I have read about milk kefir extensively and consider it something that we should all have in our daily lives, barring an allergy/intolerance of course. Milk kefir when fermented properly is very low in lactose, my son who is still lactose intolerance can drink it without issue. It may also be OK for some who are intolerant to dairy proteins, as the proteins are pre-digested by the kefir grains and easy for our bodies to absorb properly.
Milk kefir has a very interesting story and no one is really sure where it came from. A story has been passed down for generations that it was given to the people who inhabited the Caucasus Mountains by Mohammed, who also taught them how to use the culture.
Since beginning to drink kefir, I have experienced sounder sleep, increased energy, better elimination and an overall feeling of well-being.
Highlights Of Milk Kefir
It is a potent probiotic capable of strengthening the immune system
It contains many strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that are especially helpful in rebalancing the gut and creating vitamins like biotin, folate and B6, as well as K2. Probiotics help us naturally cleanse our systems and absorb nutrients better. It can greatly help with digestive disorders including IBS and Chron’s. Probiotics are also known for helping with depression, ADHD and autism.
It has anti-cancerous properties
It is high in essential vitamins and minerals necessary for the body to repair itself, reduces tumors1 and has the antioxidant CLA which is a very beneficial also higher in grass-fed milk2. CLA has been noted for its effects on breast tissue, and therefore kefir should be a regular part of anyone’s diet who is at increased risk for breast cancer.
It has the correct form of folate
Folate deficiencies have been getting quite a bit of attention lately, and with good cause. The folic acid in fortified grains are not healthy, and those with MTHFR mutations may experience severe health issues from including these unhealthy products in their diet. It actually tricks the body into thinking it has real folate and can complicate the body systems that need it, including the detoxification system. This is one of the factors that leads to lip ties, tongue ties and even autism. The folate in milk kefir can further be increased by doing a 2nd ferment.
It is a great source of healthy, saturated fat and protein
It is full of essential amino acids that are very easy for our bodies to absorb. The saturated fats and cholesterol in healthy animal foods such as dairy are important for fertility and proper brain development. For this reason, it is best to make kefir with full-fat milk… I even add extra cream! Animal fats are the best sources of vitamins A, D, E and K2, which are essential for healthy babies and optimal health.
The minerals it contains are bioavailable
It is primarily high in calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for many important functions in the body. Vegans will argue that the best source of calcium is spinach and nuts, but this simply is not true. Much of the minerals in plant foods are bound to anti-nutrients such as oxalates, which can actually cause kidney stones and a whole host of other issues, including tooth decay. Especially when not getting enough K2–which is difficult without animal fats!
It is very EASY to make!
All you need are milk kefir grains, a glass jar and milk. It doesn’t even have to be raw milk, but preferably it will be FULL FAT, NON-UHT milk.
How To Make Milk Kefir At Home
- Liter Pickl-It Jar
- 4 8oz drinking jars (swing-tops, mason jars) or 2 16oz (pint jars)
- Nylon or stainless steel strainer
- Wooden spoon
- Pitcher or large bowl
- 1 tbsp milk kefir grains (active)
- 1 quart fresh, raw milk
- In a clean glass jar, put 1 tbsp of milk kefir grains.
- Cover grains with raw milk to the shoulder, leaving a little room for expansion.
- Let sit for 24 hours until you can see bubbles near the glass, or whey pockets beginning to form.
- Strain into pitcher using nylon strainer and wooden spoon.
- Put grains back into the jar you made the kefir in. It is not necessary to wash after each batch. I do tend to wipe the top of the container down to the shoulder so it doesn't look messy.
- Pour finished kefir from pitcher into 4 8oz jars or 2 16oz jars.
- Move finished kefir to fridge.
- Pour a new quart of milk into the jar you made the kefir in. Repeat the process!
Frequently Asked Questions & Troubleshooting Help
The following information will help you troubleshoot issues with your milk kefir, or help you with common concerns. If you have questions that have not been answered below or in the post, you can leave a message and I’ll answer ASAP.
Properly fermented milk kefir is about 99% lactose-free. The symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that form the kefir grains radically reduce lactose in the milk and also break down milk proteins.
You can, although I don’t personally recommend it unless you don’t have any other options.
This is because most store-bought brands don’t use actual kefir grains but instead a powdered formulation of select bacteria and yeast. Additionally, you don’t know how long it has been sitting. Freshly made kefir is best to use, and can only be used for maybe 2-3 subsequent batches.
