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How to make Kefir

Kefir, how do you make it?

It is quite simple and a lot of fun. You can make kefir with a variety of milks, dairy and non-dairy.

There are two ways to make kefir.

One way is with kefir grains that will reproduce and last a lifetime (if you don’t kill them with heat or starve them by not feeding them.) Or you can purchase kefir culture packages.

The culture packages is the method I used when I first started making kefir. I call this method “Kefir for Beginners.” It’s really easy, you can make as much as you want, and it doesn’t require you to make kefir every day. It comes in a powder form, and you basically just add milk and you’re done. Six packages can make up to 42 gallons of kefir. So if you’re struggling or feel overwhelmed, this is a great place to start.

Here’s my How to Make Kefir video from my DVD “The Trilogy

Kefir Grains is the method I use now. It’s a little bit more involved, but it’s still really easy. You have to keep your grains fed and happy, but in return they will make you delicious kefir! The kefir made from grains is actually a lot stronger than kefir made from the powder packages. The powder packages have ten good bacteria, and I mean really good ones. However kefir made from kefir grains has over fifty!

When I switched to grains, I saw a big difference and never went back. I really love my kefir grains, almost as much as I love my children. If you take care of your kefir grains and love them half as much as I do, they will make you wonderful kefir for the rest of your life!

You will need to either find or purchase kefir grains.

Donna’s Live Kefir Grains – My personal grains!

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Ok, let’s make some kefir!

Here’s the methods for making kefir:

Kefir (Grains)
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I make kefir using kefir grains everyday. Kefir grains last forever if you take care of them and will last for generations.~Donna
Ingredients
Servings: Cups
Units:
Instructions
Making Kefir
  1. Place fresh kefir grains in a glass jar and fill the jar with fresh milk (best not to fill jar more than 2/3 – 3/4 full)
    Place fresh kefir grains in a glass jar and fill the jar with fresh milk (best not to fill jar more than 2/3 – 3/4 full)
  2. Place a lid on the jar or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for approx. 24 hours (Or until the milk has thickened or has become sour to your liking)
    Place a lid on the jar or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for approx. 24 hours (Or until the milk has thickened or has become sour to your liking)
  3. Pour the contents into a strainer and strain the kefir into a container to separate the grains from the liquid kefir
    Pour the contents into a strainer and strain the kefir into a container to separate the grains from the liquid kefir
  4. Wash the jar, then place the kefir grains from the strainer back into the washed jar.
    Wash the jar, then place the kefir grains from the strainer back into the washed jar.
  5. Add fresh milk, then the whole process is simply repeated for the next batch.
    Add fresh milk, then the whole process is simply repeated for the next batch.
Taking a Break from Kefir
  1. If you need to take a break, place your grains in milk.
    If you need to take a break, place your grains in milk.
  2. 1 Tbsp to a cup of fresh milk will last a week in your fridge before you need to change the milk.
    1 Tbsp to a cup of fresh milk will last a week in your fridge before you need to change the milk.
  3. Add more milk if you have more grains.
    Add more milk if you have more grains.
  4. Your grains will continue to grow and multiply with every batch of kefir you make, so you will need to add more milk as they do.
    Your grains will continue to grow and multiply with every batch of kefir you make, so you will need to add more milk as they do.
Kefir Changes
  1. Your kefir can ferment and be thin and pourable or thick like yogurt.
    Your kefir can ferment and be thin and pourable or thick like yogurt.
  2. The temperature in your house determines how fast it ferments.
    The temperature in your house determines how fast it ferments.
  3. In the summer it ferments faster and tends to be thinner. In the winter it ferments slower and is usually thicker and creamier.
    In the summer it ferments faster and tends to be thinner. In the winter it ferments slower and is usually thicker and creamier.
Kefir Seperating
  1. If your kefir separates into whey and curds, don’t worry it’s just a little over fermented and is still good to drink.
    If your kefir separates into whey and curds, don’t worry it’s just a little over fermented and is still good to drink.
  2. You need to add more milk or shorten the fermenting time.
    You need to add more milk or shorten the fermenting time.
Creamy Kefir
  1. If your kefir separates into whey and curds, here’s a trick to make it creamier again:
    If your kefir separates into whey and curds, here’s a trick to make it creamier again:
  2. Remove the grains and place the over fermented kefir in a blender and blend for a few seconds.
    Remove the grains and place the over fermented kefir in a blender and blend for a few seconds.
  3. Place it in a jar in the fridge and let it sit overnight or for 8 hours.
    Place it in a jar in the fridge and let it sit overnight or for 8 hours.
Recipe Notes

