How to Second Ferment Kefir

Many years ago I discovered a way to make kefir not only taste better, but to 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 because it tasted so much better.

Nutrients and the vitamins will sky rocket!

Second fermented kefir will have more nutrients and the vitamins will sky rocket! This is due to the added prebiotics in the fruit or vegetables. When you add a new fuel source for the new microbes in kefir, they begin to grow and multiply, which increases all the vitamins and especially the folic acid, but it is the taste that makes me do it again and again. It takes away the super sharp sourness and mellows out the flavors. Everybody I have taught to second ferment has continued to do so because it tastes so superior to regular kefir. If you second ferment with a lemon or orange peel or a million other things it will flavor the kefir and make it taste unique and delicious. It also increases B vitamins, like folic acid, and makes the calcium and magnesium more bioavailable which means that your body can take it in and use it immediately. Basically, it is predigested and loaded with enzymes.

Second Fermenting

  1. Make your kefir using the basic technique, removing the grains afterwards.
  2. Place the kefir in a jar with a lid.
  3. Take the prebiotic item you want to ferment with, (choose from items below or experiment) and place in your jar with your kefir. Remember less is more. Too much fruit can cause your kefir to separate and taste bitter. One small peel of lemon or one slice of fruit is plenty for your jar. You can serve and eat it with extra fruit once it’s done second fermenting.
  4. Leave the jar on your counter for 1 to 4 hours or (up to a 1/2 day), then place the kefir in refrigerator and eat and enjoy. If the kefir separates into whey a little this is fine, and you can then place it in the fridge. If you want less separation than only ferment for an hour or two and then place it in the fridge and let it slowly ferment longer.
  5. I leave the fruit in the jar and just keep adding kefir to it until it starts to get soft and begins to fall apart, then I will add fresh fruit and 2nd ferment again.

This kefir, flavored with lemon or orange, is so yummy.  It is lighter and creamier than kefir made with the basic recipe and has a little more carbonation.  The taste is worth the extra fermenting and the nutrients sky rocket.

A lot of people I know will ferment kefir for long periods, leaving their grains in the kefir for days. Although this is not a bad thing, it makes for super sour kefir and can diminish the probiotics. As the microbes run out of food they can die, so longer is not always better unless you’re giving them another food source, as second fermenting accomplishes.

There are lots of ways to second ferment your kefir.


Just adding one or two strawberry to a quart of kefir will make your kefir taste so good!

Oranges or Clementines

One 6” strip of orange peel or one small circular slice of a fresh orange is plenty to flavor a quart of kefir. Don’t add more as it can make your kefir separate into whey and curds.

Chai tea bag

Adding one chai tea bag to a pint or quart of kefir will give you lots of different spices that flavor your kefir giving it a flavor you will love!

Dates and Vanilla

1-2 dates for a quart of kefir and a teaspoon of vanilla will make your kefir have a comforting flavor similar to vanilla bean yogurt.

Lemon peel

One 6” strip of lemon peel or one small circular slice of a fresh lemon is plenty to flavor a quart of kefir. Don’t add more as it can make your kefir separate into whey and curds. Lemon is one of the flavors I use the most.

Garlic cloves

2 peeled garlic cloves to a quart of kefir will give your kefir a savory taste. I love to use this in dips and salad dressings. Check out my recipe page for recipes.
468 Responses to "How to Second Ferment Kefir"
  1. Can I second ferment with coconut kefir? I seem to be having a lot of trouble tolerating the kefir, and I’m hoping this will help. I cannot tolerate any dairy right now, which is why I am making coconut kefir. Every 2 or 3 batches I let the milk kefir grains rest in the refrigerator in milk for several days to a week. It seems to work fine and is making coconut kefir that an experienced woman told me was fine, but it is still bothering my stomach even though I tried to gradually introduce it. Thanks for any advice.

      • Hi Donna,

        Thanks to your advice I have tried second fermenting the coconut kefir with orange sections (with the peel) and have had terrific luck over the past several months. I’m tolerating it much better, it tastes better, and it makes a nice, thick kefir. I wouldn’t consider not second fermenting – it is that good. I usually ferment the first time for 2 to 3 days, and then the second ferment for 1 to 2 days with the oranges (for two cans of coconut milk and 5 grains). I’m out of oranges today so I am going to try apple and cinnamon (and maybe vanilla) and see how that goes. So, thanks!!

