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WHAT IS MILK KEFIR?

The culture is called Kefir Grains but isn’t really a grain that grows in the field like whole wheat grains or legumes but rather jelly beadlike structures that contains good bacteria and yeast. Milk kefir grains eat the milk sugars, better known as Lactose, in milk and converts regular milk into a probiotic rich super food called Milk Kefir! Kefir is pronounced as KE•fur or KHE•feer, derived from the Turkish word “keif” that means “feel good”.  Kefir’s origins trace back to the Caucasus Mountains in Russia more than 2 000 years ago.

WHAT DOES MILK KEFIR TASTE LIKE?

Milk kefir tastes like plain tart yogurt, the longer your leave your Milk Kefir to ferment the tarter it will get. Milk kefir can build up carbonation and is also referred to as the champagne of drinking yogurt. You can flavor your Milk Kefir with honey, fruit or spices. Second ferment your Milk Kefir to increase the flavor and add to the health benefits.

WHAT DO MILK KEFIR GRAINS LOOK LIKE?

Kefir Grains are white soft & gummy shaped almost like cauliflower florets. They can be as small as the smallest tapioca beads and grow as big as a bouncy ball if you let them! Sometimes people squeeze and press hard on the Milk Kefir grains when straining or separating the kefir from the grains, when doing this they are actually creating flat smooth grains that doesn’t look like grains at all but rather like flat strips of rolled play doh. Dried Kefir grains has a light yellowish color and becomes darker in colour the drier they get.

HOW BIG OR SMALL MUST THE KEFIR GRAINS BE?

Bigger doesn’t necessary mean better. Big grains takes longer to grow and ferment kefir, the smaller the grain the quicker and smoother the ferment. Big grains can be broken into smaller pieces and will grow to become big again within a few weeks.

WHAT DOES KEFIR SMELL LIKE?

Kefir has a fresh yogurt, cheese like smell, the longer the ferment the sharper the smell.

WHAT ARE KEFIR GRAINS COMPOSED OF?

Kefir Grains are rich in probiotics and contain 30-56 different strains of beneficial yeast and bacteria. The biggest part of the grain is a combination of insoluble protein, amino acids, fats and soluble-polysaccharides (complex sugars).

WHAT’S THE CONSISTENCY OF KEFIR?

The consistency of Milk Kefir may vary greatly depending on the milk used, time, temperature and Grain-Milk ratio. The “normal” consistency is similar to that of buttermilk or drinking yogurt and gets thicker in cooler temperatures and when made with high fat milk. Low fat milk, Nut milks and rice milk usually makes a thinner kefir.

WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE MILK KEFIR?

You will need milk, Milk Kefir Grains,  a tightly woven cloth or tea towel and elastic band to keep it in place, plastic or wooden strainer, wooden spoon, a glass jar for fermentation and a jar for storage.

WHAT MILK TO USE?

Traditionally Milk Kefir is made with raw goats milk but any other mammalian milk can be used for making milk kefir. In South Africa it isn’t legal to sell Raw Milk for human consumption. The next best thing would be to use organic mammalian milk, there is some outlets that sell organic Cows and Goats Milk. It will not be a good idea to use boxed or Ultra Pasteurized Milk because all the good bacteria the kefir grains live on has been killed. Nut Milk or Rice Milk can also be fermented with Milk Kefir Grains. This can be achieved by adding 1 teaspoon honey or raw sugar per liter of nut milk or rice milk or by making a date paste and adding a teaspoon per liter. The added honey or date paste is a substitute for the milk sugars (lactose) that’s not present in Nut or Rice milks.

DOES THE MILK HAVE TO BE ROOM TEMPERATURE?

Your milk doesn’t have to be room temp, it is fine to use milk from the fridge.

HOW OFTEN DO I FEED MY GRAINS?

Kefir Grains need fresh milk every 24 hours or max. 48 hours.  If you would like to take a break put them in the fridge and feed them weekly. This can be done for a couple of weeks but if you would like to take a longer break you can dehydrate them.

WHAT KIND OF JAR SHOULD I USE?

Clear see through glass would be your best option. Plastic and metal can leach into your kefir making it toxic.

HOW FULL DO I POUR MY JAR?

Leave some headspace because if there’s limited space your kefir will definitely boil over, especially in the hot summer months. This happens because the carbon dioxide building up causing the kefir to expand. Leave at least 3cm head space or to be safe fill 2/3 or 3/4 of your jar with grains and milk included.

WHAT TEMPERATURE IS THE BEST?

The temperature preference ranges from 20ºC – 28ºC  above 30ºC can kill some of the microbes and cause an imbalance. Kefir can ferment in temperatures as low as 4ºC and that is shy your kefir will still ferment in your fridge. The lower the temperature the slower the Kefir will ferment the longer it will take to get your final product. It would be a good idea to place your kefir in the fridge during the day and on the counter during the night time if your house temperature is above 28ºC.  OR put your kefir into a cooler box after adding cold milk to your kefir grains, this will help keep the grains from over fermenting.

