What is Kefir?

kefir-grains-and-milk.jpg“What is kefir?” You’ve probably asked yourself this before. Pronounced “KEE-fuhr,” kefir is a tangy, slightly fizzy, FANTASTIC fermented milk beverage. It can be made with all kinds of different milks, dairy and non dairy. It looks similar to yogurt, but is far superior. Yogurt will last a day inside of you, but kefir will last indefinitely.

Click here to learn more on the difference between kefir and yogurt

Kefir finds a place to live in your gut. It builds colonies of good bacteria that perform millions of processes inside you. You already have trillions of colonies of bacteria inside you that perform important tasks every day. When you give them more tools like the good bacteria in kefir, your body can do what it was meant to do, thrive! So can you tell how much I love kefir?

Kefir History

Kefir has been around since the beginning of recorded history and has exceptional health and curative properties. It is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, niacin, and folic acid. It has been used not only to promote health, but also was the way people preserved milk when there was no refrigeration. Huge amounts of colonies good of bacteria in kefir dominate the milk, thereby suppressing any harmful bacterias, and preserving the milk. These bacterias eat the milk sugars out of the milk, and perform their magic to infuse the milk with healthy qualities. This is why the milk becomes sour. The kefir microbes consume sugars as food to create the perfect environment for good bacteria to thrive. As you consume kefir, it in turn creates an environment inside you that does the same thing and so much more.

Kefir Benefits

  • Kefir has over thirty types of good bacteria – a mere handful in Yogurt
  • Kefir contains 30 – 50  major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, kefir is a turbo charged energy-anti-biotic-colonic cleanser drink. Yogurt is a mild nutrient rich drink that pre-digests the lactose helping the body better assimilate the good stuff.
  • Digestion – Kefir can help you digest everything. Kefir’s active yeast, good bacteria and excess digestive enzymes provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods you eat. Constipation is a thing of the past. If you drink Kefir at night no acid reflux.
  • Eliminates constipation
  • Reduces or eliminates allergies
  • Reduces or eliminates asthma symptoms
  • Reduces or eliminates cold and flu illnesses
  • Cures acne
  • Treats yeast infections
  • Promotes a natural “good” feeling
  • Effective as the strongest natural antibiotic without side effects
  • Replenishes the body with good bacteria after antibiotic use
  • Treats diarrhea
  • Aids lactose intolerance
  • Promotes deep sleep
  • Heals ulcers

From my own self experiments on my own body, I have found kefir to be of great benefit to certain infliction. I noticed from at least 10 different times, that when I would switch from kefir to yogurt. After about 3 weeks I would start to experience joint pain in my right knee. As soon as I would switch back to kefir within 2 days the pain would go away. So now I do both. I have kefir almost every day without fail.

I just finished making a batch of Kefir. I am always appreciative of my  kefir grains ability to make me a fresh batch day after day. Kefir was a Godsend, after the birth of my daughter at the age of 4I  I was desperate to feel good and be healthy. I had become a type 2 diabetic.  I can now say that diabetes is a thing of the past. Kefir was a big part in helping me to achieve that.

Where to Find Kefir

The grocery or the health food stores sell many different brands of kefir, but I recommend that you get some kefir grains and make it yourself. Not only is it cheaper this way, but you’ll have an endless supply of kefir by just adding milk.

If you live in the USA, you can purchase my personal Live Kefir Grains from my store. Otherwise, I recommend checking out Toronto Advisors, an international sharing community.

250 Responses to "What is Kefir?"
  1. Hi Donna, I had put my ‘stored’ grains in fresh milk and carefully tipped out the used milk. I then went on to rinse out a few other things in the sink, with hot water and a short time later discovered two very tiny grains in the drain plug. I felt terrible about doing that. I put them in a little dish of cold milk and the next day I had some more creamy kefir. I was so pleased. Hardy little things eh.

  2. Hi Donna
    My kefir grains don’t seem to be growing and the batch of kefir I just made was watery.
    Did I use too much milk maybe ?

  3. I just made my first batch of kefir. I let it ferment for approx 26 hours. The grains multiplied, I strained them out…but my kefir isn’t creamy. It still pretty much has the same consistency of the organic whole milk that I used to make it.

    What did I do wrong?

  4. Please tell me how you remove all or most of the cream from raw milk. I am concerned about drinking kefir if it has too much fat.

