- 1 Milk Kefir
- 1.1 What Is Milk Kefir?
- 1.2 How To Grow Your Kefir Grains In Milk
- 1.3 Some Q&A To A Perfect Milk Kefir Drink
- 1.3.1 Q: When is the best time to grow kefir grains?
- 1.3.2 Q: How long will it grow?
- 1.3.3 Q: What will happen if I over ferment my milk kefir drink?
- 1.3.4 Q: What is the best medium to grow milk kefir grains?
- 1.3.5 Q: Would hot temperature help the grains grow faster than in a cool temperature?
- 1.3.6 Q: What are some techniques to speed up the growth?
- 1.3.7 Q: Are bigger grains more effective or nutritious?
- 1.4 Using Different Milk Substitutes
- 1.5 Coconut Milk | How To Make Coconut Kefir At Home
- 1.6 Too Much Whey In Milk Kefir And What To Do With Them
What Is Milk Kefir?
Milk Kefir is milk fermented by cultured kefir grains. Basically, it is made by adding kefir grains (which you can buy in health stores) to your milk. It can be any kind of milk — regular milk, coconut milk, soy milk or rice milk.
This creamy and tart-tasting drink is rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and probiotics. Probiotics are good and helpful living bacteria or micro-organisms that repopulate in your digestive tract. They kill off pathogenic micro-organisms and replace them with good ones. The probiotics clean your digestive tract, balance your body’s ecosystem and therefore make you healthier than you’ve ever been. If you don’t have rheumatism, ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, cancer, or HIV/AIDS at the moment, you will not get them if you make kefir part of your regular diet starting today. That is a guarantee if you maintain an over-all healthy lifestyle, of course. If you are suffering from any of the illnesses I just mentioned, kefir can help you get better.
Kefir drink is sold in a number of health stores, but you can make your own quite easily. And I suggest you make your own. Simply add kefir grains to your milk and let them ferment your regular dairy for at least 24 hours. The next day, you have a creamy and extremely healthy kefir. You can blend and add fruit flavors if you wish.
The secret lies in the kefir grains. While people trace the beginnings of milk kefir to Turkey, no one knows the true origin of kefir grains. They are living organisms, and as living micro-organisms it is most probable that they have existed since the beginning of life on earth. Today, kefir grain growers produce new grains by dividing and propagating existing ones. No one has learned how to spontaneously form kefir grains using just one kefir flora.
What are kefir grains, exactly?
These grains are made up of a colony of about 35 beneficial bacteria symbiotically joined together by complex chemical and natural processes. They are creamy, white-yellowish granules that look like miniature cauliflowers. They may have originated 5,000 years ago from Tibet, Turkey or other countries in the North Caucasus region. Locals living in the mountains of the Caucasus believe in a legend that tells about the Prophet Mohammad visiting them and handing over magical grains that can make people live healthier and longer. The legend pertains to kefir grains, which are known in that part of the world as the “grains of the Prophet”.
For a more scientific description, kefir grains are a combination of yeast and probiotics (bacteria) that form colonies that resemble tiny cauliflowers.
How To Grow Your Kefir Grains In Milk
You first have to understand that growing bacteria does not necessarily involve watering or exposure to the sun. But it does follow the most basic rule of nature on how to grow a living organism: feed it.
Kefir grains thrive in the lactose and protein contained in your milk, so feed them well. As they feed on milk by fermenting the milk, they produce the healthiest organic beverage that humanity has ever seen.
That is how to make kefir milk at home. But to be more specific, here is how I do it. I take a clean 500-ml glass jar with about 1 tablespoon of milk kefir grains. I then fill it up with non-fat milk. (You can use any kind of milk, which is quite neat.) At that moment, the probiotics begin fermenting my non-fat grocery milk, transforming it into milk kefir. I let the grains eat up my milk for an entire day. Fermentation could take longer on colder days.
I know that some people let the milk sit for 2-3 days to make it really thick and sour. The thicker the kefir, the more living probiotics produced but thicker kefir may be difficult to consume. If you are wondering how long to grow kefir grains, well, it shouldn’t be left too long until they become too sour and lumpy. Kefir should be just slightly thick: creamy and easy to drink. I keep mine just about 24 hours and a bit shorter on warmer summer days since liquids ferment faster on warmer days.
