Making Kefir Yogurt

Kefir is a traditional fermented food made from milk, full of beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeast. It’s similar to yogurt, but usually more tangy, and sometimes slightly effervescent. Kefir is not only far more beneficial than yogurt, but much easier to make. Unlike yogurt, kefir can actually colonize your gut with the beneficial micro-organisms you need to have a healthy immune system and well-functioning digestive system. While high-quality yogurt contains a few of the beneficial gut bacteria, kefir contains a much larger number of beneficial bacteria, as well as beneficial yeasts.

Kefir is great eaten by itself or with fruit, in smoothies, on muesli and granola, in salad dressings, made into cheese or even tasty fruit flavored popsicles that kids will love. You can buy fresh kefir grains here.

Ingredients

1 cup milk (raw, organic milk is the best if you can get it. Check out the Organic Consumers Association for finding raw milk in your area)
1 tablespoon fresh kefir grains * see below for where to source kefir grains

Instructions

These instructions may look long and involved, but kefir is one of the quickest, simplest and easiest of all the fermented foods to make. Like many things though, explaining how to do it may require a lot of words. But trust me, once you do it the first time and get the hang of it you’ll see, it’s very easy.

You can make any amount of kefir you like per batch, but the ratio of 1 cup milk to 1 tablespoon of kefir grains is a good rule of thumb for fermenting a batch in 24-48 hours. So if you have 4 tablespoons of grains you can make 1 litre (1 quart) of kefir in 24-48 hours. The amount of time you ferment the milk for depends on the temperature and how tart you like your kefir to be. So be prepared to experiment and taste test to see what works best for you.

Put the kefir grains and milk into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and fasten the lid on.

Using a lid will increase the slight effervescent quality of the kefir. There is an alternative you can try if you don’t like that slight effervescence or you don’t have a jar with a lid available. Just use a clean piece of muslin, or other clean cloth, in place of the lid to keep out foreign objects and curious insects. Make sure the cloth is large enough to completely cover the opening of the jar, and then some. Use a rubber band or piece of string to fasten the cloth into place over the opening of the jar.

Leave to ferment 24-48 hours

Leave the jar with the milk and kefir grains out on your kitchen counter top for 24-48 hours. Just make sure it’s not in direct sunlight. I like keeping my batch of fermenting kefir on top of the fridge. Every time I go to the fridge to get something out I see the jar of fermenting kefir and remember to give it a gentle shake. Gently shake or rock the jar throughout the day wherever you think about it. Once the kefir starts fermenting the milk you may notice your ‘brew’ separating into curds and whey. This is normal. Just give the jar a gentle shake to mix everything back together.

Taste testing

At the point where the kefir starts separating it has definitely fermented. If you are just starting out making your own kefir, this is a good time to start doing some taste tests until you get an idea of how fermented you like your kefir to be. Go with what tastes good to you, and keep in mind that your tastes may change over time. This is especially true if you eat a lot of sweet foods and tart or sour foods don’t appeal to you. As you introduce more fermented foods into your diet and start restoring your inner ecosystem and overall health, you will find that you don’t crave as many sweet foods, and you enjoy more tart/sour flavors.

How to tell kefir grains from curds in the kefir

The kefir grains look like little cauliflower florets, and are quite rubbery. When the milk has started fermenting and turning to kefir it will probably contain some curds which can resemble the kefir grains. The way to tell the difference is that when you squeeze the curds they will break up and disappear, the kefir grains will not. You can squeeze them out like a sponge, and they will retain their shape.

Separate the kefir from the grains and start the next batch

Once the kefir is finished fermenting pour the contents of the jar into a wide mouth container. A glass measuring jug is ideal, but a glass or ceramic bowl will do. Make sure whatever container you use is large enough to hold all the kefir and then some. Wash the glass jar out, so you can use it to make the next batch. Now some people like to use a strainer to separate the kefir grains out, but what I have found works the best for me is this… with clean hands trawl through the kefir using your fingers like a net to catch the kefir grains. Once you catch some grains, remove your hand from the liquid and squeeze the grains, just like you would a sponge to squeeze out most of the kefir they contain.

As you retrieve the grains, put them into the jar, and trawl through the kefir liquid searching for more grains until you think you’ve got them all. Then add the milk, put the lid on and start the next batch.

