Milk kefir grains are wonderful little critters, that can really get culturing given the right conditions. But what happens if you need to slow down making homemade kefir or even take a break all together?
SEE ALSO: Taking a Break from Making Water Kefir
Slowing Down Kefir Grains
Cold temperatures greatly slow the culturing process, so the refrigerator is a good place to store grains when a break is necessary. If your grains are very active and you just want to make less kefir without completely putting your grains on hold, you can find tips for doing this in our tutorial How to Slow Down Milk Kefir + Make Smaller Batches.
SHORT BREAKS (UP TO 3 WEEKS) - Refrigerate!
Putting the Grains on Pause
You'll want to make sure your grains are have been actively culturing for at least 3 to 4 weeks before placing them in the refrigerator. This is for the health of your grains.
- Add milk kefir grains to 2-4 cups fresh milk. More milk for longer breaks is best, to keep the grains well fed.
- Put a tight lid on the container and place in the refrigerator. The milk kefir grains should be safe and healthy for up to 3 weeks.
Making Kefir Again
When ready to make milk kefir again, separate the grains from the storage milk, place in fresh milk, and culture as usual. Keep in mind:
- It may take a couple of batches for the grains to wake up and get back to work.
- The storage liquid should be fine to consume, as long as it has a pleasing aroma and flavor.
LONG BREAKS (UP TO 6 MONTHS) - Dry Your Grains!
Drying the Kefir Grains
- Rinse grains thoroughly with filtered water
- Lay them on a piece of unbleached parchment paper in a safe location.
- Dry at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, depending on humidity and room temperature. Or, use a dehydrator as long as the grains do not get heated above 85°F.*
- Place dried milk kefir grains in a air-tight bag; add a small amount of powdered milk.
- Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Making Kefir Again
When you're ready to make kefir again, you can rehydrate the grains according to the instructions that came with the culture originally, or follow the activation instructions for milk kefir grains on our website.
What's that Smell?
Be prepared...the aroma of drying milk kefir grains is often unpleasant. Unfortunately there's really no way around it. You can try rinsing them with distilled water prior to drying to minimize the odor. On the bright side, drying grains allows you to use them again in the future to make delicious and probiotic-rich kefir. So, be prepared for a smell, but also safely preserved grains.
Alternatives to Kefir Grains
If you find yourself not wanting to make kefir on a daily basis, you may also want to consider making kefir with powdered kefir starter culture. This starter culture is direct-set, which means each packet of starter is meant to make one batch of kefir.
It is possible to re-culture this a few times before the bacteria weakens if you'd prefer to get more use out of it, but it is a good alternative if you find you don't want to care for kefir grains on a daily basis.