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For the sharing of practical knowledge sake, recipes and health related suggestions are scattered among the knowledge undergrowth below. A good portion of advice offered here, is mostly anecdotal; the fruit of personal experience of myself and other individuals from around the world.
I shall commence here by suggesting some basics but important tips applicable to culturing kefir and culturing foods in general.
Keep all utensils clean. Wash utensils with hot water and detergent followed by rinsing with water. There is no need to sterilise fresh good quality ingredients or utensils in regards to culturing kefir with kefir grains.
Use freshest best quality available raw ingredients.
Practice with patience when making significant change in the culture process or routine. This includes if switching between different milk types, volume changes of media or variations in temperature due to change in weather. Milk kefir-grains are quite resilient more so than water kefir-grains and adaptable to most change, but the organisms of kefir grains do need time to adapt to media change or culture-conditions.
The art of culturing traditional kefir is actually as simple as 1, 2, 3. However, it may become as complex as advanced math equations. What I mean by this is, just how far one wishes to take the culture-art is up to the individual. Needless to say that this is determined by personal preference and the nature of the individual, and I have tried my best to cater for all parties here. As an example of sorts is Fractal Geometry of the Mandelbrot set or fractals [order within chaos], based on a simple iterated math equation used to crunch complex numbers to produce infinite, colourful results at any given point on a computer. The point being that the deeper we delve into the subject the more questions arise, branching out exponentially in all directions.
Keeping things as basic and as simple as possible is advantageous.
If a visitor has had a Humourglandectomy [the surgical removal of the humour gland], then be forewarned that there is stale humour with big teeth lurking among this web page. Such matters are typed in red for your convenience. So let's move on so I can share my kefir-grains for-brains with you, shall we?!
Answers provided on this gray table-top are for quick reference. Click on actual FAQ for full details
CULTURING TRADITIONAL MILK-KEFIR
1] How much milk do I use with my kefir grains? A ratio of 1 : 10 grains-to-milk by volume is generally suitable e.g., 1/4 cup or 2 heaped Tbs kefir grains to 2.5 cups fresh milk.Milk volume including making kefir in general, is not a precise science, so experiment to find what works best for you.
2] How much can I fill the kefir-making jar? Best not to fill any vessel more than 2/3 ...
3] Fermentation time and the quality of kefir Between 1 to 2 days. Depends on personal taste and what one wishes to achieve, including culture-activity ...
4] What temperature do I need to culture kefir? Do I need an incubator? Between 18º - 28ºC [65º - 82ºF] is good. 22ºC [71º F] is optimal. Yogurt making Incubator should never be used, but a warm spot is advisable if room temperature falls below say 16ºC [60º F].
5] When is my kefir ready for straining? When thickish and soured to your liking. Photo shows kefir-curds when kefir is ready ...
6] Do I need to strain all the kefir before adding fresh milk for the following batch? Adding about 1/4 of previous batch of kefir to next batch of fresh milk is OK, only if previous milk was fresh as. Most people use fresh milk, without any amount of previous kefir added.
7] What types of dairy milk is best for kefir? + vitamin K for toddlers All types of dairy milk are acceptable. But it's give and take a little...
8] What about the growth-rate of milk-kefir and water kefir-grains? Increasing growth of kefir grains, including growth rate...
9] Difficulty in straining milk kefir. It takes forever, or mostly clear whey comes through Two animations demonstrating how to strain kefir.
NON DAIRY KEFIR
10] What type of soy milk may I use for culturing a soy milk kefir? Info regarding soy milk produced from soy isolates. Includes tips for culturing soy milk kefir.
11] Do I need to add anything to Soy or Nut & Seed milk for making non-dairy milk kefir? Includes tips for culturing non-dairy milk kefir.
12] What types of fruit juice can or can't I use when making non-dairy milk kefir or water kefir? Includes tips for culturing coconut milk kefir
13] Can I use a metal strainer to strain my kefir, what can I use? You can safety use a strainer with stainless steel mesh ...
14] I wish to begin increasing milk for kefir production. What's the best way? Increase over 1 batch or over alternate batches.
15] Can I squeeze or press on the grains to try expressing more kefir during straining? This will inadvertently damage the grains. BUT please read on..
16] I made a kefir pouch but it keeps afloat out of the milk! Best not to use a pouch if the material isn't suitable, go nude instead...
17] Do I need to rinse my grains or fast my grains in water... what’s best? Under most conditions rinsing or fasting is not essential. Although ...
18] What can I use the polysaccharide rich kefir-grain soaking-water [Kefiraride] or kefir-whey for? Tips & recipes included
19] Do I need to sterilise utensils and ingredients? Washing utensils with hot water and detergent should suffice. Pasteurise any milk suspected to be contaminated.
20] Why is my kefir and or my kefir grains slimy? Let's take a look-see-why ...
21] Have there ever been cases of health problems due to consuming kefir? What should I watch out for? Please read this section fully.
22] What about using plastic utensils? I don't intend using plastic products in my kefir-making-ritual, so these are my options..
24] My grains are floating in the milk, what's going on? This is normal for healthy, propagable kefir grains.
25] How can one lose or kill kefir grains? Self explanatory picture of non propagable kefir grains; explains reasons for the outcome.
26] I need to take a break from kefir because I have too much accumulated, or I am going away what do I do with my grains? Find a kefir-baby-sitter. Or...
27] Can I mix non-dairy and dairy-milk together to prepare kefir? Mostly yes.
28] I want to culture alternative kefir probiotic goodies e.g., Kefirkraut, non-dairy milk kefir and Kefir d'erba medica etc. Tips provided.
29] Separation of milk-kefir into a thick layer of white curd This is commonly due to over fermentation, but it can be adjusted ...
30] How much kefir can I drink, can I drink it every day and is there a limit? This is a case-by-case matter. Due to it high digestibility and nutritional value, it allows the intake of large quantities without intestinal disturbance, but to the contrary can be beneficial. 1 to 4 cups daily is the usual amount most folks enjoy, including taking regular short breaks from consuming any kefir.
31] I wish to make a well carbonated milk-kefir what to do? Take a cruise in the Space-Station-Kefir with Cosmonaughty Smellydomsky.
32] Is it OK to agitate mIlk kefir or water kefir during fermentation? Yes, indeed you should. Kefir grains also travel well, doing the rock n' roll as you trot along your merry-go-round way.
33] How can I make a milder tasting kefir Too lengthy to explain in shorts, so I'll just slip into my long trousers before I move on...
34] Are Tibetan Mushrooms and Snow Lotus the same culture as Kefir grains? Yes, including Snow Lotus, Yogurt Plant et al. Research included.
35] Can kefir grains be eaten or used in cooking? Yes! Recipes including Kefir-grain ice-sickle, Kefiran-yogurt and a Yorkshire curd tart or cheese cake. Includes a self-explanatory picture of Kefir grain sourdough bread.
36] What are the Probiotic or other benefits between traditional milk-kefir and water-kefir Although to some extent the two culture products are similar, on the other hand quite unique to each other regarding possible health promoting benefits. Including nutritional value. Research regarding interferon-beta secretion, the viral and possibly cancer fighting "glycoprotein", regarding milk kefir.
37] How long before reconstituted dry kefir-grains begin to grow, and how can I tell? Propagation should commence within 12 weeks at most. Propagation begins when the grains become white and have a slimy feel, and there is growth increase, obviously ...
38] Can I consume the initial batches of milk or water kefir, when reconstituting [reactivating] dry kefir grains? This is not recommended ...
38a] Troubleshooting milk kefir-grains that produce kefir with an unappealing flavour or aroma An easy effective remedy is to cover the grains with good quality culture milk such as commercial or homemade plain yogurt or buttermilk and let stand for 12 to 24 hours before adding fresh milk for making kefir ...
39] Is cold milk straight from the fridge OK to prepare kefir? or does the milk need to be warm? Cold milk is fine.
Life begins at 40] What are the advantages of dry milk kefir-grains? Please follow link and read on ...
41] Flowers of Kefir. A furry white or light brown film found on the surface of milk kefir And what's wrong with that?! Let's see if I can help ...
42] What's the answer to life? You tell me!
43] Can I make a large volume of kefir with only a few kefir grains? For either milk kefir, or water kefir, try this ...
44] My milk kefir-grains are growing flat or like a deflated rubber balloon. Are they damaged? Really! Then you have what some consider to be rare grains ... NOT!
45] How can I protect my glass fermentation jars from accidental breakage? Put 2 or 3 elastic rubber bands around each jar, to cushion the jars and prevent breakage when being hit by another jar or utensil ...
46] Can honey be used for water kefir instead of sugar? I'm concerned about the sugar No. Sugary kefir grains [SKG] require sucrose or cane sugar to grow. But some folks find the use of young coconut water to be of good value instead of using sugar. If your SKG grow well like mine do, then there should be no concern at all about sugar content, because growing SKG remove a very large quantity of sugar from the beverage. Many folks have actually lost weight by simply introducing water kefir in their diet.
FURTHER INFORMATION WITH LINKS TO DEDICATED WEBPAGES
How to prepare kefir grains to send by mail Details explaining how to prepare milk kefir-grains and water kefir-grains for the purpose of sharing and sending by regular mail.
What is the nutritional value between different fresh milk types? Nutritional values of fresh cow's, goat, buffalo, human and soy milk.
Microbial, Nutritional and Chemical Composition of Kefir made from Full-Cream Cow's milk Table of contents with appropriate information.
If this site is of some value to you, please support the work-of-love-for-life by making a donation with PayPal. If you do not have paypal, This will ensure that this web site remains available without those annoying commercial banners. The author has a young family to feed, and as he learns new things regarding benefits of kefir and others for his family, he shall be encouraged to share that knowledge here, as the case has been thus far. Thank for your support in advance.
Before we move on, have fresh milk and kefir grains close at hand and be ready-armed for Chi-Energy enhancement through shouting like a martial art expert distracting a fatal blow-fly for the preservation of selfless acts.
The amount of fresh milk added to kefir grains to prepare kefir, is quite flexible. But it can be determined by-Temperature [season]-- less milk may be used under cooler conditions, for the culture is less active.The activity of your kefir grains at any given point [culture activity of kefir grains can vary and is adjustable].The type of kefir you wish to produce [mild, slightly sour, extra sour. Lesser lactose with longer fermentation].
Culturing at temperatures ranging between 20ºC to 28ºC [64ºF – 82ºF], a grain-to-milk ratio by part or by volume of 1 : 10 and up to 1 : 60 is achievable. In cool conditions or temperatures below 18ºC, ratios between 1 : 10 to 1 : 5 is usually achievable. Kefir prepared with less milk produces more viscosity with greater counts of yeast and acetic acid [vinegar producing] bacteria, less lactose and a sourer kefir. On the other hand, using more milk [less culture] produces less viscosity with greater counts of lactic acid bacteria, less sourness with better grain growth.
Ratios of 1 : 3 and as high as 1 : 60 grain-to-milk by volume can be implemented in the home production of traditional kefir. Kefir grains are quite versatile and reasonably adaptable. NOTE It's best not to exposed kefir grains to temperatures greater than 30ºC [86ºF].
In the photo, a grain-to-milk ratio of 1 : 7 by volume produces kefir with good flavour and consistency within 24 hours fermentation in a moderate climate.
It's a good idea to mark the outer wall of the fermenting container with a permanent marker, to indicate the level of kefir grains put in the container, before adding any milk [as seen in photo on the left]. After preparing a few batches of kefir, check the volume of kefir grains against the mark, and remove any grains that go above the mark.
Any removed kefir grains are your spare or excess grains. You can use spare grains to prepare alternative types of kefir, such as non-dairy milk kefir, or kefirkraut. This is done if you intend making the same amount of kefir each time. However, if you wish to increase production, then do not remove any grains from the batch yet, but instead, increase the amount of milk over a few batches as the grains increase. When you are satisfied with the volume of kefir you are producing per batch, then make a mark on the jar as above and commence removing amounts of grains as they increase past the mark.
With a little experience you will soon learn that kefir grains can be encouraged to culture kefir to your liking pretty well with as much milk as you wish.
This photo shows how much grains growth occurred over 3 batches of kefir. The amount of grains that have increased are ready to be removed. I encourage folks t ingest spare kefir grains, for they are very beneficial for health, and a fantastic probiotic HIT. See FAQ 35 for tips on eating kefir grains.
Also see FAQ 45 for tips using elastic rubber bands for checking grain-growth and for added protection against accidental breakage of glassware.
If these tips helped ... shout Eureka! If not, then chin up folks, and don't give up but keep persevering for the Holy Grain Ratio. While you're there you may want to make a donation to the kefir-cause.
2] HOW MUCH CAN I FILL THE KEFIR-MAKING JAR?
Kefir fermenting jars for both milk kefir and water kefir are best not filled more than 2/3 to 3/4 full, especially if brewing in airtight jars when wanting to produce a fizzy kefir e.g. Due to yeast activity, kefir produces amounts of Carbon dioxide [CO2], which produces pressure in an airtight container. This has the potential to cause the lid of the jar to pop-off with force, or the jar may explode. Even when fixing a loosely fitted lid on the jar so that any pressure can escape during the culture-cycle, filling the jar more than 2/3 may cause milk-kefir to overflow during the last part of the culture-cycle. This is because CO2 is retained within the kefir itself, increasing the overall volume of liquid in the jar.
Also consider the possibility for the kefir to overflow after releasing an airtight lid. This occurs because dissolved CO2 in the media seeds on the tinny curds of milk-kefir, producing pressure while releasing millions of gas bubbles, the process of which is similar to opening a cola drink bottle, which has been shaken before unscrewing the lid. Similar in this case, kefir will overflow out the jar, causing a mess.
If this answers your questions .... then shout Eureka! now .... shout it 2, 3 even 5 times to be sure to be shure to be shore, two be shaw too.
3] FERMENTATION TIME and QUALITY OF KEFIR
Generally, the time needed for kefir grains to complete fermentation can be determined by--Microbial/culture activity of your kefir grains.Grain-to-milk [or other media] ratio.Temperature.How much lactose [carbohydrate] one intends to reduce in their kefir [longer fermentation = less lactose].Type of kefir you want to prepare.
Kefir cultured with established kefir grains should be ready to strain at around 24 hours [fermented at moderate room temperature]. However, kefir can be fermented for shorter or longer periods, depending on how you prefer your kefir. For best results regarding optimum quality of your kefir, strain not too long after the milk has thickened and has a moderate sour taste [or soured to your liking], which should give good viscosity and a creamy texture. For the technical minded, pH 4.5 indicates that it's time to strain. Over fermentation will result even though your kefir remains stable at about pH 4.5, which shall give variable results if you strain let's say 5 hours after pH 4.5 is attained. Because of over fermentation, quite often and for most batches of kefir grains, a thin watery kefir with possibly a gritty mouth feel due to unfavourable curd texture formation may result. This is often the case during change of season, such as autumn and spring, when the culture is reacting to varying temperatures.
Sourness increases while possibly texture and consistency degrades the longer kefir is left to ferment with the grains. But this may not always be so, for there are many factors to consider. Milk quality has much to do with this, where milk with lots of organisms already present, will give a different result compared to say, ultra heat treated milk [long life milk, that does not need to be refrigerated until the carton is opened], for such milk is sterile when first poured out of the carton.
NOTES For individuals interested in reducing lactose levels, kefir is best cultured for 24 hours with the grains, and the strained liquid-kefir is then ripened in a separate container for some days before enjoying the beverage. Please read this section at Dom's kefir-making in-site, which explains how to reduce lactose levels.
Now, please, shout Eureka! or, risk your smelly shoes being taken awhey from who nose what, when and where are your socks.
4] WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD I MAKE KEFIR AND DO I NEED AN INCUBATOR?
The optimal temperature for milk-kefir and water-kefir is 22ºC or 71ºF.
In a moderate to warm climate, kefir is cultured at room temperature. If room temperature reaches below about 16ºC [61º F], then it's probably best that the kefir is kept at a warmer temperature during fermentation. This is not 100% essential but anything below about 16ºC means that the kefir will take longer to complete. You may also find that going from a high to lower temperature will result in a thinner kefir. Generally, kefir can be cultured at extreme temperatures, ranging between 4ºC to 30ºC [39ºF - 86 ºF]. The latter temperature figure should only be maintained over a short period, lasting no longer than 4 to 5 batches. Otherwise if this temperature or above is maintained over extensive batches, the grains will degrade and begin to show signs of no growth or become mushy and virtually disintegrate.
The original folks of Caucasus cultured kefir in goatskin leather bags. During extreme cold conditions, the bag was placed in the sun when it was available during the day or hung near a fireplace. I believe that the freshly obtained milk was relatively warm when added to the grains in the leather bag, and such bags retain warmth for some time. So keeping the bag in the sun or near a fireplace, would keep the milk at around 22ºC. The best kefir is thus produced at around that temperature because the organisms of kefir grains have evolved at that temperature over many centuries.
NOTES The colder the temperature the longer it takes to ferment while kefir cultures more readily under warmer conditions. Also, kefir cultured at low temperatures for a length of time, inhibits or slows down the growth of certain strains of organisms over other strains. As an example, acetic acid bacteria proliferate under colder conditions over lactic acid bacteria. Certain strains of organisms may be reduced in numbers from the grain's microflora. Fermenting above 40ºC [104ºF] for longer than a few days, will have an adverse effect on the grain's growth factor. This is due to inhibition of enzyme activity of organisms at that temperature and beyond.
In a tropical climate, kefir grains may suffer and not increase very well due to excessive heat. With temperatures above 28ºC [82ºF], it is advisable to culture your kefir in the fridge during the day, and then transfer the container to room temperature in the evening to set the kefir overnight, making it ready for morning straining. Another idea is to use an icebox, putting an ice pack in the icebox with the fermenting jar of kefir. Use 2 ice packs, keeping one in the freezer while the other is kept in the icebox, then alternate the ice packs to freeze the thawed pack.
I find that during extensive hot spells during our hot dry summers here is South Australia, after a given period, the overall size per each grain is reduced in size. The grains self-propagate or self-seed as smaller bodies over a short period, and the texture of each grain becomes soft or slimy and mushy. The grains lose the more firm rubbery texture that they have when cultured in cooler conditions during winter. However, this doesn't seem to cause any problem for the mother-culture, if the temperature is maintained below 28ºC [82ºF]. As cooler conditions arrive, the grains should grow larger with a firm rubbery texture.
You know what to do next .... that was excellent! However, although it sounded more like a squawk than a shout, it's quite acceptable for the time being now. So not only are you beautiful you are also fortunate.
5] WHEN IS MY KEFIR READY FOR STRAINING?
This question shall be answered but ONLY if you shout Eureka! But you must face the screen at the correct angle and make sure you are nice and you are also relaxed, sitting with good posture and breathing nice and easy. Thank you. Did I mention you need to have a pulse, too? You can check for a pulse now.
The amount of coagulation or thickening and by taste-testing the kefir for sourness, can determine when kefir is ready, and ready to your liking. Coagulation [separation of a liquid and thicker white curds] can vary in appearance and quality due to the different types of milk available. The nature of the grains themselves have a bearing in the latter. Temperature, season and other factors also need to be considered, including the ratio of grains-to-milk by volume [see FAQ 1]. Generally, kefir is ready to be strained when it has thickened with a moderate sour taste [depending on your preference, or how sour you like it to be].
