The Kefir Manual

Your ultimate guide to kefir by YourKefirSource.com

Introduction

Listen to yourself say it, “kefir” (keh’-feer). Now say it over and over until your tongue gets used to verbalizing it and your ears to hearing it. The name might sound alien for now, but believe it or not, once you’ve learned more about it, the more kefir will become a part of your language, your diet and your life.

What exactly is kefir? Check out a short and long description of what many refer to as a miracle health drink that can change the way you see health and wellbeing completely.

Description

Here’s a short description according to Wikipedia: “Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains.”

This definitely begs a longer and more exhaustive description. So here goes: More than a fermented drink resembling yogurt, kefir is a cultured probiotic food that is packed with living bacteria, phosphorous, folic acid, lactic acid, biotin, vitamins K, and vitamin B, among others. Its main ingredients are kefir grains and it is in these grains where the magic begins.

There’s more to this description than meets the eye. To learn more about kefir grains and what type of “magic” powers they possess, read my other posts about Kefir.

There is another word in the description that needs to be explained further: “probiotics” (from “pro” and “biota”, which means “for life”). What does it mean?

Probiotics

Again quoting from the free encyclopedia, “Probiotics are live microorganisms that may confer a health benefit on the host … ‘live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance’ … commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic)

In other words, probiotics are friendly bacteria that promote good health.

good bacteria from kefir

The human body is made up of many things, including bacteria and microbes. There are trillions and trillions of microbes living inside the human body, which literally means we are 90% bacteria and 10% human. This sounds sci-fi-ish but it’s true. Tiny microbes live within us and help us live life as we know it.

We often associate bacteria and microbes with diseases, but in reality, we need them in order to live. A doctor from the University of Washington explains that “these microbes living in our bodies aren't just there for the ride — they're actively contributing to the normal physiology of the human body”.

It is the harmful types of bacteria that make us sick; not the helpful ones. When we ingest a probiotic drink, when we drink kefir, we are letting in more helpful bacteria into our systems so that they can promote intestinal microbial balance.

Check this site to learn more about probiotics http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0905c.shtml

Probiotic drinks and foods have long been consumed in Northern Europe and some parts in Asia. They are relatively new in the American health and wellbeing circuit.

Now let's take a brief look at kefir’s history beginning from the Caucasus Mountains.

History of Kefir: Where The Magic Began

Names

Kefir is known by many other names, and most of them hint at the fact that people are amazed at what kefir can do. Alternate names include: “Grains of the Prophet Mohammed”, “Drink of the Prophet”, “Tibetan Mushrooms”, “Snow Lotus”, “Balm of Gilead”, “California Bees”, kombucha, tibicos, and beer seeds . Two other names, “Yogurt Plant” and “Yogurt Mushroom”, point to kefir’s physical similarity with yogurt. But are they really similar? (Learn more about the differences of yogurt and kefir below.)

Kefir also has international names: Japanese water crystal, Kin-oko, yogoot-tane-oko (Japanese), Tibetanischer Pilz (German), Galodium (Romanian and/or Polish), and Kefyras (Lithuanian).

Folklore

Perhaps the most intriguing of these names is “Grains of The Prophet Mohammed”, which pertains to a historical encounter (regarded by many as nothing more than folklore) between the prophet and Tibetan monks—although some say they were Orthodox Christians, to be precise. The story tells about Prophet Mohammed’s journey to the Caucasus Mountains and a short stopover at a Tibetan monastery where he gave out kefir “grains”. The prophet strictly forbade the people to give away the grains or talk about them to other people or else the grains would lose their magical powers. This explains why not many people know much about kefir until today. Kefir is still hiding in the shadows of the much more popular yogurt.

Even the folklore involving the prophet is shrouded with so many mysteries. It leaves us with more questions than answers: Where did the prophet get those grains? From whom did he learn about their magical strength? Why did he prohibit the people from letting kefir known?

We may never know the answers, unfortunately. That said, we are finding out more about kefir every day as researchers begin to take an interest in it and its secrets.

History

Meanwhile, a more acceptable historical account of kefir’s beginnings is much less dramatic. The fermented dairy beverage was most likely discovered more than a thousand years ago by shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains who accidentally fermented milk inside their leather pouches. What used to be fresh milk turned into an effervescent beverage, which the shepherds later discovered to have a number of health benefits.

