Popular in certain parts of the world for centuries, kefir guzzling is now taking hold globally. And with good reason.
The rise in popularity might be due to the importance of healthy gut ‘microbiome’ (fancy word for your cool little inner eco system) becoming more and more pronounced in our minds. That’s because the health media is reporting study after study linking poor intestinal health to most chronic diseases. Here’s one of our favorite health educators Max Lugavere explaining in simple and fun terms how important our microbiome is.
The studies indicate that the state of our ‘second brain’ might just be about the most important thing to health. Not being able to absorb the nutrients in our food because we lack the proper bacteria balance in the gut means food can’t do its job.
So where does kefir fit in?
Kefir, like the other increasingly mainstream, health-enhancing beverage, kombucha, acts as an intense probiotic. Although its health benefits extend far beyond that (as you’ll see below), that is probably the main reason to drink it every day.
So you see, maybe unlike the kale craze, kefir-drinking isn’t just another fad. Kefir’s got it going on – there’s no two ways about it.
Here are some facts about the incredible, health-promoting drink. Some of these are useful – others are just for fun.
You pronounce it ke-FEER. Or ka-FEER, if you like.
The word comes from the Turkish word ‘keif’, which literally translates as ‘good feeling’ – ’cause that’s what it gives you when you drink it.
It’s been called an almost ideal probiotic food. We desperately need probiotics, because we have damaged our microbial health with overuse of antibiotics and junk food lifestyles. This has compromised our immune systems.
Most excitingly of all, kefir is blender friendly. It makes for an extremely good smoothie base.
You can do all sorts of other wonderful things with it.
How to make kefir
Traditionally, kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway. The bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.
We do things a bit differently these days.
You can buy fresh and dehydrated kefir grains.
Using the dry ones means you need to ‘activate’ them before you start making your own kefir. That’s about as hard as it gets with kefir brewing.
(Note that you can also purchase a starter culture kit as an alternative to using grains. That makes it even more straightforward to make kefir. Just follow the instructions on the packet).
You can buy kefir in the shops, but its better to make it at home since you’re probably going to be drinking a lot of it now. Also, the shop brought stuff pales in comparison nutritionally, due to the need to pasteurize it.
Now let’s get down to it:
Starter grains. These are super cheap to buy online.
If you are making milk kefir: good quality milk – full fat and organic (raw is perfect if you can get it) or a milk substitute, such as coconut milk. No long life milk please.
If you are making water kefir: just filtered water and sugar. Or coconut water.
A glass jar, plus napkin/cloth and a rubber band.
Activating dehydrated grains:
This is very similar to the process of actually making kefir.
You place the grains in a glass jar with either milk or water/sugar solution (dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 4 cups of water, and allow to cool before adding grains).
You cover the jar with cheesecloth/a paper towel/a clean napkin and secure it with a rubber band. Do not screw a lid onto the jar.
Store at room temperature.
Change the milk/sugar solution every 24 hours until the grains begin to culture the milk/water and make kefir. It may take 3 to 7 days for the kefir grains to become fully active.
You need about a teaspoon of grains to ferment 1 to 2 cups of milk/water. Your grains will start to multiply over time. Maintain a ratio of about a teaspoon of grains to 1 cup of liquid.
Once the grains are activated:
Same as the above, except that after 12 to 48 hours (usually 24 hours at room temperature), your kefir will be ready!
Check the jar every few hours. You know that milk kefir is ready when the milk has thickened and tastes tangy. With water kefir, you know its ready when you nudge the jar and bubbles fly up from the bottom, and it has a slightly sour kick (not just sickly sweet).
Strain out the kefir grains.
Transfer the grains to fresh milk/water and allow to ferment again. This way, you can make a fresh batch of kefir roughly every 24 hours!
To take a break from making kefir, place the grains in fresh milk/water, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
The prepared kefir can be chugged down immediately, or covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Sometimes milk kefir will separate into a solid layer and milky layer if left too long. That’s ok! Shake the jar to recombine and carry on.
If your milk/water hasn’t fermented after 48 hours, strain out the grains and try again in a fresh batch. This sometimes happens when using new kefir grains, when refreshing dried kefir grains, or when using grains that have been refrigerated.
Are you inspired to begin a lifelong romance with kefir? Know about any benefits of kefir that we haven’t mentioned? Tell us in the comments below!
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Rezzan Huseyin is a Certified Health Coach (Institute for Integrative Nutrition), with a passion for communicating practical information on health, nutrition and being the best versions of ourselves. Contact her at email@example.com.