How-To Make Kefir and Recipes
in-siteMain Topic Headings on This Page
HOW TO PREPARE TRADITIONAL MILK KEFIR
Kefir d'acqua or Water Kefir
Kefir d'erba Medica
Ginger Beer Water-Kefir
Raw Herbal Extraction
Herbal Tea Method
Kefir d' Pollin
The Water Butterfly
Herbal Kefir Liver Blush
Yorkshire Curd Tart
This web page explains how to culture traditional dairy-milk kefir, including water kefir and other non-dairy kefir-related beverages. The following culture-products are cultured with kefir grains. Most of these products, which include Kefir d'erba medica, Kefir d'uva and Kefir d' pollin were developed by yours truly. A recipe for preparing the infamous water-kefir or Kefir d'acqua is also represented. In addition, details for experimental and alternative methods for preparing kefir are shared here also. A simple method for preparing a chemical free natural liquid detergent for washing and cleaning is also forwarded. Included are some or my kefir recipes. If you wish to know what kefir grains are, and what kefir is, then please visit one of my other web pages, specifically Dom's Kefir in-site for details.
Links to all my web pages are found at the bottom of all my web pages, to make it easy to find a topic of interest to you.
I hope you enjoy the journey and the culture-art of preparing and enjoying authentic traditional kefir including other interesting ferments, along with the few individuals who do among the masses. We are a rare breed, increasing in numbers by the second. Welcome to the wild herd of Feel-Goodness sake!
Ingredients / Utensils
For 2-cups of Milk Kefir
1 to 2 tablespoons milk Kefir-Grains. To obtain kefir grains please go here to my kefirpage
|Place fresh kefir grains in clean glass jar.
It is wise to mark the out side wall of the jar with a permanent marker or an elastic rubber band, to indicate the volume of grains put in the jar. As your kefir grains increase over future batches, it shall be easy to tell the portion of grains to remove, for that portion will go above the mark. The removed portion are your excess, or spare kefir grains. These may be blended with kefir to amplify the probiotic and therapeutic value of kefir when consumed. Alternatively, use spare grains to brew other interesting, healthy culture-products, mentioned bellow and throughout this site. See Links to all my Web Pages at the bottom of this page [all my web pages have those same links to each other, so you can find a topic].
|Add fresh milk, place lid on jar, gently stir contents and let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours, or until the product thickens or sours to your liking.
Designate a spot away from direct sunlight for kefir fermentation, in a cupboard e.g. Do not fill the fermenting jar more than 3/4, otherwise the milk will overflow after some hours of fermentation. If the jar is sealed airtight, a slightly carbonated kefir results. Kefir is mostly prepared with the lid ajar, so that gas produced through fermentation is allowed to escape. It is usually best not to ferment for too much longer after the kefir shows signs of thickening, or separation seen as small pockets or layers of a pale-yellow liquid [whey]. Otherwise a sourer kefir results, and quite likely with separation becoming more prominent as 2 layers consisting of a thick white curd with whey at the bottom of the container. Note that this is not a bad thing, but it can make straining more difficult, and some folks may find it too sour for their palette.
Pour contents into a strainer and strain the kefir into a suitable container to separate the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir.
Wash the fermenting jar and reuse the kefir grains for a new batch by repeating the whole process.
|What you've strained is kefir, or liquid-kefir. Store the liquid-kefir in a clean bottle and seal the bottle airtight.
Kefir may be consumed right away, or better still, store in a sealed bottle and refrigerate for a day or two before served chilled. Another option is to ripen liquid-kefir at room temperature for a day or more, preferably under airlock. It can then be refrigerated for longer storage or served as you wish. 1 to 2 days storage in the fridge or ripened at room temperature improves flavour and increases nutritional value. Vitamins B6, B3 and B9 [folic acid] increase during storage, due to bio-synthesis of these vitamins mostly by yeasts of kefir grain organisms.
See section bellow Storing Kefir and Reducing Lactose for complete details about the ripening process, including ripening under airlock, which is by far the best method for maturing kefir.
To prevent damaging your kefir grains, never add kefir grains to a hot jar straight after washing the jar with hot water! First add fresh milk to the jar before adding any kefir grains. It's wise to make this a habit. Now, you too are a Kefir-Meister.
The kefir in the photo is brewing as per the common method explained above. Just prior straining, the contents is gently stirred to mix together curds and whey-- those layers or pockets consisting of a thick white mass [curds] and pale yellow liquid [whey or to be more precise kefir-whey]. The colour of kefir-whey can vary. It may be similar as shown in the photo, or it can be a clear solution with little to no colour. Kefir-whey may even have a light-green hue. This depends on culture-factors, and the same milk may produce variable coloured whey.
Stirring the kefir right before straining makes straining a little easier. It usually gives the strained kefir better consistency. During fermentation, I gently rock the jar for about 5 seconds when ever I get a chance. This is done after the first 8 hours of fermentation. This action feeds the microflora of kefir grains by bringing lesser fermented milk to the kefir grain-organisms, while at the same time, inoculates portions of milk with the organisms that leave the surface of the grains.
NOTE The particular batch in the photo demonstrates the natural coagulation of milk through fermentation of kefir at 24 and 48 hours at about 22°C [71°F] room temperature. The ratio of grains-to-milk is about 1 part grains to 7 parts milk by volume [1 : 7]. This ratio is given as a general guide, for kefir may or may not coagulate exactly as shown in the photo, under similar conditions and volume of milk. Curd-character and appearance can certainly vary. Milk quality, the nature and the activity of the grains at that particular point in time, including temperature or season has much to do with the outcome. This particular batch is quite creamy. Observing the curd for small pockets of whey, tells me it's ready to strain. Kefir can often turn out having a gritty mouth-feel. This may usually occur during mid-season, as the organisms are adapting to change in temperature [the microflora is trying to find its feet]. However, kefir with a gritty mouth-feel is not impaired in regards to health-benefit and nutritional value. Texture and consistency has more to do with the drinking pleasure of the beverage, and the majority of folks seem to prefer kefir with a smooth, creamy consistency.
My experiments show that if the temperature can be maintained constantly between 20° to 22°C, the best creamy smooth flavour, texture and consistency of the resulting kefir should prevail in each batch.
A 2-cup glass jar with non-agitated kefir [kefir that's left undisturbed] fermented for 1 day at room temperature. At this point, most of the kefir grains are at the top of the kefir, and the kefir is cultured right through. This is when the kefir is ready to be strained in order to separate the grains from the liquid-kefir. The grains are then used to make a new batch of kefir.
Note those small pockets of whey [pale yellow liquid] among a mass of thick white curd. The grains in this batch were quite large, like walnuts. Curds initially form around each grain because milk is initially fermented at the surface of each kefir grain, moving away from the grain into the surrounding milk. This is due to greater populations of organisms on the surface of each grain [greatest culture-activity].
Misleading information on the internet explaining Kefir-Whey as being Kefiran
*Recently, I came across misleading information in regards to the separation of milk into kefir-whey and curds through fermentation of milk with kefir grains to produce traditional kefir. Some folks selling kefir grains are suggesting that the clear liquid [whey] is solely kefiran released from kefir grains into the milk. This is completely incorrect. The pale yellow or clear coloured liquid is simply whey, or kefir-whey in the case of kefir. Although kefir-whey does contain some kefiran, for kefiran is water soluble, however, by no means is it pure kefiran. The process of fermentation creates acidity, which causes the milk protein to separate [precipitate] from solution as a thick, white mass [casein or curd], among a clear, liquid solution [kefir-whey]. So no whey is kefir-whey solely kefiran.
To prove this, try this easy experiment, which many folks are probably already aware of. Add about 1 Tbs of an acidic liquid such as vinegar or lemon juice to 1-cup of warm fresh milk and note the spontaneous separation of curds and whey after a gentle stir. No kefir grains here to produce kefiran-- yet, we have a clear solution separate from a mass of thick, white curds. In fact, we've just made fresh cheese! We best move on quick from here though, otherwise Little Miss Muffet who sat on a Tuffet, shall eat her curds and whey and before we can say EUREKA! A little black spider might sit down beside her! Yes, what we have here is what the Little Miss Muffet ferry tale is about, curds and whey.
Once kefir has fermented to your liking, it's time to separate the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir. This is best achieved by first placing a strainer over the open mouth of a wide container, and then pour the whole contents into the strainer. To help satisfy those who wish to use plastic or utensils mad from natural fibre, two types of strainers are shown in the photo, a plastic strainer [far left] and a hand-woven cane cheese-basket [far right]. Please see below for details regarding the types of strainers suitable for straining kefir.
After straining, the grains are placed back into a pre-washed fermenting vessel, without rinsing the grains. Fresh milk is added to the grains to culture the following batch. As a buffer, a portion of fresh kefir from the previous batch, may be included along with the fresh milk plus kefir grains to prepare the following batch. This process in known as continuous fermentation, and it is how kefir was traditionally prepared in the Caucasus.
Prior to adding fresh milk, a portion of previous kefir was always left in the leather bag containing the grains. Although this is not essential to do, but a method often I use. It helps by instantly reducing pH of the fresh milk that is added, which will inhibit unwanted organisms that may be present in the fresh milk.
The strained kefir is either consumed right away, or stored in a sealed container and kept in the refrigerator, or ripened at room temperature for a few days. Please see below for details regarding storing and ripening kefir, which is important if you want the best from your kefir.
As one can see from the photo, kefir is a culture-milk beverage. Kefir has a creamy consistency, a slight to moderate sour refreshing taste with a very subtle carbonated tang. Kefir is easy to prepare and it may be cultured to your liking. Fermenting for a shorter period produces a less sour kefir. Longer fermentation produces more sourness, including using larger amounts of kefir grains. Experimentation is encouraged, and lends itself well to kefir making!
Kefir-curds have both a smaller surface area, and a smaller surface tension than yogurt. This renders kefir easier to digest, making it excellent as food for both adults and toddlers. Kefir is also a nutritional aid and may be safely consumed before, during and after pregnancy and throughout lactation.
For those who prefer not to use plastic strainers for straining kefir, bamboo or cane or stainless steel strainers are quite acceptable to use. Such utensils are available from Asian stores in Chinatown etc. and the strainers may come rendered in various shapes and sizes.
The woven basket [front bottom right] is one that my late grandmother made by hand many years ago back in her native county, Italy. This handwoven cane basket was traditionally used to prepare fresh cheese and ricotta by my late grandmother and my mother in a small Italian village, where the family lived a life of self-sufficiency. The basket makes an excellent natural strainer. The photo also demonstrates some types of plastic and plastic-enamelled metal strainers available from cookware suppliers, K-mart or Wal-mart etc. Note the blue pasta colander [middle top of picture], which is also suitable for straining kefir. However, this type of colander is best used with larger kefir grains, for small grains will pass through the slots, and in no time you'll lose all your kefir grains.
Notes When using bamboo or cane straining utensils to strain kefir, after each use, wash the utensil with hot water and set aside to dry. Bamboo or cane strainers may be sterilized with boiling hot water. One may also wash the natural fibre utensil with either a friendly detergent or with wood-ash lye water before first initial use [See section below this page for details].
