Milk kefir made easy.

Milk kefir grainsMilk Kefir is the easiest culture to work with!

So it’s easy to make kefir…and it can be used for so many things. Use kefir as a milk, yoghurt or buttermilk alternative when baking, you can use it in smoothies and it’s delicious to drink as is.

Kefir isn’t really a new thing to many “Tannies” in South-Africa

Here in South Africa this culture use to go by the name of “karringmelk plantjie” / buttermilk plant, called a plant because this culture when well looked after grows and form new “plants” (we call it grains, don’t know why because it’s not a grain and it looks like cauliflower florets)  sometimes they can become quite large!

So one baker passed it on to the next, mother passed it on to daughter and so one generation inherited these gummy gems from another. Little did they know of the health benefits these “buttermilk plants” had to offer and that these “plants” are actually microorganisms working to ferment milk creating such a healthy beverage that it’s also recognized as a Powerhouse Super Food in many circles.

As we “evolved” most of us lost interest in the kitchen and the beauty of traditional home made and fermented foods. In this process many of the traditional ways of food preparation and our inherited gems like the “buttermilk plant” became a vague memory and even forgotten by many.

The “buttermilk plant” is formally known as the kefir culture. Kefir is a unique name that comes form the Turkish word “keif”, which means “good feeling”.

As resilient as the kefir grain is, it made a return in a big way with scientific research and all  pointing out that these little guys are a must have for helping with a number of health ailments from balancing the microflora in the gut to boosting the immune system and supporting detoxification this all leading to general health and wellbeing..

But let’s start making kefir.

You will need:

  • Kefir Grains / kefir culture available here 
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic strainer / sift / colander (Stainless steel, yes.   Aluminim – NO!)
  • Clean glass jar
  • Paper towel/ material & elastic band to cover jar & to keep insects out.
  • Milk (Cow’s / Goat’s milk preferably raw but if not available you can use bottled milk but stay away from box milk.)

This is how we do it:

STEP 1: Separate kefir grains from kefir – remove grains with a wooden spoon or use sift / strainer.

STEP 2:  Place kefir grains in a clean jar

STEP 3:  fill the jar with 250ml – 500ml milk – make sure you have at least 3 cm head space, sometimes kefir bubble up especially in summer.

STEP 4:  Give your grains and milk a nice stir

STEP 5: Close your jar up with a paper towel and elastic band and leave for 12 – 48 hours. Clear fluid pockets will start to form and this is when you’ll know it’s time to feed your kefir grains with a new batch of fresh milk.

To make your new batch of Milk Kefir Start with separating kefir from grains as in STEP 1. above.

The kefir that has run through the strainer into the bowel below can be refrigerated or fermented for a second time to minimize the lactose content to the fullest extent. Be advised the longer fermentation time the more sour the kefir.

Second ferment – place kefir in Mason / consol jar with or without lid on counter for an additional 12 hours and refrigerate / consume / use as buttermilk substitute in recipes.

Flavour your second ferment under a watchful eye as it may bubble over

Vanilla pods or other spices like cardamom pods, star anise, turmeric and ginger can be added for the second fermention, experiment a bit and see what you like best.



Not all Milk kefir cultures are exactly the same some form big kefir grains and others itty bitty ones, some produce Extremely sour kefir where other kefir grains makes a milder more tolerable kefir. Seeing that Milk kefir Grains are natural living organisms their size and appearance may change with the season, temperature & food source that is available to them. Provided that you’ve got your ratios right the flavor profile of the milk kefir these grains make will be a delicious balance between tart and creamy.

6 Responses

  1. Hebergement web

    So I think I messed up and killed my kefir grains. I left them in the fridge without feeding them for probably 6-9 months. One jar has some pink color to it. Is there any way that I can make them healthy again or are they done for good?

    • Nadia Swart

      Hi there!

      Not feeding the milk kefir grains for 6-9 Months can be very harsh on the grains but in some cases these hardy cultures can be revived and they can make beautiful ferments even after the strain. You mention that there is some pink color visible and to be safe any discoloration is a sign of mold (Pink, yellow, green and black). Except if you get flowers of kefir but that’s a white film that forms on top… If there wasn’t any discoloration then I would have taken a chance to rinse and reuse them. Rather be safe and start fresh.

      in kindness

  2. Chantal Schoeman

    Hi. I didn’t realise you should not feed your keffir pasteurised or long life milk. Will the keffir now be unstable and or unsafe to use? Also…now have no good benefits?

    • Nadia Swart

      Hi there Chantal!
      Pasteurized milk is fine but it’s the Ultra Pasteurised milk that’s not so good. The thing with Ultra Pasteurised milk is that it may not contain enough milk sugars to feed the grains and to keep them healthy. There are people who have used Ultra-pasteurized milk when in a pinch and still have live active milk kefir making lovely kefir to this day. The only way to know if your kefir grains are still fine is to see what the culture (kefir grains) looks and smells like. Does it look different, have it changed in any way? If it’s white to an off-white color it’s still in its normal range. What’s the kefir like after the fermentation cycle? Thick or thin? what does your final ferment smell like? how long does an average ferment take?

      About the kefir grains being unstable to use or it having no benefits:
      Kefir grains are quite resilient. One thing to bear in mind is that some people dehydrate the culture to make dehydrated kefir grains which makes it easier to sell. I am not really a fan of dehydrated cultures because dehydration means no liquid and no milk which means no food for the microorganisms to thrive on – (even if you put the already dehydrated culture in powdered milk) AND YET these brilliant little miracle microorganisms called kefir grains find a way to stabilize themselves and make kefir after the rehydration process most of the time. I wouldn’t worry too much if your kefir grains still look and smell fresh with a white to slightly off-white color as long as you don’t see other colors like pink, blue or green I’d believe you are fine.

      Let me know about your culture and how it’s going now?
      Kind regards,

  3. Harry

    Hi Nadia

    I am new in this field of cultivating milk Kefir. I have just kicked off with my first preparation (starter) and wanted to find out whether I should strain the Kefir every day or way for the milk to thicken . I am afraid that it may not go through the strainer once it gets to be that thick. In

    • Nadia Swart

      Hello Harry, I usually let my kefir ferment up until I see the start of whey pockets forming. This makes thick kefir and it always goes through the strainer. If your kefir turns out extremely thick like thick yogurt you can just help your kefir through the strainer/colander with a spoon by stirring it continuously until all you’ve successfully separated the kefir from the kefir grains.

      However, you can remove the kefir culture or kefir grains from the kefir before your kefir completely thickens. This you can do by removing the culture with a spoon after about 12 hours of fermentation let the remaining kefir (grains removed) ferment further up until your kefir reaches the thickness you desire. This can be done because the milk is already inoculated with the good bacteria kefir brings to the ferment and these probiotics (or good bacteria) continue to eat the lactic acid aka milk sugars and further ferment the milk making it even more healthy.

      let me know how it’s going.
      Kind regards,

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