As I mentioned in my previous post, most diseases start in the gut so in order to improve your overall health, a good place to start would be your gut! The best way to go about healing your gut is by incorporating Fermented Foods and good bacteria into your daily diet. Kefir is the most probiotic-rich food known to man as it has a large number of microorganisms and far more strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast than yogurt.
What is Kefir?
The name Kefir comes from Turkish word “keyif” meaning “good feeling” and it originated in the north Caucasus mountains somewhere between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Our ancestors made milk kefir in a goatskin bag and they would hang it near a doorway so anyone going through would knock the bag to help the milk and grain stay well mixed. But don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to find a goatskin bag for your kefir. :-)
There are two types of Kefir:
Milk Kefir which is a fermented milk beverage and can be made with goat milk, cow or sheep milk and even non-dairy milk such as soy, coconut and almond milk. What causes the fermentation is the action of bacteria and yeasts that exist in symbiotic association in the milk kefir grains. Milk Kefir has a creamy consistency with a natural effervescent, tart and refreshing flavor.
Water Kefir is a non-dairy fermented beverage also high in probiotic. It can be made with sugar and purified water, fruit juices or coconut water, using the water kefir grains for fermentation. Water kefir is sweeter and has a milder flavor.
In this post, I will cover the benefits of milk kefir and how to make it at home.
Benefits of Milk Kefir:
Studies published in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology have shown that kefir beverages have antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-tumor, anti-carcinogenic and immunomodulatory properties.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in milk kefir grain converts the lactose present in milk into lactic acid, which results in a pH decrease and milk preservation. That’s why most people with lactose-intolerance will not only be able to drink milk kefir but over time, it can even improve lactose digestion.
It contains high levels of probiotics, enzymes, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin K2, calcium, magnesium, biotin, folate as well as some vitamin A and D.
Kefir is fermented for longer hours than yogurt therefore it contains more strains of good bacteria that is not present in yogurt. Kefir 61 different strains of good bacteria and yeast while yogurt has only 5.
One study shows that milk kefir can prevent osteoporosis. High in calcium, kefir helps prevent bone loss and increase bone formation.
Although you can find Milk Kefir in most grocery stores nowadays, commercial brands don’t contain all the properties and the variety of probiotics as home-made kefir because they are highly processed and they contain added sugar and other additives. I like making my kefir with organic, grass-fed, raw milk for a more probiotic-rich kefir.
Most store-bought kefir beverages have a shelf life of up to 28 days, while it is recommended that home-made kefir produced with kefir grains be consumed within 3–12 days (another sign that commercial kefir is processed or has added preservatives).
How to make milk kefir at home:
Making milk kefir is extremely easy…all you need is:
a glass jar
a non-metal spatula
a plastic strainer
Fresh organic whole milk (cow, sheep or goat)
Coffee filter or cheese cloth
Pour Kefir grains in a glass jar then pour organic whole milk in the jar to cover all grains. Stir gently to make sure all grains are saturated and covered with milk. Place the coffee filter on the jar and secure with a rubber band. Leave the jar in a warm corner on the kitchen counter away from direct sun.
Your kefir is ready within 24 hours. Strain your kefir. Return the kefir grains into the jar and follow with fresh whole milk and cover your next batch. The strained liquid is a freshly fermented milk kefir! You don’t have to rinse your kefir jar after every batch. the microorganisms in there will help jumpstart your next batch. I rinse my jar every 3-4 weeks. (BUT DO NOT RINSE THE KEFIR GRAINS)
Make sure you are using all non-metal utensils during the process. Also don’t ever rinse the kefir grains. Rinsing can damage their protective bacteria layer so they will lose their magical power; they can die or stop reproducing. And there is a good chance that you will lose a lot of the new tiny grains in each rinse.
The flavor and the consistency of your kefir depends on multiple factors such as the kefir grains to milk ratio, kind of milk and your room temperature. There is no exact science behind the milk to grain ratio. You need to experiment to find out what you like best. The ratio I use is about 2 tbsp of grains to 2 cups of milk.
Your kefir will start growing and reproducing after each batch. So make sure to increase the amount of the milk accordingly. More milk to grain ratio will make your kefir runny with a mild fermented flavor. Less milk will give you a creamy kefir with more tartness.
How to flavor your milk kefir or do a second ferment?
A second ferment is usually done after you remove the grains from the kefir. This is also called “ripening”. You can pour the kefir in a glass jar and keep it on the counter for another 24 hours. You will have to check your kefir periodically during the second ferment until you are happy with the flavor. Second ferment will reduce the remaining lactose content and it will make the kefir milder. After maximum of 24 hours on the counter, you need to consume the kefir or refrigerate it for later.
You can also use herbs, fruits or spices to flavor the kefir. You can’t go wrong with this, so experiment to find your favorite flavors. I love adding pitted dates or raisins for a hint of sweetness to the tangy flavor. I also like a combination of shallots and mint for a more aromatic tart flavor.
Have you ever tried making your own milk kefir? What is your favorite flavor? I would love to hear about it.
If you haven’t tried it yet…Go ahead! Give it a try. It is fun, easy, healthy and yummy!