Please read this at my Kefir FAQ in-site with tips for straining kefir. There are 2 animations of the straining process to show how easy it is to strain kefir, without rupturing a Hernia, or busting a gut string, as we say here in the land of the never-never down-under [Australia ;-]
This section is dedicated to the debate regarding kefir grains coming in contact with metal utensils. It is suggested that kefir grains should not come in contact with any metal object. This suggestion is made for both milk kefir-grains and water kefir-grains, or sugary kefir-grains [SKG]. This has become a firm suggestion with myth surrounding the claim, to the point that some folks have taken a strong stand to support this, without further argument-- fanatical in fact. The suggestion that kefir grains should never com in contact with metal may be for a few practical reasons. Most importantly, this was quite valid regarding milk kefir-grains in the early 1900s, when the natural mother-culture was first introduced to the rest of the world. Back in those days, many home utensils such as sieves, spoons and pots were not made of stainless steel, a reasonably non-reactive metal.
Because milk kefir-grains are naturally acidic, the organic acids that are part of each kefir grain readily react with reactive metals. The important question is, which metals are reactive in the process of making and storing kefir? The answer is copper, brass, zinc, iron and aluminium are common reactive metals. If milk kefir-grains or kefir come in direct contact with any utensil made from any of the above, metallic ions of that particular metal can leach onto the grains, or into the kefir, where liquid-kefir is stored in containers made from any of these reactive metals. Daily long term ingestion of minute amounts of any heavy metal ion accumulate in the body, and can reach toxic levels.
However, stainless steel is quite inert and kitchen utensils such as sieves, spoons and bowls made from stainless steel are quite suitable for kefir making or for storing either water kefir or milk kefir. However, I personally would not use stainless steel containers to brew or store kefir, but rather use glass containers, for glass is the most inert, non-reactive material.
On the other hand, sugary kefir-grains [SKG] are non-acidic, so there is little to no reaction when SKG come in direct contact with reactive metals.
There were no stainless steel utensils readily available when milk kefir-grains were first introduced to the rest of the world in early 1900s. In this case, it was quite feasible that folks were warned that kefir grains or kefir should not come in direct contact with any [reactive] metal utensil of the day, such as brass, copper or iron strainers, spoons or bowls etc. This would have been to protect the consumer, and not that such metals would impair the quality of kefir grains, as has been claimed by fanatics. However, today, stainless steel kitchen utensils are readily available, so this claim is not as applicable as it once was [taking into account utensils made from reactive metals].
An Added Note for Further Interest or Debate. Under the right conditions, certain metals produce an electric current [electricity] in the presence of an acid. This is the principal behind lead-acid batteries, such as a car-battery produces and stores electricity [lead and lead-dioxide metal plates submerged in sulfuric acid]. In the case with milk kefir-grains, electrons passing through the microflora, due to small electrical current passing through the media when kefir grains are placed in a reactive metal strainer, may have been thought would interfere with respiration of certain organisms e.g., interfering with the entering into the Electron Transport System [ETS] in the Mitochondria of aerobic organisms of kefir grains. Please note that this does not mean that this is the case, but simply a possibility behind why the claim or myth of not letting kefir grains come in direct contact with metal, came about. This is apart from the fact that kefir will become contaminated with metallic ions where kefir is cultured, strained or stored in utensils made from a reactive metal.
Have you ever experienced a week electrical current felt as a subtle metallic taste on the tongue, when you put a metal spoon or fork in your mouth? This week electrical current produced is also the case when placing milk kefir-grains in a metal strainer, or where grains are held in a metal container as an example. A small electrical current is produced when kefir is stored in metal containers [including stainless steel pots and sieves]. As an example, 4 cups of milk kefir stored in a stainless steel bowl produced 150 milli-volts at 30 micro-ampere. In fact, a greater electrical current was produced, when kefir grains were placed in a stainless steel sieve [100gm milk kefir-grains sitting in a large stainless steel sieve, produced 250 milli-volts at 50 micro-ampere]. Under these conditions, such electrical currents *could have been thought would effect the microflora regarding ETS, as explained above.
More valid though, is the effect of electrolysis, which is what leaches metal ions from reactive metal objects such as copper, into the kefir itself. If such metallic elements are ingested regularly over time, the metal accumulates in the body, and long term exposure could reach toxic levels for the individual.
One other point; the mesh of metal strainers can cut into the delicate surface of SKG, which cause unnecessary damage, where SKG can break up into small pieces. Although this does not kill or impair SKG as such, but one can lose amounts of any small piece which easily pass through the mesh. However, this is quite unlikely to occur.
* There is no evidence to claim stainless steel strainers, spoons or other stainless steel utensil will damage or interfere with the microflora of kefir grains. We've used stainless steel strainers to strain kefir for years on end without any evidence to suggest that the grains or the microflora are impaired in any way what so ever.
Unpublished research has shown that culturing kefir-grains in a variety of metal containers, the grains increased more efficiently, compared to a control group. In this research, brass and aluminium [including plastic] containers were used as fermenting vessels. It concluded that culturing kefir grains in milk in brass containers, provided slightly better results in grain growth. However, this research did not evaluate whether or not culturing in metal containers as those mentioned, effected the rhythm of the microflora of kefir grains, or the liquid-kefir. Please note that this experiment was performed for research purpose! It is strictly unsafe to use either brass, aluminium including copper, sliver, zinc, and iron containers to either culture kefir, or, for storing kefir grains or liquid-kefir intended for consumption! Neither is it safe to use strainers made from any of those reactive metals to strain kefir!
The statements above are my personal findings and views unless stated otherwise. This topic is mainly expressed here in this fashion, for possible further debate, of for a better understanding. Especially to try and dispel a common myth that strongly suggests kefir grains should not come in contact with any type of metal. Stainless steel utensils are quite satisfactory and safe.
If one could use natural utensils e.g., cane or bamboo strainer and wooden spoons, then one may experience an appreciation of maintaining a relationship closer to nature. The Zen of Kefir Making, perhaps?
In the past, and very likely to this day, when a person receive their first kefir grains, they were or are instructed to rinse their grains with water before they are used to make a new batch of kefir, just as I was instructed back in late 1978 when I procured my first batch of grains. In my research however, I came to understand, traditional kefir grains were never rinsed between each milk change by the tribes-folk of Caucasus [the original kefir masters]. In fact, early research suggests that rinsing milk kefir-grains interferes with the rhythm of the microflora found on the surface of the grains, due to how the organisms are arranged
Most of this research was performed in the former USSR[2,3] during a period where kefir grains were used in the production of commercial kefir in that country including Poland, Ukraine and others. However, this is no longer the case in Russia and other countries, for today commercial kefir is made with artificial starters, instead of traditional kefir grains.
Rinsing kefir grains came about probably not long after the mother-culture was introduced to the rest of the world in early 1900s, possibly due to concerns regarding weed microorganisms settling on the grains. However, the robust nature and antagonizing properties of the microflora, and possibly the physics behind the grains, are effective inhibitors against the growth of weed organisms. Because of the fashion in which the microbes are arranged over the surface of the grains, rinsing the grains with water or with fresh milk removes many of the wanted organisms. In effect, the lesser counts of essential organisms of kefir, may encourage growth of weed organisms due to less competition. So it appears that microbe-phobia got the better of those who began this campaign, and those who may still continue to believe and practice rinsing their kefir grains, or instructing others to do so.
I am able to exploit the protective property of kefir organisms, by implementing kefir as a natural preservative for preserving fresh foods in solutions containing as little as 10% kefir or kefir-whey, with exceptionally good results.
As long as utensils are kept clean and raw ingredients are fresh and of good quality, rinsing kefir grains is not at all necessary.
I try to leave intact on each kefir grain, as much of the water-soluble polysaccharide kefiran produced by the microflora of milk kefir-grains. The kefiran dissolves in the fresh milk and is found in greater quantity than if the grains were rinsed. When an amount of kefiran is readily available in fresh milk, increases the potential of inhibiting unwanted organisms including molds during fermentation of milk to produce kefir. Furthermore, kefiran is probably the most beneficial component of kefir on health, and rinsing the grains before adding them to fresh milk, decreases the amount of kefiran found in the finished kefir.
In Caucasus the grains were continually left in the leather bag, and not all the kefir was completely removed from the bag due to the crude method of straining used by the tribe-folk of this particular area where kefir originates. Amounts of previous kefir would always be present in the leather bag [as an acid buffer], before adding more fresh milk to the bag containing kefir grains. This is known as Continuous Fermentation. With this, the pH of the freshly added milk is instantly acidified [to about pH 5], and a hastened fermentation that follows, more effectively reduces the pH even further, which undoubtedly was most favourable for inhibiting unwanted weed organisms in their kefir.
Due to my research, I no longer rinse my kefir grains, as I used to do many years ago, because I was instructed to do so by the kind person who gave me the first amount of kefir grains. However, on the rare occasion, and only when necessary I fast my milk kefir-grains by soaking them in sterile water for a day. I find that this method is most effective in keeping kefir grains clean and healthy. The water-based compound solution strained from water-fasted milk kefir-grains, which I have come to name Kefiraride, has many practical applications, including the preparation of natural cosmetics, correct and control thrush [Candida albicans yeast infection], to increase the growth of sugary kefir-grains, to prepare a kefiran-rich yogurt, kefiran-rich kombucha, in bread making and making other baked goods, in making pancakes, ice-cream making, and the list goes on.
There are exceptions to any rule, including the no-rinsing rule, for sometimes rules are meant to be broken, intentionally or otherwise. [Or how else are police, lawyers and judges going to make a living in today's social system?-].
1. Kefir grains intended for drying for long-term storage as a back-up culture.
Milk kefir-grains should first be rinsed or bathed with sterile cold water before drying. This is to remove protein deposits from the surface of the grains after separating the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir through straining.
2. Reviving cross-contaminated or damaged milk kefir-grains.
Kefir grains that have become cross-contaminated with unwanted organisms or with Viili or Caspian Sea Yogurt [Matsoni]. Or, kefir grains that have been left in the same milk for extensive periods. In the latter case, the surface of each grain will eventually become encrusted with a non-propagable [damaged] layer of matrix, often seen as a yellow or yellow-orange colour, and the grains show very little to no growth. In order to save the growth-factor of those damaged grains or as a whole batch, I've discovered that one must act fast and remove the encrustation or the damaged surface of each grain, as soon as possible.The following can be applied to cross contaminated milk kefir-grains or damaged milk kefir-grains.
This is achieved by filling a clean bowl with pre-boiled body temperature water. Place a mesh-type sieve in the water, and then put the milk kefir-grains into the sieve. While holding the sieve with the grains under water, begin rubbing individual grains one-by-one, with a gentle abrasive rolling action against the mesh of the sieve, using two clean fingers.
