Making Non-Dairy Kefir
Kefir grains love to eat the sugars (lactose) in milk. These sugars are the primary food for this culture. Fresh milk kefir is only 1% sugar and live kefir grains contain over 50 different types of yeast and bacteria existing in a symbiotic relationship.
The powerful microbes in the kefir eat the sugar out of the milk it makes it into probiotics - just for you! So, when you drink a glass of kefir, know that it contains only 1 or 2 grams of sugar and this is what makes it tart or sour. The sugar is mostly gone.
This presents a problem for those who want to make non-dairy kefir. Milk sugars are needed to keep the grains alive, and non-dairy milks such as coconut, almond, sesame seed, walnut, and cashew don't have these sugars. This also results in lower benefits since there is less sugar to convert into probiotics. The grains don't last in these non-dairy milks because their food source is mostly gone, but I have found an alternative solution because I cannot stand for my kefir grains to die in any regards.
Keep Your Kefir Grains Alive
I posted a blog not too long ago on how to make Cashew Kefir and a reader, Fran, posted a comment explaining how she has kept her grains alive while making sesame seed milk for over a year by feeding them sugar made from date paste. Here is what she said: "I am vegan and I used to make my own kefir with non-dairy homemade sesame milk that I added homemade date puree (thinned down) to in order to feed the (milk kefir) grains. I started out by dunking my grains into cow's milk once a fortnight to keep them alive but then one day I had enough grains and I decided that I was going to test how long the grains would live if I only used them in my sesame milk. A year and a half later they were still happily culturing my “milk.” I am guessing that my grains converted to the date sugar quite happily as they showed no signs of either dying or slowing down. If you have vegan readers, they might like to experiment a bit rather than relying on having to dunk their grains in milk. I dare say the probiotics in my kefir were different from those in regular milk, but the end result was tart, delicious, and probiotic rich."
Dates And Kefir
I made some date paste and started feeding it to my grains when I made coconut and almond milk kefir, and I gotta say it's working great and my grains are not dying. Even though they don't grow like they do in regular milk, they continue to culture the milk and I will keep experimenting with them to see how they do. A big thank you to Fran and all my readers who share their stories. We are all in this together. When one finds answers, it helps us all.
We have an exciting new product called Easy Kefir. It's made from freeze-drying kefir grains and making them into a powder. It works wonderfully well with non-diary milk but the same rule applies, you must give them a source of sugar if your non-dairy milk has under eight grams of sugar or carbohydrates. One teaspoon of date paste or raw sugar per four cups of non-dairy milk will do the trick and help you kefir be full of probiotics.