(*1) Most milk-types are acceptable, including whole milk, fat-reduced, non-fat, pasteurized and homogenized. Although I mostly enjoy fresh raw whole cow’s milk to culture kefir.

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Kefir (using Easy Kefir)
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This method uses Easy Kefir powder packets. It's made from freeze-dried kefir grains. It's very easy to make, and is the way I made kefir when I first started.~Donna
Materials
Ingredients
  • 1Packet Easy Kefir
  • 1Quart milk(See Recipe Notes below)
Servings: quart
Units:
Instructions
Making Kefir
  1. Pour four cups of milk into a quart-sized glass jar.
    Pour four cups of milk into a quart-sized glass jar.
  2. Sprinkle the entire contents of one Easy Kefir packet into the jar and mix well.
    Sprinkle the entire contents of one Easy Kefir packet into the jar and mix well.
  3. Put a lid on the jar.
    Put a lid on the jar.
  4. Let this mixture ferment at 72° to 75°F for 18 to 24 hours. If the temperature is below 72° let it ferment a little longer.
    Let this mixture ferment at 72° to 75°F for 18 to 24 hours. If the temperature is below 72° let it ferment a little longer.
  5. Place into the refrigerator. Even in your refrigerator the fermentation process continues, but chilling it will slow down the fermentation of the healthy bacteria and beneficial yeast.
    Place into the refrigerator. Even in your refrigerator the fermentation process continues, but chilling it will slow down the fermentation of the healthy bacteria and beneficial yeast.
Re-culturing Your Kefir (See Recipe Notes below)
  1. To make 1 quart: use 1/4 cup from the previous batch
    To make 1 quart: use 1/4 cup from the previous batch
  2. To make a 1/2 gallon: use 1/2 cup from the previous batch
    To make a 1/2 gallon: use 1/2 cup from the previous batch
  3. To make 1 gallon: use 1 cup from the previous batch
    To make 1 gallon: use 1 cup from the previous batch
  4. Do not use more than recommended to make new batches of kefir. Bacteria likes room to grow, and adding too much will make it culture faster and cause it to be more sour.
    Do not use more than recommended to make new batches of kefir. Bacteria likes room to grow, and adding too much will make it culture faster and cause it to be more sour.
Recipe Notes

Making Kefir
Most types of milk are acceptable, including whole milk, fat-reduced, non-fat, pasteurized, and homogenized. Although I mostly enjoy fresh raw whole cow’s milk to culture kefir.)

 

You will know your kefir is ready if the milk has thickened and has a distinctive sour fragrance. The final consistency should be pourable and thicker like yogurt.

 

When you put the kefir in your refrigerator the fermentation process continues, but chilling it will slow down the fermentation of the healthy bacteria and beneficial yeast.

 

Re-culturing Your Kefir
Once you’ve made your first batch (quart) of kefir, you can use some of it to make more kefir, so don’t drink all of it!

Simply take a portion of this kefir, add it to new milk, and let it culture it again. (For exact amounts, see next slide) You can do this up to seven times and in larger quantities. Or perhaps more than seven times if you do it every day like I do 🙂 Just keep doing it until it stops re-culturing, then you'll know that you need to use another Easy Kefir packet.

