A Natural Protective Agent for Safer Brewing
Information shared on this web page explains how to use beeswax to line, coat or seal utensils for use in preparing kefir, and for brewing in general. Melted beeswax can be used to line the meshing of metal or wooden strainers, coat the inner surface of jar lids and lining wooden utensils intended for stirring kefir. You can seal wooden boards for preparing non-mold varieties of kefir-cheeses. Beeswax can also be used to seal terra cotta, ceramic or stoneware crocks or plastic buckets. This natural method of sealing utensils is useful in many ways.
NOTE it is important that any beeswax used for sealing is of good quality obtained from a reputable source. Paraffin wax or candle wax MUST NOT be used in place of beeswax!
| Lining sieves with beeswax | Lining plastic and metal lids | Sealing wooden boards and spoons |
| Treating cloth with beeswax | Sealing terra cotta, stoneware or ceramic crocks + plastic containers |
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How this can help
Forms a protective barrier between the kefir grains and the metal meshing of metal strainers [as a chemical barrier and an electrical insulator].
Keeps the strainer reasonably sterile due to the bacteriostatic property of beeswax.
Ease in cleaning the strainer; by simply running cold to warm water over the strainer [hot water softens or melts beeswax, so plain cold or warm water without any detergent is best to use = less energy = less pollution = less cost].
How to line or coat metal sieves with beeswax
Heat the metal meshing of the sieve either with an electric hot air gun, or by holding the strainer high over a naked gas flame. Rub a small block of beeswax over the heated mesh. While rubbing, the heated meshing will melt amounts of beeswax onto the meshing itself. Re-heat the meshing with the hot air gun or by holding the strainer high over a naked flame, to further melt the beeswax and to force an even layer of wax over the surface of the mesh. Dip a piece of cotton in some melted beeswax, then smear the meshing with the waxed-cotton material. A rubbing or wiping action should ensure a thin layer of beeswax should cover the entire surface of the mesh, doing so on both sides of the sieve.
Some strainers have an opening where the mesh is fixed to the outer rim of the strainer. In this case, the opened space is quite difficult to keep clean, and amounts of kefir and other food particles can easily become entrapped in the crevice or channel. Food particles entrapped within the outer rim of such strainers, can propagate unwanted weed micro-organisms. I find that such areas can easily be plugged shut, by hand-forcing small amounts of warm, softened beeswax into the opening. This will seal the area, and reinforce the strainer making it a bit stronger.
Form a protective non-reactive chemical-barrier between any plastic or metal lids, which have a rubber inner lining that perishes.
Prevents inner surface of metal lids from oxidizing [rusting].
Reduces the risk of weed micro-organisms from propagating within the lid, due to the bacteriostatic property of beeswax.
Can increase sealing capacity of lids. This is favourable for preparing water-kefir, due to the brew retaining carbon dioxide to produce a sufficient amount of carbonation, instead of the gas escaping through the lid, due to an insufficient seal.
Jar lids are easily lined with a layer of beeswax. Although the photos below demonstrates a plastic lid, the same treatment can be used for lids made from metal.
Add about 1cm [1/2 inch] of water in a suitable pan.
Float the lid in the hot water with inner lid facing up.
Heat the water to a slow boil.
Pour melted beeswax into the lid and then move the lid around in the hot water bath with a pair of salad fingers, to force an even layer of melted beeswax over the entire surface of the lid.
Remove the lid from the hot water bath, and place it on a cold surface to set the beeswax as it cools. That's it!
Note the brown speckles in the beeswax lined lids is propolis, a natural antibiotic that bees make and use in their beehive making. The beeswax in this case was collected from a wild beehive which swarmed in our garden and settled in a large bin. The bees entered through a small hole in the lid, and created a wonderful honeycomb hanging down from underneath the lid, into the bin, in a beautiful arrangement.
One hot day during a heat wave, the wild honey comb melted from the lid, and fell down to the bottom of the bin. The bees left the hive and collected all the honey and took it to their new hive. I kept the propolis with the beeswax that they left behind. It was lovely to watch them do their work. Thanx for the free honeycomb, buizy-buzzy guys!
Wooden utensil used for handling kefir grains, or for stiring kefir can be treated with beeswax. This includes sealing wooden boards used for drying cheese such as kefir-cheese can be treated with beeswax. This is especially useful when preparing kefir-cheese not intended to be cultured with mold.
