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Kefir FAQ

Milk kefir (pronounced keh-FEER) is a wonderfully delicious, slightly carbonate, fermented milk drink similar to yogurt (or buttermilk). Kefir originated roughly 2,000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains. It is one of the oldest milk ferments in existence. The word “Kefir” is derived from the Turkish word “Keif,” describing a state of “feeling good.” Kefir is milk fermented at room temperature for about 24 hours, with kefir grains. It has many wonderful health benefits, and is also generally tolerated well by the lactose intolerant.
Snow lotus, Tibetan mushroom, Kefirs, Keefir, Kephir, Kewra, Talai, Mudu Kekiya, Bulgaros, The Grains of the Prophet Mohamed, The Drink of the Prophet, Tara, Yogurt Plant, Yogurt Mushroom, Kin-oko, yoggot-tane-oko (Japanese), Tibetanischer Pilz (German), Galodium (Romanian and/or Polish) and Kefyras (Lithuanian).
Genuine kefir is different than the more expensive variations you buy in stores. Manufactured kefir is a simulated drink, mimicking the flavor of genuine kefir. It is not produced in the traditional way, instead via a variety of bacteria and yeast, which are typically freeze-dried powdered versions. Traditional kefir grains are a formed symbiotic mass colony of various bacteria and yeast that are alive, and will thrive and grow on their own in milk. In other words, it is a living product that provides maximum health benefit.
We offer both choices, because each has its own unqiue benefits. The fresh, or live, kefir grains rebalance quickly and begin producing drinkable kefir within just a few days of arriving. This is an excellent option if you live in the US and are able to receive the package immediately upon arrival. If you are either not located in the US or unable to receive the package immediately upon arrival, dried kefir grains might be a better option. These can take a little longer to activate – sometimes a week or so to “wake up” and balance to the point of producing drinkable kefir. This also gives you the option of keeping the dried grain in the cupboard or refrigerator if you aren’t quite ready to use them when they arrive. Keep in mind that dried milk kefir grains can sometimes take significantly longer to start growing than live grains.
Fermented milk products, like kefir, are considered “functional foods,” because they offer enzymes, pre-digested nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, calories/energy and billions of probiotics. Probiotic supplements generally contain just one or a small, select variety of bacteria. It’s always better to eat something in it swhole form, because each part make the other more digestible. This is the reason companies are now adding fiber back into cereals and fruit juices, for instance, and citric acid into calcium – you often need all the parts to be able to assimilate the nutrients correctly.
Kefir is loaded with valuable enzymes, easily digestible complete proteins, vitamins and minerals. Milk kefir is also generally suitable for the lactose intolerant. Kefir supplies your body with billions of healthy bacteria and yeast strains. Some foods, like yogurt, can help, but aren’t as potent as kefir, and don’t contain the beneficial yeasts. Within your body, there are already billions of bacteria and yeast. Your internal microflora support proper digestion, synthesis of vitamins and minerals, and your immune system, by warding off foreign and harmful bacteria, yeast and viruses. Kefir has thus long been known to promote and aid in digestion and overall health. Some studies also show that kefir may be antimutagenic, and help manage free radicals in the body. Folic acid (and B vitamins) increases the longer the fermenting process goes. Some people let the strained kefir sit on the counter or in the fridge for another day, in order to increase the folic acid and B vitamin content before drinking. Kefir may also help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. While kefir isn’t a “magic bullet” for health, it has a myriad of possible health benefits, and those will be unique for each person who tries it. Many feel it helps them digest better, others get colds and flu less often, some get more energy, and some people feel nothing specific but enjoy the taste and value of it over store-bought yogurt or kefir.
The bacteria and yeast produce the enzyme “lactase,” in order to consume the lactose (milk sugar) for their own food supply. Because of this, much of the lactose in the milk is converted to simpler forms of sugar (glucose and galactose). These digestible forms of sugar, along with the extra lactase enzymes which act as a catalyst for digestion, make for an easily digestible food! “Ripening” kefir can even further reduce the lactose, if desired.
Many people who experience Candida issues have reported that kefir has been beneficial for them. Kefir is a balanced, symbiotic relationship of bacteria and yeast, which is what our bodies strive to achieve for optimum health. Kefir grains, and kefir itself, do not contain Candida Albicans, and, therefore, won’t aggravate the symptoms of Candida. Some sources say that the kefir yeast can even help to decrease the Candida yeast. But, as with all things, the best advice is to listen to your own body’s response to kefir over time. If, for example, your symptoms seem aggravated by kefir, you should consider taking a break and traying again later.