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Second Ferment Your Kefir

Once you get the hang of making kefir, I encourage you to start second fermenting it. Not only does second fermenting increase the nutrients in your kefir, it also make it taste a LOT better! I always second ferment my kefir. It’s not hard and I encourage you to try it and see the difference!

Click to learn more

Store your kefir while on vacation

If you are unable to make kefir with your live grains for a short period of time and would like to store it, place your grains in at least 2 cups of milk, remembering that if you have 1 Tbsp of grains to 1 cup of milk rule and adding a little more. I like to store mine in at least 3 cups of milk making sure that they have plenty of food to eat. Then you place this in the refrigerator. This will last for one week and then if you want to do it longer drain the milk and add new milk after 1 week. If you are going  to be gone longer than a week double the milk you would add. Your grains eat the lactose (milk sugar) out of the milk and you want to be sure they have plenty to eat so they won’t die.

It is a living colony and needs food just as you do!

353 Responses to "How to make Kefir"
  1. I am wondering if I can make goat milk kefir using powdered goat milk. I can’t find raw goat milk in my area, so thought I would purchase organic powdered goats milk and then make my kefir from there. Wondering if that is possible. Thanks in advance for your help. Sharon, california

  2. Hello Donna,first off I want to tell you all your info has been great,and your video was so helpful.I have been drinking kefir for about 6 months now,which I was buying from a lady.I now have some of my own live grains and have made my own for 3 days now,with great success.My question to you is,I started with whole milk that has the highest fat content and I know it works the best to feed the kefir but the thought of drinking something with such a high fat content doesn’t really appeal that mush to me.I drink milk but it’s 1%.Does the kefir interact to the fat in the whole milk to make it healthier.The lady I was buying the kefir from must have used coconut milk because of the flovour of the kefir,do you recommend coconut milk and refresh the grains in whole milk every so often?In doing this will I take away some of the goodness from the kefir grains.Thanks so much Donna,Sincerely Lynn,Nova Scotia,Canada.

  3. Hi Donna,
    A friend gave me some kefir grains and I followed the instructions on page 53 of your book Cultured Food for Health, where it says 1 tablespoon of kefir grains per 3 cups of milk. I checked tonight and the milk has not changed much at all in 24 hours. I wanted to find out what I did wrong so I went to your website. There I found the kefir making video and the instructions in the video were different. It was indicated that you use 1 tablespoon of kefir grains to 1 cup of milk. Which one is the correct one? I am not sure about leaving the mixture on the counter (now 26hrs) so I will put it in the fridge until I hear back.

    • It really depends on how warm your house is. Let it sit out till it ferments. When it takes longer than 24 hours you can know to reduce the milk and remember that you’re grains will grow and need more milk in the future. Take it out of the fridge and let it keep fermenting until its tart tasting, and then you’ll know it’s done. It’s okay if it’s taking longer but next time you can reduce the milk down to 2 cups or less. It’s really an unique thing to do. Each home is different depending on temperature. Check out this video for more help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqDYJfoiDFc

  4. Hi Donna

    Do you use raw milk with the kefir grains? I do but it can be very expensive. $10 for 2L in Australia. Would you recommend using nonhomogenised + pasteurized organic milk as an alternative?

    Thanks.

  5. Hello my friend is giving me so water kefir grains can I use these with milk or should I just start a new?

  6. I have seasonal allergies and have itchy hives on my neck and face. I don’t want to take prednisone or toxic antihistamines suggested by my doctor. I’ve just started making kefir and kombucha. Will these help my hives situation or aggravate the problem?

  7. So I think I messed up and killed my kefir grains. I left them in the fridge without feeding them for probably 6-9 months. One jar has some pink color to it. Is there any way that I can make them healthy again or are they done for good?

