Do you want to learn how to make the best kefir ever?
You’re in the right place!
Hey, Friend! At the risk of sounding dramatic, I am proclaiming that kefir is a magic elixir. Since we have been drinking it daily, we have had less cold and flu and greater health and wellness than our pre-kefir-drinking days. My husband swears by it and drinks a pint of it a day. When he misses he can feel the difference.
Not only is it good for you, it TASTES good! I crave it’s tart effervescent creaminess. It satisfies a sweet tooth and substitutes for a meal in a pinch as 1 cup of kefir has at least 11 grams of complete protein.
Are you interested in making kefir at home? Keep reading and I’ll I teach you why kefir is so good for you, what you’ll need to make it, and step-by-step instructions. I’ll also give you a bunch more information to help you master the art of making kefir, such as: how to change up quantities, variations, a bit of caution, troubleshooting, how to care for your kefir, and my favorite kefir resources. Let’s get started!
Why is Kefir so great for you? Let me count the ways!
Here’s what the experts have to say to back up my claims:
“Kefir is a cultured and microbial-rich food that helps restore the inner ecology. It contains strains of beneficial yeast and beneficial bacteria…that give kefir antibiotic properties. A natural antibiotic — and it’s made from milk!” Donna Gates, The Body Ecology
“[Kefir] provides beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to the digestive tract. These friendly creatures and their by-products keep pathogens at bay, guard against infectious illness and aid in the fullest possible digestion of all food we consume.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, 81
“Homemade kefir has between 30 and 56 strains of good bacteria, while yogurt has only 7 to 10…The bacteria in kefir stay and take up residence, creating a colony that remains in the digestive system.” Donna Schwenk, Cultured Food for Life, 11
“Kefir has properties that assist in controlling blood sugar, because it’s loaded with lactic acid and and enzymes that regulate sugar metabolism.” Schwenk, 12, also here.
“Another benefit of kefir is that the types of bacteria it contains help alleviate inflammation throughout the gut. Controlling inflammation is critical because many diseases are caused or affected by it. If your body’s ability to regulate inflammation is not working properly, you’re headed toward illness and premature aging.” Schwenk, 13, also here.
“Kefir enhances digestion because its milk sugars have been predigested through the fermentation process, making it extremely low in sugar: kefir is only 1 percent sugar, while yogurt is 4 percent. This predigestion also helps regulate the immune system’s response, leading to less stress throughout the body.” Schwenk 13
“Second fermentation not only makes kefir taste better, it also increases its nutrients…The process increases certain B vitamins, like folic acid, and makes the calcium and magnesium more bioavailable (meaning your body can take in more of the nutrients and use them immediately).” Schwenk 16
Are you ready to give this superfood a try? I’m excited to teach you how. Just one quick note before we get started. Let’s talk about first and second fermenting.
Best-Kefir-Ever happens in 2 phases: First Ferment and Second Ferment. The first ferment is what turns the milk to kefir bringing all the amazing benefits listed above. The second ferment compounds those good effects even more as well as adding a fizziness that contributes to being the best kefir in the world. The second ferment is optional in that you can drink kefir that has been only first fermented, but if you want the best kefir in the world 🙂 you’ll want to do a second ferment. I ALWAYS second ferment and love the results.
What you’ll need to make the best kefir ever:
- Kefir grains. Not a grain at all but a colony of living probiotic cultures. (See resources below)
- Glass jars with secure lids. I use canning jars with plastic lids.
- Milk. I use organic whole milk. For maximum nutrition use raw milk. I’ve read you can use coconut milk and almond milk to make the kefir but you will still have to store it in cow or goat milk to nourish the grains. See Schwenk (in resources) p.18 for how to make almond or coconut kefir.
- A big bowl. I use one that has a slip proof rubber bottom and a pouring spout.
- A rubber spatula
- A big slotted spoon.
- A strainer. Fine mesh stainless steel strainer that fits across your bowl.
The secret ingredient to “Best Kefir Ever”
- Peel from an organic lemon or orange
- Pure maple syrup
- Pure lemon essential oil
- Pure vanilla extract
- Powdered stevia
- Juice of one lemon, lime, or orange
STEP 1: Put grains in a clean jar and fill with milk. Generally 2 tablespoons kefir grain to 1 quart milk. Leave a half inch at top because it will expand and make a mess if you don’t leave enough room – yes I know from experience.
STEP 2: Cover with a lid – not airtight.
STEP 3: Leave on your counter or in a cupboard at room temperature for 24 hours out of direct sunlight. If it is warmer it will culture faster, if it is cooler it may take longer. After 24 hours the milk should have turned to kefir – thick and creamy. Like a custard or pudding. You know it’s ready when it separates from the side of the jar like a solid mass when you tip the jar, or when you see some separating of the curds and pockets of whey. If you see big clumps and liquid it’s REALLY ready and may need to be blended to a creamier consistency once you’ve strained out the grains.
