All About a Second Fermentation for Milk Kefir
When people first try milk kefir they are often startled by the taste. After all, the most prevalent cultured milk product is usually an over-sweetened mildly tart yogurt. Kefir is just a little different.
Because it contains yeasts as well as bacteria (yogurt only sports the latter), milk kefir tends to have a tart, almost lemony flavor. And while some find it delicious as is, not everyone finds it palatable.
Many cultured foods, especially beverages, get a second ferment. People often add fruit or juice to kombucha and water kefir after straining the starter cultures off. This can mellow the sharp flavor the beverages can have after just a single fermentation.
What Is a Second Fermentation?
The first fermentation takes place when you add your milk kefir grains to milk and allow it to culture for 12 to 24 hours. You then strain off the grains, add them to new milk, and are left with milk kefir.
Since you have removed the culture (the grains), you can now play with the fermented milk kefir without risking harm to the original culture. A second fermentation is when fresh milk kefir is cultured for another period of 8 to 12 hours, possibly with flavoring additions.
What Are the Flavor Benefits of a Second Fermentation?
Some people perform a second fermentation on their milk kefir for the additional bacterial content. Others do it for the improvement in flavor.
Fermenting the kefir a second time, no matter the additions, mellows the kefir and takes away some of the sharp acidic flavor milk kefir is known for. Not only that, but with the addition of other flavorings, you can spice, sweeten, or savor-up that kefir even more.
What Are the Other Benefits of a Second Fermentation?
There is no denying the “good feeling” one gets when drinking milk kefir. In fact, the name kefir literally means “good feeling.” But there can be even more benefits when a second fermentation is performed.
B vitamins are said to increase and the minerals calcium and magnesium are said to become more bio-available to the human body when a second fermentation is performed.
What Flavor Additions Can I Make in the Second Fermentation?
The sky is the limit! Because the kefir grains are removed before the second fermentation there is no risk of a contaminating or harming your kefir grains in any way.
Here are some ideas:
When choosing a flavoring for your second fermentation keep two things in mind:
1. Unless it is ground spices or cocoa powder, be sure it is something you can easily remove from the kefir when the second fermentation period is up.
2. If you are using something that contains sugars, like fruit for instance, it may make the kefir more carbonated. Likewise, you would want to wait until after the kefir has been fermented a second time to add any sweeteners.
Other than that, have fun and experiment and enjoy an easier and tastier kefir-drinking experience.
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