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How to Make Homemade Milk Kefir

Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!

Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!

After having some delicious success with kombucha (one of the most popular recipes on the blog!), I got to thinking about what other tasty fermented things we could brew up at home. And over the course of a day I went from not having a clue how kefir works to biking across town to buy my very own kefir grains from a passionate home brewer selling his excess kefir starters on the Dutch equivalent to Craigslist.

I spent the next few weeks getting to know my new kefir baby. Our relationship was first that of fear. When I wasn’t scared of killing it, I was scared of drinking it. But after a few days I started to get the hang of what it needed (and oh my the way, it started to turn out some delicious kefir!)

For the unfamiliar, kefir is a thick, fermented milk drink. It tastes a bit like plain Greek yogurt – slightly sour and ultra-creamy. But even more so than yogurt, kefir is jam-packed with all kinds of gut-friendly probiotics! So if you’re curious about kefir or looking for a fun summer project, try giving kefir a go! Let’s get into the nitty gritty.

You’ll need some kefir grains

To start off this kef-venture, you’ll need to get your hands on some kefir grains. Kefir grains are the engine of this whole process, containing all the yeasts and bacteria needed to ferment the milk into creamy kefir. They’re like what the SCOBY is to kombucha, only instead of looking like alien pancakes they look like cauliflower!

Because they grow with each batch, people often find themselves with more kefir grains they need, making the grains easy to come buy for free or cheap on Craigslist or local Facebook groups. If all else fail, you can buy them dehydrated on Amazon.

Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!

Next comes the milk

The only other ingredient in this recipe is the milk! You’ll want to use pasteurized milk to start, but can switch to raw milk slowly after a few weeks of getting your kefir grains used to their new environment. The grains will also be a lot happier in whole milk. And finally, though you can use cow’s or goat’s milk, I’ve only had experience with whole cow’s milk.

Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!

Supplies needed to make kefir

How to make homemade milk kefir

  1. Clean: Clean everything well with regular soap (avoid antimicrobial soaps). I’m talking the hands, glass jugs, spoons, everything!
  2. Assemble: Add 1 Tbsp (ish) of the kefir grains and 4 cups of whole milk to a large glass jug. Cover the jug with either a few layers of paper towels or a few paper coffee filters. Secure with a rubber band to prevent any bugs or dust from getting in.
  3. Ferment: Set in a warm, dark spot (65 to 85 degrees F / 18 to 29 degrees C) for about 24 hours. You’ll know your kefir is done when it has slightly thickened and smells fermented. If you kefir has separated into yellowish watery-looking whey, that’s fine! It’s just a sign that you can either reduce the length of fermentation next time or use more milk next time.
  4. Strain: Place a wide non-metal bowl under a fine-mesh non-metal colander. Pour your finished kefir into the colander, stirring with a plastic or wooden spoon to gently force kefir through. The grains will be left.
  5. Start new batch: Rinse out the large jar that you fermented the grains in, then add the grains back into it. Add 4 cups of fresh milk to start the process over.
  6. Store fresh kefir: Transfer the finished kefir that collected in the wide bowl and transfer it to a sealable jar. Store in the fridge for around 2 weeks. Get the printable instructions for homemade milk kefir in the recipe card below!
Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!
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How to Make Homemade Milk Kefir

Cover the jug with either a few layers of paper towels or a few paper coffee filters. Secure with a rubber band to prevent any bugs or dust from getting in.
Course Beverages (Non-Alcoholic)
Diet Gluten-Free, Low Carb, Raw, Vegetarian
Time 60 minutes or more
Prep Time 5 minutes
Fermenting time 1 day
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 4 cups
Author Live Eat Learn

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp kefir grains
  • 4 cups whole cow's milk 960 mL

Supplies

  • Large(ish) glass jug (at least 5 cup capacity)
  • Non-metal slotted spoon
  • Paper towels or coffee filters
  • Rubber Bands
  • Wide non-metal bowl
  • Fine mesh non-metal colander
  • Jar for storing finished kefir

Instructions

  1. Clean: Clean everything well with regular soap (avoid antimicrobial soaps). I’m talking the hands, glass jugs, spoons, everything!

  2. Assemble: Add 1 Tbsp (ish) of the kefir grains and 4 cups of whole milk to a large glass jug. Cover the jug with either a few layers of paper towels or a few paper coffee filters. Secure with a rubber band to prevent any bugs or dust from getting in.

  3. Ferment: Set in a warm, dark spot (65 to 85 degrees F / 18 to 29 degrees C) for about 24 hours. You’ll know your kefir is done when it has slightly thickened and smells fermented. If you kefir has separated into yellowish watery-looking whey, that’s fine! It’s just a sign that you can either reduce the length of fermentation next time or use more milk next time.

  4. Strain: Place a wide non-metal bowl under a fine-mesh non-metal colander. Pour your finished kefir into the colander, stirring with a plastic or wooden spoon to gently force kefir through. The grains will be left.

  5. Start new batch: Rinse out the large jar that you fermented the grains in, then add the grains back into it. Add 4 cups of fresh milk to start the process over.

  6. Store fresh kefir: Transfer the finished kefir that collected in the wide bowl and transfer it to a sealable jar. Store in the fridge for around 2 weeks.

Breaking down the basics of how to make homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!

Homemade milk kefir FAQ

  1. Want to take a break from making kefir? Give your kefir grains fresh milk, cover with paper towels or coffee filters as described, then set in the refrigerator. This dramatically slows down the fermentation process, so you will only have to change out the milk every 1 to 2 weeks (or when you see the milk separating into layers).
  2. Why did my kefir form a yellowish watery layer on the bottom? This is normal! When the milk separates into layers, it’s a sign that the kefir as “eaten” everything it can. You can prevent it by either reducing the time you let it ferment (ex: 18 hours instead of 24), or by giving it more milk. It depends on your grains, house temperature, and milk, so don’t worry if it takes a few batches to understand how your kefir will brew best.
  3. Why do I have to use non-metal everything? Metals can hurt the microbial wonderland that is kefir. Avoid minimizing contact of the kefir with metal where possible (and definitely don’t brew the kefir in a metal vessel).
  4. More questions? Let us know in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you!) Thanks so much for dropping by and for making fun projects like this homemade milk kefir possible!

Comments (4)

  1. Cary says:

    I’ve some water kefir grains. Do you know if I can switch them over to make milk kefir?

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Cary! I actually am not totally sure. I’ve been thinking of trying to go the other way (milk to water kefir), but from what I’ve found online it can be a bit difficult to switch over because the bacteria strains are different.

  2. Billy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Definitely excited to start making my own milk kefir at home. Looks so easy!

    1. Sarah says:

      So happy to hear, Billy! It’s so fun and tasty to make 😀

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