How to Make Your Own Kefir

January 15th, 2013 | Posted by Alison Spath in Healthy Habits

Fermenting stuff is one of my new favorite things to do.  I’ve recently started fermenting milk to make kefir because it’s cheap, easy and good for you.   You had me at “cheap and easy”.

(I’ve been fermenting tea too – brewing my own Kombucha WORD UP!  More on that in a future post.)

The First Thing To Know About Kefir

Short answer: it’s a yogurt-like drink that’s full of probiotics and good bacteria.  More info here.

The Second Thing To Know About Kefir

It’s pronounced “ka-feer”, not “key-fur” like I’d been saying, surely sounding like a dope.

The Third Thing To Know About Kefir

I already told you, but it bears repeating – Kefir is really easy to make yourself.

If you already buy kefir, making it at home can save you some real money at the grocery store.  A 32 oz bottle of kefir can cost $4 to $5.  Given you can spend that much on a gallon (128 oz!) of organic milk, you can definitely make kefir at home for a lot less.  And the fact that’s it’s so easy makes this whole kefir operation extremely doable.

I would say the hardest part about making kefir is getting your hands on some kefir grains.  They aren’t “grains” so much as they are  “little knobby white blobs of good bacteria and yeast”, but nobody asked me what I thought they should be called.

I got my kefir grains from someone local who was offering them up, but if you don’t have anyone nearby doing random acts of kefir kindness, you should be able to find kefir grains in health food stores, or online through Amazon Grocery.  Once you’ve got your kefir grains (not the same thing as “kefir starter”) they just keep reproducing like bunnies.  The more kefir you make, the more kefir grains you’ll soon have.  You know, maybe we could sell our own!  Dude.  Forget saving money, kefir can MAKE you money!  I’ll let you know how to do it once I’m rich and retired from my ingenious pyramid kefir grain selling scheme.

Until then, here’s how to make kefir at home.

Once you’ve got your mitts on some kefir grains,

Kefir Grains Start

place them in a large jar,

Two Jars

and then add milk.

Do you see what I mean by “easy”?  And do you see what I mean by “little knobby white blobs of good bacteria and yeast”?

Don’t fill your jar more than 2/3 to 3/4  full, you want to give your kefir room to breath and stretch its legs.

I used about 2 Tbsp of kefir culture and a half quart of milk.  Top with a breathable cover (liked a coffee filter bonnet)

Coffee Filter Bonnet

and because my house tends to be a bit chilly in the winter months, I’ve been wrapping mine in a dish towel robe to keep it cozy.

Dish Cloth Robe

I’m sorry I don’t have a little down comforter for you, Kefir.

And finally, I put my kefir in the corner, a la Dirty Dancing.

Nobody Puts Kefir in the Corner

Nobody puts Kefir in the Corner.

Well *I* put kefir in the corner to keep it warm. (70F/20C degrees is ideal, or so I’ve read.)  The thermostat at our house is set to 66 – 68 during the day, I’ve found it’s slightly warmer than 70 by our forced air vents.

The other reason I put kefir in the corner is keep it out of the way and to hopefully prevent any man, child or baby from knocking it over and spilling raw milk down into my heating ducts.  Because that sounds awesome.  I have a fellow kefir making friend who leaves hers unswaddled on the kitchen counter, so feel free to just try that.  Me?  I like to live dangerously.

Now go about your business for 24 to 48 hours.  Feel free to gently rock and swirl it when you think of it.  Your kefir probably wouldn’t mind a lullaby either, or even a rousing rendition of  “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.

When you look at it a day or two later and it’s thickened up, you might find yourself thinking “Really?  I’m supposed to drink that?”

Curdled, Weird and Ready

Yes.  Yes you are supposed to drink that.

Yup, you’re going to leave milk out at room temp for 1 to 2 days and then drink it!  Doesn’t that sound awesome?

I was a little skeptical at first myself, believe me.  But it’s all good – I promise.

Pour your curdled, separated milk and kefir grains through a strainer and into a bowl.

Pour Into Strainer

Sift and swirl your milky mess until all the kefir is in the bowl and all that’s left behind are your kefir grains.