Placing the wooden utensil [such as pine wood cheese-drying boards, wooden spoons or bamboo steamers used as a cheese form] in an hot oven preheated to 100°C [210° F] for 20 minutes. Remove the utensil and then smear or rub beeswax over the entire surface of the wooden utensil. The waxed wooden utensil may be passed over a naked flame, or heated with an electric hot air-gun or a hair-dryer set to high heat, to ensure that an even layer of beeswax is melted over the entire surface of the utensil. Let utensil cool to room temperature to set the beeswax.
To add to the land of milk and honey and beeswax, directions for treating cloth with beeswax is explained next. This is useful for individuals who use cloth to cover their kefir-making jars. Cotton, linen, silks or rayon material, including nylon [the material used for curtains e.g.] can be treated with beeswax.
seal the material so less to no air, dust, microbes and mold spores find their way into the kefir
waterproof the material.
render the material bacteriostatic and fungi-static [prevents the growth of bacteria, yeasts and mold on the material itself]
help to reduce chemical reactions between certain nylon material and the acidic component of kefir
reduce energy cost and eliminates the use of detergent [simply wash the waxed cloth with warm or cold water]
How to treat natural fibres [including nylon fibres or materials] with beeswax
On a suitable surface that can withstand heat, place down a rectangular sheet of brown paper. Place another rectangular sheet of aluminium foil to match and mate the brown paper, edge for edge. Fold in half to make a square, then open and lay flat once again, with foil facing upward [this it to create a mid line seam as a reference point].
Place the material intended to be treated with beeswax, on one side of the mid line [in the middle of the square]. Evenly distribute a small amount of beeswax shavings over the material and then fold the paper-foil over to sandwich the material. Pass a hot iron [set to medium] over the brown paper to distribute an even layer of melting beeswax over the entire area of the material, which is sandwiched between the brown paper-foil.
Quickly open the brown paper-foil while still hot from ironing, and quickly remove the wax treated material. That's it! You now have beeswax treated material. You can place the waxed material over your kefir jar, and secure it in place with an elastic rubber band, or tie with string.
It may be wise to seal Stoneware, or non-glazed or glazed terra cotta pots including ceramic crocks with beeswax. This includes certain types of plastic containers intended for use in fermentation. Terra cotta pots may contain amounts of heavy metals due to contaminated clay. This was the case in Mexico, where clay with high levels of lead fashioned into crocks were discovered. Lining the inside surface of crocks or pots with beeswax ensures that the inner surface of the utensil is sealed and safe for brewing. This prevents undesirable compounds from leaching into the kefir, kefirkraut including home made vinegar and other ferments of interest.
The pot or containers needs to be heated sufficiently in order to effectively melt beeswax onto the inner surface of the pot or crock or bucket [in the case of plastic]. If the walls are cold, then the beeswax will not penetrate the surface, and shall easily peel away when it cools.
Place any terra cotta, stoneware or ceramic pot in a hot oven set to 120°C [230°F] for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven with protective mittens, and then rub a piece of beeswax over the inside wall of the pot, including the bottom. Add sufficient amounts of beeswax so that it can penetrate the surface as it melts. Turn the pot around to force an even layer of melted beeswax over the entire surface as the pot cools to room temperature. You should be left with a firm coating of beeswax over the entire inner surface of the utensil.
If the pot is too large to fit in an oven, the inside surface may be heated with an electric hot air-gun, or a hair dryer that produces sufficient heat, while slowly turning the pot until the entire inner surface is sufficiently heated. Once heated, rub a piece of beeswax onto the hot surface of the pot, to form an even layer of melted beeswax, as explained above. A stream of hot air from the hot air-gun or hair dryer may be used to guide the melted beeswax over areas where it is needed or lacking. The pot may need to be slowly turned while placed on its side as it cools, to ensure an even layer of beeswax remains over the surface of the pot untill the beeswax sets.
When lining plastic utensils such as buckets, the same process is used as explained above, using a hair-dryer only. This is because a hot air-gun might be too hot, which will burn the plastic and release toxic chemicals that will amalgamate with the beeswax. This [overheating] must be avoided at all cost.
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