My grains stopped growing during the 2022 summer heatwave where the temperature reached 36°C. I was able to ferment my usual 150ml of goat’s milk every other day or so, but the grains kept shrinking rather than growing, which I wasn't used to. After a month the grains recovered but next time we have unusually hot weather I’ll keep them somewhere cool.
Giulia Enders’s book, Gut, convinced me to get back onto the fermentation bandwagon, which I'd fallen off several years ago. I started by making several batches of kimchi then decided to try kefir again.
Feeling impatient and wanting the grains immediately, I called around locally but couldn’t find a stockist. Lakeland, however, sells Mad Millie kefir culture, where you get two sachets that each make one litre of kefir plus two more batches if you save some of the first. I was tempted but this seemed different to my last kefir experience, where the grains multiplied quickly and lasted indefinitely. After some digging I realised that kefir grains are different to kefir culture. The culture contains seven strains of bacteria plus one strain of yeast and after making two additional batches you’ll need to buy more. According to BBC Good Food, kefir made from grains can contain up to thirty strains of bacteria and yeast and the grains never need to be replaced, so long as you look after them. It felt like a no-brainer so I ordered grains from The Live Kefir Company, the company that supplied my last batch.
This time the grains came with a chart that explains how much milk is needed per 5g of grains and how to adjust for the temperature of your room. This is so useful I’m going to add it here:
Temperature and volume of milk required per 5g of kefir grains:
18°C / 80ml
20°C / 100ml
22°C / 140ml
24°C / 180ml
26°C / 200ml
Thanks to this chart I really feel like I’ve nailed the process of making kefir. Previously my quantities were a bit hit and miss and I would occasionally over-ferment the milk but this doesn’t happen anymore. This is my routine:
- Add 15g of kefir grains to a jar (I have 2 x 1 litre fermenting jars from Lakeland)
- Add 150ml of full fat goat’s milk
- Leave to ferment for 24-36 hours (around 18-23°C)
- Strain using a plastic sieve and wooden spoon - either refrigerate the kefir immediately or make a smoothie
- Put 15g of grains into a clean jar, throwing away any excess grains. Repeat steps 2-5.
That’s it. Having two of everything (fermenting jars, wooden spoons, 10cm sieves (affilliate link)) makes life easier and electronic scales help with the weighing. I put the glass jars into the dishwasher (but not the lids as they discolour) and hand wash everything else. The Lakeland jars have a wide base, which is ideal for fermenting as the larger surface area gives the grains more contact with the milk, and the air release valve means that gases won’t build up and make a mess. I once forgot to “burp” a valveless jar of kimchi and got sprayed when I opened it.
I find that room temperature kefir has a consistency that's similar to single cream whereas refrigerated kefir thickens and is more like double cream. I use kefir in a variety of smoothies but this peanut butter banana smoothie is my favourite and this kefir pancake recipe from Gimme Some Oven will be happening soon. Absolutely no one took me up on my previous offer to supply free kefir grains to anyone in the local Norwich (UK) area but it still stands if anyone fancies diversifying their gut bacteria*.