Over time you’ll find that your grains increase, and grow in size. So even if you start with only one tablespoon of grains, soon you’ll have 2 tablespoons and will be able to ferment 2 cups of milk per batch, and within a month or two you’ll have enough to ferment 4 cups of kefir at a time. You can eat any excess grains – they remind me of sour gummy bears, I really like them, or feed them to your dogs (they will love them).  Excess kefir liquid can be used in your bath (like a milk bath, but better), or used as a natural moisturizing cleanser. Rub it on your face, leave for a few minutes, then rinse off with warm water. I also feed my dogs the kefir liquid, they love it and people comment on how beautiful and shiny their coats are… it’s the kefir that makes the difference.

How to increase the beneficial effects of kefir

Two things help to maximize the beneficial effect of the kefir. One is the technique of squeezing the grains that’s described above. You’ll notice that after you squeeze the grains, when you open your hand there will be little clear, sticky strands attached between your fingers and the grains. Reminds me of the stuff Spiderman shoots out to form webs. The squeezing stimulates the kefir grains to produce a substance called kefiran, which has additional health benefits. I’ve noticed that it also causes my grains to grow faster, and stronger. If you squeeze the grains every time before you start a new batch, you may notice that the batches of kefir start to thicken slightly.

The second technique for increasing the health benefits of the kefir is to simply leave it sit for another 24 hours, in the fridge after removing the grains.

Where to get kefir grains

Finding your kefir grains to start with used to be the hardest of the whole process. But I’m so pleased to say I’ve now found a great source of fresh, organic kefir grains! They sell both milk and water kefir grains and ship all over the world*. Click here to buy kefir grains now.

* (except perhaps New Zealand which has the strictest biosecurity in the world and probably don’t let anything like this into the country legally).

An alternative, kefir starter culture

There is another excellent alternative for making your own kefir (shipping only in the USA). Even though it’s not fresh kefir grains, the Body Ecology site has excellent probiotic starter cultures for making a variety of fermented foods, including a Kefir Starter Culture. Each packet of the Body Ecology kefir starter can be used to make kefir about 7 times. Follow the instructions that come with the kefir starter, it’s a different technique than what you use for the live kefir grains.

So unlike the live kefir grains you can’t use them to make kefir indefinitely. However, the advantage of the Body Ecology starters is that they are guaranteed to contain a number of specific beneficial strains of bacteria. When you are using ‘wild’ kefir grains the strains of bacteria may vary somewhat depending on their growing environment.

In my opinion the ideal would be to use both the Body Ecology products (so you know that at least you have those strains of bacteria that are listed for each product) and to make your own kefir from fresh kefir grains. You want to try to get the greatest diversity of beneficial gut bacteria that you can for maximum health benefits, and in my opinion combining both the traditional live cultures and the excellent Body Ecology products is the way to maximize the diversity of your inner ecosystem.

The benefits of probiotic foods are amazing, they are crucial for good health and people are catching on to that fact. The demand is great enough that big money can be made in the probiotic supplement market, and unfortunately this kind of ‘opportunity’ attracts all kinds of companies whose ethics and quality standards are less than stellar. Many of the probiotic supplements that have been tested don’t even contain the strains of bacteria that they claim they do. In the probiotic arena, I really only trust real probiotic foods, i.e. those I make myself, and the Body Ecology products.

Recipes using kefir

You can substitute kefir for yogurt in most recipes. Here are some recipes using kefir, and I’ll be adding more over time.

Kefir is great added to smoothies. Use kefir and fruit to make smoothies that taste like the Indian sweet lassi drink, mango and peach work especially well for this. Adding kefir to any green smoothie recipe helps to mellow out the sometimes bitter ‘green’ taste of the leafy greens.

Kefir Plum Popsicle

Kefir Plum Popsicle

In the warmer months a nice treat is to make healthy frozen ‘kefirsicles’ by blending kefir and fruit, pouring the mixture into Popsicle molds and putting them in the freezer until they have set.

One year I picked a bounty of plums off a friend’s tree. I blended up some kefir, honey and the pitted plums and some rosewater (optional but a delicious twist – rosewater for cooking can be found in stores that stock Middle Eastern foods) and made these sweet-tart, tasty frozen treats.

Berries would work really well instead of the plums in this recipe too. This is a great, quick way to use any soft fruit you find in season, where you can get large volumes for cheaply, or for free if you have fruit trees, or know someone who does.

