How to Make Homemade Kefir

Straining kefir grainsIf you have been reading my digestive health articles, you will certainly have heard me recommend fermented foods. Fermented foods are filled with a wide variety of strains of probiotics – so, so good for your digestive and overall health.

After I read Chris Kresser’s article on the health benefits of kefir, a fermented milk product, I have been a fan. I was particularly interested in the vitamin K2 of kefir – because it appears to be important for vitamin D to do its thing – and I always test low on vitamin D. I started buying store-bought brands of kefir, but didn’t always love the ingredients label. However, I read in so many places that it is simple to make your own kefir – so I thought I would give it a try.

I ordered my grains from a company called Cultures for Health as they got good reviews on Amazon. I followed their directions exactly. The first few days, nothing happened  and I poured a lot of milk down the drain. This is apparently normal as the freeze-dried grains need to become activated.

But on day three, the milk thickened up – I was ridiculously happy about this – I am not sure why – but it gave me such a thrill. Don’t laugh at me – but it felt like I had created life! Here is what it looked like:

kefir in mason jar

Then I ran into a snag. The grains no longer seemed to be thickening up the kefir and I was afraid to drink the milk, fearful that I was drinking milk that had gone bad instead of kefir itself! I wrote the company – their customer service was fantastic! They helped me to understand that part of the problem may have been that my house is too cold (It is cold! I once had a goldfish that lived nine years!) Once I moved the jar into the warmest room of the house, it has been consistently giving me delicious kefir each morning! My green smoothies have never tasted better:

kefir green smoothie

As you know, I am a pretty busy person. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only takes me about two minutes each morning to strain the grains out of the kefir and place them into some fresh milk to create tomorrow’s kefir. It feels a bit like taking care of a pet – and it makes me ridiculously happy to see the grains growing and thriving.

But as a digestive health expert, I know health is all about bacteria. One of the reasons that I love composting is because I know that my kitchen scraps create bacteria for my garden soil that then nurture the plants that nurture my body.  When I say making kefir makes me ridiculously happy, it is because my feeding these pet-like grains gets rewarded with them feeding me health-enhancing bacteria. Circle of life…

Hopefully, I have inspired you to start making your own kefir. Learn from my mistakes!

  1. Kefir cannot be cultivated from ultra-pasteurized milk. I had to search high and low to find pasteurized milk. I eventually found some at Trader Joe’s.
  2. Kefir needs a warm, stable temperature, somewhere in the range of 68°- 85°F. You can click here to buy the heating strip that works wonders for me in my cold house.
  3. As soon as it smells sweet, it is kefir and not rotten milk!
  4. I like the taste better after it has been chilled. So each morning I put the new batch in the refrigerator and drink yesterday’s batch.

NOTE:  The wonderful researchers at Monash University tested milk kefir and found that in spite of the fermentation process, it still tests high for lactose. So if you have lactose intolerance, you may want to try making kefir with water,  coconut milk or coconut water. Cultures for Health offers starter kits for all of these.