Then comes the fun part.
Using cheesecloth, I strain the grains, which are now made up of the mother culture and the newly formed ones. I rinse them thoroughly with cold water, store in the cooler, and ferment another jar of milk after I finish my first serving. I would then end up having more grains than I had originally. That is how to make kefir culture and that means you can grow your kefir to unlimited supply.
You might also encounter brown, mold-like substances floating on top of your kefir. Don’t worry about it. These are tiny pieces of nutritional yeast referred to as “flowers of kefir” and are common when fermenting liquids. They are not mold. You would know if they were mold because mold is blue or black. But if the “flowers” bother you, then go ahead and scrape them off.
You can store the grains in a jar with milk so that the grains can continue feeding on lactose and let them “sleep” in cold storage for a few days. If you wish to know how to dry kefir grains, simply strain them dry with cheesecloth and store them without liquid.
When storing, make sure your grains are kept clean. You wouldn’t want them getting contaminated with bad bacteria. Clean your jars thoroughly, avoid using soap to clean your containers, and always use non-metallic utensils.
After storing your kefir grains, how to use the milk kefir is up to you. If you ask me, I usually get my blender to make a kefir-banana smoothie. The kids love it that way too. It doesn’t have to be just banana. After removing the kefir grains, if you are wondering how to make your drink more flavorful and interesting, the answer is that it all depends on your personal taste or preference. You can mix it with fresh fruit juices, add fruit cuts, or sweeten with brown sugar.
Finally, check to achieve the perfect texture on your kefir. Aim for a creamy and smooth texture rather than lumpy and gooey. How to achieve the best texture really depends on the temperature where you live, and temperatures vary all over the country. Mix things up. Add some more milk or water, let it sit longer, or try storing in the refrigerator or outside, and so on. Achieving the best-tasting kefir with the creamiest texture should take some practice.
Some Q&A To A Perfect Milk Kefir Drink
Going through a trial-and-error process may be off-putting for some people. However, if you really think about it, being in charge of your drink and how it is prepared is much better than simply buying a packaged ready-to-drink beverage.
Kefir grains are voracious living organisms. They are not man’s invention; neither created nor processed in a lab or food processing facility. Kefir grains thrive in milk and can live forever if given the proper living conditions. They have endured the low-tech environments in the Caucasus region where they were first enjoyed; there should not be any reason for them not to thrive in the comforts of your own modern kitchen. All you need really is milk, clean utensils and proper timing.
Q: When is the best time to grow kefir grains?
Answer: Anytime, but not during the coolest hours. Kefir thrives in a warm environment and slows down when temperatures drop.
Q: How long will it grow?
Answer: Around 24 hours is ideal when in moderate room temperature. However, the fermentation process may be shorter or longer than 24 hours depending on two factors: temperature and taste.
If you live in some of the cooler states, your kefir culture may be sluggish and less active than those in warmer states or cities. You might need to let the grains sit in your jar of milk a little longer.
You will also notice your kefir reacting to the change in weather. If it suddenly turns warmer, you could over ferment the milk and accidentally create thin and watery kefir with curds and whey.
Regarding taste, you may decide to keep the grains working after 24 hours if you want your kefir thicker and sourer. The best milk kefir is creamy in texture, thicker than regular milk but creamier than regular yogurt. It is also best to keep its sourness at an average (unless you really prefer a sour drink).
Q: What will happen if I over ferment my milk kefir drink?
Answer: Your drink could get too sour and too thick. Over fermenting affects the texture and consistency. Others intentionally leave their kefir to sit for a couple more days to lower the lactose (carbohydrates, sugar) level. This is definitely beneficial for diabetics, and for people who are lactose intolerant or those who have high cholesterol levels. Some prefer to keep fermenting for weeks. It will take about 4 to 6 weeks before the grains start to get more pop corn-like.
Q: What is the best medium to grow milk kefir grains?
Answer: Raw milk is the best medium to grow the grains. There is much stigma with raw milk since unprocessed milk could potentially carry tons of bad bacteria, which could lead to all sorts of disease including fatal ones. Raw milk, however, is tastier and clearly more nutritious, as long as you know that it came from a sanitary source.