Sift and Swirl with Colander Into a Bowl

Transfer kefir from bowl into an airtight container  (I’m obviously a fan of re-purposed almond butter jars) and store in the refrigerator.  It should keep for quite a while  – some sources say months!  Mine is usually gone within a few days, but I’ll let you know how it works out if I drink a jar that’s been in my fridge from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Transfer to Jar

And there you have it!  Kefir!

(A behind the scenes peek at what’s been going on at my feet during the swirling process.)

The Mischief Maker

And the next time you’re hungry, why not drop some kefir and fruit into the depths of your smoothie making abyss!

Depths of the Vitamix

A breakfast favorite – 1 cup of kefir (give or take), mixed frozen berries plus 1/2 a banana to help sweeten the deal just a little.

Kefir Smoothie Kefir Smoothie with Grain Free Granola

Topped with a little crunchy grain-free granola because – well, just because.

I’ll give fair warning that plain kefir is sour, like yogurt – the longer it ferments, the tangier it gets.  If you’ve never had kefir before, I’d recommend starting with a bottle or two the store bought stuff so you know what to expect.  Adding some sweetener like honey or maple syrup can help too.  Lots of room for experimenting here to perfect it to your own taste.

As you make more and more kefir, your kefir grains will multiply.  (Like bunnies people, I told you!  $$$!) You can save your kefir grains, compost them or pass them on to a friend.  Kefir love makes the world go ’round.

I drink kefir for the alleged benefits to our immune systemsdigestive systems and maybe even financial systems.

If you choose to save them or want to take a break from making kefir, you can move your grains into a small container with enough milk to keep them covered and store them in the fridge.  The fermentation process will slow down in the refrigerator, but your kefir still needs sugar from the milk to stay alive.  Strain your stored grains and add new milk once a week to keep your sweet little kefir grains from starving!

Cover leftover kefir grains Leftover Kefir Grains

If you’re ready to make more kefir right now?  Simply move your strained grains into a new clean jar, scroll to the top of this page to start again.  (This is the post that never ends!)

(printable instructions here.)

If you’re feeling super pumped about making your own kefir and are hungry to read more, Dom’s Kefir site has lots of great info and is the place that all the kefir geeks reference.  I heart kefir geeks.

Kefir!  The gift that keeps on giving.  Gifts to your grocery budget, gifts to your intestines, gifts to your friends, gifts to your retirement investments.  Making kefir will be the time of your life.  Word up.

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19 Responses

  • Pat says:

    Like bunnies!!! I laughed out loud! I need to get my hands on some of this stuff. Just bought a bottle of kefir, pretty good but like you said, expensive.

  • Lisa says:

    Ah, I love kefir. I’ll admit I’ve gotten lazy about making it… based on my current budget, I need to stop being in denial about the cost savings and scrounge up some kefir grains in LA!
    Thanks for the motivation :-)

  • Donna says:

    Thank you!!! Do the kefir grains degrade after a while? (what’s in the last photo behind the kefir in a jar?)

    • Kefir grains can die, but they keep reproducing when you put them in cow’s milk, so you’ll divide them and separate them as your batch grows… and as long as you keep making kefir once a week (or at least change the milk in that cover them) you should be all set!

  • Cheryl Athas says:

    Thank you for sharing your step by step recipe to make kefir. LOVE your sense of humor. That makes the recipe even better! :)

  • George says:

    I used to eat/drink it in Sweden with some sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Delicious!
    I buy the plain ones and it gets pretty expensive since I can gulp down a bottle a day so I definitely need to get some strains.

  • Jackie Ravenscroft says:

    Kefer will be my last ditch stand to replace bowel flora after antibiotics destroyed same.. I can’t wait to try it when I am able to source a supply. Yippee I hope x x

  • George says:

    I bought some grains on and have used them for about 2 weeks. The Kefir got better and better and the last batch a couple of days ago was thick and creamy. Perfect! Yesterday and today it seems like they totally stopped working and I don’t have a clue to why that happened. I poured out everything, kept the grains and put them in a little bit of warmed whole milk. I hope that’ll make them come alive again. Keeping my fingers crossed and if that doesn’t work I guess I have to get some new ones. I wish I knew what happened.

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