Are you tired of buying store-bought kefir milk? This step-by-step tutorial will walk you through How to Make Milk Kefir at home– all the way from the kefir grains to adding flavor!
Who here is a kefir fan? I grew up with a kefir-loving momma, and after I got married– I watched in amazement as the husband drank kefir BY THE PINT. His love for the rich dairy drink borders on obsession.
If you’ve been buying milk kefir at the store, you probably know that it can get expensive. Plus, store-bought flavored kefir is packed with quite a bit of sugar– and I don’t like that.
If you too love kefir, you should know that HOMEMADE milk kefir TASTES BETTER than store-bought! (As in, about a million times better!) This How to Make Milk Kefir tutorial will walk you through making your own kefir at home step-by-step!
What is Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir is a lightly fermented milk that’s very similar to yogurt. (It’s basically a drinkable yogurt.) And similar to yogurt, it’s packed with probiotics and other healthy nutrients.
It’s made by adding kefir grains to cow’s milk or goat’s milk, and then leaving the milk at room temperature for about a day to ferment.
Love fermented drinks? Check out this tutorial on How to Make Kombucha!
What Are Milk Kefir Grains? Where Can I Find Them?
Kefir grains are cultures made of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Similar to a vinegar mother, or a kombucha scoby, kefir grains are alive. They’re the organisms that keep the milk safe at room temperature, and that turn your milk into a fermented drink.
Kefir grains look a little bit like cauliflower, and when you hold them they feel like gummies.
You can buy active milk kefir grains, or dehydrated milk kefir grains. In my experience, active (already hydrated) grains are much easier to work with.
Where can you get kefir grains? If you have a kefir-making friend, check with them first. Kefir grains multiply quickly, and they’ll likely have extra! Otherwise, you can check local health food stores, or buy them online.
Quick Tip: You might also find Water Kefir grains. These are used for a different drink (water kefir), contain different organisms. These may (or may not) turn your milk into kefir, but likely won’t continue to grow and thrive if you use them in milk.
I’m Lactose Intolerant. Can I Use Non-Dairy Milk?
Kefir grains can turn coconut milk into kefir, but the grains will probably stop growing or multiplying once you put them into non-dairy milk.
If you want to use coconut milk, try keeping a small batch of kefir grains going in regular dairy milk, and use the extras for the coconut milk.
Can I Use Pasteurized Milk?
Yes. Raw milk and pasteurized milk will both ferment into kefir. Avoid ultra-pasteurized milk– it has trouble culturing. (If you usually buy organic milk, check the label. A lot of organic milks are ultra-pasteurized to make them last longer on the shelf.)
How to Make Milk Kefir
Once you’ve got kefir grains, the rest is easy! Add a few kefir grains to a glass jar, add the milk, cover the jar with a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or a paper towel, and seal it shut with a rubber band. Leave the milk out for about a day, and that’s it!
Next, you’ll strain out the kefir grains, place them in a clean jar, and start again.
Quick Tip: I’ve found that the easiest way to strain the grains out is simply to use a slotted spoon. However, if you’re using kefir grains that have been dehydrated, it’s possible that they’ll be too small for a spoon. In that case, use a mesh colander or a nut milk bag.
Next, I like to pour the kefir in a blender along with some fruit to make flavored kefir. (If you want plain kefir, you can skip that step.) And that’s it– your kefir is ready! Enjoy, and then tell all your friends, and then pass along kefir grains as gifts!
*Please Note: I am not a doctor. If you’re lactose intolerant and you’re not sure if you should try milk kefir– talk to your doctor first.
Want more FERMENTATION or DAIRY tutorials? Try these:
- How to Make Kombucha
- How to Make Yogurt, Greek Yogurt, and Labneh
- How to Make Ricotta + Small Curd Cottage Cheese
Want more recipes that use FERMENTED FOODS or FORAGED ingredients?
How to Make Milk Kefir
Basic Milk Kefir Recipe:
- 1 cup milk, 2% or whole, avoid ultra-pasteurized (See Recipe Notes for non-dairy milk)
- 1 tsp kefir milk grains
- Optional: Fruit of choice for flavored kefir. Amount will vary based on how sweet you prefer your kefir. (Strawberries, cherries, + blueberries are highly recommended.)
- 1 glass jar
- 1 paper towel, napkin, cheesecloth, or coffee filter
- 1 rubber band
- slotted spoon, mesh colander, or nut milk bag
Basic Kefir Recipe:
- Add kefir grains to the glass jar and add the milk.
- Cover jar with the paper towel, and seal with a rubber band.
- Set milk out of direct sunlight and allow it to ferment at room temperature for about 24 hours.Room Temperatures: When it's approximately 70ºF, the kefir will take about 24 hours. In warmer rooms, it may be closer to 12 hours, and in cooler rooms, it may take as long as 48 hours. Rooms that are warmer than 90º are generally considered unsafe for kefir fermentation, because the milk will spoil faster than the kefir grains can work.When is the Kefir Ready?: The kefir is ready when the milk has thickened, but before the milk begins to separate into a watery bottom layer and a more solidified top layer. If your kefir separates during fermentation, it's still drinkable, just stir it up. Ferment the next batch for a shorter period of time.
- When the kefir has fermented, strain out the grains using a slotted spoon, a mesh colander, or a nut milk bag. (A slotted spoon is typically the easiest method, but if you're using kefir grains that have been dehydrated, the spoon's slots might be too big.)
- Set the kefir grains in a clean jar, and start the process over with more milk.
- Optionally, pour the kefir into a blender, and add fruit. Blend until smooth.
- Refrigerate kefir for up to 2 or 3 weeks. Kefir may separate in the fridge, especially after watery fruit has been added. Simply stir before drinking.
- While troubleshooting kefir issues, you'll likely need to change the milk and try fermenting the kefir grains again the next day. Each time, use the recommended 1 tsp of grain to 1 cup of milk. (You may be able to get away with using a little bit less milk, particularly when rehydrating dehydrated grains, but if that doesn't seem to be working, try using the full one cup each day.) And yes, that means you'll be throwing away some unusable, not fully fermented milk.
- My milk isn't fermenting. Have your kefir grains been in storage in the fridge? Were you rehydrating dehydrated grains? They might take a few days of fermenting (changing the milk each day) to ferment normally again.
- I bought dehydrated grains. Rehydrating grains can take 4-10 days of fermenting (changing the milk each day) to fully rehydrate and produce drinkable kefir.
- My kefir smells or looks "yeasty, sour, or off." Discard the milk, and place kefir in a fresh batch of milk. Repeat for 2-3 days. If it still smells off, discard the grains and start over with new grains.
Have you tried making kefir milk? Do you still have questions? Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!
Want to learn more about kefir? Check out this book: True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home