Any other types of milk will do — pasteurized, homogenized, whole, skimmed, low fat or non-fat milk. For variety’s sake, you can also use soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk.
Q: Would hot temperature help the grains grow faster than in a cool temperature?
Answer: Yes, kefir grains grow faster in warmer places, ideal with temperatures ranging from 20-25°C (68-77°F). After culturing and straining away the grains, keeping your drink in warm temperature is recommended in order to keep your drink pleasant and creamy.
If you wish to store your grains, on the other hand, store in a much cooler place (e.g. inside the fridge) to slow down the grains’ activity and feeding frenzy. Just don’t deep freeze or else you will have a hard time reviving them later.
Q: What are some techniques to speed up the growth?
Answer: The best technique is to keep in warm temperature, at about 22°C. You may also try adding milk powder to make your milk more dense and appealing to the lactose-loving bacteria.
Another technique is to have a small heating pad, set the milk and grains on it, and just keep feeding them milk. Also, try using a shallow and wide container so that the grains are spread evenly. This will give all the grains equal opportunities to feed. You can occasionally stir the grains lightly to make sure that they are dispersed evenly.
Q: Are bigger grains more effective or nutritious?
Answer: Kefir grains differ in sizes. They can be smaller than a marble or almost as big as an egg. We can’t really determine how large the grains will grow but I believe that the bigger the grain, the more probiotics it holds. When making a kefir drink, however, the size of the grains doesn’t really matter as long as the milk starts to thicken.
Using Different Milk Substitutes
I use raw milk for my kefir but am definitely not afraid to get creative with my choice of milk. People have been telling me that kefir works with any kind of milk, including soy and almond milk. One of the wonders of kefir is that it can be used in many ways and we should take advantage of that. It has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years even in a primitive environment where there was no form of modern food technology.
Kefir has existed for thousands of years. There have been debates on its origins but I think it’s been out there since life began on this planet, perhaps even older than us humans. If there’s one thing you should know about why kefir works with any type of milk and its resilient history is that kefir is made up of living microorganisms.
I also tried to use raw goat milk (Goat Kefir) not only because I want to follow how the native Caucasus people did it but also because I learned that goat milk makes the smoothest kefir. But this shouldn’t bother you if you are not a fan of goat milk. Most people prefer cow’s milk, which is more popular than goat’s, of course. And you don’t even have to use pure, raw milk. When losing weight, you can choose to ferment low-fat, skim or no-fat milk.
Today, raw milk is not easy to come by in a number of states. If you do live in states such as California where raw milk is not prohibited, you can buy them at a farmers market, dairy store and some grocery stores.
If you don’t know where to get raw milk and don’t like the idea of drinking or eating anything raw, you could try pasteurized or homogenized milk. These are much more widely sold everywhere. No worries; you will still get the same benefits from your kefir drink with commercial milk.
The main reason why some states prohibit the sales and consumption of raw milk is that they might contain pathogens that can cause diseases. What some milk factories do is heat the milk to kill any pathogenic microbes in raw milk. Heated milk is called pasteurized milk.
Milk companies heat the milk to a temperature as high as 71.7°C (161°F) before cooling and packaging. However, heating the milk does not guarantee 100% removal of the pathogens, and yet many people, understandably, consider it much safer than raw milk. To people who are overly conscious about sterilization and safety, I would suggest heating or re-heating their milk (even pasteurized milk) in their own kitchen, just to be sure.
Most of the milk you buy in the grocery is pasteurized milk. Some milk companies may not put the label “pasteurized”, but instead promote especially prepared milk such as “skimmed”, “low fat” or “non-fat”.
As how everybody knows it and based on what you see in the grocery, milk is creamy and all liquid. Real or raw milk, however, has curds and coagulates. You see clumps of foam and curds appear even with your pasteurized milk after you’ve kept a box of milk for a few weeks in your fridge.
Homogenized milk, on the other hand, is processed milk that had gone through the breaking up of the milk’s fat molecules into smaller particles so that they get distributed evenly in the milk. Some may consider this as another way of processing fresh milk, while to others it is a process that comes after pasteurization. Heating or pasteurizing milk could still neither break down the fatty proteins nor equally spread them through the milk.
