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What is Kefir?

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I’m sure most of you are like “huh?” You’ve never heard of kefir…..and I hadn’t either, until two of my friends told me about it. They were both using it and hailed the benefits of it. I shook it off myself, thinking, “nah, this is not for me.” I was wrong!  I was sick a little last year, and I had to take antibiotics. If you know anything about antibiotics, you know that they are hard on your stomach. I had problems with them, and my friend told me that I needed to eat lots of probiotics – she was right. Once I upped my probiotics, I got better fast. Now I’m making kefir every day…….do I have your attention now?What is kefir? Basically, it’s fermented milk. That sounds pretty nasty, right? When I was told what it was, my first thought was “Ew!” Kefir tastes somewhat like buttermilk. It can be used as a substitute for buttermilk, plain yogurt, or sour cream.  It’s chocked full of probiotics – it’s really, really good for you. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, and it is very easy to digest since it’s already partially broken down. It will keep yeast infections at bay…..sorry guys. Pretend you didn’t hear that. Some people who are lactose intolerant are able to drink kefir without a problem. There are TONS and TONS of health benefits. Go here to Dom’s Kefir Site to read them all. You can buy kefir at the store, usually in the health food section, or you can make your own. I am making my own, so let me show you how. It is very cheap to make once you get started.

These are kefir grains. They look like cauliflower and they feel really funny. I had to touch it……I just couldn’t help myself. You’ll make your kefir from this. I got mine from a friend. Hers had grown, so she had extra to share. You’ll start with about a tablespoon and they will grow……so you can make a bunch of kefir, or share your grains with friends. There are bunches of places to buy them. You can purchase them on Etsy if you like. A really good kefir resource site is Tammy’s Recipes. Here is her linkwhere she tells you where to purchase your grains. She has an excellent site, so visit it sometime when you have a minute to spare. Make sure you buy grains and not a starter. A starter can only be used a few times, while grains can be used as long as you like.Be nice to me and I might give you my extras. Ha, ha!

You’ll need a quart-sized jar, or larger depending on how much you’re making. Put your grains in the bottom.

For every tablespoon of grains that you have, you’re going to add one cup of milk. It needs to be mammal milk….if you use soy or any type like that, your grains won’t keep producing. You can use any percent. I use whole milk.

You’ll place a lid on top….sorta. As you can see, I’m just using the canning lid. I lay it on top. It is going to ferment, therefore there will be gas….and it could explode if the lid is tight. Speaking of lids and gas, have you seen this cool thing with Mentos and Diet Coke? We’ve done it lots of times and it’s REALLY COOL!!!! Yes, and I was forbidden from performing experiments in my high school chemistry class. Wonder why……Oh, and there is a minimal alcohol content in kefir due to the fermenting process. Don’t wig out, it’s just like sourdough bread.

Kefir grains must not come into contact with direct sunlight. It will kill them……MURDER! Think about kefir grains as being akin to vampires.  They can be in the light, just not the direct light. So, I sit mine in this corner behind my million utensils.

It can take from 12-48 hours for kefir to be ready. It will depend on the temperature and humidity in your house. Mine is done for my liking in about 24 hours. It will become very thick. The longer you let it ferment, the tangier it will become. It will be the consistency of runny sour cream. Turn your jar from side to side to check on the consistency. When you smell it, it will smell soured like buttermilk.

To finish your kefir, you need a funnel, a jar, and a mesh strainer. I store my kefir in canning jars in the fridge. Put your funnel in the jar. Mine is large enough that I can put my strainer down in it.

Pour your fermented kefir into the strainer and let it strain.  You might have to tap it a little bit since it’s thick…..but don’t beat it, Michael Jackson.I like my kefir thick, so sometimes it won’t go through the strainer alone – I have to coax it. I stir it around with a plastic spoon or spatula until it’s all strained. Be gentle. Because of this, I only pour out a small amount of kefir at a time and work with it in batches.*Note: pour slowly in case your kefir is thick. It could “plop” out of the jar and make a mess all over the counter. :-)

Your finished kefir will fall down into the jar, leaving the grains in the strainer. You can put your grains back down into their jar, add your milk and start over again. I don’t wash my jar every time…..I wash it every few days.

Put a lid on your jar and store it in the fridge. It will keep for MONTHS….after all, it is fermented.We’re loving our kefir! Annie goes crazy when she sees me preparing it. Tomorrow I will cover all the different ways that you can use it. There is tons of excitement lurking around every corner here at Stacy Makes Cents.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.


