Being born and having spent most of my life in Russia, kefir still is my everyday drink.
In Russia, everyone drinks kefir – kids drink it to help them grow; those with gut problems – to help build the probiotics count. You will also find kefir present in many weight-loss diets on Russian websites.
In Russia, kefir is a common drink to have before bed. In fact, throughout my whole life I must have drunk more kefir than milk – it is in my top 3 most consumed drinks!
Interestingly, it is only when I came to England where I could no longer find my favourite drink that I started looking more into making kefir at home. I was not surprised to find much evidence about the health benefits of kefir – especially for gut health!
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made of milk and kefir “grains” – cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
It is believed to have originated in parts of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia.
There is a number of health benefits from consuming kefir:
- It is nutrient-rich: contains magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Phosphorus, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and is rich in protein.
- Can help digestion
- Can assist in weight management
- Can have a beneficial effect on mental health
- Can help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria
- Possesses anti-microbal properties
- Due to calcium and Vitamin K12 in full-fat kefir, it can help improve bone health
- Can help with various digestive issues including diarrhea, IBS, and others
- It is usually better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance than milk – due to a lower concentration of lactose
There are a few reasons for why I make my own homemade kefir.
- Studies showed that “home made probiotic foods and drinks contained a wide range of bacteria, while some commercial products contained barely any”
- Kefir is not easily available where I live
- Making kefir is cheaper than buying it
Also, I choose kefir as my top probiotic drink (even though I love kombucha and water kefir) as it can contain the highest amounts of probiotics. Plus, I love the taste!
Preparation time: up to 24 hours
- 4 cups of milk – you can use coconut milk (make sure it is as natural as possible – otherwise it can damage your milk kefir grains), which could be a perfect option for those who don’t consume dairy or lactose. Please, note that coconut milk kefir tends to have fewer probiotics in it than cow’s/goat’s milk kefir
- 1-2 tsp milk kefir grains – they are widely available online; you can also buy them in some health stores. These grains are reusable and are likely to multiply overtime
You will also need:
- 2 sterilised glass jars – one to ferment you kefir, another one – to keep it in your fridge
- non-metal stainer (make sure you do not use metal when making kefir as it can damage your kefir grains)
- non-metal spoon
- plenty of fresh clean drinking water to rinse your kefir grains between fermentations – I use filtered water
- coffee filter, muslim cloth, cheese cloth, or kitchen towel and a rubber band – to cover your jar while kefir is fermenting
- Put your milk kefir grains and milk in a sterilised jar
- cover the jar with a cloth/towel and tie with a rubber band – make sure you that the cloth is breathable, but that no insects can get into the jar – fruit flies adore it!
- ferment for up to 24 hours in a warm place – the smell of your kefir and consistency will change, it will get thicker
- remove the cloth/towel from the top of the jar
- stir kefir gently with a wooden spoon
- prepare another sterilised jar (storage jar) and put the strainer on top
- carefully start pouring kefir from fermentation jar into the storage jar. Kefir might become thicker – if it happens, carefully stir the contents in your strainer to let the liquid flow more freely
- once you have finished straining the liquid in the storage jar, close the jar and put it in the fridge for storage (I recommend to keep it in the fridge for no longer than 3 days), or drink straight away
- rinse your milk kefir grains with lots of clean drinking water
- put the kefir grains in the new sterilised jar with 4 cups of milk and cover with a cloth/towel tied with rubber band for further up to 24-hour fermentation
There are multiple ways to consume kefir, but here are a few that I really love:
- On its own – very good to boost probiotics count
- 2/3 cup kefir + 1/3 fresh clean drinking water make an easy lassi (in original Indian recipe you would use yoghurt, but I prefer kefir as it has a stronger taste and more probiotics). I add a pinch of salt for salty lassi, but you can add 1/2 tsp of sugar for sweet lassi. You can also add some spices to the taste – mint, turmeric, vanilla, cinnamon, and others – and fruit/berries
- With muesli in the morning instead of milk. This is my top breakfast – I put muesli, berries/fruits in the bowl and top it up with kefir. You can use a sweetener to your taste if it is not sweet enough for you – honey works well – but I prefer adding prunes or dates
- In smoothies – have you ever tried berry smoothies with kefir? Delicious!! Also works well with sweet fruits like bananas and mangoes
- You can also try second fermentation to give your kefir a stronger taste. In this case you can add to your strained kefir things like vanilla, cinnamon, chai tea, cacao, lemon grass, or any other spices or herbs. Put a cloth/towel on top and secure with an elastic band. Ferment for up to 24 hours in warm place, then remove the spices/herbs (things like ground spices do not need to be removed).
I started making my own kefir after I visited http://www.culturesforhealth.com/ – they have tons of information about different cultures and many videos and tutorials on how to make your own cultured foods and drinks – I highly recommend visiting it!
They have plenty of information which you might find useful when starting to make your own kefir, including:
- How to make lactose-free coconut milk kefir
- How to make almond milk kefir
- How to take a break from making kefir – the guide to storing your milk kefir grains
If you visit their website, you also get free E-books about how to make yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, and other healthy cultured foods and drinks, so I highly recommend subscribing!
As spring and warm weather are approaching, many of us will be increasing their fizzy drinks consumption. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks, I recommend trying water kefir – an easy and tasty fizzy vegan probiotics drink that can easily replace conventional drinks!