Caucasus Mountain Map Map showing location of Caucasus. Photo from Daily Writing Tips

Somehow, word got out that the tribes-folk living in the northern portion of the mountains had a magical beverage that allowed the people to live longer. Russian doctors of the Victorian era later picked up on reports about the beverage’s power to treat tuberculosis and intestinal disorders. They believed that kefir was truly magically beneficial to one’s health. Since then, kefir has become a popular health drink in the Caucasus region, Russia, and southwestern Asia, and recently in Western Europe.

Fellow kefir fan & Karachay native, Boris Tekeev, shared some kefir history. There is a town in Russia called Karachayevsk or Karachay, where a statue of a Karachay girl with a cup of Kefir welcomes quests of the town. Karachay is actually a region of Caucasus near mount Elbrus where kefir originated.
Karachay Region where Kefir Originated

Hospitals in the former Soviet Union used kefir to treat atherosclerosis, allergic disease, digestive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, tuberculosis, and even cancer (http://www.oprah.com/health/Yogurt-and-Kefir-Dr-Perricones-No-10-Superfood/5).

Simply put, the history of kefir is quite sketchy. Both stories – that of the prophet who forbade people to talk about it and the accidental discovery by shepherds – make it clear that (1) kefir is very potent and (2) the surrounding circumstances made it difficult for anyone to really document how kefir was discovered.

Another group of kefir-lovers actually argue that the biblical manna mentioned in the Old Testament was kefir grains! They were white, fluffy, satisfying, and fermented when stored.

kefir manna

If You Only Have to Choose One: Kefir vs. Yogurt

To better understand kefir, it is important to compare it with yogurt. Everybody knows yogurt. Mainstream health buffs and health gurus know yogurt as a probiotic drink that promotes good health. But not many know that kefir is much more potent and beneficial. Below is a short description and history of yogurt, and then a rundown of what yogurt has and what kefir has, as well as what yogurt can do and why kefir can do it better.

Yogurt, according to Wikipedia “is a dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk.” Bacterial yogurt cultures are added to pasteurized milk in order to ferment the milk’s lactose content and produce lactic acid. Cow’s milk is typically preferred over goat, water buffalo, camel, sheep, nut, or soy milk.

It is most likely that yogurt was discovered not long after early man learned to domesticate animals. Yogurt probably became a staple drink in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BC. It is also most likely that its discovery was accidental, just like that of kefir’s. We can imagine early drinkers of milk suddenly discovered that their drink has thickened and gone sour after being stored for some time. They used to store their milk in bags made from animal stomachs. We can guess that their “animal stomach bags” still had bacteria in them, which eventually fermented the milk.

They decided to drink the sour milk anyway and eventually learned to love it. “Yogurt” is Turkish for “to curdle” or “to thicken”.

Historical records reveal that the first people to produce and consume yogurt are those living in the Middle East. And since it had so much acid in it, yogurt was also used as lotion and cleaning product, believe it or not.

The most common yogurt today contains two types of bacteria: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These are helpful bacteria. Lactobacillus bulgaricus breaks down lactose, fights diseases, and produces vitamins B and K. Streptococcus thermophilus, on the other hand, cleans the intestines.

Now here is where kefir takes the limelight and stands tall over yogurt. While yogurt has two bacterial strains, kefir has 30-40! (Their names are difficult to pronounce; you can check them out here: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/milk-kefir-grains-composition-bacteria-yeast.)

These friendly bacteria are found to contain enzymes, yeasts, phosphorous, folic acid, lactic acid, biotin, vitamins K, vitamin B, and other helpful vitamins and minerals. Kefir also has different strains of yeast.

Not only does kefir have more bacteria than yogurt, it also has bacteria of the better kind. According to the Midvalleyvu Family Farm, kefir contains right-turning bacteria, which is a type of bacteria that is “far superior and much more beneficial to the digestive tract”, while yogurt has left-turning bacteria, a type that is harmful to nursing mothers and young children.

Also, “Yogurt contains transient bacteria and will not repopulate the digestive tract, but the active, growing, living cultures in kefir will.”

It has also been said that a cup of yogurt contains up to 1 trillion bacteria, but a cup of kefir can contain up to 5 trillion.

