Milk Kefir is an extraordinary fermented effervescent drink made from whole cow or goat milk, although it is possible to prepare versions from non-diary milks. By means of fermentation, the drink takes on enormous digestive benefits otherwise absent, for the delight of our gut and immune system.
WHICH MILK TO USE FOR KEFIR?
The best kefir one can ever drink is probably made with fresh raw milk from cows that can happily wander free on grassland. In the other hand, raw milk must be purchased from reliable sources because there is a real risk that it could develop harmful pathogens.
Unless you milk your own animals, or you live near by someone trusty that does, it’s fine to stick to pasteurized milk that make a kefir just nearly as good.
The milk sold in most stores is pasteurized, which means that has been heated above 70 ° C to kill pathogens and bacteria within the milk. Pasteurization increases the shelf life at the expense of all beneficial bacteria, part of the vitamins and minerals are also dispersed at these temperatures.
I would say that fresh pasteurized milk is the best milk to use. Ultra pasteurized milk is on the contrary the worst because has been heated even more to allow for a prolonged shelf life, changing considerably the taste of the milk, and reducing even more its nutritional content.
Kefir can be made ideally from any sort of animal milk, though cows and goat milk are the most common types of milk used. The fat content of the milk doesn’t matter that much when it comes to fermentation. Non-fat milk will ferment as much as whole milk, the whole milk kefir will be just denser than fat-free milk kefir.
There are several non-dairy milk substitutes that can be also used to make kefir using the same milk kefir grains such:
- Almond milk
- Hemp milk
- Oat milk
- Rice milk
- Soya milk
- Coconut milk
Kefir grains can be used with all these types of milk, but keep in mind that they need animal-based milk in order to thrive. Put your kefir grain back into animal milk every 10 days and let them sit there for at least a day to bring them back to life. You will know that your grain are getting weak when will take longer than normal to ferment When this happens, it’s the right time to move them back into animal milk for a day or so.
You may be interested in read the article: “Kefir grains: what are, how to manage them”
LET’S MAKE TRADITIONAL MILK KEFIR
To begin producing traditional kefir milk and kefir grains are enough. Start by getting some large enough glass jars, a spoon and a colander (possibly non-metallic), gauze or a cotton cloth, and possibly a thermometer. Kefir grains can be obtained from different sources, possibly from friends and family who already have kefir crops started.
If you know someone who produces kefir, ask them if they have any extra grain that are willing to pass you, this is the cheapest and most practical way. In case you don’t know anyone who makes kefir, fear not, it’s always possible to buy kefir grains online from a reputable retailer.
Kefir grains purchased online, they will probably be a bit “weak” at first. You should then begin by fermenting small amounts of kefir in a pint size jar until the grains have “awakened”. Start with one or two tablespoons of grains as per 2 cups of organic cow’s milk and let them ferment for 24 hours.
If the kefir comes out good, you can try making larger amounts of kefir with your grains. In case your kefir is not good enough after 24 hours, filter the grain and put them back with new milk and repeat the process from the beginning.
Keep changing the milk every 24 hours until the kefir grains begin to make a good batch. Grains may take up to ten days to re-stabilize, but if they are not healthy within the first week, they may be degraded to the point that a new set may be necessary.
Generally 2 tablespoons of active grains are enough to ferment 4 cups of milk. Even a tablespoon might be enough if the grains are particularly active to ferment a liter of kefir. The proportions can change depending on the strength of the grains used, with little experience won’t be difficult to determine the right proportions.
Once you have the active kefir grains, you are ready to start your self-production. The following steps below refer to the production of 4 cups of kefir.
1. Heat 4 cups of milk to 80°C (176°F), then pour into a 6 cups size glass jar and let it cool down quickly to 25-30°C (77-86°F) by placing the jar in some iced water.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of kefir grains to the jar and mix the contents with a wooden or non-metallic spoon. Metals can negatively interact with grains, inhibiting their development.
3. Cover the container with any kind of transpiring fiber, a cotton cloth, gauze or coffee filters will be fine. The idea is to let the air in while protecting from dust and insects. Use a rubber band to secure.
4. Let sit the jar at room temperature for 24 hours.
5. Check the kefir every 12 hours to see if it is ready. If after 24 hours it is still not ready, it can be left to ferment for another 24 hours. After the first 24 hours, check it possibly at shorter intervals every 4-6 hours.
6. Once the kefir is ready, filter the kernels using a clean stainless steel fine mesh strainer. Do not leave the grains in the kefir beyond 48 hours or you run the risk of damaging them. Move the grains to a new container filled with milk to keep them active and nourished.
7. Once the kefir has done fermenting, seal the jar or where you have chosen to store your kefir, and place it in the refrigerator. Low temperatures will slow down the fermentation processes extending the storage life.