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Kefir Drink and Grains

Get ready to be introduced to a Powerhouse, Fermented, Probiotic Milk Drink, that is really going to amp up your immune system. Don’t be surprised if certain ailments start to disappear with the regular consumption of Kefir and you start feeling full of energy again. This Probiotic Loaded drink is no joke, it’s serious food for the gut.

This drink is especially effective either before or after a duration of Fasting or as a compounding effect the more it is consumed. I practice fasting at least once a year and this is the drink I will have both before starting a fast and ending one.

Even if you’re the type to regularly consume probiotic pills for health improvement. You will find Kefir is much more effective and it is both a prebiotic & probiotic drink with fresh active cultures with a very high count (CFU – Colony Forming Units). About 25-30 Billion, and sometimes more.

What is Kefir

Kefir is a Fermented Probiotic Milk drink, like a thin Yogurt, made by the inoculation of Kefir Grains into Cow, Goat, Buffalo, or Sheep Milk at room temperature. It ranges in sourness depending on how long or fast it is fermented.

It is rich in beneficial bacteria and yeast, promoting a healthy immune system. Often served as is or mixed with Fruits after the grains have been strained out, much like the Yop Drinks. It is also used as a thin Yogurt substitute, Marinades and in Baking.

Kefir
Kefir

What are Kefir Grains

Kefir Grains vary in size, are white or creamy in color, gelatinous, and are used much like a Yogurt starter. Composed by a microbial symbiotic mixture of Lactic Acid Bacteria, Yeast, and Acetic Acid Bacteria that are extremely beneficial to ones health.

It is added to Milk to ferment before consumption. The Grains will multiply, the more you make.

It is important to note that there are different strains of Grains with different compositions. Such examples are the Tibetan & Russian strains. But all are prepared the same way and benficial to ones health.

Strained Kefir

Where does Kefir come from

There are some interesting stories on their origins. It is thought that the grains are formed from adding and removing milk from pouches or bags used to store milk made from animal skin. All we really know is that they originate from the Northern Caucasus Mountains and have been femented and passed around ever since and for thousands of years.

Health benefits of Kefir

There is a whole host of health issues that Kefir has been studied and observed to fight or protect against. This includes H-Pylori, Candida, reducing Cholesterol, improved blood sugar levels which aid in the prevention of Diabetes, Bronchitis, and Asthma as well as improving allergy symptoms and protection against cancer and many more derived health benefits.

An interesting read on its potential is a google scholar article Milk kefir: nutritional, microbiological and health benefits.

What is in Kefir

Composed of numerous Acidic Bacteria and Yeast. Containing all essential amino acids that the body can not make, as well as Minerals & Vitamins. It is a very nutirent rich, powerful probiotic drink.

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp
  • bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus helveticus
  • Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Leuconostoc species.

Consisting of more than 23 different yeast species that have been isolated from Kefir grains and from fermented beverages of different origins. The predominant species are Saccharomyces cerevisiae, S. unisporus, Candida kefyr, and Kluyveromyces marxianus ssp. marxianus. The study can be viewed here Milk Kefir: Composition, microbial cultures, biological activities, and related products.

Prebiotics & Probiotics are the very foundation of digestion and a good balance is needed not only for proper digestion and absorption, but for overall health. In fact, when the gut flora is out of balance you can run into a whole host of health complications that may take years for doctors to diagnose since they are not really trained on gut health being the root cause of many diseases.

Check out the article Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Disease. Which is one study looking at the Gut Flora and overall Health connection.

Where to get Kefir Grains

Search your local area for people offering Kefir Grains. I have picked mine up through local markets such as Kijiji or Facebook market place for as little as $5.00 CAD, for a Tbl or so.

The more you make, the more the grains will multiply. Pass out excess grains to family & friends or start selling in your local buy sell and trade market.

Kefir Grains to Milk Ratio

Commerciasl grade Kefir uses about 2 – 3 % grains by weight. In general, use anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbl of Grains per cup of Milk as a starting point. Then make adjustments as you see fit.

The Grains to Milk ratio, depends on how warm or cool your place is, how fast you want it to ferment, sourness, thickness, and how active your particular strain of Grains are. Adjust either the Grains used or the amount of Milk used to get the desired outcome for your Kefir, in terms of tartness and thickness, as well as a targeted ferment time of about 24 hours.

How long to Ferment Kefir

Ideally Kefir is fermented a full 24 hours, so Grain to Milk ratio is important. You want sufficient milk for the grains to consume. Once the grains have gone through the milk and there is no more food, they start to die off. If your kefir has spearated, this is a sign of over fermenting.

