What is Kefir and How does it work!?

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What is Kefir and How does it work??

Kefir comes in 2 forms, milk or water kefir.  I personally love the thick, and creamy milk Kefir; a super probiotic, tangy, thick and creamy yoghurt/drink, hence this is the one I can share with you about here..

Eating Kefir can be of benefit to your body in many ways:

  • Helps to optimise good digestion
  • Regulate bowel movements
  • Heighten immunity
  • Help balance the guts in dysbiosis (imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in the gut)

Kefir sours more the longer you leave it to ferment, this is due to the grains constantly breaking down the lactose

Kefir Mushrooms

(milk sugars which they use as food) and producing beneficial bacteria (which also means kefir safe for lactose intolerant people to use if you’re very intolerant be sure to ferment it well!).

The beneficial bacteria you get in standard yoghurt are known as ‘transient bacteria’, that is, they pass through your guts and don’t stay around long enough to have much of a beneficial impact, thus adding a very short burst of goodness that then transits out of your digestive system with your poop.  However, the bacteria in kefir actually colonise in the digestive tract and thus can help with your digestion more substantially and for longer periods of time.

Making it at home means one can choose which milk to make it with and, it’s a lot cheaper, and uses less plastic if any as compared to buying it in a shop.  Making it yourself also means it can be fermented it for as long as or as little you like making it as thick or tangy as you’d like it!

Which milks can it be made with?

The best milk is organic animal milk, organic as it tastes much better in creaminess and animal ethics as well as not containing the many chemicals fed to non-organic milk-producing animals.  Skimmed to full fat are all fine, depends on how thick you like it (skimmed turns out more like a drink, full fat turns out more like a yoghurt).  My current favourite is goats milk or coconut milk (which needs to have some kind of sugars/food to feed the mushrooms) also works for short intervals; animal milk seems to make the grains happiest in the long term though, so it’s usually necessary to give it animal milk at least once every few weeks to keep the mushrooms alive!

How is it made?

The Kefir yoghurt is made using Kefir grains/mushrooms placed into milk.  After a day or so the yoghurt is ready to be strained from the grains using a plastic sieve, and it’s ready to use immediately (add fruits and honey or cocoa if you find it’s a bit too tangy at first).

Equipment Required:

  • Plastic Sieve, 15 – 20cm diameter, whatever size fits best over your bowl (yes it needs to be plastic as metal can kill the grains/mushrooms, I got mine from a local cooks shop)
  • Glass jar which will allow air out but not in (i.e. a Kilner Jar I use this one)
  • Wooden spoon (need I say more, have a dedicated one for your kefir)
  • Ceramic, glass, china, any non-metal bowl, breakfast size should be the easiest to use
  • Optional glass jar to store your kefir in after you’ve made it

Method:

Assuming you have a jar of kefir already with the mushrooms/grains in their fermented milk, if they’re just mushrooms in a bag, go ahead and pop them into your Kilner jar, fill it with some milk and close it, as they’re probably hungry!

  • Using a ceramic or glass bowl (I simply use a breakfast bowl), place your sieve inside it.  Take your ready Kilner jar of kefir, give it a gentle swirl to mix it up, let it settle and then slowly pour the contents into your sieve.  If much gets stuck at the bottom of the jar, use your wooden spoon to take it out as this is the good stuff!
  • Gentle shake and tap the sieve to strain the kefir out and leave the mushrooms in the sieve.  You may need to dunk it in the liquid in the bowl and gently stir to help mix up the liquids if it’s started to separate.
  • Take a moment to wash out your Kilner jar with hot water (I use a little detergent to help get it clean), this isn’t essential but if you don’t the jar can get really scummy and the kefir can get made REALLY quickly :) ).
  • Once you’ve sufficiently strained the grains, and the jar has had a moment to dry, pour your chosen milk into the jar and then carefully add your grains and close the jar!  It doesn’t matter if you part fill it like me or mostly fill it, it just depends on how many mushrooms you have and how quickly you’d like to have some more kefir ready.

After each batch you’ll notice that you have more grains, you can let them grow so you can make more kefir in less time, or, share some with a friends, or you can eat them for a super probiotic hit (i.e. as they are, in a smoothy or however you fancy trying).  Just be aware that if you have a lot of grains they will process your milk quickly!  I quite like it when the milk turns really sour and ferments a lot, you might not.  There’s no exact science to how much for how long, just try it and enjoy the process.

If going away for more than a couple of days, then put your kefir grains in some fresh milk (in the Kilner jar) and leave them in the fridge, this should be ok for a couple of weeks but as soon as you can take them out and change the milk.

Why I love it:

1) It’s easily digested.  Kefir also generally contains more than 50 beneficial strains of bacteria*.

2) I get to use organic cows milk!  I always loved dairy growing up but later developed lactose intolerance, BUT in this form, I can again enjoy dairy (Kefir grains use the milk sugar (Lactose) as their food substrate, thus it is broken down before coming into your digestive system).

3) It’s a cost effective health product.  Even using organic milk, £1.00 – £1.40 for 2 pints is enough to last me 1 week.

4) You can use it to make some great sweet and sour recipes, including lactose free cheese!

I’m interested to hear how you get on with making your own!

*Bacteria

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus brevis

Lactobacillus casei

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. delbrueckii

Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis

Lactobacillus helveticus

Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens

Lactobacillus kefiri

Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei

Lactobacillus plantarum

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Lactobacillus sake

Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris

Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis

Lactococcus lactis

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. dextranicum

Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides

Pseudomonas

Pseudomonas fluorescens

Pseudomonas putida

Streptococcus thermophilus 

Yeasts

Candida humilis

Kazachstania unispora

Kazachstania exigua

Kazachstania exigua

Kluyveromyces siamensis

Kluyveromyces lactis

Kluyveromyces marxianus

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Saccharomyces martiniae

Saccharomyces unisporus

*please note, the complete list of bacteria and yeasts may not be accurate as I have not personally measured them but taken information from other sites, also different cultures will most likely vary in their bacterial composition.  If you’re honeing in on specific bacteria, it’s probably better to contact specific manufacturers.

 

Resources

http://ntur.lib.ntu.edu.tw/bitstream/246246/177589/1/04.pdf

http://depa.fquim.unam.mx/amyd/archivero/Kefir_1_12695.pdf

http://www.nourishkefir.co.uk/index.php?pgid=57

http://www.hhinter.net/customer_upload/16/F8.pdf

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