How to Make Kefir {The Simplest Cultured Dairy}

Kefir is the easiest cultured dairy--learn how to make it, where to get grains, and how to enjoy kefir!

Kefir really is incredibly simple!

Kefir is the easiest cultured dairy--learn how to make it, where to get grains, and how to enjoy kefir!

It’s so easy that even my kids and my husband know how to start a batch for me! Here’s how to make the simplest cultured dairy:

How to Make Kefir

1. Pour milk into a jar containing kefir grains.

2. Screw on lid.

3. Set on counter for 2-3 days till it firms up.

4. Strain kefir through colander to harvest the grains for next batch.

5. Put finished kefir back into the jar and put in fridge.

It’s that easy.

Kefir is similar to yogurt in that…

  • It has lots of beneficial bacteria and probiotics–although the cultures are different and thus you’re getting more variety of probiotics if you have both kefir and yogurt in your diet.
  • It can be made with whatever milk you have access to–raw, pasteurized, or homogenized–as long as it’s from animal milk. (Dairy alternatives like coconut or almond milk need a different starter.) It’s a great way redeem pasteurized milk. 
  • It can be used in baking, soaking your grains, smoothies, and even eaten plain.

Kefir is different than yogurt in that…

  • You don’t have to heat the milk before you add the culture.
  • The starter is not readily available at your local grocery store, like it is for yogurt.
  • Once you get the grains, you’re set. They don’t wear out or need replacing like yogurt starter sometimes does. (I buy new yogurt for fresh starter every few months, but I’ve been using my kefir grains for years.)

Where to Get Kefir Grains

  • Option #1 I got my grains from a friend, and since then have divided and shared my grains with a handful of other friends. (Yes, they multiply each time you make a batch!)
  • Option #2 If you don’t have a friend or a friend of a friend to get some grains from, I suggest looking on Craig’s List, or asking around at your local farmers market, co-op, or health food store, or any place crunchy people congregate.
  • Option #3 If that fails, you can order grains online from a great source like Cultures For Health. (That’s my affiliate link–thanks for your support!)

A final strategy, if you’re impatient to try this fantastic cultured dairy, is to purchase powdered kefir starter–this is more readily available and can probably be found  at your grocery or health food store. The powdered starter can’t be used forever like the grains–you have to keep buying the packets. But otherwise it tastes the same thing and is equally nutritious. (See my post on how to make Kefir with powdered starter here)

Caring for your Kefir Grains

Kefir grains look like cauliflower and are similar in texture to tapioca pearls–slightly firm and gummy. Each time you make kefir, you strain the finished kefir through a colander to separate the grains so you can make another batch. Each time you use the grains, they will reproduce, allowing you to eventually split your grains and share them with others.

You need about 2 tablespoons of kefir grains to culture a quart of milk, so my little family of grains can do a half gallon now, and I could spare a few now…

kefir grains--how to make and enjoy kefir

For the first year I had my grains, they were reproducing soooo slowly, I rarely had enough to divide and share them. Then a friend pointed out that the holes in my colander might be too big…little baby grains were probably all going through the holes! I switched colanders and, sure enough, my grains started multiplying!

Because the finished kefir is sometimes nearly as thick as yogurt, I usually have to help the straining process along by stirring the grains around in the colander (which is held over a bowl to catch the finished kefir) or the slightly more dramatic method of banging the colander against the sides of my bowl. (Bang! Bang! Bang! What’s the sound? Oh, just mommy making kefir)

I rinse my grains under cold water between each use to keep them fresh and clean. Then they go into a clean jar which I then fill up with fresh milk to start another batch. If at any time I don’t want to make another batch of kefir immediately, I put them in a little jam jar with just enough milk to cover them. They keep in the fridge for months this way. This is also what I do when traveling with my kefir.

How We Enjoy Kefir

Since we probably use a gallon of cultured dairy each week, I choose kefir over yogurt because it’s faster and easier to make. The primary use is in our breakfast smoothies–I like the flavor and consistency of kefir smoothies even better than yogurt. The other main thing I use it in is soaking my baked goods. My tortilla dough*, pizza dough*, bread dough*, pancake batter*, and favorite muffin recipes* all call for yogurt or kefir, and I primarily use kefir because it’s a little runnier and so it pours into a recipe easier.

kefir grains and smoothie

Some people drink kefir–I’m not a fan, it’s just a little to tart for me to drink plain. But we still manage to consume several cups a day. This morning’s blender pancakes* included kefir and kefir will be key component to the peanut butter chocolate smoothie I’m craving for this afternoon’s snack.

I think it’s safe to say my kitchen literally runs on kefir.

*all these recipes can be found in my first cookbook!

Want to learn another fantastic, fermented treat you can make in your own kitchen? Why not try Kombucha? And, yes, I teach people to make kombucha, too–with videos of each step and amazing flavor formulas.  My new ecourse, Kombucha Made Easy, walks you through step by step–doors open February 13-18, 2017–get in now!