HOW LONG SHOULD MY KEFIR FERMENT?

This depend on temperature and milk & Grain ratio. Consider yourself a MASTER BREWER when you get that perfect Milk – Grain  to room temperature ratio that ferments your kefir within in 24 hours. This 24 hour ratio is the traditional way of making milk kefir and makes the best kefir flavor and consistency and the grains love it too.

LID OR NO LID?

If you put a lid on your kefir you will get a more carbonated kefir, but your kefir grains needs oxygen to be happy and that’s why a tightly woven breathable cloth would be a better option. Some people use a lid and screw it up loosely but I just don’t want to take that chance because somehow I still think a determined little insect can still get in there if it really wants to. We are covering our kefir to keep dust and insects out and we can put a lid on it with the second fermentation to carbonate.

WILL MY KEFIR FERMENT IN THE SUNLIGHT ON MY WINDOW SILL?

The best conditions for optimum fermentation is a dark, clean, dry area and in the case of kefir you will need good airflow because kefir likes oxygen. They’ll be fine on the counter in dim light or out of direct sunlight in a cool spot in your kitchen away from dust, dirt, condensation and smoke.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY KEFIR IS READY?

Your kefir will be thicker and you will notice small whey pockets forming (looks like clear liquid) and you will also see trapped bubbles, if you see separation at the bottom or middle then it’s definitely time to strain. I prefer straining when I see small whey pockets forming. You are looking for a pH level of about 4.5. The longer you leave your Kefir to ferment the more lactose will be consumed and the more sour it will get.

IS STAINLESS STEEL SAFE TO USE?

It is really not recommended to store or ferment your kefir in a metal container. Acidic foods can cause the metals to leach when contact is prolonged. Briefly using a spoon or strainer will probably not do harm if you are using 304 Stainless steel. 304 Stainless Steel is safe to use, other metals like iron, tin, copper or aluminum is not safe to use.

DO I HAVE TO STERILIZE MY UTENSILS?

No, Clean hands and utensils will do. To minimize the chances of cross contamination between cultures it would be wise to keep Milk Kefir utensils for Milk kefir and the same with the other cultures. It is also not entirely necessary to use a new clean jar for your next batch of Milk Kefir. You can use the same jar more than once. Iron the cloth that you put over the jar because it kills mold spores and other bacteria that are unwelcome.

DO I HAVE TO WASH MY GRAINS?

Traditional it’s not done and not recommended because when washing your grains you are actually washing off their protective layer, called Kefiran, making them vulnerable to foreign yeast and bacteria. There is one exception to this no wash rule and that is when your Kefir Grains are producing an inferior kefir, smelling too yeasty or rotten. You will have to get the trouble makers off the grains and to wash them would be the best option at this stage, so use milk (not water) to wash your kefir grains before putting them in new fresh milk and moving them to the fridge for recovery.

CAN I SAVE MY GRAIN THAT FELL ON THE FLOOR?

If you rinse it immediately under cool clean milk or water and gently rub to make sure all the dust and stuff are washed off.  You can add that grain to the others or you can eat the grain or give it to your pets or toss it into the garden as fertilizer.

SEPARATING KEFIR – WHY IS THERE WATER AT THE BOTTOM OF MY JAR?

The “water” at the bottom is the whey and the top part holds the curds & your Kefir Grains. This is a normal occurrence and is an indication that your kefir have over fermented. Try to strain you kefir before full separation takes place because the more it’s separated the more sour it will be.

HOW DO I KNOW MY KEFIR GRAINS IS HEALTHY?

If your Kefir Grains are converting milk into kefir, doesn’t smell rotten and grow in size and number then you know that your Kefir Grains are most probably healthy. A yeasty smell, stringy appearance is a normal variation and is a result of a stressed grain usually this happens with the change of season, change of milk. They may also stop growing for short periods of time but they usually they adjust quite well and rebalance themselves without help. If they start smelling rotten or not converting milk into kefir then you may want to give them a milk wash, place them in fresh milk and put them in the fridge so that they can recover. Leave them there for 3 days up to a week and continue brewing your Milk Kefir as you usually would.

HOW DO I HELP THE GRAINS TO BALANCE ?

Put them in fresh milk and pop them in the fridge for 3 days up to a week and continue fermenting kefir as per normal. Your first batch might not be that wonderful but will get better.  It will take 2-3 days for your grains to balance after recovering in the fridge.

WILL SWITCHING MILK HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON MY GRAINS?