  8. Hi Donna,

    First of all, thanks for providing such a great resource!
    I ordered grains from you this week and I’m SO excited to start making kefir again… last year i was making it with grains and raw milk from our local community farm/csa but wasn’t thrilled with the quality of milk or grains. This year we have our own – fantastic – dairy goats and the grains came from you, so we have the best of both! I do have a few questions that I couldn’t find clarification on even after reading through all the comments/questions:

    ~ how much (if at all) will stress impact the longterm health of the grains? I’m especially nervous about this since my grains are sitting in the post office overnight tonight in their packaging for an extra night… I thought they would arrive today, but the tracking info had delivery scheduled for tomorrow so I shifted my all day city errand trip to today (rather than going tomorrow as planned) and, wouldn’t you know it, they did in fact deliver to the PO this morning; I missed getting back into town in time to pick them up by about 15 minutes. I know they will probably be okay, just hungry and a possibly a bit stressed, when I pick them up tomorrow morning… but it got me thinking about whether or not the stress affects them into the future. What are your thoughts on this? I guess it would also apply after refrigerating for vacation, etc… Do these types of stresses cause lasting affects to the health and vigor of the colony? If so, is there anything that can help them rebound better from periods of stress (like shipping or cold storage)?

    ~ you mention that raw milk with cream can create an “off” or “yeasty” flavor… is this only for milk with a thick cream top in place or for all high fat/high cream content milk? My mini nubian does (one in particular) put off some pretty rich and creamy milk, so I am wondering if I need to let it sit in the fridge for a couple days and then skim the cream before culturing. Do you have any idea how the cream/butterfat content of the milk affects the health benefits of the kefir?

    ~ how much headspace in a jar is too much for culturing? for second ferment? I believe I read that you recommend to only fill a jar 2/3 – 3/4 full, but is there such a thing as too much headspace/air in the jar?

    Thanks again for providing all the fantastic info and products… It is clearly a labor of love and is truly inspiring!

    • Your grains will be fine and can last longer than two weeks but what happens when they are stressed is they get rather large and big. This is not bad just means they’re looking for more surface area to absorb food. Goats milk is different than cows milk and the cream might not be a problem tasting yeasty. Leave a little room for it does expand and it doesn’t matter if the jar has lots of room doesn’t hurt anything.

  9. Hi, I bought your book. I got Kefir Grains and I have fed them twice. When I strain the kefir from the grains, there is a lot of small white crumbles along with the less white fluffy grains. Should I get a bigger strainer so the white stuff goes in with the Kefir or should it stay with the grains? Also, should I be rinsing the grains with milk before I feed it?

  10. I now have SOOOO many kefir grains – maybe 3 cups of grains – and my hubby and I have recently learned they can be eaten, but one must start slowly when including this in the diet. Meanwhile, they multiply. Is there a ”safe’ way to dehydrate/freeze them?

  11. Hi, I am pretty new to your site and am DESPERATE for healing. I am 64 y/o 3 yrs ago I had heart surgery and contracted invasive candidiasis. Doctors refuse to even discuss the problem, it has invaded my entire body including my brain and eyes, it has eaten the fat and muscle in my arms and legs to the point that I am almost crippled,on x-rays you can see where it has even chewed on the bones. In the last 6years I have had stage 4 kidney cancer and two aortic aneurysms they removed the kidney and have repaired one of the aneurysms. I am also insulin dependent diabetic, I firmly believe that all these problems have their root in a long standing candida over growth. Can you offer me any help, PLEASE………. no one else will.

    • Start with my free ebook at the top of the page on my website and it will help you get started. Pick one thing to try and be easy about it. The body can heal you it was designed to do so. It just takes a little time and learning.

    • Dennis… Would love to hear how it is going for you since its been about five months. Pray for healing for you.

  12. Hi Donna,

    Your site is great! I am just a beginner and got some grains from a friend. My question is about consistency. Mine is buttermilk consistency, but I see other pics online of a thicker consistency. Can you clarify?

    Thank you
    Karen

  13. I am considering making kefir because of how healthy it is. I am a huge fermentation nut, but I want to try my hand at making it rather than buying it all the time. I have some questions.