Kefir is also a great base for a quick, creamy salad dressing. These are just some ideas to get you started. But use your imagination, and experiment. Let me know what delicious ways you come up with to use kefir by leaving a comment below.

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DISCLAIMER: The statements enclosed herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information mentioned on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information and statements found here are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional.

69 Responses to “Making Kefir Yogurt”

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  1. Maru says:

    I used to make beautiful yoghurt using cow milk and yoghurt as culture,but was told to avoid cow milk so switched to goat and the resulted yoghurt was runny. Before reading this article bought some kefir probiotic and did as it said on the pack. Left on the bench 36 hours and ended up with a nearly runny yoghurt which was better than my previous yoghurts. There was no grain or fermented taste. Reading above article dissapointed me of my creation.
    please advise me what have I done. Thank you

    • Donna says:

      I think your kefir is probably fine Maru. Goat’s milk does not have the high fat content of cow’s milk. The cow’s milk I was getting was organic, raw, whole milk from grass-fed cows in NZ (famous for it’s rich cream content). The cream is what helps to thicken the kefir. If you strain through cheesecloth it will separate the curds and whey. Taking out some of the whey makes it thicker. But the whey is nutritious too, you can use it as a fermentation starter for other fermented foods, or drink or add to smoothies. You can use it in baking too, although cooking will kill the probiotics. Also try to get kefir grains, I think they make a thicker kefir. Commercial yogurt is thick because they add thickeners to it… like gelatin and other thickeners (yuck), or powdered milk. So you could try adding some powdered milk to your milk and see if that thickens it up. I hope that helps.

  2. Maru says:

    Thank you, I have bought some grains and experimenting.

  3. Sara says:

    Ok. I started with the process. After 48 hours it smells just like rotten milk. I just can’t stomach trying it. This is my second batch too. The first smelt the same. What gives?!

  4. sabrina says:

    I do kefir everyday…I definitely end up with too much kefir in my fridge!
    I never use my hands on the kefir grains. No matter how clean are our hands, they still have healthy or not bacteria on the skin. The bacterias on the skin are not probiotic! Well, I guess the bacterial transfer may not be to big, but still it could change the bacterial population around the kefir grains. I use clean plastic mesh, and its bowl. I put the fermented milk with grains in the strainer and move it around with a spatula/plastic-silicone spoon. The result is quite thick. I need to use the spoon and ease the thick cream to fall in the bowl.
    I move the grains in a clean glass jar (large opening), pour some fresh organic whole milk. I leave some space in the jar for the fermenting gases. I close the lid. The fermenting of the milk depends a lot on the temperature of the kitchen and the rate grains/milk.
    As the grains grow, you need to use more milk… and so it goes.

  5. Ally says:

    I love a big glass of kefir every morning, great for digestion!

    I wouldn’t use raw milk though, despite all the myths on the internet, there is no health benefit of raw milk vs pasteurized milk – and, if I was going to drink raw milk (we did when I was young and owned our own dairy farm), I would be VERY strict as to where that came from. The risk of disease transfer is too high.

    I’ve found pretty good kefir results with goat milk too. Also coconut milk is a very tasty twist!

    • Donna says:

      Thanks Ally. I only get organic grass fed raw milk, and make sure the animals are under good clean conditions. Does the goat milk kefir come out thinner than kefir made with cow’s milk or about the same? I’ve tried coconut milk kefir, I’ve yet to master it, but I did only attempt it once. Here I’ve got lots of easy access to coconuts though so I’ve been intending to try it again. Do you use milk kefir grains or water kefir grains for your coconut milk? Do you mind saying how you make it, with coconut cream, or water, or water blended with meat?

    • Rebecca says:

      I do use raw milk and it’s certified. I get milk from a dairy that is inspected, tested, and pure. I don’t recommend just any ol dairy because most are not sanitary and rely on pasteurization to “fix” their laziness.

      I recently found a website with Kefir Chai recipe on and I have a jar in my frig right now dedicated just to my Kefir Chai. This morning I put about a half cup of applesauce in a glass then filled it the rest of the way with my thick kefir chai and then stirred. The thickness of the Kefir kept the applesauce suspended and it was absolutely addicting !!! Making the Chai is easy. Just fill a jar part way with kefir milk and put an Indian Chai tea bag in the milk and let it sit on the counter for about 12 to 24 hrs. Then refrigerate. The second “culturing” makes it more mellow and then use it at will. I’m adding more kefir milk as I need it.