Kefir Grains usually have little or no trouble adjusting to different types of milk from same mammal. For example Cow’s milk: Full Cream, low fat and 2% or brand to brand (all being Cows milk) You may see that the consistency may be thicker or thinner than usual but the grains will not need help to adjust, it will normalize by itself. If you switch from Cows milk to Goats’ then there might be a longer adjustment period – a week or so. NB: Goats’ milk and yogurt is thinner in consistency than Cows Milk the same is applicable to kefir. You can also expect to see your Grains change in form when switching from one milk to the next.

IS FLOATING GRAINS NORMAL?

It’s normal and happens because the density of the kefir grains are lower than that of the milk and cause the grains to float OR it could be because of the carbon dioxide, formed by the yeast as byproduct of the fermentation process, being trapped within the grains making them float until they let go of the carbon dioxide bubble and drop to the bottom again. Freezer burnt grains or grains exposed to high heat may cause them to float. These grains are harder and darker in color. These grains can be thrown out once you have enough new grains.

CAN I MAKE KEFIR GRAINS FROM MILK ALONE?

No, you would need a Kefir Culture. Kefir Grains grow and become more but cannot be created from milk alone.

WHAT ELSE CAN I FERMENT WITH MY GRAINS?

All forms of mammalian milk, Nut Milks, Rice Milk. They can also be gradually converted to ferment juice and sugar water. In a pinch re-hydrated dry milk or Ultra Pasteurized milk can be used but it’s not a good idea to use these type of milks on a continuous basis from a grain health perspective.

DOES KEFIR CONTAIN ALCOHOL

Any fermented food contains a small percentage of alcohol and it’s beneficial as it assists with the transportation of nutrients and minerals into the cells of the body.  Kefir’s is in the range of 0.08% and can reach the 2% mark when stored and second fermented (and tightly sealed)  with fruit for a few days.

HOW MUCH KEFIR CAN I DRINK?

It’s better to start everything in small amounts to see how the body reacts. You can start with a 1/4 cup in the morning first thing and gradually making it more. Try drinking it with breakfast or mealtimes and increase the quantity after a week to 1/2 cup for and the next week you can make it more until you reach the amount desired. You can drink from 1 up to 4 cups of Milk Kefir per day, your body will tell you how much it is

HOW LONG CAN I STORE MY KEFIR?

The bacteria and yeast are responsible for preserving the milk kefir and kefir can be consumed within a week or two and still be good. The alcohol content will increase when stored in a sealed jar and become more sour and fizzy over time. Newly strained Kefir can be added to ready made kefir in the fridge.

WHAT IF I AM HAVING A REACTION TO DRINKING KEFIR?

Always start out with small amounts because Kefir has billions of beneficial yeast and bacteria and they help destroy the bad bacteria, with the die off of the bad guys releases toxins and that may cause some kind of reaction. Drink lots of water for the toxins to get flushed out of the body so that it’s not reabsorbed into the body. If you are experiencing a reaction, flu like symptoms or Herxheimer reaction, then you can try it out within 3-4 days time, start with a 1/4 cup or even 1/8 of a cup if a 1/4 is too much.  At the end of the day I believe that you are the only person that will know if something is good or bad for you, take responsibility for your own health and stop depending on other’s to tell you what’s best for you.. it can make you sick.

WHAT’S THE DIFFRENCE BETWEEN KEFIR AND POWDERED KEFIR?

Normally powdered kefir is dried or freeze-dried and ground kefir grains and don’t grow and become more. Milk Kefir Grains are symbiotic colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeast they grow and become more, when well looked after they can even outlive the owner.

THE COMPOSITION OF MILK KEFIR GRAINS:

Probiotics are also know as good / helpful micro organisms from Pro Biota /Bios : For life

The Typical composition of Milk Kefir Grains may (not always) include the following:

Strains of Bacteria:

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus brevis

Lactobacillus casei

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. delbrueckii

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis

Lactobacillus helveticus

Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens

Lactobacillus kefiri

Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei

Lactobacillus plantarum

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Lactobacillus sake

Lactococcus
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris

Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Leuconostoc
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. dextranicum

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides

Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas fluorescens

Pseudomonas putida
Streptococcus
Streptococcus thermophiles

 

Strains of Yeast:

Saccharomyces
Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Saccharomyces martiniae

Saccharomyces unisporus
Kazachstania
Kazachstania unispora

Kazachstania exigua

Good Candida
Candida humilis
Kluyveromyces
Kluyveromyces siamensis

Kluyveromyces lactis

Kluyveromyces marxianus

Vitamins:

Like many other dairy products, kefir is a great

source of minerals like calcium and magnesium,

as well as phosphorus, which helps the body utilize

carbohydrates, fats and proteins for cell growth,

maintenance and energy.

Vitamin B 12

Vitamin B 1

Vitamin K 2

Thiamin

Calcium

Folates

Biotin – helps with body’s assimilation of other B

vitamins such as folic acid and B12

Benefits of maintaining adequate B Vitamin intake

range from regulation of the kidneys, liver and

nervous system also help to relieve skin disorders

and boost energy.