How to make milk kefir
The gut-friendly, fermented beverage can be made at home with minimal equipment.
From kimchi to sourdough bread, fermented foods are having quite the moment. But beyond being a fast fad, fermented products have gained prominence in recent years as they are among the best functional foods that help to promote health beyond basic nutrition.
Milk kefir is one such superfood. Thanks to the probiotic microbes it contains, milk kefir is able to coat the lining of the intestinal tract, thus leaving little room for pathogens to attach themselves. They also produce an acid that maintains a certain acidic level in the intestinal tract, making the environment more inhospitable to pathogens. What’s more, they help to produce bacteriocins, otherwise known as natural antimicrobials, that work on destroying harmful pathogens.
Beyond consuming a diverse range of fruit and vegetables, the regular consumption of prebiotics and probiotics help to maintain a healthy gut and microbiome. The effects of probiotics from fermented milk have been well studied and proven to provide immune system support and ease such gastrointestinal problems as digestive dysfunction, gastroenteritis, and diarrhoea.
What exactly are milk kefir grains?
These knobby masses that look like clusters of plump sago pearls are actually a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY). Milk kefir grains contain microbes that ferment milk sugar and can be purchased fresh, dried or frozen. As with sourdough starters, these kefir grains need to be fed frequently with milk, ideally once a week, to maintain a thriving population of bacteria and yeasts.
What milk should I ferment with?
Making your own milk kefir essentially calls for two key ingredients – milk and milk kefir grains. After you immerse the kefir grains in milk, the microbes in the grains will feed off milk sugars and begin to ferment at a temperature range of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. This fermentation window tends to require 18 to 24 hours to complete.
The most ideal milk for fermentation is fresh milk – straight from the animal – that has not been packaged, chilled, or transported. However, in Singapore, we are more likely to purchase our milk from supermarkets or grocery stores. Pasteurised milk is readily available and works remarkably well with milk kefir.
A guide to making your own milk kefir
Ingredients you’ll need
– 2 to 4 tablespoons of milk kefir grains
– 950ml of pasteurised milk
- Place the milk kefir grains in a glass jar and cover it with milk that is either cold or at an incubation temperature of between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. Cap the jar loosely. If the lid is too tight and too much carbon dioxide is produced during the fermentation process, the jar might explode.
- Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (If you want to retard the fermentation process, place the jar in the refrigerator and let it sit for several days. This approach is preferred if you produce milk kefir more quickly than you can consume it.)
- When your milk kefir is ready, strain the mixture through a stainless-steel sieve. If you don’t drink it right away, bottle the mixture and refrigerate it. It should stay fresh for a few days. Never heat up your milk kefir mixture as the application of heat destroys the probiotic benefits of the beverage.
- Rinse the grains with fresh, cool water that isn’t chlorinated. Transfer the grains to a clean jar and add more milk to begin the next cycle of fermentation.