Thursday, 16 April 2015

Homemade Milk Kefir

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Kefir smoothie with mango and banana

Like many people, I have heard about making milk kefir but it seems such an exotic, foreign, un-understandable (is that such a word?) subject that, for the longest time I just simply, conveniently parked it under the "too hard" category. 

It was not until a month ago when my friend Irene passed me some kefir grains that I was finally motivated to try making my own milk kefir.    

And guess what? It was SO easy.  Even easier than my shotgun yogurt making process, which I honestly thought was the easiest method.  So now I'm sold on making my own milk kefir.  I used it to make fruit smoothies, strain it into greek yogurt and make salad dressings, dips and sandwich spread.  I also like to add a dollop of it in my curries to give it that sour tang and a touch of creaminess to the curry, and in my baking as a half substitute for oil and buttermilk.  Yup, it basically replaces regular yogurt in my household.  

So what IS milk kefir? It is basically a fermented, cultured drink that is a result of adding a yeast bacterial starter to milk.  There are many similarities between milk kefir and yogurt, but milk kefir's nutritional composition is significantly superior over yogurt in terms of probiotics, protein levels and amino acids.  It has very low lactose levels, hence is suitable for people with lactose intolerance.  Kefir is also good for babies as it is gentle and aids in digestion.  My 18month old baby loves kefir smoothie and I noticed a positive difference in her bowel movements too.  Read more about kefir and the similarities and differences with yogurt here     

As I mentioned earlier, the process of making milk kefir is really easy.  There is no need to heat up the milk, as required in making yogurt, and it takes half the time to ferment the kefir milk compared to yogurt.  I could start a fresh batch of milk with kefir grains in the morning and it would be all fermented and ready to be consumed by evening. 

Homemade Milk Kefir      

  • Half a teaspoon of kefir grains (available from most health food stores in a starter pack)
  • 500ml pasteurised full cream milk (I use Dutch Lady)
  • Clean glass jar with plastic cap
  • Clean piece of handkerchief and a rubber band

  1. Add the kefir grains into the glass jar and pour in the pasteurised milk. 
  2. Cover the mouth of the jar with the handkerchief and tie a rubberband over it.  The hanky prevents any dirt from falling into the milk yet is breathable to aid in the fermentation process.  Leave the jar in a place where there is little or no air movement.  I usually leave it in the microwave with the door closed for at least 8 hours.  
  3. Once the milk is fully fermented, strain it to extract the kefir grains.  Keep the milk kefir in the same glass jar and cover with the plastic cap.  Repeat the above process to start a new batch of milk kefir.  If you don't plan to make a new batch, keep the grains in a small glass or plastic container with some milk and keep in the fridge. 

Kefir grains.  A tiny teaspoon will do.

From left: Left picture: Pasturised full cream milk.  No low fat milk nonsense.
Middle picture: Cover the glass jar with a clean hanky.
Right picture: After fermentation, the milk kefir has a texture of soft taufufa.   

Besides using it in smoothie, I like to strain it overnight to make greek yogurt.  See how thick it has become.   

Here are some ideas on how to turn that thick creamy greek yogurt into a yummy salad dressing/sandwich spread and even a dessert!

Yogurt Cream Cheese with Herbs

Chocolate and Baileys Frozen Yogurt


  1. Hi Esther! I have read about kefir and I was wondering where to get the kefir grains. I will try to look for it at the health foodstores. By the way, does it have a very strong smell? I read somewhere that the smell is unpleasant.

    1. Hi PH, thanks for dropping by. No, there is no unpleasant smell. It just taste like extra sour yogurt haha!

  2. Just out of curiosity, I have read many who say that UHT milk kills off the milk grains, is that true? I would love to use the milk u featured long term as it is easier to buy in bulk for delivery as opposed to going to NTUC for fresh Meiji milk every few days.

    Would love to have your input.

    1. Hi emy, sorry for the late reply. I have tried using both UHT milk and fresh pasteurised milk to make kefir. Both have turned out fine, although admittedly my kefir grains from fresh milk are fatter and the kefir is slightly creamier - so I supposed the nutrients from fresh milk IS more concentrated. Having said that, I still use UHT at times simply for convenience sake. But i do cultivate the grains in fresh milk once a while on a rotation basis just to provide that extra nutrients to the grains.


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