Frequently Asked Questions About Milk Kefir
Why is my milk kefir starting to separate and curdle?
I get more emails about kefir separating into whey and curds than any other question about cultured foods. It can happen because the grains are growing or the temperatures have gotten warmer or a few other things. It's not a bad thing and the kefir is still good, so don't throw it out and think it's no longer good. Kefir grains are extremely active and strong. They will multiply quickly and before you know it, the grains will need more milk. They'll start fermenting so fast you will think that your kefir is not done because it's thin when actually the opposite is happening. If the grains have increased and you have not added enough milk, they will ferment the milk faster and you might not notice that the kefir is ready and thick. Then as it sits longer, the kefir will start to separate into whey and curds. It can create quite a panic for people and they fear they have done something wrong. Many will throw this over-fermented kefir out. Don't do that, it's still good! First, let me say it is never ruined, it is just really fermented and sour. One of two things has happened.
First, you may have too many grains for the amount of milk you are using and need to add more milk or remove some of the grains.
Secondly, your house is warmer and it is fermenting faster and, again, you will need to add more milk. If you see clear yellowish liquid and curds, it is over fermented and has passed the thickening stage. It is now separating into whey and curds. Again, this is not bad - it's just a little more sour and may be less appealing.
Don't give up if it's over fermented - there are lots of things you can do. Check out the video and more tips below!
I’m going on vacation. How do I keep my grains alive and happy while I’m gone?
Storing kefir grains for a week: Place your kefir grains in milk. If you have 1 tablespoon of grains, store them in at least 2 cups of milk, 3 is better. I like to make sure that they have plenty of food to eat. If you have more grains, add more milk accordingly. Then you place this in the refrigerator. This will last for one week. Coming home: When you return home strain off the milk that the grains were resting in and discard (you can also give this to pets!) and put them in new milk to make kefir.
The grains will be a little slower making kefir when you first take them out of the fridge. The cold slows them down a bit, but the second time you make kefir they will be back up to speed.
Longer than a week: If you're going to be gone for more than one week, then I recommend you freeze them in milk. Store them in a jar in the amount of milk you regularly use, leaving a little room at the top for expansion when it freezes. Store in a glass or food-grade plastic jar with a lid and place in the freezer. You can store this for several months and they should be fine. They will take a little while to wake up when you remove them from the freezer, but once they thaw, strain them and give them fresh milk After a few days of making kefir, they should be fine. You will need to discard the milk they were stored in. Freezing kefir grains should only be done once in a while. Freezing and thawing them continuously can diminish or kill them, but once or twice a year should be fine. When you thaw them add a scoop of Prebio Plus to help them wake up. It may take longer than 24 hours to culture the first time with the added food from the Prebio Plus but will make a big difference in how they perform.
I left my milk kefir grains in the refrigerator for a few months. Are they still good?
Probably not. Kefir grains eat the milk sugars (lactose) out of the milk to live and to make their bacteria. This is why the milk gets more sour. When the grains run out of food, they begin to die. They’re living organisms and need food. Treat them like a pet and make sure you feed them. The only way to tell is to try and make a jar of kefir. If the milk turns sour and tart tasting then the good bacteria is working and your grains should be fine.
I stored my milk kefir grains in the fridge for a week. Is the milk that the grains were stored in okay to drink?
The milk that the grains were stored in is not really kefir. It won’t hurt you to drink it, but it probably won’t taste very good. Milk needs to culture at a warmer temperature to really turn into kefir. Always give the grains new milk when bringing them back on the counter to culture. There won't be enough lactose left in the milk to culture properly if you don't give them fresh milk.
Do I culture milk kefir with a lid or with cheesecloth?
I always culture my kefir with a lid on. I use a one-quart glass canning jar with a plastic lid, but a metal lid is also fine as well. Many people have trouble when they use a cloth and rubber band due to wild yeast or cross contamination from other cultures. They can get a fuzzy pink yeast on their grains, and although this isn't harmful it can can change the taste of your kefir, so I always recommend a lid.
Why aren’t my milk kefir grains growing?
If you are making kefir every day, your grains should be growing and multiplying. If they aren’t, it is because the temperature in your house is cooler than usual, slowing down the grains, or your kefir grains have died. If your milk is turning into kefir by becoming sour and thick, your grains are still working, just at a slower rate. You can purchase more or get some new grains from a friend.
How do I know if my milk kefir grains are still good?
They will culture your milk and turn it sour and thick within 24 hours. Make sure that you have enough grains for the amount of milk that you are using or it will separate into whey and curds which is still ok to drink but not as thick.