        Also, what is the best cultured food recipe to try that is easy and will most likely appeal to my family? Other than kefir, this will be my first attempt. Thanks!

  2. I have seen some websites that claim blending milk kefir in a high powered blender actually damages the “good bacteria” or destroys them altogether. I love milk kefir smoothies but am worried that the probiotic effect will be lost with blending. Can you shed some light on this issue?

  3. what happens if I just added lemon or tangerine slices to the
    second fermentation, without knowing whether they were organic fruit?

  4. Hi Donna. This is a wonderful website. It seems we all need to be farmers of or microbiome. One question: since substances like ginger and cinnamon and turmeric have anti-bacterial properties, would they kill some of the good kefir bacteria?

  5. Hi
    We love the taste of the kefir straight. Is it necessary to add fruit for the 2F or does just sitting it on the bench for 12 hours do the trick? Also does drinking a few cups a day( which we do because we love it!) cause weight gain?

    • It is necessary to add the fruit or peel to get more benefts from the second ferment. The bacteria needs something to eat to convert it into more nutrients.
      If you add it to your meals without reducing something else than yes it can but it makes me lose weight and not gain.

  6. I still haven’t gotten my kefir to not separate, but it’s okay. I just shake it up in the morning and drink. I am second fermenting with some blueberries – is it okay to do that even though the kefir is separated – today it’s this white gook on top and bottom with the yellow liquid in the middle. So, do I dunk the blueberries in there or let them sit? Or it doesn’t matter? Thanks! I think I need a blender….

  7. great day Donna. I received my kefir cultures this week and I made a 2nd F with mango slices. I left on counter for 36 hours, its fizzy smelling and tasting. very strong yeasty smell. is it okay to still drink this?

  8. Hi Donna, I made my first batch of kefir with a body ecology starter because I am trying to be patient waiting on some kefir grains from a friend. Can I second ferment when I have originally fermented with starter and not grains? I want grains, but haven’t gotten them yet from my friend so I am doing what I can while I wait. Also, does the level of probiotics differ from grain-fermented to starter-fermented?

    • Yes, you can second ferment with the powder packages and it will work great. The live kefir grains have more probiotics about 50 versus 10 in the powder packages.

  9. Hi Donna,
    I’m making kefir for a few months now but recently they stopped being stringy. Is that OK? Also what should it look like when kefir is ready? I have been told to leave it for 24 hours but my always separates into whey and curds. thanks

  10. Donna, This may seem a silly question; after second fermenting, do u blend the lemon/orange citrus peel up and drink or throw this out?

  11. If you want to make kefir cream cheese or cottage cheese, should you still do a second ferment? If so, what would not interfere flavor-wise with the end product?
    I can see garlic as a second ferment agent. Is garlic alone enough for a second ferment?

    • You can do a second ferment with kefir cream cheese or cottage cheese. I have done lemon peel and really liked the flavor. Yes garlic works well as a second ferment by itsself.

  12. Hi Donna , I just received my grains yesterday I feed them and am doing a second fermentation .Is it Ok to add the second fermentation to each other if I don’t us
    e it all ?

      • Hi Donna! I received my grains yesterday and they were quite small and smashed as they came in a plastic envelope 🙁 I put them in milk anyway at 3pm It is now 11 am and it looked done, thick like sour cream and smelled good. I tried to pour it into a plastic bowl and sift through to find the grains cause my mesh strainer won’t be here until monday and the grains are tiny. Since I couldn’t get them all and tell whats what (this is my first time) I just put the whole batch grains and all back into the jar, and I want to leave them in the fridge until Monday. IS this ok? that will be a 72 hour ferment. I don’t know what to do?? I can email you a pick of how the grains looked when they came. I was quite saddened, they were mush, not even big as a pea 🙁 Thanks for your help Donna!!

        • Did they come stored in milk? I think it would be ok if you put them in the fridge for a day or two. If they weren’t shipped in milk I would pour some more fresh milk in the jar while you wait. About 1/4 a cup will do. Grains should always be kept in milk or it strains them and they lose some of their bacteria. It sounds like they are ok just give them a splash of milk till you get a strainer.

