you may find the taste and texture of the kefir change. To remedy this problem, simply remove a portion of the kefir grains and either start a second batch of kefir or find them a good home.