Your Kefir Questions Answered!

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There is plenty of good information out there explaining the basics of making kefir. However, I found when I started making my own that it wasn’t quite as simple as to put the grains in milk and leave them there for 24 hours. Here is a little FAQ on making kefir that addresses the tougher questions.

Q. How do I know when the kefir is ‘done’ and ready to strain?

A. I have found that making kefir is more of an art than a science. There is no set time frame for making kefir. Conditions are a factor including room temperature, the vessel being used to ferment the kefir and also the ratio of grains to milk, so you need to experiment a little to figure out what works best for your kefir. Here are some signs to look for after about 18-24 hours of fermenting:

  • When you open your fermentation jar you get a loud pop and get splattered with kefir ‘spray’ (tongue in cheek but this happens to me all the time with my Fido jars!)
  • The kefir smells nice and yeasty, like beer
  • The milk has thickened and looks gelatinous but still fairly thin when stirred
  • The milk will have an effervescent taste – like a ‘milk soda’

Q. Help – my kefir separated into liquid at the bottom and a big lump of white stuff on the top? Do I have to throw it out?

A. Of course not! Just shake it up. It might be too sour to drink straight up but it will still be fine to use in smoothies or for making kefir cheese.

Q. Is there a fool-proof way for making sure my kefir doesn’t separate?

A. In most cases, yes. I have found that straining the kefir after 12 hours elapsed time allows me to avoid this issue most of the time. It also makes it much easier to strain and fish out the grains at the 12 hour point because the milk hasn’t thickened yet. I strain off the grains and add new milk to them. I set the strained liquid (what I call ‘the almost kefir’ because it hasn’t thickened yet) in a jar on the counter for a few more hours and then put it in the fridge. Taking the grains out will not cause it to stop fermenting – in fact, it continues but at a bit of a slower rate.

Q. I had a good method going for a couple of weeks and now everything has changed. It is fermenting a lot faster than it was and now I don’t know how long to leave the grains in!

A. The fascinating thing about kefir grains is that they are sustainable. They grow and replicate. Every two weeks or so, my grains double in volume. This then throws off my usual grain:milk ratio and my whole system gets thrown off. Adding the grains and more milk to a larger vessel just compounds the issue for me because it seems that once the grains have more room to grow, they take you up on the offer and replicate even more rapidly to the point of forcing you to kefir a whole gallon of milk in two days. Believe me, I have been there. Here is what I have found to work to keep the madness under some control. Ferment in two vessels of equal size. I normally use one 500ml Fido jar, when my grains start growing, I separate them to two 500ml jars. I do this for 2 or 3 days and when I have healthy sized grains I start giving them away or adding them to smoothies or all of the other creative things you can do with kefir grains. But the key here is that you keep your ratios under control and you don’t end up with fully thickened kefir after 10 hours when you aren’t expecting it.

Q. I am kefiring with non-homogenized milk and now I have kefir cream on top and thickened kefir milk on the bottom. How do I make this consistent? Stirring doesn’t seem to do the job.

A. Strain it with a good thin nylon strainer and it will effectively ‘homogenize’ the kefir for you and break apart those lovely chunks into a smoother drink. Even if I strain at 12 hours (per the answer above), I still strain again before I put IT into the fridge to get a more even consistency.

Q. Can I just pour different batches together in one jar in the fridge?

A. Yes. The milk will continue to ferment even while in the fridge. It is just fine to mix them all together.

Q. Can kefir be used like buttermilk in recipes?

A. Yes—I have successfully used kefir to soak grains and to make things like ranch dressing in place of buttermilk.

Q. What kind of jar should I use?

A. I use the Fido jars but any mason jar will do. However, you don’t want to put a regular top on a Mason jar as the fermentation will create pressure. Just cover a regular mason jar with a coffee filter and a rubber band or a cloth.

Q. I am leaving my house for a few days, how can I put my grains to ‘sleep’?

A. Just add the grains to a fresh batch of milk and put in a sealed jar in the fridge. The cool temperature will allow the grains to feed much more slowly but not indefinitely. The longer you are gone the more milk they will need. I have put my grains to sleep for as long as 10 days in a very large jar with a lot of milk. When you return you simply need to ‘wake’ them back up by adding some fresh milk and possibly going through 1-2 rounds of fermentation. The first batch may not taste to your liking after waking up sleeping grains – you may want to strain after 12 hours and start again with a fresh batch of milk.