  5. Hi there!
    Just wanted to let you know that the ‘Kee-fuhr’ pronunciation is an Americanism. Totally not wrong, just different… however for those who are interested, the pronunciation in the original languages in which this word appears, (and there are many, for this stuff is soooo popular and good for you), is ‘Ke-feer’. The stress on the second syllable.
    Every time I hear Kee-fuhr, I see myriad little Keifer Sutherlands drowning in a jar of milk. LOL

    Just wanted to let the linguistically interested know; I’m a word nerd myself and can get lost in tracking words and pronunciations for hours.

  6. Donna:

    II just joined. What is coconut milk? Is it the clear juice? Or is it bought in a carton in the store? Can I make it from a coconut? If so, how? Where do I get coconut milk?

  7. Hi again, Donna –

    I’ve seen a lot of information about sharing kefir with dogs – is it OK to share it with our cat? We haven’t fed her milk before (I know kefir isn’t milk any more) but was wondering if she could share in its benefits.

  8. Hi Donna
    I always sweeten my kefir with a little maple syrup before I put it in the fridge. Am I negating all the benefits of kefir by doing this? Thanks for all that you do and share, everyday I eat cultured veggies, kefir, sourdough bread and drink kombucha thanks to you.
    Thanks
    Sandy

  9. Hi, Donna – thanks to your wonderful help, I have been making lots of kefir with great success! I have a problem now, though…I made a half-gallon+ batch about 2-3 months ago and it’s still in the refrigerator. 🙁

    Is there anything I can do with it? It looks fine – separated as one would expect, but I’m afraid to taste it. Do have to dump this poor friend? I hope not!

    • It is probably fine but really sour. You can add some more milk and a little lemon peel to it and let it sit out a couple hours and see if it makes it taste better. It is still good just has a pucker power.

      • I can’t thank you enough for your consistently prompt answers! I really appreciate it. I’ll take it out and see what I can do. I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get sick from it.

        I was thinking of using some of the whey to culture some vegetables. Perhaps I’ll wait for a fresher batch for that!

        Like some others, I am still waiting for the rush of energy to start flowing through my veins. I think I may need more than just kefir. I’ve been thinking of trying some of the Wisdom Kraut. Thanks again for all of the great ideas. You are truly a gift, Donna.

  10. I bought some body ecology kefir starter and started some kefir and kefir soda. it has been sitting for 36 hours and I don’t see any change. Milk still looks like milk, no thickening and no pressure/bubbles in the juice. Is it not working or do I just need to be more patient? thanks 🙂

    • Yes, the first time it can take several days but if you can find a way to keep it warm by placing it near a heating vent it will speed things up. After the initial time then it will make you more bottles in a day from that bottle, but the first one takes the longest. Taste it is it sweet or starting to get tart then you can tell if its working.

  11. A few months ago, my sister bought some dehydrated milk kefir grains. She has been making kefir but it never gets fizzy. Are the grains old maybe?

  12. Why is UP milk not good to use. Seems I have a choice out of UP organic milk and regular milk. Small town and all.

  13. I just start drinking Kefir. I wonder when is the best time to drink Kefir? Also, do we need to brush teeth after that?thanks!!

  14. I got a yeast infection from antibiotics. I have been drinking pre-prepared kefir from the store and eating yogurt. I developed a lot of itching after a few days. Is that normal? And why would the kefir make me itch?

  15. Donna- I have read all of the posts from this article, and (if I understand correctly) it seems like its OK that your kefir grains ferment quickly ( making for separated and not-so-thick kefir). I was wondering – is it as full of probiotics if it ferments too fast? Should I try to slow mine down?

    I have been learning and fermenting since June, thanks to my KC friend who shared grains with me this past summer. Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you do. It is slowly changing me and my family’s life for the better, and we are so very grateful!

    • Yes it is ok and just ferment it for a shorter amount of time or remove the grains so that it will slow down. It’s still just fine but you will like it better.

  16. Hi Donna, I got your starter powder, not the grains and have made 2 batches so far, they were slightly lumpy but is that normal? Tasted fine.
    Also 2 more questions,
    when you make it a second time from the fist batch do you still need to heat the milk a little?
    And, can I make a larger batch using to packets? 1 batch isn’t enough for our family.
    OH and also I used raw milk from our cow and did not skim cream off, is that ok? Or will it be too yeasty?
    Thanks so much, can’t wait for your book to arrive!
    Best, Sue

    • Yes, it is fine if it is lumpy and normal.
      You never need to heat the milk when making kefir.
      You can use a 1/2 cup of starter I believe to make a couple quarts and it should say on the intructions in the box the exact amount.
      You can us cream and it might be a little yeasty but just don’t let it ferment as long.

  17. Hi Donna,

    My husband has inflammation which leaves him in pain. His dr recommended he stay away from gluten and dairy. I started to make milk kefir and want to give it to him but now he is worried because it is dairy. What do you think?

  18. I am sure you’ve covered this somewhere but I’m on a little “information overload” and would love a bit of newbie direction. When I leave my kefir grains in 2cups of fresh milk out over night, the next day it is really separated. I have yet to get anything remotely creamy. The grains appear nice and plump and are growing. The best kefir I’ve had so far is the batch I forgot about in the fridge for a week. It came out creamy and not nearly so tart. Additionally, second fermenting had the kefir nearly totally separated. What am I doing wrong?

    • Its fermenting fast and then separating because its either not enough milk, (have your grains grown) or the temperature is warm in your house. I recommend adding more milk and then letting it second ferment in the fridge with the fruit. You can also let it ferment for a shorter period of time.

  19. Hi Donna,

    I have been making Kefir for about 4 weeks now and my grains are still really really small. I am obsessed with my kefir so I ALWAYS change the milk within the 24 hours and I always have awesome Kefir waiting for me. I know my grains are working, I have been slowly increasing the amount of milk otherwise I really have no clue why my grains are still so tiny…

  20. Hi Donna! my milk kefir is starting to get a kahm yeast film on it. It still tastes and smells fine, but I want to know if I’m doing something wrong?

  21. Another Kefir question:) Ordered my grains online and they arrived in a little liquid (milk, I guess) in a tiny ziplock…maybe a 1/2 teaspoon worth of tiny grains. All my batches of kefir so far haven’t seemed very thick, but kind of grainy looking after pushing it through the fine plastic strainer. The grains have grown, probably more than doubled (after 1 1/2 wks). My kefir doesn’t look as creamy as others do on your site and youtube, etc. Does it just take a little while after shipping to start getting good kefir or what am I doing wrong? Thanks!!!

  22. Ok, several more questions for you! First, what are signs of detoxing while drinking water kefir? We’ve been drinking decent amounts of it for a few weeks now, but yesterday, almost immediately after drinking about a half cup, I started feeling nauseous and had to make several trips to the bathroom as well. It started slowly and got worse and worse through the night, including a low grade fever and chills. Today I’m not nauseous, but my body aches are unbelievable! I can hardly move and have no desire to eat. If this is my body detoxing, why is it just now happening? And then my 3rd question – I’m nursing a 4 month old preemie – should I be pumping and dumping and give him milk I have in our deep freze?

  23. Quick question about second fermenting kefir…I don’t put the kefir grains in with the kefir and lemon zest/peal?? Thanks!!

  24. ok, i’m sure you have this posted somewhere on your site, but i haven’t come across it yet – i’ve been making water kefir for a little over a month now. late last week things got crazy in our life and i left the water kefir fermenting for 4 days (i think that’s how long it was). now half my grains are clear and half of them are slightly yellow. what’s going on? should i sift through them and throw out the tinted ones? did i ruin them waiting so long and need to throw them all out?

  25. is it OK to regularly drink Water Kefir as well as Kombucha, or best to stick with one of them? Also I heard there is quite a lot of Alcohol in Kombucha. I usually just buy Kombucha and have never tried making either. I just purchased Water Kefir grains because I couldnt find Kombucha scooby here… I was just wondering if there is much difference between them.

    • Yes you can drink both but of the two kombucha has mroe benefits and there is more alcohol in water kefir that in kombucha. Kombucha has very little about as much as orange juice but water kefir depending on how you make it can have more. Kombucha is the best but water kefir is good too.

  26. Hi, Donna! Thanks to your previous help I am on my second attempt with making kefir. I’m getting to know those beautiful grains better and so far we are becoming good friends. 🙂

    I am doing the second fermentation and am on my 4th batch. The first couple of batches were very yeasty as the grains got rehydrated and acclimated. I drank a little but the yeast taste was just too much for me. Now, with the 3rd batch that came in today it is getting MUCH better.

    I have a series of jars that I am using. Jar #1 is for the new batch I’m starting. Jar #2 is for the second fermenting, and jar #3 is for the done batch that I’m keeping in the refrigerator. My question (at last!) is this: Is it OK to keep pouring the finished batches from jar #2 into jar #3, even if jar #3 isn’t empty? Newer batches will be mixed with older batches so some residual will always be present. My guess is, as kefir keeps for such a long time, this won’t be an issue so long as I keep mixing it well before I pour a glass to drink, but as I’m still such a newbie I wanted to find out what you thought. 🙂

    Thanks for everything!

  27. I have chronic kidney disease and need to know if this process removes the phosphorus from the milk? Thanks for the great information.

  28. I’ve been drinking Kefir for over a year now and someone that I’ve introduced to it, consistently gets a burning sensation in her lungs after drinking it. She read that one shouldn’t drink it continuously without taking a break for some health reason and just informed me of that. Wondering if you’ve ever heard of that suggestion? I feel very addicted to my nightly kefir or kefir smoothie but am wondering about what she read–apparently on some Kefir website she said. Also quite surprised she is having issues with drinking it. She’s tested it several times, on and off and burning stops when she stops the kefir and comes back after she resumes it daily again. I’m perplexed… Thanks for any thoughts!

    • This could be a detox affect that is causing this. It is a lot of good bacteria all at once and it can detox pathogens and toxins quite quickly and for some this can be harder than others. I have been drinking kefir everyday and a lot for 12 years and where did she hear this? So many people drink kefir daily and I would suspect that she is having some kind of detox and should go slowly. You and I are 10 trillion cells of bacteria and good bacteria can only enhance the trillions of bacteria that do millions of thing inside of us. Most should go slowly in the beginning and perhaps she should consume another cultured food until she adjusts. I hate to see people throw the baby out with the bath water. What many think is a bad thing can actually be there body healing.

  29. Have you had anyone have success with this for Rheumatoid Arthritis? I have been searching for a natural healing and am keen to try this.

  30. I have been making Kefir with raw Goats milk for about 2 months now, and am really enjoying it. The only downside is that I am suffering from constipation, which was not a problem before the Kefir. Any suggestions?

  31. I am a first time kefir maker and I am concerned about the alcoholic content of the product. I am mostly concerned for giving it to my children. I don’t want to risk introducing my children to alcohol at a young age. I have loved reading up on the benefits and would love to pass those on, though!! thank you!

  32. Thanks for all the wonderful info and instructions with pictures and videos. Truly a wealth of info on your website! By the way, I found a source of Kefir Grains in Ukraine, and already contact them and arranged to get them when I go to Odessa in late march. But now I may be able to get them even earlier right here in Georgia. Appreciate all your help, sharing of knowledge, and encouragement!

  33. I have really enjoyed the kefir I’ve been making from your kefir grains. I’ve made about 5 batches from half a gallon of milk each time (after the whole process of rehydrating the kefir and starting working with a couple of batches of 1 quart size). However, when I strained the kefir this time, there was no kefir! What did I do? The kefir was getting larger and now it’s no where to be found! I’ve been switching back and forth between raw goat milk and pasteurized, 2% organic cow milk. Seemed to be working fine and I did that because the instructions said that the kefir grains would work better with pasteurized milk (makes sense, pasteurized would be tableau blanc for the bacteria.) Help! Before I order another batch, I’d like to know what happened. Thank you!

  34. Hi…I am enjoying your articles very much, and am very excited to try your milk kefir. I already make kombucha and water kefir and have just started doing the second ferment with different fruits. One of the flavors we like very much is a black cherry concentrate and fresh ginger…I put ginger in everything! I am on my second big fermenting pot of beets, carrots and cabbage but after reading some of your articles I am itching to try some new things. Thanks so much for all the good information. I am really happy to have found your site and will be sharing with my friends and family on FB. Have a great day…

  35. i was introduced to kefir around about the time i has a serious, almost fatal bout of cholangitis, which created a gram negative septisaemia in my gut, it took me about 5 weeks to feel well again and I doubt I would have recovered so well without the kefir.
    I would love to receive you newsletters, thank you,

    ( I dont know why I am getting this script with all caps…sorry..!)

  36. I make water kefir and I am wondering if it has the same benefits as milk kefir? I also make kombucha and yogurt.

  37. I have finally begun my journey with Kefir! Was able to talk my dad into getting a milk cow, and then I ordered Kefir grains! And today I finally got to enjoy making my own Kefir smoothie 😀 along with enjoying making my own butter! I have to admit i never thought I would be doing any of this at the age of 22, but here i am!

  38. Hi Donna,

    I recently started making kefir and while the first two batches seemed (smelled) very kefir-like to me, I have recently noticed a glue-y smell. I’ve noticed this after both my first and second ferments, but it seems more palpable after the second ferment. I did a little online research on the topic, and some claim to experience an acetate-like odor. I’m only assuming this is what I’m Perceiving. Some say toss it and some say drink it. One claimed that it’s due to an overgrowth of acetate-forming bacteria/yeast on the surface and if I scoop off the surface and air it out, it should be fine. What do you think? Toss or keep (so far i’ve kept, because I can’t affford to toss and buy more til I get it right)? Have you noticed fluctuations in the odor of your kefir? I have been using the same milk product since I started – a local (pasteurized) organic half-and-half.

    Erin

    • Hi Erin,
      Most likely what you re experiencing is the cream from the half and half. Cream will take on a yeasty smell because it ferments faster. Try using just regular milk and see if it goes away. Scraping off the top layer helps too. You can keep it it is fine just tastes stronger.

      • Wonderful. I actually purchased regular milk right after I posted my question. I’ll try a new ferment today and see what happens. I have been noticing a greasy after-feel from fatty kefir. I’ll post the results of my new ferment. Thanks!

  39. My family is totally intolerant of anything with gluten or casein. We did coconut milk dairy kefir but they died out pretty fast…. We tried kombachu but ended up with cross contamination in my water kefir. Am pretty discouraged with cultured stuff….we tried veggies and they were so good but then the season ran out and the veggies didn’t do so good if they weren’t really fresh…..any help or suggestions? I have autistic kiddos plus my own issues with my gut.
    so would appreciate your help.
    a

    • Allyanna, I understand the frustration but you can do this it just takes a little figuring out. Did you sign up for my free ebook? Lots of help on there. You can use coconut milk with kefir grains. However once a week you will need to refresh then in a glass of regular milk to keep the grains alive. I am doing a blog on it very soon. If you are signed up to my blog you will get it. What do you like the best which one is easiest and the most likely your family will consume? You can still culture veggies in winter. Carrots are great for kids and also have your tried my Christmas kraut. Kids like this and cultures well in the winter. Don’t get discouraged we will figure it out. Just conquer one culture at a time. YOu can email me if you like. donna@culturedfoodlife.com

  40. I posted something about cabbage and Dr. Mercola before I realized the full extent of this website…just ignore it, delete it…this site is amazing! Thank you for sharing and thank you for all the great posts. Being the healthiest we can be feels SO good!

    heart2Heart

  41. Great site! Ive been making my own kefir and fermented veges now for years. Personally, it was one of the major cornerstones of overcoming chronic constipation for good. I still drink kefir everyday and give thanks to its healing properties. keep the good info flowing. Blessings, Kat

  42. I was diagnosed with crohns about 7 years ago, and because of Kefir, I no longer have to take the prescription medication that I called, “Walking Death”.!! I’ve found alot of different ways to get my daily dose such as cheese, smoothies, sour kraut, but I usually just add a little sea salt and drink it straight up.

    • I wish my mom would do that. She suffers so bad with Crohns even with the bulking medicine she uses. Maybe I can get my grains working right by June and convince her while she’s here and send some of my babies home with her too 🙂

  43. I too just made a fresh batch of kefir this morning and am so happy I found your site and Started this journey. I was recently diagnosed with type2 diabetes and needed somethng to help me be in control of my destiny. i believe kefir is doing that! i have made 8 batches of kefir so far and my family is all enjoying the benefits of it! I have a big jar of Kombucha brewing on the counter and some fermented cabbage in the fridge. in for a penny, in for a pound. i’m in!! keep spreading the good news, ears are listening and lives are changing!

  44. whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You know, many people are looking around for this info, you could aid them greatly.