Cow's Milk Kefir

After reading a BBC article about gut bacteria (don’t let the sinister picture of Michael Mosley put you off) 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.

Kefir grains look pretty alien. When they arrived 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 cow's 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, the kefir tasted tangy and my stomach was fine.

Kefir grains prefer full fat milk. I’ve used semi-skimmed 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 need 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'll eventually die. I’ve only ever used cow’s milk (update: I now use goat's milk).

The grains multiply at a surprising 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 the 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, Col 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 separates into curds and a yellow-ish coloured water and smells extra tangy but it’s still drinkable, although it will taste more sour. To counter this I add a very ripe banana or some frozen grapes to my smoothie. Any fruit with a high sugar content to balance the sourness.

Strained kefir can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks although mine never hangs around that long.

If you don’t like the taste of the kefir that your grains produce, consider purchasing grains from a different supplier. The taste can vary depending on the grains so don’t be disheartened if your first attempt isn't 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.

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