The real good news, however, is that you win with either drink since both are beneficial. But if you have to choose one, kefir is the clear winner. Kefir bacteria stay in your stomach to keep it healthy. They keep working long after the yogurt bacteria have gone.

Now that you know kefir is not yogurt, let’s take a closer look at the different types of kefir.

Types of Kefir: What is Your Type?

When you say “kefir” you mean the beverage. It is made up of milk and kefir grains. But since you can use water instead of milk, too, you can actually make two types of kefir: milk (or dairy) kefir and water kefir. And since there are different types of milk, you can come up with a variety of dairy kefir as well.

Milk Kefir

Kefir grains can ferment all forms of mammalian milk – cow, mare, goat, sheep, buffalo, camel, etc. In fact, according to Yemoos, some have tried fermenting human milk to hopefully help treat cancer.

It is also common to use non-milk mediums such as soy milk, rice milk, nut milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Talk about limitless varieties, although non-milk kefir drinks lack the nutrients you get from dairy milk.

Meanwhile, dairy milk is classified according to how it was processed before it reached your doorsteps. Milk is classified as raw, pasteurized or homogenized.

Raw milk comes straight from the farm to your kitchen; pasteurized milk is what you buy from the grocery; and homogenized milk is pasteurized milk whose fatty contents have been further processed and broken down.

Many kefir drinkers prefer using raw milk since there is a common thinking that everything raw and organic is healthier and more nutritious than processed drinks. If you’re in the United States, however, it is not easy getting raw milk since several states think it is unsafe and unsanitary, and therefore prohibit its distribution and sales. If you do manage to find raw milk in health stores and farmer’s markets, make sure it’s from grass-fed cows, goats or sheep.

This shouldn’t bother you, though. If you ask the kefir grains themselves (pretending they talk), they’d tell you they won’t mind diving into any type of milk. They’d feed and ferment any kind – raw, pasteurized or homogenized. Other sub-types of milk that you can buy from the grocery are whole milk, standardized milk, UHT (ultra-heat treatment), fresh milk, low-fat, non-fat, and skimmed milk.

But what about the less popular but equally beneficial water kefir?

Water Kefir

Water kefir is popular in its own right. It is known by many other names such as tibicos, California bees, African bees, ginger beer plant, and Japanese water crystals. Water kefir doesn’t have that white, creamy look that makes kefir popular because water kefir grains are not white and fluffy. They are crystalline grains and the drink is fizzy and bubbly. While milk kefir looks like yogurt, water kefir looks like soda or beer. Here's a nice way to drink water kefir as an alternative to sodas from Audry of ANutritionalMakeover.

Water kefir drinkers usually add fruit juice or slices for chaser. Water kefir can be made much more flavorful and delicious than its dairy counterpart. It is also a good beverage to drink while at work. Wanna know why? BerryRipe.com has summed it up into 7 reasons as to why we should have a bottle of water kefir during workdays.

Here is a nice trivia for you about water kefir. Did you know that water kefir is an aerobic ferment, and can also be anaerobic? Find out more from It Takes Time.

Still can't make your choice? Read my other thoughts on what to choose, milk or water Kefir.

Comparison

Differences:

To lay down a clear-cut comparison, milk kefir and water kefir have five distinct differences: the grains, the base, physical appearance, taste, and contents.

Grains:

Water kefir is made from crystalline-like and salt-like grains that feed on sugar.

Milk kefir is made from white, fluffy grains that feed on milk lactose. They look like tiny cauliflowers. Milk kefir grains have more bacteria.

Base:

Water kefir grains munch on sweetened water.

Milk kefir grains munch on milk (of any type).

Physical appearance:

Water kefir is clear, fizzy and bubbly like carbonated water.

Milk kefir is white and rich like yogurt with curds, whey and cottage-cheese-like grains.

Another sample of Water Kefir

water kefir A Jar of Water Kefir before it ferments.

Taste:

Water kefir is sweet, but will lose its sweetness when fermented longer. Ginger ale water kefir will taste almost like beer.

Milk kefir is sour and tart-tasting, and will get more sour when fermented longer.

Contents:

Water kefir is non-dairy, which makes it perfect for vegans. If you’re making the coconut water kefir variety, it contains calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc, electrolytes, enzymes, amino acids, potassium, sodium, phyto-hormones, and cytokine.

Milk kefir has calcium, protein, fat, vitamins, and different carbohydrates, including lactose or milk sugar.