This procedure will remove any unwanted or damaged non-growing matrix material from the surface of each grain. If the inferior surface layer is left intact for an extensive period, the grains shall eventually reach a point of no return where they become non-propagable [shall not grow]. This outcome is due to the fact that damage to each grain begins at the surface, which is exposed to the same acidic compounds for extensive periods [longer than 2 to 3 weeks at room temperature, depending on resilience of the grains, temperature and other factors]. The growth-factor at the surface of the grain becomes damaged first, possibly due to lack of nutrients in combination with long term exposure to acidic conditions including culture-byproducts produced by organisms. It may also be due to not enough kefiran, for I believe that the polysaccharide kefiran is a protectant for the organisms encased among the polysaccharide. The organisms among the damaged portion close to the surface of the grain no longer produce kefiran, or are unable to condense the kefiran so that the grain can form and grow.
At an early stage, at the centre of the grain ample kefiran is found, and that portion of the grain remains propagable. However, the grains as a whole show no sign of growth due to the unfavourable outer crust, slowly suffocating the inner organisms moving toward the centre of the grain. If corrective measures are not met within a given time, then such an encrustation or death of the matrix, spreads towards the centre of the grain like cancer, until the whole grain or each individual grain in the batch is infected right through each grain. The grains in this case shall never grow again, and can no longer be salvaged [Please see this self-explanatory picture for related info]
3. Grains that come in contact with a foreign surface or matter.
In this case, the grains should be rinse immediately with [preferably] sterile fresh water. If kefir grains fall a dirty floor, the gel-polysaccharide [kefiran], which exudes from the centre of the grain, may have foreign material such as dust adhere to the grain. Dirt may be removed from the surface by rinsing any effected grain with fresh, sterile water. IN such cases after rinsing dirty grains, it would be best to eat the rinsed grain[s] instead of culturing in milk.
If a mild, less sour kefir is what you want, then kefir can be enjoyed directly after straining to separate the kefir grains.However, ripening kefir by either storing the liquid-kefir in the fridge or kept at room temperature for up to two days before served, increases some of the B group vitamins, especially Folicin [Folic acid]. Liquid-kefir may be stored refrigerated in a clean bottle, and it should keep good for quite some time. Although, refrigerated kefir has a sourer flavour in comparison to storing for the same amount of time in the fridge. Ripening also increases aromatic compounds, improving the overall flavour of kefir.
A portion of kefir may be poured out from the storage bottle for ready consumption, and the container can be replenishing with freshly strained kefir of the day. Storage can be in the fridge, or at room temperature. We store kefir and consume it like so on an ongoing basis. We no longer store liquid-kefir in the fridge, instead we store liquid-kefir in a large glass bottle under airlock at room temperature-- similar to brewing beer or wine [see photo below]. This is similar to how kefir was originally stored kefir masters of Caucasus. Large volumes of kefir was stored in large sealed wooden barrels or clay crocks, as it ripened during storage over many days in fact.
An Experiment to observe keeping quality of liquid-kefir An 8-cup glass bottle was filled 3/4 full with freshly strained milk-kefir. This was left in the refrigerator for one year. At 12 months, samples were taken and the kefir was found to be still quite good, quite sour mind you, but nevertheless good. It had an alcohol content of approximately 2% with pH 3 [acidic similar to mild vinegar, or Kefirgar].
More Recent Experiment involved filling an 8-cup glass bottle with freshly strained kefir, and the kefir was stored for 10 months at room temperature. In this case, the bottle was 3/4 filled with kefir with the addition of 2 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil. The oil formed a natural airlock, preventing oxygen from getting into the kefir during room temperature storage. The layer of oil also creates a protective barrier, preventing the propagation of mold [and Flowers of Kefir] on the surface of the kefir. The kefir was sampled at 10 months and it was good, quite cheesy in flavour, but tolerable. This explains the extremely good natural preservative potential of traditional kefir, if ingredients are of good quality and utensils are sterile. Recall also that kefir has a powerful anti-oxidant, which with little doubt especially preserves fats of kefir.
No refrigerator in the house, teepee or tent?
Reducing lactose while increasing Folic acid content and preventing unfavourable organisms by ripening kefir at room temperature.
The method explained below will reduce a good portion of lactose in kefir, which is favourable for individuals keeping tabs on sugar or carbohydrate intake e.g., Diabetics or Low Carbohydrate Diet devotees. This method is the no-fridge method. It is by storing freshly strained kefir in a clean, sealed container, and the kefir is ripened [matured] at room temperature for a number of days. This method is similar to how the original kefir-makers of Caucasus stored their kefir, due to no refrigerators [Hence the need for, and, the development of-- kefir!].
Individuals with concerns regarding the propagation of unfavourable organisms in kefir stored at room temperature.
A collection of scientific work with similar results, explain that disease-causing organisms, such as Listeria monocytogenes, less numbers of the organism survived when the culture-milk was stored at room temperature over refrigeration. Separate research explains similar findings in regards to other strains of coliform or faecal bacteria such as the pathogen Shigella sonnei including disease-causing viruses. Kefir-grain prepared kefir demonstrated a greater antagonistic effect against unwanted organisms and virus particles, compared to other culture milk-products.
Note this method of ripening produces kefir with lots of FIZZ! So please practice with care and with good common sense by implementing a blend of all your personal sensory perceptions in combination with common knowledge.
Freshly strained kefir [liquid-kefir] may be kept in a clean glass [or food grade plastic] bottle, stored at room temperature for up to two weeks in a cold climate, or up to five days in warm conditions. It is best to then refrigerate the kefir in a sealed bottle, consuming an amount each day taken from the bottle, as required.
1. Pour freshly strained 12 to 24 hour kefir-grain cultured kefir in a glass or food-grade plastic bottle [do not fill any bottle more than 3/4 full].
2. Place a lid on the bottle but do not seal the container airtight.
3. *Each day, seal bottle airtight and give the bottle a good shake, and then loosen off the lid again to burp the bottle. This can be done twice daily.
An amount of kefir may be removed from the bottle to consume each day, until all the kefir from that bottle is consumed. Alternatively, after removing a portion of kefir for drinking, the bottle is replenished with that day's freshly strained kefir. This can be a continual process over 1 week. At this point, wash the container clean with hot water and detergent and recommence the process with freshly strained kefir. Although I have personally done this over many weeks without washing the bottle and without a problem.
*The bottle is best shaken once or twice daily. This is to prevent Yeasts and vinegar-bacteria forming colonies on the surface of the kefir. With no agitation, such colonies may form a light-brown fuzzy carpet-like layer. This phenomenon is similar to Flowers of Wine [Mycodermia] in wine-making. In the case with kefir, I refer to the film as, Flowers of Kefir Please see this picture. Although the initial development of Flowers of Kefir is mostly regarded as safe, if left unchecked however, unwanted molds may propagate among the colony. Regular agitation prevents this potential problem. Please note that in my experience I have never found any mold on the surface of ripening kefir, by simply following the above suggestions. Ripening kefir under airlock is a superior method for brewing and should completely prevent the formation of Flowers of Kefir and any potential problem [see following].
Ripening Kefir under AirLock
Click on photo for larger view
This photo demonstrates ripening kefir under airlock. An inexpensive airlock is fitted to the mouth of a glass bottle to prevent oxygen from getting into the kefir during ripening. The device is half filled with water, specified by a mark on the airlock [water level is visible in the photo]. Beer and wine making suppliers carry such airlocks.
Due to secondary fermentation, or continual fermentation, the process of ripening may produce a slightly sourer tasting kefir, with considerable increase in effervescence. Although, this process usually produces kefir with less sourness in comparison to kefir refrigerated for the same amount of time. Certain B group vitamins, Folic acid [Folacin] in particular, will increase as the kefir ripens over two days.
Kefir ripened under airlock as apposed to ripening in a sealed bottle, produces best flavour with less acetic acid, which otherwise gives kefir a drier sourer flavour. This is possibly because of lesser to no oxidation of alcohol [oxidation of alcohol produces vinegar]. Flavour including aroma is much improved during ripening as per the above comparison.
Folacin can be expected to increase by at least 116% in comparison to the original fresh milk and freshly stained kefir. Due to all these facts, ripened kefir in general, is favourable taken one month before conception and throughout pregnancy, for folic acid is important in the prevention of birth defects in babies [Spina bifida and Anencephaly]. Kefir is also suitable taken throughout lactation, and good for toddlers.
If for whatever reason one needs to take a break from culturing kefir for a short period, say between 3 days to 1 month, then there are a few options available to you. These depend on how long one intends taking a break. This also depends on whether someone is available as a baby-sitter for your kefir grains. If someone is available to baby-sit, then the first option below may be useful. Otherwise the second option may be followed instead.
1. The KEFIR BABY-SITTER METHOD
Resting Kefir Grains for One Week or Longer
For a Rest Period up to One Week
Place the grains in a jar with the same amount of fresh milk that the grains usually ferment.
Store in the refrigerator for 1 week in a sealed jar.
Strain the kefir [which is safe to consume].
The grains are now ready to cultured per usual manner [Initial first few batches usually take longer than 24 hours to ferment at room temperature, until culture-activity increases and stabilizes].
The above process slows down metabolism of the organisms-- they are forced into a semi-dormant state.
Resting Kefir Grains for Longer than One Week
Follow the steps in option 1 above, but strain the kefir refresh milk each week.
This option may be performed for as long as required. However, if it is carried over more than say, 2 to 3 months, there is the chance that the grains will not grow for some time. It may also damage the growth component beyond recovery. When resorting back to room temperature fermentation, the microflora needs a few batches to re-establish its activity, and the kefir will take longer to complete during this course. It may take anywhere between 2 to 7 batches for kefir grains to reach optimum activity again. The longer the resting period, the longer it takes for the organisms to reactivate fully. Simply let contents stand for the required time needed to produce kefir per batch. Another option is to use less milk to begin with, say 1 part grains to 3 parts milk, and change the milk each day, whether or not the first few batches show no sign of activity [fermentation]. There should be signs of activity increase within a few batches. At this point, use more milk, increasing to say, 5 parts milk, and then again within a few batches to say 7 parts and so on, until the amount of kefir prepared per batch meets your requirement.
2. The NON KEFIR BABY-SITTER METHOD
Resting kefir gains for longer than one week [You're on your own, kefir-babies!]
As in option 1 above, but increase amount of milk by about 30% to 50% more for each additional week of rest. [Recommended maximum ratio preferably no greater than 1 : 30 grains-to-milk by volume].
I find that resting kefir grains as above, is safe to do for periods of up to 2 or possibly 3 months. Although I suggest that this option is performed for no longer than 1 month. For longer periods, I suggest that the grains are dehydrated for long term storage [See below for details].
NOTES During the rest-period, some species of bacteria and yeasts will reduce in numbers. Therefore a recovery period is required so that a balance between the different microbial components can be reestablish. The longer the grains were kept dormant, the longer the recovery period. In extreme cases, recovery may take up to 3 months. During this period, the kefir will vary in appearance, aroma, flavour, acidity, texture and consistency. See last paragraph in the above section Resting Kefir Grains for Longer than One Week for recovery tips.
