Adventures in Kefir-Making

I’m a little astonished, actually, that I’m writing this post. I have an interest in fermented foods, in that there are some types of fermented foods that I like to eat, but I never really  had much of an interest in doing the fermentation myself.

Until, that is, about a couple of months ago, when I started drinking milk kefir. I’d been doing that web surfing thing – you know the kind, where you start out at point A, and click and click and next thing you know, you’re somewhere around point S, which has no real correlation with point A that you can see.

In other words, I’m not even sure what brought me there, but there I was, reading about gut microflora and how important these little microbes are to our immune systems.

Since I’ve had mild colitis since I was in my early twenties, I thought this was quite interesting. My doctor has always told me diet has nothing to do with it, but still, I was curious. So I decided to give kefir a try.

It turns out, I actually like kefir. This is surprising because I don’t like yogurt. I’d go through periods where I tried my best to like yogurt, but after a while the relationship always fizzled out and I’d find myself abandoning yogurt again. Kefir, on the other hand, has really grown on me, so it’s a much better way for me to consume my probiotics.

But have you noticed, kefir is a bit on the expensive side? That’s when I started thinking about making my own. So, after doing a bit of searching around, I found a site here in Canada that sells both milk kefir grains and water kefir grains and with some trepidation, I decided to buy both (it looks like it’s much easier to buy kefir grains if you live in the States – I think you can even buy it through Amazon!).

I bought my kefir grains from Cultured Food Connection. The grains I received were packaged by Culture from Health, which has a lot of great information about making your own kefir.

It’s been a week, and my milk kefir grains have been really coming along. At least, I think they’re doing well, since they look like pictures I’ve found online. I haven’t yet brewed up a drinkable batch of milk kefir yet. So far my batches have been too thick. I looked it up, and it sounds like they’re overcultured, resulting in the separation of the kefir into curds and whey. Luckily, this isn’t a problem, and is merely a matter of finding the balance between the right amount of milk, the right temperature and the right amount of culturing time.

Photo 2014-12-06, 4 44 23 PM

I feel like I will succeed when it comes to my milk kefir!

My poor water kefir, though? I’m not so sure about these little grains. In my initial activation batch, the water turned honey-coloured (not due to the sugar, since I was using normal white sugar) and while the kefir grains had plumped up and were translucent (I received them in dehydrated state, same as the milk kefir grains), I noticed some brown specks hiding out among them.

Undaunted, I looked this up online. Couldn’t find any real answers, but there were tons of troubleshooting guides for activating water kefir grains. They all seemed to recommend straining out the kefir grains, rinsing them and starting a new batch. So I did. This time around, I added molasses, to give the kefir grains more minerals.

Photo 2014-12-06, 4 45 09 PM

It’s been 48 hours, and still no signs that the kefir grains are now fermenting. The water still smells sugary to me, the grains don’t look any plumper and there’s no hint of carbonation. Sigh. I can’t see any brown specks, but that’s probably because the molasses turned the water a dark honey colour, and it’s hard to really see much of anything.

I’m going to give it another try – strain the grains and give them a new batch of sugar water. And if all else fails, I’ll probably be sending an SOS email to the company I purchased the water kefir grains from. But everything I’ve read seems to say water kefir grains are very resilient little things, so I still have great hopes of being able to revive these little guys and not have to try with a different batch of grains!

I’ve never tried water kefir before, but the concoctions you can make sound delicious, like homemade flavoured soda (this water kefir flavour guide has some great ideas for different flavours you can use), so I’m really hoping I can get this to work.

I’m afraid, though, I’ve been bitten good and hard by the fermentation bug. I’m thinking of making home-made sauerkraut next …

Have you made kefir or another type of fermented food at home? I’d really appreciate any tips you might have!

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Kefir-Making

  1. Beth F

    Pickles are about it. Well, I’ve made yogurt, which might count. Other than that … no. This is really interesting though, and now I might have to do some investigation

  2. Laurie C

    I don’t have any tips to share, although my husband got a gift of a yogurt maker and used it faithfully for a while, but he prefers Greek yogurt to regular and didn’t want to bother with straining the homemade stuff in cheesecloth, so he went back to buying it from the store!


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