    1) can I use my mother in laws grains or would yours be better quality. She makes very thick lovely looking kefir.
    2) I drink goat’s milk but not cow milk due to tummy weirdness with cow milk. Do you think there is enough cow dairy in the kefir grains that using them to make coconut kefir would be a problem?
    3) I did try making goat milk kefir maybe a year ago and a friend gave me some goat milk kefir grains. The milk rotted. My only source is uht milk. Is that a problem?
    4) the second ferment is a great idea! I just want to confirm that I don’t still have the grains in the jar right for the second time around?
    5) I primarily want to make coconut kefir. If I can use dairy grains, do I need to gradually get them used to coconut milk? From your page on that, it didn’t seem like it would be a problem?
    6) any ideas about using grass fed gelatin powder to make it thicker? (The coconut butter is a great idea!)

  14. If I have 2 separate jars of double-fermented kefir in my refrigerator and they were made on different days, is it OK to combine them in one large jar?

      • Hi Donna!

        Firstly, you have helped me immensely in the world of kefir, and for that I thank you!!

        I have always wondered if it’s safe to have one large ‘kefir jar’ in the fridge (let’s call it a gallon for fun) and every time I make a cup of fresh kefir, poor it in the jar. I have a hard time keeping up w/drinking it even when I make only 1 cup batches at a time (w/ a second ferment). So I’m hoping a can create some sort of kefir dispenser in my fridge (so that I don’t have an army of jars) but not sure if it would taste bad or be safe… I’m thinking one of those glass beverage containers with a spout for easy pouring.

  15. I enjoy mixing my second ferment (lemon) kefir with plain, organic yogurt. It creates a nice, light, fizzy yogurt. Am I harming the probiotics in the kefir by mixing it in with yogurt?

      • I am also making yogurt for the first time (using a thermos), and will be straining it overnight so it thickens. Is yogurt whey as healthy as kefir whey? Should I even keep it? How can I use it?

        • It is not as beneficial as kefir whey but is still good for you. You can use it to make cultured veggies although I don’t like the results as well. You will also need to use it within a few days of straning.

  16. Hi, Donna, Thanks again for being such an amazing resource. I ordered dehydrated milk kefir grains from Cultures for Health and followed their directions. They said it would take 3-4 days to rehydrate the grains (changing the milk every 24 hours) and sure enough, this morning is day 4, and I have thickened, yogurt-like kefir. I strained it and put the grains in fresh milk in a mason jar in the fridge. I put the strained kefir in another mason jar in the fridge. Here are my questions:
    1) How often should I change the milk in the jar with the grains?
    2) When I’m ready to make a new batch of kefir, do I remove the grains and put them in fresh milk and let it sit covered on my counter for 24 hours?
    3) How long will the “finished” kefir last in my fridge?
    4) The kefir has separated in the jar with a thin, watery layer on top. Can I just shake it up and drink, or do I pour off the water layer?

  17. I ran out of milk after my kefir was already in the counter for 24 hours about. I won’t be able to get any more milk for about 3-4 days- will it be ok if I don’t strain and just put a lid on the jar and put in the fridge until I can strain and put fresh milk over the grains?

    Thanks

  18. Another question…what is your opinion of keeping the Kefir grains in a muslin bag while fermenting? I have one of these bags and it definitely makes the process easier and my Kefir is still very thick. Just wanted to know if this is a good idea long term. Thank you!

  19. I just discovered your site. It’s wonderful! I’m learning so much! I was wondering if raw honey can be used for the second ferment. I’ve read some conflicting information on the web that raw honey shouldn’t be combined with Kefir. If not in the second ferment, is it okay to use when making a Kefir smoothie? Thank you!

  20. I am just starting kefir. In the steps to make kefir milk you said to avoid metal but all the pictures show a strainer that is metal. And you say to use a fine mesh strainer. All I have ever seen and have are metal. Is this ok to use? I have been using a plastic spoon, but I’m afraid the holes might be too big and I’m not catching all of the grains.