Always create a BACK-UP supply of kefir grains--- or ELSE!
It's always a good idea to have back up, correct ? This is also true with kefir grains, because you never know when you'll need them. One day, you may end up feeling glad you create that back up, or, regret that you never did! It's in your hands.
One method for storing kefir grains for periods of up to 2 months, is by freezing spare grains. To freeze effectively, wash the grains with pre-boiled COOLED water. Pat-dry the grains between pre-ironed cooled white toweling to remove excess moisture. Place the grains in a jar or in a plastic bag, seal and put in the freezer. With milk grains, first add some dry milk powder, [DMP] adding enough to completely cover the grains with the DMP, seal jar or bag and then freeze. DMP is mixed with the milk kefir-grains as a cryoprotectant agent to prevent freezer burn. Although I've found that kefir grains are viable for up to one year with this method, this length of time may completely remove the yeast component found in healthy kefir grains [if frozen for longer than 2 months, but not specifically]. Because of this potential, freezing kefir grains as explained above, is best performed for a period of no longer than 2 months. If DMP is omitted for freezing milk kefir-grains, then a period of no longer than 1 month is recommended. Otherwise the yeast component of kefir grains may become damaged, especially if continual partial thawing and freezing due to poor freezer mechanism is involved.
Note, do not add fresh milk or other water-based liquid with kefir grains meant for freezing, for the water will rupture many of the organisms, destroying the organisms during freezing. This is because water expands at 0 deg. C or freezing point.
Kefir grains may be dehydrated for long term storage for up to 18 months.
To dehydrate fresh kefir grains, rinse the grains with pre-boiled COOLED water. To remove excess moisture, pat-dry the grains between a pre-ironed cooled white terry towel, or simply let stand on the toweling for 1/2 hour to absorb excess moisture from the grains. Place the grains on a sheet of clean nylon cloth that is stretched over and stapled down over an empty wooden picture frame. Place another layer of similar material over the grains to prevent dust and insects from falling on the wet grains, and tack the material down with thumb tacks to the wooden frame. Dry the grains in a well ventilated warm spot, until the grains become brittle. Water kefir grains will dry clear to light brown large sugar crystals, depending on type of sugar used for the water kefir. Milk kefir-grains usually dry and become yellow.
Depending on temperature, humidity and size of each grain, drying may take between one to two days for water kefir-grains. I takes about 2 to 4 days for milk kefir-grains. Dry all the grains well to completely dehydrate. Place the dry grains in an airtight sealed jar and store in the refrigerator [do not freeze]. I add a little dry milk powder with dehydrated milk kefir-grains, adding enough powder to completely cover the grains in a jar or in a Ziploc plastic bag. Dehydrated kefir grains may be stored for up to 18 months. Although I've discovered that my method of adding dry milk powder, dehydrated milk kefir-grains can remain viable for up to 6 years! Although only a small number of grains may end up fully reactivating to propagate when reconstituted after this time.
NOTES It is not imperative to pre-iron any toweling for the drying process explained above. However, it is wise to pre-iron any material that comes in direct contact with the grains, to reduce the risk of contamination. I recommend to replace any back-up supply of dehydrated kefir grains with freshly dehydrated grains every 6 months, just to be on the safe side. The previous batch of dehydrated grains make great treats for both folks and pets alike. They also can be fashioned into powder by grinding, and mixed the powdered grains with your favourite seed spice powders such as anise, fennel, caraway or coriander seeds, with an amount of sea salt or non-sodium salts to taste. This prepares a savoury probiotic condiment. Or, powdered dry kefir grains mixed with maltose e.g., and cinnamon powder for a probiotic sweet dressing. With these basic example, I'm certain you can come up with something you like, and if you have children, they too may enjoy a probiotic in a number of different ways.
These milk kefir-grains originated from the same batch. The grains on the left were frozen for 2 months, while the grains on the right were dried for 6 months. These are 1 month after reconstitution under parallel culture-conditions. Note how well the frozen grains have reconstituted compared to the grains on the right.
Reactivating Frozen Kefir Grains
To reactivate frozen kefir grains, thaw by placing the grains in a glass filled with cold water for a few minutes. Place the grains into a strainer and wash off any powdered milk that's adhered to the grains with cold water... presto pronto!!.. they're ready for action and reaction... heheheee.
Now, add fresh milk to the grains with a ratio of 1 : 3 grains-to-milk by volume [say 1/2 cup of milk to 2 Tbs of grains]. Strain off the milk every 24 hours, whether or not the milk has coagulated, then place the grains back in the jar with more fresh milk. When full coagulation of milk occurs within 24 hours of fermentation, your kefir grains have reestablished themselves. At this point in time the milk should smell sour but clean, with a possible aroma of fresh yeast. This could take up to one week and in some cases longer. The quantity of milk may be increased to one cup, and again by another 1/2 cup after every other batches, until you're happy with the amount of kefir produced. After an increase in milk volume, do not increase again until the grains are able to ferment the previous increase within 24 hours. This may take between two to seven batches, depending on many factors e.g., how much you increased milk by, temperature and the activity of the grains themselves.
Reactivating Dehydrated Kefir Grains
First reconstitute dry kefir grains by placing the dry grains in a jar with the addition of a glass of fresh milk. Activate by renewing the milk daily after straining that batch, whether the milk has coagulated or not. Do not drink this milk until it produces a clean, sour aroma. Reconstituting dry grains may take between four days and in some cases up to one and a half weeks to occur. When the milk starts to coagulate within 24 hours, producing a clean, sour aroma, with a hint of fresh yeast, your grains have reactivated and are rearing to go!
NOTES When activating dehydrated kefir grains, for the first few days the milk will go through some unusual stages, regarding appearance and aroma. The milk will initially produce a predominance of friendly yeast activity, evident as froth or foam forming on the surface of the milk. Yeast activity may reach a peak after 3 to 5 days, then subside as consecutive batches are cultured thereafter. As consecutive batches are cultured, the microflora should find a balance between the bacteria and yeast components, which kefir grains can achieve quite naturally on their own. This may take between 1 to 2 weeks.
Growth rate of kefir grains may not be evident, in some cases, until the third week, or even longer. The grains should become whiter in colour after each consecutive batch. Any yellow or yellow-pink-brown grains that don't have an elastic property, should be removed from the batch after the forth week. These are non propagable grains [do not grow], the portion of which is determined by length and storage conditions and dehydration method.
Non propagable grains disintegrate when squeezed between two clean fingers, having the texture similar to a Cheddar cheese. Whereas propagable grains are white and elastic with a slightly slimy feel [Kefiran], when gently squeezing a grain between clean fingers.
Please see FAQ 38 at my Kefir FAQ in-site for further details regarding drinking the initial batches of kefir prepared during reactivation.
Kefir d'acqua [acqua means water in Italian, including other Latin-based languages such as Portuguese and Spanish. Kefir d'acqua means kefir of water] or Water Kefir cultured with the use of the Pouch Method [see bellow]. The floating layer in the photo above, are sultanas. Ground rose hip can be seen at the bottom of the container. This concoction is not a traditional water kefir as such, it is a herbal brew. This delicious refreshing beverage has lots of fizz due to yeasts of kefir grains fermenting sugar in an airtight sealed jar. The batch was cultured with milk kefir-grains kept in a pouch made of cotton gauze. Note, a gauze pouch is not suitable for making milk kefir, because the material is too tightly woven and becomes blocked with curd, which suffocates the culture in the pouch. However, such a pouch is quite suitable for preparing any variety of water-kefir, for the media does not block the gauze, which otherwise starves the organisms of kefir grains.
The infamous water-kefir has been prepared and enjoyed for many centuries. Although the precise origin is unknown, I've come across reference explaining that the culture was introduced to England by soldiers on their return back from the Crimean war. Apparently it was introduced as the Ginger Beer Plant, and it could in fact be the original Ginger Beer Plant unlike the so called Ginger Beer Plant developed in more recent time for preparing Ginger Root Beer today. I received an email from a lovely lady who lived in the Caucasus, explaining how she grew up on water kefir. She was an elder when she emailed, but I gathered that water kefir was or is used in close vicinity to where milk kefir-grains originate in the Caucasus Mountains.
Today, the bubbly refreshing sugar/water-based probiotic beverage is prepared in many households worldwide. It is the answer for individuals who do not want dairy in their diet, for water kefir is completely dairy free. I keep meeting people commenting with something to the effect of, Oh! that drink!.. my mother prepared the beverage when we were growing up. But we didn't know what it was called. The recipe for water kefir may vary among different households. Although the refreshing beverage is commonly cultured with 3% to 10% cane sugar solution including a whole half a lemon and dry fig. Dry prunes, raisins, sultana or apricots can be used instead of dry fig. I prepare a wonderful ginger beer by including either the juice of fresh ginger root or grated fresh ginger with a slice of lemon and 10% sugar solution. For in-depth information about water kefir including the use of ginger root and other non-traditional ingredients, and how to get the best growth of traditional sugary kefir-grains for preparing the healthiest water kefir, please go to my kefirpage.
With traditional water-kefir, the beverage is cultured with translucent water kefir-grains, or sugary kefir grains [SKG]. SKG have an opaque, firm texture compared to traditional milk kefir-grains of Caucasus. But I've discovered that a variety of water-kefir may also be cultured with milk kefir-grains in place of SKG, by transferring milk kefir-grains to a sugar solution. When doing so, the first few batches take 4 to 5 days to ferment. This is because of the sugar-water media and the microflora of milk kefir-grains has to adjust to utilize the new media. [This period is scientifically referred to as Lag phase]. But after three or so batches, the organisms have adapted sufficiently to the new media, and from that point on, fermentation occurs within 24 to 48 hours. This is because the native microflora of milk kefir-grains need time to adapt to the new source of energy [sucrose and fructose instead of lactose or milk sugar]. So one should expect this to occur, if they want to use milk kefir-grains in this manner. I recommend brewing with patience for the first few batches if deciding to transfer milk kefir-grains to a different medium in any recipe explained below.
If you are going to use milk kefir-grains for this, do not use all your milk kefir-grains, but only spare grains. I suggest to keep milk kefir-grains, transferred to a sugar-solution, for that purpose only. So, once the grains have established in fruit-juice and sugar-water-based medium, do not transfer the grains back to milk later down the track. However, if one is inclined to experiment, then feel free to go ahead, for kefir grains lend themselves well to the experimenter at heart. I mean to say, look at what I've achieved that I freely share with the reader here at this web site!
It is common for a water-based kefir prepared with milk kefir-grains, to contain between 1.5% to 2% alcohol at 2 days fermentation. However, alcohol content depends on sugar-type and sugar percentage, including fermentation time and culture-conditions, such as brewing under airlock Vs open brewing Vs brewing in an airtight container. Water kefir prepared with good growing SKG contains much less alcohol, about .5% at 2 days. I feel that water kefir prepared with traditional SKG produces a healthier product than using milk kefir-grains, and not just because of less alcohol produced. But many interesting brews can be prepared with milk kefir-grains nevertheless.
