Kefir has been a staple diet in many civilizations around the world for generations. Because of the internet, it has become extremely popular, much like all cultured and fermented foods. Kefir is high in minerals and probiotics, making it ideal for gut health and digestion.
The information currently circulating the Internet in reference to the utilisation of fermented foods in general is contradictory and very confusing for many people and I can see why! Some websites say (even credible sites I’ve looked at) to avoid kefir with a candida or with many digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease.
I have recommend the use of kefir beverages for over twenty years in treating candida, SIBO, intestinal permeability, and in most cases of constipation and diarrhoea as well. Back in the 1980’s it was not heard of of making your own kefir unless you lived in a country like Turkey. Some health minded people were making yogurt, and it was occasionally available in the ‘health’ section of your local supermarket.
Kefir is a specially prepared, delicious fermented drink. There are 2 types of kefir- water and milk kefir, the latter can be made with sheep, goat or cow’s milk. The liquid is fermented with kefir “grains”- (colonies of yeast and healthy bacteria), and the resulting drink is an excellent source of healthy intestinal micro flora, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and (for milk kefir) complete proteins. Both water and milk kefir are also usually easily digested by those who are lactose-intolerant.
Scientific research has shown promises that regular drinking kefir leads to numerous health benefits. Health benefits that you can’t get from drinking yogurt. Some of the reported health benefits of ageing are:
Making your own kefir requires nothing more than milk or water, grains and some basic kitchenware. Your health food shop will be able to help you out with an excellent “starter” recipe for kefir, and you can easily find fun, tasty variations on this recipe online.
Once you become experienced at making your own probiotics at home, you’ll find it’s a great alternative to store-bought varieties. With a small investment of time and effort, you can enjoy the many benefits of cultured and fermented foods you prepare and enjoy as part of your diet for long-term health.
Here is what you need to start making your own kefir.
I always recommend that you not only buy and use the best ingredients possible, but also try to get the best utensils and cookware. This will pay off in time, and it is easier to do the job with quality rather than budget and the outcome will often be superior as well. Shop around for a good strain of kefir. I generally find that the best organic wholefood suppliers in your district will be the best source of knowledge as to where you will be able to source these top quality kefir grains. They’ll probably give you the phone number or email address of the right contact.
Starter kefir kits are OK to begin with, but I’ve found that their potency tends to diminish after after using the grains only a half a dozen times. A good strain of kefir in fact grows many more grains over time and you will be able to give some of your kefir away eventually if you get good grains and learn how to cultivate them well in the right medium. It all comes with experience, so don’t freak if you make the odd bad batch here or there.
Just like making yogurt, you always keep a little for the next batch. When you’ve finished with your first batch of kefir, you can place the grains in a little milk and leave them covered in the fridge.
Don’t use metal utensils around yogurt or kefir, these foods have a low enough pH (acidity) to be negatively influenced by metals like aluminium, copper, brass and even iron. Stainless steel is much less reactive however (and glass not at all), and is a good alternative if you don’t have more suitable cookware. Always choose wooden spoons and plastic strainers when you make kefir for a better outcome.
Make sure your surroundings are clean, especially the glass jar in which the milk and kefir will be fermenting. Any contaminants may spoil your kefir and you’ll have to start all over again. You soon learn about hygiene when you work with fermented and cultured foods!
You have to leave your kefir for at least two days (48 hours) to ‘ripen’ after it has finished fermenting. I’m all for this ripening-off process, it ensures that the pH (acidity) drops even a little lower, ensuring any lactose (milk sugar) is used up by the lactase enzyme produced by the beneficial bacteria which are multiplying rapidly in the kefir. Kefir does get strong both in taste as well as therapeutic value over a period of several days.
But just how sour is too much? It is important for those with SIBO or candida to have their kefir well-ripened, this means it may taste a little stronger. This is when I believe kefir is at its best for those who have brain fog or a know history of parasites or bacteria resistant to many different kinds of antibiotics.
