Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There are these magic little colonies of micro-orginisims called kefir grains. They are literally teaming with life, and have the ability to transform milk into a thick yogurt-like substance, chock full of probiotics. I have always enjoyed the tart quality of kefir, but only until recently did I consider making it in house.
Somehow in passing, I learned that my friend Paul was quietly becoming a master of kefir making. He graciously offered to show me how it's done, and send me home with some of his grains. I was amazed how easy the process is. After our short lesson, and sampling a few different batches, I went away with a little bag filled with about two tablespoons of "grains." The grains are actually a combination of bacteria and yeasts suspended in lipids, proteins, and sugars. They look like fresh cheese curds and pack a serious punch when given food (milk).
After adding them to a jar of slightly warmed raw goat milk, and placing them in a draft free, dark space for 24 hours, I had my first batch. Perfectly tart and refreshing. I blended some with a handful of frozen blueberries and left the rest to enjoy plain.
There are a few very exciting things about kefir. One: it contains a highly impressive list of microflora, essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the digestive tract. Second: the beverage has linage leading it back to the early shepherds of the Caucasus mountains. Traditionally, milk containing kefir grains was placed in a skin bag and hung in a doorway to be knocked by through traffic, keeping the grains properly mixed. Lastly: the grains do all the work, it's easy.
As I have discussed before on my kraut making post, fermented foods were once a common and integral part of most all culture's culinary history. From kimchi and miso to sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles and yogurt, the cultivation of friendly bacteria has long since kept large populations thriving.
If you are like me, and consider high-quality, traditional foods the best form of health insurance, think of fermented foods as keystone players in this science based philosophy. Their balancing ability may be unseen by the naked eye, but like so many other friendly microscopic organisms, keep our world breaking down, rebuilding, and harmonious.

Kefir- (Recommended reading prior to making):
*3 cups raw goat milk or jersey milk
*about 2 Tbsp. active kefir grains
*frozen berries for flavoring (optional)

Place fresh raw milk in a glass bowl. Fill a larger glass bowl with hot water. Submerge the smaller bowl in the larger, creating a water bath, and allow milk to warm to room temp.
Place the kefir grains in a glass pitcher or ball jar. Pour in the milk. Cover mouth of vessel with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band.
Place in a draft free, dark place for about 24 hours. Occasionally swirl liquid to keep grains well distributed.
When kefir is ripe, strain and enjoy. Reserve strained grains for next batch. Blend kefir with frozen or fresh fruit, and sweeten with a touch of honey if you like. Or, enjoy plain.
A toast to your health!

Kefir grains

*List of live kefir microflora: From the Encyclopedia of Food Science and the official kefir making website:


Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lb. brevis [Possibly now Lb. kefiri]
Lb. casei subsp. casei
Lb. casei subsp. rhamnosus
Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei
Lb. fermentum
Lb. cellobiosus
Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lb. delbrueckii subsp. lactis
Lb. fructivorans
Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis
Lb. hilgardii
Lb. helveticus
Lb. kefiri
Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum
Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens
Lb. parakefiri
Lb. plantarum


Streptococcus thermophilus
St. paracitrovorus
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
Lc. lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis
Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris
Enterococcus durans
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides
Leuc. dextranicum


Dekkera anomala / Brettanomyces anomalus
Kluyveromyces marxianus
/ Candida kefyr
Pichia fermentans / C. firmetaria
Yarrowia lipolytica
/ C. lipolytica
Debaryomyces hansenii / C. famata
Deb. [Schwanniomyces] occidentalis
Issatchenkia orientalis / C. krusei
Galactomyces geotrichum / Geotrichum candidum
C. friedrichii
C. rancens
C. tenuis
C. humilis
C. inconspicua
C. maris
Cryptococcus humicolus
Kluyveromyces lactis var. lactis
Kluyv. bulgaricus
Kluyv. lodderae
Sacc. subsp. torulopsis holmii
Sacc. pastorianus
Sacc. humaticus
Sacc. unisporus
Sacc. exiguus
Sacc. turicensis sp. nov
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Zygosaccharomyces rouxii


Acetobacter aceti
Acetobacter rasens


  1. wow, that is an impressive list of flora! I need to get my hands on some grains!

  2. Thank you! I've been making kefir for about a year and wondering what all it contained. Do you know how much this varies from grain to grain- what mean is how much my grains may differ from those of someone else who lives across the country?

  3. Wow! All that flora, no wonder I only stayed sick for a day or two last time around! I probably wouldn't have gotten sick at all had I been diligent about drinking our raw goat milk kefir earlier. Thanks!

  4. We just ordered some grains and will be making kefir for the first time. What a wonderful "food". Thanks for all the information. This is a wonderful web site.

  5. Thanks for the wonderful comments All!

    Elizabeth- if you are thinking of ordering grains, I recommend the Kefir Lady She is based out of Ohio, and the the grains tend to arrive here in NC in about 2-3 days. You can be enjoying your next batch a day after receiving them!

    Sierra-I'm still learning, but I have read that microflora content varies from batch to batch, how long the kefir is soured etc. Temperature and the varying character of the milk will play a role as well.

    Happy probiotic growing friends!

  6. Yes Kefir is wonderful with good grains like these. I use it in pancakes instead of buttermilk and I feed a bit to my animals, they know what's good for them! That reminds me........I need some now in a smoothy maybe.

  7. I am new to kefir. I bought a few grains online, but as it happens I just returned from my hols (after 2 weeks) and I am not sure if my kefir grains are still alive... please help!

    Does anybody know how to "revive" kefir grains?

  8. Maris-I know that you can dry the grains out, and revive them later or slow them down by putting them in the fridge. How did you leave them before you left?

  9. Dear Maris, Your kefir grains are probably just fine. Put them into milk and see what happens in 24 hours. They should do something. If they culture the milk in any way, they are alive and will come back into pristine condition with daily milk changes at room temperature. Keep your culture jar out of the refrigerator. Cold temperatures set them back, but they do recover. Marilyn Kefirlady

  10. From the kefir lady herself! Thank you so much Marilyn!

  11. What is the difference between kefir and yogurt? Which, if one is better than the other, is better to feed to an infant around 6 months and up?

  12. I just made kefir for the first time yesterday. But I think I heated my milk slightly over room temperature. Is it still any good? It will have brewed for 24 hours later this afternoon.

  13. Your kefir should be just fine after heating the milk. In fact, on your next batch, you can skip the warming process entirely. Happy kefir making!