27 responses to “How to Make Kefir {The Simplest Cultured Dairy}”

  1. Zelf kefir maken Avatar

    I’ve been making milk kefir for a while now based on your article and the results are amazing. Thank you for the efforts Trina!

  2. Victoria Avatar

    I just received my first batch of kefir grains and have made several batches already. It is so easy. I used the packet variety before but this is much better. I make it in my yoghurt maker (basically just an incubator) and it makes over night. The flavor is fantastic, I actually like to just drink it but I also use it in my smoothies and cooking. Thanks for this advice, my grains are multiplying beautifully.

  3. Annetta Avatar
    Annetta

    I made my first home made today using your recipe. It turned out very nice. I won’t be trying the kefir though. Thanks for sharing your easy today recipe.

    Happy New Year!

    Annetta

    1. Trina Avatar

      You’re welcome, Annetta! Happy New Year to you!

  4. Rhoda Edwards Avatar
    Rhoda Edwards

    I love yogirt and always wanted to make my own but could not find an easy recipe. I juse found one. Thank you so much

  5. Natka Avatar

    We prefer Waterkefir. Generally speaking waterkefir is slightly less concentrated than milkkefir and therefore some individuals find they consume more waterkefir than they would milkkefir.

  6. Karen Avatar

    This is so encouraging! I do have raw milk available to me, albeit it’s 1/2 hour away and runs $10 a gallon…and not grass fed as we live in the desert near Phoenix, AZ. I may be able to find grass fed if I drove 2-3 hours, but that is just not feasible for me. Single mom and all. I know I remember seeing kefir grains on craigslist! Thanks for the reminder. So looking forward to really cleaning up our diet..I need to get healthy again!!! Struggling with residual issues from a seizure nearly a year ago with no answers as to why I had one, and the depression and fear that comes from worrying about another one. Also dealing with new allergies and memory issues due to hormonal imbalances (diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few weeks after my seizure but they say the two aren’t related).
    Sorry to have gone on so long, but I really am drawn to your blog. Thank you for all the information you have provided and the research opportunities you have shared!

    Karen

    1. Trina Avatar

      Karen, I’m so excited for the steps you are taking! I know from experience that even small changes can make a huge difference. Hope you find kefir grains soon!
      Trina

  7. nichole Avatar
    nichole

    I have just a few weeks ago come accross remineralizing our teeth after with a bad dental experience. I never thought it could be done. Anyway I have never heard of kefir and would like to start making it so we can get proper nutrients in our diet. I live in nyc. How much would it cost for u to share some kefir grains with me.

    1. Trina Avatar

      nichole, I’m in Alabama…so I think you should look around for more local sources. 😉

  8. Alison Avatar

    Ooooops!! I put my kefir grains in goats milk yesterday and snapped the kilner-jar lid shut! Viola! Then I gets an email from the friend who gave them to me who she had never thought of putting them in milk!! Apparently the method she relayed to my fella, who told me apparently and I forgot… was to add water, sugar and dried fruit?? Are there different types of kefir grains for water and milk based recipes?

    I did wonder why they were brown and not the little white bits of cauliflower like yours. lol. I have stained them anyway and now they ARE white. I am a huge experimentalist in the kitchen so put half back in the milk. The rest are waiting for a different recipe as soon as I know if I haven’t buggered them up, lol. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks Trina xxxxx

    1. Trina Avatar

      love that you’re willing to experiment, Alison! Yes, there are two types of kefir grains–diary and non-dairy. You need to look for water kefir or kefir soda recipes for your grains. 😉

  9. Alison Brierley Avatar

    Hi Trina! I am loving your site, so much of it is relevant to what I am changing in my diet and eating habits at the moment. Thank you for all your hard work Super Mum 🙂

    Alison xxx

    1. Trina Avatar

      you’re so welcome, Alison! I’ve appreciated all your comments. 😉

  10. Emily Boronkay Avatar
    Emily Boronkay

    I have been making kefir for quite some time. I buy a quart of pasture raised plain organic kefir maybe once a month. I put about 1/3 of it into a container and then fill it up with coconut water. I put another 1/3 into another container and fill it up with unsweetened soy milk. I use the rest with pasture raised milk. The only one that produces grains is the one with milk.

    I never strain the grains, but just drink/eat them. Is this a problem?

    After reading your blog, I think am going to start to strain them so I never have to buy kefir again. However…

    My son’s method is to fill a quart jar with 1/3 kefir and then the rest of the way with milk. He rubber bands a paper towel over the top and leaves it on the counter. He drinks a cup every day and just tops up the jar with more milk. I started trying that and it works like a charm. I skipped a couple days of drinking due to the flu and the kefir was bulging over the top. I put a canning lid on it and put it in the fridge overnight.

    This morning I was feeling well enough to drink it. I shook it up and should not have been surprised when it overflowed when I opened it. While I was drinking my cup and chewing huge grains, I decided I should ask you about eating them.

