You’ll need the following items
- Jar large enough to hold one litre of milk or water kefir
- Stainless steel pot on the stove (or glass jug if planning to heat the milk in a microwave)
- Dairy thermometer: inoculation temperature can be critical. Too hot and you kill the culture; too cold and the texture changes
- Tight weave cloth and a string or rubber band to secure the cloth over the rim of the jar
- One litre of dairy milk, lactose free milk, coconut milk, coconut water, water or juice
- 1 tablespoon of sugar to feed the culture when using non-dairy or lactose free milks, or when making water kefir
- 1 dose of Maintenance Free Kefir Culture
How Much Culture to Use
While the culture must be stored in the freezer, please allow the culture to come to room temperature before opening and handling! Culture readily absorbs moisture from the air. Keep the culture closed as much as possible.
The two jar storage and dosing method will help you get the most out of your culture.
- Place all of the culture in one of the two sterile jars we supply.
- Estimate 1/10th of the contents and place into the second jar. This becomes your “working supply”.
- Label both jars and store in the freezer.
Your “working supply” being approximately 1/10th of the original supply of culture, will inoculate 10 litres of milk or yoghurt.
Estimation is acceptable – too much can’t hurt and too little will just slow the process.
Note: you can increase or decrease this recipe as neccessary to make larger or smaller batches of kefir.
You can use pasteurised and homogenised milk, ultra heat treated (UHT) long life milk, non-homogenised milk or lactose free dairy milks to make milk kefir. You can also make non-dairy milk kefirs and water kefirs.
Water kefir can be made using fruit juices, coconut water, mineral water or simply filtered water with added natural sugars. Avoid using waters or juices with preservatives if possible, as preservatives may impact the kefir culture’s ability to grow and ferment the juice or water. Follow the same directions as you would for making milk kefir, then you can add an optional second fermentation step. Do this by capping your jar and fermenting for a further 12 to 24 hours to add natural carbonation to your water kefir. Be careful not to let too much pressure build up inside the jar as it may make weaker glass jars explode if left to over pressurise. It is recommended that high quality flip-top glass jars, or flexible plastic jars are used.
- Wash and dry your hands. Clean and rinse all items to be used in kefir making. Using boiling water, scald off all metal and plastic items. Glass items should be rinsed in hot but not boiling water.
- Gently warm your dairy milk, lactose free milk, non-dairy milk, fruit juice, filtered sugar water, or coconut water to 30°C. Avoid scalding the milk when using diary milks.
- Place warmed milk into a large glass jar or food grade plastic bottle, leaving approximately 3 cm empty space in the top of your jar for air.
- Sprinkle one dose of Maintenance Free Kefir into your milk, juice or water and gently whisk until well combined.
- Cover the jar with a piece of tight weave cloth that will allow air circulation while preventing dust or insects from entering. Secure with a string or rubber band.
- Store in a warm, dark place for 12 to 24 hours to ferment.
- Your kefir will last in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
Note: Your Maintenance Free Kefir culture loves warm temperatures of around 25°C to 36°C. For best results, keep your milk within this range during fermentation. Electric yoghurt makers are not suitable for kefir making as they run too hot and will damage the kefir culture.
Our tip for keeping your kefir warm during fermentation is to use an aquarium heater placed in the water surrounding the kefir container.
It’s Ready When
While the kefir may be ready after 12 hours, many people choose to ferment their kefir for up to 24 hours to give themselves a higher probiotic hit!
Sometimes the flavour of the kefir can become quite strong and yeasty (so if you are new to kefir, or just want to cut some of the acidity, simply shorten fermentation time or serve with fruit or honey).
Maintenance Free Kefir is a combination of bacteria and yeast living together in unison. As with any fermented product, cleanliness is vital when making either milk or water kefir.
You are deliberately creating the perfect environment to grow bacteria. Just be sure that you are only growing the starter culture that you have introduced and not some other microbe that blew in on the wind!
To avoid this, thoroughly clean and sterilise all of your utensils before using them. If you use bleach, vinegar or iodine to sterilise glass items, ensure that it has been completely rinsed off before use.
STORING YOUR KEFIR CULTURE IN THE FREEZER
When opening the sachet of culture we recommend bringing it to room temperature first. This will reduce the effect of the condensation causing some of the culture to stick to the inside of the sachet. Please keep jars of culture closed as much as possible to keep the powder dry.
COMMON PROBLEMS PEOPLE HAVE WITH MAKING KEFIR ARE:
- Temperature control: Remember that your kefir is a colony of living microbes. Over heating them above 38°C will cause heat stress and damage and by 40°C your kefir culture is dying. If your milk falls below 25°C your kefir culture will be too cold for optimal growth and will take longer to become delicious and may even stop growing altogether.
- Not adding a simple sugar: Adding sugar increases the amount of simple carbohydrates available for the culture to eat and can improve the end results of non-dairy or lactose free and water kefirs. The sugar is used up by the culture and won’t be there in the end.
How kefir is made: The basic principles
- Quite simply, when Kefir Culture is added to milk, juice or water with added natural sugars, the culture starts to eat the lactose or any other available sugar. This happens best between 25° and 37° C.We target 30° C in our instructions to allow for thermometer error etc., as the culture suffers at 38°C and will start dying at 40°C.
- 12 to 24 hours at the desired temperature should be enough time to make a wonderful kefir. The longer the kefir is kept in the ideal temperature range for culture growth, the more lactose, which is a dairy sugar, or other sugars available, get eaten. As more sugar is eaten, more acid is produced and the tangier the kefir becomes.
- You can also add an optional second fermentation step by capping the jar and fermenting another 12 to 24 hours. This will add natural carbonation to the kefir. Be careful not to let too much pressure build up inside the jar as it may cause weaker glass jars to explode if left to over presurise. It is recommended that this extra fermentation step only be done with high quality flip top glass jars, or flexible plastic jars.
How kefir is made: The basic methodology
- Milk, juice or water (coconut water, mineral water with added natural sugars, etc) is warmed to 30°C and then innoculated with kefir culture. This can be done in a jar, thermos or any container. Place a tight weave cheese cloth over the top of the jar so that it is covered but can breathe and place in a warm location for 12 to 24 hours. The temperature should be maintained between 25° C and 35° C for the duration of the fermentation period. You can place the jar into an esky with warm water or wrap in a blanket and place on top of the water heater.
- Thermos style yoghurt makers will help maintain the temperature of your milk, so the milk should be at 30° when placed in the yoghurt maker. Any hot water placed in your system to act as a heat reservoir should not touch the internal yoghurt container, as this can cause the milk to heat rapidly, and excessively. In the cold months, or if wishing extended inoculation times, you may need to change the hot water used as the heat reservoir, and keep the yoghurt maker well wrapped and in a warm place.
- Electric yoghurt makers run at about 40° C, which is too hot for kefir culture. Electric yoghurt makers will kill your kefir culture!
Shelf Life of Cultures
When stored correctly freeze dried lactic cultures are typically viable long after any date on the pack