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Almond Milk Kefir vs. Dairy Milk Kefir

Special Considerations

If making homemade almond milk kefir is your goal, there are several options. Keep in mind, however, that there are a few differences between homemade dairy milk kefir and homemade almond milk kefir.

For one, almond milk kefir rarely thickens like dairy milk kefir. This is most likely due to the difference in protein content between the milks.

The other major factor to consider is that you may see the separation of curds and whey during the culturing process. This is a normal reaction to the acidification process that happens as the bacteria multiply. To remedy this, simply swirl the two components back together.

In the end, you should end up with a tangy non-dairy kefir that tastes much like its dairy milk counterpart, but with an undertone of sweet almond flavor.

Almond Milk vs. Dairy Milk

Before jumping into different ways to make almond milk kefir, it is helpful to understand the differences between dairy milk and almond milk and how that impacts culturing them.

Dairy milk is packed with protein, fat (if it is not skimmed), and sugars called lactose. Cultures like the ones found in kefir grains and starters feed on the sugar in the food in order to proliferate the bacteria and produce organic acids and yeasts. That sugar is the food that fuels the fermentation.

On the other hand, almond milk generally is very low in calories, fat, protein, and - most crucially - sugars when compared to dairy milk. That means, that in order to culture almond milk you have to make up for that loss in sugars somewhere. That is why the recipes below for making almond milk kefir include simple, unrefined sugars to compensate for that difference.

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Choosing Almond Milk for Making Kefir

Avoid Store-Bought Almond Milk if Possible

Almond milk is now widely available in most supermarkets. Unfortunately, not all commercial almond milks are created equal. Many contain additives, thickeners, and artificial vitamins and minerals. These, plus the pasteurization process, can make culturing with them MUCH more complicated.

If using store-bought almond milk for making kefir is your only option, look for an organic almond milk with the least amount of additives.

Homemade Almond Milk Works Best

Homemade almond milk is preferable as it has not been pasteurized, is as fresh as it can possibly be, and cultures with a better consistency. (This consistency may come down to the fact that most commercial almond milks add various preservatives, thickeners, and enrichments not found in fresh, homemade almond milk.)

Another consideration is that homemade almond milk seems to be creamier and richer. It may also contain more enzymes as pasteurizing, which is often done to store-bought almond milks, can destroy any beneficial organisms present in the milk.

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Making Almond Milk Kefir with a Probiotic Capsule

While many online recipes provide a means for making a probiotic almond milk using probiotic capsule, this is not kefir in the truest sense.

True kefir is made from specific strains of bacteria and yeasts. Using a probiotic capsule will lend bacteria to almond milk through a culturing process, but those microorganisms are not the same as those found in true milk kefir. True milk kefir, both from dairy and non-dairy milks, is made from either milk kefir grains or a milk kefir culture starter made to mimic the effect of milk kefir grains.

Making Almond Milk Kefir With a Direct-Set Culture

Using a Kefir Starter Culture is a great way to make almond milk kefir without having to maintain kefir grains in dairy milk.

When using this direct-set starter culture for making dairy milk kefir, sometimes it's possible to re-culture a few batches subsequently using the finished kefir.

However, using this starter culture with almond milk is a bit trickier. How many subsequent batches you can get after your first batch will vary and ultimately depends on the brand and ingredients of your almond milk.

Ingredients

  • 3.5 cups almond milk
  • 4 teaspoons coconut or other sugar
  • 1 package direct-set starter culture

Instructions

  1. Combine the milk, sugar, and direct-set culture in a quart jar.
  2. Stir and cover with a permeable lid such as a coffee filter and a canning ring or rubber band.
  3. Allow to culture at room temperature for 24-48 hours.
  4. During the culturing period you may notice that the almond milk separates into a creamier layer and a liquid layer. Simply stir or swirl the two back together if necessary.
  5. The milk kefir is cultured once it is tangy.
  6. Store in the refrigerator for several days or consume immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • Unlike dairy kefir, almond milk kefir made with a direct-set starter culture like this will not thicken.
  • You can attempt to make a subsequent batch using a portion of the cultured almond milk kefir as a starter, though the results have not been consistent in our testing.
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Making Almond Milk Kefir With Milk Kefir Grains

Before Getting Started

Milk kefir grains, established in dairy milk, can be used to culture almond milk. It's important to note that making almond milk kefir with milk kefir grains must be done carefully. Using any culture in a medium it is initially not intended, like culturing dairy milk kefir grains in almond milk, can often give mixed and sometimes unpredictable results.

Remember that not only are we trying to turn milk into a cultured food, we are also feeding that culture with the medium we are culturing. With that in mind, we only recommend you make almond milk kefir with extra milk kefir grains that have been well established in dairy milk first.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 ¾ cups almond milk
  2. 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon – 1 Tablespoon established milk kefir grains

Instructions:

  1. Combine the almond milk and sugar in a pint jar.
  2. Stir well to dissolve.
  3. Add the milk kefir grains and stir gently with a wooden spoon.
  4. Cover the jar with a permeable lid such as a coffee filter and secure it with a canning ring or rubber band.
  5. Allow the milk kefir to culture at room temperature for 24-48 hours.
  6. During the culturing period, you may notice that the almond milk separates into a creamier layer and a liquid layer. Simply stir or swirl the two back together if necessary.
  7. The milk kefir is cultured once it is tangy.
  8. Remove the grains from the finished kefir and add them to new dairy milk, new almond milk, or compost them.
  9. Store your finished almond milk kefir in the refrigerator for several days or consume immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • Unlike dairy kefir, almond milk kefir made with kefir grains like this will not thicken.
  • You can attempt to make a subsequent batch using a portion of the cultured almond milk kefir as a starter, though the results have not been consistent in our testing.