      • Donna says:

        Wow, Rebecca that sounds amazing! So the tea bag imparts it’s flavors even though you’re not heating it and extracting in water. That’s interesting. It sounds great, I’ll have to try that!

        • Rebecca says:

          Yes ma’am it does. I was skeptical too but it worked. It is such a mellow and light flavor. The recipe says you can put a cinnamon stick in the kefir milk too if you want a more cinnamon flavor. There is also a recipe for citrus where you take off some lemon and/or orange peel and let that infuse into the kefir milk over night. With the lightness it probably tastes like lemon chiffon !!

          I love Indian Chai because I spent 3 months in India way back in the 70s. The green cardamom also adds a unique flavor to the Indian chai so I’m going to try a small net bag with crushed cardamom seeds in it. There are green and black cardamom but I think the green has a more aromatic quality but I’m going to look into both kinds since I do have them.

          This is opening up new avenues for me to try. :)

  6. Julia says:

    “* (except perhaps New Zealand which has the strictest biosecurity in the world and probably don’t let anything like this into the country legally).”

    Interesting, I live in New Zealand and a friend of mine just gave me some kefir grains.

    So we somehow got them into this country.

    • Donna says:

      Yes both milk and water kefir grains and Kombucha SCOBYs were brought into NZ at some point and people propagated and spread them so you can find them locally. I sold all three when I lived there. So at some point those things were brought in, maybe it was easier in the past, and even now I think it’s probably possible to smuggle things in if you are clever and lucky. But if you order grains from outside the country to be shipped in there is a very high chance of them being confiscated by MAF. Also with shipping time and cost it makes more sense to get them locally. During the time I lived in NZ there were a few incidents where pests managed to slip past MAF and customs and proved to be costly and devastating, so I’m sure they have tightened security even more because of things like that. NZ is the only country in the world I have been to where they spray you with some pesticide or other poison to disinfect you before they let you disembark from the airplane.

      • Julia says:

        What country were you coming from? I have never been sprayed on disembarkment when returning to NZ.

        I am sure it is possible to legally import kefir grains into NZ, just it is probably very expensive

        • Donna says:

          I was coming from the US. The flight attendants walked down the aisles wearing face masks and spraying something from aerosol containers. They spray it up in the air, not directly at people. So it’s not like they hose you down or anything. But being really sensitive to chemicals I was shocked.

  7. Prof.Dr.shakir mirhish says:

    Dear Sir; I am glad if send more information about keffir

  8. Rebecca says:

    I am making my own kefir milk and yogurt using raw Jersey cow milk. They are both absolutely DECADENT !!!

    I have been using Dannon original yogurt (with active enzymes) to make the yogurt and I’m wondering if I can use the kefir milk for this purpose. I love the taste of both and what could be a more perfect combination if the kefir milk used as a “starter” for the yogurt ??? OR IS IT ? Please help me ! :)

    Rebecca

    • Donna says:

      Hi Rebecca, kefir and yogurt are two different things, although similar. I guess you could try combining them and see if you like the result though. One of the ways of ‘resting’ kefir grains is to put them in yogurt, so the yogurt strains don’t seem to bother the kefir culture.

  9. Chris Keane says:

    Can u take Kefir everyday,Is it good for you, and is it fattening. Thank You.

    • Donna says:

      I have eaten kefir day after day, but I listen to my body and if I don’t feel like it I don’t have it. The probiotics are good for you. Whether it’s fattening or not depends on how much you eat, what your total caloric intake is compared to how many calories you burn in a day.

  10. Jesse Brown says:

    I make delicious raw goat milk yogurt and get good texture. I am starting another batch and am thinking about adding some kefir at when I add the yogurt starter. Is this a good idea? could there be some negative complications?

    • Donna says:

      I don’t think there will be negative complications, but the result will no longer be straight yogurt. Not that it’s a bad thing. I like to combine different strains of kefir grains when I can, I figure the more different beneficial micro-organisms you can introduce the better.

  11. Biz says:

    I have my first batch going and wondered if it is normal that it smells like sour/rotten milk. I’m assuming it would but just want to make sure.

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  1. [...] raw granola is great with kefir. I’ve not tried it with nut milk yet but I bet it would be delicious with either almond milk [...]



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