How to Start Kefir Grains

Overview

Kefir grains are a combination of bacterial and yeast cultures used to ferment milk. They have been used for over 5,000 years and are believed to originate from monasteries in Tibet or the Caucasian mountains. In Asia, the fermented kefir drink created from the grains is used for its various healing and health promotion properties. Kefir grains are unique in that you have to get a culture from another person who has already started it in order to begin yours. Once you start kefir grains, they will multiply so that you can pass some of your grains to others.

Step 1

Add 1 tbsp. kefir grains to your jug. Measure out about 1 quart of milk. Pour the milk over the grains in the jar. The best type of milk to use is organic raw goat or cow milk. However, you can use any type of milk you wish. Make sure that you don't fill more than 2/3 of your jar. Space is needed to allow for gas expansion from the grains.

Step 2

Add a pinch of unrefined cane sugar to your jug. Put the cloth around your jar with a rubber band to seal it. Place your kefir mixture in an area away from sunlight at room temperature. The fermentation process works best at temperatures between 65 and 77 degrees F.

Step 3

Move the milk around gently in the jar every couple of hours so that fresh milk gets to your grains. Check the bottom to see if layers of curds and whey in the milk are separating.

Step 4

Wait 24 hours for your milk to be fermented by the kefir grains. Check to see if the milk in the bottom is thick and jelly-like. If it is still runny, it is not ready. Don't let your kefir sit for more than 48 hours.

Step 5

Strain your kefir beverage through a plastic strainer to remove the kefir grains. Put your kefir grains in your second jar. Divide the kefir beverage in half, and put it in the jar with the kefir grains. Discard the remainder of the beverage. The first batch isn't ready for consumption.

Step 6

Add 1 1/4 cup of milk to the second jar. Let this mixture ferment in the same way you did the first batch. When it is done, divide the grains and kefir beverage. Return half of the kefir beverage with the kefir grains to start a new batch, and drink the other half of the beverage.

Step 7

Store your finished kefir beverage in either a glass or plastic container at room temperature for up to one week. Your kefir grains will double every 20 days, at which time you can give half away to another person and continue brewing kefir with the remainder of the grains.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you fill the jar too full, or close the lid to tight it could explode from the carbon dioxide gas expansion from the fermentation process. You should avoid using metal utensils when brewing your kefir grains, which may interact with the process. You can use plastic or glass instead. Freezing or refrigerating you kefir grains can injure or kill them.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 1/2 gallon jugs or jars
  • Kefir grains
  • Milk
  • Unrefined cane sugar
  • Cloth
  • Rubber band
  • Plastic strainer
  • Storage container

References

  • Your Kefir Source: How to Make Milk Kefir
  • Kefir.org: Kefir Manual
  • Happy Herbalist: Kefir Live Grains
Keywords: bacterial cultures, yeast cultures, fermenting foods

About this Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.