  21. I’ve been reading articles that say you need to take a break from kefir every twenty days or so. Do you agree? Also, do you ever eat your grains?
    Thank you,
    Gail

  22. If I want to make 1 quart of kefir, how many tablespoons of grains do I need. Seems as though I’m getting different amounts depending on which website I’m reading.

      • Thank you. I apologize for all the questions, but you are an amazing resource. I’ve struggled with IBS for decades, and just 3 weeks ago, gave up wheat products and saw a 95% improvement. I’ve never felt so terrific! Reading about getting probiotics through foods has me even more excited. So, more questions:
        1) Because of my stomach issues, I read it’s best to proceed slowly with adding probiotics to your diet to avoid side effects. I am currently drinking 2 tablespoons of kefir a day, and every 5 days will up it another tablespoon until I hit 8 ounces. Should I wait to try my fermented carrots until my body gets used to the kefir? What do you recommend?
        2) Can I make kefir using organic non-fat milk?
        3) Wilk I lose the probiotics in kefir if I heat it up or use it over hot oatmeal?

        • Yes, your doing great and this amount of kefir is perfect. Wait on the cultured veggies until your body is use to the kefir but if your not feeling discomfort than go ahead and make them.

          Yes, you can use organic no-fat milk.

          If you heat it above 115 you will start to kill the probiotics.

  23. Hi Donna,

    So, my grains are growing, and I’m making a large batch at once, enough for 3 – 4 days. I’ve been putting all the grains in one jar and covering them with milk in the refrigerator until I’m ready to start fermenting again. Can I just remove the jar from the refrigerator and place it on the counter for 24 hrs. – which I’ve been doing – or should I be straining and changing the milk?k

    Thanks! Love your grains!

    Best,
    Debbie

    • I’m enjoying my morning kefir drink, thanks to your patient guidance. I’ve been making a few days worth at once as the grains are growing fine. Here’s my new question: I was pouring milk over the grains to store in the refrigerator for the next few days, and toward the end the milk was clumpy! Is it okay for the grains to stay in this milk, and then ferment, or should I get new milk at least for the fermenting? Sorry to bug you AGAIN. Thank you!

        • They are in the refrigerator in the “bad” milk now; I don’t plan to ferment them for a few days. Should I get new milk, strain the grains, and put them back in new milk in refrigerator? Is that enough, so that I can them just use that same jar containing grains and milk to ferment? Thanks – really sorry for the questions.

  24. My friend just shared her kefir with me last night that was already fermenting. I put it in the fridge in the morning and separated about 6 hrs later. It seems just a little thicker than whole milk. Maybe I should have let it stay on the counter longer? I added lemon zest and am going for the 2nd fermentation. I don’t mind having a thin batch, but did I harm the grains or do I just need to let it sit at room temp longer next batch?

  25. I received my grains a couple of days ago. The first two batches were fine. But the third batch separated after 17 hours. I am using skim milk does this make a difference.

  26. I use raw cow milk to make my kefir. Today, I ran out of milk and I won’t be able to get any for another 24 hours. My keifer grains have been fermenting for 12 hours. The mixture is slightly separated with cream stuck to the side of my jar and streaks of yellow liquid running throughout. I am thinking that since I can’t get more milk for 24 hours that I need to slow down the fermentation process. Should I put my kefier (with the grains) in the refrigerator until I get more milk?

  27. I received my grains 2 days ago…..thank you very much! It was very thin yesterday after 24 hours but I went ahead an separated it anyway. I am wondering if I put too much milk in the jar for the amount of grains? I didn’t put as much milk in this 2nd batch I started and it looks like it may be getting thicker when I checked it out this morning. Any advice for me since I’m new at this?

    • One more thing on my new Kefir grains that I got a couple days ago…today it looks like I have 3 layers in my jar….there is a bottom layer, then the middle layer is sort of clear and the top layer which is sort of grainy looking…….am I doing everything ok with the Kefir? Thanks so much!