Photo shows spent lemon and dried fig [bottom right of picture] after straining a previous batch of water-kefir. The purple grains are milk kefir-grains initially, but later transferred in dark grape juice to produce Kefir d'uva, hence the dark red colour of those kefir grains see below.
Two Water Kefir Recipes
A recipe for water kefir that gives good grain growth with traditional Sugary Kefir-Grains [SKG] or Milk Kefir-Grains [but produce no growth].
Ingredients / Utensils
8-cup glass jar with strong sealing lid [Jars with a swing-away lid and rubber gasket are great and so are Mason jars].
Stainless steel or nylon sieve.
1/2 to 1 cup traditional SKG. [If you do not have SKG, use 1 to 2 Tbs spare milk kefir-grains].
1 large Turkish fig or 2 small Greek dry figs or 2 Tbs dry sultanas, raisins or any mixture.
Slice of lemon [Use non waxed Certified organically grown lemon. Peel and discard zest of non-organic lemon, or lemon that has been fumigated or sprayed with pesticide].
1/3 to 1/2 cup cane sugar-- brown sugar, raw sugar or refined white sugar, or non-refined dry sugar-cane juice such as Rapadura, Demarara or Jaggery etc. or a combination [Important, if using brown, raw or white sugar, include 1 Tsp organic black strap molasses].
6 cups fresh water preferably spring water, rain water or good well water.
1/4 Tsp sodium bicarbonate [pure baking soda and NOT baking powder that contains aluminium].
1/4 Tsp eggshell or oceanic coral ground to a coarse grit, or 1/8 Tsp of each [First sterilize coral and eggshell in boiling water, or use shell of boiled egg].
A most simple, basic recipe that also gives good grain-growth with traditional SKG.
Ingredients / Utensils
8-cup glass jar with good sealing strong lid [Jars with a swing-away lid and rubber gasket are great and so are Mason jars].
Strainer [stainless steel or nylon sieve].
1/2 to 1 cup traditional SKG.
1/2 cup raw cane sugar, and 1 tsp organic black strap molasses. Or 1/4 cup each raw sugar and non-refined dry sugar-cane juice such as Rapadura, Demarara, Sucanat or Jaggery etc. and 1/2 tsp organic black strap molasses
6 to 7 cups fresh water preferably spring water, rain water or good well water.
1/8 to 1/4 Tsp sodium bicarbonate [pure baking soda and NOT baking powder that contains aluminium].
1/4 Tsp eggshell or oceanic coral ground to a coarse grit. Or 1/8 Tsp of each [First sterilize coral and eggshell in boiling water, or use shell of boiled egg].
Method for Both Recipes
Add water to an 8-cup glass jar [Do not fill any jar more than 3/4 full. This is very important because the CO2 gas produced during fermentation will produce pressure, which has the potential to force the lid off the jar with force or worst scenario cause the jar to explode, which can be dangerous].
Dissolve sugar, molasses [if used] sodium bicarbonate and then add the rest of the ingredients including kefir grains.
Seal jar airtight and let contents stand for 2 days at room temperature. [Stir after 24 hours and as often as you like].
Strain the bubbly Water Kefir and rinse SKG with fresh water. [It's not essential to rinse SKG with fresh water if they increase more than 50% per batch].
Simply repeat the process for preparing each following batch.
The strained beverage is ready to serve, but it is more appealing to transfer the water kefir in airtight sealed bottles and refrigerate for 1 to 3 days-- served chilled. Yumoh!
Another option is to store the sealed bottles at room temperature for a day to increase fizz in the bottle more efficiently, and then chill before serving.
If using milk kefir-grains, one may include 1 Tbs malt extract [maltose] to maintain high counts of lactic acid bacteria [LAB] in the beverage especially Lb. acidophilus. Like all LAB this strain of Lactobacilli has a specific need when it comes to the type of sugar it can use as an energy source. Apart from lactose [milk sugar], malt extract is mostly maltose, a disaccharide similar to lactose and sucrose. Lb. acidophilus, including other strains of LAB can utilize maltose.
The recipe is my own variation of the traditional water-kefir or Kefir d'acqua [including the use of milk kefir-grains]. Instead of using solely cane sugar, I may use alternative sweeteners. I also try to include two dried fruits instead of just one type, but this is optional. The important thing here is as long as pervious milk kefir-rains get their sucrose/maltose and other simple nutrients, the organisms will happily ferment and culture kefir WITH you. So you see, in a way, we too share part of a symbiotic relationship with kefir grain microflora, for we rely on each other, be that kefir grain organisms solely rely on us for the survival of the culture as it stands.
You can prepare larger quantities of water kefir at one time, instead of the amount suggested in the recipe above. Experiment with the amount and type of sweetener is recommended only with milk kefir-grains. This is because sugary kefir-grains are quite fastidious when it comes to sugar-type, they seem to require sucrose without any fruit juice, and they do not lend themselves to vast experimentation. Occasionally I may add grape juice instead of lemon juice and malt, or, some of each with milk kefir grain-prepared water kefir. With milk kefir-gains, sugars can be omitted, using just dry fruit and or diluted fruit juice instead. Very sweet juice types need dilution to keep the alcohol conent down, unless you are after rocket fuel:) I try to listen to my intuition and adjust the routine or process to suit my ever-changing needs or desire.
Left shows an 8-cup glass jar filled with 6 cups sugar/water fermenting with traditional translucent Sugary Kefir-Grains [SKG] during the first hour of fermentation. The ingredients are 6 cups water, 1/2 cup organically produced raw cane sugar, one organically grown dry fig, 1 Tsp organic black strap molasses and half an organically grown lemon [used whole]. This recipe included 3 Tbs fresh ginger root juice, and 1/8 Tsp sodium bicarbonate and 1/8 Tsp each of ground eggshell and oceanic white coral.
This will be left to brew for usually 2 days at room temperature, followed by straining to separate the SKG. The fig is removed and the lemon squeezed into the strained beverage. The water kefir is either consumed fresh or stored in a airtight sealed bottle and left to ferment for a day longer before refrigerated. Water kefir is more tantalizing served chilled.
Note that the latter process increases alcohol and fizz, producing pressure in a sealed bottle, dependant on sugar percentage from all sources [sucrose including any added fruit and its sugar content]. Those few floating grains are grains that are growing exceptionally well, entrapping a tiny bubble of CO2 in the centre of each grain. The bubble eventually escapes and the grains fall to the bottom of the jar to join the rest of the grains. This causes hovering of the grains, and is possibly why SKG are also referred to a California bees.
Please see FAQ 28 at my Kefir FAQ in-site for more tips, if you dare !-)
This is quite possibly the original Ginger Beer Recipe. It is suggested that water kefir-grains were referred to as the Ginger Beer Plant when the culture was first introduced to the west, by British soldiers on their return back from the Crimean War.
8-cup glass Mason jar or similar with a good strong sealing lid [preserving jars with swing away lids are also ideal].
6 cups spring water [hard water-type is recommended, see tip below].
1/2 cup raw sugar.
1 Tsp organic black strap molasses
About 50gm [2oz] fresh ginger root [Young green ginger root is best].
Slice of Lemon.
1 dry Fig or 2 Tbs Sultanas, Sun Muscat or Raisins or a combination.
2/3 to 1-cup traditional Sugary Kefir-Grains [SKG].
1/8 to 1/4 Tsp pure baking powder [sodium bicarbonate].
* 1 cm or 1/2" square piece of eggshell from a boiled egg, either used as flakes or coarsely ground to grit. [Optional ingredient, but provides best SKG growth with bio-available calcium and magnesium, which is desirable. Substitute eggshell with oceanic coral or limestone or a mixture if you wish. Use about 1/4 Tsp coarsely ground grit]
Finely grate fresh ginger root to a coarse consistency. Mix with 2 Tbs raw sugar in a bowl. With a strong spoon, firmly press the mash against the bowl to extract as much juice as possible from the grated ginger. [The sugar draws out more ginger juice through osmotic pressure. If you have a mortar and pestle, then use it to pound the mixture for a minute or so. This should extract more ginger juice from the pulp]. Put mash in a 15cm [6"] square piece of clean, white cloth and squeeze by hand to express the sweetened ginger juice into the 8-cup glass jar. Another option is to use grated ginger, and put this in a piece of cotton gauze, tied with string to make a tea bag of ginger. Simply put this in the jar with the rest of the ingredients.
Add sodium bicarbonate, rest of the raw sugar, molasses and eggshell or coral grit in glass jar with 6 cups water. Stir well to dissolve all the sugar and molasses and then add rest of ingredients including SKG. Seal jar airtight, and let stand for 2 days at room temperature [Stir contents after 24 hours, and again a few times when possible there after]. Strain liquid water-kefir, and store in airtight sealable bottles. Best enjoyed chilled after 1 to 2 days refrigeration. This shall increase carbonation to give a nice, refreshing fizzy ginger root-beer.
TIps Try storing the sealed bottle at room temperature for one day before refrigeration. This should increase fizz and reduce sugar content faster than fridge storage. Water kefir-grains do not grow well, in fact, growth may cease altogether if using filtered water of any kind, including Brita or active carbon filtered water over some 6 or so batches. More information is available at my kefir web page and in my instruction flier that comes with my SKG. See section under Regarding Growth-Rate of SKG and following paragraph in that section.
Notes Fresh ginger juice can be left to stand for a few hours to precipitate the starch, seen as a white sediment. This white starch sediment can be separated by decanting the ginger root juice. The sediment can be used to thicken stir-fry dishes, or soups, for it has a similar property to Kudzu [Japanese arrowroot]. The wet sediment can be air dried to a powder and stored in a sealed container for future use. If using a unrefined dry sugar cane juice such as rapadura, muscovado, sucanat or demarara etc. omit molasses.
Kefir d'uva [keh-fear dee oo-vah] Uva means grape in Italian.
As a general rule, kefir d'uva is prepared with 1 part grape juice diluted with 1 part water. If the grape juice is extra sweet, then it may be diluted more, say 1 part juice to 2 parts water. Try including a few fresh mint leaves, aromatic spices such as cinnamon bark, crushed cloves, saw palmetto etc. as an option. This can prepare a refreshing aromatic brew with digestive and blood glucose normalising property. Fill your brewing jar 3/4 full and then add spare sugary kefir-grains or spare milk kefir-grains. Seal the jar airtight and ferment for 1 to 2 days at room temperature. Strain the Kefir d'uva and store in airtight sealed bottles. Note that when using milk kefir-grains for the first time, the brew will take considerably longer to ferment, and as long as 5 days. If the same grains are reused, the organisms will ferment following batches in a shorter time, until it takes just 2 days to brew.
Champagne kefir d'uva The refreshing beverage prepared without aromatic ingredients can be similar to Champagne in bubble content. In fact, including a little green [unripe] grape juice, a healthy Champagne alternative is quite possible. In the recipe suggestion above, try mixing 1/4 volume of unripe grape juice with 3/4 ripe grape juice by volume.