STEP 4: Remove the kefir grains using the strainer over a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to stir the kefir in the strainer to help all the liquid through until you are left with just the grains.
At this point you now have a strainer full of kefir grains and fresh kefir in your bowl. If you want to make more kefir, put your grains back into a clean jar. Fill with more milk and start the process over to make more kefir.
If you don’t want to make any more kefir right then, place the grains in a jar with some milk to feed them then store in the fridge until you’re ready to make more kefir.
You can now use the kefir in the bowl as is but I always second ferment my kefir. Not only does it make it a bit fizzy, but it makes it less sour and INCREASES the nutrients and probiotics. It’s this step that really makes this the best kefir ever.
Step 5: Add organic lemon and/or orange peel (careful to get as little of the white pith as possible as it is bitter) to the bowl of kefir you just strained. Stir to incorporate the peels throughout the kefir.
Step 6: Cover and set on the counter for 6-24 hours. This is where the magic happens. To clarify the huge time gap – I like to leave mine for 6-12 hours. Other sources recommend up to 24 hours. I imagine the longer you second ferment the more nutrients you get. But going too long can make it separate in an unappetizing way. So, you see what time works best for you here between 6 and 24 hours.
Step 7: At end of 6-24 hours stir the kefir and scoop out the peels with a slotted spoon. You can drink it as is for a tart, fizzy, citrus kefir. I like to fix it up a bit which I think makes it the best kefir ever. To the kefir in the bowl, I add the following to my taste (see my measurements below) and mix up with a whisk:
- pure maple syrup
- drops of pure lemon essential oil
- powdered stevia
*When ready to drink, my new favorite addition is juice of one lemon, lime, or orange fresh-squeezed right into the glass just before I drink it. Yum!
Step 8: When it’s just how I like it, I pour the kefir into pint jars with plastic lids (leave a half inch again at top for expansion) and store in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go snack, breakfast, or treat. It’s like drinking milk Sprite. Or fizzy milk lemonade. Or liquid lemon cookies. All of those apply 🙂
There you have it. That’s how you make the “Best Kefir Ever”. Pretty easy, right? It becomes second nature the more you do it.
Read on for more information to help you master the art of making kefir.
Quantities and Measurements
Depending on how much you and your family will use, make your kefir either in a quart size jar, or a gallon jar. For a while there, my family drank so much kefir that I made over 4 quarts of kefir a day. I got tired of washing out a million kefir-crusted quart jars! So we streamlined the process and now make ours in one gallon-size jar that I use again and again and store individual servings of ready-to-go “Best Kefir Ever” in pint jars in our fridge. Using the gallon jar has saved me time, energy, and hassle when making as much kefir as I do.
To start out, use a quart jar until you need to produce more kefir to meet your needs. Use 2 heaping tablespoons of kefir grains to 1 quart of milk. This will give you about 2 pints of kefir.
If you’re making for a kefir-loving crew, use a gallon jar. Add 8 heaping tablespoons of kefir grains and pour the gallon of milk in the jar. You will end up with a bit of milk left over. This makes about 7 pints of finished kefir. When I flavor a gallon of the 2nd fermented kefir these are the measurements I use:
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 15 drops pure lemon essential oil
- ½ – 1 teaspoon of powder stevia to taste
*As a general rule, Donna Schwenk of Cultured Food for Life recommends adding 1 tablespoon kefir grains to 1 cup milk. I use l tablespoon grains to 1 pint and it turns out great. Try what works best for you.
Instead of citrus you can add any fruit or spice to second ferment. To give you an idea of how much fruit to add, I add the peel of one orange plus one lemon to a gallon size jar of kefir to second ferment. For a quart the peels from about half of a lemon or orange.
Here are some of my family’s favorite variations:
- Raspberry – add whole raspberries to the second ferment. These break down and can just be stirred in after the second ferment for a fruit-filled kefir drink.
- Raspberry with lemon – whole raspberries and lemon peel.
- Apple Cinnamon – whole cinnamon sticks added with slices of apple.
- Strawberry – whole or sliced strawberries. These tend to get slimy so I remove them after the second ferment, or blend into a smoothie.
You can also put the fruit and kefir directly into pint jars to second ferment and then store them in the fridge with the fruit from second fermenting right in the pint jar with the kefir. It sure looks pretty! (See the header for this blog post). But I eventually decided against this in the end because:
- I wanted my kefir to be grab-and-go ready from the fridge.
- I found leaving the fruit in the kefir made it unappetizing after a while. The fruit became soggy and fell apart, and the kefir tasted a bit bitter after all that time with lemon peels and fruit seeds.