  13. Hi Donna: I recently got kefir grains locally. I got a just finished batch of kefir (1 qt canning jar) that was ready to strain out the kefir grains. I had to run errands and left the jar in my car for several hours. Some of the milk cream turned to butter – yellowish and looked like butter – and some of the milk congealed. (Small chunks of cheesy like pure white stuff. Almost like plastic.) I strained out the kefir grains and left the congealed stuff in. This 1st batch was thick, tart, a little yeasty, a little too pungent – but pretty decent though. So, after about 3 batches I spent some time removing the little cheesy bits from the grains. I had to handle them some with my fingers. I may have damaged the grains as my next batch was watery. I strained out the kefir grains and just poured that batch out and am making another batch now. Did I mess up my kefir grains? Will they recover?

  14. I make 2nd Ferm. – put 1 tab. kefir grains in 2 cups milk – let sit until thickened – strain grains out – pour kefir in 3/4 gallon raw milk and let sit overnight and until next evening… kefir grains and kefir milk is nice and thickened – stir up with hand mixer and refridgerate….to drink: add a dolup of hazelnut/stevia have I lost any nutrients? am I just drinking a delicious milk it kefir? these were the instructions I read somewhere.

  15. Hi Donna, thought you might like to know( if you didn’t already ), that second fermentation gets rid of the stomach pains that some of us get when starting out on kefir for the first time. I have heard of a small subsection of people who have unfortunately had to abandon the kefir journey because of bad cramps and bloating associated with initial fermentation. I accidentally second fermented my kefir and the pains disappeared. Whereas before I could not even tolerate a spoonful of kefir, I was now able to drink a whole cup with no problem. The only issue I have is that the consistency of the second ferment is not as thick as the kefir at 24 hrs. Is there a remedy for that?

      • .. oh I don’t use fruits, I just let mine sit in an air tight container for 4-12 hrs. Maybe this is maturing/ripening? as opposed to second fermenting?

        • There seems to be a lot of confusion between second fermenting and ripening.. maybe a good topic for an article?

  16. Hi Donna, I posted this question under the wrong subject before, but I am getting the hang of it.
    New at fermenting: want to know if I have to use all organic fruits and vegetables for second ferments. Also, can I use refrigerated kefir for second ferments or is it best to second ferment prior to refrigeration?

    • You do not need to use all organic fruits and veggies and fermenting removes a lot of the pesticides on veggies.

      You can use the refrigerated kefir and second ferment it. It is fine to do it either way.

  17. Thank you for your answer about cleaning kefir. I have made kefir for about 2 weeks now but I have got any thick yogurt. There is a thick layer of powder-like on top. The bottom half is clear yellowish liquid.
    Then I put in the fridge for the next day but it looks the same with 2 layers.
    I tried reduce the milk, either increase the milk but it doesn’t help. Please help me diagnose if I did any wrong???

  18. My kefir seems watery and has little lumps in it like buttermilk. I have a rather cool house. How can I get it to thicken? It still tastes delicious, but I would like to have a creamier texture.

  19. I just love all your info about Kefir and how to make it in so many different ways.
    I was sent a started from a very nice lady in WI and I didn’t think the grains were growing but after a few weeks time I have finally noticed they are at last growing and I love the fact that I can make cream cheese with my Kefir and it tastes so much better than the store bought cheese.
    I have made a few different second fermenting but after reading all the suggestions and questions here, I will be adding to my list of things to Ferment.
    Thanks for such a great food to add to my diet and to make me feel better too.
    I will be back reading your page and learning and then doing.
    Thanks again.
    Sharon L. Lockhart

  20. If I am doing a second fermenting….. When done and ready to refrigerate, do I remove the fruit or leave it in until we drink it?

  21. Hi Donna. Wondering if doing a second ferment with kefir previously made and refrigerated for a day or so would be successful or do you need to do it with freshly cultured, room temp kefir only? Thanks a bunch!

  22. I have been making kefir for 6 mth now. I had written when I first started making it, that my kefir was not thickening. From your advise, I only used a tbsp. of grains per quart jar and filled my milk to 3\4 of the jar. It started getting thicker and tastier. This week I am making another batch and noticed that my grains are more yellow in color and smell very sour. And the consistency has no thickening, just looks like the milk I poured in yesterday AM. I use store bought milk lately, wondering if that has changed the consistency of the grains. Should I leave it another day and see if it thickens or should I start over with organic milk today. Also thank you for the 2nd ferment idea, I will try that.

  23. I wanted to add a great kefir desert smoothie we make.
    To 2 cups of kefir: Add 1 banana, 2 tbsp powdered peanut butter, 2 tbsp organic cocoa, 1 tbsp organic sugar (anykind).