Second, ferment your kefir
Many years ago I discovered a way to make kefir not only taste better but also increase the nutrients in it. It is the only way that I make my kefir now because it is so delicious. The process is called "second fermenting." I have to admit that the reason I second fermented my kefir is that it tasted so much better and the nutrients and vitamins will skyrocket!
How to make your kefir creamy again
Has your kefir been fermenting faster and turning into curds and whey before you know it? In the summertime, kefir can change and many people think something is wrong with their kefir; then they throw it away which gives me complete anxiety! Don’t throw it away, it’s still good. Let me help you fix it. As your kefir grains grow and multiply and as the days get warmer, kefir starts fermenting really fast, and before you know it the kefir has passed the thick and creamy stage and turned into whey and curds. This does not look very appetizing and can often taste really sour. Here are tips to make your kefir creamy again.
If your kefir is too sour
Perhaps you've seen this happen, and it even happens to me from time to time: my kefir will get really sour tasting This can happen for several reasons.
- During your first ferment, you let your kefir ferment too long on your counter, or your house might be warmer than usual.
- Kefir will also ferment more quickly if your grains have grown and multiplied, and you didn't increase the milk or remove some of the grains.
- You leave your finished kefir in the fridge for a long time and don't drink it. Remember that kefir still ferments a little in your fridge. The longer it is in there, the more the bacteria will eat the sugars out of the milk and make it sour.
Here are ways to take the tartness out of your kefir.
How to strain kefir that is thick
I love kefir that is thick like yogurt. However, it can sometimes be difficult to strain out the kefir grains sometimes. There is a super easy remedy for this. Enjoy the benefits of kefir and find an easy and quick way to strain it. Check out the video for tips.
My Kefir is slimy
If your kefir is slimy then it usually means a couple of things. There has been a change in the temperature in your home and your kefir is fermenting faster. This makes the good yeasts start to become more proficient and this creates the slimy texture. It could also mean you're not giving your grains enough milk or feeding them on a regular basis. This can also happen if you keep them in the fridge for long periods of time and then the yeasts start to dominate. In any of these cases, you need to give them more milk than you previously were, and perhaps a prebiotic like Prebio Plus to help them gain their balance again. Temperature is also important. If your home is extra warm them you might need to get them to a cooler location. Check out this page for Summer Kefir.
My Kefir is gloopy and stringy
If kefir gets stringy or gloopy, or even a glue-like consistency, this is actually a good sign that your grains are healthy and growing. These changes are known as kefiran and they are a gel-forming soluble polysaccharide. This happens most often in the summer and fall or if you're trying a new milk. These will often change over time and from season to season, coming and going. This polysaccharide is similar to the same compounds found in starch, cellulose, gum, and glycogen. Bacteria, fungi, and algae have all adopted an ability to produce this as a form of protection from drying out, reproducing, and adhering to their food source more efficiently. This can make changes in the viscosity of the kefir. Kefir can ferment at different temperatures but as it does some of the strains of yeasts and bacteria will perform much better, while others may be temporarily suppressed changing the texture. Kefir grains like a stable environment with minimal and gradual temperature changes. If kefir starts to experience variable temperatures where one day is hot and the next cool then it may be grainy, thin, or gloopy. But hang on it will most likely change again if you continue to make kefir on a regular basis.
I love winter kefir! It’s often creamier and thicker than summer kefir. Kefir acts differently in the winter than in the warmer months of the year, due to cooler temperatures that make it ferment more slowly.
Kefir ferments in 24 hours at 69-73 degrees, but drop those temps and have a lot of fluctuations and it’s going to take your kefir longer to ferment. This is for both Easy Kefir and kefir made with grains. It could take an extra day (total 48 hours of fermentation) to really turn tart and kefir like, and perhaps longer if the temps are lower than 64 degrees. Check out this article for more tips on fermenting kefir I the winter time.
Kefir is a living food that tends to have a mind of its own. It ferments differently in the winter than the summer, so understanding the process can make a huge difference. It will ferment much faster in warmer temps and sometimes you'll need a little extra help. Check out seven tips to help you make great summer kefir.
Can I make Dairy-Free Kefir?
I have seen many people benefit from kefir, and this includes non-dairy kefir. So many people need a dairy-free version, so we created just about every kind of non-dairy kefir we could think of. Non-dairy kefir is usually thinner than regular kefir, so it separates into whey and curds since most non-dairy kinds of milk have a lot of water in them. Don't worry, this is ok and doesn't mean it's over fermenting. This is just from the water content separating from whatever grains, seeds, or nuts you're using. It's still loaded with tons of probiotics and nutrients. When it separates, just shake it up before you use it. I also have recipes to make thicker non-dairy kefir, check them out below.