Part 1: Kefir Grains and how to take care of them
There are 10 simple rules to follow, along with simple steps for brewing. Also, we would be happy to answer any questions you have via email. These are the basics for making milk kefir and how to keep the grains healthy so you can use them over and over. Any type of milk can be used when the rules/steps are followed.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR HEALTHY KEFIR GRAINS
- They do not like metal. The ions that get released as a result of contacting the acetic acid they produce, act as catalysts in breaking them down, leading to their ultimate demise. Please use wooden spoons, glass jars, glass or ceramic bowls, and BPA free plastic strainers when handling them.
- They need oxygen and natural sugars to live. They are a symbiotic culture composed of bacteria (who need oxygen) and yeast (who need sugars). Sugars are naturally in milk and they find that quite satisfying. Please don’t add extra sugar during the brewing process. Oxygen is everywhere and by simply leaving some room in the jar for it, or covering the jar with a coffee filter, then banding it to prevent contamination, their bacteria will thrive as well.
- Never get them too hot. Heat will kill them all!
- Culturing the milk for too long will not hurt you, but give you a separation of fluids into curds and whey. Shaking this up in your strained ready to drink container will fix the separation and it is nothing to be concerned about. It is still drinkable. In fact there are some theories that homogenization (the process of spinning the milk quickly to prevent separation) is only good for looks and not for health. Alternatively, the whey can be poured off and stored to later pre-soak grains to remove phytates, and the curds can be placed in a cheesecloth in a strainer, over a bowl to dry out into soft kefir cheese!
- The ratio of yeast to bacteria affects the flavor. If you want a yeastier (and more effervescent) culture, the placement of the top can help. A tight-fitting lid will make less acetic acid and sourness, by stifling the bacteria, allowing more yeast to grow. If you want a more sour drink then feed the bacteria with oxygen, by using a coffee filter instead.
- Their yeast and their bacteria are both beneficial, as long as the drink does not smell/taste bad, but if you want more probiotic bacteria like I do, remember that comes with tartness!
- Culturing at room temperature works faster than in the fridge, but both are okay.
- Do not leave them in your fridge for too long without stirring to keep the grains covered and giving them fresh milk.
- You can use them for any type of milk, but they want to be returned to a cow, sheep, or goat milk that is free of hormones and antibiotics (remember they are made of bacteria!)after each brew to stay strong.
- Raw milk is a good way to pep them up as it is full of enzymes and bacteria that has not been destroyed through pasteurization. If you are lucky enough to live in a state where raw milk is legal, then consider using that with them all the time.
Things to watch out for:
Sometimes an imbalance in the yeast and bacteria can occur making the milk smell like nail polish remover or vomit. Do not drink this milk; discard it. But your grains can be saved. Simply make sure to keep them in fresh milk WELL COVERED and change them out one or two more times. If this does not work, then discard of the grains.
RECIPE FOR BREWING
Glass jar for brewing, any size.
Plastic colander or strainer with small holes/slits
Coffee filter or cloth that fits across the mouth of the jar with a rubber band or string
Tight fitting lid for the jar
Glass container for storing grains in the fridge (can be same as brewing jar or just big enough to store grains with a small amount of milk)
Container for storing brewed drink
The realization that these are living organisms and care is required!
- Secure a quality milk and optionally some cream to brew your kefir
- Remove them from packaging/storage and (optionally) rinse them in filtered, non-chlorinated water
- Place them in the amount of milk and more optional cream that you would like to brew. (For 1 tablespoon, a pint is a good starting amount, but soon they will multiply!) The milk can be cold. No need to warm it. They have been conditioned for ease of use.
- Leave some air in the jar and place a lid on top, or fill it and use a coffee filter.
- Leave them somewhere out of the sunlight (most people don’t know that sunlight destroys vitamin B 2 but now you do) for as long as you like according to the information given.
- Rotate or agitate the jar when you think about it, to infuse the beverage with oxygen and disturb those that have floated to the top.
- When ready to strain, prepare a clean glass or ceramic bowl, and place a plastic strainer on top.
- Pour the brew into the strainer and the milk will flow into the bowl, straining them out. If your brew is thick, then you may need to agitate the colander to get all the brew and the fat that is probably clinging to them. Leaving some fat on them is okay. They like it.
- Prepare your glass jar for storing them or the jar for another brew and place them inside, using your wooden spoon. (If you have one, a plastic canning funnel can prevent a mess)
- Pour the contents of the kefir into your drinking container and refrigerate. Now is the time to add flavor if you like! Vanilla and liquid stevia are simple and taste great.
- If storing them for future use, then put enough fresh milk in to cover them up, close with a lid and place in your fridge. They could be okay for up to 2 weeks but check on them regularly.
- If using them again immediately for a brew, then simply place the milk you want for the next day in the brewing jar with them and begin again!