Raw milk contains water and oil, which explains why milk doesn’t stay mixed all the time. Homogenizing the milk is reducing the fat molecules in size so that they can easily disperse and mix better with the milk’s water contents. As a result, we don’t see a thick foam of cream on top of the milk we buy from the grocery.
Farmers know that milk freshly obtained from a cow has a layer of cream at the top. In the past, cow owners judged the quality of their milk based on this fatty layer. The thicker the creamy layer, the better the milk.
Meanwhile, homogenizing pasteurized milk also breaks up the white, thick layers of bacteria that form at the bottom of the milk after the heating process.
Today, homogenized milk is well liked by manufacturers because they can last longer and, therefore, be shipped anywhere and for a longer period of time. However, the biggest downside is that not many people enjoy its taste.
Can soy and almond milk be substituted for cow’s milk? Yes, you can definitely use non-dairy milk to make milk kefir. Non-dairy kefir is also very good for those who are lactose intolerant. You can use soy or almond milk, and even coconut milk, to make a tasty kefir drink – soy kefir, coconut kefir, almond kefir – but the grains that you’ve used in these kinds of milk won’t grow anymore in non-dairy milk. The best thing to do is to first let your starter kefir thrive in real milk.
After growing your grains, use some of your produce to make a delicious non-dairy kefir. The procedure is practically the same as when making water kefir or milk kefir. Place some grains in your soy, almond or coconut milk and let it sit for 24 hours or until you have achieved the thickness you desire. It may not be as healthy as what you get when using raw milk, but it still is kefir; and any kefir is far more nutritious than your regular soda, coffee or beer.
Coconut Milk | How To Make Coconut Kefir At Home
Did you know that coconut is considered as the most important agricultural product in most tropical countries? Its meat (the white, inside part) has many culinary applications including the production of coconut milk; its juice (coconut water) is very refreshing and highly nutritious; and its leaves, husks and bark are used to make oil, soap, cosmetic products, charcoal, medicine, and construction materials.
In the world of kefir-dom (in which I am a loyal citizen), the coconut milk takes on a new role — a delicious medium to make kefir drink.
More and more users have tried what I tried and have been very satisfied. I looked for a milk alternative as base for my kefir and discovered the coconut milk. Obviously, coconut milk is not dairy, although coconut milk looks so much like your regular fresh milk (but a bit diluted). Halve a coconut to see the white coconut meat on the inside part of the shell, as the nutrient-rich coconut water gushes out. What comes out is water, not the milk. To milk a coconut, grate or scrape the meat and squeeze it to a pulp. The white liquid juice is coconut milk.
It has to be a mature coconut, though, with hardened meat. The meat from young coconuts is soft and jelly-like. You can neither scrape nor squeeze them. If there are no coconuts around, you can just buy fresh, unsweetened cans of coconut milk from the grocery, a health store, Asian market or farmers market.
Coconut milk is rich in calories, vitamins and medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which include lauric acid and capric acid. These are good for your immune system. It also has monolaurin, which are antiviral and antibacterial fatty acids that are also found in mother’s milk. (In some parts of the world, babies are fed coconut milk whenever a mother’s milk is not available and commercial milk is too expensive.)
Overall, coconut milk is a bit short when compared to what you can get from dairy milk. But when it comes to making kefir, it is much more flavorful and versatile. Kefir users love the idea of experimenting with different flavors and liquid bases for their kefir in order to enhance the experience and to make this health drink more attractive to first-time users. The beauty of coconut milk is that it is free from dairy, gluten and soy, which is perfect if you are lactose intolerant or trying to lose weight. It might also excite you to know that coconut milk is cheaper.
Here’s how to make your first coconut milk kefir drink. Put 2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains into a 1-quart glass jar. Make sure it’s clean. Add 2 cans of unsweetened coconut milk. Mix gently with a plastic or wooden spoon. You should know by now that metal and kefir grains don’t work well together. Cover your jar loosely with a cloth napkin or towel and let it sit for a day to a day and a half.
