I’m a big believer in homemade and doing things yourself. Whether it’s kombucha, sourdough or herbal remedies, if I can make it myself, then I do. I’m also very frugal by nature so if making it myself saves me money then I’m twice as happy!
After making my own kombucha for many years (you should try it if you haven’t already), I decided to venture into the land of milk kefir. My friend Anita sent me some of her grains via snail mail and I’ve been making milk kefir ever since.
What Exactly is Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir is a cultured food similar to yogurt which contains beneficial yeast as well as probiotics. It has the same tang as natural yogurts do but it’s thinner in consistency and uses a different culture medium entirely. This fermented beverage is made using milk kefir grains and while they are called grains, the actual culture does not contain grains of any kind.
Here you can see my milk kefir grains at the bottom of a mason jar. You can see that they have a gelatinous grain-like appearance (which is why they are called grains). Either white or yellow in colour, milk kefir grains are full of bacteria and yeast… the good kind. To make milk kefir you will need milk kefir grains.
How It All Works
So how do these little blobs of goo change milk into something healthy and probiotic rich? Once the starter culture (milk kefir grains) are added to milk, the bacteria and yeast in the culture immediately start consuming the lactose in the milk. Lactose keeps the grains healthy and active and allows them to reproduce. After about 24 hours your milk kefir is complete (I’ll go into more details on how to make it below) and the culture has consumed all or most of the lactose in the milk.
At this point the grains need to be moved to another source of lactose in order to stay alive. Without the lactose the grains will starve and eventually die. Personally I have found that I can keep my grains alive and healthy stored in the fridge with 2-4 cups of milk. Right now I’m the only one in the house that consumes milk kefir on a regular basis and I find I produce more than I consume. As long as they have sufficient milk they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Why Would I Want to Drink This?
Other than it tasting yummy, milk kefir is probably one of the highest natural sources of probiotics you will find. In fact the name kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means ‘good feeling’. Milk kefir is high in:
- vitamin B12
- vitamin K2
Because of its diverse nutritional content, milk kefir can be beneficial in a wide range of areas. These include boosted immunity, building bone density, fighting allergies, improving digestion (including the digestion of lactose), killing candida and detoxification. It has also been show to help heal and improve inflammatory conditions of the GI tract including leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease. With poor digestion being the root of many disease states it’s no wonder that milk kefir is know as a superfood.
I love Dr. Axe for his cool visuals. Check out this one from his article on milk kefir.
And just so you know… even he says that homemade milk kefir is better than the store bought stuff. Frugal, satisfying and better for you… homemade awesomeness for the win!
I Can Buy This? Then Why Do I Want to Make This?
First, see above sentence (insert winky face here). The homemade stuff is better for you. It has a more diverse nutritional profile and much higher levels of healthy bacteria. Second, it truly is cheaper than buying store bought. Third, it’s dead easy to make. No joke… takes 5 minutes tops to make a batch of milk kefir.
How to Make Milk Kefir
So I’ve sold you on milk kefir haven’t I? Between the ease of making it and it’s amazing nutritional benefits I know you want on this bandwagon. So now we need to know how to do it.
What You Need
- milk kefir grains
If you don’t have milk kefir grains the first place you can check are local facebook groups, kijiji and local message boards. It’s not too difficult to find someone who is willing to part with some grains. Mine survived the mailing process so that opens up options for you as well. Feel free to message me if you are a local because my grains are always multiplying and I’m happy to start folks on this probiotic filled journey.
If you can’t find any you can check out Cultures for Health; they sell dehydrated starter cultures online.
So now let’s talk milk. You can use sheep, cow or goats milk to make milk kefir. Rice, coconut and almond milks do not yield consistent results and you will need to add them to a milk with lactose to reactivate the grains and keep them alive. While my dream would be to use raw milk, sadly it is illegal to buy here in Ontario. Instead we use organic cow’s milk. I prefer the taste and texture of my milk kefir when I use milk with higher fat content.
How to Make It
You’re gonna laugh…
- Put milk kefir grains in jar
- Pour milk over grains
- Cover with a cloth, cheesecloth or a coffee filter
- Let stand at room temperature for up to 24 hours
Yup that’s it. I did mention it only takes about 5 minutes right? I have found the best ratio is 1-2 tsp of grains per 1 litre/quart of milk. If your milk kefir grains are happy and healthy they will start to reproduce… reminiscent of bunnies as it were. If you have lots of extra grains and no one who wants any, feel free to compost, add them to a smoothie or feed them to your chickens.
Once your 24 hours are up you simply need to strain the grains out and start a new batch. Just as a note your milk kefir grains should not come in contact with metal for a prolonged period of time. So either strain quickly or use a plastic strainer if you can find one. Now your finished batch milk kefir just needs a lid and then it can be stored in the fridge. You can enjoy it straight, mixed with yogurt or apart of your daily smoothie.
I hope you enjoy your milk kefir making adventures!