To view a list of all the bacteria and yeast strains found in kefir, please view our ‘Strains’ section.
No. Kefir grains must be obtained. Kefir grains reproduce, but one cannot create the grains or have them spontaneously occur in milk. Raw milk traditionally was left sitting out, and became buttermilk. Raw milk contains naturally occurring bacteria and yeast, which will slowly ripen and convert milk to buttermilk. Pasteurized (any store-bought) milk is NOT capable of doing this, since most of those natural bacteria and yeast are killed in the process. UHT milk is even more devoid of these. Either way, kefir cannot be created, and is not reproducible without obtaining real kefir grains.
Kefir grains love, and thrive on, raw milk – be it from a cow, goat or even a donkey or camel. Raw milk is really the optimal way to consume milk, if you can find a reliable trustworthy local source. You will want to be sure that the cow is healthy, and the owner uses sanitary methods to ensure your milk is safe. Aside from the fact that an unconfined cow will produce healthier milk (less stress and issues like growth hormones, etc.), it also will likely taste better too. This milk will contain more enzymes and natural healthy bacteria of its own, the proteins have not been cooked and the fat has not been homogenized. These enzymes and bacteria are sensitive to heat and, unfortunately, destroyed during the pasteurization process. Raw milk also has the cream float to the top, which can be used to make butter, whipped cream, cream cheese, sour cream, etc. Homogenization is used to break up the fat globules unitl they are very fine, and unable to separate and rise to the top. This process uses a forceful spinning motion to break up the fat globules of milk by propelling them at high speeds against the sides of the container, bursting them into small pieces. The health impact of pasteurization and homogenization is a hot topic of debate and the subject of a great deal of current research. As far as we’re concerned, it only makes sense that milk, in its natural form, has more to offer and is better digested and tolerated. It also supports a more natural, more sanitary and less stressful environment for the cow, the farmer and the world at large. It also promotes local foods and respect for the animals and farms. We encourage you to read more about raw milk safety and FAQs at Raw Milk Facts.
Yes. It contains about 0.08% to 2% alcohol. The normal amount present is about .08 (for a 24-hour ferment). Kefir that is stored and ripened for a few days will continue to increase in alcohol, up to 2 or 3 percent (when sealed tightly).
It has a tart, effervescent, yogurty flavor. Some refer to it as the champagne of milk. Kefir is actually quite delicious, and most days we prefer it over our homemade yogurt! It’s also very good blended with honey, fruit or other flavors. Kefir can also be a great substitute for buttermilk, “half and half,” or yogurt in recipes.
All kefir grains are alike, but not the same. Just as all people are humans, but not identical, kefir varies from one variety to the next. Some grains ferment more quickly than others, some are more tangy, more sweet or even more fizzy. You will see that your kefir grains will be continuously morphing from season to season, or year to year. Part of the kefir process is learning to let go of the desire to keep the grains exactly the same (no matter you do, they will be in a constant state of growth and change) and learn to look forward to its many surprises. It’s almost like raising a pet or a child.
They can last indefinitely, with the proper care. Kefir grains are a living, consuming organism that is in a constant state of reproduction. Some may get weaker over time, for one reason or another, but they will nonetheless do all they can to keep marching on! They have already lived over a thousand years as it is.
The short answer is “yes.” Kefir grains need to be strained every 24 hours – or 48, at the max – and given fresh milk. If you, or your grains, would like to take a break, stick them in the fridge and refresh them with new milk weekly. This can be done for a couple of weeks, then they should be brought back out to room temperature.
Kefir, and its grains, is valuable as more than just a beverage. It can be used to fertilize and nurture household plants, flowers, your lawn or garden. The bacteria and acidic nature can be very beneficial for plants. Did you knows it’s essential to have bacteria in your dirt, in order to convert nitrogen to an edible source for your plants? Kefir can also be easily made into cream cheese, or even other forms (like ricotta). Kefir serves as a great starter for breads and pizza crusts. Use it instead of a sourdough starter or yeast packet. Whey can also be used in your hair as a clarifying conditioner (as can kefir). Whey, believe it or not, makes one of the best shaving lotions we’ve ever tried. It also serves as a nice ingredient in lip balms and lotions. Kefir can be used in place of yogurt, cream cheese or sour cream in many recipts. It can also be made into delicious popsicles. Whey can also be used in place of vinegar (often with more benefit) in many cases, such as soaking grains, softening rice and adding to soups and stocks (to help extract the nutrients from bones). You can use it in place of some of the sale in making fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut. Kefir whey also keeps far longer than the normal unfermented whey separated from milk. Kefir can also add a delicious, hearty flavor to sauces and gravies.