When brewing Kefir d'uva, bottled grape juice can be used, as long as it's 100% pure juice, without any added preservatives colouring agents or artificial flavours. Although using juice from freshly squeezed grapes has an advantage and not just for freshness but at a microbial level by providing friendly bacteria and yeast, which are part of the native microflora of fresh, organically grown fruits. This microflora is seen as a white powdery film found on grape skins. This causes the effect, which I refer to as water running off of a ducks back; water forms as beads when poured over fresh grapes.
Either or both white and dark grape juice may be used for Kefir d'uva.
These kefir grains were traditional milk kefir-grains transferred to dark grape juice plus water-media to produce Kefir d'uva for six months [2-day brews]. Because dark grape juice contains red pigments, these particular kefir grains have been fixed red. Instead of being the common white colour of traditional kefir grains of Caucasus, the red pigment renders the grains purple-red, and the pigment penetrated right through each grain.
Note The sweeter and more concentrated the juice, the more alcohol is produced including more CO2 gas. It is wise not to give youngsters Kefir d' uva due to alcohol content. Do not use all your sugary kefir-grains [SKG] to prepare Kefir d'uva, for the growth factor of SKG will become damaged and the grains will eventually not grow any more. However, if you want to use SKG, use only spare SKG that have been brewed in a traditional sugar/water media.
Although both milk kefir-grains and SKG will not grow in a fruit juice kefir, the organisms of both grain-type will retain the ability to ferment ongoing brews, pretty well indefinitely. That is to say the essential dynamic relationship symbiosis, is retained or reestablished among the microflora that colonises either grain-type. Whereas this is not the case with any type of commercial starter, for we do not fully understand the dynamic relationship among different types and strains of organisms, to reproduce this important factor in a commercial, artificial starter.
Bee Pollen Water-Kefir and Milk-Kefir
Bee pollen contains many nutrients including enzymes and high quality protein. However, due to the chemical structure of each cell wall of pollen cell, many nutrients are unavailable through normal digestion. One may improve on this limitation, by adding bee pollen to strained milk-kefir, followed by ripening at room temperature or in the fridge for a few days before enjoying the refreshing beverage. Secondary fermentation should at least partially breakdown the cell wall, so the contents within each cell can be better assimilated.
WIth milk-kefir, add 1 Tbs bee pollen granules to each cup of strained milk kefir [without the kefir grains]. Store in a glass vessel and seal the jar but do not seal it airtight. Then ripen at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Or, ripen under airlock, explained in the section above, Storing Kefir and Reducing Lactose.
With water-kefir, add 1 Tbs of bee pollen to each 2-cups of any water-kefir recipe explained above, and ferment with kefir grains for 48 hours. Strain, drink and
then feel the power of---super-pollin-d' probiotici! [Latin-- Probiotic]
I shall now remove my super-kefir-suit and deflate my pump-up muscles, which are also filled with hot air :)
Kefir d' erba medica [keh-fear dee er-bah meh-dee-Kah]. Medicinal herbal kefir.
Left picture demonstrates some of many herbs that can be used to culture my herbal probiotic tonic, Kefir d'erba medica. In the picture I used the raw herbal extraction method, which involves using the herb parts whole and uncooked. Either dry or fresh herbs are used, letting the microflora of kefir grains do the extraction/digestion instead of cooking the herb to extract the wanted components. This particular recipe is cultured with spare milk kefir-grains and not traditional sugary kefir-grains. The reason being of the high risk that sugary kefir-grains will no longer propagate when subjected to certain compounds found in specific herbs. Although this is also the case with sugary kefir-grains, which is why only spare, excess grains are used. I also use spare sugary kefir-grains to prepare the beverage.
About 1983 I discovered that milk kefir-grains could be used to ferment herbal teas and concoctions, making the finished product a probiotic herbal tonic with increased bio-availability of phyto-active [plant active or plant derived medicinal] compounds found in herbs.
Many medicinal, or pharmacological active components of herbs are in the form of oils and are mostly insoluble in water. Culturing with kefir grains may release these components into the water-based media. This is achieved through the action of certain enzymes produced by the bacteria and yeasts during fermentation. Some active compounds may also be dissolved by the small percentage of alcohol produced during fermentation. Apart from becoming a probiotic source, the finished formula, I believe, will be more potent. This includes the biosynthesis of some of the B group vitamins due to yeast and possibly other organisms. This process produces a refreshing beverage, which can be prepared similar in flavour to a natural cola, champagne, or a carbonated essence of the aromatic herb chosen for the recipe. It is possible to prepare a tailor-made beverage to assist a specific condition, such as brewing Saw Palmetto and Epilobium, rose hip, ginger and corn silk to correct prostatitis, as an example. So it's time to get out your favourite herbal book and brew up some neat, healthy tonics.
A general tonic recipe for "Kefir d'erba medica"
1 Tsp Red Clover flowers.
1 Tsp Alfa Alfa leaf and/or Chamomile flowers.
5 whole dry Rose hips crushed or 1 Tsp Rose hip powder.
1 Tbs of either raw honey, malt extract, agave nectar or unrefined dry sugar cane juice [demarara, sucanat or muscovado etc.].
2 Tbs spare milk kefir-grains or sugary kefir-grains.
2 cups spring water.
Kefir d'erba medica can be prepared using two methods as explained---
1. The raw herbal extraction where the herbs are not subjected to heating at high temperature. Using this method helps preserve heat sensitive essential components, which are normally denatured by cooking. Apart from the soluble compounds, we're relying mainly on the microflora of kefir grains in order to extract the soluble active ingredients from the herb parts. After the organisms have worked on the herb parts for 24 to 48 hours, the herbs appear digested, releasing active components into solution. I recommend using the kefir pouch for this extraction method. This is for easy separation of kefir grains from the herb parts by simply removing the pouch containing the grains after fermentation is complete. But this is not essential.
2. The herbal tea method where a herbal tea from the wanted herb is prepared first. After straining and cooling the herbal tea, the preferred sweetener and kefir grains are added and then brew for about 2 days at room temperature. I'll explain the raw method first. Please go here to learn about a practical tip for preparing herbal teas or cooking in general suits:) The simple method explained at that web page is very practical, and is highly recommended to prepare herbal teas for this recipe.
Raw herbal extraction method
Make a pouch for the kefir grains as described above in the pouch method. Add the water to a jar but do not fill the jar more than 2/3 full. Dissolve the preferred sweetener. Add the rest of the ingredients including the kefir-grain-pouch. Place a tight lid on the jar and ferment for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature. Remove the pouch and strain the Kefir d'erba medica. The beverage is ready for consumption.
Herbal tea method
To prepare the herbal tea method, add the water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add the herbs and place a lid on the pot and let steep until cooled to room temperature [a tip for making herb teas and cooking in general, please follow this]. Strain the herbal tea and add to the jar. Do not fill the jar more than 2/3. Dissolve the sweetener and add kefir grains [or kefir pouch]. Seal jar airtight with a lid and brew for 24 to 48 hours. Strain the Kefir d'erba medica. The beverage is ready for consumption.
Tips and Variations
One may use any favourite herbal tea formulae for preparing Kefir d'erba medica. Try a mixture of different combinations of herbs to come up with one that you like, or need. Try adding Dandelion root as a liver cleanser and tonic, or lemon balm [Melissa], Passion flower, Skullcap and Hops for a restful sleep and as a calming, anti-anxiety tonic.
Commercial herbal tea bags in both methods explained above can be used, if you wish. There are no limitations and experimentation is recommended. You can use sugary kefir-grains to prepare Kefir d'erba medica, but only use excess grains for this. So please don't put all your kefir-grains in the one basket, just in the case they don't like the herbal brew and stop growing. When using milk kefir-grains for the first time, you will need to ferment for as long as 4 days for the first few batches. If you keep using the same grains, after a few batches, the organisms shall adapt to the media and the Kefir d'erba medica will brew within 24 to 48 hours per batch thereafter. However, milk kefir-grains shall not grow in such a media, for the grains have evolved in dairy milk.
See FAQ 28 at Dom's Kefir FAQ in-site for more tips.
The Butterfly [Kupu-kupu Indonesia] is my reply to the junk cola-beverage, The Spider [Cola & Cream]. The Butterfly may be a means of introducing kefir to a kefir-novice, well tolerated by some of the fussiest taste buds. Children may also find the beverage appealing [some parents may only hope]. Any type of fruit juice may be used. The glass far left of picture is pure kefir with a sprinkle of cinnamon, decorated with a slice of Vanilla Persimmon fruit.
[Makes 1 cup]
2/3 cup dark or light grape juice.
1/3 cup fresh kefir.
Slice of lemon or orange.
Sprinkle cinnamon powder.
Pour grape juice in a tall glass. Pour kefir over the grape juice. Kefir will float over the grape juice. With a straw, chopstick or a spoon, gently stir the kefir to form a swirl or a marble-like pattern; as an effect to satisfy the hunger of the eye [after all, the eye is what gets to sample any food first]. Preparing foods and drinks to look interesting and appealing to the eye is very inviting to the stomach.
Try preparing The Butterfly with other fresh fruit juices or a mixture including ; Melon, Black current, Cranberry, Black berry, Blue berry or mixed berry, Pomegranate, Mangostein, Black Cherry, Mango, Pineapple and young Coconut water or Coconut cream etc. Hhmm-hmmm!
The Water-Butterfly is a mixture of water-kefir and milk-kefir to prepare quite an effervescent beverage. The refreshing beverage is best prepared from a fresh batch of water-kefir of your choice.
[Far left] Kefir di frutta indigeno or indigenous fruit water-kefir prepared . In this case, a native Australian fruit or bush tucker known as Illawarra plum [Podocarpus elates].
Ingredients [makes 1-cup]
2/3 cup water kefir, or Kefir d'uva of your choice.
1/3 cup milk Kefir.
1 Tsp Raw Honey [optional, depends on sweetness of the water-kefir].
Fill glass 2/3 full with water kefir. Pour 1/3 glass of milk kefir. If adding honey, premix it with the milk-kefir then add to the water-kefir. Gently swirl in the kefir to form a pattern through the beverage. If using sugar, add just prior drinking. This will seed the gas, causing the beverage to bubble vigorously, to produce an interesting effect. Come on!... get those lovely noses tickled!
VANILLA KEFIR CHARMER
INGREDIENTS [Waiter! 2 smoothies for the charmed couple, by yesterday--- then, please!]
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas.
1-cup coconut milk, coconut cream or young coconut water.
1 to 2-Tbs fresh milk kefir grains [when surplus grains are available].
1/2 Tsp each ginger and cinnamon powder.
1 Tbs linseed [flax seed] soaked in the kefir above overnight.
1/2 Tsp natural vanilla essence.
2 fresh mint leaves.
CAROB OR CHOCOLATE KEFIR CHARMER
include 1 Tbs of either carob bean flour or cocoa powder.
TROPICAL PANDAN KEFIR CHARMER
Include 1/4 Tsp of Pandan leaf extract [obtained from most Asian stores]... mmm pandan--kefir--charmer--- grrrrr! [Wake up home-boy, you're daydreaming n'drooling].
