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How to Make 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!

Kefir in a mason jar on an orange background

After having 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 worked to biking across town to buy my very first kefir grains from a passionate home brewer.

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!).

So after fermenting hundreds of batches of kefir at home, I’m excited to share with you the secrets to seriously delicious, creamy, homemade kefir. Click the links below to jump around the post, or scroll on to dive into the world of homemade kefir!

How to Make Milk Kefir Video

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.

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. (The gluten-free folks don’t need to worry – these aren’t true grains, but rather rubbery, cellular structures).

They’re like what the SCOBY is to kombucha, only instead of looking like alien pancakes they look like cauliflower! But unlike kombucha, you cannot grow your own kefir grains and will need to acquire them somewhere.

Where do you get kefir grains? Unless you have a friend who makes kefir, it’s easiest to get your grains online. I recently bought my new grains from Alles Voor Kefir (Dutch), but our U.S. friends can find them on Amazon.

Once you have your kefir grains, you won’t have to buy them again. They will grow and continue to ferment many batches of kefir.

Kefir grains on a spoon

The best milk for making kefir

The only other ingredient besides kefir grains 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.

In terms of fat level, the grains will be a lot happier in whole milk, though you can slowly transition to a lower fat option over time.

And finally, though you can use cow’s or goat’s milk, though I’ve only had experience with whole cow’s milk for making kefir.

Closeup photo of bubbly milk kefir

Supplies needed to make kefir

While making kefir is easy and doesn’t require specialized equipment, you’ll need a handful of common kitchen supplies to make kefir.

Milk kefir grains in a glass on an orange background

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°F / 18 to 29°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 (a plastic colander is great here). Pour 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 again!
  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.
Kefir in a glass with a striped straw on an orange background

Homemade milk kefir FAQ

How do I 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).

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.

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).

What are the health benefits of kefir?

As with other fermentations, kefir is full of probiotics which promote good digestion and a healthy gut. The fermentation also breaks down a lot of the lactose in the milk, meaning kefir may be more easily digested than other dairy products for people with lactose intolerance.

Is milk kefir the same as water kefir?

Milk and water kefir are two different types of fermentations, using different ingredients and different kefir grains. You cannot use milk kefir grains to make water kefir.

Can you flavor kefir?

Yes! 1 cup of kefir can be flavored by blending in fresh fruit (¼ cup), chocolate (1 Tbsp cocoa powder), vanilla (¼ tsp vanilla extract), or dates (1 pitted date).

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!

Ways to use kefir

Once you get going, you’ll likely find yourself with more kefir than you know what to do with! Here are a few of our favorite ways to use milk kefir.

  • On its own: You can drink it, or use it in place of yogurt (like in a bowl of cereal).
  • Smoothies: Use kefir in place of milk or yogurt to add a probiotic punch to smoothies.
  • Salad Dressing: I love using kefir to make a tangy ranch dressing!
  • Ice Cream: Creamy and rich, kefir makes a great ice cream! It takes on a taste like frozen yogurt.
  • Baked Goods: Kefir makes a great substitute for buttermilk, so things like pancakes and biscuits are great with kefir!
Kefir in a glass with a striped straw on an orange background

Be sure to try our other fermentation projects, like kimchi, Greek yogurt, tepache, and kombucha!

Kefir in a glass on an orange background

How to Make Homemade Milk Kefir

Breaking down the simple basics of how to make easy homemade milk kefir, a probiotic-rich fermented drink that’s soon to be a staple in your kitchen!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Beverages (Non-Alcoholic)
Cuisine: Turkish
Keyword: how to make kefir, kefir, komemade kefir, milk kefir
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
Calories: 162kcal
Author: Sarah Bond
4.93 from 13 votes

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°F / 18 to 29°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.

NOTES

  • Flavor kefir by blending in fresh fruit (¼ cup), chocolate (1 Tbsp cocoa powder), vanilla (¼ tsp vanilla extract), or dates (1 pitted date).
  • Where do you get kefir grains? Unless you have a friend who makes kefir, it’s easiest to get your grains online. I bought mine from Alles Voor Kefir (Dutch), but our U.S. friends can find them on Amazon.

NUTRITION

Serving: 1cup (depends on fermentation length) | Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 125mg | Potassium: 0mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 0IU | Vitamin C: 0mg | Calcium: 0mg | Iron: 0mg
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Recipe Rating




  1. Kyaw Kyaw Htun says:

    Let us know milk is raw milk or pasteurized milk?

    1. Sarah says:

      Great question! Use pasteurized milk here 😀

  2. Greg says:

    Kefir grains seem to grow like crazy, at least mine have. I started out with a tsp about 3 weeks ago and now have about 1 1/2 tlbs. At least for me, i have fermented all at room temp, which greatly increases the speed, such as fermenting 2 cups within 8 hours. I started out with 2%, but then transitioned to skim, which seems to work well. When i have enough, I rinse the Kefir grains with water and store in a glass jar in the fridge and when ready for another batch, pull them out and do it again.5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      Yea they multiply like crazy! Happy they’re working well for ya! 😀

  3. Sam says:

    Like this. Thanks for sharing. Maybe I’ll give it a try!

    1. Sarah says:

      Would love to hear how it goes. Happy fermenting! 😀

  4. Hannah says:

    Thanks!! You did a super Job explaining everything and I wanted to tell you Thank-you!! Because the times I tried fermenting … was very unsuccessful only now to realize it was I just fermented it too long!!! I am READY to try AGAIN thanks to you!5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      YAY! Let me know if you have any questions along the way!

  5. Hannah says:

    DO you sell the grains?5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      I don’t unfortunately. But there are many places online that sell them for pretty affordable prices.

  6. Jen says:

    Hi brand new to kefir. making for my dog. My end game is to make goat milk kefir from raw goats milk. my question is should I try to make the starter using goat milk from grocery that had been pasteurized? Do you think it would make any difference if I make the starter with pasteurized whole cow milk then used it in raw goat milk?

    1. Sarah says:

      Such a tough question, and I haven’t tried this with goat’s milk so it’s hard for me to say. You’ll probably need to get kefir grains (which is usually made for cow’s milk), then slowly transition them to goat’s milk.

  7. Mrs Ann Gearty says:

    I started making my kefir after watching your film about 4 weeks ago, it is marvellous, I love it , I suffer with Diverticular Disease and it has definitely helped. But from one very small amount I have more than enough for me alone, the grains are growing and growing more than I need, what do I do, do I discard half of them, or can I freeze some.. I need some help and advice please.5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      I had this problem too! Do you have a friend who might like to ferment kefir that you could give them to? Otherwise you could try freezing them, I just haven’t personally tried that!

  8. Cyril says:

    Is Kefir a Ketogenic food?

    1. Sarah says:

      1 cup of kefir has 15g of carbs, so it is on the border of ketogenic (depending on how many carbs you want to eat per day).

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