The last area to complete fermentation is at the bottom of the container. If fresh milk is found in this area, where it is still thinner than the top portion, then let ferment longer [While you're there, gently rock the jar for a few seconds of stir with a clean spoon to help inoculate this area of milk]. You can tell if this bottom area is kefirized, by moving the jar around. If the kefir isn't ready yet, portions of milk at the bottom of the jar will move about as fresh milk. Whereas a set kefir will be coagulated right through. All areas should contain coagulated milk, seen as tinny curds among portions or pocket or layers of a clear liquid [whey].Until one gains some experience in the process of kefir-making, it may be difficult to distinguish on visual appearance, between fresh milk or coagulated kefir-curd.
That is why it's a good idea to use a clear glass jar to culture kefir, so one can clearly observe what's happening to the milk or to the kefir grains throughout the culture-cycle. Within a few batches, one should gain enough confidence to conclude just how simple and flexible the culture-art of traditional kefir-making really is.
Click on either picture for larger view
Kefir with tiny curds and whey forming as delta rivers when poured in a glass cup. At this point, kefir has a moderate sour taste. Further brewing will increase sourness. Although a sourer kefir may render the product with a gritty mouth feel during spring or autumn. The reason being, a cooler night temperature followed by a warmer day temperatures may cook [a cheese making term] the acidic curds rendering the kefir with a gritty texture. Over-fermentation may have a potential to reduce creaminess, rendering the kefir watery. But this may not always be the case.
These two jars contain kefir cultured for 24 hours and 48 hours. The container on the right has not been agitated during the culture-cycle. The 24 hour kefir is nice and creamy, easily strainable and has less sourness in comparison to the 48 hour batch. Note the relatively high bubble content produced and retained within the thick white curd of the 48 hour brew. The top section is where all the grains are; floating and entrapped amongst a thick, white layer of kefir-curds. This thick curd in fact is almost a pure kefir cheese! The clear solution at the bottom of the jar is kefir-whey; a sour whey. This is rich in sulfur-containing amino acids [cysteine, methionine], soluble vitamins and minerals compared to the thick, white casein [curd].
Another point to consider is to agitate the kefir by rocking the jar or stirring the kefir a few times during the culture-cycle, after 8 hours of fermentation. This aids the culture-process and may also increase viscosity of the kefir. Stirring should certainly be done just before straining. Please see FAQ 32 for details regarding benefits of agitating kefir during fermentation.
Before sitting at a table with dirty dishes ... shout I LOVE KEFIR out of a pair of socks. It's recommendable that the socks are first dipped in kefir to increase the effect. Then wear the socks on your feet, and do the tango across the kitchen floor, with your kefir grains sitting in a jar of milk as your dance partner. This should prevent Tinea from budding in and spoiling your kefir dance. OH yes, for a real kefir dance purchase a copy of my music CD, Music For-Life especially for the song, Let's say Kefir!
It is not necessary to strain all the kefir, a small amount may be left and included in the following batch. The only exception is if one is not sure how fresh the milk was in preparing the previous batch. If deciding to include amounts of kefir from a previous batch, it is important to make sure that the previous batch was prepared with fresh milk, and not milk that was close to its Use By date.
I find when leaving a small amount of previous kefir [about 1/4], and topping up with more fresh milk for a new batch, usually prepares quite a nice kefir, with extra fizz. I also notice that the grains grow more efficiently. This is possibly due to small amounts of alcohol present, which the encapsulated lactic acid bacteria L. kefiranofaciens depend on to synthesize kefiran under anaerobic conditions. Leaving some previous kefir in the following batch, also speeds up fermentation, and acts as a buffer, by lowering the pH of fresh milk to about pH 5. This pH value inhibits unwanted organisms right off the mark.
Now, shout Eureka! to prevent d "k" from turning upside down to "y" to form in Eureya.
Kefir may be made from any dairy milk-type, such as cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, camel, including mare's milk. There are many choices of milk.
UHT3* [Ultra Heat Treated or Long Life Milk]
Whole milk or full cream milk, low fat, skim milk, and nonfat4
Reconstituted Dry Milk Powder5
Non-dairy milk6 [With some adjustment to the medium and culture process, there is the option for coconut, rice, oat, soy and Seed & Nut milk etc.]
Although I personally prefer culturing fresh, raw, whole Bio dynamic or Organic Certified [if commercial] goat or cow's milk in that preferential order. But the best kefir is prepared from milk obtained from milking your own milking animal used directly after milking! My wife's breast milk e.g., produced an absolutely delish kefir--- Ouch! What was the slap across the ears for, Sandra?!
[With jokes aside, our daughter had her first amounts of kefir on day 2 of her life, which I prepared from Sandra's breast milk. This was a means of introducing organisms in her GI tract, which I feel can help to better prime the immune system. I also included the natto spores, Bacillus subtilis var. natto to synthesize vitamin K in her gut. Today, a new born has a choice to have vitamin K either as drops or given as intrusive, painful injections with the first week or so of birth. The reason being that toddlers are not exposed to dirt organisms such as bacillus species, which synthesize vitamin K in the gut and assists in blood to clot so the child does not bleed excessively to the point of death if it got a cut [or was given an injection or medical care involving intrusive procedures]. M\modern day toddlers are kept in a too sterile environment for their own good. For goodness sake, the same hand that keeps the child's environment clean, in the long run is the same hand that is also harming the child]
1. Unpasteurised milk must be fresh and of highest standard and quality.
2. Most individuals use pasteurised milk due to availability and affordability. The sale of raw, unpasteurised milk is illegal in many countries or states of certain countries. When available, commercial unpasteurised milk is usually too expensive to make it feasible to use on a daily basis. In such cases it is OK to use a good quality commercial milk in between.
3. Certain individuals have observed that in some cases, UHT [Ultra Heat Treated, or Long Life] milk may not produce a favourable kefir. However, this may be due to other factors other than the milk itself. Because UHT milk is sterile in the carton, one may find that a nice creamy kefir is produced each time, where a watery kefir was produced with other forms of milk. This is due to only the organisms of kefir grains being responsible for fermentation, and not those found in other milk types that already contain a microflora of some type.
4. Non fat milk contains little to no fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A, D, E and K. Commercial non-fat milk is usually fortified to include an artificial form of vitamins A and D, except for possibly vitamin E, which may be the natural form.
5. Although the benefits of using reconstituted dry milk powder may be similar to using fresh milk, the kefir is likely to turn out thin or watery when using reconstituted dry milk powder. But this mostly depends on the nature of the kefir grains. My grains produce a wonderful kefir with dry milk powder.
6. Non-dairy milk kefir [e.g., soy milk] may produce inconsistencies or render the grains non propagable [never grow again], if the media does not contain dairy milk. Dairy-milk is the native medium for kefir grains, so optimal results for the actual kefir grains are achieved when using dairy-milk. A non-dairy milk may be mixed with equal portions of dairy milk, with improved results, ensuring that the growth-factor of kefir grains remains intact. Research has shown that kefir grains cultured solely in soymilk, the grains grow much slower and smaller than when used in dairy milk. Soymilk kefir was found to have higher counts of lactic acid bacteria than dairy milk kefir, while dairy milk contained greater numbers of yeast cells [Je-Ruei Lui et al. 2000]. The powerful antioxidant of kefir is also found in soy milk and rice milk kefir.
* The lack of oxygen in heat treated milk [pasteurised or ultra heat treated] stimulates culture-growth. The denatured amino acid profile due to heat treatment has shown to culture a creamier kefir. However heat treatment reduces the content of heat sensitive vitamins, vitamin B1 [thiamin], B2 [niacin], Biotin, Pantothenic acid, B6, B9 [folic acid] and B12. Vitamin loss depends on heating process and length of pasteurisation and temperature. On the other hand, heat treated milk before fermentation has higher digestible protein after fermentation.
Recipes for preparing Seed & Nut milk and Soy milk including methods for culturing kefir from such milk-types can be found at my non-dairy milk web page.
Je-Ruei Lui, Chin-Wen Lin. Food Microbiology and Safety. Journal of Food Science. ; 65:716-719
Don't anticipate the premature evacuation of Eureka from leaving your vocal cords! Please wait until you get there first, or, the cows come home first or which ever goat comes last but not the least one last first [And you thought you were having a terrible kefir moment!]
8] WHAT ABOUT THE GROWTH-RATE OF MILK AND WATER KEFIR-GRAINS?
Kefir Grain Biomass [Biological mass] increase. The growth-rate of milk kefir-grains is dependent on many factors. Generally, milk kefir-grains seem to grow best when--
The grains are not rinsed with water between each milk change.
Using fresh certified organic raw milk [possibly due to Certified Organic milk does not contain antibiotics as do most commercial milk types].
Optimal temperature of 22ºC or 77ºF.
Using milk ratios between 1 : 30 to 1 : 50 [grains-to-milk by volume].
Preventing the pH from becoming too low or too acidic [no less than pH 4.5] over extended periods.
Preventing over-fermentation by fermenting no longer than 1 day in the same milk.
Straining only 3/4 of the kefir i.e. leaving amounts of previous kefir in the following batch [possibly due to the presence of alcohol, which is required for kefiran synthesis by kefiran-producing encapsulated organisms].
Agitating the fermenting vessel frequently during fermentation [provides fresh nutrients for the microorganisms of the grains].
Note, when continuously using small milk-volumes, e.g. 5 parts milk or less to 1 part grains by volume, and cultured for longer than 1 day, this produces an extra sour kefir. Under such conditions, milk kefir grain's growth-rate is retarded due to the microorganisms being subjected to a excessively low pH value [too acidic], and lack of nutrients, including culture by-products.
Milk kefir-Grain Growth
Propagable [healthy and growing] milk kefir-grains may increase by about 5% by weight daily in winter months and 10% to 25% during summer or temperatures between 22ºC to 25ºC, with daily milk change.
Batches of kefir grains consisting of small grains, usually increase in weight more efficiently than batches consisting of larger grains [Weight-for-weight, smaller grains make up a larger overall surface area, hence growth-rate is more efficient for smaller grains, due to a larger surface area containing organisms].
Sugary Kefir-Grain [SKG] Growth
Propagable healthy sugary kefir-grains in appropriate ingredients increase by about 40% to 100% by weight at 48 hours [on average]. Growth is dependent on sugar concentration, temperature [optimal temperature of about 22ºC or 71ºF] including food source and media--water quality being a major factor. High mineral content and slightly alkaline water seems best. Little to no growth occurs for the first 24 hours fermentation. Although, individuals have observed growth rate of SKG may greatly fluctuate from batch to batch or from week to week. I have discovered that water and sugar quality has much to do with this outcome. Increase between 5% to 220% by weight at 48 hours has been noted.
The latter figure has occurred with 1 cup SKG, 1/2 cup raw sugar, 1 tsp molasses, 1/8 tsp sodium bicarbonate, 1 to 2 Tbs fresh ginger root juice with 1/4 tsp oceanic coral, limestone or eggshell powder to 6 cups water is used for the first time, and only over proceeding one to two batches was 220% increase observed. Following ongoing batches, growth-rate was found to fluctuate between 100% to 200% maximum. But in a few instances I've noted 300% growth by weight in 48 hours! It is important to use the same amount of optimal ingredients each time, and to make sure that the same amount of culture is used per each batch. SO, do not overcrowd SKG-- remove excess grains. Once SKG have stabilized due to using the same good ingredients as above, growth also stabilizes to about 80% increase on average every 2 days [i.e. per batch]. If using refined white, raw or brown sugar, include1 tsp black strap molasses to 1/2 cup sugar per 6 to 8 cups water works well.
Sugary kefir grains propagate more efficiently when cultured with the addition of about 3 Tbs fresh ginger root juice added to 8-cups sugar-solution, including 1/4 tsp alkalising salt of sodium bicarbonate. This has been my observation over a 1 year period. However, there were instanced of reduce growth-rate, and resting the grains in sugar/water in the fridge for 3 days, resorted better growth increase on recommencing room temperature fermentation. Other individuals have reported that young coconut water increases growth rate and so does adding dry banana. However, I have yet to find the same result. Experimentation continues, and I shall report my findings here as they become available.
In recent experiments, I observed similar results as milk kefir-grains in relation to growth rate of small water kefir-grains, being more efficient in growth than larger grains. This is because weight-for-weight, or volume-for-volume, smaller grains occupy a larger surface area, which provides a larger feeding surface area in the media for organisms to create more grains.
Measuring Growth Rate of Kefir Grains
By weight Weigh kefir grains every 3 - 4 days or so. To prepare the grains for weighing, first rinse grains with clean chlorine-free cold water or fresh milk, strain and let excess liquid drain off.
By volume Use a measuring cup to measure the volume of grains. Or, after straining, clean the jar, place the strained kefir grains back into the jar and mark the outside wall of jar with a permanent marker, to indicate the level of kefir grains. Observe the increase in mass as ongoing batches of kefir are prepared.
There is no need to rinse the grains prior taking measurement. However, to improve accuracy, the same technique must be used each time. Rinsing the grains and letting them drain well prior taking measurement, provides a more accurate result of the actual grains.
Please read this section at Dom's Kefir in-site regarding microflora, growth cycle and propagation of kefir grains.
9] DIFFICULTY IN STRAINING MILK KEFIR. IT TAKES FOREVER, OR MOSTLY A THIN LIQUID COMES THROUGH
No whey dude!! You take the highwhey, and I'll take the clearwhey while you give me right or whey, cos I was here first.
The holes or mesh-size of the strainer are too small.
Not adding enough milk to your grains [or you are using too many grains].
Fermented for too long for the amount of milk used.
In warmer climates.
All the above.
A strainer with a wide mesh-size is essential. Holes or slots of no less than 2mm or about 1/8" in size gives good results.
TIPS Try This--
Just prior straining, give your kefir a gentle stir with a clean spoon.
Or, gently rock the jar a few times to mix the curds with the whey portions [forming a creamy consistency].
Pour the kefir into the strainer, which is first placed over the mouth of a wide container, and then gently tap the strainer up-and-down onto the top rim of the container. Or, tap the strainer onto one hand [see animation below]. Use a container with a wide open mouth to strain the kefir into, to avoid making a mess by spilling kefir over the sides of the container.
When using smaller milk volumes, after fermentation, most of the curds, which initially form around each grain, adhere to the grains. This makes it difficult to separate the firm-set curd through the use of simple straining [see animation below right]. This may cause a very small amount of kefir to pass through the strainer, or, mostly kefir-whey [a thin liquid] strains. To remedy this, either increase milk volume by 50% in the following batch, or reduce fermentation time by 50%, or, reduce the volume of kefir grains by 50%.
Suggestions for increasing milk volumes see FAQ 14
Kefir should take only seconds to strain. The mesh-hole-size of the strainer has all to do with straining efficiency. The strainer in the animation on the left, has a mesh-size of 2mm [1/8"], which is perfect.
Gently tapping the strainer onto one hand or onto the rim of the capturing vessel makes stubborn straining a breeze. This process forces any firm-set curd through the strainer. What's left in the strainer are kefir grains with a small amount of curd. This is put back in the jar with the addition of fresh milk to prepare the following batch of kefir.
If this answered your questions .... then you know what to do from here on. Excellent!
So also FAQ 32 regarding agitating the kefir-making jar during fermentation, which is a good practice to get into.
10] WHAT TYPES OF SOY MILK MAY I USE FOR CULTURING A SOY MILK KEFIR?
I do not recommend the use of most commercial soy milks for culturing soy milk kefir. If one must though, then find a brand that's processed with organically grown, whole soybeans and not prepared from soy isolates. It's quite difficult for kefir grains to ferment the soy isolate variety of soy milk. This includes most other forms of heavily processed commercial soy milks. When a soy milk kefir is cultured from traditional or home-made soy milk, less time is needed for fermentation, even less than a dairy milk-kefir. This, by the way, is also true for soy yogurt. This may be a good indication regarding how difficult these commercial soy milk brands are to digest by us humans!
The exception to this rule is with some forms of soy milks that are still sold today, which are processed with traditional principals and methods. These are the fresh types that are usually prepared for producing tofu [soy bean curd]. This form of soy milk may be sold through Asian grocery stores, or through tofu-making houses.
Using powdered soy milk does not seem to culture a good kefir. This form of dry soy powder is usually prepared with soy isolates and often contains lactose. I mention the latter because many people may wish to culture soy milk kefir, want to eliminate lactose in their diet. Although if fermented long enough, kefir grains are able to markedly reduce the lactose.
NOTES Kefir grains cultured with any form of soy milk, may render the grains non propagable [will cease growing]. Some individuals have tried to also include lactose with soy milk and the grains still become non propagable, or the grains became small in size after a few weeks. Non propagable kefir grains will not revert back to propagable grains, if the grains have not grown for some time. Although good results have been achieved with a mixed-media, consisting of a mixture of dairy-milk and non-dairy milk such as soy milk, mixed in equal proportions. Another alternative is to culture soymilk with freshly strained milk-kefir, and using just the liquid-kefir without any grains as an inoculant [to seed the fermentation]. This is achieved by adding 5% to 10% freshly strained milk kefir or water kefir to fresh soymilk, and then let the inoculated soy milk stand for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature in a partially sealed glass jar. I have also used a yogurt incubator for this, cultured at about body temperature for 12 hours, producing a culture-product with good flavour. This process eliminates subjecting kefir grains to soy milk altogether, so the grains will not be effected, avoiding the possibility of becoming non propagable, or altered in any way.
Please follow this link for home made soy milk recipe at my non dairy milk web page.
You are free to leave. But to realize Mr Tourettes Syndrome, you must shout EUREKA whenever you feel the power surge to do so.
11] DO I NEED TO ADD ANYTHING TO SOY OR NUT & SEED MILK FOR MAKING NON-DAIRY MILK KEFIR?
[Ensuring optimum microflora when choosing to culture kefir grains with non-dairy milk]
I suggest adding some form of sweetener and or fruit juice, like barley or rice malt extract [maltose in liquid or dry powder form obtained for beer making suppliers] or the addition of a little unrefined cane sugar juice such as Rapadura, Jaggery or Demerara etc. The addition of the juice of an acid fruit may also be a good idea to include. This is because some of the organisms of kefir grains utilize citric acid; including sugars as part of their food-source is essential, for soymilk and seed and nut milks are limited in this area. I recommend adding 2 to 3 Tbs lemon juice or any natural fruit juice to every 2 cups of non-dairy milk. Then ferment with kefir grains per usual.
Although I've observed reasonable results with using home-made soy milk for culturing kefir without any added sweetener or fruit juice. On the other hand, when using Seed and nut milk, the addition of at least a little fruit juice or unrefined sugar cane sugar as above, provides better results.
NOTES Milk kefir-grains may not propagate in either soy milk, seed and nut milk, coconut milk or young coconut water even with an addition of sugar or fruit juice. Alternating the grains between dairy-milk and non-dairy milk will overcome this problem. Good results have been achieved with a mixed-media consisting of equal portions of dairy-milk and non-dairy milk such as soy milk, seed and nut milk or coconut milk. Another option is to culture non-diary milks with a percentage of freshly strained liquid milk-kefir or water-kefir added as an inoculant, omitting kefir-grains altogether in the fermentation process. [Please see previous FAQ 8 for details located in the NOTES section].