Q. Can I mail grains to my friends and family?

A. Yes! I have successfully mailed in two ways:

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  • Dried grains – rinse the grains with fresh clean water with no chlorine in it. Break them into small pieces and dry on a towel overnight. Add to a baggie or container and ship. The person receiving these dried grains will need to soak them in milk to wake them up similar to the process above – it may take 3-4 batches to get a consistent and tasty kefir again.
  • Wet grains – add the grains to a baggie and add a few tablespoons of milk and then double bag it. Mail. I sent one that took about 4 days to get to the recipient and all was well – the grains were fine and could be used right away!

Q. What can I do with all the kefir I am making?!

A. So many things! I use mine to make probiotic ice creams, salad dressings, smoothies, kefir cheese or just drink it straight up!

Q. What do I do with extra grains besides give them away?

A. Here is a great post with some ideas on that!

I hope this post was helpful – please bookmark it so you can always find an answer to your kefiring questions!

This post featured on Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday

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42 Responses to Your Kefir Questions Answered!

  1. Powell Jill says:

    Ok, I can’t even imagine drinking it straight up yet! What is the secret? It smells like beer to me…
    BUT I saw someone who makes the smoothies with stevia, maybe that would cut it??

  2. Koty Robinson says:

    So where do you get kefir? I have heard there is a milk one plus a water kefir.
    I am new to all this fermenting,but I have made the salsa my family love it

    • Simone Bull says:

      if you google Free kefir grains, there is a worldwide list of people that will post you some. Grains are meant to be gifts :) I make Kefir kraut , like sauerkraut made with some grains, it is lovely. Water grains are a bit different, you need to convert your milk grains to eat sugar but once converted, they dont change back to milk kefir again.

  3. Love links says:

    […] that contain probiotics, like  fermented foods such as easy to make sauerkraut.  Kombucha and kefir are also a very beneficial beverages to have each […]

  4. […] Your Kefir Questions Answered […]

  5. […] A reader was asking me some troubleshooting questions about kefir this week. Also for the first time I gave some of my kefir grains away to someone else! This is a useful post that will answer your troubleshooting questions about kefir. […]

  6. Salina Cook says:

    I have a few questions about kefir. I was sent live grains (that had been frozen) through the mail. It arrived being about 2 tablespoons of flattened, grainy white liquid. I put it it raw cows milk as her instructions suggested to “wake it up” for 24 hours on the counter, strained, then another 24 hours. Each time I’ve strained it, it is more like cottage cheese in liquid (or curds) with no big pieces of grain. It tastes good in smoothies with fruit and greens and smells fresh, but I have yet to get the cauliflower look. Also, it doesn’t have a yeasty, beer smell, nor is it effervescent enought to make a pop getting the lid off. I’m not sure if I am doing something wrong or maybe it just takes a while to get the grains to look like cauliflower. A few more questions:
    1- Do you wash your jar out each time you start a new batch or just add back the grains with new milk?
    2- What do you do with the excess curds? The last 2 weeks I’ve been doing this, the curds seem to be growing and growing. Should I seperate them or allow the growth to continue since there isn’t any bigger pieces yet?

    • If you haven’t seen the grains how have you made further batches? As for your other questions: no I do not wash out the jar every day. I am not sure what you mean by curds. Do you mean the kefir grains?

  7. […] the vast quantities of kefir consumed in my house, I’ve considered making it. I’m not sure […]

  8. Simone Bull says:

    My Kefir wasnt coming out think and creamy like you get at the store so now I add a splash of cream to my milk nd grains mix before fermenting. Oh my is it nice a thick and creamy and mmmmmmm… Thanks so much for these tips, and yes, I also get splatted with Kefir upon releasing the jar top hehehehe

  9. […] My brother-in-law gave me some kefir grains and I’ve been trying to make some kefir.  Honestly, I’ve been having all kinds of issues; one of which is me not knowing what it is supposed to taste like!  In the meantime, I’m checking out Your Kefir Questions Answered. […]

  10. Cristina says:

    Is it ok to blend the kefir? Would it destroys its nutrients? I have been told not to blend raw milk, so I wonder if it also applies to kefir. thanks!

  11. […] proper care and storage of the kefir during the fermentation process is extremely important. Homemade Mommy has a great post answering the FAQs on making kefir that you’ll probably want to read before […]

  12. Georgeanna says:

    Do you have any experience or information about water kefir?

  13. Marion says:

    Hi : First off thanks for sharing , really great information .
    My question ; I would like to make coconut milk kefir , but I am wondering if I can rehydrate my grains using milk made from “powdered milk” ( I am using dehydrated grains) . Or do I have to rehydrate in coconut milk also .kindly guide , thank you so much .

    • Lindsey G. says:

      I have never heard of doing that so I am not sure. Is that what it said to do on the instructions that came with your grains? I would just rehydrate in regular whole milk and then switch to coconut milk.