  1. Kefir is so soothing and so versatile. This week I made fish tacos and instead of searching for over-priced crema at the store, I added chipotle peppers to my kefir and drizzled that on. Worked great!

  2. I can’t find the grains ANYWHERE!!! Help….please….????

    This looks so interesting…I want to try it NOW…lol

    By the way, what % milk is best to use?

  3. Jerald Gawlas says:

    I cant get enough of your site. Its really a great read. Did you start doing this on your own or with a group of people? Its quite an impressive feat to have gathered such great content. Keep up the fine writing!

  4. Jennifer H. says:

    I live in Gray, TN. Do you know anywhere local that sells kefir grains? I’ve gotten kefir from Earth Fare and my son liked it. I didn’t see grains of it though at Earth Fare.

    • Jennifer, I thought I saw grains there the last time. But maybe I was looking at the wrong thing. I might have some grains very soon if you want some of mine. Maybe in 2-3 weeks? Or you could order them from Cultures For Health. :-)

  5. Ok, I finally had some down time at work so I can read up on this Kefir you keep raving about! I am sold!! Now I need to find out where to buy it live in my area :)

  6. I’m ready! I am so excited!! This is so neat!! And I can’t wait till the little man can enjoy it too :):)

    Is it wrong to be so excited over Kefir grains!? LOL

    • Nope, I’m excited over mine every morning. :) Make sure you read the Using Kefir post too…..and I have several recipes for kefir on my site as well. Email me your address and I’ll try to mail it out next week. :-)

  7. Got the grains from you and just made a batch (2 cups) and followed your picture instructions! I took pictures too!

    THANK YOU for sending me them! You “Rock my Face Off”… you’re fav quote back at ya!

    • :-) Enjoy! I didn’t measure how much I sent you……..did I send you two tablespoons? It’s usually 1 tablespoon per cup of milk.

  8. Just got my TB in the mail from you … THANKS! Have it in a cup of milk on the counter … will it need a “recovery” period, or will I be good to smoothie make tomorrow do you think? SO excited – thanks!

  9. It was starting to thicken. The lid looked like it had sour cream on it, but the rest was pretty runny. I only had raw milk in the house, although we normally use regular milk, so it’s in that. Is warmer or cooler better?

    • It will get thicker faster the warmer it is….and the longer it cultures, the more sour it will be. Please keep me posted! I would check it after 24 hours.

  10. I’m excited to try this, but I’m curious what you do with the grains when you are not “brewing”. Can they be stored when I have more than enough Kefir in my fridge and don’t want to keep making more?

    • Yep! I just store mine in the fridge, just barely covered with milk. Make sure to change the milk out about once a week. :-)

  11. Heather says:

    Stacy…I’m so distracted by your blog! Ahhh! I should be working! I have bought kefir before from the grocery store, never really knew what it was though! Ha! This sounds AMAZING! Would you be willing to share with me too? I’ve been searching for a realistic blog that can incorporate eating whole…I have found it! You have a reader for as long as you keep doing this! Thank you! Okay…now back to work!

    • LOL I’m sorry! :) Go back to work. Ha!
      Actually, I gave my grains away when I moved….I couldn’t keep them up when not living in my own home. But, I do have plans to pilfer some again and start growing extras for you guys. So, when you see that I’ve moved and gotten settled, make sure to hit me up again.

  12. Long story: Two days ago a friend of a friend on facebook mentioned millet patties, I asked for the recipe and she gave it to me and said they had them with kefir cream cheese. So I googled kefir cream cheese and discovered your post on making it as well as this post on kefir. I’ve bought kefir at the store but didn’t know you could just make it at home. I then gave a shout out to my friends to find out if anyone had any grains to share and found someone yesterday who had some to share and by some I mean like half a cupful. So I followed your instructions and decided this morning to hop on and warn other beginners……

    When you go to pour it into the sieve, BE VERY CAREFUL. It will be very thick like clotted cream at the top and does not “pour”. I had a sudden *glurp* and the top 3 inches fell onto the strainer with the more liquid stuff underneath pouring out very quickly. Big mess. Strainer was over flowing, some grains got past it and were clogging the funnel, so I quickly dumped that and the 2 inches left in the jar into a bowl with a pouring spout to pour gradually, as it IS very thick and is taking its dear sweet time, It had been sitting for about 16 hours. I don’t know how I would “pour” at all if you left it sitting longer!