At the same time, you don’t want to use too much milk that the grains can not process all the milk within a 24 hour timeframe. This can lead to unwanted bacteria growth.

Adjust by using more or less Grains to your Milk ratio to target a 24 hours ferment or there abouts. It is ready when it has thickened slightly (Creamy) and there is a tartness to it, but not overly tart.

Thickness

The thickness is affected by the fermentation time, but most importantly by the amount of Fat in the Milk. Milk with a higher fat content, which Kefir grains prefer, will produce a thicker drink. For this reason it is best to make Kefir with Whole Milk. Even 10% Cream, 50/50 Cream diluted with Water to adjust the Fat content to that of about 5 % for a thicker Kefir.

Sourness

The sourness ranges from not sour – to extremely sour and depends on how long the milk was fermented and how much grains were used. With longer fermentation, you increase the beneficial bacteria and yeast. But also increase the sourness, which can be off-putting in extreme cases.

Generally less sour is used for a Drink, while more sour can be used as a sour dough starter or a powerful Probiotic Drink, since the sourness is related to how well the Milk is fermented. Just the same with Sauerkraut, the more sour, the more beneficial. Although the taste is something to contend with. Most will add sugar to lessen that effect.

How long does Kefir Last

Once fermented and strained, Kefir can be bottled up and placed into the fridge, where it will last 2-3 weeks. Refrigerating significantly slows down the fermentation process, almost to a stop. How long is really a matter of preference and depends on how sour you prefer. It will sour more the longer it sits, although the process is significantly slowed down when refrigerated.

Is Kefir Lactose Free

While Kefir is made with Milk, it is up to 99% lactose-free due to the fermentation process. Some studies show an increased ability to digest lactose due to regular consumption of Kefir.

Type of Milk

Cow, Buffalo, Goats or Sheep Milk can be used. Even Soy Milk, although the Grains will change in color and shape.

Depending on how thin or thick you prefer your drink, use Milk with Fat content. The more Fat the thicker the Kefir will be. You can even use 10 %, 50/50, or Heavy Cream diluted with water to adjust the fat content or directly for a thin yogurt style consistency.

Milk

How to Make Kefir

Place 1 tsp to 1 Tbl of Kefir Grains per 1 Cup of Milk into a glass jar or corrosion free container and cover with a lid lossely. Transfer to a warm dark place, the cupboard is a good place. Direct or even indirect Sunlight will destroy light sensitive vitamins (A&E).

The temperature they sit at determines how fast they ferment. If it is really hot like during the summer, they will ferment much quicker than in the wintertime when it is much cooler.

Based on pervious batches and the strength of your Grains, adjust to taste by adding in more or less milk. Anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbl of Grains per Cup of Milk. The objective is to get a slightly thickened Milk Drink that isn’t too sour. At the same time you don’t want to use so little, that it still taste like milk or in the worse case scenario, not enough to fully inhibit bad bacteria growth.

2 C 10% Cream 3 C Distilled Water

Kefir Issues

Kefir is pretty straight forward and very forgiving. It’s very difficult for it to go bad, due to the cultures it contains. However I am aware of a few complications and you should be too when undertaking home fermenting.

Always, whenever in doubt, through it out.

  • If not using enough grains, the fermenting can go slow and this can cause mold growth on top.
  • On the opposite spectrum, using too much Grains and the fermenting will happen really fast producing an overly sour drink or even worse, where the whey has separated, indicating over fermentation.
  • If it has discoloration to it, it may be bad. It should be white to a cream color.
  • A spoiled yeast or rotten smell can be a sign of contamination.
  • If it is pink or orange it has contracted listeria and should be thrown out and all containers washed well. Discard the grains as well.

How to Pause Kefir making

There are a few different ways to pause fermenting. The easiest of them all is a short pause of about 2-3 weeks or thereabouts using the refrigerator.

Place the Kefir Grains in some Milk to cover and refrigerate. Refrigeration significantly slows down the fermentation process and can be left there for up to 2-3 weeks. When you need to restart making Kefir, run them through a cycle first.

Strain the grains out from the milk and discard the milk. Place the grains in a fresh batch of milk, cover and leave sit at room temp for 24 hours. Afterwards strain and discard the milk and start making your batches of Kefir.

How to store Kefir Grains Long Term

For longer storage, place the Grains into some Milk and freeze. It can last here for up to one year. To reuse, thaw the grains in the fridge overnight, you want a gradual thaw. Then run them through a cycle to reactivate them before you resume Kefir making. In some cases you may have to run them through a second cycle to bring them back to life if they were stored for a very long time.