  14. Marion says:

    Thanks , no the instructions just say to rehydrate as per usual with whatever milk is being used to make the kefir . The problem I have is that I do not have readily available the quantity of coconut milk needed to rehydrate for the 3 – 7 days . So I was just wondering if I could rehydrate with the whole powdered milk, ( at this time all liquid milk available is UHT)of course made liquid . and later when I receive my coconut milk use that to make the kefir . thank you so much .

    • Lindsey G. says:

      My gut reaction would be to just use UHT milk vs. powdered. The grains may not like either though and you might have a tough time keeping them alive very long on coconut milk. They really need whole milk to last longer…so refresh them in whole milk when you can every month or so.

  15. alisa says:

    I have been making kefir for months and at first the grains were very small and pretty much stayed the same in size. Then I kept noticing there were less and less of them, but the mils was culturing fine. Now, there are no grains left; however, I’ve been making kefir by using some of the cultured milk and it seems to be working just fine. Is that possible? Also, I noticed that the cultured milk has a pleasant sweet smell to it but not at all yeasty like when the grains were actually visible. Is this common?

    • Lindsey G. says:

      This means the grains are dying/dead. How have you been making the kefir please? What kind of milk are you using? Where do you put the kefir to culture?

  16. Bridget says:

    I am so confused over whether homemade kefir or yogurt is better for my family. I want to start making one of them (or both) for myself and to feed to my 12 month old. Is kefir safe for a baby that age? He eats a very healthy, organic diet already. How much kefir should I start him on each day? Should I do yogurt too?

    • We eat both! Kefir is really more for drinking while yogurt is more for eating with a spoon. Kefir has probiotics that can colonize the gut while yogurt only contains pre-biotics which feed the bacteria already in your gut. I find kefir much more soothing to my gut. Good luck!

  17. Tasha says:

    Hi Lindsey- I am new at all of this, but simply fascinated with all you can do with fermented foods and really want to try making my own kefir! By soaking the grains in ‘whole milk’ do you mean regular pasteurized milk? Or is raw milk preferred? Will the grains help remove the lactose from the pasteurized milk? Thank you!!

    • Hi Tasha – thanks! Yes – kefir is so awesome. You can use pasteurized or raw milk to make kefir. I prefer raw for many reasons. Your grains will prefer raw milk also and will replicate and multiple more readily in raw milk. They thrive on the lactose so yes – it is a great option for those with lactose intolerance.

  18. Lauren says:

    How long will kefir keep in the fridg? I can’t finish it all at once!

  19. […] Kefir Q&A by Homemade Mommy How to Make Milk Kefir by Cheeseslave Learning to Make Milk Kefir by Butter Believer A Simple Guide to Making Kefir by Weed ‘Em & Reap How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir by Homemade Mommy How to Make Kefir Cheese and Whey by Homemade Mommy   […]

  20. Anamarija Wagner says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    For 20 months now I have had severe diarrhea up to 14 times a day. I have recently discovered fermented foods and the role they play in digestive health. I have two questions. Will kefir making be successful if you use pasteurized milk as we can not get unpasteurized milk here in Nova Scotia, Canada, and where can I get good Kefir grains? If you have any I would love to order them from you.

    Kind Regards,

    • Laura says:


      Yes, you can use pasteurized mil to make kefir.
      If you are on facebook, look for a group call Wild Fermentation – on there is a file of people who can share kefir grains. There are some people in Canada. I live on the West coast.

      Good luck!

  21. […] Your Kefir Questions Answered by How to Make Kefir by Kefir: What Is It, Why Do I Want It and How Do I Make It? by 25 Fermentation Recipes You Can’t Wait to Try by […]

  22. […] you make milk kefir?  Homemade Mommy has the answers to all of your kefir […]

  23. Thank you SO MUCH for the advice about straining after 12 hours and leaving the milk out to sit. It’s not a problem right now, but in the summer, my kefir goes crrrazy and separates in what seems like five minutes. I actually stopped making kefir for a little while because it seemed to never reach the “thick milk” stage and went straight to cheese in the blink of an eye. (Which was delicious, but still…) Thanks again for the info!

  24. Jan says:

    Is there a point where you could consume too much kefir? What would the recommended daily intake be? Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks.

  25. Liz says:

    I’ve been searching in vain for kefir grains to start my own to help with my IBS; do you have any available?


  26. Belinda says:

    I just started making kefir and am on the forth batch. The grains are multiplying but the milk just smells soured and I don’t think it would be safe to drink. I think I’m doing something wrong, help!!

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