  24. I have made plain milk kefir in the fridge. Can I bring it out and do a second ferment now? Thanks much!

  25. Hi Donna,

    I have tried to second ferment a number of times and each time it looks disgusting-the kefir separates and the mixture becomes very milky and thin and looks very unappetising, little clumps seem to form as well. What am I
    doing wrong???

    • Your letting it ferment to long. Try second fermenting on the counter for an hour and then placing it in the fridge to let it finish fermenting more slowly.

  26. I’ m a very branch new kefir making. I love your website with a lots of useful info. May I ask you how often should I clean the grain and the jar? What should I clean with. Thank you a lots.

    • Never clean the grains it can harm them and you can clean the jar each time or you can use it many times adding new kefir to the old kefir. Kefir preserves the milk and makes it unnecessary to constantly clean the jar.

      • I have been making Kefir in the same jar for well over a year now and I never clean the jar. The Kefir tends to dry around the edges and looks like chunks of a cheese cracker. When I pour out the Kefir, I just pull the dried chunks loose and eat them like they are crackers.

        I’ve been wanting to try throwing some of the dried bits on top of a salad and see what that tastes like.

        Additional notes: I always ferment my Kefir in a quart jar with a coffee filter over the top, thus the fermentation takes place with oxygen. Also, I restart each batch with milk straight from the fridge. I never allow the milk to warm to room temperature. This doesn’t seem to hamper the fermentation at all…in fact I believe it creates a consistent batch because the starting temp should be very close to the same each time.

  27. Thanks Donna for info on 2nd ferment…do the milk kefir grains need a rest or can I use continually? If resting needed do I put them in water or milk or nothing? On water kefir do the grains need rinsing prior to next use & do they have to rest?if so…alone or in water? Thank so muchly

    • They don;t need a rest they keep on going and you need to put milk kefir grains in milk water will kill them. Water kefir can be rinsed but mostly need minerals to stay fresh. You can store them in water with sugar they need a food source and a few drops of liquid minerals are great.

  28. Hi

    I have recently started making kefir from kefir grains. I was given a small amount from a friend. Each time I strain I feel like I’m losing small grains which either get stuck in the strainer or on the sides of the glass jar I use. I’m scared I lose too many before they start multiplying. Is this fine or should I change something? Thanks

  29. I have a batch of kefir I second fermented with lemon and crystallized ginger, it is very sour mouth puckeringing so. My DDs tried some and are willing to try it again, but my 14 year old son with Asperger’s refuses to try even a taste. I would like some suggestions others have tried to make it more palatable for someone with taste and texture issues. I have another batch S.F. now with strawberries and banana in it thinking I could blend it together in a smoothie, but need to mask it somehow to get him to drink it. He usually knows when I’m trying to slip something past him. I am so hoping this will help us. We have been trying to remove as much crap from our diets and add good stuff into it. My older DD wanted to know if kefir grains can be used to make kefir from almond milk and other nut milks. Thanks. Jodi

  30. probably a dumb question…but i second fermented with strawberries. Do I eat the strawberries with the second fermentation?

  31. I have this concoction that I make for colds and flu. It is a garlic, ginger lemonade. I steep garlic & ginger in water then once the temp reaches 112, I add the honey and fresh lemon juice. I am wondering if I could incorporate this mixture into the kefir? Maybe using lemon peel instead of the juice? Can you culture with a raw unfiltered honey? I drink a quart of this before getting on a plane and when I get home to keep from catching others crud, and it has worked so far, but since the kefir ups the benefits of foods, I would love to know if you think it would work in a second ferment of kefir?

  32. Im just starting to make kefir and I came across very thick cream on top of my kefir (milk) am I doing something wrong?

  33. I’m trying my first second fermentation with kefir. I added vanilla (made with vodka) and cinnamon. Don’t I need to add some sugar?

  34. Can I put fruit juice into second ferment my coconut and/or milk kefir? I have some lovely cherry juice I’d like to use up. I also have a dry sour cherry sugar mix I brought back from Turkey. Lovely taste but too much sugar. Can I second ferment with that?

  35. Your kefir looks so thick in the picture with the dates- how do you get it so thick? I’ve tried fermenting longer, fermenting at a slightly lower temperature (about 65 degrees F), second fermenting for 8 hours without adding anything, refrigerating over night- nothing will make my kefir so thick! Any suggestions?

    • Is it thick before you second ferment it? If it is try second fermenting by placing the fruit in the jar and putting it directly in the fridge. It will keep it thicker.