    Thanks for any info,

    Emily

    1. Trina Avatar

      Emily, I’m amazed at your account of growing kefir grains from store bought kefir! I didn’t know you could do that! Yes, if you were to save the grains, I expect you could start a fresh batch with them and no longer have to buy the kefir. Thanks for your input!

      1. Emily Boronkay Avatar
        Emily Boronkay

        It only works if the kefir is organic (and plain, obviously 🙂

  11. Teena Avatar
    Teena

    Hey Trina, been reading your blog for a few weeks now and enjoying a peek into your world. I was drawn in by the toothpaste confession! 🙂
    Kefir question for you, how does one know when it has firmed up? If we eat it to soon or let it sit for to long what would be the consequence? How long is the Kefir good in the fridge, as long as the date on the milk?
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us! 🙂

    1. Trina Avatar

      Teena, lovely to meet you!
      Kefir should resemble thin yogurt when it’s finished. It won’t be liquid, like milk, but more like a runny yogurt. It may even get as thick as yogurt, depending on your culture, milk, and temperature in your house. This can take anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days.
      You can tell when it’s bad–it smells really, really yeasty and yucky, and may begin to mold. Normally, kefir has a slightly yeasty, tart flavor, quite similar to yogurt.
      I hope that helps!

  12. shannon coe Avatar

    I just ordered my kefir grains. Thank you for teaching me so much, trina darling.

    1. Trina Avatar

      Hooray! It’s been a pleasure, lady!

  13. Denise Avatar
    Denise

    Hello! Can the be flavored with puréed fruit? My kids LOVE the flavored kefir in the store… But it’s so expensive! Would you flavor it per glass as needed or can you store it flavored after straining? Love your site and cookbook! THANK YOU and many blessings!

    1. Trina Avatar

      Denise, I’m sure you could flavor it–you’d have to do a little experimenting, or find a recipe online. We are boring and have stuck with smoothies. 😉
      Glad you like the book, and so delighted to have you here!

    2. Gwyn Avatar
      Gwyn

      I like to blend it up with some banana and frozen cherries (sometimes the banana is frozen too) in my Nutribullet. At first I added a little honey to sweeten it but quickly found that was too sweet for me. I find the banana sweetens it more than enough and of course depending on the other fruit I use banana isn’t always necessary either. Blueberries, strawberries, mango, the options are endless and very kid friendly! Both strain and amount of grains as well as room temperature, season and I hear altitude can vary the time it takes for a batch to finish too in my experience. Some people like a tartar, sharper flavor than I do and you can control that a bit by sticking it in the fridge when it thickens just enough to fall away from the sides of the jar when you turn it and or start to form little pockets along the edge or bottom of the jar. To give it a stronger flavor you can wait until it separates and of course you can strain or refrigerate any time in between (refrigerating doesn’t stop the process but it slows it way down and I find mellows the flavor a bit and thickens the texture more). I say all of this because I think kids would like a more mellow taste, the stronger flavor still comes through with fruit blended in. I’m on the East Coast and in the summer my batch can be ready in 8-12 hrs while in the winter it’s closer to 24 using 1 teaspoon of grains, in winter a little more but again that depends on the grains, some strains take 2 Tablespoons and still others use far more the way others have described here. Make sure you find out what milk to grains ratio the person you get them from is using and start from there figuring out what gives you the kefir you like best and what works for you. I got my grains from someone in a sharing group on Facebook and I have learned a lot from the people there as well who are very happy to share both experience and grains and this is what I have learned from reading and personal experience anyway. It was the picture of Trina on the top of this site making either water kefir or kombucha with YL oils on a rack in the background that really caught my eye after the kitchen tips led me here but stumbling on this kefir recommendation with the fantastic simple make your own yogurt (who knew, I will even give it a try now!) direction’s, sold me! Time to get and read both books because I have learned something from everything I’ve read so far and it’s all right up my ally! Thanks Trina and good luck Denise, I know with a little trial and error (maybe) you will find easy smoothie blends your kids will demand regularly! If you haven’t already.

  14. Naomi Brignola ~ Omily Avatar

    I’m so getting them sentbover when my sis-in-law goes to the States in November! I noticed it is sprinkled all througj your cookbook but had no clue what it was and necer actually got to searching that out. Sounds easy and good and it sounds great that you can use it in so many different ways!

    A question thay is not related to this. My sister is expecting and doesn’t drink raw milk because she heard that that is dangerous. What are your thoughts on that? I find so much conflicting information!

    1. Trina Avatar

      I know it’s hard to get a straight answer when researching this stuff online. That’s why I start with a site I trust, like WestonAPrice.com, or one of my favorite real food blogs, like kitchenstewardship.com or healthyhomeeconimist.com. Those two gals do a lot of research and I trust their perspectives. I’d look there for info,
      Personally, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, I drink copious amounts of raw milk, pregnant or not. 😉 My milk comes from a farmer I trust who keeps his milk room clean, the milk is refrigerated almost instantly, so there is very little chance for bad bacteria to get the upper hand.

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