When people ask me how to make kefir I usually respond with- Oh, it’s so easy! The truth is, while yes, it is easy, it’s also a pretty foreign concept for most people. When I started making my kefir I quickly realized, it isn’t a cut & dry project. Kefir is sensitive & honestly, no two fermentations will turn out the same (at least in my case, that’s true).
So… What IS Kefir, Anyway?
Basically, kefir is a sour tasting, yogurt type drink. Made from cow’s milk (typically, but not always) & fermented with bacteria. It contains beneficial bacteria & yeasts so it can help keep those pathogenic (bad) yeasts in our body under control. We’ve all heard the terms ‘good probiotics’ before. That’s what kefir contains!
So How Do You SAY It?
Don’t get your feathers ruffled here! I honestly believe that this is regional. I’ve met people from all over who say KEE-fir, KEH-fir or anything in between but I believe the correct way to say it is keh-FEER. Have a listen here if you want to hear for yourself. Now you know how I say it but I won’t be correcting you if you say it differently. Tomato tomäto, right!
Why Would I Want to Drink This?
To this I answer – uh, why not!! Kefir is one of those super foods you don’t want to miss out on. It’s excellent for aiding in digestion & balancing good gut flora. It can help with a myriad of digestive issues from constipation to diarrhea & also to heal other gut related issues (beautiful skin, healthy hair, etc – yes, everything is tied to your gut health)! Kefir is something I believe has been essential on our GAPS journey. I just heard an interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (author of Gut & Psychology Syndrome) where she said that some GAPS families did very well on home made kefir alone! Meaning that if you are feeling the strains of trying to pay for costly probiotics, there’s a chance that making home made kefir could be enough to keep your digestive system in check. With Arthur, for about the first 6 months of GAPS we only used home made kefir for his probiotic. It wasn’t unit recently that I purchased a probiotic to give to Arthur on the occasions that he can’t have kefir.
If you’re still questioning whether kefir is right for you, my advice is try it for a couple of weeks. A healthy body knows when it’s functioning the way it should. When your digestive system is happy, you feel happy. You feel lighter & better all around. That feeling will be enough to convince you how great the benefits are!
How Do I Get Started?
There are two ways to make kefir. One is with a dehydrated starter. If you use this method, the directions are explained conveniently on the packet for you! If you live in an area where you can’t get access to live cultures, I definitely recommend this option. When we lived in Japan, this is what I used for 3 years with much success.
The second way is to use kefir grains. Is there anything you can’t get on Amazon?! Yes, you can totally buy your live grains online but – most people will tell you to never buy what you can get for free. People who make kefir from live grains are usually very generous. As kefir is cultured, the grains will eventually grow, which makes it a great gift for sharing! I was ‘gifted’ my live grains from a wonderful women in my raw milk coop. I then ‘gifted’ some grains to my neighbor & my sister! Sharing grains is a wonderful way to start friendships & seek out other hippy dippy types you can consider being friends with. True story.
As a side note, dehydrated kefir will never result in live, squidgy grains like the ones you see in the picture. This can get costly as you will have to continue to purchase your starter. When you use live grains they last forever. Or at least until you kill them (yes they can be killed or at least harmed). Recently, I was cleaning out my fridge & found a mason jar that wasn’t labeled with a small bit of liquid inside. I assumed it was old cream so I tossed it in the sink only to then realize it was my grains. Gasp! The horror!
Unfortunately, kefir grains are sensitive & shouldn’t be rinsed with water. I’ve been told it could be due to the chlorine in water or several other factors but one thing was for certain, having my grains dropped in the sink could definitely introduce some new, unwanted bacteria so I had to toss them. Luckily, I was able to get some more from a friend.
Anything I Should Be Concerned with While Drinking Kefir?
My only word of caution would be when you start to drink kefir. If you are not used to such powerful, potent probiotics then proceed with caution. The probiotics in the kefir cannot hurt you. I’ve never heard of someone dying from an overdose of good bacteria but they can certainly give your digestive system a shock! Start adding your kefir slowly into your diet so you won’t experience what’s know as ‘die off’ effects. This is where your body has a strong reaction as the kefir is doing it’s job to flush your system. While you’re happy the kefir is working, it can make you very uncomfortable with things like stomach cramps all the way to diarrhea. Introduce your kefir slowly by adding it to cereals, smoothies or other yogurts starting with 1-2 teaspoons a day.
What Does it Taste Like?
I always encourage people to taste their kefir as part of the fermentation process. The fermentation time can depend on lots of things – your grain to milk ratio, how active & healthy they are, how warm your area is where the jar is fermenting. It can take as short as 12 hours all the way to 36 hours. That’s why I think it’s important to taste (with a clean spoon) your kefir & use that as a tool to help determine when it’s ready. Kefir does not taste curdled. It won’t taste or smell anything like milk that’s ‘gone bad’. It typically has a yeasty smell (think home made bread) & it will have a slightly effervescent taste that’s slightly fizzy. The actual ‘taste’ is just a slightly sour taste, similar to sour cream or unsweetened yogurt.
Ready to Make Your Own Kefir?
Check out my post on how I make raw milk kefir at home!