Note: Both kefir variants have tiny amounts of alcohol. (It’s so tiny, about 0.8-2%, it won’t get you drunk. Although you might wish it could as you start making your own water-based ginger ale kefir.)

That pretty much sums up the differences.

Meanwhile, citing their similarities is actually easier. Both milk kefir and water kefir can make you healthy and may be stored for a long, long time. The bacteria in the grains can potentially live forever if cared for properly.

The Commercial Type

Finally, there is another type of kefir that you should avoid – the commercial type. Store-bought kefir is artificial kefir (uses artificially produced kefir starters, which also lacks organisms that can be found in traditional kefir). You can get real kefir only from people who store and grow them. There are plenty of kefir “sharers” online who are willing to share their grains for free. You just need to pay for shipping and other overhead costs. The good thing about buying real kefir is that you only need to purchase them once. Once you have the living grains, you should know how to store, feed and take care of them.

If you know someone who has real kefir grains, he or she shouldn’t think twice of giving you some.

How to Make Kefir in Three Easy Steps

To start your journey to a life of better health, it is necessary to first learn how to make kefir. An initial reaction is to simply buy ready-made kefir and skip the hassles of creating your own drink. But as already mentioned, store-bought kefir are artificial and may not have living bacterial strains. Forget about it.

Get real kefir grains online and make your own authentic, nutritious kefir drink. Making kefir is easy and making it yourself gives you control on how thick you want it to be.

Here are three easy steps:

One, get started with starters.

Two, let the grains do their work.

Three, bottoms up.

Let’s break these steps down further.

One: Get started by acquiring real kefir grains online. Let me say this again: the grains sold in health stores are not real kefir grains. They are good copies; they could be beneficial, but they are not the magical grains that could change your life; they are not the ones handed down by the Prophet Mohammed to generations and generations of kefir sharers around the world.

Real kefir grains should look like this:

milk kefir grains

Keep in mind that authentic distributors don’t make a business out of kefir. They share the grains, as the Prophet Mohammed did when he first handed the grains to the monks in Tibet. You would need to pay for shipping and handling, though. I have a few testimonials and feedback from some of my readers about their experiences with getting and growing kefir.

In my personal experience, I really had a hard time getting my first grains. I got in touch with a lot of people who share their kefir grains for free, but most of the time, I just never got my grains. Most of them seldom reply to my questions, or totally never replied. Sad to say I wasted a lot of kefir grains back then. I suggest that if you are just starting, or is having a hard time growing your kefir, then get/buy your kefir grains from Michael. I easily got my grains from him and he has an awesome video course. Plus he replies fast. :) He was patient with me when I was having trouble with my grains. It was a bit of an investment because I bought all the materials he had to help me perfect my kefir drink (yes, I was obsessed that way! :D )

Two: Let the grains do their work. Don’t forget that in your hands are tiny living organisms. Think of them as pets that you need to feed. As you place them in a clean glass jar with milk, they will begin to feed and ferment your milk right away. Mix them well. If you’re making kefir for the first time, put 2 tablespoons of grains for every 2 cups of milk. You can change that ratio later on if you wish.

Let your grains feed for 24 hours. Place them somewhere warm because they like it and work faster that way. If you’re in a cool place, you might need more than 24 hours. After that much time, check your kefir if it looks thick or sour enough for you. Ferment more if you want it thicker and more sour.

If you’re finally happy with how they look and taste, stir and then strain. You can use the grains for a second fermentation. Place them in a new glass for the time being, and with new milk.

If you’re not sure how kefir should look like, you should have produced something like this:

Meanwhile, there are other ways to do Step Two if you’re trying out different kefir varieties. For instance, if you want to make coconut milk kefir, you can also try these instructions at http://www.culturesforhealth.com/coconut-milk-kefir-recipe. Let me know which steps are the easiest to do.

If you want to try your hand in making water kefir, meet the Wellness Mama at http://wellnessmama.com/2261/how-to-make-water-kefir-soda/ to see how it is done.

I've also posted my own experience of culturing kefir. You can check here how I make my own milk kefir and my own water kefir drinks. My fav baby blog (& mommy blogger) also drinks kefir regularly.

