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The Simple Guide to Kickass 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!)

What is 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.

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!

What are 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.

The best milk for making kefir

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 your own 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!

Love Kefir? Try out Kombucha!

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!
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!

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.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Beverages (Non-Alcoholic)
Diet: Gluten-Free, Low Carb, Raw, Vegetarian
Time: 60 minutes or more
Prep: 5 mins
Fermenting time: 1 d
Total: 5 mins
Servings: 4 cups
Author: Sarah Bond
5 from 2 votes

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

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

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Comments (18)

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  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!5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

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

  3. Morgane Giesecke says:

    What about flavored kefir like strawberry or blueberry? How would I go about making that?

    1. Sarah says:

      Ooh great question! I haven’t actually tried this yet but I would probably start by simply blending the berries into the finished kefir. You could also try cooking the berries down on the stove to bring out the natural sweetness, or try adding a touch of honey/sugar. Would love to hear how it goes for you!

  4. Tanya says:

    I am making kefir at home for years. I saw a comment, asking for blueberries or strawberries. I am adding all kinds of berries, banana, chia seed, flex seed, avocado, sometiimes cucumber mint and the seeds. very drinkable for breakfast. Give anything a try, kefir works beautifully!

    1. Sarah says:

      Yumm those flavors all sound delish!! Thanks for the tips, Tanya!

  5. Leo says:

    Because I didn’t know were to get the kefir grains by were I live. I bought a bottle of kefir at the grocery store, and add it some to a galon of regular milk. With great success now I am making my own kefir. The only thing I don’t get is the kefir grains, but every time is going low I just add some to a new gallon of milk let it sit in my kitchen counter for 2 days and is ready to consume.

    Some body try it and compared to theit to the grain kefir and let me know if it taste the same.

    Thanks

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Leo! I haven’t tried it like this before because the grains are pretty important for providing the right bacteria. It sounds sketchy, but I bought mine off Craigslist, you could try there!

  6. Barb says:

    My kefir grains seem to be diminishing. How can I grow more with this teaspoon size group?

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Barb! Under the right conditions they should slowly grow. Make sure they’re somewhere relatively warm (68-85 F) and not in direct sunlight. Then just feed them plenty of whole milk and shake the jar every now and then to ensure they don’t clump together. Good luck!! 😀

  7. Robert says:

    I bought my kefir grains trough Amazon, $20 with the size of my nail from my thumb.
    Now 3 months later, they grew to almost a pound.
    Don’t even know , what to do with it.

    The strangest thing how ever is, My mom used to make Kefir, 35 years ago, the structure of the kefir grains were totally different, they were softer and shiny, the one I have are dull, and broken white of color.

    1. Sarah says:

      Wow yours have really grown! You can give some to friends or sell them for a few bucks (I bought mine on Craigslist from someone doing just that!)

      I wonder if your mom was doing milk kefir? Water kefir grains look a bit like what you’re describing, shiny and soft. Regardless, it sounds like yours are healthy and strong!

  8. Robert says:

    HEllo,

    When Kefir separates, in whey and kefir yogurt.

    The milk what I use, has 8 grams of protein, where does it goes into?

    The Whey or the yogurt?

    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Robert! This is a great question. When kefir separates, the liquid contains the whey protein while the solids contain the casein protein. With that said, if your kefir separates simply whisk it back together (no need to strain it, like we would in yogurt making) (unless you really want a thicker kefir).

  9. Jaymee says:

    This is an amazing site. Stuff I wasn’t sure I was doing right. I just finished another 4 cups of Kefir in 24 hours. I noticed this time there are tiny brown flecks in the grains. It smells and tastes fine. What are they? Is it still ok to drink? I use whole organic milk from Costco. I am separating them this time. They have grown so much. I will continue to peruse your site. Thanks bunches. Hope your site is still active.5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      I’m happy this has been helpful for you, Jaymee! I haven’t had brown flecks show up in mine before, but I would be a little skeptical of them. Can you separate the grains with those specks from the rest? It’s tricky with kefir because the sour flavor also masks signs of mold.

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