Milk Kefir Master Recipe

Start a batch of milk kefir grains, and then make delicious, healthy milk kefir again and again in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Dušan Zidar

Likely originating in the Caucasus Mountains, milk kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that ferments milk. To make milk kefir, you must acquire a tablespoon or so of these milk kefir grains, which look like cottage cheese or small cauliflower florets. If you buy dehydrated grains, follow the instructions on the package to rehydrate them. Either way, you’ll need a large glass or ceramic jar — Mason jars are ideal. Be aware that you’ll need an inch or two of headroom in the jar above the fermenting milk, because kefir needs air while it’s fermenting. If there’s any question about what size jar to use, go larger rather than smaller.

The milk kefir culture feeds on lactose, so it won’t work with lactose-free milk. Fresh, raw milk is best, because it contains lots of beneficial bacteria and enzymes of its own and will make a more biologically diverse kefir. Make sure the milk is no more than a day old; otherwise, the enzymes and microbes that naturally occur and multiply in raw milk can start to dominate the kefir microbes and send things in an unexpected direction. This can result in a funky-tasting kefir and possibly a biological drift in the kefir grains, making them less effective in the future. Regular pasteurized milk works fine too, or high-pressure processed milk, but the same rule applies: The fresher the milk, the better.

Kefir ferments best at room temperature or warm room temperature. This makes it even easier and more convenient to make than yogurt, because it doesn’t require an elevated temperature, nor does it require the milk to be heated ahead of time.

Also, because kefir cultures tend to be “wilder” than yogurt cultures in the sense that they contain more unknown strains of microbes, it’s harder to generalize about starter ratios, ideal temperatures, and times. For this reason, if you want to get consistent results, you may need to keep track of these parameters for yourself in a notebook, or at least settle into a consistent routine and be conscious about varying it.

Flavor Your Milk Kefir

If you’d like some variety, add flavors, such as vanilla or cinnamon, to your kefir right before drinking it, as you would when flavoring coffee. You can also add fruit for a secondary fermentation at room temperature with a sealed lid. For every 1 cup of kefir, try 1⁄2 cup of fruit. Add the fruit to the kefir, and then let it sit for up to a day at room temperature. After it’s ready, strain, if you’d like, and then refrigerate.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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