Three, bottoms up to better health. Be warned: kefir is not delicious. It is healthy; it is very nutritious, but not delicious. You can add some fruit slices to make your kefir more flavorful if you wish, but you should not get your expectations too high from the start. Some people do like it, but it’s more of an acquired taste than anything else.

If you can’t drink it all, store inside the fridge. Make sure to keep away from metal or dirty containers to avoid getting your kefir contaminated.

You can also visit Cultured Food Life at http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/how-to-make-kefir/ to learn more steps and tricks of making kefir.

If you’re the visual type and would need to see a demo to really learn how it’s done, check this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8inJzX-6yE

Storing Kefir for Life

Other than for its health benefits, kefir is also amazing for the fact that you can store the grains for future use. Not only are you storing them for safekeeping, you’re making them grow and thrive as well. Here’s how you do it.

Dont's

First, learn the Don’ts when storing your grains:

  • Don’t use solvents or detergents to wash your grains.
  • Don’t squeeze the grains.
  • Don’t use metal when straining, transferring and storing. Most believe that metal contaminates the grains.
  • Don’t forget to put a lid on your container.
  • Don’t forget to place them in a cool place. They will spoil if you leave them in room temperature or warmer.
  • Don’t heat the grains. The bacteria will die when heated.

Kefir grains thrive in temperatures between 22°C and 30°C (72°F and 86°F). You have to maintain balance in temperature, as a farmer would when hatching eggs. Again, you are fostering live bacteria when storing the grains.( From http://www.kefir.biz/ferm.htm)

  • Don’t deep freeze, either. Some grains are very difficult to wake up from deep-freeze sleep. But if you must, then learn how to revive your grains. Continue reading below or check out Five in Tow to learn about reviving frozen or dried kefir, as well as other tips in caring for the grains.
  • Don’t forget to feed your grains. If you place them in milk and allow them to keep feeding, they will not die.

Bacteria don’t easily die (except when heated) and could outlive any human being on earth. Remember, they survived quite well in the Caucasus Mountains in olden days when there were no refrigerators, coolers, glass jar containers, and other conveniences that we have now.

Do's

Now the Do’s:

  • Rinse your grains clean using cold water (sorry for not being clear about this before). You can rinse your kefir especially when they turned bad, and rinse them only when necessary. You have to make sure that the water you use has no chlorine. You can use bottled spring water but check that it has no chlorine. Also you have to be gentle when you rinse them. You just have to lightly run them in water. Here is a good way to rinse your grains. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/rehabilitating-fixing-repairing-damaged-water-kefir-grains
  • Use only clean, non-metallic utensils when storing, rinsing, straining, and transferring the grains. Use glass or plastic containers, wooden spoons, and bamboo or cloth strainers. Many prefer glass containers over plastic because glass is toxin-free.
  • Place the grains in fresh milk and put in your fridge at a temperature of about 4°C. (Also from http://www.kefir.biz/ferm.htm)
  • Change the milk every few weeks if you will store them for a long time; longer than 14 days. Feed them with new milk to make sure they stay active.
  • Strain and keep the grains after making a kefir drink. Place them in a new and clean glass container

Finally, if you need to store them for a long, long time, say you’re going on a vacation. You can do so by deep freezing or dehydrating the grains. The problem is bringing them back to life when you return from vacation. It’s not impossible; it just takes some time and a lot of patience in your part.

Time to Wake Up

Here are some things you can do to wake your grains up.

One, dissolve sugar in water; place the grains, cover the container and let it stay for 3 days. Get the grains and place in a cup of fresh milk every 24 hours.

Two, feed them with lactose (milk sugar). It’s time for your grains to eat again. Place them in a clean glass jar with milk. Cover the jar and let it stay for another 24 hours.

Three, mix to thicken and allow to sit for another 12 hours or more. After such time, your grains should be up and active once again.

Waking them up will take some time. According to the Kefir Lady, the grains “will be sluggish at first and you will think they are dead. They did not die. Give them a fresh change of milk every day, keeping your culture jar at room temperature. Taste every batch. Notice how your kefir gets a little better each day. Be sure to adjust the milk according to the taste and not the consistency.”pal

Benefits of Kefir

The name “kefir” doesn’t do justice to what this drink can do. It’s such an awkward name for an extremely beneficial drink. Through the years people thought so, too, which is why they also named it “The Grains of the Prophet”, “Drink of the Prophet”, “Snow Lotus”, and “Balm of Gilead”. These names suggest mystery, of something sacrosanct, and hinting that kefir can do a lot of good to people.