Here’s how to make kefir from store-bought kefir: in a clean jar, put 1-2 tbsp of the store-bought kefir per cup of milk. Stir, close the jar, and let it sit at room temperature for approximately 24 hours. Check if it has thickened into kefir, then refrigerate.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way how to make kefir grains from store bought kefir. The best way to get kefir grains is to buy them from someone who is actively using them, or find someone kind enough to share from a sharing group!
From my experience, the best place to buy kefir grains is on Etsy. When you buy kefir grains online, make sure you buy active kefir grains. Live, active kefir grains are already in use and being maintained by the person you are purchasing them from. They are more likely to produce great kefir from the beginning than dehydrated grains are.
Click here to buy milk kefir grains from a seller I’ve personally received great kefir grains from!
It is super simple to learn how to freeze kefir grains! Just follow these easy directions:
1. Get a clean, freezer-safe glass jar. I generally use a 8oz mason jar.
2. Put excess kefir grains in the jar.
3. Cover with a little milk.
Your kefir grains will store this way for a year or more. I like to do this to store some excess kefir grains in case I accidentally kill or lose my current milk kefir grains.
To use, all you have to do is set the grains out to defrost, and since there is some milk in there you can leave it for a day or so. Strain, then make a small batch of milk kefir (I generally make one pint (16oz) first before going back to my usual amount).
Milk kefir is best consumed within a week of making it. But kefir can last for well over a month in the fridge.
It doesn’t necessarily spoil for a long time. Instead, it will continue fermenting, turning more sour and developing slight alcoholic notes. After a while, it becomes unpalatable.
Eventually, you may notice off flavors or mold developing on the kefir. At this point, it has gone way too far and has lost the proper acidity and probiotics necessary to protect it from spoilage.
With milk kefir becoming such a popular drink, you’re probably wondering if there are any drawbacks. Based on my research (which is continual as new science emerges), I’ve come to the conclusion that properly fermented milk kefir is even more safe than raw milk. The milk kefir grains contain powerful bacteria and yeasts that can fight against harmful bacteria such as E. coli.
That being said, you can experience negative events from kefir. The most common negative experience is diarrhea or constipation. These negative symptoms can occur when you drink too much kefir at once, especially when you are new to kefir. With strong probiotic foods, it is best to start small. Depending on how sensitive you typically are to new foods, you might choose to start with only a tablespoon to a quarter cup, and increase the amount every 3 or so days. This can help you avoid a negative experience from milk kefir.
Otherwise, I would not worry about consuming milk kefir if it is fermented properly. It should have a somewhat pleasantly sour smell, and the taste will vary based on the type of milk used and how long it has been fermented. It can range from mildly tart to quite pungent. Your kefir should not have any off colors or fuzz such as yellow (beyond the natural color of your cream), pink, green, or grey. It should not look, smell or taste moldy. Do not consume if you witness any of these things.
If you are particularly concerned, you can invest in a pH meter to test the acidity of your finished kefir. The safe zone is below 4.2 pH, and my kefir generally tests at around 3.7.
If your milk kefir is not thickening, there could be a few reasons.
First, your grains may not be working properly. If they are brand new grains, you may need to do a few batches before they start working. Use less milk while activating so that you have less waste.
If your grains were working fine before, then maybe you left them too long without straining, it can cause the grains to be stressed out. Rest your milk kefir grains in fresh yogurt with live active cultures for a day to help them rebalance, then try again with a smaller amount of milk. Your kefir grains can die if they are left too long without fresh milk. So if you try this and it does not help, you may need to get new grains. It’s a good idea to freeze a tbsp or so of your grains when they grow so you have back-up.
Another reason for thin kefir is moving the jar around too much while fermenting. I’ve found it best to just set up the jar and leave it until I can visually see that the milk has thickened. Then I’ll strain and refrigerate the kefir right away.
Also keep in mind that some milks are much thinner than others. You can add cream if you are not using milk with high fat content (such as that from Jersey and Guernsey cows). Goat milk tends not to thicken much, but you should notice it has developed curds instead of being smooth milk.
Milk kefir is keto friendly. It is high in protein and fats and very low in carbs. In fact, fermentation lowers the sugar and carbs naturally found in regular milk.