By allowing the kefir to ripen, we allow significantly greater numbers of lactobacillus and other beneficial bacteria to thrive. We also allow the levels of different kinds of B vitamins to increase, which is a real bonus for those who have any kind of fatigue, mood disorder or hormonal imbalance.
Here are the very simple steps involved in making your own kefir. Once you’ve got it right once, you can keep making it over and over again.
Sterilise your glass jar and lid with boiling water, empty and let it cool to room temperature. Place the kefir grains in your jar first, then pour the milk (or coconut milk, etc) over them. I normally recommend you start with two tablespoons to one litre (a quart) of the milk.Stir this mixture gently with a clean wooden spoon (which you poured boiling water over). I tend to leave the lid o the jar a bit loose at this stage so any excess pressure can escape. Securing the lid now could result in pressure build-up inside the jar which could be dangerous!
After you have made it about half a dozen times you will work out exactly how much of the kefir grain you need to mix with the milk to get the desired taste and texture. Remember, the duration of ‘ripening’ influences this a great deal too.
Now all you have to do is to leave your kefir jar somewhere in the house where it won’t be disturbed for up to two days. Make sure it isn’t touched and that it is away from direct sunlight. The fermentation process can take anywhere from 12 hours to longer the 48 hours, depending on factors like the quality (and quantity) of kefir grains you used, the lactose content of the milk, as well as the temperature.
If you want a more watery, thin and sweeter kefir you may want to taste it after it has been ‘down’ from 12 to 20 hours. The longer you leave the kefir to ferment, the thicker and more sour it will become, so beware! But as I have mentioned earlier, the therapeutic value of the kefir will have increased, and that’s what it’s all about.
You may have seen your kefir separate into various layers if you leave if for two or three days or more. It will be watery and yellow to brownish underneath, and can range from a thin to a thick white curd like layer at the top. It may smell quite strong and I can assure you, it may be very sour at this stage. Kefir is best consumed just before it gets to the ‘separation stage’ in my experience. It tastes OK, is therapeutically active and does not appear at this stage to have any unpleasant odour.
When you think the kefir is done (experience will tell you soon enough, don’t worry!), give your jar a gentle stir and pour the bottle’s contents through your plastic strainer into a glass bowl. Gently move the kefir grains on the strainer and more liquid will be released into the bowl beneath.
Now you can consume some of the kefir and store the rest in the glass jar for a few days in your refrigerator. Remember, it will continue to ripen, even when placed in the fridge. And don’t throw (or have somebody else by accident) away the kefir grains, use them for your next batch.
Good luck and keep on trying, I believe that it takes at least six to ten times before you even get a small amount of experience in making kefir. Some folks have made it for decades and are experts, understanding the summer kefir is quite different to kefir made in winter time.
You can use the kefir grains repeatedly, again and again, and in case you are not going to make another batch of kefir straight away, do place the grains in a bowl with a small amount of milk and cover well and store them towards the back of your refrigerator.
I discovered from trial and error and plenty of feedback from patients over the years that water kefir as well as coconut milk are both equally good. Water kefir tastes (and smell) quite strong to some. I find the cow’s milk kefir OK, and recommend this as a starting point before you progress to the coconut milk and than eventually water kefir. You should be able to tolerate cow’s milk kefir, even if you are dairy intolerant in my opinion. I’ve found the same to be true of good quality yogurt, especially if you make it at home and of high quality ingredients.
I am allergic to dairy myself but I make my own 24 hour cultured cow’s milk yogurt that I tolerate fine.You can try yourself, and if you do react then make goat’s milk yogurt or kefir, I’ve not found a patient yet who is allergic to goat’s milk. You can use almost any kind of milk to make your kefir, and if you do use water or coconut milk (or water) your kefir will most likely be much thinner than if you use a milk. No doubt there will be other milks like sheep, camel or buffalo milk that would also be suitable for the production of yogurt or kefir, it is a matter of taste, pricing and availability I guess. I recommend a milk with a higher fat content, thicker and creamier milks always seem to produce a more pleasant and agreeable kefir in my opinion.