How To Make Kefir Using Raw Milk

What Is Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink that has been around for thousands of years. From most sources, it contains the most diverse bacteria and yeast cultures than any other fermented food.

Because of the complexity of kefir bacteria, it cannot be replicated in a lab nor commercialized to have culture packets available like what we can get for bread yeast and yogurt cultures. Therefore, to start making kefir, you need to source live or dehydrated kefir grains.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with two postgraduate degrees: Master of Medical Sciences in Neurology and Master of Medical Sciences in Human Nutrition, promotes the benefits of kefir in her book, Gut And Psychology Syndrome. Through her GAPS diet, she has successfully helped people overcome autism and other health issues related to poor gut health.

Modern science is now learning and appreciating the benefits of bacteria to our health as a whole!

Where To Find Kefir

While you may find this wholesome drink at the grocery store, often times it comes laden with sweeteners and preservatives — sometimes it is even pasteurized negating all the benefits of a cultured drink!

An alternative source, better than the grocery store, is your local raw milk farmer who makes kefir. If you can support your local farmer, you are also boosting your own economy and helping to stabilize the food supply by helping small farmers stay in business.

Sometimes these options aren’t available because of local law prohibiting raw milk or raw cultured drinks. The next option is learning the skill to make kefir yourself using your own raw milk.

What Type Of Milk To Use

Ideally, the best milk is your own raw milk or from a local farmer whom you trust.

If you don’t produce your own raw milk, and you don’t have a raw milk farmer in your area, the next best option would be vat pasteurized milk. Vat pasteurized milk means the milk was heated to 145’F for 30 minutes. Sometimes this is the only option for dairy farmers to be able to sell their wholesome milk in grocery stores.

Do NOT by any means buy ultra-pasteurized milk or milk from some big dairy. That milk has come from concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), where they routinely use antibiotics, dewormers, vaccines, and growth hormones. The pasteurizing plant mixes the milk with thousands of other dairies milk, with who know what kind of contamination that has happened at any of the farms.

Because the liability is on the pasteurizing plant, not the farmer, the farmers have no incentive to keep their cows healthy with the belief that pasteurizing will kill off any contamination. Therefore, they pasteurize the milk at ridiculously high levels breaking down the proteins making this milk indigestible and unsuitable even for cheesemaking. They strip the fat from the milk making skim milk, then add it back in in differing amounts to produce a consistent 1%, 2%, or “whole” milk. Then the milk is fortified with synthetic forms of vitamin D and vitamin A palmitate. Synthetic vitamin A also prevents the body from utilizing real vitamin A found in foods, thus causing birth deformities such as cleft lip and palate. (Source) Stay away from this stuff!

If you want to read more about my journey for raw milk, you can find that here.

Where To Find Kefir Grains

You can obtain kefir grains through a friend, our Etsy listing, or here.

These will be either fresh or dehydrated. Fresh kefir grains are easier to work with because you won’t need to wake them up as opposed to starting with dehydrated kefir grains.

Milk kefir grains in strainer. Yeast bacterial fermentation starter
Milk kefir grains in strainer. Yeast bacterial fermentation starter

What You’ll Need

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp/15 ml Kefir grains
  • 1 quart/litre Raw milk

TOOLS

  • 1 quart mason jar
  • mason jar funnel
  • plastic mesh strainer

How To Make Kefir

Kefir, like sourdough starter, needs to be fed every day. I find that 1 Tablespoon of active kefir grains cultures 1 quart of milk at room temperature (~75’F) in 24 hrs. These are all variabilities that affect the speed and flavor of kefir — a smaller amount of grains will take longer to culture, a hotter room temperature will culture faster, etc. Take this into consideration when adjusting your kefir to keep your grains happy and healthy.

DIRECTIONS

Place 1 Tablespoon grains in a quart mason jar.

Fill the rest of the jar with milk.

Leave a tiny bit of headroom as the milk will expand a little during the fermentation process.

Cover with either a plastic lid screwed on lightly (enough to allow gas to escape, but keep flies and dust out) or a cloth and rubber band.

Let sit for 24 hrs.

After 24 hrs, tighten the lid to shake the kefir. This helps loosen the kefir from the grains to make it easier to strain.

Place funnel in a clean 1 quart mason jar with strainer on top. The funnel helps to hold the strainer in place so that kefir does not pour all over your countertop!

After the kefir grains have been strained, put the grains back in the original jar.

Fill the jar with the grains up the top with milk, and let it sit for another 24 hrs!

When drinking kefir, we sweeten it with maple syrup.

Troubleshooting

Sometimes kefir doesn’t turn out how we expect. Some helpful tips to help you along are:

  • Ideal temperature for fermenting kefir is between 65’F and 80’F. Find a cooler place for temperatures over 80’F. Use a heating pad, or find a warmer area, for temperatures under 65’F such as in the winter.
  • If it does not taste strong at first, then more frequent feedings may be necessary to get the cultures active.

Making kefir is that easy for a healthy wholesome drink!

In the comments below, let me know if you make it and what tips you recommend for making this amazing drink.

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