How to take care of your milk kefir

You have a new pet, and you have to keep it alive.

Milk kefir grains

What do I need to make milk kefir?

  1. 1 tablespoon of milk kefir grains
  2. Nylon strainer
  3. 1 cup of milk per day
  4. Jam-sized glass jar

Things kefir grains need to grow

  • Warmth
  • Cow’s milk (with lactose)

Things kefir grains don’t like

  • Metal
  • Being shaken

Steps to using your milk kefir

  1.  When your kefir grains first arrive, you need to put them into a jam-sized glass jar with about a cup of cow’s milk. The guidelines on what milk is best to use are below.
  2. Leave your milk kefir for 12-24 hours in a warm spot. If you are in summer, the bench is fine. If you are in winter, a hot-water cupboard or on top of an always-on appliance is perfect. A modem is good.
  3. Check the kefir to make sure it has fermented. It will probably curdle, which is absolutely fine. Just tip it upside down and back a couple of times to mix it up. This is normal. When the bacteria have grown, the kefir is like runny yoghurt, slightly thickened. If the milk is still watery, it has not fermented. Either it was not warm enough or the kefir is dead. Dead!
  4. If it has worked, it is ready to strain, so take out your nylon strainer (no metal), tip the contents of the jar into the strainer, and bang/tap the strainer to get the liquid out into another container. You should just be left with the rubbery grains that won’t go through the strainer. Do not use a spoon, fork or other instrument to push the stuff through, because you will end up squishing your kefir grains through and making them unidentifiable.
  5. Tip the rubbery grains back into the jar, and refill with fresh milk.
  6. Your kefir ferment is now ready to use. You can store it in the fridge for later, though leaving it out on the bench is perfectly fine too as it is still full of good bacteria. Do not heat your kefir, as you want the bacteria to be alive throughout your digestive system, and heating them kills them.
  7. Repeat!

FAQs for fermenting milk kefir

The best sort of milk to ferment milk kefir grains in

If you can, use organic, unhomogenised, non-ultra pasteurised milk. If you have access to safe, fresh raw cow’s milk, even better.  Otherwise, ordinary pasteurised, homogenised milk is just fine. Don’t use lactose-free milk. If you are dairy intolerant or allergic, there are some alternatives to experiment with.

What do the grains look like?

Kefir grains are rubbery, and are the same size and texture of a soggy piece of popcorn. What are kefir grains?

I want to go on holiday/am sick of kefir/can’t be bothered at the moment

Your milk kefir grains will be just fine in some milk in the fridge. Low temperatures make the bacteria dormant, so they can keep for weeks, but you have to make sure they have some food (milk).

You can also clean and dry the grains for storage in the freezer or cupboard by rinsing them in unchlorinated water (chlorine, by its very nature, is a germ killer), and air-dry on a paper towel. You can then package up and freeze, or keep them in a cool, dry spot.

This makes them dormant. When you want to resurrect them, it may take a few days for them to come back to life with fresh milk daily.

The kefir grains are multiplying. Help!

This should happen over time. Your kefir grains will multiply and eventually you will need to take some out or put in more milk. You can use this extra to give to a friend or perhaps to do experiments with, like ferments with coconut milk.

My milk kefir ferments aren’t working

If you have followed all the instructions and can’t get your kefir grains to ferment, it is possible that they are dead. You’ll need to get some more.  



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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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