Including sweeteners and or fruit juice to a media will increase alcohol content of the culture-product. Regarding the types of fruits to use, please read following FAQ 12
In order for these tips to capacitate your memory-recall-gland and to discharge it at will, you need to first be switched on by kefir.
12] WHAT TYPES OF FRUIT JUICE CAN OR CAN'T I USE FOR NON-DAIRY MILK KEFIR OR WATER KEFIR?
Fruits which may be used
You can use most fruit juice e.g., grape, apple, citrus, pineapple, kiwi, paw paw, papaya, star fruit and any type of melon etc. The more acidic the fruit the less you need to add with either types of kefir i.e. water-kefir or the non-dairy milk kefir cultured with milk kefir-grains. The more sweeter the fruit the more may be added. With water kefir prepared with milk kefir-grains one may generally mix as much juice with the water as desired [Note that the more juice of a sweet fruit is used, the higher alcohol content of the final cultured-beverage]. It is not advisable to add fruit juice for water kefir prepared with sugary kefir-grains [traditional translucent water kefir-grains].
Fruits which may not be used
Fresh banana and avocado are not acceptable for preparing water-kefir because these fruits can not be juiced, and the nature of oily fruits such as Avocado can cause other problems. Although adding dry banana or fresh banana pieces to a sugar/water solution does make a wonderful water-kefir.
Coconut milk kefir
Milk-based kefir grains may be cultured in a mixed-media consisting of coconut cream [or coconut milk] mixed with an equal portion of dairy milk. This produces a wonderful delicious kefir. The curds are soft and creamy, and the kefir grains should continue to propagate well. Freshly strained milk-kefir or water-kefir may be used to inoculate coconut milk instead of using kefir grains. This process omits the grains altogether, however, a secondary fermentation completes the process. This is achieved by adding 1/4 cup of strained kefir to 2.5 cups coconut milk and brew at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
NOTES Due to the yeast component of kefir, adding sweet fruit juice to any media will increase the alcohol content of the final kefir. This includes culturing coconut water obtained from young or mature coconut. The amount of alcohol produced is determined by sugar content of the fruit juice, and length of fermentation.
To be certain others hear your joy, shout EUREKA! from the top of a coconut palm of your hand.
13] CAN I USE A METAL STRAINER TO STRAIN MY KEFIR, WHAT CAN I USE?
Although there are suggestions to not use metal strainers, I have no actual evidence to suggest stainless steel strainers will actually pose a problem for the microflora of kefir grains or for the consumer using such strainers. Please read this at Dom's Kefir Making in-site regarding my personal views and findings regarding metal objects and kefir.
Plastic and stainless steel strainers are available from most larger stores. If a local store does not carry these, you should be able to find a suitable strainer from an Asian store [Chinatowns etc.]. Try locating a strainer with a mesh-size of around 1mm to 2mm [1/16" to 1/8" ]. Anything finer than 1mm will make it quite difficult to impossible to strain milk-kefir. On the other hand, a smaller mesh size works well for straining water kefir.
Try a bamboo strainer sold at some Asian grocery stores which come in a few shapes and sizes. The common type are made in the shape of a wok rendered from thin bamboo strips in a woven fashion. These make good natural kefir strainers.
You could also use your kefir-making jar, to both culture and strain your kefir, using the All in one method, explained here at Dom's Kefir Making in-site.
For those who don't wish to use plastic products for either straining, culturing or storing kefir, please go to FAQ 22
For these tips to take effect, and, you either do or do not take confession regularly, shout EUREKA! HALALULIA! in the nearest confession box you come across. This will wake up the Priest whether or not he's fallen asleep. Otherwise, these tips will self-distract in 1 hour on a scale of mass-distraction. So, it's up to you to decide distracting one Priest over distracting the masses, or have this tip work for you or let it self-distract along with the masses and the innocent Priest. Please do not let yourself become distracted while you decide, for the clock is ticking away. You now have exactly 59 minutes left. Your best hope is to find the nearest confession box less than 58 minutes and 55 second away and still counting. "Luck" was a name given to a Greek god, so good "Greek god" to you on your mission [time left to right 58:25.....]
14] I WISH TO BEGIN INCREASING MILK FOR KEFIR PRODUCTION. WHAT'S THE BEST WAY?
This may be achieved in two ways
1. Increase milk-volume slowly over consecutive batches
Increase the amount of milk by about 5% - 10% either in each consecutive batch or every other batch or so. If after an increase the kefir is not ready at 24 hours i.e. you see portions of fresh milk, usually at the bottom of the jar, then leave longer until no more fresh non-coagulated milk is seen; i.e. before increasing the amount of milk again. In other words, give the grains at least 3 batches to increase in activity or adjust to the milk increase [grain amount will also increase during this time].
2. Increase large volumes of milk in one go
When deciding to increase the amount of milk by more than say 50%, then, over an adjustment or regeneration period, the kefir may take longer than 24 hours to be ready. Depending on activity of your grains and the type of media including temperature, one may increase milk by as much as 100% at a time, and ferment for as long as is required to coagulate the milk volume increase. Within the regeneration period, the grains should become more active as each consecutive batch is cultured [taking less time to ferment per following batches]. This will happen until a point comes where the grains are able to ferment the increased media within 24 hours. This period will vary depending on exerted changes; taking anywhere between 2 to 7 batches to occur. In some cases it may take longer than 7 days. If the grains do not ferment a volume increase within 7 batches, or they do not seem to ferment the increased amount more efficiently after each consecutive batch [after about 7 batches], then decrease the amount of milk. The decrease will depend on the initial increase. You may need to experiment with this, for I am beginning to get tongue tired.
For preparing large volumes of kefir with a small amount of kefir grains, see FAQ 43
For this to take effect, you need to shout me a mug of creamy kefir ... BUT... do not shout Eureka, or you may attract too much attention. Then you'll have to shout everyone throughout the whole-milky-whey.
15] CAN I SQUEEZE OR PRESS ON THE GRAINS TO TRY EXPRESSING MORE KEFIR DURING STRAINING?
You don't have to squeeze or press on milk kefir-grains with any utensil, including with your fingers while the grains are in the strainer. Certain individuals tend to squeeze on the grains in order to express as much kefir from the grains as possible, during straining. Squeezing on kefir grains during staining will pop-open any self-enclosed grain [although this will not kill or damage the grains as such]. Most kefir grains form as self-enclosed bodies. If one ceases to squeeze or press on previously popped kefir grains, from that point on, any new growth will propagate into the preferred natural growth-structure; as self-enclosed bodies. This will take between 3 to 9 months. However, during this period, there will be evidence of what some folks may feel is unusual in regards to grain growth pattern. Any popped grains will first form as largish flat sheaths. Eventually, flat sheathes form many irregular wart-like growths over the surface of the grain. These irregular growths, or protrusions, shall eventually form as lobular sections, further forming as self-enclosed bodies if not subjected to further physical trauma or force due to squeezing.
But there's always an exception to any rule. Grains that have been popped opened due to excessive force produce kefir with an abundant amount of kefiran. This may be favourable for this produces kefir with a creamier consistency, and having more kefiran in kefir is more healthy for you.
This picture is a self-explained photo with text, demonstrating the natural tendency for kefir grains to grow as self-enclosed bodies.
This section at Dom's all about kefir web page explains the microflora and growth cycle of kefir grains.
Hey!--What's that crawling on the front of your sweater? EUREKA-FLAT-KEFIR-GRAINS!!!.... OOOH!... I hope that didn't frighten you!
16] I MADE A KEFIR POUCH BUT IT KEEPS AFLOAT OUT OF THE MILK!
This happens either if the weave of the material used to make the pouch is too tightly woven, or the pouch is rendered more than one layer in thickness in material. Due to curds blocking the holes of the material, entrapped CO2 bubbles of gas within the pouch, forces the pouch into a balloon, and the pouch will float out of the media. If you can't find loosely woven material to make a pouch, then please, don't use the pouch-method altogether, instead use the common method explained at Dom's kefir-making in-site to cultured kefir. Also, place in mind that the pouch method is mostly for experimental purpose. In the nude is the best way to go for kefir grains. This is how kefir grains have evolved over many centuries.
17] DO I NEED TO RINSE KEFIR GRAINS OR FAST THEM IN WATER. WHAT'S BEST?
Under most circumstances kefir grains do not need to be rinsed with water [or fresh milk] between each milk change, or fasted in fresh cold water either. If you ever do rinse your grains with water, just be sure to use non chlorinated, sterile, COLD water [The water should first be boiled then cooled to room temperature]. Using fresh milk instead of water to rinse the grains should also be avoided, if the rinsing-milk is going to be discarded. The rinsing of kefir grains has came about after the mother-culture was introduced to the western world, possibly in the belief that rinsing inhibits or removes weed microorganisms from the surface of the grains [this is modern-day microbe-phobia]. Rinsing the grains has been found to upset the rhythm of the microflora found on the surface of the grains. This is because of the fashion in which the organisms are arranged over the surface of the grain. With the use of clean, fresh milk to prepare kefir, there is very little risk in culturing weed microorganisms. As far as I understand, where kefir originated, the people of Northern Caucasus did not rinse their kefir grains. These folks practiced the art of continuous fermentation. The kefir grains were constantly left in the same goatskin bag, and as portions of kefir was poured out from the bag daily, the bag was replenished with fresh milk. The milk they used came fresh from their milking animals, which went directly into preparing kefir [the milk was as fresh as you can get].
Any amount of curd which initially forms around each grain during the culture-cycle, forms a protective barrier around each grain. This may in fact help to inhibit weed microorganisms from propagating quite effectively than if rinsing the grains, which removes the protective acid-curd. When doing so the grains are exposed to the environment. The grains need a few hours to rebuild this curd, which once again will initially form around each grain. If one removes this curd on a daily basis through rinsing, then the chances of contamination becomes greater than if leaving an acid-curd protective-barrier around each grain at all times.
Rinsing kefir grains removes many important friendly microbes and yeasts from the surface of the grain, and possibly also removes certain protective compounds or mechanisms not yet discovered [or not well understood]. Such factors could be essential in maintaining a balance between the microflora and may inhibit weed organisms. Not to mention that removing friendly organisms from the surface of the grains reduces their counts, making conditions more favourable for weed organisms to thrive, due to less competition.
If you must rinse your grains due to habit, I suggest fasting your kefir grains by soaking the grains in pre-boiled, cold fresh water for 12 - 24 hours instead. This may be performed weekly, fortnightly or monthly instead or rinsing on a daily basis. Fasting kefir grains in water can be performed at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Although, this is not essential to perform either, but my own personal preferred method in an attempt to wean rinsing-addicts from rinsing their grains between each milk change. To perform the water-fast, use about 1 part grains to 3 parts water by volume [use pre-boiled then cooled good quality water, boiled without a lid on the pot to evaporate any chlorine found in tap water]. After a 12 - 24 hour water-fast, strain the grains and then use them for preparing kefir per usual. The strained-water is quite slippery, due to the soluble polysaccharide, kefiran. I've named this compound solution, Kefiraride. [Please see next FAQ for tips and recipes for using kefiraride as a natural healing-promoting agent, and more].
The Exception to the No-Rinsing Rule
Viili Cross-contamination. Milk kefir-grains easily become cross-contaminated if the grains come in contact with Viili [Piima]; a Nordic or Scandinavian ropy culture milk-product. If culturing Viili in close proximity to kefir, kefir grains may begin producing a kefir with a ropy consistency, making it next to impossible to strain the culture-milk through a sieve. Kefir grains readily adopt the Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris SBT 1275 organism, a specific type-strain responsible for the blob-like or ropy consistency of Viili. One only needs to use the same spoon to stir or scoop Viili, which later comes in contact with kefir grains, for cross-contamination of kefir grains. Even if days later the same spoon comes in contact with kefir grains, the grains will end up producing a cross between kefir and Viili [Kefiili] within a short period. To remedy this problem, water-fast pre-rinsed kefir grains in fresh, clean water for 24 to 48 hours, resting the grains in the refrigerator during the water fast. Strain the grains through a sterile sieve, rinse the grains with cold sterile water and then culture in fresh milk per usual [making certain to sterilise the jar and lid first]. The rinsing and fasting of Viili cross-contaminated kefir grains may need to be performed more than once, and possibly up to 3 times.
Non homogenized, but pasteurised full cream cow's milk may cause problems to kefir grains, after time. This is due to the denaturing of milk-fat through the pasteurisation of non homogenized whole cow's milk. In this case, the milk-fat becomes similar to butterfat, which could readily adhere to the surface of kefir grains that come in contact with the milk-fat during fermentation, especially during warmer conditions where the milk fat is an oily state. Such grains will end up with fat deposits [yellow milk-fat], partially covering the surface of any effected grain. Such grains will have mottled or patches of yellow milk fat. This milk-fat may suffocate the grains in this case, if the fat is left adhered to any grain over a length of time. To remedy this problem, place the grains in a bowl filled with luke warm water, no hotter than body temperature, and remove any adhered yellow milk-fat from the surface of kefir grains, with a gentle rubbing action between two clean fingers.
When dehydrating kefir grains, it is recommended to first rinse the grains with fresh, clean cold water to remove proteins [kefir] adhered to the surface of the grains before drying.
For more information regarding rinsing of kefir grains, please go to Dom's kefir-making web page here [research included].
NOTE When panning for gold and you find Kefir-Gems instead, don't worry, just ask good ol EUREKA .... she'll know what to do.
18] WHAT CAN I USE THE POLYSACCHARIDE RICH KEFIR-GRAIN SOAKING-WATER [Kefiraride] OR KEFIR-WHEY FOR?
I have found both what I refer to as Kefiraride [straining-water separated from kefir grains left fasting (soaking) in water for 12 - 24 hours] and kefir-whey leftover from preparing Kefir-Leban [a sour curd cheese], are useful as natural cosmetic agents, for general use in cooking, used as a natural agent to promote healing, and more. Kefir-whey is rich in sulfur-containing amino acids [cysteine, methionine]. Following are a few tips and recipes.
"KEFERA" Sunburn Soothing and Healing Lotion
If you ever suffer from severe sunburn, and the pain prevents you from getting a restful sleep, then this lotion is the answer! I know this from first hand experience!
In an electric food processor, blend 1 part kefiraride with 1 part fresh Aloe Vera gel [obtained by peeling away the outer-skin from fresh Aloe Vera leaf, to extract the gel]. To every 100 ml of fresh Aloe-gel + kefiraride, add 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil or coconut oil and blend for 30 seconds. Strain through a cloth or a fine strainer. Stored in a sealed container, and mix well before each use. The lotion will store for at least 2 months refrigerated.
On the first day, apply 3 to 4 layers of Kefera lotion onto the sunburned skin. Let each coat dry before applying the following layer. Do this 3 to 4 times. Thereafter, apply only one layer daily. After about 7 days, any sunburn damaged skin should wash away in one go; while taking a bath or a shower. The skin will not go on pealing and itching for days, like it would without the application of this lotion .... su-pherb super-herbotix to you too.
In an electric blender, blend 1 part kefiraride [or kefir-whey], with 1 part fresh Aloe Vera leaf gel. Strain through a cloth or fine strainer and add a few drops of essential oil of lime, mandarin, or sandalwood and mix well.
Apply to skin and shave away. This lotion is so smooth and friendly to shave with. The blades of the razor will feel like silk gently gliding over the skin ... a wipe with a wet or dry towel will remove any leftover lotion! If this lotion is prepared with kefiraride, after shaving and rinsing the skin, a little fresh lotion may be rubbed onto the face [or the legs, underarms, bikini line ladies ... or for you big-girly men]. Leave the lotion to dry [as a natural moisturizer]. O.K.! that's it! ... that's the last portion of shaving-rash for you! ... you ears!
Lah laaaahh la lah la laaaahhh ... just siiiinging in the whey-n' ... just singing ... in, the whey-n'. Strike me anticlockwise pink !
Add either kefiraride or kefir-whey [or kefir] to bath water for a relaxing and soothing experience. This is a wonderful whey of using accumulated kefir-whey left over from preparing Kefir-Leban [straining fresh kefir to prepare fresh sour-curd cheese]. Kefir-whey kept in a sealed container can be stored at room temperature for about 2 weeks or longer. It keeps for months if stored in the fridge. Continuously adding amounts of kefir-whey to a designated container will produce a reasonable quantity to be able to add to bath water. Add about 3 drops of essential oils of Eucalyptus, Tea tree, Lavender, Sandalwood or Vetiver or your favourite essential oil to each 2 Lt [1/2 gallon] of kefir-whey, kefiraride [or kefir]. You may add 1 to 2 drops of each oil as a combination. I've stored both kefir-whey, kefiraride and including kefir with the addition of specific essential oils for up to 12 months at room temperature. Adding essential oils also seems to preserve kefiran found in kefiraride, kefir-whey and kefir. Add about 2 - 6 Lt [1/2 - 1-1/2 gallons] of any of the above kefir-solutions, to a bathtub half-filled with hot water. A soaking time of 15 to 20 minutes should be ample for most individuals.
Taking a kefir-whey, kefiraride [or kefir] bath once or twice weekly is quite effective in controlling Tinea of the feet or other yeast infected areas of the skin.
This may also be effective in speeding up the process of healing bruises, controlling psoriasis and eczema. I have observed the effectiveness regarding all these conditions in myself, family members, friends and foes alike. What! You wish to combat diss-ease with me! O.K.! Would you prefer to Spa in a Spa of kefir-whey first?
Note it's important to shake the container of kefir-whey, kefiraride or kefir stored at room temperature once daily. This will redistribute Yeast and Acetobactor colonies; otherwise seen as a wavy off-white to light-brown fuzzy film forming on the surface of either solutions. I refer to these colonies as Flowers of Kefir [Mycodermia see FAQ 41]. Alternatively, fit an airlock on the container, a brewing technique used in beer or wine making.
Add a little kefiraride/kefir-whey or kefir to some warm water for washing the face. I'm continuously amazed by how effective this cleans the skin! These solutions also close pores of the skin. These have astringent and exfoliant properties. The solutions will also remove white-heads in block skin pores. Small and large pimples [acne] may be reduced or completely eliminated if treated with daily washings on a regular basis. However, the latter is best treated by a change of diet, lifestyle and mental attitude, for the better [Exercising Conscious Relaxation with good diet and physical exercise is a must].
Natural Hair Wash and Anti-Dandruff Treatment
Using kefir-whey to wash hair is absolutely magic, leaving the hair feeling silky, strong and healthy! Use dilute kefir-whey 50/50 with warm water. Wash the hair well for about 1 minute. This is performed twice then followed by rinsing with clear water. For an anti-dandruff treatment, leave the solution in for about 10 minutes before rinsing. One may also perform a final wash with a gentle mild shampoo to remove any kefir odour ... you soft kefir baby-smelly head you.
Mix either kefiraride, kefir-whey of kefir with any face mask recipe. Kefiraride and kefir-whey also help to close up skin pores, due to the astringent property of kefir-whey, kefiraride and in fact kefir.
Here's a General Recipe1 tsp fresh parsley.
2 tsp fresh or dry chamomile flowers.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed or coconut oil.
1 tsp honey.
2 - 3 Tbs of kefir-whey, kefiraride or kefir [1 tsp of milk kefir grains or 1 tbs water kefir-grains may be included].