So, what can kefir do?

Kefir is a double-barreled gun, a two edged sword, a double whammy since it can do two things at the same time: cure diseases and promote good health.

It is known to treat the following diseases: tuberculosis, hypertension, diabetes, ulcer, diarrhea, colitis, reflux, depression, anxiety, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), urinary tract infection, eczema, acne, arthritis, gout, lactose intolerance, leaky gut syndrome, bronchitis, asthma, osteoporosis, allergies, migraine, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and possibly HIV/AIDS.

At the same time, kefir is known to regulate the immune system, provide natural protection against diseases, regulate blood pressure, promote production of bile, produce natural antibiotics, improve blood circulation, calm the nerves, strengthen the kidneys, regulate cholesterol level, regulate metabolism, promote weight loss, improve skin tone, cleanse the digestive tract, regulate blood sugar levels, protect the prostate, and slow the aging process.

Kefir can do that much. For a more complete list of health benefits, check out my post Kefir Health Benefits.

Don't get me wrong, though. Some of these health claims are still under scientific studies, and most are from personal experiences of kefir drinkers. It is important to note that personal experiences do not equate to scientific and medical proof. Still, it doesn't hurt to drink kefir because of these health benefits, right? :) To give you a better understanding of kefir's health claims, this post from LA Times is a good additional read.

Truth

Believe it: Do you think it’s too good to be true? Perhaps you’re now saying, “That can’t be true. It must be a scam.”

Well, here are three reasons for you to believe that kefir can indeed offer such benefits.

One, kefir had passed the test of time. People have been using it for the last 5,000 years. After news of it spread from the Caucasus Mountains to the rest of Europe, to Asia and now North America, kefir grains have been subjected to a number of studies and held up. I made a list before of proven and unproven health benefits of kefir. You should check it out.

Two, it is packed with so many helpful contents such as: probiotics (30-40 strains of friendly bacteria), yeasts, proteins, polysaccharide, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, carbon dioxide, and ethanol.

This could possibly be the only health drink in the world that contains so much good stuff. It is definitely 10 times more helpful than milk or yogurt.

And three, the testimonials. The best marketing strategy is “word-of-mouth” because it proves that a product really works. Here are just a few of what people are saying about drinking kefir.

Stuff I've Compiled Over The Years

Your Kefir Source has been around for over 6 years. I've received countless questions and testimonials about kefir and I'd like to discuss them below so you can easily find what you are looking for. It has a more personal feel to it because these are from people who might have experienced the same thing you are experiencing now. I still get them daily and I appreciate everybody for taking the time to do so. :)

Most Asked Questions

On Cholesterol & Health

Question: I've been trying to find out if milk kefir has all the cholesterol in it after culturing...I have high cholesterol and this concerns me...

Reply: I'm sure it has a little bit in it but it should be mostly broken down by the good bacteria. And these small amounts of "good" cholesterol are actually good for your body..

Question: What if you have candida and are sensitive both to sugar and to milk?

Reply: I always suggest you to try anything that might help you feel better and if it doesn't work for you in about 3-4 weeks then just mark it off the list. I've heard of kefir helping candida and not helping it. Again every one's body can react differently to different foods.

On Making Kefir

Question: ...i used raw milk for 5 days in a row to re-hydrate them and changed the milk every day..VERY SOUR...is that ok? what do i do with my grains? rinse them? can i put them in the fridge? when i change the mild can i still drink that? can i leave them out on the counter? if I change the milk from raw to organic regular do i have to rinse them?

Reply: Rinsing: You only have to rinse them once a week but make sure to keep fresh milk on them every day. Putting in the fridge: You can but the coolness of the fridge will slow down the growth of the good bacteria... keeping it in the fridge is kind of like putting them in storage. You can leave them in the same milk for 5-7 days in the fridge then take them out and change the milk daily at room temperature when you want to make another cup of kefir.You can still drink the "mild"...room temp is best temperature... changing raw milk to organic regular should be fine.

Question: 2 questions: 1. After it sits for about a day it starts getting a yeast smell, is that normal? 2. Recently I've been getting more curds, it's almost like a cheese that's forming in the milk...it's better when it was just a thicker milk. I use about 6-7 cups of milk with about 1/2 a cup of Kefir grains. I let them sit for about 24 - 36 hours before straining them and starting over.