    I don’t know if this is because I did a whole full quart jar or if I did something wrong. Please let me know if there’s a mess free way, and also do the thick parts eventually go through the strainer? Perhaps my strainer is too fine? For now I’ll dump the stuff into a bowl first and then start straining. And get a strainer that’s not real fine mesh…..Thanks for the great tutorial on making kefir though!

    • Ha, ha! :-) I giggled when I read this. It’s happened to me on multiple occasions, even when I know I should pour slowly. I know the “glurp” sound very well. 😉 I let mine culture for 24 hours so that it will get nice and thick. I only pour out a small amount of kefir at a time and I work with that bunch before moving on. I use a small, mesh strainer and I use a plastic spatula to stir it around in there so that it will go through. Otherwise, it just sits there and lets the whey drip out.
      I usually don’t make a mess at all now, unless I’m not careful when pouring a bit out. If it’s really thick, you might want to just scoop some into your strainer. We prefer very thick kefir and my mom likes thin…so she doesn’t have this problem.
      I’ll make a note in this post about pouring slowly and stirring lightly in the strainer to get the thickness to fall through.
      Thank you for the great comment! I love talking kefir. :-) And kefir cream cheese is FABULOUS.

  13. Stacy, again perfect timing for me once again. I’ve have been on antibiotics for months and it needs to stop. Going to buy keifer TODAY, and buy the grains online. Thanks, Stacy.

  14. Stephanie Thomsen says:

    Hi Stacy, thanks for posting this. I love kefir but have only bought it in the store, now with this I feel like I can make it myself at home. I wanted to pass along a website I found while doing more research on this subject – Consumers can go there to look up where to buy real, raw dairy products in their state. Thanks for all the great recipes and information that you post – you help me stay grounded!

  15. Hi! I was just talking to someone about what is kefir…the lady was complaining that our local Walmart only had strawberry and blueberry flavors…and since I think anything can be made I decided to look this matter up…I haven’t actually tried it so im not quite sure how it’ll taste. Is it like Greek yogurt? I’m thinking about making it :-)

    • It’s thinner than Greek yogurt, but with the same twangy taste. :-) You can flavor it however you like!

      • By any chance would you happen to have any extra grains :-) by the way you have an awesome blog I’ve spent all day pretty much just reading different things on your blog specially the recipes. I almost felt like commenting on every post lol

        • Right now, no…I have three friends in line for them. :-) You can check back in a month or so?

          • Yes ma’am! :) thanks

          • I have another question..have you or anyone you know tried kefiring with pasteurized milk? I’ve noticed a lot of people use raw milk..which I Dobby have ready access to :(

          • I’ve used both very successfully. :-) I always use whole milk though because it yields a thicker and creamier result. Skim milk get just barely thick.

  16. Hi Stacy, I am very new to all this, but I was curious…. how did you go from 1/4 jar full to a full jar? Are you just adding batches together?

  17. LysiJoy says:

    Hi Stacy! I’ve made several batches now and the taste is finally getting cleaner (it was gross at the beginning, like wine buttermilk *blech*). I keep hearing different guidelines for amount of grains to use and how long to ferment. Some people say 1 tsp for 2 cups of milk, others like you say 2 Tbsp. This last batch I used 2 Tbsp and by 18 hours it was quite sour. It’s not as thick as I’d like but I can’t leave it with the grains any longer or it’ll get too sour, right? I’m using organic whole milk (pasteurized). My kitchen about the perfect temp I think, esp if I do it overnight so it doesn’t get too much daytime heat. Do I need to use less grains so I can let it ferment longer to get thicker without getting too sour? Thanks in advance!!

    • Yes, I would use less grains. But I’ve never really dealt with a sour taste…even if I have to let mine culture for two days. I almost always let mine go 24 hours…but even with less grains you’ll still get a nice culture. Sometimes I back off with the amount that I use so that it doesn’t culture too fast. :-)
      Also note that if you don’t like using the grains you might like it better to use the “instant” packs that you can buy from Bread Beckers. I think they work up to 8 times each?

  18. I have made kefir before, but then my grains died during the summer. My mom gave me some new ones recently and I started making it again. I have two problems though: 1. after the 2nd batch, the kefir started being stringy (kind of like mucus). It tastes great, but I don’t remember it being like this before. 2. I put it strained in the fridge and after 2-3 days it started getting kind of creamy mold on top (like when fresh dairy products get old). I did remove the top and use it, but you mentioned it can keep for months, so I am wondering. Any idea why any of these things are happening? Thanks.

    • What kind of milk were you using? It depends on that. Also, try rinsing your grains in some filtered water. That should help with the stringiness. :-)

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