Blend all ingredients to form a smooth paste, using either an electric hand stab-mixer, blender or a mortar and pestle. Apply a thin layer to face area, omitting areas close to the eyes. Leave for 20 - 30 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Such supple skin you have, you grand-person you.
Dilute Kefiraride taken as an enema or as a rectally injected and retained implant, may be implemented to help control Candida albicans infection, or reduce inflammation of the large bowel due to Ulcerative Colitis [UC] or Irritable Bowel Disease [IBS]. [Kefir-whey is not recommend for this purpose].
Use only Kefiraride diluted with a herbal tea concoction, prepared with dry herbs such as--
1 tsp Calendula flowers [Calendula officinalis].
1 tsp Chamomile [Matricaria recutita].
1 tsp Red Clover [Trifolium pratense].
2 tsp Plantain [Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major].
1 tsp **Wormwood [Artemisia absinthium].
Bring 1 cup [250 ml] of water to a boil. Add herbs and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the herb tea. Cool to body temp and add 1/2 cup kefiraride to 1 cup herb tea. This concoction may be rectally injected and retained [Do not use this system for more than 7 continuous days].
Please follow this link [Dom's cooking tip in-site] for a simple tip one may implement when preparing herbal teas.
**Please use Wormwood as part of the ingredients for preparing rectal retaining implants, carefully and only in small amounts. Do not exceed the use of Wormwood as a rectal retaining implant for longer than 7 days. I have used Wormwood in conjunction with Neem leaf [Azadirachta indica] in this system, to successfully reduce bowel inflammation in myself, when I contracted UC some years ago. Although this was only in part of a treatment-system as a whole. Mental attitude, diet and lifestyle was also readjusted accordingly, and maintained. I have since been in remission, where orthodox treatment [Cortisone base drugs] had failed me miserably.
Douche for Controlling Thrush
To help control Candida albicans infection, the thrush-causing yeast. Both kefiraride or kefir-whey can be used for this purpose. Best to use in conjunction with a herbal tea concoction comprised of Calendula flowers [Calendula officinalis], Chamomile [Matricaria recutita], Golden Seal [Hydrastis canadensis] and Turmeric root [Curcuma domestica] tea. Use 50/50 kefiraride or kefir-whey mixed with herbal tea [as a concoction]. Add the kefiraride or kefir-whey after the herbal tea has cooled to body temperature. Take this as a douche for no more than 7 consecutive days [Follow the directions for Colonic Irrigation explained above, using the herbs mentioned in this section, in place of the former]. A tip to reduce vaginal yeast infection is to wipe away from the vagina with toilet paper while cleaning the area when visiting the ladies room. To relieve stubborn vaginal thrush, a very effective remedy without any side effects, is to insert a kefir grain into the vagina and leave it in place. First douche with one cup warm calendula and chamomile tea before insertion. Repeat daily for 7 days. Better results can be achieved by finely chopping 1 tsp milk kefir-grains to a thick paste, and inject this into the vagina with a 10ml syringe. Douche with one cup warm calendula and chamomile tea first and on the following day, and repeat kefir grain paste injection for 7 days.
Hey, please don't go blaming yourself for the creation of a re-creation facility built next door to a sewage outlet! Shout out at EUREKA! ... instead.Controlling Psoriasis
Kefiraride/kefir-whey and in fact kefir can be used to control psoriasis [especially of the scalp]. After washing the hair or any effected area, rinse with pure kefiraride or kefir-whey or kefir and leave it in for about 20 minutes. Rinse with clear water. This has helped to successfully control psoriasis, producing better results than conventional medication, in many individuals! Most individuals have found instant relief that lasts. You can also use pure Kefiraride, or diluted kefir-whey or kefir with water to actually wash the effected area. When washing the head area, the hair will be clean, strong and silky [rinse head with clear water after 10 minutes. Or wash with a gentle shampoo to remove any residual odour of kefir-whey or kefir].
Cooking Pasta and Baking Breads, Cakes and Other Baked Goods
Use kefir-whey + water to cook pasta. You can either use pure kefir-whey or add a little to the cooking water to boil any type of pasta. Be careful though, because when the whey reaches a boil, it will froth and boil over quite easily [similar to boiling milk]. Kefir-whey may also be used in baking, by replacing some of the water for kefir-whey. In fact it may be used as a natural leavening to rise dough similar to using sourdough bread starter.
Add 1 cup of kefir-whey to each 450gm [1 Lb] of flour in any bread recipe [adjust the addition of water by omitting 1/2 cup]. After kneading and placing the dough in appropriate baking tin, place the container in a warm spot for about 4 to 8 hours to prove [rise]. Bake when the dough has risen to almost double the original volume, or the surface of the dough forms small cracks.
Kefir-Bickeez [Cat & Dog natural dry biscuits]
Ingredients / Method
1.5 cups brown rice flour or Spelt whole meal flour. [A replacement option is 3 cups of cooked, mashed mixed root an leafy veggies and 1 beaten raw egg].
2 Tbs wheat germ.
1/4 cup rice bran.
1/4 cup soy flour, tofu, or tempeh [Tempeh is best included and can be found at health food or Asian stores. Tempeh contains natural antioxidants, which will preserve the final product].
1/4 cup finely grated carrot/parsnip.
3 Tbs finely chopped fresh parsley [or 2 Tbs of well ground dry parsley].
1 Tbs black strap molasses.
3 Tbs olive oil [or other good oil including coconut oil].
1 tsp of kelp powder or other sea weeds e.g. Wakame, Hijiki or Nori etc. For the latter 3, chop fine after soaking in water for 20 min. [Found at health food or Asian stores].
1 tsp of rubbed catnip/sage [these herbs are including only for cats].
2 Tbs of either well ground egg shell, or Cuttle fish bone [not bone meal!].
1/2 cup of kefir-whey or kefir [matured kefir is best].
1/4 cup ground linseed [flax seed].
1 Tbs cod liver oil.
Mix all ingredients together. Knead for 3 minutes [if too dry add more kefir]. Roll flat about 1/2 inch [1 cm] in thickness. Cut into narrow strips or ribbons. Bake 25/30 min. in moderate oven [350ºF or 160ºC]. Watch out that narrow strips don't burn. If not hard and dry enough, leave in hot oven [turned off] for about 1/2 to 1 hour longer.
If your cat won't eat these at first, then don't give up on the feline. After being addicted to commercial prepared dry food for a few months, it took about one week for our cat Clive, to adjust and acquire a taste for these treats. In that adjustment period, he got given nothing but small, whole raw fish. He then took a liking and now eats almost ANYTHING.[Our wonderful Clive the cat passed on 4 years after writing this, he got hit by a car].
Please note that feeding dogs and cats just dry-food is not recommended. Dogs and cats also need fresh raw meat and fish, or fresh or fermented meat [for dogs] in their diets. Dry food such as above may be given as a morning or lunch time meal, followed by a meat-based meal in the evening.
A School or Science Project
E.g., try this experiment : Mix 1 tsp each of kefiraride and honey. Now observe how this concoction forms a polymer thread, when dipping another spoon into it, and then stretching the solution apart. The gel-forming polysaccharide polymer thread seems to stretch further than the native polysaccharide found in kefiraride, before breaking apart! What causes this to happen? What have we produced? [If you do know or ever find out, could you please e-mail me with the answer?]. Note that for this experiment to work properly, it is imperative that the kefiraride contains ample amounts of kefiran, the gel-polysaccharide of kefir grains. This is governed by how many kefir grains are used to soak in a given volume of water, also governed by kefiran activity of the kefir grains at any given point. Kefir grains produce and release varying amounts of kefiran into the media, at any given point during the year.
Using kefir-whey or Kefiraride as a Natural Fertilizer, for Composts and Feeding Earth Worms
Adding either kefir-whey or kefiraride to compost heap will help to speed up the breakdown process, while adding nutrients. For those farming earth worms for worm castings; earth worms enjoy being fed either solutions, given in moderation. However, it is best to use kefir-whey diluted with a solution of garden lime and water, to increase pH [make it neutral]. Vegetable gardens, shrubs and trees that are well mulched also thrive with the addition of either solutions, poured thinly and evenly over the mulch [never pour these solutions close to the roots of plants, especially never use on un mulched soil or pot plants].
I've used kefiraride in conjunction with certain herbs to prepare a suitable drawing or soothing poultice for treating trauma and other specific ailments in both man and beast alike. This includes implementing actual kefir grains to remove suspicious skin growths, warts and treating ulcers fractures and broken bones, just to mention a few.
Kefir-whey may be used to culture fresh vegetables to produce a sauerkraut and naturally pickled vegetables. However, I prefer to use actual kefir grains. Please see my kefirkraut web page
Kefir-whey may be enjoyed as a refreshing beverage. It contains most of the sulfur-containing amino acids [Methionine, Cystine] of milk. Kefir-whey mixed with freshly ground flax seed meal, enjoyed on its own or mixed with fruit juice or vegetable juice is a good option. Biologically active whey protein contains naturally occurring Cysteine if the milk is raw before making kefir from the milk. Cysteine is an non-denatured amino acid found in raw whey, which is the optimal component for the intracellular production of Glutathione by the liver. Glutathione is known as the body's master antioxidant and detoxifier. However, pasteurisation denatures Cysteine into Cystine, the latter of which is eleven times less effective as a precursor to Glutathione production by the liver.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition Volume 5, 1986, published a paper by Anderson and Meister titled Intracellular Delivery of Cysteine and Glutathione Delivery Systems. It concluded that when subjects were fed naturally occurring Cysteine, it gave them significantly more production of Glutathione than when fed Cystine. Eleven times more in fact. However, I am not certain whether the kefir fermentation process denatures Cysteine in raw milk to Cystine? Research on my part in this, is in progress. If the reader knows the answer, please do not hesitate to let me know.
NOTES Kefiraride and Kefir-whey both make a wonderful mouth gargle. Especially if you have horse-throat due to shouting EUREKA too much.
On a more serious note Most if not all medical conditions explained above, are most likely caused due to insufficiency in life style and or diet and or mental attitude. These all need to be considered for one to enjoy optimal recovery from such conditions. It is paramount to adjust all misaligned matters in one's life and in accordance to a plan, which is individual to each and every one of us. I hope and pray you find yours! Blessings go your ways from I if you so desire to receive. I strongly suggest that we all give a little in order to receive, it can be a form of self-discipline. If one feels uncomfortable with the action of doing this, then let it be an austerity.
19] DO I NEED TO STERILIZE UTENSILS AND INGREDIENTS?
No, there's mostly no need to sterilise under most conditions. Keep utensils generally clean by using hot water and a detergent is sufficient. We are not preparing a commercial form of yogurt but real-kefir [when using actual kefir grains]. Kefir grains have a robust, vigorous, viable and vast complex self-organizing microflora. The microflora is equipped with effective antagonizing properties. The diversity in microflora and the ability to self organize, kefir grains inhibit weed microorganisms from propagating quite effectively. Although if for what ever reason you wish to pasteurise milk prior fermentation, then simply heat the milk to 70ºC [160ºF], rapid cool to room temperature by setting the pot of hot milk in a bath of cold water, and then culture your kefir by adding the milk over kefir grains. Jars, strainers spoons etc. should be kept clean by using hot water and a preferred detergent to wash them clean [see this recipe for making your own chemical-free natural liquid detergent using wood ash-lye, which has anti-microbial properties].
NOTES The important area to keep clean is the inner lid area of any lids used on jars. Lids with an inner lining may have small cracks or crevices, where weed-microbes may flourish. Lid linings may form cracks due to wear and tear, or simply through ageing. So please check all lids and keep them clean!
If using a pouch for your grains, then this should be well cleaned before placing the grains in it. Non-plastic [natural fibre] material should be washed then pre-ironed before use. I've known cases where people have used jars and or materials previously used for sprouting legumes and grains. Due to not washing the material or utensils, the kefir produced an unusual musty odour with slight overtones of amines, when the same jar was used to prepare kefir. This is due to contamination due to previously using the utensil for sprouting, and not washing the utensil well enough before culturing kefir in the jar.
20] WHY IS MY KEFIR AND OR KEFIR GRAINS SLIMY?
Note the long strands of kefiran, when the grain is pulled away from other grains sitting in the plate.
Ah! the gel-forming soluble polysaccharide [PS], known as kefiran is probably confusing you with something which has gone off! In fact, this component should not be confused with spoilage. This gel substance is normal and healthy, and is in part of the kefir process. Kefiran has proven to shrink some forms of cancers in mice. It is also this very substance, which gives Traditional kefir a unique, rich creamy texture and only kefir grains can produce this PS, including close cousins to this substance on a compound or molecular level. If you are used to preparing kefir with commercial kefir starters [not with actual kefir grains], then I suggest to become acquainted with this unique and amazing substance, because this is part of what traditional kefir-making is all about. When using larger grain ratios for preparing kefir, this gel substance may be more prevalent in the finished kefir. A sudden increase in production of gel, either within the grains or in the kefir itself, may be due to warmer temperatures or when changing from one milk-type to another. So in other words, the amount of kefiran produced throughout the year, may vary under certain conditions.
NOTE: The animation above demonstrates threads of PS [kefiran], which is synthesized by specific strains of lactic acid bacteria encapsulated within the matrix of the grains. Kefiran is released from the grains, which is quite evident in the animation. Kefir grains may or may not form noticeable threads or kefiran, when the grains are pulled away from each other. It is also common for the same batch of grains to vary regarding the amount of noticeable threads of kefiran when handling the grains as shown in the animation. Seasonal change, culture-conditions, grain to milk ratios, and duration of fermentation [especially over time] influence how much kefiran is released from the grains.
Now, either take a 1-2-3, 1-2-3 victory Waltz outside, or, purchase a commercial starter instead, for as long as you are happy, that's what mostly you should count.
21] HAVE THERE EVER BEEN CASES OF HEALTH PROBLEMS DUE TO CONSUMING KEFIR? What should I watch out for?
There are no documented cases relating to health issues due to consuming homemade traditional kefir, but to the contrary, in fact. Kefir is well tolerated by Lactose Intolerant individuals. Early research explains microbiologists isolated certain organisms from specific batches of kefir grains. Due to these findings, those batches of kefir grains were classified as not being acceptable for the production of commercial kefir. To give an example, coliform [faecal bacteria] counts greater than 10 counts per millilitre or per gram are not acceptable in commercial food production in most countries. Note though that preparing kefir with those specific grains, there was no report to suggest health related issues for consuming kefir cultured from those specific kefir grains [preparing homemade kefir with the so classified contaminated kefir grains].
I have come across some earlier information [surveys], which reported numbers of Shingella and other Dysentery causing agents in commercial kefir, Trvog, and yogurt in Russia and Poland. Regarding kefir though, most of the commercial kefir was prepared from either commercial [artificial] starters, or mother-cultures [MC] prepared from kefir grains, with grain-to-milk ratio of 1 : 30, and then using between 1% to 5% of the MC to inoculate freshly pasteurised milk. This was then followed by cooling/ripening/packaging/shipping and storage of the kefir at vending outlets, before the product is made available to the consume. The many stages in this whole process greatly increases the risk of contamination and a potential to cause health problems. This is NOT the same as in the case of preparing homemade kefir with kefir grains, using fresh, quality ingredients at home!
Recent research has revealed that kefir grains cultured in a media laced with Escherichia coli [E. coli coliform] inhibited the growth of this microorganism. In fact, it was observed that certain batches of grains completely halted the growth of E. coli for at least 25 hours. Similar results have been observed and documented in regards to other strains of pathogen bacteria and kefir prepared with kefir grains.
Unless kefir acquires an odour of rotten eggs [amines], or shows signs of discoloration, which is very rear, but mostly due to undue care being practiced [more common cause due to over heating the grains], then all should be well. Although this is not an indication of possible contamination, for this can only be determined with scientific procedures. During over 20 odd years of culturing kefir, non of the kefir that I have produced has ever gone off, of caused a health problem for myself and or family and friends. Nor has any of my kefir had any unusual appearance or odour. If following the simple steps mentioned on this page or at Dom's Kefir making in-site using common sense with common knowledge, one should have a similar positive outcome. It's quite uncommon to run into problems, when taking some care, but I'm sure that it's not impossible to occur... and for many possible reasons, including--
Unsanitary conditions, including the use of contaminated media [milk, water, fruit juice etc.].
Over heating the grains with hot water or letting the kefir reach above 35ºC [fermenting continuously at this high temperature for long periods thereby damaging or killing the actual organisms of kefir grains].
When leaving kefir grains in a pouch, and left to float out of the medium for longer than 2 -3 days, the pouch may grow contaminating organisms. The latter is more likely to occur with soy milk or seed and nut milk kefir [seen as a red tinge e.g.]. When ever storing kefir grains for longer than 3 day periods in the same non-dairy milk media, and when deciding to use a pouch, I strongly recommend removing the grains from the pouch. Place the grains in the fridge as they are ... swimming in a freshly prepared media in their birthday suitsâ€¦ hehehe! Now, no kefir-grain "cheeky-cheek" pinching ... you ears!
Deciding to use a pouch or a container, which previously was used for sprouting seeds, grains or legumes etc. [If such utensils are not sterilised before hand, the kefir may produce an unusual ammonia-like or musty odour, possibly due to Bacillus subtilis contamination].
However ... for many centuries the people of Caucasus consumed kefir on a daily basis. If there was ever a health issue due to the consumption of kefir over this time, then one would expect to find at least one documented case or even a myth about a problem. But then again, these folks lived a secluded life, keeping mostly to themselves for centuries, and their history was not documented. So if there ever were any cases, then it is unknown.
As with milking animals in general, it can not be helped to have small amounts of animal faecal matter fall into the [fresh] milk--- and the folks of Caucasus did not boil fresh milk to prepare kefir. The milk used for kefir was fresh, used pretty well right after collecting the milk, and it was placed in leather bags with the kefir grains to prepare kefir. Today, for most homesteaders, unless one has a milking animal, such fresh milk of high quality is difficult to obtain. However, because the organisms of kefir grains are very effective at keeping unwanted organisms from flourishing in milk, one should rest assured knowing that even if the milk has been stored for a few days in the fridge, the kefir prepared from such milk is safe, and in fact a healthy product. One other point to mention is the fact that porous utensils to ferment kefir e.g., leather bags, terra cotta or wooden barrels, may well be a viable means of reducing the risk of contamination, for this provides organisms the ability to colonize the utensil in all the nooks and crannies among the porous material. This should give the organisms of kefir an ever better foot hold, so to speak, so that any competing organisms in milk have less chance of survival.
Although to the contrary, today, using porous vessels is not recommended to culture artificially prepared commercial starter-cultures. But I feel that this latter conclusion may not be applicable when culturing traditional kefir with kefir grains, for the natural mother-culture has stood up to the test of time, cultured in leather bags, which means porous conditions, which in itself is a testimony of the safety regarding the use of kefir grains.
Important Information of sorts To Chew your Cud On
"Prof. José Maria Wiest - Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. This professor along with many other scientists interested in this field, oriented a master's thesis, the object of which was to verify the hygienic-sanitary characteristics of kefir samples. The preparation of kefir entails a lot of handling, and the study aimed to survey possible contamination. Wiest stated: We collected six different samples of kefir and no type of contamination whatsoever was found in any of them. This result gains relevance when we consider that the kefir found in southern Brazil was brought there in the mid 19th century by immigrants from Eastern Europe. One can imagine the multitude of different hands that those grains were subjected to over that time, and just in that location let along previous handling by multitudes of individuals who used the grains from which those in Brazil were derived.