Reply: If you want just thicker milk, don't let them ferment for so long or take some of the kefir grains out. You will have to experiment because your local temperatures can really affect the growth. Remember, the warmer it is, the faster they will cultivate.

Question: I'm having trouble getting my Kefir to take off, I've grown Kefir before...It took off right away, I'm following all the guidelines. Do you have any suggestions?

Reply: You probably haven't had your kefir more than a week. That is still very early. As mentioned in the paper instructions and the instructions in the video course, it will take about 4 to 6 weeks before they start to get more pop corn-like as you see in the video. The temperature outside is also cooling off, remember the cooler the temperatures the slower the growth. So make sure to keep them in a warm spot! But size doesn't matter in this case. As long as you are starting to see the milk thicken, you know everything is working properly.

Question: Can you use the "so delicious" Coconut milk to start kefir?

Reply: I know water kefir will work with coconut water but never used the "so delicious" coconut milk with milk kefir... just make sure that you have grown your new kefir grains in fresh milk for at least six weeks so that they have a good micro flora balance when they are transfered to a new medium to grow in.

Question: I have been happily making kefir using organic canned coconut milk... However, the kefir grains do not grow or increase... I pretty much have the same amount I started with a couple of months ago! Do I need to "rest" them with a feed of milk?

Reply: I'm not for sure but others have told me that kefir grains only grow in milk and although it will culture other mediums for some reason they will not get larger in anything but milk.

Question: Is it true when you make a smoothie with the kefir you should not blend it in the Vita Mix blender because the high speed blade destroys the live bacteria?

Reply: Theoretically, yes, but if you culture kefir again after blending, you'll see that it still works. So the strains do survive it :)

Question: I've noticed something going on with my Kefir grains... instead of having uniform grains they seem to have changed shape and appeared to be a little more stringy... flavor is very strong and cheesy even with a smaller amount in the jar and (just) 24 hrs. Is (there) something going on here?

Reply: Sounds like it's cultivating the milk very quickly. You could either (a) add more milk, (b) soak the kefir grains in milk for only 12 hours and taste it or (c) you could take out some kefir grains so that it doesn't cultivate so quickly... play with one of those 3 options and figure out what taste you like the best.

Questions: Do I really have to use a plastic mesh to strain my kefir? I already have a metal strainer. :(

Reply: I've found conflicting explanations about this. Some say that using a metal strainer is fine. Others say that the good bacteria doesn't like the vibrations that a metal strainer gives off. I have used a metal strainer for my kefir and they turned out fine. I think if you don't leave the kefir in the metal strainer for too long it will be fine.

Questions: I'm having challenges with the consistency of my kefir. Sometimes I get a really nice texture and taste (sort of fizzy). Sometimes I get a thicker texture with some clear liquid when I strain them. Also, they are slightly separated after straining. Any idea how I can maintain getting the perfect kefir drink?

Reply: Consistency is a little difficult to achieve with kefir. There can be a lot of variables that will affect the texture of your kefir. Even the smallest amount of change in the temperature will affect the outcome of your kefir. If you use the same amount of kefir grains with the same amount of milk and store it at the same temperature everyday, then you will have the exact same consistency of kefir every time. But if the kefir gets a little warmer than it did the day before, it can cause it to ferment faster, making it taste a little more sour than it did. So the taste and "fizzyness" will happen according to temperature and how long it sits. The thickness usually has to do with the type of milk. Whole milk will be the thickest.

Questions: ...wonder if my grains are actually multiplying... They started to separate... Just have to adjust grain and milk ratio... Recently, my Kefir isn't as sour. However, I have been reducing my fermenting time... I let some Kefir rest in (the) refrigerator for about a week and decided I better wake them. I wonder if they are ok. What would you say?

Reply: It’s normal for that to happen. You should give it a week back in it’s normal room temperature and observe from there. You can control the taste by adjusting your time of fermentation, so you are right about that. :)

Questions: I live in Washington by the coast and it's down to the 30's at night. I am on the second floor. Will I need to consider wrapping the jar or is being on the second floor enough?

Reply: You will probably need to put it in a cupboard to keep it a bit more “room temp” but you can observe first how it fares. If it slows down the production versus what it normally does, then you probably will need to wrap it up and put it in a little bit warmer place.

