How to make kefir
by Dominic Anfiteatro
Kefir is a refreshing cultured-milk beverage which originated many centuries ago in the Northern Caucasus Mountains. The word kefir is derived from the Turkish word ‘keif’, which loosely translates to ‘feeling good’, because drinking kefir regularly makes you feel good.
Kefir has a uniform creamy consistency, a sour refreshing taste, and a subtle aroma resembling fresh yeast. It has a very subtle beer-like flavour. Kefir also has a slightest hint of natural effervescent zesty tang. There are around forty aromatic compounds contributing to the unique flavour and distinctive pleasant aroma of kefir. To round this all off, kefir may contain between 0.08% to 2% alcohol. However, between 0.08% to 0.1% alcohol are more common figures for a 24 hour cultured kefir.
Traditional authentic kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with kefir grains. Kefir grains are not cereal grains; the grain part of the name is a misnomer. Kefir grains (or kefir granules) are a natural starter or natural mother-culture. The bio-structure is created through a symbiotic relationship between a vast mixture of friendly Lactic acid bacteria [LAB] and yeasts. A batch of kefir grains consists of many individual bodies of a soft, gelatinous white biological mass. The composition of each grain is protein, lipids (fats) and a soluble-polysaccharide kefiran complex. The microbes and yeasts not only create the bio-matrix structure, the organisms are also harboured by the very structure that they create. To get some kefir grains, contact Dominic at his kefir web site.
Today, traditional authentic kefir is easily prepared at home, just as it has been done over many centuries. Pour 1-2 cups of any kind of pasteurised or non-pasteurised milk into a clean glass container with a lid, and add 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains. Make sure the container isn’t more than 3/4 full so there’s room for the fermentation process to happen.
Leave to stand at room temperature for about 24 hours. Pour the kefire through a nylon sieve to strain out the kefir grains from the liquid kefir. The grains can be kept and added to more fresh milk, and the process can then be repeated to make more kefir. This simple process can be performed on an indefinite basis… kefir grains last forever!
The strained liquid kefir may either be consumed fresh, refrigerated for later use, or ripened at room temperature over a period of days. The ripening process is useful for individuals who wish to reduce lactose in their kefir. Ripening improves overall flavour, increases specific vitamins of the B group, and carbon dioxide and alcohol content is increased also.
Kefir grains increase in overall volume, number and in weight, as the grains are continually cultured in fresh milk to prepare kefir. Because of this, the need to prevent overcrowding of the grains, and in order to maintain a reasonable constant grain-to-milk ratio it becomes essential to remove a portion of kefir grains from the batch. Apart from preventing overcrowding, you need to thin the amount of kefir grains in order to produce a kefir with a reasonably constant character and consistency. Traditionally, excess kefir grains were either eaten, dehydrated and stored as a back-up source, shared among family members, or traded among the tribes-people of Caucasus, in exchange for basic essentials.
Except for refrigeration, the art of kefir making has been practiced over many centuries by the people of the Caucasus Mountains. In fact, this is why kefir came about, for the preservation of milk without refrigeration.