Having proven kefir's resistance to contamination from handling by ordinary people in home environments, the researchers decided to induce contamination of kefir samples by coliform [faecal bacteria]. After three days, the samples were again completely free of contamination. According to Wiest, kefir has a microbial complex that frees antibiotics, ensuring control of the colony and making it resistant to fungus and salmonella.
The professor's specialty is veterinary medicine and researchers are currently studying the therapeutic effect of replacing antibiotics with kefir in the treatment of cow-teat infections. Some cows sensitive to biogenic bacteria no longer respond to modern antibiotics, he says. The object of this experiment is to discover if kefir is efficient in combating these bacteria ... If the results are satisfactory, we will be able to produce milk that is totally free of antibiotics. [This information was kindly translated and provided by Doris Ethel Hefti, from Brazil. Thank-You kindly, Doris with addendum by Dominic N Anfiteatro].
NOTES The important area to keep clean is in the inner area of lids used on jars. Lids with an inner lining, may have small crevices, where weed-microbes may flourish. So please keep lids of culturing jars clean at all times.
If using a pouch for your grains, then this should be washed and rinsed well before placing the grains in the pouch. Non-plastic [natural fibre] material should be pre-ironed or boiled in water before use. I've known cases where people have used jars and or materials previously use for sprouting legumes and grains. Due to not washing the material or utensil, the kefir produced a musty odour with slight overtones of amines. In all the cases where folks sent me suspect kefir grains, I was able to restore those previously contaminated grains to produce a good quality kefir within a short period. This proves that in the event that kefir grains become cross-contaminated, the contaminant can be removed, to restore the grains back to good working order. Hence the long standing survival time without much change to kefir grains over that time.
For more details please go to FAQ 38 [see NOTES section].
END NOTES For individuals with a pre-existing or underlying health condition. It may be favourable for certain individuals taking kefir for the first time, to begin with small amounts. There have been cases of Candidiasis who consumed larger amounts of kefir for the first time, even less than half a cup in some cases, where symptoms of nausea or abdominal discomfort followed shortly after taking the milk-kefir occurred. I put this down to the possibility that certain individuals with a long-standing condition, be it masked, or an underlying issue where there is inflammation of the Gastro Intestinal tract. Kefir is renowned to increase peristalsis [a wave like movement of the GI tract], shortly after consuming kefir, and a sluggish Gastro Intestine that has been sluggish and not moved well over some time, and in which inflammation is involved, results in nausea or abdominal discomfort shortly after consuming kefir. This may be an indication of a pre-existing condition in the individual, and not that the kefir is the culprit. This is why it may be best to take a small amount of kefir for the first time, and watch out for any reaction over proceeding hours. Increase the amount by one tablespoon or so each day, until one cup of kefir can be tolerated on its own, at one sitting. For some, it may be best to begin with taking only 1 tablespoon of kefir mixed with 1/2 cup of fresh water or fruit juice, and increase the amount of kefir by 1 tablespoon each day, until one cup of kefir on its own can be enjoyed without any ill symptoms.
Sphingomyelin is a special lipid found in kefir, and other culture milk-products. Normally, Sphingomyelin in kefir is a very good thing, for it has shown to increase the excretion of interferon-beta in body cells, which is a glycoprotein that destroys viruses in the body. However, Sphingomyelin can accumulate in a rare hereditary disease called Niemann-Pick Disease, types A and B. It is a genetically-inherited disease caused by a deficiency in the enzyme Sphingomyelinase, which causes the accumulation of Sphingomyelin in spleen, liver, lungs, bone marrow, and the brain, causing irreversible neurological damage. Of the two types involving Sphingomyelinase, type A occurs in infants. Children with this type rarely live beyond 18 months. It may be important for individuals with Niemann-Pick Disease consider omitting sphingomyelin-containing foods such as Kefir, Yogurt and Buttermilk etc. Although I have no actual evidence at this point, that externally derived Sphingomyelin is associated with this disease or is a cause for problems in such cases. It's simply information that I've recently come across and thought it should be mentioned here as a precaution, and for further investigation.
1. GARROTE GL, ABRAHAM AG, DE ANTONI GL  Chemical and microbiological characterisation of kefir grains. J.of dairy res.; 68:639-652
22] WHAT ABOUT USING PLASTICS UTENSILS?
There are those who seem to have no problem using plastic strainers for staining their kefir, or using plastic containers to culture or to store liquid-kefir. However, there are also individuals whom wish to use non-plastic or non-metal apparatus or utensils for making and or storing kefir. Kefir grains are acidic and most plastics, to a certain degree react with acids. So unless you're sure about the plastic product, then there may be a good reason for concern. There are plastic products available regarded as being Food Grade. Most of these which are rendered into food storage containers, and which are recyclable, come with a code usually marked at the bottom of the container. The markings or code may vary from country to country.
Here is a great web site by the late Colleen M Allen, now maintained by Beverly B Ferguson, with good information regarding the code system representation for recyclable plastic containers--
One can not be 100% guaranteed that any given plastic or nylon based material shall not react with kefir grains [at all] or in fact with kefir. I personally do not use plastic containers to actually ferment kefir in. Nor do I use any type of plastic or nylon pouch or other plastic based device to store the grains in. I do occasionally shift between using plastic strainers to bamboo strainers, even the use of stainless steel strainers. For a while now, I've used stainless steel strainers, in which the meshing has been lined with beeswax, to form a natural insulation around each metal strand of the sieve. If you want to try your hand at using beeswax to seal such utensils, then please go to my beeswax site for details.
Those wanting to strain kefir without the use of plastic, should be able to find non-metal and non-plastic strainers such as bamboo or cane woven strainers from an Asian grocery store in Chinatown, or larger stores. Such strainers are usually rendered from thin strips of bamboo or from cane. They come in a variety of sizes ranging between 15cm [6"] to about 30cm [12"] in diameter and are usually wok-shaped. Some bamboo strainers come with handles. There are also ceramic strainers sold in some specialty stores. But these are usually difficult to strain kefir with, for the holes are usually too small, and too few, including the thickness of the ceramic material renders each hole too long [cylindrical]. This causes problems due to blockage.
Even if we in fact do see plastics being used for almost everything these days, doesn't mean that these are safe for making or storing kefir, but more that we have become accustomed to these products [we have become complacent!].
About plastic based kefir making devices. Until it can be proven 100% that plastic devices used in the actual kefir-culture process are 100% free from toxic substances being leached into the final kefir, I personally will not use or endorse such products produced from any plastic compound. After all, most if not all real kefir-makers and consumers today wish to improve and or take care of their health, and not help to possibly corrupt it! But I also wish to stress that natural fibre based products these days, may also contain forms of toxins! [Which reminds me, has the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times!" come to light?].
I have adopted a simple system to help remove possible undesirable compounds from natural materials, including from commercial cotton, linen, bamboo and cane etc., which may also be used in kefir-making. This natural safe system can also be used as a natural liquid detergent for washing virtually anything! Please go here for details.
Controversial unsubstantiated facts at their best? ... then try and tell this to the individuals who are psycho/physically-sensitive to poly-carbonates, polyethylene, polypropylene [plastics including additives], pesticides e.g., used for controlling pests in cotton farming, including for the prevention of pests from ruining natural fiber materials ready for sale etc.
Although a controversial subject, this is an exercise of personal in-site and expression and freedom of speech. I could say with confidence that what I state above regarding plastics etc. can not be disproved or proven 100% incorrect or correct! One question I'd like to ask is, "what compounds are produced from the breakdown of plastics? If a plastic is thought not to deteriorate within 1,000 years, does not mean that 1,000 years later, all of a sudden ... pFwooof!! ... it breaks down [and breaks down to what exactly? anyway]. These products are continuously breaking down, while subjected to a diverse set of circumstances [alkali, acids, photons, UV radiation, solvents, O2, O3, enzymes, esters, oils and fats and any mixture or combinations of all the above ... including many other conditions].
NOTE The use of plastic strainers could be regarded as safe to be implemented in straining kefir. This is because of the relatively short period that the kefir and or the grains come in contact with the plastic product. It is understood that Food Grade, or Analytical Grade plastic is said to be inert and stable under most conditions. But I do wonder?... still.
http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/ -- an interesting web page includes information regarding world-wide attention to scientific discoveries about endocrine disruption and the fact that common contaminants can interfere with the natural signals controlling development of the fetus. This web site tracks the most recent developments.
23] WHEN I STRAIN KEFIR, THE GRAINS ARE COVERED WITH CURDS MAKING THEM SEEM LARGER, OR I CAN'T SEEM TO SEE THE GRAINS, IS THIS NORMAL?
Yes, this is normal and is due to milk curds initially forming and adhering to the grains, making them seem larger than what they really are. I try and leave this adhered curd intact as much as possible. This speeds up the next batch of kefir. I feel that leaving small amounts of milk curds intact may act as a protective acid-barrier against weed microorganisms.
If you do ever wish to see your grains, once in a while, and you don't rinse them between each milk change, then rinse some of the grains with clean COLD water, and take a peak to say Hello. This should be acceptable. You can touch them with clean hands and even pick them up if you wish. I'm sure they enjoy a touch or an occasional hello. After all, they are living in a form of a symbiotic relationship WITH you, are they not?!
24] MY GRAINS ARE FLOATING IN THE MILK, WHAT'S GOING ON?
Amounts of kefir grains from the batch usually float directly after placing them in milk, shortly after or within a few hours. This is normal. It's also common to find some kefir grains remain at the bottom of the vessel, while a majority will float close to the surface. This is mostly due to the density [specific gravity] of kefir grains in relation to the media. Or due to yeast producing CO2 gas, forming tinny bubbles around the grains, causing most grains to float eventually. Such bubbles of CO2 are also responsible for floating firmer kefir curds, which is the reason for a thick layer of kefir and grains, are found floating on a top layer of the brew, after some hours of fermentation [see FAQ 29]. If you prepare kefir with reconstituted dry milk powder and all the grains immediately float when added to the milk, this means that not enough water was added for reconstitution. However, some folks prefer this, for a thicker kefir.
25] HOW CAN ONE LOSE OR KILL KEFIR GRAINS?
Now why would anyone want to encourage this sort of behaviour?
You may kharhumm-- accidentally kill kefir grains if you--
1. leave kefir grains in the same milk for longer than 10 to 14 days at room temperature [please view this self explanatory picture].
2. rinse the grains with hot water. This may happen if you recently used hot water from the same tap, prior rinsing the grains. An amount of hot water remaining trapped in the tap will pass onto the grains and kill them! When ever rinsing kefir grains with tap water, first run the cold water for a few seconds, while checking the temperature of the water with your fingers. Tap water must first run cold before rinsing kefir grains.
3. leave the kefir-brewing vessel near a heat source, like a heater, electric element or on the stove etc. Unless you live in extreme cold conditions, there should be no reason to place your kefir-brewing vessel in a heated environment. In most moderate climates, room temperature is adequate for culturing kefir.
4. add the wrong ingredients e.g., bleach or detergent etc. Or if you decide to make Kefir d'acqua or Kefir d'erba medica [or other water-kefirs], and you add other forms of salts other than sugar.
5. pour your kefir grains down the drain! I have known folks to accidentally pour kefir grains down the drain. This was either because they didn't know what they were, or they mistook the grains or kefir for milk gone bad. Or, they simply forgot that the container contained kefir grains. If you ever have anyone help out in your kitchen, I suggest to inform them of your kefir grains; what they are and what they produce ... a delicious healthy culture-milk beverage.
Now toast NOSTRAVIA! with a glass of kefir clinked to your screen If you can still read this then you didn't clink with sufficient force. Please try again in an hour, for by then, the kefir should have kicked in to provide the extra strength needed to get the job of breaking the screen done well.
26] I NEED TO TAKE A BREAK FROM KEFIR BECAUSE I HAVE TOO MUCH ACCUMULATED, OR I AM GOING AWAY WHAT DO I DO WITH MY GRAINS?
There are a few options that work for resting kefir grains. If you ever decide to taking a longer than 4 week break from culturing kefir, you may either dry or freeze your kefir grains.
For details please see the section, Storing kefir grains explained at my kefir making web page here
For details on how to rest kefir grains for short periods, see the Baby-sitting method and the Non-baby-sitting method also explained on a my kefir making web page here.
I have kept kefir grains in water only left the fridge, for about 2 months. The thing here is that is takes 2 weeks or so, to recover the grains in order to produce kefir at full capacity. If you ever decide to do this, use the recovery method explained below.
Recovery or the Regeneration of Milk Kefir-Grains after Long Resting Periods in Water Only, or for Dried or Frozen Grains
Recover kefir grains by using small amounts of milk [1 : 3 grains-to-milk by vol.] renewing the milk every 24 hrs, whether the milk has coagulated or not. This is performed until this amount can be coagulated within 24 hours. When full coagulation occurs within 24 hrs, start increasing the amount of milk by about 10% in each or every other batch. Do this until you're happy with the amount of kefir produced. If you find that after an increasing the milk, that the milk doesn't coagulate within 24 hrs, then don't increase the milk again; until the grains can in fact coagulate the last increase within 24 hours.
NOTES When resting kefir grains for longer than 3 days using the pouch method [for preparing non-dairy milk kefir e.g., soy milk], it is best to remove the grains from the pouch, and place the grains in a solution of sugar and water for short resting periods of up to 4 days [store in the fridge]. This is because the pouch may become contaminated when used in either soy milk or other non-dairy-milk media. This could be due to a lack of organic acids or other protective agents that is produced in dairy-milk kefir. Possible contamination is more common to occur in warm tropical climates.
27] CAN I MIX NON-DAIRY AND DAIRY MILK TOGETHER TO PREPARE KEFIR?
Yes, you may. You can mix equal amounts of dairy milk with soy milk, seed and nut milk, coconut milk or rice milk, oat milk, hemp seed milk etc. to prepare a mixed-media kefir. This produces a delicious kefir achievable on a continuous basis, and the organisms seem quite happy to work under these conditions, since milk kefir-grains continually grow in such mix media concoctions which contains a good portion of dairy milk.
28] I WANT TO CULTURE ALTERNATIVE KEFIR PROBIOTIC GOODIES E.G., KEFIRKRAUT, non-dairy MILK KEFIR and KEFIR D'ERBA MEDICA ETC. WHAT TIPS CAN YOU SHARE?
First and foremost, never switch all your traditional milk kefir-grains to a non-dairy milk media. One can not guarantee if kefir grains will retain their growth-factor, after switching from a NATIVE MEDIA [which is dairy milk] to an alternative media. Use only a portion of milk grains for culturing any alternative media to prepare products such as Kefirkraut, non-dairy milk kefir such as soy, seed and nut milk or coconut milk kefir. This includes culturing a water-based media for preparing a variety of water-kefir [Kefir d'acqua or Kefir d'erba media]. Otherwise if ever deciding to produce a dairy-milk kefir later on down the track, you may find that your original milk grains [traditional kefir grains of Caucasus] may have become non propagable [will not grow]. I recommend to switch traditional milk kefir-grains to a different media, only when one has excess kefir grains, which have been cultured and propagated in dairy-milk [or one has a back up source to resort to in case of problems]. In other words, use excess kefir grains obtained only after an increase in volume of grains have been cultured in dairy-milk. With these spare grains one may experiment with an alternative media. However, if you are interested in producing kefir with a mixture of dairy and non-dairy, then see the previouse FAQ above..
Use kefir grains for culturing only dairy milk-kefir, or excess grains for non-dairy milk kefir [or a water-kefir]. This is to say, once the grains have established culturing that particular product e.g., soy milk or water-kefir [Kefir d'acqua], do not switch the grains back to dairy-milk fermentation later on down the track, unless you wish to experiment while making sure you have a culture used in the traditional manner to resort to, if problems arise. This is mainly because once kefir grains are switched to a different medium, after a period the rhythm of the microflora is altered. A non-dairy milk media may also damage the components responsible for grain growth [the grains may become non propagable]. On the other hand, when using spare grains, which may later become non propagable due to switching to a non-dairy media, you have propagable grains at hand to resort to.
In an attempt to revert back to dairy-milk [from a non-dairy milk media], one may find that the milk may have an unappealing odour, at least during the first few initial brews. Quite often this is off-putting to anyone new or has little experience. Any unusual odour or an unpleasant flavour, is usually caused by high yeast activity or aroma-forming organisms, which overpopulate the media. Also, cabbage e.g., produces sulphur-compounds with a strong odour and flavour. This, including other odours, quite readily permeate kefir grains . Then, in the attempt of reverting tainted grains to culture a milk-based kefir, the kefir will be tainted with a pungent taste and odour of cabbage, which will linger over a few batches.
It's quite acceptable to use excess milk-based kefir grains to culture kefirkraut. In other words, if one leaves the grains in with the kraut [after the kraut is ready for consumption], the next batch of kefirkraut is best cultured with freshly obtained excess milk or water kefir grains [my personal preferred method].
NOTES I have found that it's quite acceptable to switch between culturing dairy-milk and non-dairy milk on alternate days e.g., soy milk, coconut milk or seed and nut milks one day, and then dairy milk the next day; using the same milk kefir-grains. Also acceptable is to use 50/50 dairy milk mixed with non-dairy milk. This may be performed on a continuous basis, without an adverse effect on growth factor of the grains [they should retain mass and weight increase]. This is also explained in FAQ 27 above.
In order to be in-line and to help improve and maintain my works on kefir on-line or otherwise, I suggest to damage your kefir grain's growth-factor, by NOT following any suggestions mentioned above or below. Then, obtain more grains with a copy of my book on kefir from me. This is no joke, it was simply typed in the wrong colour!
29] SEPARATION OF MILK-KEFIR INTO TWO OR MORE LAYERS
Note that is a normal phenomenon mainly due to carbon dioxide [CO2] gas produced by the yeasts of kefir. As curds form, CO2 bubbles form or seed among the curds, causing the curd to float. Oh how cute!... teenie-weenie-tinny kefir-curds wearing CO2 life jackets.
One may find that kefir separates into two or more distinctive layers, usually in the form of a thick white curd floating with the grains over clear layer/s of liquid [whey]. This form of separation is more prominent under the following conditions--
High temperature during fermentation [30ºC+ or 86ºF+]. During summer months prominent separation may be evident due to larger amounts of CO2 gas production [This is not a bad thing].
Using pasteurised milk may cause a more prominent separation than raw milk [not always true]. This may be due to changes in milk casein [proteins] through pasteurisation.
Not enough milk or fermented for too long. Note that some people let their kefir culture for up to 3 days, in favour of a more sourer kefir, which is acceptable.
Certain batches of kefir grains may naturally form layers or a prominent separation more so than other batches [the nature of that specific batch of kefir grains cultured under specific conditions]. While the same batch may all of a sudden begin producing kefir with prominent layers. This is usually due to an increase in the amount of, and activity of your culture. Remember to remove portions of grains from the process as they increase.
For more information regarding layering, please see FAQ 3 and FAQ 32
30] HOW MUCH KEFIR CAN I DRINK, CAN I DRINK IT EVERY DAY AND IS THERE A LIMIT?