Kefir Grains Long Term Storage

Drying Kefir Grains

Kefir Grains can also be air dried for long term storage. Wash the Grains in fresh milk and pat dry. Place them on a paper towel to air dry for 3-5 days. Once dried, transfer them to an air tight container or ziploc bag and refrigerate for up to a year. Place the grains through a cycle first before you resume Kefir making.

Cycling Kefir Gains

Whenever restarting your Kefir Grains, whether they have been refrigerated, frozen or air dried for some time. You need to run the grains through a cycle and discard that milk before you resume Kefir making. This activates or wakes up the grains fully and gets rid of any sourness that may be present, depending on how long the grains were rested. In some cases, you may have to run them through more than one cycle to fully activate them.

Kefir Grain Cycle to Reactivate

Strain Kefir Grains

Strain out the Milk they were in or place the dried Kefir Grains into a container. Add enough Milk to cover generously, mix well, cover and let sit 24 hours.

Straining Kefir Grains from First Cycle

Cycle the Kefir Grains

After 24 hours, strain out the Grains and discard the Milk. Check the Milk for any signs of activity, such as the Milk thickening, bubbling, change in texture and smell to ensure the grains are activated. Then you are ready to start making Kefir again. If there is no change, then you may have to run them through a second cycle to fully activate them.

Kefir Uses

Kefir Yop

Fruit Kefir Drink or Kefir Yop is made with Kefir & Fruits, sometimes with Yogurt added to get a thicker consistency. It is a probiotic rich drink with many health benfits. To make this healthy nutrient rich drink combine and blend together strained Kefir & Fruit.

Sugar, Strawberry Jam or Yogurt can be added to create a sweeter or thicker drink. It is said that Honey shouldn’t be used, because it is antimicrobial and can kill the beneficial bacteria. There is some debate on this, especially where only a small amount of Honey is used to sweeten the Kefir.

Strawberry Kefir Yop with Yogurt

Kefir Pops

The Kefir Yop can also be frozen into popsicles for a cold treat. Add a good amount of sugar for a sweet flavor and make Fruit Kefir Pops.

Buttermilk Substitute

Use in recipes where Buttermilk is called for. The Sourness of the Kefir is really important here so use your best judgment. You don’t want to use excessively soured Kefir or not soured enough.

Yogurt Substitute

Use in marinades where Yogurt is used. Especially very thick Kefir made with a high fat content.

Sour Dough Starter

Kefir can be used as the liquid to start your sour dough starter and contribute to that naturual sourness.

Kefir Drink and Grains

How to make Kefir

Get ready to be introduced to a Powerhouse, Fermented, Probiotic Milk Drink, that is really going to amp up your immune system. Don't be surprised if certain ailments start to disappear with the regular consumption of Kefir and you start feeling full of energy again. This Probiotic Loaded drink is no joke, it's serious food for the gut.
Servings: 1 portion
Prep5 minutes
Cook 0 minutes
Fermentation1 day

Equipment

  • 1 Glass Jar with lid
  • 1 Plastic Sieve
  • 1 Bowl Food grade plastic or stainless steel

Ingredients

  • 1 C Milk - 3% or heavier
  • 1 tsp Kefir Grains - Anywhere from 1 tsp — 1 Tbl per cup of Milk based on taste

Instructions

  • Place Kefir Grains into a glass jar and add fresh milk. Mix well and cover loosely with a lid. Set aside in a dark, warm place like the cupboards for about 24 hours.
    Check your Kefir, it should be thickened with a slight sour taste.
  • Strain out the Kefir Grains with a plastic sieve and consume or refrigerate the Kefir for later. For a really smooth Kefir, strain a second time using a fine sieve so that there isn't any small bits of grains in the Kefir.
  • Repeat, making a new batch with the strained out Kefir Grains and Fresh Milk.
    Adjust the amount of Milk you use with the Kefir Gains, adding more milk for a slower ferment or less milk for a faster ferment. Generally, 1 tsp to 1 Tbl Kefir Grains per 1 Cup of Milk is good for a 24-hour ferment. Adjust as you see fit, to suit your taste.

Notes

 
See the post for how to pause Kefir making, or for long term storage of Kefir Grains. As well as how to cycle the Kefir grains and any potential issues with your batches of Kefir. 
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Chechen, Eastern Europe, Russian
Keywords: Fermented Drink, Homemade Kefir, Kefir, Kefir Fruit Drink, Kefir Yop, Probiotic Drink
Author: JAH

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