TROPICAL DURIAN KEFIR CHARMER
Replace banana with 1/2 cup Durian fruit meat [obtained frozen from most Asian grocery stores]... mmm Durian--kefir--charmer--grrrrr! [Wake up home-boy, you're daydreaming n'drooling--- again, old chap].
Except for the kefir and cinnamon, blend all ingredients in an electric blender or food processor for 1 minute till smooth. Fold in the kefir and pour in tall glasses and then sprinkle with cinnamon powder. During hot weather, try blending with the addition of a few ice cubes.
This recipe improves liver function. A treat for Hepatitis C virus infection [HCVI] and a fearful or shy, sluggish liver.
For 2 and 4 servings respectively.
2 or 4 cups freshly strained kefir.
½ or 1 cup young coconut water.
3 or 6 fresh leaves each of Dandelion [Taraxacum officinale] and Greater Plantain [Plantago major], coarsely chopped.
1 or 2 Tbs St. Mary's Milk Thistle seed [Silybum marianum], well crushed.
1 or 2 Tbs each of anise and caraway seed, well crushed or in powder form.
2 or 4 Juniper berries [Juniperus communis], well crushed.
1 or 2 Tsp Turmeric root powder [Curcuma longa], preferably either whole dry root and crush yourself, of fresh root.
1 or 2 Tbs ground Rose hip.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor for 30 seconds to prepare a smooth consistency. Pour in a suitable glass bottle, make sure not to fill the bottle more than 2/3 full. Place either an airlock on the bottle, or fit a lid but do not seal the bottle airtight. Place the bottle in a dark spot away from direct sunlight, and let stand for 2 days at room temperature.
Enjoy ½-cup diluted with ½-cup fresh water. An option is to sweeten with maple syrup, rice syrup or honey to your liking. Or in preference for a savory over sweet, include a little unrefined sea salt, or 1/4 Tsp non-pasteurised organically produced soy sauce. For weight loss enjoy ½ hour before meals. For weight gain, take directly after meals, will also assist digestion.
To enhance immune function and for amplified anti-inflammatory property including better probiotic value, blend 1Tbs fresh milk kefir-grains just prior serving, taken as suggested above.
Including a source of vitamin C [such as rose hip in this recipe] taken together with kefir should be quite beneficial for the liver. Research shows that taking vitamin C or kefir had beneficial effect in protecting the liver of mice, so one would think that taking these together should give some benefit, and probably a better result than taking either of these on their own. But ask yourself why in heavens were not kefir and vitamin C given together in a group of mice in that particular research? Kefir contains a powerful anti-oxidant, and since vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant, the intake of more than one form of anti-oxidant should be extra beneficial. I personally have found this to be true.
Ripening and in fact preparing kefir under airlock, is optimal, for airlocks are designed to prevent air [oxygen] getting into the fermentation process, and by which prevents oxidation of compounds. This also produces kefir or ripened kefir with improved flavour and possibly better nutritional profile.
For details regarding the use of an airlock for fermentation, please see above section Storing Kefir and Reducing Lactose.
The following section explains alternative experimental methods for culturing kefir. Included are a few tips for those who do not intend using plastic utensils in kefir-making. For the purist at heart, I explain a system that can be employed to help eliminate unwanted elements found in some natural materials such as commercially grown cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp and cane etc. Also explained is a simple, natural liquid detergent, easily prepared for cleaning utensils. After all, washing utensils is part and parcel of the culture-art of kefir, is it not!?
Please do not email me asking for pouches and what not explained below. I simply do not supply these, nor do I have any idea where to obtain such items. This section is simply for the experimenter at heart. Preparing kefir in the common manner explained at the beginning of this web page, is by far the best method, unless you have a leather bag to culture kefir, as in the true, traditional method of Caucasus. Hang on! I do not supply these either, nor do I have any idea where to find them :-)
IMPORTANT NOTE I recommend only using a spare portion of kefir grains in any experimental work, and always keep a portion of grains cultured in the common manner. This should avoid you losing your original culture, in case the kefir grains do not favour your experimentation.
This simple method makes the kefir-culturing process [routine] a little more simple, by eliminating the straining step. Placing kefir grains in a pouch made from linen or cotton gauze is only recommended for culturing water kefirs e.g., Kefir d'erba medica, Kefir d'acqua [water kefir] or Kefir d'uva. A pouch such as the hemp-pouch explained below, is best suited to contain the grains when culturing a milk-kefir. This is due to the very open weave of this particular type of hemp material. Gauze or cheese cloth are too restrictive for milk kefir grains! There is not enough !! on my keyboard to express the importance of this fact!!!! Using material with an open weave is necessary when culturing milk-kefir.
A material with an open weave such as the hemp pouch below, will have less tendency to become blocked with kefir-curds during the culture-process. An appropriately made pouch-system also achieves what I refer to as an organic-fit, which causes less restriction for the grains. This is not possible with most materials available today. I find these points important if deciding to use alternative measures. Although through personal research, I've found that nothing beats culturing kefir using the common method. Using the pouch-method may produce a milder tasting kefir, with a gel-like curd, similar to yogurt.
Note. A Hemp Pouch on the left is suitable for brewing water-based beverages and milk kefir. However, a pouch fashioned from cotton gauze or other material with a tighter weave than the hemp pouch, is only suitable for making water kefir. This is because a tightly woven material made into a pouch to hold milk kefir-grains, when placed in milk the weave becomes blocked with curd as the milk coagulates due to fermentation. This prevents sufficient organisms from leaving the surface of kefir grains, and culturing the milk in a sufficient manner. The organisms of the contained kefir grains become starved for nutrients, for milk can not pass through the blocked weave.
Make a pouch or pocket from well washed, non-coloured, very loosely woven fibre material e.g., gauze or another form of natural fibre material. Alternatively, cut a piece of said material into a circle about 11 - 14cm [6" - 8"] in diameter, and place the kefir grains in the centre. Gather the ends of the material and tie with cotton, linen or silk string to make a pouch. Be certain that the pouch is made loose, so the grains have plenty of room, and for milk [or other medium] to pass freely through the cloth, to and through the grains.
Be sure to wash all natural fibres well before made into a pouch. See below for details.
Using the Pouch
Place the pouch in milk [or other alternative medium you may be using] and follow the steps for making kefir explained in the common method above. When the kefir is ready, remove the pouch and pour out the finished kefir into another container. Wash the fermenting jar and the pouch gently with chlorine free fresh cold water. Just repeat the process for culturing your next batch of kefir.
Making a Thicker Yogurt-like Curd Using the Pouch Method
To make a thicker kefir similar in texture to yogurt, use two jars with the pouch method. After removing the pouch from one jar of 24 hour brewed kefir, simply place the pouch into the second jar of fresh milk. Ferment for 24 hrs to make that batch. This process eliminates the pouring and straining step. One less step to perform... Neat, hey!? You will find that once the pouch is removed form one jar, the kefir will have a nice, thick curd all the way through, which can be scooped out with a spoon... <gulp-kefir-smile> aahhh! that's very nice indeed.
NOTE I highly recommend gently stirring the contents once or twice after the first 8 hours fermentation. This helps by--
# Bringing fresh portions of non-inoculated milk to the grain organisms in the pouch [feeds the microflora].
# Any kefir-curds formed within the pouch are released back into the surrounding kefir.
# Inoculates fresh portions of milk outside the pouch.
# Releasing kefir-curds, which may be blocking the pouch itself.
# Disperses the acidity evenly throughout the kefir. This is due to the nature of the pouch method, which may have a tendency to make the kefir sour from top to bottom of the container, and within the pouch.
This particular hemp pouch was rendered from hemp-bark [not thread], unwound from strong commercial hemp rope.
O.K.. O.K.! the agenda for the use of hemp for the pouch is--
Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibres.
Hemp is rot resistant.
Hemp is grown and cured pretty well "chemically-free". However, the fact that these days, imported hemp fibre contains harmful residues due to pest and disease control agents used in fumigation or drenching. So please be extremely careful with any source of hemp fibre, especially if it's imported from China.
Next is a method that may be useful for making kefir without the use of an external strainer. This involves using the jar for making and straining the kefir. I feel that this system is a closely related to the way kefir was traditionally made, because some previous kefir from the last batch is always left in the jar to be mixed in with fresh milk for the next batch. This system may be useful for those who do not wish to wash their grains between milk changes--- a wishy-washy affair!
This kefir jar has a lid fitted until the kefir is ready for straining. A pre-moistened cotton doily is placed around the mouth of the jar and held in place with either a strong rubber band, or tied with cotton string. The jar is simply inverted to strain the kefir into a container. The jar may be washed once a week to remove the curds adhered to the inner wall.
The cotton doily is removed, washed then dried after each straining. If your grains are very small, you will need to make sure that the material you use has small enough holes, or you may lose all your grains! The cotton doily may be sterilized by ironing with a hot iron. This technique is cumbersome in practice, and the following similar idea is more practical.
For those who don't mind using plastic, one could cut out the meshing of a plastic strainer into a round shape, then secure this on to the mouth of a jar with the cut-out lid. Cut the meshing the same size and shape as the mouth of the jar's outer circumference. Then cut out a large whole in the jar's lid that is smaller than the mesh. Screw the lid on the jar to hold the mesh in place. If you have mason jar, then all you need to do is cut a round mesh form a nylon strainer, and secure it with the mason jar lid.
The lid becomes the strainer which is placed on the jar to strain the kefir. It's then removed and washed.
You need to agitate the kefir just before each straining. This is to help reduce clumps of curd into a smooth, liquid consistency, making it easier to strain through the meshing.
There are also sprouting jars or just lids commercially available, with a similar meshing as in the photo, as par of the lid. They come in different mesh size, so you can purchase the size that works best for you. They are made to fit a mason jar, so if you already have the correct jar and lid, then all you need is the mesh. Some come in nylon and some are stainless steel mesh. I recommend the stainless steel brands. Google for sprouting lids.
Other systems that I've experimented with, and which with some adjustment have given reasonable results, is the use of a tea infuser. As the photo is self explanatory, there is little need to elaborate further.
However, the important matter of such a system is the infuser which holds the kefir grains, it must meet the requirement whereby it does not restrict the mother-culture to the point where it does not freely receive nutients. In this case, the original infuser on the left, which was rendered from a fine stainless steel mesh fashioned into a long cylinder. This is not suitable, for as explained in the photo, the mesh easily becomes blocked with curds as they form during the process of fermentation. This slows down the fermentation process quite considerably, and the surrounding milk takes a much longer time to culture, than if the grains were put in the jar as they are.
Removing the stainless steel mesh infuser, and replacing it with, in this case, a tubular nylon netting with a diamond shaped weave [holes], so the netting stretches with ease and is very flexible. As one can see, this type of netting provides kefir grains with what I refer to as an Organic Fit. The net does not become clogged with curd, because the holes of the net are large and the net stretches. In fact, a chop stick or a spoon can be put down into the net through the opening on the top, so that the kefir can be easily stirred, which assists the culture-process.