This is a difficult question to answer, but I shall share my personal thoughts and experiences of others, including some research.
Certain individuals find they can comfortably drink between 1 to 4 cups of milk or water kefir each day, either on a continuous basis, or for a certain period of time taking a short break say on a week end or a regular basis. Others have found that taking 4 to 8 cups daily for a few weeks to a few months, has helped with impaired liver function including lung infection and gastric problems. The most obvious for me are the individuals whom I've corresponded with over the years, who have reported decrease in blood pressure after suffering from high blood pressure for many years. Some of these individuals have taken between 1 to 3 cups of milk kefir on a daily basis over a 3 moth period. Others who've suffered from certain conditions such as recovering from cancer or during or after chemo therapy, have found welcomed benefit by consuming 2 to 4 cups milk or water kefir daily.
Although I can not see why one can not drink appreciable amounts of kefir each day, I personally believe in practicing moderation [even moderation from moderation]. I feel that drinking kefir 5 to 6 days out of 7 is preferable for me personally. I would recommend that individuals who wish to drink kefir more regularly than this [e.g., every day], may benefit from 1 day abstinence from consuming kefir, doing so every 2 weeks or so.
I feel abstaining from all culture-foods during certain periods, to be a wise practice. Possibly the intestinal microflora benefits either directly or indirectly from a short period of abstinence. During abstinence, the body may be able to perform certain functions, that can not be performed or not performed as well if consuming cultured food-products daily, year in and year out. But more importantly, if we focus on the evolution of the microflora of the Gastro Intestinal tract, I feel, may benefit from regular abstinence from culture foods in general. However, if one can include preparing and consuming fresh kefir, and also include ripened kefir [strained milk kefir left at room temperature for 2 to 3 days to mature], then the evolution of the microflora among the variable kefirs may be an effective means of accomplishing a possibility to consume kefir on a more regular basis; abstaining at longer intervals. Once again, this is what I find is best for me personally. It may not be the same for others, though, and the best way is to find what works best for the individual, is by experimenting where possible, while making close observation.
The Holy Bible including the Holy Koran recommends to abstain from eat fermented food such as leavened bread during certain times of year, and for a certain period of time. Breads of those days were fermented by natural means, such as what we refer to today as sourdough. Whether or not this is divine intervention or the outcome of the ancients with good observation, either way, I take this issue serious enough to follow this recommendation. From personal experience with extensive fasting in my time, the body through the process of fasting, can perform specific functions that benefit the organism as a whole. A somewhat similar process, or a branch off of bodily functions are responsive only where abstaining from fermented foods is involved, I feel. Culture food product although organisms mostly product beneficial compounds, there are possibly certain compounds produced by friendly organisms, that may impair the human organism, where overindulgence, or too regular indulgence is involved.
In Tibet, I believe, where kefir grains are referred to as Tibetan mushrooms, a suggestion exists that explains to take 2 cups of milk kefir daily for 20 days, and then abstain for 10 days. This cycle is repeated on a continuous basis [Note that kefir grains and Tibetan mushrooms are the same mother-culture as explained in FAQ 34].
END NOTES For certain individuals such as those sufferers of Candidiasis [yeast infection] who consumed kefir for the first time, even when taking less than half a cup in some cases, have experienced symptoms of nausea, abdominal discomfort and or wind shortly after taking milk-kefir. Other individuals with a underlying condition, possibly due to a bad diet where the Gastro Intestinal tract is inflamed or the gastric intestinal microflora is impaired have experienced similar symptoms. Milk kefir is renowned to increase peristalsis, and where a sluggish Gastro intestinal tract with inflammation may be involved, the individual may experience nausea or abdominal discomfort including wind shortly after consuming kefir for the first time. This may be an indication of a pre existing condition, and not kefir being the culprit. In fact, due to a pre-existing condition, the beneficial organisms of kefir, and the compounds those organisms synthesize, are assisting the human organism as a whole by assisting the body to correct the imbalance or bodily dysfunction. While doing so however, the individual may or may not experience uncomfortable symptoms. This is where in the former, it would be best to take a small amount of kefir at first, and then observe for any symptoms over the proceeding 4 to 24 hours. If symptoms decrease or are non existent, one may increase the amount of kefir by 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup or so more per day, until 1 cup of kefir on its own at one sitting can be enjoyed without experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
In similar cases, it may be best to begin taking only 1 tablespoon of kefir mixed with 1/2 cup of fresh water or fruit juice, and increase the amount of kefir by 1 tablespoon more taken each day, until 1 cup of kefir on its own can be enjoyed without experiencing symptoms due to detox. In most cases, perseverance is the key factor to overcome an underlying or hidden issue either where immune and or gastric dysfunction is involved. Milk kefir may give a more pronounced benefit but with more pronounced symptoms in this case, while water kefir may or may not have such a pronounced effect. The only way to know for certain, is to try either variety of kefir, and observe closely how the body responds. Uncomfortable symptoms of nausea, abdominal discomfort and wind, usually disappear within a given period, the time of which is a case-by-case matter.
See also FAQ 36
Go to Dom's Kefir making in-site for details regarding how to ripen kefir.
31] I WISH TO MAKE A WELL CARBONATED MILK-KEFIR, or WATER-KEFIR, WHAT DO I DO?
So, you like your nose tickled with fizzy-wizzy milk kefir? You funny cryzee persons you!
There are two ways to achieve a fizzy milk-kefir.
Culture kefir in an airtight sealed container. However, make certain not to fill the jar more than 2/3 full with fresh milk and kefir grains [think, pressure created during fermentation!]. Fix a lid on the jar and seal the jar airtight and ferment per usual for 24 hours. Remove the lid, and ... fsszzt! strain your slightly sparkly-kefir.
To further increase fizz, fill a clean glass bottle or an empty soda pop bottle 2/3 full with freshly strained kefir. Seal the bottle airtight and let stand for 1 to 2 days at room temperature. For a greater increase in fizz include 5% -10% volume of fresh milk in the above, brew for 1 to 2 days and shake the bottle a few times each day. After 1 to 2 days you should have a well carbonated kefir, forming a head of foam when the kefir is poured into a cup.
NOTE I predict kefir grains cultured under extreme pressure the outcome of continuous exposure to high pressure may reduce in size of grains due to compression.
Just as I predict that kefir grains may expand when exposed to extreme high altitude.
[Space Station Kefir] Hiooston! Kefyrr grrains in deh experriment have expanded trremendoslee. Kefyrr grrains arr now taking overr Space Stashion Kefyrr! Pleese Instrruct! Overr!
[Houston] Roger that Smellydomsky! Hang in there comrad Super-kefir-dominatricks is on his way to--- The Kefir-Recue!! That should do the trick. Houston out.
[Space Station Kefir] Hiooston!! It vos not goood... Yah! Kefyrr grrains becoming vishos wif beeg teeef! Sooperr-Kefyrr-dorminatrriks rescoo failed hims very bad. Hims butt vos bitten goood! We vait forr featherr instrructions-- now---- pleez----Overr!
[Houston] Crypeas! They just don't make Super-kefir-suits like they used to. Gone are the good old days when super kefir-suits and capes were made from Kefiran!! Good luck Smellydomsky-- You're on your own! God Bless America! Houston over and out!
[Space Station Kefir] Hiooston! Bless Gord and bless dis mess! Space Stashion Kefyrr overr and out, may be foorr goood of mand kind. Vwait a minoot! Vee fight fire viff fire, YES!? De kefyrr grrains tasting verry goood. Hioosten!!! I discoverr de unserr to prroblem! Vee most eat dah kefyerrr grrains beforr hims eat us out ov space station kefyrr! NASTROVIA!--- I mean-- EUREKA! [Much munch munch munch]-- Hah, I fills verry ghood nowoo.
32] IS IT OK TO AGITATE MILK or WATER KEFIR DURING FERMENTATION?
Yes, this practice is quite acceptable and I highly encourage it.
Caucasians were said to regularly rock or knock the kefir-culturing leather bag during fermentation of milk-kefir, possibly as a religious ritual with beneficial consequences for the culture process.The leather bag was frequently moved around, especially in cooler weather in order to place the bag in a warmer location [in a sunny spot during colder sunny days or near a fireplace]. Agitation assists the fermentation by dispersing the microflora leaving the grains, in areas where milk is less inoculated with organisms that leave the surface of the grains. This also provides readily available nutrients for the microflora on the surface and within the grains. I've found that rocking the container frequently, increases kefir grain-growth rate, including the actual size of each grain [Please see increasing biomass FAQ 8]. Agitating the brew after the first 8 hours fermentation can improve consistency of milk-kefir.
With water kefir, the sugary kefir grains [SKG] breakdown sucrose into its 2 simple sugars, glucose and fructose. The organisms of SKG use the glucose portion to synthesize [grow] new grains. Since the grains remain at the bottom of the jar during fermentation, they will use up all the surrounding glucose found at the bottom of solution where the SKG are situated, and the organisms can begin to starve for glucose. In this case, stirring water kefir after the first 24 hours fermentation, brings more non broken down sugar containing glucose to the grains, so the organisms are refreshed with sugar to further breakdown and use glucose for more growth. The more growth of SKG, the lesser sugar content in the water kefir and the healthier the SKG and the beverage they produce.
MIlk-kefir may be agitated by first sealing the jar airtight with a lid and then gently rocking or shaking the container for 5 or so seconds. Or, for both milk and water-kefir, the contents are gently stirred with a clean spoon to mix the grains well. This is best performed after the first 8 hours fermentation. Although agitation may be completely omitted until just prior straining. This is how folks have prepared kefir out of Caucasus since its introduction to other parts of the world. It was yours truly who is encouraging stirring or rocking the kefir during fermentation, due to my research, and wanting to stick to traditional methods as close as possible, which not only have stood up to the test of time, the organisms of kefir have evolved under such conditions. I want to see everyone get the best out of the kefir experience, including your kefir grains and the organisms that create the mysteriously wonderful grains.
33] HOW CAN I MAKE A MILDER TASTING KEFIR?
To make a mild kefir, try using less grains, or strain the kefir as soon as it thickens and moderately sours. A ratio of about 1 : 20 [grains-to-milk by vol.] at about 19ºC to 22ºC [66ºF - 71ºF] should produce a mild kefir at about 24 hours. Although this ratio may not work too well under cold conditions. In this case, with this ratio the time needed to complete fermentation may take longer than 24 hours [that's all]. So try less milk in colder conditions and strain as soon as it has thickened with slight acidity [consistency is smooth and creamy or thickish]. Or ferment for a longer period.
I suggest the following ratios suitable for summer or warmer climates [i.e. if one wishes to produce kefir every 24 hours]. In colder climates [below about 15ºC or 60ºF], either find a warm spot to prepare kefir, or ferment for a longer period [possibly up to 3 days fermentation].
Summer or tropical climates. Between 1 : 20 to 1 : 60 grains-to-milk by volume.
Winter or colder conditions. Between say 1 : 7 to 1 : 15 grains-to-milk by volume. Greater milk volumes may need up to 3 days fermentation.
Depending on the activity of individual batches of kefir grains and temperatures, there may be discrepancy with those ratios for a mild kefir. Experimentation is required and encouraged.
Fermenting until the kefir just becomes slightly sour may be what you're after. If so, then one may determine the best time to strain by taste-testing the kefir at 12, 16, and 24 hours. One may remove a portion of kefir from the fermenting vessel with a clean spoon [gently stir the contents before taste-testing in order to mix the kefir well]. Once you've established the time frame, record how many grains-to-milk by volume by marking the outside wall of the jar with a permanent marker, and the time it took to ferment. Maintain these parameters as close as possible. You'll need to remove a portion of grains every 3 to 6 days or so, depending on growth activity of your culture. This is in order to maintain a constant ratio of grains-to-milk by volume. Doing this should produce a similar kefir within that given time frame and temperature each time.
It's as easy as 1, 2 & 3 ... Or is it Z = Z 2 + C?
Another option is to partially brew kefir for 12 hours with kefir grains, strain and then pour the liquid-kefir into another clean container and brew [ripen] for a further 12 to 24 hours at room temperature [without the grains]. For best results, it's advisable to brew or ripen under airlock. This usually produces a mild kefir with slight to moderate sourness and a wonderful flavour.
Please take a break from shouting eureka at me. My ears a beginning to ring a-ding dong. Silence is golden. EUREKA!! Toruoops-- There-I got you back!
34] ARE TIBETAN MUSHROOMS AND SNOW LOTUS THE SAME CULTURE AS KEFIR GRAINS?
Yes, definitely so. Tibetan mushrooms [TM], Snow louts [SL] and kefir grains [KG ] and what ever other name the unique mother-culture is known by, are all the same mother-culture if it looks like this This is also true for what is also referred to as Yogurt Plant or Yogurt Mushroom in same parts of Europe. To help explain; the name Peter is known as Piere in France and Piere is Peter in an English speaking country. The reason kefir grains are referred to as TM appear to be due to consecutive passing down of the natural mother-culture, which at a point in time were cultured in Tibet. I recall reading that milk kefir-grains were introduced in Tibet in the late 1800 to early 1900's. TM appear to originate from where all milk kefir-grains are believed to originated i.e. the Caucasus Mountains. This also seems to be the case with SL in certain parts of China or other parts of Asian.
There is also a Chinese medicinal herb that's known as Snow Lotus. Although this is a vegetative herb and not a mother-culture and should not be mistaken for kefir grains.
Suggestions exist, with the assumption that these three mother-cultures are unique and different to each other. What I've observed is that these suggestions are forwarded due to observing differences in appearance alone between certain batches of grains. Or by the size of each kefir-granule, which make up a specific batch. These are not accurate assumptions, if one is to go by appearance and or size and shape of grains alone. Nor by the kefir these grains produce. KG, and in fact TM and SL, which I've personally cultured for some years [keeping the cultures separate but cultured in parallel conditions], all transformed regarding appearance, size and overall shape throughout the year. These transformations seem to be effected by environmental factors such as temperature changes due to season, including culture-techniques and the type of milk-media. I have observed over many years, that the same batch of kefir grains will differ in appearance, size and structure, from A point in time to another. Not a very reasonable way to determine differences between SL, TM and KG, when all these share a common-factor; to adapt to the environment and or culture-conditions and media, which results in the culture to have a different size, surface structure and overall appearance, including chemical makeup. All these cultures share another common factor, which is the unique strains of encapsulated lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, essential for grain growth.
To help explain further; single batches of kefir grains transform when cultured in different locations. In fact, when culturing the same batch of grains in the very same location, the batch may differ from one season to the next, regarding microflora, appearance, shape and texture of grains, including the type of kefir the grains produce. These cultures produce higher counts of acetic acid bacteria in winter, or under cooler conditions. While in summer, higher counts of lactic acid bacteria are encouraged in the final kefir including higher counts of LAB found in the grains. It may be fair to suggest that this varying or gradual evolution of the microflora has a direct influence to texture, including the composition of the matrix itself. E.g. I've observed that during warm conditions the matrix may produce more slime [kefiran]. The thickness of the matrix wall or sheath, may vary from thin, soft, delicate in summer and rubbery with more durability or firmer during winter months.
Different milk-types has a direct effect on the overall structure and make up of the grains. Milk volumes influences population numbers of LAB, yeast and acetic acid organisms respectively. Maintaining the culture in milk cultured or stored under cold conditions for extended periods has an effect on the matrix. It will be more firm and compact, more durable with greater strength [more difficult to tear apart the grain]. The surface of the grain is more likely to produce many small irregular protrusions covering the entire surface of each grain. Where as warmer temperature usually has the effect on the grains having a softer, thinner matrix with greater transparency and an overall smoother surface texture, which readily tears. But such transformations are not only difficult or impossible to predict accurately over future forecast, transformation occurs gradually over many months [9 to 12 months is common]. And to consider culturing at ambient temperature, well, let me ask this. If we are unable to accurately predict the weather over a relatively short period of time in the future, how can we expect to predict how the grains will appear at any level, at any point in time in the future?
Taking this matter a little further. I've received and cultured three particular mother-cultures referred to as TM, SL & KG, which were obtained from different locations around the world. Over time, I was able to observe a transformation in all three cultures. These results were observed after merely changing culture-conditions [changing conditions that these cultures were subjected to prior obtaining the cultures]. The cultures ended up sharing a similar growth structure, overall appearances and overall size all with each other. This occurred after 8 months of culturing in parallel conditions. These three cultures also ended up producing a similar kefir, regarding taste, texture and consistency. Although there was a noticeable difference in the kefir produced by all three mother-cultures when they were initially acquired. Including variation in general overall appearance between all three mother-cultures. My initial observation is possibly due to what I refer to as culture-inertia.
Oh yes, mushrooms have nothing to do with kefir grains, just as kefir grains are not cereal grains ... these are misnomers.
Please see this self explanatory picture which should shed some light on TM.
By the way, I've decided to name my kefir mother-culture, "Great Whites of Oz". Many thanks with kefir cheers to Julia of USA for the name!
Krezlewicz H, Szoltysek K.  Possibility of using so-called Tibetan grains [Tibetan Mushrooms] for production of a fermented beverage. Prezglad Mleczarski;23:15-16 [Inst. Tech. Przemyslu Chem. i Spozywczego, WSE, Wroclaw, Poland].
Diniz RO, Garla LK, Schneedorf JM, Carvalho JCT.  Study of anti-inflammatory activity of Tibetan mushroom, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and fungi encapsulated into a polysaccharide matrix. Pharmacol. res.;47:49-52.
35] CAN I EAT KEFIR GRAINS?
I was wondering when you'd ask this question!
Yes, kefir grains can certainly be eaten. I think, therefore I feel, that this is an essential part of the kefir-culturing process or kefir-ritual as a whole. I was encouraged to ingest kefir grains over 24 years ago, by the person who was kind enough to share some of her kefir grains with me. She was also encouraged to ingest excess kefir grains,by the person from whom she initially obtained her grains from. Later I began researching kefir, where I came across references explaining that the Caucasians also ingested kefir grains on a regular basis.
Suggestions that state kefir grains do not contain any nutritional value ... or are unsafe to ingest ... is plain-flavoured bull-ox. Not only do kefir grains contain proteins, amino acids and fats, the fact that they have anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory properties, blood pressure normalizing property including high blood cholesterol reducing activity among other beneficial value, is becoming more evident [1, 2]. Ingesting kefir grains regularly, has helped to cure Gastric Ulcers in personal friends and acquaintances, which I've had the pleasure of knowing and treating over some years. I've also used the ingestion of 2 Tbs milk kefir-grains each day over a 2 week period [with rectally retained implants of kefir grains], to successfully treat Ulcerative Colitis in my case, in 1999. I have been asymptomatic ever since. Each gram of kefir grain contain billions of friendly microbes and yeasts. Who needs a probiotic supplements in pill form, when kefir grains are fresh and possibly superior!? There may also be specific encapsulate microbes within the matrix, which may not be found in a liquid kefir. Ingesting these may give unique benefits.
