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How To Make Kefir Milk: The Complete Guide

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Click play below to hear our lively interview with author Sandor Katz on fermentation.
Listen to other shows on this topic.

If you have been interested in health and nutrition for any amount of time, you probably understand the value of fermented and cultured foods. The role of bacteria in our gut and digestive system is critical for human health. Bacteria consists of roughly 85% of our entire immune system, the other 15% are made up of white blood cells and killer T cells in the blood.

When people talk about their immune system they are really talking about the amount of beneficial bacteria that currently have living in their gut. Do you ever notice that people who take antibiotics on a regular basis don’t seem to have the best immune system? That’s because they’re actually weakening their immune system with each pill they swallow.

There is simply no way to be optimally healthy if the amount of bad bacteria in your colon and intestines is more than your beneficial bacteria.

This is why it is absolutely critical to start eating food that have been fermented. If you would more information about this way of eating, I highly recommend you check out a book called The Body Ecology Dietby Donna Gates. There’s also a great resource on kefir here.

Recently I have been eating lots of milk kiefer using both milk kiefer grains and the water kiefer grains. I have also been making my own sauerkraut and recently purchased a kombucha scoby.

What Will I Need?

  • Milk kefir grains
  • High quality milk
  • 16 oz (or bigger) glass jar (mason jars work great)
  • Cloth to cover it (ripped tee shirt will work)
  • Rubber band
  • Patience Danielson

Instructions:

  • Add about 4 tablespoons of kefir grains into a clean glass jar
  • Pour 2 or 3 cups of fresh milk over the top of them. (Sometimes the kefir grains are very active and might require 4 to 6 cups of milk on subsequent batches)
  • Stir gently with plastic or wood spoon and cover lid with cloth secured with a rubber band
  • Let sit at room tempurature for 24 hours
  • Strain kefir grains using a plastic strainer if possible, some people say metal is fine although I’ve never tried it.
  • Don’t press or squeeze your grains, remember they are delicate and alive.
  • Taste the kefir you just made to find the level of sourness or sweetness of the batch to determine how your next batch will go.
  • Poor ready to drink milk into a glass container
  • Put old kefir grains into a clean glass jar along with a splash of the old liquid kefir.
  • Put in kefir grains and let sit for another 24 hours.
  • Agitate the jar by gently moving it every so often to stimulate growth.

You’ll need to first buy the kefir grains. I get mine from The Kefir Lady. She’s even replaced mine for free when I killed a batch. You just send her some cash in an envelope and she sends you instructions on how to do it.

What Kind Of Milk Do You Use?

Ideally I’d use grass fed raw milk from Organic Pastures but since that is pretty expensive, I use Organic Horizon. Try not to use ultra pasteurized milk if you can. Typically that milk has been heated at even higher temperatures for longer in order to kill more bacteria and infectious organisms.

Why do they have to ultra pasteurize? It’s because the cows are eating grain and corn instead of grass and are typically much sicker so they carry more diseases.

I like Organic Horizon because they don’t have antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or chemicals that are used in their operation. It’s 100% organic. When the kefir grains eat the lactose sugar they essentially bring a dead food back to life.

Kefir milk is a completely different food than regular milk. That said, I wouldn’t drink regular milk from Organic Horizon if it weren’t cultured with kefir grains.

All dairy milk is preferred. You can use cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk even coconut milks.

How Long Do You Let It Ferment?

That all depends on the ratio of grains to liquid and temperature. I live in southern California so 24 hours is enough time. In the winter I might let it go for an extra night depending on the temperature.

How Do You Store Your Grains?

This is a big question. If you’re going out of town and don’t have anybody to babysit your grains, then what I do is I’ll poor as much milk over the top of the grains and put it in the refrigerator. This works great if you’re going to be gone for only a few days.

What Are Some Other Uses For Kefir & Grains?

The uses for kefir are endless. You can even eat the grains for added probiotic bacteria or use them in many of the ways listed below.

Shaving Lotion –

Blend equal amounts of kefir whey with aloe vera gel to use as a shaving lotion.

Bath Water –

Because kefir whey has acidic properties it is amazing for the skin. Add some to your hot bath and let it dissolve and your skin will absolutely love it.

Face Wash –

Add some kefir whey to warm water and scrub onto your face. Before that you can grind up some almonds and add enough water to use as a natural exfoliate.

Natural Anti Dandruff Hair Wash –

Without diluting the kefir whey add the warm mixture to your head and let it stay on your scalp for 10 minutes before rinsing. If you don’t have dandruff or a flaky scalp, simply scrub it in and then rinse in the shower 2 times.

Face Mask –

Mix pure warm kefir whey with any face mask recipe and leave on the skin for at least 5 minutes and notice how baby soft your face is when you’re done. As a natural acidic astringent it helps to close pores, tighten skin and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Do this for a lifetime and notice how slowly your face ages compared to your friends.

Whey Lemonade –

1 quart of whey and the juice of 1 lemons mixed with 3 tablespoons of honey makes an amazing drink!

Watering Plants –

If you have extra whey diluted it with 5 parts water to 1 part whey and water your plants with it and watch them grow like crazy.

What Kind Of Microflora Does Kefir Contain?

LACTOBACILLI –

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lb. brevis [Possibly now Lb. kefiri]
  • Lb. casei subsp. casei
  • Lb. casei subsp. rhamnosus
  • Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei
  • Lb. fermentum
  • Lb. cellobiosus
  • Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
  • Lb. delbrueckii subsp. lactis
  • Lb. fructivorans
  • Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis
  • Lb. hilgardii
  • Lb. helveticus
  • Lb. kefiri
  • Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum
  • Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens
  • Lb. parakefiri
  • Lb. plantarum

STREPTOCOCCI/LACTOCOCCI –

  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • St. paracitrovorus
  • Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
  • Lc. lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis
  • Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris
  • Enterococcus durans
  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
  • Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides
  • Leuc. dextranicum

YEASTS –

  • Dekkera anomala t/ Brettanomyces anomalus a
  • Kluyveromyces marxianus t/ Candida kefyr a#
  • Pichia fermentans t/ C. firmetaria a
  • Yarrowia lipolytica t/ C. lipolytica a
  • Debaryomyces hansenii t/ C. famata a#
  • Deb. [Schwanniomyces] occidentalis
  • Issatchenkia orientalis t/ C. krusei a
  • Galactomyces geotrichum t/ Geotrichum candidum a
  • C. friedrichii
  • C. rancens
  • C. tenuis
  • C. humilis
  • C. inconspicua
  • C. maris
  • Cryptococcus humicolus
  • Kluyveromyces lactis var. lactis #
  • Kluyv. bulgaricus
  • Kluyv. lodderae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae #
  • Sacc. subsp. torulopsis holmii
  • Sacc. pastorianus
  • Sacc. humaticus
  • Sacc. unisporus
  • Sacc. exiguus
  • Sacc. turicensis sp. nov
  • Torulaspora delbrueckii t
  • Zygosaccharomyces rouxii

ACETOBACTER –

  • Acetobacter aceti
  • Acetobacter rasens

Did you still think that taking a probiotic pill is better than making your own fermented foods? Learn why making your own is much healthier for you.

Below are some of the videos I watched when I got started making milk kefir. I don’t like reading instructions very much so these were good places to learn for me.

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