I’ve been making milk kefir for a while now. It’s so easy to do and provides so many health benefits. Try making kefir with raw milk for even more health benefits to add to your favorite smoothie, or just drink it on its own for a snack. Learn all about how to make raw milk kefir in this easy tutorial.
Making your own raws kefir is an easy, enjoyable process, and definitely better on the pocketbook versus buying it from the store. Read on for a simple milk kefir DIY.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Gut-Healthy Words on Food Labels
I have spent many a day at the grocery store looking at foods that are labeled as “probiotic”. I used to wonder what this meant. Why is it that you have normal milk, and then next to it you have kefir milk that has “probiotics”? Is this something that is fed to the cow? If it’s so good then why isn’t it in all milk?
These are all things I wondered. That’s when I started doing some research into what kefir was.
A few years ago I dove into the world of sourdough and grew my own sourdough starter. I learned that bread made from sourdough uses the natural yeast in the grain to ferment it, which strips away certain components of the grain like phytic acid. These components make grain difficult to digest, which is why many people are grain intolerant today.
When I started reading similar benefits about kefir, it made a whole lot of sense. What kind of milk do we drink today? Well, for starters most milk at the grocery store is ultra-pasteurized. This means that the raw milk is boiled at a high temperature to kill any bad bacteria. The thing I found interesting is that this process also kills the good bacteria.
What Our Ancestors Did
When I think back to our ancestors many years ago, they were drinking raw milk, making their own bread, and eating what they grew. Nowadays, we have ways of processing our food to make it cheaper and more accessible. But the problem is that often times, this processing actually removes many of the benefits that the food used to have.
When we strip away so much of the beneficial bacteria from our food through processes like pasteurization, our gut isn’t left with enough good bacteria to keep us healthy.
I’m sure you’ve heard of “gut health” and how it important it is. I am not an expert by any means on this topic, but I do know it’s very important to have good gut health. Your gut is what breaks down your food, allowing you to assimilate nutrients into your body. If the acids and functions of the guts aren’t working, you might have:
Mood swings and/or headaches
If you suspect you may have poor gut health, there are many things you can do to change that. Some people go on the GAPS diet, which is meant to rebuild the bacteria in your gut. Or you can try making your own kefir and drinking it every day, slowing adding good bacteria to your tummy day by day. Then try sourdough bread, and next make some homemade sauerkraut. You will quickly become addicted to fermentation!
Isn’t raw milk scary?
It’s a little daunting when you go to the grocery store and the raw milk has a big label: “WARNING..COULD CAUSE ILLNESS”, etc. So let me talk about the decision to drink raw milk a little bit.
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk up, sometimes to a very high temperature, to kill any possible bad bacteria in the milk. Because yes, raw milk can contain bad bacteria and other viruses from the cow.
The bad bacteria can come from a sick cow, dirty utter or dirty milk station, or improper storage of the milk. But given the proper milking and storing circumstances, as well as a healthy, grass-fed cow, the milk has no danger to our body. In fact raw milk has enormous health benefits that pasteurized milk does not.
During pasteurization, the bad bacteria is killed, but so is the good bacteria. So what’s left behind is more like a water drink than it is milk. That’s why we chose to drink raw milk, and we are very thankful to have it available down our street. Also, it just tastes way better!
Here’s a good raw milk video if you are new and want to learn more.
However, I want to respect anyone who decides that raw milk is not for them or their family. We have amazing soil and grass here in the PNW, and we know the farm that we buy the milk from. They distribute all over our area and the milk sells out within hours or days. If I ever travelled somewhere where I didn’t know the cows or the area, I wouldn’t drink the raw milk. So, it’s important to do your research and feel comfortable with your decision on your own.
Research on Raw Milk
Numerous scientific studies have shown that raw milk is correlated with decreased rates of asthma, allergies, eczema, otitis, fever, and respiratory infections. Raw milk also aids in recovery from antibiotic use, and provides many gut-healthy probiotics and enzymes. (Source)
Some of the main reasons that over 10 million Americans now drink raw milk on a regular basis include the following raw milk benefits:
- Healthier skin, hair and nails
- Nutrient absorption
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced allergies
- Increased bone density
- Neurological support
- Weight loss
- Help building lean muscle mass
- Better digestion
Dr. Axe also shows this graphic, explaining benefits that are lost or gained by drinking raw milk vs. pastuerized:
What is Milk Kefir?