Don’t touch the mixture for 12 hours straight but after that time, check your drink every few hours to see if you have reached your desired consistency. As long as the grains have cultured its liquid base, it is a guarantee that you already have the nutrients and probiotic contents that you are looking for. Letting it sit for a few more hours is a matter of your preference for sourness and thickness. The longer it sits, the sourer and thicker your drink gets, which also makes it more difficult to retrieve the grains later.
Using a non-metallic utensil, strain to remove your grains. Pour your kefir drink into a new container, place a lid and put it in the refrigerator to cool and further thicken.
Since this is a non-dairy base, your grains may not grow as much as they would in raw or regular milk. This is why it is good to have spare grains and use only some of your new batches of milk kefir grains when experimenting with non-dairy mediums. Also, make sure that you have grown your new kefir grains in fresh milk for at least six weeks so that they have a good micro flora balance when they are transferred to a new medium. Some grains may not adapt well in a non-dairy environment.
You can also experiment with your coconut milk kefir by adding fruit bits or fruit juices, or turning it into a smoothie, cream topping or ice cream.
Meanwhile, store your used grain in a new jar, put a small amount of real milk to keep them feeding, cover and place in the refrigerator. They should be ready to make a new batch after a day or two. It is also a good idea to feed your grains with raw cow or goat milk from time to time. If you are not comfortable drinking raw, unpasteurized milk, you don’t have to use it as your base. Simply feed them to your grains when stored in the refrigerator and then make your kefir using processed milk, commercial milk, coconut milk, or any other types of milk according to your liking.
Too Much Whey In Milk Kefir And What To Do With Them
Nowadays, I have gotten used to making my own kefir drink and am quite motivated to keep doing so. I did worry about one thing when I first began making my own drink; I worried about the appearance of too much whey. This is why I focused this chapter on what whey is and what good can come out of it. Here are a few details I learned and that might help you as you make your own milk kefir.
Whey is that clear water-like by-product of dairy, which is why it is also called “milk serum”. Strain or curdle milk and you get whey. From this definition alone I see that getting whey as my kefir grains ferment milk is a natural thing. Curd and whey will always appear as milk ferments or coagulates.
While getting plenty of whey is quite normal and expected, it was not something that I would like to keep in my drink. I thought of throwing it away but it was quite a waste to do so. And so, as one of the most logical things that a modern individual does to get information these days, I Googled and searched online for some of the things that I can do with kefir whey. These are just five that I gathered.
First, I can mix kefir whey with water and boil any type of food to make it healthier. I tried it on my pasta, and it was good use for my, otherwise, good-for-nothing whey.
Two, I have also made soups from kefir whey, and obviously making soup with whey makes a lot of sense since it is liquid. Simply boil the whey with sliced potatoes or carrots, butter, garlic, chopped onion, basil, and salt, and voila!
Three, how about Devil’s Food Cake? This is my favorite. If you know how to make cake, simply replace milk with kefir whey, and you get a healthier food on your dessert plate. To make Devil’s Food Cake, mix brown sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla. Sift with flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa, and soda, and then put kefir whey into the mix. Use well-battered cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. Cool and then add your frosting.
Fourth, a popular food product that uses kefir is sourdough. Sourdough is a sour-tasting bread (hence, the name) simply because it makes use of yeast and bacteria.
To make a starter for this healthy dough, mix 1/4 cup of flour with 1 tablespoon of kefir grains and enough water or kefir whey to make a thick paste. Cover with cloth or plastic, then let it sit for a few days in warm temperature, about 28°C. Leave it for a week but make sure to feed the bacteria with flour and water every day. Let it ferment for as long as 3 days or until it lets out an alcoholic aroma. Store in the fridge. After 24 hours, your sourdough starter is ready for use.
Five, some have suggested using kefir whey to make quark cheese mix. Quark is white, soft and un-aged cheese that is often compared with cottage cheese or curd cheese. It is usually prepared using sour milk but I suggest using kefir whey instead. You’re your mix even healthier by using nutritious flaxseed oil.
Getting kefir whey as a by-product doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Kefir is so nutritious and rich that anything that comes out of it must have medicinal or therapeutic value. So, think twice and get creative before throwing away whey.