      • It gets slightly thickened after the first ferment, but not like yours. I’ve tried second fermenting with fruit at room temperature, and it tends to get a grainy texture when I do that- I’ll try a second ferment in the fridge and see if that helps.

  36. I have been making Kefir at home for about 3 mo. When we were first introduced to it, it had more of a tangy carbonated taste. As i have been making it, it has more of a yogurt texture. how can i get it to have the taste we were introduced to?
    Good stuff,

  37. My kefir has just grow to the point where I am using 2 cups of milk. I separate it in to 2, 8 ounce mason jars to do different flavors. I don’t mind it plain but my son refuses to drink it. I added a spoon of sugar to one with a half spoon of powdered cocoa. To a second one I added a spoon of sugar and half a spoon of cinnamon and a tiny pour of vanilla. Yesterday I did one with a spoon full of berry jam that I made. so far they are all so good. I want to do a plain one as I don’t mind the flavor but I want to do a second ferment on it should I just add a teaspoon of sugar to it to give the bacteria and yeasts something to eat? I do this around 10 am and then put them in the fridge around 10pm does that sound about right? Oh one more thing. I just ordered a yogurt maker and some yogurt starter but I was wondering since kefir milk has so much more bacteria than yogurt could kefir milk (not the grains) be used as the starter to make yogurt?

    • You can do as you described above and it should work fine. If you use kefir as a starter you will be making something closer to kefir than yogurt and it will have different properties and I am not sure how it will work.

      • I was interested to see this question about using milk keifer as a yogurt starter! Last week I was starting a batch of yogurt for my husband and discovered he had eaten the yogurt I had saved for the starter. I decided to use some second fermented milk keifer as starter. My yogurt recipe uses four cups milk and I used about a quarter cup keifer as starter. It worked well, took a little less time, and was a little thicker. My husband did not notice a difference in taste – he will not try keifer – but does mix fruit into the yogurt. I could tell a slight difference in the taste – when plain – it was great! Not sure what it actually is, but think I will continue to make it this way! Donna, thanks for such a helpful website.

  38. I was wondering if you could use orange juice instead of the orange peel and slices? Or would this make the kefir too sour?

  39. I just got my grains in the mail and made my first batch of keifer…it is pretty thin. Does it takes a few tries to get thick keifer or is it more likely my house is too cold (I live in WI)?

  40. Nice article. I have a couple of questions. I first made kefir with grains from cultures for health. The Kefir seemed successful but the grains disappeared. Since then I have used a small portion of the batch to make the next batch, like you would do with yogurt. My question is am I making kefir without using grains or is it something else? Also when you second ferment kefir other adding a flavor and duration is there any difference?

    • Are there no grains at all? If it is sour and thick then it will still be kefir but after a while it will stop making kefir Is there a difference in the kefir? Yes it has more B vitamins and benefits if you second ferment it.

    • Sounds like you have kefir starter not the actual grains. My kefir kind of looks like large cottage cheese nuggets after soaking in milk and they get bigger every time.

  41. Hi Donna, I am using the body ecology powder starter culter to make kefir, should I be using the grains? How much difference is there between the two?

  42. Hi Donna
    I’m a new pro Biotic member, love your site.
    I have been enjoying Kefir for some time now with fabulous health results.
    As a child I drank buttermilk and still do as I like it’s sour taste.
    My preference is to drink my Kefir sour-ish.
    I stop the process after about 18 hours based on my heating pad/inside house temperature.
    Can I second ferment as instructed using no added flavouring?
    Will the Kefir have the increased nutritional benefits you described?
    If it’ becomes more sour that would be OK with me.
    I try hard to stop the first fermentation process just before separation begins as I don’t like it really effervescent.
    Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

  43. With water kifer I know you use sugar to ferment and it ferments most of the sugar out. For the second ferment (or first) in milk if I add sugar would it do the same thing?

  44. Hi Donna
    I gave grains to a woman to help her sons gut and she needs exact instructions written down so she can follow them as she keeps forgetting what i tell her. Do you have any I could print out and give her? Her son has been diagnosed autistic but i believe kefir will clear this up.


  45. I wanted to know about second fermenting garlic…..I see you use it for your husbands dip but don’t see how to make it. Just a few cloves of garlic? Whole cloves or minced? I have made kefir cheese for the first time and need to make it into something my husband would like! Thanks for your help.

  46. I don’t have access to a close grocery store. Could I cut and freeze lemon or oranges as you suggested and pull some out of the freezer to use as needed?