A final variation in this process
If my kefir in my jar has finished the first fermentation and for some reason my family won’t be able to use that much right away, or if I still have some pints left in the fridge, or if I’m in a time crunch and can’t get to straining right then, or, let’s face it, I just don’t want to do it that day, I have been known to park the jar full of first-fermented kefir with the grains in it in the fridge for a day or two until I can get to it. When I can get to it a few days later I strain out the grains and start the second ferment. The kefir is resilient and works like a champ still every time. So, this process is flexible to work with your life.
Remember if you’re having trouble with getting your kefir thick and creamy like you’d like, don’t worry, I’ve got a trouble shooting guide you can grab to help you through the learning curve. Making kefir isn’t hard, but it is an art that can take practice. You’ll be rewarded again and again once you get it down. My trouble shooting guide will help you, just grab it for free below.
Caution: start slow
Because the probiotics in kefir are so powerful, start out slow when you begin consuming kefir. Give your body a chance to get used to kefir’s healing goodness. If you go too fast you could experience what is called a herxheimer reaction. It happens when bacteria or yeast in our body die off too fast for your body to comfortably deal with the toxins that are released during the die off. It feels like the flu with headaches, body aches, stomach aches. If you feel off just slow down while your body catches up with all the bad guys kefir is destroying in your body. Yes, kefir is that powerful!
I suggest you start with ¼ cup a day of kefir and increase according to how you feel. As your body gets used to it, there is no limit to how much kefir you can or should drink. I drink 1-2 pints a day. Sometimes more!
How to care for your kefir grains
I consider my kefir grains a beloved pet. I make sure it is fed and kept at the right temperature. I sometimes talk to it because I love it so much. Not really, but almost!
Keeping your kefir grains happy and alive is pretty simple. Your kefir grains will live a long time and serve you well if you remember these few things:
- When your grains are not culturing your milk into kefir for you, they should be stored in the fridge in quart of milk to keep them nourished. I have left mine for a month like that in the same milk and they made beautiful kefir afterwards no problem. If I leave it longer it has taken a couple batches to get it going fully again. I have only done that a time or two and I knew I was pushing my luck. I wouldn’t leave it much longer than that without giving fresh milk. The milk the kefir has been sitting in is not really kefir as it’s been at too low a temperature to ferment properly. You can just discard this milk when starting a new batch. I’ve read that you can rinse kefir grains and store in water in the fridge, or that you can even freeze them. But I’ve not done either of those things.
- Never heat your grains – don’t even put them into a hot jar just out of the dishwasher. Heat will kill them.
- Rinse them in filtered water, not tap water, and make sure the water is cool. But I’ll be honest, mine have had a tap-water bath several times and they are still happy.
- Just like rabbits and cats, your kefir pet will multiply. But this is part of what makes kefir so awesome. It’s a perpetual growth cycle with kefir growing each time it cultures milk. It is abundant! Soon the 2 tablespoons you started out with in your jar will be 4 tablespoons. You’ll need to divide it and keep the original ratio when you make kefir. But share the extra! Tell a friend and give them your surplus. If you can’t find any takers, you can blend it in a smoothie for super nutrition, compost it, or, painfully, toss it out. But it seems a shame not to share the bounty!
Friend, if you’d like a kefir pet and all the benefits it brings, check out the resources below to get your hands on some grains and give it a try. I encourage you to learn all you can about this wonderful food. It’s by far one of the best additions to our whole-foods lifestyle that we’ve made. We love our kefir. Let me know if it brings you as much abundant health and wellness as it has our family.
And don’t forget to grab your troubleshooting guide. You’ve got this!
Yes! Please send me the FREE Kefir Troubleshooting Guide!
I’ve created this FREE Kefir Troubleshooting Guide to help you be SUCCESSFUL in your efforts in making kefir. It is my gift to you when you subscribe to receive inspirational notes from me in your inbox (don’t worry! I’ll only send great stuff and never send spam!). When you sign up you’ll have access to my private Gifts for You Collection here at my website where I keep the guide and a whole lot of other awesome resources to help you live life more abundantly.
Here are some of my favorite kefir resources:
Cultured Food for Life, by Donna Schwenk.
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. This is where I first read about kefir and the benefits of cultured foods.
Video of Donna Schwenk from Cultured Food for Life, teaching all about kefir and how to make it. This is how I learned how to make kefir!
Here is Donna Schwenk’s website. She is the cultured food guru! She has been culturing food for over 16 years and is truly a trusted expert.
Where can you get some kefir grains?
***I’ve not tried these two sources but they look good.***
Live fresh kefir grains purchased through Amazon.
Live fresh kefir grains free through group share.
Or if you live locally by me, I’m HAPPY to share with you! I announce on my Hey Friend You’ve Got This Facebook page when I have extra to share.