Using the freshest milk possible is important here, however your milk kefir will still ferment with older milk.
Be sure to give your jar a wash and good dry beforehand, but don’t be too caught up in making a very sterile environment.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Fermentation time: 24–48 hours
Ingredients and equipment:
- 1x 500 ml (17 fl oz) glass jar, muslin (cheesecloth) or lid, bottle for storing
- 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) milk (you could also use coconut milk, almond milk or soy milk – see notes)
- about 50 g (1-3/4 oz) milk kefir grains
- Put the milk and the kefir grains into the jar, cover with a lid or muslin secured with a rubber band, and let it sit for 12–24 hours at normal room temperature. (Some people lid their kefir, and others use a cloth – if you do use a cloth, keep it away from other aerobic ferments such as kombucha or any other yeasts, as they can be bad for it.)
- If you experience a little separation don’t worry – maybe you’ve over-fermented, or maybe the milk wasn’t as fresh as it could have been. It’s still fine. Just mix after you strain it.
- Strain with a fine strainer (see notes), bottle and refrigerate the liquid. It should be thicker than milk, but still pourable, and smell lovely, fresh and sour, like Greek-style yoghurt. It will probably be slightly fizzy; that’s my favourite part! If not, set it out for a further night on your bench and give it a gentle shake. The longer it sits out to ferment, the more lactose is eaten and the sourer and fizzier it will become.
You can also ferment using coconut milk, almond or soy milk. Milk kefir grains definitely prefer cow’s or goat’s milk so, if you use these other plant milks, make sure to rest the grains with a good feed of real milk every couple of ferments.
You can easily make kefir part of your routine. Find out how much you’ll drink and only make as much as that, as the grains prefer to remain in use rather than being used in large batches and put to rest. The grains should grow and can get quite big. They can also be ‘put to sleep’ in the fridge covered with a little milk in a jar should you need a break, or can be frozen or even dehydrated at under 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) to save for another time. Excess milk kefir grains can be blended into smoothies or fed to animals.
There are plenty of rumours about never using steel sieves or metal of any kind. I’ve always used a metal strainer, and we even ferment the milk kefir in high-grade stainless steel at The Fermentary. Plastic is okay too, but don’t go out and buy new plastic stuff. Metal things from your cupboard are fine.
After you’ve bottled the kefir and it’s in your fridge, whey and kefir layers may occur, either at the top or the bottom. It’s fine to mix it all in together when you drink it, or tip the whey out to use in a ferment as a starter or in a juice for the protein. If you are getting whey separation and really thick fermented kefir rising to the top of the bottle during fermentation, then your milk is either tainted or old, or maybe your grains are out of balance. It may be a good idea to tip that batch out and start again.
There is a tangy, effervescent, deep, almost goaty flavour to milk kefir that you’ll grow to love – like a drinkable feta cheese. How sour it gets will depend on how long you ferment it for. I like a good 48 hours, but many prefer 24 hours. I’ve found that in the warmer weather, covering it with muslin (cheesecloth) is probably better, as it ferments more slowly and more gently, resulting in a lower alcohol content.
Generally with milk kefir, as soon as it’s fermented you would pop it into the fridge. But if your aim is for less lactose and for a fizz, you can leave it out for a further 12–24 hours. During this time you could also add some flavours, as you would for a second ferment in kombucha or water kefir. Experiment with this if you like. I’ve found these combinations work well:
—— macha powder and coconut sugar
—— dash of coffee or some coffee beans
—— cinnamon stick and vanilla pod or drop of vanilla (you can re-use this)
—— a couple of cardamom pods or a pinch of ground cardamom with ground pistachios.
Loving Your Milk Kefir & Using It Too – Some Ideas
Milk kefir is a versatile, delicious, healthy addition to smoothies and juices, and can be poured over granolas and frozen into popsicles. You can very easily make a yummy smoothie by popping any frozen fruit and some kefir into a blender and blitzing. You can also freeze your kefir into large ice cubes and add them to your smoothies like that. Kefir freezes well and the beneficial bacteria survive … so freeze away!
The below ideas are great because you can just stir them into a glass with no need for a blender. Or if you’re making a bottleful, just add flavours straight into the bottle or jar and shake to mix.
Use your favourite sweetener; I generally use maple or coconut syrup as a sweetener. These combinations are favourites here at home and at the markets – quantities of each are up to you.
—— maple syrup, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract
—— honey and ground cinnamon (ground cardamom is good too)
—— dash of cooled brewed coffee and raw sugar
—— chai tea – brew some strong and add to your milk kefir with a sweetener if needed
—— black sesame paste, coconut sugar and vanilla extract
—— your favourite jam or marmalade – or even lemon butter
—— apple (or other fruit) syrup and cinnamon
—— ground turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and coconut sugar.
More from Ferment For Good:
- Baechu Kimchi Recipe
- Five Ways of Making Yogurt
- Sake Lees Marinade Recipe
- Sake Lees Pickle Recipe
- Shio Koji Recipe
Cover courtesy of Hardie Grant Books
Recipes excerpted with permission from Ferment For Good by Sharon Flynn, published by Hardie Grant Books May 2017, RRP $29.99 hardcover.