For Individuals Who Wish To Ingest excess Kefir Grains [recipes included]
This may be achieved every 3 to 4 days, determined mostly by how many grains one has and their growth rate [batches consisting of smaller grains increase more rapidly than larger grains. Grains increase better at a temperature of about 22ºC]. The best suggestion I have, is to measure the initial volume of kefir grains, which produce a kefir to your liking. Measure the grains by marking the outside wall of the fermenting jar with a permanent marker, the volume of kefir grains placed in the jar without any milk added. After day 3 or 4, re-measure the volume against the mark and remove a portion of grains that exceed mark. These excess grains may be ingested. Removing these excess grains will also help the kefir-process, by maintaining a reasonably constant grain-to-milk ratio. The outcome of which should help to produce a kefir with a constant consistency made to your linking, produced in each batch [a win-win situation]. Excess kefir grains can even be frozen to accumulate an amount over time, so one may do a short course whereby ingesting a good portion of grains taken with kefir, each day over a given period. This is quite beneficial for individuals suffering from IBS, where a short course of ingesting say 1/4 cup of kefir grains each day, taken with kefir for breakfast, for one week duration, is as an example.
Kefir grains may be ingested raw on their own.Kefir grains can be dehydrated and used to prepare a probiotic savory condiment or a probiotic sweet dressing [go here for recipe details].Think of ingesting kefir grains as taking a living probiotic power-pill, consisting of billions of viable friendly organisms including yeasts, but with the added benefits of kefiran.Kefir grains can be used in smoothies e.g., kefir blended with the addition of kefir grains, or with coconut cream or young coconut water blended with a favourite fresh fruit, fruit juice or honey etc. See The ButterFly recipe including the Liver Blush recipe.Fresh kefir grains may be added to fresh salads.Kefir grains may be used as a thickening-agent e.g., thickening soups, stir-fry dishes and fruit-jams ["Jelly" in USA].Emulsified kefir grains by blending the grains with water in a food processor may be used in baking, rendering a lighter baked product with an extra crispy crust [kefir-grain sourdough bread].Egg substitute in certain recipes calling for eggs.In ice-cream making e.g., using kefir grains in place of eggs whites or in conjunction with egg whites. Kefir grains make a good substitute for vegetable gums or gelatine often used in commercial ice-cream making, rendering ice-cream as a rich pre-probiotic [see *recipe below].In homemade yogurt [Kefiran-Yogurt] rendering the final product with a soothing, creamy texture with added anti-inflammatory properties [see **recipe below].In butter making, rendering a healthier butter, as a functional food, in fact. Here's a recipe
*A recipe for "Kefir-ice-blocks". Kids should enjoy and thrive well on these!
Ingredients / Method1 cup sweet kefir [fermented for 16 hours].1/2 cup of a favourite fruit juice, or 1 banana.1/2 cup coconut milk.12 raw almonds, cashew, macadamia, or 4 brazil nuts or any combination.1 Tbs each raw pumpkin seed and sunflower kernels.1-2 Tbs honey [an option is to use a sweet fruit juice or chopped dry fruits instead].1-2 Tbs fresh kefir grains [use either milk or water kefir-grains or a mixture].1 tsp natural vanilla essence [for a vanilla flavour] or 2 Tbs of non sweetened cocoa powder [chocolate flavour].
Blend all nuts and seeds with coconut milk in electric blender to creamy liquid consistency. Strain mixture through white clean cheese cloth to collect seed and nut milk. Blend the milk with rest of ingredients until smooth and creamy, and without any lumps. Pour into ice-cube tray or ice-block form, and freeze till set. NOTE for optimal benefits regarding microbial viability and probiotic value, use within one month.
This gelato-style chocolate ice cream can be prepared with similar ingredients above. 5kg or about 11 pounds of ice with 1kg or about 2 pounds of salt sprinkled over the ice to lower the temperature of the ice to -19ºC or -2ºF. The ice-cream ingredients are placed in a tall stainless steel pot, and the pot is spun in a tub filled with salted ice, until the ice-cream sets. It takes about 10 minutes of spinning the pot in the salted ice by hand, to prepare the most healthiest, tastiest, creamy adourable gelato-style ice-cream. I have used a portion of milk kefir grains in most common ice-cream recipes, with improved results.
It's time that folks think more about their/our young ones, by introducing to them, a quality probiotic early on in life, so that their immune system are better primed for improved immune function latter in life. This is a worthy cause that shall place less emotional and financial strain on the community, on a grand scale and in years to come. So, where do you wish to stand in this obvious evolution pathway?
**Using Kefir Grains in Culturing Homemade Yogurt [Kefiran-Yogurt]
Ingredients / Method
4 cups fresh milk.
1-2 Tbs of fresh milk kefir-grains finely chopped or blended with 1/3 cup of fresh milk.
3 Tbs of dry milk powder [optional but if included will render the final yogurt thick with a spoonable curd].
Yogurt incubator or thermos-flask [fill flask with boiling hot water, place lid and set aside to sterilise].
2 to 4 Tbs of fresh unpasteurised commercial yogurt or a commercial yogurt starter-culture.
Finely chop kefir grains into small pieces using a sharp knife. Place chopped kefir grains in a pan with 1/3 cup of fresh water. Boil for 2 minutes while continuously stirring with a spatula. The consistency should be a creamy thick gel. Add fresh milk into another pan and dissolve dry milk powder. Continuously stir while bringing milk to boil then place pan in a bath of cold water to rapid cool [stir milk with same spoon used to stir while heating the milk]. Cool milk to 45ºC [113ºF]. Add warm kefir-grain-gel and fresh yogurt or starter-culture; mix well. Place inoculated milk in a sterile glass jar[s]. Jars and lids should first be sterilised by pouring boiling hot water in each jar, then place the lid on the jars. Pour out the hot water from the jar just prior adding inoculated milk to the jars. Incubate at 37ºC [113º F] for 8-12 hours. If using a thermos-flask as an incubator, pour out the hot water from flask and add the inoculated milk.
The Kefiran [gel-polysaccharide of kefir gains] should render the final yogurt with a smooth, silky mouth-feel. Kefiran-Yogurt is soothing for the Gastro-Intestinal [GI] tract and may help to relieve uncomfortable symptoms associate with Irritable Bowel problems such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease. This is because kefiran has systemic anti-inflammatory properties.
End Note. I have begun experimenting with water kefir-grains as a natural thickening agent for yogurt, and the results thus are very promising.
Here's an interesting recipe, which I was pleased to receive via e-mail from Alan and Joice Vevers. This is for a Yorkshire curd tart or cheese cake which incorporates kefir grains [Thanks for sharing the recipe, kind folks].
NOTE Recent research performed at the University of Alfenas, Brazil, found kefir grains exhibit an anti-inflammatory property. It was found that mice with lab-induced inflammation [pre-induced granuloma], when fed kefir grains daily, resulted in 40% reduction of inflammation at day 7 [1-2]. This research came about when Prof. Schneedorf contacted me for kefir grains for use in his research. Not long before this, I had successfully treated myself with rectal implants and retention of kefir grains, including the ingestion of kefir grains to correct Ulcerative Colitis in my sigmoid colon. I went into remission within 2 weeks of commencing the self-treatment, A complete cure, though I feel.and have been asymptomatic till current date. I explained this treatment to Prof. Schneedorf at the time. He decided to include this as part of his research, with trials performed with rat. This research revealed that the lab pre-induced granuloma rats responded similar to my case in vivo. This is indeed promising for sufferers of IBS [poor mice though :o[
1. Diniz RO, Garla L.K, Schneedorf JM, Carvalho JCT. [Jan. 2003] Study of anti-inflammatory activity of Tibetan mushroom, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and fungi encapsulated into a polysaccharide matrix. Pharmacol Res.;47:49-52.
2. Schneedorf J.M., Anfiteatro D.  Fitoterapicos Anti-inflamatorios by Carvalho, J.C.T. Quefir, um probiotico produzido por microorganismos encapsulados e inflamacao. Chapter 33:443-462.
For additional details regarding ingesting kefir grains, please read this at my Kefirpage [About Kefir web page includes additional research with references].
This is a good question, which is currently difficult to provide a direct answer to. Regarding beneficial effect of kefir, and yogurt e.g., seem to give benefits in which are said to be different mechanisms involved, and which most importantly are restricted to certain individuals rather than to the population as a whole. This is current understanding of the benefits of probiotics in general.
In my personal experience, I have recovered fully from Hepatitis C infection [genotype one] including Ulcerative colitis, which I put down to regular intake of milk kefir and milk kefir-grains, with the inclusion of frequent rectal injections and retention of milk kefir-grains.
I'm not aware of any current scientific research regarding the benefits of water-kefir, let alone differences between benefits of milk-kefir Vs water-kefir. However milk kefir exhibits anti-bacterial [inhibiting the growth of unwanted bacteria], anti-mycotic [inhibiting the growth of unwanted molds or fungi], anti-neoplastic [inhibiting or preventing the growth or development of malignant cells] and immunomodulatory [an immunological adjuster, regulator or potentiator] effects, including a recent study of the anti-inflammatory activity of milk kefir, especially so for kefiran, which milk kefir-grains consist of and exude into the kefir during fermentation of milk. Apart from the anti-inflammatory effect, the former four activities may be shared by water kefir-cultures. Milk kefir also contains a powerful antioxidant,  existing as charged molecules.  The former research has shown it to be more powerful than vitamin E in protecting body cells against oxidative damage. The latter research concluded that the pH and heat resistant powerful antioxidant of milk kefir, whether made from dairy milk, rice milk or soymilk, has the potential to prevent pathogenesis of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ischemia from stroke, Huntington’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and amyotrohic lateral sclerosis. There has yet been similar studies to evaluate antioxidants of water kefir that I am aware of at this point. Milk kefir also has the ability to correct high blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
Depending on culture-process, may determine the outcome regarding possible benefits of the final kefirs used for consumption. A milk-kefir consumed at a sweeter stage will produce different probiotic or other effects for certain individuals, over ingesting a sourer, or ripened kefir. Some have found that a sweeter milk or water kefir has a laxative effect, while sourer kefirs may produce a constipating effect for the same individual. This seems to be for both varieties of kefir. On peristalsis action alone, I've found that a sourer milk-kefir taken in the morning, will produce a stronger peristalsis action over ingesting a sweeter kefir [in myself personally]. A water-kefir does not seem to induce a similar action. Although I've found that this may vary with individuals, for a neighbour recently tried water kefir for the first time, and had to evacuate his bowels shortly after drinking the beverage. I could hear his bowels gurgling within seconds of having the water kefir! HOwever, his diet is rather poor mostly consisting of heavily processed foods, so one has to consider the condition of the GI tract and general health, and the normalizing effect either type of kefir has on the human organism as a whole, especially in regards to gastric function.
So far I've mostly found this to happen with certain individuals who have tried a milk-kefir for their first time, but this case has proven that water kefir can also do the same.
Taking a sweeter milk or water kefir may increase the counts of certain organisms of the Gastro-intestinal [GI] tract. A sourer kefir may provide other benefits e.g., increasing liver and gallbladder function at the cost of a less counts of specific organisms in the GI tract. A sourer milk or water kefir may have a mild diuretic effect. This effect is shared by water-kefir cultured for 48 hours [usually more pronounced if taken on its own]. Although a water-kefir has a tendency to induce the passing of urine within 30 minutes after drinking and in some cases the frequency may be every 10 to 30 minutes for a few hours. This can be seen as moderate modulating diuretic effect, which may be beneficial for specific conditions such as oedema. I personally feel the diuretic effect is quite pronounced in the stomach and non specified areas in GI tract, where there is existing inflammation. As the inflammation is reduced, then there is less of a diuretic effect with the intake of kefir.
On nutritional value alone, milk-kefir has a superior nutritional value over water-kefir. If milk-kefir is ripened at room temperature [or in the fridge] for 2 days, Folic acid content will increase by over 110% in comparison to freshly strained kefir or fresh milk.
I've personally observed the benefits regarding certain individuals who have ingested milk-kefir to successfully heal Peptic and gastric ulcers, both on onset and advanced stages of the disease. I'm not certain whether water kefir-grains will give a similar result?
A water-kefir made with the addition of medicinal herbs [Kefir d'erba medica] should include the benefits and or side effects of the individual herb used in the preparation of the probiotic herbal beverage. The final culture-product may include the propagation of certain microbes, which are native to that of the microflora found on the actual fresh or dry herb used in the culture-process e.g., Lb. plantarum. Where as not all milk-kefirs may contain this particular strain or other strains of friendly bacteria native to the microflora of vegetables and herbs. However, I have found that a herbal water and milk kefir, prepared with certain herbs such as Chinese Angelica root, including Korean Ginseng, induces a a unique feeling of euphoria shortly after consuming the beverage. This may tell us that the fermentation process increases the bio-availability of specific compounds of certain herbs with therapeutic properties. Or, psychoactive compounds with a short half life may be produced through fermentation.
Kefir has a vast microflora, of which the evolution is dependent on the duration of the culture process. A sweeter kefir [kefir fermented for less time] will contain a unique microflora over a sourer kefir [longer fermentation]. On the other hand a more acidic kefir, or a well ripened kefir, acid-loving lactic acid bacteria such as Lb. acidophilus and Lb. Brevis are found in higher proportions at the end of fermentation. Where as Leuconostoc mestenteroides and others, initiate the fermentation, then fall in numbers as the kefir becomes more acidic. This is due to Leuc. mestenteroides are unable to tolerant the amounts of lactic acid that they and other organisms produce as a metabolite of lactose. So, along with other similar microbes, they eventually commit environmental suicide ... poor little micro-chaps. Where as Lb. acidophilus and Lb. Brevis are acid lovers and can better tolerate acidic conditions. In effect, if one has any knowledge regarding microbiology of kefir at a specific level, one may tailor-prepare a kefir to achieve a specific goal.
Interferon-beta induction of milk-kefir. Milk-kefir was found to enhance interferon-beta secretion in body cells. Interferon is a glycoprotein produced by cells in response to viral attack, such as Hepatitis, whose function seems to be the triggering of viral interference defence mechanisms in uninfected cells of the same species in which it was produced. Interferon is believed to be effective against viral diseases, possibly including some forms of cancer. It was found that kefir enhanced interferon-beta secretion of a human osteosarcoma line MG-63, treated with a chemical inducer, poly I: poly C. The active substance in kefir was found to be sphingomyelin [SpM]. SpM from kefir was a mixture of four molecular species of SpMs having C21-, C22-, C23- and C24-fatty acids. It was found that kefir fermented milk SpM enhanced interferon secretion 14 times, while SpMs from other sources such as yogurt enhances only 2 - 3 times. These findings were found in vivo and in vitro.
This is possibly why kefir is unique in that it gives the consumer a distinctive increase in sense of well-being shortly after ingestion, where yogurt, buttermilk and other culture milk-products do not induce the same effect, or it is not as pronounced. Kefiran, the unique polysaccharide of milk kefir-grain organisms, has a calming effect.
NOTE Sphingomyelin can accumulate in a rare hereditary disease called Niemann-Pick Disease, types A and B. It is a genetically-inherited disease caused by a deficiency in the enzyme Sphingomyelinase, which causes the accumulation of Sphingomyelin in spleen, liver, lungs, bone marrow, and the brain, causing irreversible neurological damage. Of the two types involving Sphingomyelinase, type A occurs in infants. Children with this type rarely live beyond 18 months. It may be important for individuals with Niemann-Pick Disease consider omitting sphingomyelin containing foods such as Kefir, Yogurt and Buttermilk etc. Although I have no actual evidence at this point, that externally derived Sphingomyelin is associated with this disease or is a cause for problems in such cases. It's simply information that I've recently come across and thought it should be mentioned here as a precaution, and for further investigation.
1. Güven A, Gülmez M.  The Effect Of Kefir On The Activities Of GSH-Px, GST, CAT, GSH And LPO Levels In Carbon Tetrachloride-Induced Mice Tissues. J. of Vet. Med., Series B, 50:412-416.
2. Kuximoto KI, Hemlrich A, Melricko P, Chen LP, Henry JS, Shirahata S, Tokumaru S, Barns D.  The protective anti-oxidant effects of kefir on SFME neural stem cells. Animal Cell Tech. 12:353-358
3. Osada K, Nagira K, Teruya K, Tachibana H, Shirahata S, Murakami H. [1993-94] Enhancement of interferon-beta production with sphingomyelin from fermented milk. Grad. School of Gen. Res. Tech., Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan. Biotherapy; 7:115-123
Schneedorf JM, Anfiteatro D.  Fitoterapicos Anti-inflamatorios by Carvalho JCT. Quefir, um probiotico produzido por microorganismos encapsulados e inflamacao. Chapter 33:443-462.
Diniz RO, Garla LK, Schneedorf JM, Carvalho JCT. [Jan. 2003] Study of anti-inflammatory activity of Tibetan mushroom, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and fungi encapsulated into a polysaccharide matrix Pharmacol Res; 47:49-52
Further details regarding the microflora composition of water kefir-grains and traditional milk kefir-grains can be found here [regarding water kefir-grains] and here [regarding milk kefir-grains], situated at my about kefir web page.
Dehydrated milk kefir-grains are usually yellow in colour. They are quite firm and almost crystalline in appearance. After reconstituting for 24 hours in either fresh milk or fresh water, some grains more than others, will become slightly white in colour. With daily milk change, from there on, the grains will become whiter in colour until they stabilize. Although dry milk-grains may initially begin with no slime or gel component, the encapsulated organisms begin to awaken as it were, and should begin producing the gel-polysaccharide, kefiran, which is the essential component for the growth of milk kefir-grains. Kefiran production transforms the grains from yellow or a yellow/brown colour, to white, fluffy slimy grains with elasticity. Some grains usually reach this point before others do.
Generally, it should take anywhere between 3 to 8 weeks to notice at least a percentage, if not the majority of grains become white and slimy, and have increased in overall volume [or increased in weight, and not always in size per grain at this point]. These are propagable grains. In some cases it may take as long as 12 weeks for reconstituted milk kefir-grains to fully awaken and commence propagation. If any discoloured grains remain in the batch after 12 weeks, which do not produce the slime component and remain slightly yellow or yellow-brown, or a light orange colour with a crumbly texture when squeezed between two clean finger, then these grains are discarded, keeping only white, soft slimy grains, for the former are non-propagable [shall never grow].
NOTE The percentage of grains that eventually propagate, including the period it takes for the grains to become propagable is determined by how long they were stored for and storage conditions. A direct relationship here also lies in the manner in which the grains were initially dehydrated, and the quality of the fresh kefir grains prior to drying. Dehydrated kefir grains should store well for at least one year, and in same cases up to 18 months or longer. The longer the grains are stored for, the higher percentage of non propagable grains remain after 8 weeks of re-activation, or it will take a longer period for the grains to fully re-activate and begin to grow.
It's not favourable to consume initial batches of kefir prepared during reconstitution and re-activation of dehydrated kefir grains [e.g., the first 3 to 7 batches]. This is mostly true for milk kefir-grains. However, the third batch of water kefir can be consumed if the water kefir has a nice, clean sour aroma and flavour, and it is not slimy.
One of the reasons is that the product may not have an appealing taste, consistency and aroma during these first batches of re-activation. Until the microflora establishes a balance between the friendly bacteria and yeasts, the yeast component is usually more active than the bacteria component, initially. This may produces a kefir with an overwhelming aroma and taste. The kefir may also taste bitter, somewhat similar to brewer's yeast.