On Reviving and Storing

Questions: I have not used my Kefir grains for two weeks, I took them out of the fridge and there is a mould on top of the grains. I have removed the mold, is it safe to use Kefir grains again?

Reply: Yes, absolutely fine. Just make sure you rinsed them off or you can soak them in Hydrogen peroxide for about 8 hours and that should really help give them a jump if they've been stored for awhile.

Questions: All is going well with the milk kefir up to about 2 months or so ago. The grains look the same. However, the flavor of the finished product has changed. The milk is sour tart very tangy. It is not flavorful. I've tried many different things... to try and bring the grains back to the normal flavor. I have changed the milk on a daily basis for 10 days. I have put grains in yogurt for 2 days, back to milk and then back to yogurt, and back to milk. I have left them out of milk for a few days on the counter. I don’t know what has happened. The milk source has not changed. What am I doing wrong and how can I fix the problem?

Reply: These could very well be damaged. Leaving them out on the counter with no milk can really hurt them. And I'm not too sure about mixing them in yogurt. It probably wouldn't hurt them but that could give them a different taste if they were mixed with other cultures. I wish there was a way to save these but it sounds like they've been damaged beyond repair. :(

Questions: How can I bring back the water kefir grains that have become small and not working like they used to?

Reply: You could soak the grains in hydrogen peroxide for 4-8 hours, then add a little more sugar and minerals than normal to the next few batches. Some say they grow the fastest with maple syrup but I have not tried this. Organic molasses is the next best thing and it's cheaper. What you are trying to do here is give the grains a good bath and then fatten them up with a little more nutrients than the usual.

On The Effects

Question: Lately my urine is burning. Is this normal? ...maybe too much acid from the kefir or too much sugar? I use about 5-6 tablespoons full plus black strap molasses.

Reply: Yes, that sounds like way too much sugar. I believe that the burning urination would cease if you stopped using the sugar.

Question: ...this new FAD for HEALTH is not for everyone. I had a very VIOLENT reaction to Kefir I bought in a health food store... I have NO PROBLEMS with yogurt or milk so it's not a lactose problem. Thoughts?

Reply: ...I personally have tried the kefir that you can buy in the store and it gave me a sore scratchy throat and a little stomach queezyness. I didn't like it either. But with kefir made at home from real living kefir grains I never had a problem and you can taste the difference. So if you're curious, try the real kefir grains that you make at home and I would almost bet that you would not have the problems you were getting from the store kefir... Either way, every one's body is different so it's always wise to listen to your own...

Question: ...started on milk kefir & found (that) I smelled like kefir all the time...I cultured some water kefir but still I smelled like it all day long. Maybe you can tell me what the problem is?

Reply: I've never heard of this before but maybe you are drinking too much kefir? Try lowering your kefir intake.

Question: I started gaining wait since I started taking Kefir. Is it normal? I use 2% low fat milk and drink about 500 ml a day.

Reply: I have never heard about people gaining weight from it alone so maybe it’s your body’s reaction to it? You might want to try and lessen the amount to 250ml daily as that’s the amount I always recommend. It’s still calories so if it’s past your body’s daily caloric intake requirements, then you will start to gain weight.

On Taste

Question: Can I add raw honey or some fruit with kefir? I just can't take it plain! :(

Reply: There is no problem with adding some "taste" to your kefir. I use different kinds of fruits when I make my smoothie, and yes, sometimes I add honey as sweetener.

Question: Is it just my version of kefir or is the taste of kefir not really good at all?

Reply: Drinking kefir is an acquired taste. At first I also found it difficult to drink. I thought I was doing it wrong. But I found out that kefir does not really have a good taste. That's why a lot of people make fruit smoothies with their kefir. It took me some time to enjoy drinking plain kefir, too.

On Drinking Kefir

Question: Recommended dosage of kefir intake in a day? Do I drink it daily? I love it so much!

Reply: 250ml is a good recommended dosage. I know people that drink a bit less daily and I know people that drink a liter of it, seriously. You can drink it daily, but if you are just starting, try it every other day and slowly increase your consumption until you get to 250ml. This way your body can adjust because your body will always be different from other's.

That's it for now, this is a condensed version of my original post that you can find here.

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The Kefir Manual

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