Milk kefir is a fermented milk drink that has been fermented by kefir grains for 12-24 hours. Kefir is slightly thicker than regular milk, but not as thick as yogurt. Milk kefir will have a slightly sour taste, similar to Greek yogurt (not sour like the milk has gone bad).
Kefir grains aren’t actually a grain. They are little balls of cultures and good bacteria that feed off the lactose in the milk. Once they eat all the lactose in your milk, they become hungry and need to be fed again. You don’t actually eat the kefir grains; you just use them in milk to activate the good cultures. Then you strain them and – voila! – you have kefir.
Raw Kefir Benefits
Milk kefir gives your stomach the good bacteria that it otherwise wouldn’t get from pasteurized milk. The pasteurization process is meant to remove potential bad bacteria from milk, but the problem is it removes all the good stuff too. That’s why adding kefir grains to milk is a great alternative to drinking raw milk if you don’t have any near you.
Kefir contains microorganisms known as probiotics that can aid in digestion, weight management, and mental health. Yogurt is the best-known probiotic food on the market, but kefir is actually much more powerful. Kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeast, making them a rich and diverse probiotic source.
I also have a few batches of yogurt available at all times in the house.
Kefir grains contain the microorganism Lactobacillus kefiri, which protects against harmful bacteria. Making your own kefir is also a way to boost your calcium and vitamin K levels, an effective way to improve bone health and slow osteoporosis.
Milk fermented by kefir has very low levels of lactose and can help improve digestive processes.
Homemade v. Store bought Kefir
Buying kefir from the store is good, but here’s my worry.
In order for the kefir to get to you, it must have been fed and strained at least days if not weeks or even months before you buy it. Also, how many grains were used in the fermentation process? Many companies may choose to use less grains to save money and produce the most cost-effective kefir.
I just think that while buying store-bought kefir is better than nothing, making your own is not only way cheaper (free) but is way more bang for your buck.
So, as you can see, I am a big fan of making your own kefir.
What kind of Milk is Best to use in Kefir?
If you have access to good raw milk, that would be the best milk to use. Raw milk contains a lot more good bacteria than pasteurized milk, so you will get a better kefir using raw milk. That’s what we use a lot of the time.
If you buy milk from the store, you want to avoid using ultra-pasteurized milk. Check the label on the milk you’re buying and try to buy Grade A VAT pasteurized/non-homogenized if possible. This means the milk was pasteurized at a lower temperature, and the fat was not separated from the top. We like it this way!
Also, I have heard that kefir grains love raw goat milk. It’s a thick and rich milk that makes great kefir for smoothies!
Of course, if raw is not available, lightly pasteurized milk is also a great option!
Always buy local, grass-fed milk if you can. See this post for some tips on finding local farmers near you.
Where to find Kefir Grains
One thing I wish I would have done is ask our neighborhood Facebook group if anyone has any milk kefir grains. Make sure you specify milk kefir, as using water kefir or yogurt grains will not work as milk kefir. I have given away lots of kefir to neighbors for free.
Once you own a few kefir grains and feed them every day, they quickly grow and duplicate. So it’s very easy to pass them along to someone else!
If you can’t find them locally, you can get them on Etsy here. I ordered from this company a while back and they also provide you instructions and good info on how to keep the kefir. They aren’t sponsoring this post, but I do recommend them!
If you live local to me in the greater Seattle area, let me know and I can give you some of my grains!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission off items you buy at no extra cost to you.
HOW TO MAKE MILK KEFIR
First, start with 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains. Be sure you are using grains specific to milk kefir, and not water kefir or yogurt grains. Those are different.
If you get fresh grains from your neighbor, you can use them right away to make kefir. Simply put about 2 tablespoons grains in a quart sized mason jar and fill with high quality milk.
Next loosely place the lid on and set on your countertop at room temp for 12 hours. You can place the kefir in the fridge at that point, so the grains don’t over-eat as the cold slows down their eating.
When you’re ready to drink the kefir, strain the grains with a fine mesh strainer. The milk is now kefir, and the grains can go back in their jar and filled with new milk.
Here I am using a lightly pasteurized, non-homogenized, goats milk to make kefir. So tasty!