Kefir grain's microflora share a complexity among the yeast and bacterial components, which is still not well understood at a scientific level. During re-activation, these components need time in order to reach and attain a workable and desirable balance between all components. This may take anywhere between 5 days to 3 months to occur. In all cases though, the quality of the fresh culture before dehydrated, the manner in which the grains were dehydrated, length of storage, storage conditions including future culture-conditions all have direct influence regarding the amount of time it takes for the grains to reactivate fully and begin to grow.
Note that consuming the initial batches mostly should not cause harm if ingested, it may simply be off putting, especially for a newcomer to kefir. However, immune compromised individuals may be best to avoid first amounts of kefir during the first 5 days at least, of reactivation of dry kefir grains.
In a nutshell, it's desirable to wait until kefir attains stability before the kefir is rendered suitable for consumption. One may determine when this point it reached, by a decrease in high yeast activity. The kefir should have just a hint to a slight aroma and taste of fresh yeast with a clean, sour taste. High yeast activity is evident as foam forming on the surface of milk kefir within 24 to 48 hours of fermentation, usually within the first week of re-activation. When the formation of foam ceases and the kefir has a clean, sour aroma and taste, with a possible hint of fresh yeast, indicates that the grains have reached a desirable working balance between the yeast and bacterial component [stable symbiosis]. Batches prepared from that point on can be consumed. For troubleshooting off tasting kefir, see following FAQ.
38a] Troubleshooting milk kefir-grains that produce kefir with an unappealing flavour or aroma
Over the years, I've received concerns from individuals who encountered problems during the re-activation of dehydrated kefir grains. The mentioning of kefir with a fowl odour and taste is common among such cases. Some of these individuals were kind enough to send me samples of their dehydrated kefir grains. After some time working with these samples, I observed a transformation for the better when the grains were cultured under my care, and within a relatively short period. To make a long story short, my conclusion is, with perseverance, I have yet to fail observing the power of propagable kefir grains to bounce back to produce a good kefir. But this is only possible if the culturing and caring individual of such grains is persistent and cultures with patience and with due care. It appears that the grains will persevere, only if the culturee has the patience to keep up with the grain's ability to self-organize, through the mysterious nature and potentially robust microflora of kefir grains. It usually takes approximately 2 and in some cases up to 5 weeks for dehydrated kefir grains to bounce back, if they previously produced an unusual kefir.
An effective means of recovering kefir grains that produce a kefir with an unfavourable aroma and taste. In a clean, sterile jar, cover the grains with an amount of non-pasteurised buttermilk, good quality home made kefir or a plain commercial kefir or yogurt that contains active cultures. Let stand for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature, and then add fresh milk to culture kefir for 24 hours. Repeat this over 3 to 5 batches. This works because kefir grain's have a natural tendency to pickup on good, favourable organisms that are introduced to the grains from external means. Also, adding a good culture to the grains inhibit unwanted organisms, and appears to correct the symbiotic relationship between the wanted components.
Cold milk is quite suitable to culture kefir. Although the milk may be added warm to just below body heat before adding the warm milk to the grains. This would be how the people of Caucasus probably made [make] their kefir ... fresh warm milk directly after milking would have been added to the grains in leather bags, on some occasions at least. Although if the milk is not fresh, then I am not certain if warming the milk first, would be recommended? I would be concerned about the cultivation of higher numbers of unwanted organisms due to warming refrigerated pasteurised milk. My recommendation is not to warm up any milk that is more than 2 days old. A workaround is to pasteurised older milk by heating to 70ºC. Quickly cool the milk to just below body heat by floating the pot of hot milk in a cold water bath. Then use the warm milk with kefir grains to culture kefir per usual manner.
There are some advantages for the use of dry kefir-grains, as apposed to fresh culture. But firstly I would like to mention that waste is in the eye of the beholder. Milk strained from the first few batches during reconstitution of dry milk kefir-grains, is discarded, which may be seen as a waste of good milk. However, the milk is not wasted, for it responsible to awakened and sustain life of billions of organisms found dormant in the dry kefir-grains. The strained culture-milk from reconstitution of milk kefir-grains has many practical uses. Plants can benefit from it and I am certain that even if one is not in the situation to provide caring of plants, a short walk around your area with bare feet, shall bear fruit, in that there should be a tree or a shrub nearby that would benefit from a shot of the soured milk, given to the ground. It can be used to prepare a liquid plant fertilizer. The culture-milk may also be used as a body and hair wash. Soap-making is another possibility.
But most importantly, recipients of dry kefir-grains learn from the-word-go, the important procedure of reconstituting dehydrate kefir-grains ... an essential part of kefir-making as a whole culture-art.
Recipients learn patience as apposed to expecting a quick fix [I want (but do not really need) a dozen live fresh kefir-grains, by yesterday!]. My reply to this is, if you've made it this far in life without kefir, then a few days wait should not set one back enough to prevent death or harm!
Reconstitution of dry milk kefir-grains also provides another unique advantage. The grains readily adapt to the new medium, for the foundation of the complex components of the grains commence to reconstitute or rebuild [reset] from the initial point onward in any new medium [such as switching from cow to goat's milk, which often leads to producing a thin, watery kefir [But commonly not the case when switching the grains from Goat to Cow's milk].
Reconstituting dry milk kefir-grains may correct problems, which may arise in regards to texture or consistency of kefir e.g., when the grains produce a thin, watery kefir, or when intending to switch to a different milk type as explained above, then reconstitution of dry backup culture should shift or reset the culture to produce a creamy kefir within a relative short period.
The other advantage is that a dry culture has a long shelf life, commonly 12 to 18 months for milk kefir grains, and 6 to 12 months for water kefir-grains, depending if the fresh culture is dehydrated correctly, and stored under optimal conditions. The method I have developed for dehydration including the packaging in a secret protective nutrient media, my dry milk kefir-grains have remained viable for 5 years. While my dry water kefir-grains have reconstituted well at 18 months storage [experimentation is continuing].
For the traveller, dry culture can easily be transported, for the carrying of liquids on a flight e.g., carries a great security risk and liquids are very restricted on plain fights in most if not all countries today.
This film can be referred to as Mycodermia [Greek origin. Myco= fungi, Derma= skin= Fungi Skin], which is created by colonies of fungi and or bacteria. In all cases forming on the surface of the liquid such as wine and in this case, kefir. Mycodermia which forms of the surface of air exposed wine over time, is referred to as Flowers of Wine. So it was relatively simple for me to adopt this to kefir, hence why I decided to name such a film, Flowers of Kefir [FOK].
Culture-conditions including how the culture is maintained, shall influence the formation of Flowers of Kefir. It is distinguishable by a white to light-brown fuzzy carpet-like powdery film forming on the furface [surface] of kefir. Before I move on though, I should explain that in all the cases that I've seen thus far over the years, such a film found on the surface of milk-kefir is non pathogenic, or generally regarded as safe [GRAS]. It is mostly a formation by certain strains of yeasts [of kefir or from external means], which under certain conditions and specifically in the presence of air, will form pseudo-mycelium [not a true mycelium], which gives that common fuzzy appearance of common mold. This is why it can easily be mistaken for mold growth, although it is not mold, but specific yeast strains instead.
What occurs is that yeasts of kefir that normally reproduce by budding or producing spores, they instead form a mold-like fuzzy growth. It only occurs on the surface where lots of freely available oxygen exists. This is why in recent time, names of many yeast strains of kefir have gone through reclassification and in most cases, the same yeast has now got two different names, determined by the method of reproduction [asexual or sexual], either teleomorph or anamorph due to culture conditions. Please see the genus group Yeasts in a table of the microflora of milk kefir at my kefirpage.
At one point I thought about the possibility that the mold-like yeast strain Geotrichum candidum, was solely responsible for Flowers of Kefir. However, the mycodermia forms even in the presence of 2% sodium chloride [table salt]. G. candidum on the other hand will not grow in the presence of 1% or greater sodium chloride concentration, so it was not possible for this strain to be responsible for FOK. However, it is possible that G. candidum is present, which is also known as Galactomyces geotrichum [as a telemorph or asexual reproductive state when no freely available oxygen is present]. G. candidum is used in cheese making to produce some types of cheese, but it is also a problem mold in other varieties of cheese, because it gives the cheese an unwanted flavour, and not because it is hazardous to health in most cases, so I believe.
Although FOK can be considered generally regarded as safe, it is not preferred in day-to-day traditional kefir making. There are reasons for the formation of FOK, and following are a few that come to mind--
Kefir grains left in the same milk for too long [causes over-fermentation]. Followed by over-fermentation over many batches [not changing the milk daily, but every 3 or so days instead, and doing so over extensive periods or over many batches, especially in warmer conditions].
Can indicate that there are too many kefir grains brewing in the volume of milk, cultured for that particular amount of time [24 hours fermentation is most common and preferred culture-time for milk-kefir].
In higher temperatures, such as during summer or in semi-tropical to tropical environment.
All the above.
With yeasts of kefir, same strains can exist as two morphologies, teleomorph and anamorph. I believe these states are mostly influenced by freely available oxygen, such as within the liquid kefir, or on the surface where ample available oxygen encourages the same yeast to form similar to mold, appearing as a fuzzy carpet due to the the yeast forming germ tubes or hyphae [forming pseudo-mycelium or not a true mycelium that gives molds a fuzzy appearance].
Greater grain-volume [more culture] increases yeast activity in kefir, which makes conditions favourable for Flowers of Kefir to form. In most cases, the most effective remedy or prevention is to reduce the amount of mother-culture, and or reduce fermentation time. Or, increase the amount of milk used for your kefir making. Usually removing 50% of culture while using the same amount of milk that you have been using, and making certain to culture for 24 hours only per each batch, should prevent or remedy the formation of FOK over proceeding batches.
Flowers of Kefir forming while Ripening Kefir. Flowers of Kefir usually form on the surface of kefir ripened in a large cylinder-shaped vessel, such as a crock, where too much air is involved, especially in warm conditions. FOK need freely available oxygen to form, and to prevent it forming, air must be prevented from getting into the vessel during the ripening cycle. This is where an air trap [airlock], such as those used in beer and wine making is also useful in the process for ripening kefir. Please see this picture with self explaining details. Also see Ripening Kefir Under Airlock at my kefir making web page, which explains how to avoid FOK.
Photos to Further Explain the Interesting Phenomena, Flowers of Kefir [FOK]
Flowers of Kefir forming on surface of strained kefir, left in an open bowl for some days at warm to moderate room temperature.
Flowers of Kefir A closer look. The formation of pseudo-mycelium found on the surface of kefir [as above] begins by strains of yeast forming germ tubes in the presence of oxygen. X 400 magnification [Differentially stained organisms].
Flowers of Kefir formed on surface of kefir [as above], seen through a microscope X 100 magnificence.
Flowers of Kefir Growing in clumps on the surface of kefir-whey left out in an open bowl for 30 days X 50 magnificence.
If you view all photos above, you may conclude that Flowers of Kefir have some practical use. Flowers of Kefir can be skimmed with a spoon and used as a natural leaving agent in place of baker's yeast in baking breads, pizza, and others. The skimmed flowers make a wonderful active kefir sourdough starter. I have also discovered that an interesting beer starter can be prepared with Flowers of Kefir.
On returning back from hitching a ride to the end of the galaxy, I have come to realize that the reason we crystallize this question is to re-dissolve us and the only substance which can dissolve us is LOVE - real Love; unconditional, momentary, and eternal. [Rendition of a dear friend, Michael Hobbs].
Yes you may and this is how to do it with either milk kefir-grains for milk kefir, or water kefir-grains for water kefir.
Say you have 2 Tbs which is about 28gm [1oz] milk kefir-grains, and you want to prepare 4 Lt [1 gal] kefir. Normally this amount of culture is insufficient to prepare that amount of kefir within 24 hours. There are two ways to accomplish our goal. One is to add the grains in a large enough fermenting jar with 4 litres of fresh milk, cover the jar and let stand at room temperature until the kefir has formed. This may take anywhere from 4 to 6 days to be ready, and although this is a possible means for preparing a large volume with insufficient culture, the possibility of producing a superior kefir is variable. If the milk is not of the freshest quality, the odds of producing an unfavourable culture-product is quite great.
The better option is to begin with a small amount of milk to prepare an initiating culture, with say 1 to 2-cups fresh milk fermented with the 2 Tbs kefir grains in a large jar that will contain the 4 Lt milk. Let contents stand for 24 hours at room temperature, or until a nice, creamy kefir results. Do not strain but instead, stir contents, and then top up with 2 more litres [1/2 gal] of fresh milk. Stir and let stand for about 12 hours, stirring the kefir a few times during the culture cycle. Add the rest of the milk to a volume of 4 litres all up, and again let stand for another 12 hours, or until the kefir has formed nicely, stirring the kefir as regularly as you wish during the culture cycle. Strain and there you have it, 4 litres of good kefir in about 2 days.
Within say 2 weeks of doing this, your kefir grains should double in weight or volume, and you should find that it will take 1 day to culture 4 litres, because the culture would increase and the culture should also increase in potential to ferment more efficiently. By about the third batch however, instead of beginning with 1 to 2-cups of milk to prepare our initiating culture, we should begin the process with 1 litre [4 cups] of fresh milk, culture for 24 hours, stir contents, add the remaining 3 litres of milk, stir again and within 24 hours you should have 4 litres of good kefir. In a short while you should have an active enough culture and with an adequate amount that can prepare 4 litres of kefir in 24 hours.
Say you have only 2 Tbs water kefir-grains, and you want to prepare 8-cups water kefir. Add the 2 Tbs water kefir-grains to a fermenting jar that can contain 8-cups liquid with some air space left in the jar of at least 1-cup volume. Seal jar airtight with a lid, and simply let contents stand at room temperature until sweetness is reduced, and an amount of fizz is produced. It may take 3 days instead of 2 days to prepare the water kefir for the first batch. However, since healthy water kefir-grains should increase much more than milk kefir-grains, and by as much as 50% to 220% at 48 hours, it will only take one or so batches to have enough grains to culture a larger batch within 48 hours in the proceeding batch.
For a proven best water kefir recipe, please see my Kefir Making web page
The shape of grains to come!
No, your grains are not damaged, and you do NOT have special, rare grains, as some folks on the net are suggesting. All milk kefir-grains shall, and do go through phases of variable growth in regards to shape, size and texture or make up of the grain. This is because the organisms adapt to culture-conditions, the result of which is a variable grain shape, size, and texture of each grain. There's lots happening among the micro-community of organisms. How these are forced to build their abode [the grain], is quite fascinating to observe under so many culture-conditions.
In the case with flat sheathed grains this is usually a result of self-enclosed grains being popped open by physical means, such as excessive squeezing or pushing on the grain, or tearing or cutting the grain into smaller pieces. The opening of such grains lets in milk, and over time those grains will be forced to grow as large, flat sheaths, instead of self-enclosed bodies. However, if future culture conditions allows little interference regarding physical trauma, then those flat grains will eventually grow to the natural shape and form, which are self-enclosed bodies or grains. The cycle from flat sheaths to self-enclosed bodies may take up to 9 months to occur. Please note that flat sheathed grains are not damaged grains by no means. In fact, I suggest to tear apart larger grains, for smaller flat grains usually produce a creamier kefir, due to kefiran leaching into the surrounding milk from both sides of the matrix [the once interior and exterior surface]---i.e., while the grains remain as flat sheaths. But again, within a few months, those flat sheaths will grow into self-enclosed bodies.
Grains that appear as smooth, deflated rubber balloons is also a phase of growth, and is no indication of damage or inferior grain-type. Those grains will evolve into the more common type in shape and texture. Again, this may take some months to occur. Colder culture-conditions has the effect of creating grains with a rougher surface, and the makeup of such grains is more durable, rubbery in texture as apposed to soft and slimy. This is because of greater protein content and less kefiran content, due to less kefiran production under colder conditions.
Please see the following at my Kefir page Growth Cycle of Milk Kefir Grains
Also see FAQ 15 and FAQ 34 above.
Try securing elastic rubber bands around the outside wall of glass jars, as shown in picture. This cushions the jar, giving protection against accidental breakage. Rubber bands can be used as indicators for observing kefir grain increase. Rubber bands are adjustable, making the process flexible, pardon the punett of fun.
There's also the option to cover jars with cloth. In fact, some material fashioned similar to a tea cosey should work well. This also insulates the jar, which can be a good means for keeping the milk warmer in colder conditions.
One of my kefir list members stated that they "save the tops of old socks and slip them over the jars". Now that's a great idea. How's that for recycling without any socks while peddling through the never-never land of kefir!
It is imperative that sugary kefir grains [SKG] grow well, to produce a health-promoting beverage. The only way SKG will grow well is if they are fed on sucrose or cane sugar [table sugar] solution. Honey or fruit juices do not provide the correct form of sugar for the organisms to create new grain, for honey and most fruit juices are mostly fructose. The organisms require sucrose, a two-sugar or disaccharide, so that they can break it down into its two basic forms or single-sugars [mono-saccharides], glucose and fructose. Specific organisms use the glucose to create new grain [growth].
If sugar content or sugar-type is a concern, then the following information should ease your mind. The organisms of good growing SKG utilize most of the sugar, more than 80% in fact. What is left in the final beverage is mostly fructose, some of which is converted to a myriad of compounds, most of which can be classified as heath-promoting. So what is left is in fact a form of honey, for honey is mostly fructose. Good growing grains remove most of the glucose from the solution, which is converted to new grains, and which are not consumed, for the grains are removed through straining, taking with them a good portion of glucose. Even if the grains were consumed, the glucose [dextran] based SKG are not easily digestible, and provide very little to no energy value, so I believe.
The photo on left demonstrates the amount of sugar left over in water kefir, prepared with 1/2 cup sugar and 6 cups water, brewed for 2 days at room temperature. The thick syrup was produced by reducing the water kefir through boiling under partial vacuum. There's actually less sugar left than what we can see here, for the thick syrup still contains some water-- the sugar was not crystallized. On tasting the thick syrup, it is not very sweet at all, in fact honey has a much sweeter taste. For those interested in food science, or developing [health] foods, this syrup can be a base for producing some healthy sweets, or used as a light thickening agent, for the syrup has a slight gel property, possibly due to compounds produced by organisms in producing the grains.
Now, this amount of sugar is left right after a 2 day fermentation. If the water kefir is stored even in the fridge, even more sugar is reduced. My favourite reply to those individuals concerned about sugar in water kefir is to state that one cup of water kefir prepared with good growing SKG contains far less sugar than a Granny Smith apple [the green sour type].
Some folks are finding that young coconut water prepares a healthy water kefir, stating that the grains grow in young coconut water. However, at this point I can not verify this, for I have not prepared young coconut water kefir over an extensive period to test this.
NOTE The above tells us that in order to reduce as much sugar as possible in water kefir, then it is important that the SKG are growing well. The more grain growth the lesser sugar is left in water kefir, and also the lesser amount of alcohol produced. For a good water kefir recipe that gives best grain growth, please go to my kefir making web page here
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I may not appear to be very clever in some peoples' eyes. Nor may some actions I choose to take be as precise as those of a healthy single-celled Macrophage. Without as little as offending innocent cells around them, macrophage cells seem to always get their man! I feel secure to have these pro-efficient cells working WITH me, and not against me. I visualize The Divine Light of The Creator of Life, Blessing each and every honest-hard-working cell, abiding within my body ...
... my Temple...
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