I decided to give kefir a try after reading a BBC article about gut bacteria (don’t let the sinister picture of Dr Michael Mosley put you off) so I ordered some kefir grains from Amazon and looked forward to having a more diverse microbiome. I have no idea if my gut bacteria has changed in any way but I’ve been drinking kefir for over a year and this is what I’ve learned:
When the kefir grains arrived they looked pretty alien. I read the instructions, put the grains (less than a teaspoon’s worth) in a clean glass jar and added 250ml of full fat, organic milk. After three days and watching lots of YouTube videos to determine what fermented milk should look like, I strained the milk, blended it into a smoothie and braced myself for a vicious bout of food poisoning. Instead, as promised, it tasted tangy, my stomach was fine and life carried on as usual.
Kefir grains seem to prefer full fat milk. I’ve used semi-skimmed on occasion but after a while the kefir takes on an odd taste which goes away after switching back to full fat.
As I understand it, the milk has to be dairy. Milk substitutes won’t work as the grains require lactose to feed on. I believe that you can alternate non-dairy milks with dairy, i.e. make a batch of almond milk kefir after several batches of dairy kefir, but if the grains are only given milk substitutes they will eventually die. I’ve only ever used cow’s milk.
The grains multiply at an alarming rate. Occasionally I’ll fill a small tupperware with excess grains, top it up with milk and store in the fridge as a back up but mostly I throw any extra grains out.
You can blend leftover grains into your smoothies, porridge, etc. I only make kefir fruit smoothies and have found that blended grains taste foul and make the smoothie undrinkable (in my opinion, Colin thought it tasted fine).
I haven’t had any issues with leaving kefir to ferment for too long. I tend to make small batches often but sometimes I forget and the milk ferments for a few extra days. The milk starts to visibly separate into curds and a yellow-ish coloured water and smells extra tangy but it’s still completely drinkable although it will taste more sour than usual. To counter this I’ll use a very ripe banana or some frozen grapes in my smoothie; any fruit with a high sugar content to balance the sourness.
Strained kefir keeps fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks although mine never hangs around that long. The longest I’ve kept it refrigerated before drinking it is a week.
If you don’t like the taste of the kefir that your grains produce consider purchasing new grains from a different supplier. The taste can vary depending on the grains so don’t be disheartened if your first attempt tastes disappointing or not to your liking.
Ordinary, i.e. non-kefir smoothies, now taste boring to me as they lack that distinctive, tangy sour note that is unique to kefir.