Making Dairy-Based Kefir at Home

Kefir is a great cultured dairy product. It is easier to make than yogurt, particularly because you do not have to heat the milk first. If you are a raw milk drinker, then you preserve the enzymes in that milk by not heating it.
There are actually kefir starters available in health food stores that allow you to use a yogurt-like approach to making kefir. The starter just contains some bacteria strains different from yogurt. This is not the cheapest way to make kefir, nor the traditional approach.
Kefir is cultured from a substance called kefir grains. These grains are not anything like comes to your mind when you hear the word “grain.” Kefir grains are a symbiotic mass of bacteria and yeasts that will culture your milk for you. You can find kefir grains on the kefir yahoo group and then follow these instructions. (I may also sell them from this site at some point should I become organized enough.)

Milk kefir instructions

(1) Put your grains into a clean glass jar. Quart-sized mason jars work well.
(2) Cover with about one quart of milk.
(3) Place in cupboard or other spot out of direct sunlight.
(4) Cover jar with a clean dish towel.
(5) Let it sit for 24 hours or until it reaches desired sourness.
(6) When kefir is finished, strain grains from kefir milk.
(7) Drink kefir, reuse grains. Go back to step 1.
Kefir don’ts:
• Don’t use metal utensils with kefir. To strain the grains you can use a nylon strainer, a plastic slotted spoon, or a plastic colander.
• Don’t keep the brewing kefir in the direct sun.
• Don’t expose the grains to heat, e.g., don’t use a jar right out of a hot dishwasher.
Trouble shooting:
Adjusting to a new home. Your first batch or two of kefir may seem extra yeasty. If that’s the case, the kefir is still fine to drink, but your kefir will mellow after the grains have been a week or so in their new home.
Tune-up: Kefir grains take on other strains of bacteria. It is possible for your kefir to seem “off.” You may even think you killed your grains. You probably didn’t. Rinse them with filtered water (non-chlorinated), put them in a glass container, cover with filtered water, store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Strain them and make a new batch of kefir. Consider it a “tune up.”
Storing grains: If you want to take a break from your kefir making for a while, put the grains in a jar with milk (as you would to make kefir), cover with a tight fitting lid (a canning lid with plastic wrap between the lid and the glass would suffice), and store in the refrigerator. The low temperature will slow down the fermentation process of the grains; they will go into a semi-dormant state. Every week or two, change the milk and drink the kefir that you made in your refrigerator. Your grains may last longer than this, so if you do neglect them for a time, try to rejuvenate them before deciding you have killed them. Make a batch or two of kefir and see how they do.
~~More Reading~~
Mom’s ideas for kefir smoothies
Homemade kefir sodas
Fermented nettle tea: An iron booster
Food science on grass fed meat and dairy
Omega 3 and B vitamins for brain health

Pastured Cows: If you are into pastured cows, you will probably be intrigued by my snooping of a local large organic dairy that just lost its certification. We made a video eulogy to the dairy that you can view in the previous link or directly on YouTube.

13 Responses to Making Dairy-Based Kefir at Home
  1. Kefir Smoothies This Summer

    In light of the entry on making your own kefir, I asked my mom to write a bit about smoothies. Here’s what she says: ~~~~ When summer comes and the sun beats down, I think of ice cream. The cold…

  2. I have been using my Kefir to make more and more things. As I have a wheat allergy I have also been making more sourdough items and allowing my breads (and baked stuff) to ferment before baking. I did a little experiment on Saturday and made pro-biotic, sourdough, whole-grain wheat pancakes (which I only fermented for about 30 minutes…we were hungry). I modified a recipe that called for Kefir (since I had forgotten to culture any) and just used some Kefir whey I had left from making cream cheese. I used also a sweet sourdough starter along with the called for flour, eggs and milk. Oh my gosh were they good and filling. My hubby and I only added butter (not home made…I get my cream this week to do that…but it was organic) and organic fruit jam (I haven’t made jam in a while either). A couple pancakes and one egg was enough to fill us both. My endeavor to cook like grandma is yielding some interesting things! Some good…some that still need tweeking. I’ll have to look at more of your recipes when I have time.

  3. Angela,
    Do you have a starter going for sourdough or do you basically soak whatever wheat-free flour you are using in kefir before hand?

  4. I do both…depending on my mood. I have both a sweet starter and a pro-biotic spelt flour starter which uses Kefir whey that I try to keep going (sweet starter for desert type treats and the pro-biotic one for breads and pasta). I have sprouted grains from time to time…mostly, though, I usually ferment the flour in the starter &/or Kefir for 8-12 hours. I am able to use flour with wheat using this method without having any reactions to it.

  5. Fuad Kurdi

    Where can I buy kefir grains (not culture)from?Any source in North America?

  6. Andrew

    Can I start a batch of kefir using milk and a few tablespoons of store bought “live culture” kefir as the started culture? This works for yogurt.

  7. Terri

    My kefir grains were coated with curdled milk so I rinsed them with filtered tap water and started over. Did I ruin them?

    • Amanda Rose

      No, not at all. Sometimes kefir grains need a “tune up” and this is the best way to do it.


      • Terri

        Thanks! They are working much better now.

  8. Terri

    I haven’t been able to get to the farm to get fresh raw milk so I put my kefir grains in almond milk. Is that o.k.?

    • Amanda Rose

      Kefir grains are very resilient. They’ll be fine but they will enjoy getting back in the other milk. :)



  10. I buy raw cows’ milk from a local small farm and add natural food store kefir powder. I add the powder to the cold milk,cover it and shake it up. I keep it at room temp for 24 hours and shake it occasionally and open the lid to let the gas pressure escape once or twice. Then I drink some from a glass. I have tried keeping it in the refrig if it gets too thick. I don’t strain it. I make it last till I get more fresh milk and then I add the milk to the same container with all the little grains stuck to the sides. I have repeated this four times now and it is delicious and nicely effervescent. It has improved my digestion too. I got on this site because I wonder why people go to the trouble of straining the kefir. I seems it is less sanitary and not necessary.

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