A Note about Grains Purchased Online
If you buy grains online, they will likely be starved by the time you receive them. It will take 5-10 feedings to bring them back up to speed. Place them in a small glass of milk and re-feed every 12 to 24 hours until your milk starts smelling like kefir.
Be patient! Your grains will not grow overnight. It took mine several weeks of daily use to produce delicious, sour kefir. So don’t give up!
How to Take Care of Kefir Grains
Kefir grains, similar to sourdough starter, are alive and need to be fed. This doesn’t mean however that you have to feed them every day like a pet.
If you want kefir (say in your smoothie every morning), you can get on a schedule of feeding the kefir during the day and placing it in the fridge at night. Then, straining it for drinking the next morning. This is what I do.
If you don’t plan on drinking kefir every day, simply keep the grains in your fridge. Keep them in a small glass jar with milk for up to a week. At that point, you should feed them with fresh milk. The cold temp in the fridge slows down their eating so they can last longer.
I have never left my grains in the fridge unfed for longer than a week while on vacation. So, always check for mold and make sure your milk smells like kefir, not like milk that has gone bad. There is an obvious difference between sour, spoiled milk and good smelling sour kefir.
Tips for Making Milk Kefir
When straining the grains, use a wooden spoon to press the grains up against the strainer. This helps the grains not accumulate milk build up, which can happen.
Keep the grains in a glass mason jar with milk. Change out the jar every few days so you don’t get milk build up around the lid.
You can also strain the grains through a mesh cloth or tea towel. Simply pour the milk with grains through the towel and squeeze the grains until all the milk comes out.
Give grains to a friend! Once your grains start multiplying, give a tablespoon or two to a friend as a gift. They will never have to buy kefir again!
I think my grains are dead. What do I do?
Chances are, they are not dead. When I first got my kefir grains which I ordered online, it took me about 12 feed and re-feeds until they started making potent kefir. Looking back, I think that was probably too many, but I wanted to be sure it smelled right to me.
Remember that similar to sourdough starter, your grains are very resilient, and it is actually difficult to kill them. I see many people on Instagram say they killed their sourdough starter, when really it just needs to be fed. If you forget about your grains for a few weeks in the fridge, chances are you can revive them with 5-10 feedings until the milk starts smelling like kefir again. Of course, always check for mold and be sure to smell the milk – it should smell like kefir, not like bad milk.
What to do with Growing Kefir Grains
You will notice after a few weeks or months that your kefir grains are getting big!
If you let your grains continue to grow, they will eat the lactose in the milk faster and keep multiplying. Try giving some kefir grains away to friends and family if you have too many.
Or discard the grains into your compost bin or feed them to your backyard chickens along with homemade fermented chicken feed. Kefir grains are a great source of probiotics for them, too!
Can you make milk kefir with non-dairy milk?
You can make milk kefir with coconut milk, however, I have not tried it myself. Also, since coconut milk doesn’t have much protein, the kefir grains can lose their potency and have to be refreshed.
Can you make milk kefir with powdered milk?
While it is possible to make milk kefir with powdered milk, it is not recommended as powdered milk is highly processed. Organic milk is always best option when making milk kefir.
- 1-2 TBSP milk kefir grains
- 1 quart raw or lightly pasteurized milk (avoid ultra-pasteurized)
- Start with 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains. Be sure
you are using grains specific to milk kefir, and not water kefir or yogurt grains. Those are different.
- If you get fresh grains from your neighbor, you can use them right away to make kefir. Simply put about 2 tablespoons grains in a quart sized mason jar and fill with high quality milk. See my note below if you order grains online.
- Next, loosely place the lid on and set on your countertop at room temp for 12 hours. You can place the kefir in the fridge at that point so the grains don't over-eat as the cold temp slows down their eating.
- When you're ready to drink the kefir, strain the grains with a fine mesh strainer. The milk is now kefir, and the grains can go back in their jar filled with new milk.
If you buy grains online, they will likely be starved or very hungry by the time you receive them. It will take 5-10 feedings to bring them
back up to speed. Place them in a small glass of milk and re-feed every 12 to 24 hours until your milk starts smelling like kefir.
Be patient! Your grains will not grow overnight. It took mine several weeks of daily use to produce delicious, sour kefir. So don't give up!