Friday, September 10, 2010

How to make milk kefir

This recipe for milk kefir is so simple and it makes a wonderfully nutritious drink. Kefir is fermented milk that looks a bit like curdled milk or runny yoghurt. However, it has more health benefits than yoghurt.

Yoghurt has transient beneficial bacteria that help keep the digestive system clean and it also provides food for other friendly bacteria present in the gut. Kefir, on the other hand, helps to colonise the intestinal tract with friendly bacteria, which yoghurt can't do. Kefir is also much easier to digest. You'll find that drinking kefir gives you lots of energy and zest, as it helps you utilise more of the nutrients in the other foods you eat.

Kefir is a truly life-giving drink.

My lovely friend Jody Franklin gave me some milk kefir grains to get me started. Like water kefir grains, milk kefir grains multiply, so if you want to make your own and you know someone who makes kefir, just ask for some. My bet is that they would be only too happy to share. A tablespoon is enough to get you started. And once you've got them, as long as you take care of them, they will last forever.

How to make milk kefir
  • 4c full cream milk (preferably raw)*
  • 4T milk kefir grains 
1. Combine milk and kefir grains in a large glass jar. (You will notice I use a ratio of 1 cup milk to 1 tablespoon kefir.)  Cover and leave at room temperature (somewhere between 22C - 30C) for 48 hours. Give it a gentle jiggle from time to time to help mix the milk through the grains. You will see the milk thicken on top and start to smell sour.

*UPDATE* I now leave mine in the fridge instead of at room temperature, as it takes longer to thicken and means I can make batches only when I need them and leave the kefir brewing away in the fridge otherwise. It also means I can forget about the kefir for up to a week at a time, instead of needing to check on it after a couple of days.

2. Strain mixture (preferably through a non-metallic sieve) to separate milk from grains. Your kefir is now ready to drink.

3. Make another batch immediately or store grains in the fridge in enough milk to cover them until you need them again.

Caring for kefir

Milk kefir grains feed off the lactose in milk. For short-term storage (up to several weeks) keep them in a glass jar in the fridge covered with milk. 

If you're not going to be using your grains for several months, dehydrate them, either in a dehydrator or in a warm place that gets a good breeze. It may take a few batches of kefir-making to reactivate them, but they will come back.

They're pretty hardy little things, but you need to avoid touching them to metal. Use glass to store them, and wood or plastic to strain and handle them.

You can use milk kefir grains to ferment other drinks, like fruit drinks or coconut milk, but every few batches you will want to put them back into milk to give them the food they need to thrive and multiply.

Uses for kefir
  • Use kefir in soaking and baking recipes that require sour dairy, eg. banana muffins.
  • Substitute kefir for sour cream on tacos and other Mexican dishes.
  • If you like the taste, drink kefir straight like milk. 
  • Mix kefir up in a smoothie. I don't particularly like the taste of kefir on its own, so L and I now enjoy a kefir smoothie together most days. (We do still have yoghurt smoothies from time to time too.) 


  1. Wow - such an interesting post. Where can you get kefir grains from in NZ? REally enjoying your blog!

  2. Hi Jody,
    You can order kefir grains through this site, although it looks like their milk kefir grains are on back order. Contact them just in case they've arrived in.

    Glad you're enjoying the blog. I'm having fun writing it :)

    Good luck with the kefir.

  3. Good to read this, I just bought some kefir after trying it at a cheese making course. Isn't the taste unusual! I haven't used it for anything yet, just grew the small tablespoon of grains into a larger mush and transfered them to a bigger jar of milk in the fridge. Apparently it can be used to sour cream for cultured butter, or sour milk for simple soft cheeses.

  4. Hey Liz, I'd love to hear how some of your other kefir experiments go. You'll be having so much fun making things with your own house cow milk I bet!

  5. So nice to hear that there is someone in NZ doing this, I've been looking through the Internet for a couple of days now and everything I find is from overseas.

  6. You can get great quality milk kefir grains from Elena

  7. You can also get in touch with me on Facebook


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