To make kefir, simply add milk to the glass jug, brew for the required time, and then simply pour off the finished kefir through the spout. Pour fresh milk through the opening on top of the lid to repeat the process. No need to wash or rinse the mug in between each batch. Cleaning the jug once a week should suffice, just to remove any sold curd that adheres to the inner walls. As milk is poured through the top hole, it rinses the grains as is passes through the net and over the grains.
The type of net used for the tea infuser above in actual size. Note the shape of the weave, it is diamond shaped. It readily flexes and does not constrict the kefir grains. This type of netting is found fashioned into body scrubs, which is made from a long tube of net, tied into a ball. It can also be used to make a pouch as in the hemp pouch method above, to hold either milk kefir-grains or sugar kefir-grains. However, I strongly suggest to be sure that the nylon material is Food Grade, for we do not want anything less, which can contaminate our kefir with carcinogens or other toxins. Unwanted compounds are common in most non-food grade plastics, especially since most of these are made in China. Laws or Codes of Practice are often overlooked, or not kept a close eye on, as we are beginning to learn with recent imports from China, including toxic milk sold in China itself very recently [Sept-Oct. 2008].
I have also used a hemp pouch as above, in place of a nylon net in the tea infuser, which also gave good results, producing wonderful kefir.
I've experimented with the type of tea infuser shown on the left, and this type of ceramic infuser to contain kefir grains, does not give good results. The reason should be quite obvious. The holes are too few, and the ceramic material is too thick.
In fact, even if the infuser contained many more holes, because the wall of the infuser is so thick, the holes are rendered long and cylindrical. Each hole becomes blocked with curd within a few hours of fermentation, which then starves the organisms of the contained kefir grains, because fresher milk can not reach the grains. Also, the organisms of the contained kefir grains are not able to be released into the surrounding milk to sufficiently culture kefir.
I purchased the infuser from a local Asian grocery store. I must state, it does work well for brewing herbal tea, as is it designed to do just that.
Before deciding to use any natural fibre-based material or utensil in your kefir making, or in fact, for any general cooking, I suggest first preparing the item with a simple process explained below. This includes any material used for making kefir pouches, bamboo strainers, cloth used for making kefir cheese etc. This system may help to remove or destroy any chemicals or toxins that may be present in natural fibre. Please read this [below] for instructions.
The two-step process explained below, may be used to remove chemical or toxic residues found in natural commercial fibres, including cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp or cane etc. These include unwanted compounds that may have been used or formed during growing, processing or storing the natural fibre, material or utensil. During my earlier research, I learned corn maize contaminated with aflatoxins or mycotoxins [toxins produced by mold contamination], cooking the maize in the traditional Native America Indian fashion with either wood ash or lime lye or a mixture of both for preparing massa [a maize dough for preparing traditional tortillas], the process destroyed those toxins in maize. Hence why I decided to incorporate a rendition of this method for use in cleaning utensils and natural fibres etc. Explained here is a two step system, for deactivating/extracting undesirable compounds with the use of--
1. a natural alkali.
2. organic acids and enzymes.
It is not imperative to perform both steps. You could just follow step 1; the lye wash. Lye solution is also an effective natural detergent for washing utensils clean. Excellent for chemical-free cleaning of any fresh vegetables, including legumes, to remove unwanted pesticides. Ash lye us also an excellent way of removing unwanted pets insects from freshly harvested fruits and vegetables such as aphids, caterpillars, snails, slugs and earwigs etc. Lye water will also kill and dislodge harmful bacteria that may be found on fresh vegetables. House floors and glassware are cleaned without leaving any streak marks. Wooden or other types of cutting boards are cleaned effectively also, removing odours left over from previous use. Wood ash is also the best thing for removing odours from chopping boards and jars tainted with the aroma of pickles, such as pickling jars e.g. In fact, I have yet found anything else that can remove odours from glass jars as well as scrubbing the jar with a small amount of wood ash.
1. Place the natural fibre or utensil in a pot and cover with a solution of wood ash lye. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring the material continuously with a spoon. Remove the material and rinse well with cold water.
2. Place the natural fibre utensil in a suitable pot, cover with 1/3 cup of non pasteurised vinegar to each 4 cups of water. Let sit at room temperature for 12 hours to 24 hours. Remove and rinse well in hot water. Or, bring to a slow boil and simmer for 1 minute then rinse utensil with cold water.
Wood-ash lye water is prepared by mixing fluffy gray wood-ash mixed with water. The ash must be prepared by burning natural and untreated wood. This is to say, wood which has not been painted, stained, or chemically treated in any way what so ever. The fluffy gray ash is first sieved to remove any pieces of charcoal. The sieved ash is added to about 4 to 5 parts hot or cold water. The mixture is stirred for a few minutes then left for 12 to 24 hours. After this the ash settles to the bottom of the container to form a sediment. A clear solution will form on top of the ash sediment. Pour off the clear solution, which is your wood ash lye water. Lye water has a slippery feel similar to soapy water. This solution is used as a liquid detergent. Ash lye needs to be diluted with hot water for use, similar to any liquid detergent. A stronger lye may be prepared by bringing 1 : 3 [ash to water by volume] to a boil and then letting it sit for 12 to 24 hours before pouring off the clear solution of lye water. Store the lye water in a separate container.
The partially spent ash that remains, still contains high amounts of potash alkali, which can be reused to make more lye water. Simply add more hot or cold water to the ash sediment, and let stand. The ash may be used again, over 3 to 5 cycles, or until the solution ceases to produce a slippery feel. Well spent ash may be composted, or sparsely scattered over the garden. Do no water plants directly with the ash lye water solution for it will burn plants! This is because ash-lye is very alkaline and caustic to plant roots if used concentrated. I mostly add a little kefir to the spent ash, to neutralize each other, so that the ash is neutralized from an alkaline state to a base, and the acidic kefir is neutralized from an acid to a base. This can then be safely poured around trees that are well mulched. To protect sensitive skin, one should wear gloves when handling ash or undiluted ash-lye water.
Wood-ash lye, also known as Potash lye or lye water, is an excellent natural detergent for washing virtually anything. Ash-lye is the predecessor of today's detergents. I always keep some wood ash lye lying around in a bucket covered with a lid. I use lye water for washing cooking utensils etc. This includes cheesecloth, kefir pouches, doilies, strainers, jars, dishes and glass utensils etc. I also use it for a body and hair wash. Using the actual spent ash found at the bottom of the ash-lye bucket makes a fantastic non-abrasive scrubber, including a fantastic tooth paste [see Dom's ToothSaving Paste web page]. The spent ash can remove and lift stains which many of today's commercial products leave behind, without the use of any harsh chemicals or abrasive compounds! Ash and ash lye or lye water is also a natural sterilizing agent, again, without toxic chemicals. Lye water is useful for washing cast iron pots, pans and woks, leaving a fine protective film of oil, without any chemical amalgamation that occurs when using a commercial detergent [which you should not use on any of these types of iron cookware, for harsh detergents remove the protective film that forms on the surface of a well sealed wok or iron skillet. Removing the protective film makes the iron wok or skillet rust, which we do not want].
To wash with ash lye water, add say about 1 cup of lye water to 4 litres or 1 gallon of hot water. Use this dilution for washing as you would wash with any other detergent. Then simply rinse what you've wash with clear water. Depending on concentration of the lye, will determine how much lye water is diluted with hot water. You can tell by the feel of the lye solution with your fingers, if it has a slippery feel, then it has the power to clean, and clean well it shall.
I find most Asian grocery stores stock lye water. The bottle of commercial lye on the left, is used for preparing certain Asian food-products, including tenderising fresh meat, Chinese moon cakes, for cooking rice and pastry, including dumplings. It can be used as baking powder substitute. It is also a wonderful basic liquid detergent to wash and sterilize utensils. I've found four different brands of lye water at Asian stores. Some brands are prepared with Sodium Carbonate while others contain Potassium Carbonate or both. Lye prepared with a Potassium Carbonate is best suited as a natural liquid detergent simply because potassium is considered a softer base compared to a sodium base lye. The ingredients should be printed on the label.
Such commercial lye water is concentrated, so the liquid must be handled with care and diluted accordingly for use. I find that 1 Tbs in 8-cups hot water in the kitchen basin is more than enough, and does a great job as a liquid detergent. This may be used to wash and sterilize cheese cloth, kefir pouches and bamboo strainers etc.
To sterilize and wash utensils in one action, add 1 Tbs commercial lye water to 4-cups hot water in a deep stainless steel pan [do not use aluminium or copper]. Bring to boil and stir utensil with a wooden ladle, or press down on the material with a hand potato masher. Remove and rinse utensil or material twice with hot water.
A final rinse with the addition of about 2 Tbs vinegar to 4 cups warm or hot water, followed by rinsing with water. This last step neutralizes any alkali left in the utensil, or material, and is a highly recommended practice.
I have to thank my late grandmother who passed away shortly after her 106 birthday [born on April 4,1899] for the recipe for this natural liquid detergent. [She saw 3 centuries!]. THANKS, NONNA MARIA! [A news clip of Nonna on her 105th birthday. Shall update with a similar article of her 106th birthday, when I find it again]
Nonna Maria passed on peacefully in her sleep 2 months after her 106th birthday. She was the oldest Italian-Ozzie in South Australia at the time of her passing on. She passed on an abundant amount of knowledge, as much of my early curious years were spent asking Nonna Maria, how she prepared foods, herbal concoctions, and healed common ailments and how other duties were practiced during her time, when electricity and other modern commodities were not available. She was always more than happy to oblige my many curiosities. By the way, one of her favourite beverages, her herbal brew, consisted of wild Marshmallow root, German Chamomile flowers, dry fig and fresh apple. The concoction was simmered for 5 to 10 minutes, strained and enjoyed warm. When she used to stay with our family, I often picked wild marshmallow from our garden for her concoction, which she prepared for the two of us on those occasions. I have an early photo of Nonna Maria somewhere, which I must add here. She appears like a wise Native American Indian Chief, she really does.
Cats, dogs and a variety of other creatures, practice their birthright when they intuitively chew on certain God-given herbs to self-medicate during times of need. We humans too have the same birthright and intuition and to be prescribed by the same healer within. Although, we must initially wake up and consult the doctor within; through proper practice through being well informed and well disciplined.
About Milk Kefir + Water Kefir | Making Milk Kefir & Water Kefir + Recipes with Kefir + Ash Lye Detergent | Kefir Cheese Making + Pizza + Bread made with Kefir
Kefirkraut + Culture Vegetables with Kefir Grains | Kefir Preserving Brine | Nutritional + Chemical Composition of Milk Kefir | Kefir FAQs
Seed, Nut + Soy Milk Recipes + Kefir, Yogurt + Viili made from these + Rejuvelac | Nutritional Value of Different Fresh Milk-Types | Culture-Foods of Asia
Kombucha + Vinegar Making | Cooking Tip for Healthier Food + Herbal Tea | Beeswax Utensils for Safer Brewing
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Edited April 20, 2016
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