Originated in the northern areas of the Caucasus Mountains, kefir is an old yet refreshing cultured-milk beverage. The tribes-folk in this region consumed the beverage in large quantities to enjoy its benefits. With a slightly creamy consistency, kefir has a sour flavor with an aroma of fresh yeast. You will also find a hint of natural effervescent zesty tang that makes kefir a lot more delicious.
This unique flavor and aroma comes from the combination of 40 aromatic compounds. Moreover, it also contains about 0.08-0.1% alcohol – this is usually the case when you take 1-day cultured kefir. The alcohol content goes up depending on for how long the kefir has been stored- it contains up to 3% alcohol when stored for several days after removing the natural mother-culture. Ripening conditions and milk-type used to make kefir also go into to determining the alcohol content of kefir. All this explains why kefir it an increasingly popular beverage in most parts of the world and the good thing is that you can learn how to make kefir from home to enjoy all its amazing benefits.
Note, see our how to make water kefir article for more info about a dairy-free kefir recipe.
Health Benefits of Kefir
Milk kefir is highly nutritious and that is why it makes sense to make it by yourself and include in your diet. It is packed with several nutrients. A 6oz serving of milk kefir provides you with 6g of protein, 8g of carbs, and 6g of fat. It also provides you with 20% of your recommended daily intake of calcium and 14% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin B12. You also get loads of phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and riboflavin from milk kefir.
Here are some other amazing reasons to include kefir in your diet:
- Yogurt is good but kefir is better in that it contains about 30 different microorganisms that influence your health in different ways, including weight management, digestion, and mental health.
- Kefir contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kefiri that prevents infections and inhibits the growth of Helicobacter Pylori, Salmonella, E.coli, and other harmful bacteria.
- Kefir is a rich source of calcium as well as vitamin K2, the combination of which helps improve bone health and even slow the progression of osteoporosis. Regular consumption of kefir increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which prevents fractures and other issues.
- Some experts believe that the presence of certain probiotics gives kefir the power to inhibit tumor growth. It stimulates your immune system and reduces formation of different carcinogenic compounds in the body.
- Many people cannot tolerate lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products, but even they can enjoy kefir because the lactic acid bacteria in kefir convert lactose into lactic acid during fermentation.
- What’s more, you can also use kefir in different ways to enjoy amazing benefits. You can utilize kefir to make probiotic ice cream or even make tangy probiotic sauces. You can make a facemask with kefir that helps balance your skin’s natural pH levels and prevent blemishes.
Making Kefir at Home
Traditionally, kefir is prepared by culturing fresh milk using kefir grains. It is the natural mother-culture used here, which is called grains mainly because of its granular appearance and structure. Thankfully, you do not need to go through a lot of hassle to make kefir from home, especially if you have no problem finding yoghurt, buttermilk, or cream cheese. It makes great sense to make kefir at home because you can use it in a number of ways. For instance, you can use it:
- To make smoothies
- To tenderize meat
- To improve the taste of cereal
- To make ice cream recipes better
- To replace yoghurt in recipes
- To make healthy milkshakes
- To replace buttermilk in baking
- To make fruit-flavored cream cheese
- To ferment flours or grains
- To make pasta sauce or salads
- To prepare probiotic drinks
While you can certainly replace yogurt with kefir in your recipes, you need to understand that there is difference between the both. For instance:
- Starter cultures used for kefir and yogurt may be different. Milk kefir only cultures at room temperature, but yogurt starter can be cultured at high heat, usually cultured at around 110F.
- Both milk kefir and yogurt may look similar but they contain different types of probiotics or healthy bacteria. Kefir contains a lot more bacteria as compared to yogurt and these bacteria colonize the intestinal tract. On the other hand, yogurt contains bacteria that help keep your digestive tract clean and help nourish health bacteria in the gut.
- Draining whey from both dairy products may give you something different. Draining whey from yogurt gives you a thick Greek-style yogurt, whereas draining it from milk kefir gives you kefir cream cheese, soft spreadable cheese, or even hard cheese.
- The flavor of yogurt can vary from mild to tangy, whereas milk kefir is usually tart with a touch of yeast flavor. Milk kefir is usually sour as compared to yogurt.
What it means is that you need to take your time and determine if you really want to replace yogurt with milk kefir in your recipes. The consistency of the both is usually similar but you may notice a change in taste in your recipes for replacing one with the other.
Instructions to Make Kefir Milk from Home
Making your own milk kefir allows you to use more grains and enhance the probiotic benefits associated with kefir. It also costs you less to make kefir at home. And of course, you can use non-homogenized, organic, or raw milk as per your own choice. Here is what you need to make a cup of kefir milk:
- A cup of milk (whole fat)
- A teaspoon of active kefir grains
- A pint-sized glass jar
- A cheesecloth, clean napkin, or paper towel
- Storage container with lid
- Small container
- Before going any further, keep in mind that it is best to limit the contact between the kefir and metal during preparation or else the flavor of the kefir may change.
- Take a jar and add the grains and the milk in it. Ensure you take a glass jar and avoid metal. It is better to use the milk that is neither too hot not too cold.
- Use cheesecloth or a clean napkin to cover the jar and use a rubber band to secure it properly. Avoid screwing a lid at this stage because the accumulation of carbon dioxide from the fermentation process may cause pressure inside the jar and even make it to burst.
- Leave the jar at room temperature, somewhere around 70F. Do not store it in direct sunlight and leave for 12-48 hours to ferment. Be sure to check the jar every couple of hours. The milk is ready when it looks thickened and tastes tangy. Keep in mind that it takes at least 24 hours at average room temperature for the milk to ferment, but it may ferment faster at warmer temperatures.
- Strain out the grains in case the milk has not fermented even after 48 hours. You have to start again with a fresh batch. This usually happens when you use grains that you may have already refrigerated.
- After fermentation, take a small strainer and place it over the container. Now, strain out the kefir grains thoroughly. Ensure all the grains stay in the strainer.
- Now, stir those grains left in the strainer into a fresh batch of milk to ferment again. You can use this process to make a fresh batch of kefir about every 24 hours.
- If you do not want to make kefir for some time, you may simply place the grains in fresh milk and cover it tightly. Put it in the refrigerator.
- You can use milk kefir immediately in your recipes or store it in the refrigerator – it is usually good to use up to a week when covered properly.
• Be sure to activate dried kefir grains. Start by rehydrating dried kefir grains by soaking them in fresh milk. Change the milk once every 24 hours until the grains become activated and begin to culture the milk. You may have to wait 3-7 days until the grains become fully active.
• Opt for whole-fat cow, sheep, goat, or other animal milk to make kefir at home. Even if you decide to use low-fat milk, be sure to refresh the kefir grains in whole-fat milk in case they do not ferment the kefir properly.
• Use only a teaspoon of grains to ferment a couple of cups of milk. Fermentation goes quickly when you try to ferment less than a cup of milk because grains start to multiple with time. Stick to a ration of a teaspoon of grains to a cup of milk for the best results.
• Do not leave kefir for too long or it will separate into a milky layer. You can still use it by shaking the jar thoroughly but you may have to make a new batch if kefir separates regularly.
Enjoying Kefir in Different Ways
Now that you have learned how to make kefir from home, you may also be wondering what different recipes you can use to enjoy it. You can always drink kefir milk immediately after you make it, but you can add it to several recipes to enhance flavor. Here are some interesting options: