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Whey – The Liquid Gold in Kefir

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Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her kefir and whey. Along came a spider who ate alongside her, and happily digested all day.

Whey and cheese

In the summertime, I receive many letters from people who have trouble with their kefir separating into whey and curds. Part of this is the warmer temperatures and also the activity of the good bacteria in kefir. When people see whey, they think it’s gone bad, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whey is a superfood

Don’t throw out your kefir if it separates into whey and curds. Your whey, although less appealing to many individuals, is a superfood which contains a lot of healing properties. There is something known as “The Whey Cure” which was used throughout history. In fact, Hippocrates and Galen, two founding fathers of medicine, frequently recommended whey to their patients to heal them. This whey was often referred to as “liquid gold.”

Powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties

Whey has a lot of  protein. One of these proteins, Lactoferrin, acts as a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It also contains vitamin B2, or riboflavin, which helps the body to convert carbohydrates into fuel. Bovine Serum Albumin, which is abundant in whey, is an amino acid that is an effective scavenger that removes toxic substances, and supports white blood cells and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.


Assists the kidneys and liver

The curds (or the cheese) portion of kefir contains most of the fat, casein, and vitamin A, but whey also contains a lot of beneficial properties and they both contain probiotics. Since most of the lactose is gone and the whey portion is 93 percent water, whey (which is rich in potassium) can help balance and remove excess fluids in the body and remove toxins. The kidneys filter wastes and toxins out of the blood and eliminate them in urine. The kidneys are constantly working and when they become overburdened, the excess toxins can collect in the body and form diseases such as gout, rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and some forms of eczema. Drinking kefir, and especially the whey, will assist the kidneys and liver in elimination of toxins.

Kefir overfermented99% lactose free

The good lactic acid bacteria in kefir eat the lactose (milk sugars) out of the milk, lower the pH, make it tart, and cause the milk protein to thicken. The digestion of the lactose in milk when these bacteria ferment milk makes kefir easily digestible. Kefir is considered a pre-digested food.  The bacteria make probiotics from the sugars and also make it 99% lactose free. If it does it quickly, because of higher temperatures or too many grains per the amount of milk, the kefir will separate into whey and curds.

cheese and whey 2 So, what to do if your kefir has separated into whey and cheese? First, you will want to remove the grains to keep it from continuing to separate more.

Then shake up your kefir before you put it through a strainer. Once in the strainer, use a rubber spatula and stir it around vigorously so the whey will go through the strainer. You can also re-use some of the whey from the bottom of the bowl and pour it over the grains to thin it out even further.

Now here is a trick. Add some prebiotics like Prebio Plus to your kefir after you’ve strained it. You can also  add this to your kefir grains as they ferment. This is a prebiotic, which will nourish the bacteria. Prebio Plus will help your kefir as it gives it a blast of food. This keeps it from separating and can often make it creamy again. It’s good for you, too, to consume Prebio Plus as it makes your good bacteria grow and thrive and gives you a strong biotic-system in your gut. What’s really cool about Prebio Plus is that it can be used in hot or cold foods as these prebiotics cannot be killed by heat. Kefir is always good – even if it has separated. It means your house is too warm, or you need to add more milk to the amount of grains you are fermenting, or you let it ferment too long.
whey and kefir If you make kefir cheese and have lots of whey, you can add this to drinks and salad dressings and anything that calls for water. It is liquid gold and even gardens love it! They need nutrients too. The cheese (or curds as some like to call them) can be used just like sour cream or cream cheese in everything! I have lots of recipes in my books and blog. Keep it and use it, and you will be surprised how nourished you will feel.

59 Responses to "Whey – The Liquid Gold in Kefir"
  1. I have severe psoriasis on feet and hands. Do you think Kefir and cultured veggies may help? I mix the whey back into the kefir and drink if it separates. Have been making cultured veggies for about 1 month. Ordered your book from Amazon and love it (would be easier to read if the print was darker). Thanks for all your info and help.

  2. Hi Donna!
    I am a bit confused about the Prebio Plus. You said it is prebiotic and the goodness of prebiotics are not killed when heated. Does this mean that if using whey, that is fortified with Prebio Plus, in my veggie ferments I can war the veggies without killing the probiotics? I’m so sorry, I’ve read this over several times and still as confused as the first time. I make milk kefir almost daily and although I seldom have it separate I strain thru a coffee filter just to get whey. Sometimes I strain just long enough for amount of whey I need and am left with a kefir that is the thickness of sour creeam. Yummy! I use this like yogurt or make poosicles for the littles.

    • If you heat it then it would still kill the probiotics in the veggies but not in the Prebio Plus. It’s a prebiotic which is different from a probiotic. So heat doesn’t affect like it would bacteria.

  3. Donna, I bought grains from you a few months ago, and I wanted to tell you their story. They arrived into my hands after a far too lengthy stay in the hands of the postal system. I live in a remote area, and it took several extra days for delivery. When I opened the little jar, it had built up so much pressure, it nearly exploded. The lid flew off and kefir poured over my hands and into the sink. The poor little grains were so stressed! It took two plus weeks and gallons of milk to revive them, but I kept at it, changing the runny, foul-smelling milk every day. I began to wonder if I should just toss them and start over, but I just couldn’t. As if they realized my faith in them, those little grains sprang to life at last, and now they’ve taken over my kitchen. They are the plumpest, healthiest little workhorses. They faithfully produce quart after quart of thick, delicious kefir. I love them, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up on them. The funny part, knowing your passion for these grains, their whey, and the kefir they produce, I felt I would be letting you down to give up on them! I’m very grateful for what you do. Keep up the good work!

  4. Hi Donna, I was wondering how long is still the whey good to consume. It was in the fridge for a long time, that means months, I just found it and I don’t want to throw it away, I tasted and it doesn’t taste bad but I don’t know if it still have the benefits of the probiotics in it! Thanks a lot!

  5. Hi Donna,
    I just started making milk kefir, and I think I am catching on, my problem is that my house is cold, 57-60 at the warmest. My kefir is very thin, but if I leave it longer it separates. I have read about using a heating mat, what are your thoughts on that?

      • What I do is put my jars into a bain marie, which is simply a pot with warm water–the temperature you can swish your hands in. If the room is really cool, then maybe reheat the water (take out the jars and don’t over heat–just nice warm and remove from heat source) 2-3 times, replacing the jars. I almost always have thick kefir in 12 hours doing this–I usually start i the morning, and check progress through the day, and before bedtime I can cap my jars and refrigerate.

  6. Hi Donna
    I have been making Kefir with Raw Goat Milk for several months. I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that the Kefir grains are not so grainy anymore. They seem more sticky and stringy. Is this a problem? Do I need to buy new grains. The milk kefir still tastes the same and separates into curds and whey.
    Thanks for your help.
    Dee

  7. Hi Donna,
    I purchased kefir grains from another site and after months of trying different ratios and lenghts of tiem got nothing but super sour, curdled kefir. From what I’ve read here they were probably damaged. I’d like to order some from you but as it’s cold now (I’m in CT) I’m worried about them surviving shipment. Should I wait until spring or do you think they’ll be OK?

  8. Can kefir milk be used to make ‘Golden Milk’?
    I keep a turmeric paste in my fridge and add it to warm cow’s milk with honey or sometimes we drink it with cold milk. I was wondering if I could use kefir milk instead to make the Golden Milk for some added benefits?

  9. Ok, I’m Newbie, and not to sure of myself in the Kefir department yet. My Kefir is growing and I’m starting to separate into a few different jars. After straining and putting the Kefir milk into the Ref., and putting the little Kefirs into jars and pouring milk onto them for the next batch, what do I do with the thick stuff left in the strainer? Is this what I use for smoothies and such? Do I make yogurt with this or cheese? I’m clueless, but I don’t want to throw it out. I stuck it in the Ref., until I know what to do with it. Thanks, Sue

    • The only thing that should be left in your strainer is the kefir grains if your using them. Use a rubber spatula and stir it around until the kefir goes through the strainer and only the kefir grains remain.

  10. I love your website. Thanks for all the helpful info! One question I have, can you eat the milk grain when it is time to discard some? Other ideas on what to do with them?

  11. Hi Donna,
    Can organic whey powder (Pure protein powder) be added to kefir to make a ‘thicker’ product?

  12. I’m a single working mkm and my house is under major construction to include the kitchen so making kefir right now just isn’t going to happen. What are your thoughts on the Lifeway brand? Was thinking to get some to hold us over. I noticed the sugar content is pretty high….is that maybe the content before it fermented?

    • In the flavored varieties, 12g of sugar are natural from the milk. The other 8g are added sugar (cane sugar). The total of 20g is still less than many flavored yogurts.

      • I’ve just started making keifer after loving the Lifeway Strawberry flavor and am having a hard time adjusting to the difference in sweetness with my homemade keifer, so last night I poured some of the Lifeway in with my keifer to make a happy medium, but I would love some ideas of how to make my keifer sweeter. Thanks so much Donna for this site! I feel like I am starting to catch on a bit.

        • I use Sweet Leaf flavored stevia drops to add sweetness to my homemade keifer. All you need is a couple of drops! Delicious.

  13. I think my house must be too cold since fall has started, because my kefir is not making like it did this summer. I have tried it in different places and nothing has helped. Do I need to get some type of heater? What should I do? Thanks for your help

  14. I accidently forgot about my kefir and it sat out an extra day. It separated and had more whey than curds. I decided to strain anyways but got as many curds as grains for next batch. Is that going to be an issue? The kefir tastes great btw. I expected it to be more sour but it wasn’t. Should I carry on as usual or remove grains early this time? Thanks.

  15. Hi Donna, Greetings from New Zealand!

    I make curds and whey from raw cows milk and have been using the whey for fermenting. Is this as good as kefir whey? I leave it in the fridge and use it over a month or so for soaking grain etc. and fermenting. It seems to work but is it as beneficial as it would be fresh?

    Also, just bought your book – fantastic, thanks. It is going to be well used in my kitchen!

    • No it is not as beneficial as it doesn’t have as many strains of good bacteria in it. If its not fresh most of the good bacteria will die and you won’t receive the probiotics.

  16. After making daily kefir batches, can they all be mixed together in 1 container in the fridge? Or do they need to be individually stored as they are made?

    • There is more probiotics in kefir than yogurt especially made with live grains and the longer the veggies ferment the less probiotics there will be. overly sour is not better.

  17. This question may have already been answered. How long does Kefir last in the refrigerator. I ordered the grains from you and those babies are multiplying like rabbits. I love my kefir plain, it tastes like buttermilk. My mom who is 83 and has dementia could not remember what she had the night before for supper. I started her on kefir and her memory has improved immensely. In short when I told her we were going to have chili tonight for supper she reminded me we had it the night before and she didn’t want.I was shocked, surprised and happy that she had remembered what she ate the night before.
    Thank you for all that you do for others.
    Elaine

    • That is wonderful Elaine and thanks for sharing. Kefir will last many many months in your fridge even as much as 9 months but it does get really sour. kefir preserves the milk and keeps it safe and it preserves you too when you consume it.

  18. I subscribed to your blog yesterday but never received the free e-book? Should it have come to my email?
    Thank you

  19. Hi Donna,

    I’m sorry if you’ve already answered this question, I asked it a week or 10 days ago but the post I was commenting on has vanished! Only the recipe shows for some reason. But anyway what I was wanting to know was partially answered in this post: which one (cheese or whey) has the most probiotics? I can use the whey to ferment vegetables and salad dressings and other things, or I can use the cheese to make dip or cheese or things like that….I just wonder which one has the better probiotic value because one of my daughters has grown tired of the kefir smoothies we make every morning and she needs them the most! So I am looking for creative ways to sneak in kefir without her knowing it and keep up the good trend. Thanks so much for your amazing expertise!!

  20. I am having this problem with seperating. I started my kefir from a culture packet that I bought so I’ve never seen the grains and it started out smooth the first couple of times. I would just use a small amount as a starter for the next batch. I just figured that the grains just have to grow but with the seperation, I just see curds and whey. I don’t throw anything away but use a small amount of the mixed up kefir (curds and whey) to start my next batch. If I chcek too soon, it’s liquid, if too long, it seperates. Any advice?

  21. I have always just stirred the whey back into the kefir and then used it to make morning smoothie. Is this all right?

  22. Hi Donna,
    I have been drinking goat Kefir milk for the past 2 weeks and have grown to like it. I have allergies to dairy and have wheat intolerant as well, so this seems to help me. I may be a great grandmother but its never too late to take care of your body.
    Thank you for your help.
    Dodie

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