How to make milk kefir at home
Milk kefir is mesophilic, it is made at room temperature on your countertop.
What you will need to make milk kefir:
In order to make milk kefir at home, you will need authentic live milk kefir grains (also known as cultures or SCOBY) and fresh raw milk or full cream pasteurised milk. For alternative milk options read our guide: Which types of milk you can ferment with milk kefir
You will also require a plastic sieve, a glass bowl, a glass jar and a plastic or wooden spoon. Make sure you have the right equipment for making milk kefir before you start. Take a look at our guidelines here.
The milk kefir cultures (also known as grains) require fresh milk approximately every 24 to 36 hours. The culture time will depend on the amount of cultures you have, the air temperature (season), and of course your preferred taste. The longer the milk is cultured, the more sour and fermented it becomes.
It may take a few days to get to know your cultures and find your rhythm. Your milk kefir grains will also need a few days to adjust to their new environment.
A step-by-step guide to making milk kefir:
Transfer your milk kefir cultures into a fresh supply of milk.
Discard the milk they were supplied in. If you can, it is best to continue feeding them the same type of milk you received them in for the first few days whilst you get used to your new cultured life and establish your rhythm. If this is not possible then not to worry, read our guide on choosing the right milk for making milk kefir.
Start with a ratio of 1 tbsp of milk kefir grains to 1 cup milk. The grains will gradually grow in size, so you will need to adjust the amount of milk and the size of the glass container accordingly. You may find that happy, healthy milk kefir cultures are able to ferment a lot more milk with a fewer amount of cultures. For example in Summer we have found 1 tbsp of milk kefir cultures ferments 500mls milk. In Summer the fermented milk kefir will be a lot thicker than in the winter. You may also find the fermented milk kefir may be thin and watery for the first few days whilst the kefir grains adjust to their new environment and if you have changed the type of milk they will ferment.
Use a plastic strainer to strain out the fermented milk into an empty glass bowl or jar. The milk kefir grains will remain behind in the strainer. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to transfer them into a clean jar of fresh milk.
Cover the jar of fresh milk and milk kefir grains with a coffee filter and secure the filter using an elastic band.
Allow to stand for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature on the counter top in your kitchen where they are out of direct sunlight and will not be disturbed.
After 24 hours or when you can see your milk kefir is ready, repeat the above steps 1 to 2. Screw the lid onto the jar with the fermented milk (the milk you have just removed the grains from) and store in the fridge ready to be consumed or added to smoothies. Consume within 14 days. Burp (let out the gas) every couple of days so that the pressure inside the capped jar does not build up too much.
How to tell if your Milk Kefir is ready:
You know it is time to strain out the milk kefir grains when the fermented milk kefir looks as follows: Solid white with a slight yellowish layer at the top (creamy part of the milk) and the appearance of a very small pocket of yellowish, slightly clear, watery like liquid known as the whey. The whey can appear anywhere in the jar of fermented milk. See image above left. If you tilt the jar slightly the milk should have changed to a gel like consistency in comparison to the original watery milk consistency. Note: The milk kefir grains may take a day or two to adjust to their new environment so the first couple of ferments may come out more milky.
Flavouring your kefir or doing a second ferment:
Add your favourite flavouring to your strained, fermented milk kefir and leave out on your counter top to continue fermenting for another 24 hours. (This is referred to as a 2nd ferment). Some examples include using lemon zest, or vanilla extract and cinnamon. Alternatively you can just add your fermented milk kefir to your smoothies or raw juices. Some flavour ideas include cocoa and banana; raspberries and kale; strawberries and bananas; mixed berries; spinach, pear, apple and banana; mango, paw paw and coconut; vanilla extract and cinnamon. For recipes or creative ways to use milk kefir click here.
In warm weather the milk kefir is thicker than in winter. It has the consistency of a drinking yoghurt.
Every 24 to 36 hours you should be transferring your milk kefir grains into fresh milk, noting how long they take to ferment and adjusting the quantity of milk or size of glass jar if necessary to account for the growth of the cultures or the air temperature.
For trouble shooting or more information on caring for your milk kefir grains read our Milk Kefir FAQs.
How much kefir should you drink?
If you are trying fermented foods for the first time, then it is recommended to start with about 1 tbsp for the first day or two whilst your body gets used to it. Should you feel no side effects then increase your consumption to 1/4 cup (60mls) per day and slowly work up to about 250mls per day. You can drink the milk kefir plain or you can add natural fruit or spice flavours or even add some to your smoothies. The beverage may become bubbly due to the natural carbonation, therefore you may hear a pop and a fizz when you remove the lid from your jar. Milk kefir contains lactic acid and low traces of ethanol (usually less than 1%).