Easy Peasy Homemade Probiotics: How to Make Kefir

Nestled amongst all the other items clamoring for space on my kitchen counters are some super foods.  Can you spot the super food in the photo below?

Yep...two jars of kefir:

I've mentioned before that I like to have mad scientist projects on my counters at all times.  Since I did that post, five of my friendgirls have started brewing Kombucha for themselves.  And they have already started getting some of their friends started also.  I love it...it's a wonderful, healthy chain effect!

I've had several friends ask me lately about getting started with Kefir now also.  Arica and Jessica each came over earlier this week to get started...and Shan and Stacey are coming soon!

Kefir (like Kombucha) is a living food, teeming with beneficial bacteria and yeast.  AND, like Kombucha, the starter that you use to culture grows and multiplies.  So you can either make bigger quantities...or share starter with your friends and get them started.

Confused about which kind of probiotic to buy?  How many billions of grams of microorganisms do you need to have?  Should you only buy refrigerated capsules or not?  Not that pharmaceutical grade probiotics don't have their place (we're on some now with the GAPS protocol), but phoooey on all that...we should get our probiotics the way people have for thousands of years.  Before refrigeration, fermenting/culturing food items was how people preserved...AND it has the added bonus of making the food even healthier for us.  God is so smart like that.

I wanted to post this tutorial for my friends who are just getting started to refer back to (there are always lots o kids running around at my house...it's not the quietest place to learn something new)...as well as anyone else who wants to join us making dairy kefir.  It is truly so easy!

I began "brewing" kefir about 5 or 6 years ago, with my friend Kris.  We had just begun buying raw milk...and loved the idea of taking it a step further and turning our milk into probiotic powerhouses.  I've always used raw milk, but it is possible to use store-bought milk to make your own kefir also.  Kefir has grown in popularity so much in the last few years that even our little grocery store here in town carries some.  So why make our own?  MUCH cheaper than store-bought kefir, and store-bought versions have sugar added to it.

Supplies you'll need:

A glass jar
Plastic strainer (the kefir and grains should not come in contact with metal)
Non-metal spoon (could be plastic, I use one of the wooden spoons we bought in China)
Coffee Filter (or cheesecloth, or kitchen towel)

Kefir grains

Kefir-Making Directions in a Nutshell
- Let the kefir grains sit in milk, on the countertop for 24-48 hours
- Strain the mix to separate the grains from the liquid that is now kefir
- Put the kefir in the fridge, and...
- Put the grains back in jar, cover with milk again, and repeat the steps again...and again...

For those who would like a little more detail and pictures (which is how I like to learn something new)...here is my wordy version...

Set up the strainer to drain into a bowl or measuring cup (the bigger, the faster the straining step will go.  I love using a large strainer and my beloved-what-in-the-world-would-I-do-without-it  8-cup measuring cup):

Pour the kefir/grains mixture (that has been sitting on the counter for at least 24 hours) into the strainer:

Use the (non-metal) spoon to stir the kefir/grains around so that the kefir will drain down in the bowl:

You don't have to be too ginger, but don't be too rough with the poor grains.  During the month that Noah was in charge of doing our kefir everyday, he was apparently too rough and the grains never multiplied

Here is the kefir straining down into the bowl:

Keep stirring (gently) until all the kefir has strained through and all that is left in the strainer is the grains.  The grains resemble cottage cheese:

Then spoon the kefir grains back into a jar (that you've washed out):

(I normally only have one quart jar going at a time, but I've been wanting to save my multiplying grains so that I can share them with my friends who want to start making kefir)

(All you need to ferment a quart of milk is about 2-3 tablespoons of kefir grains.  I usually have more in there, just because.  Once they've multiplied to more than that you have three options:  throw some away (I hate to do that, but have to all the time), share some grains with a friend, or start another jar of kefir brewing.)

Then fill the jar the rest of the way up with milk:

Then cover the jars so that the mix can breathe, but nothing can get in there:

I've read to let the jar sit on your counter for 18-24 hours, and to start testing it at 18 hours.  Phooeey on that.  Who has time to test and babysit stuff like that?  I just always did mine at the same time everyday (it is now a "morning job"for the children on a rotating monthly basis).  But now that we're on GAPS, I've read that we should leave it brewing for 48 hours, so that the grains have a chance to eat more/all of the lactose in the milk.  So, anywhere between 24-48 hours would be good.

If you go out of town or just want to put kefir production on hold for a time, you can put the kefir grains to "rest" in the fridge.  Just put them in jar and add just enough milk to cover them.  You can leave them in the fridge, but change out the milk at least once a week, so that the grains will have lactose to eat.

So that is how to make kefir.  It is the quickest homemade probiotic/ferment/cultured item there is.  It only takes about 5 minutes start-to-finish.

Now what do you do with that wonderful creamy goodness that results?

Daniel and I drink it straight up.  The rest of the peeps at our house, well...not so much.  It is very tangy.  You can add honey to it...and I've heard that some people add vanilla extract also.

I've got two more suggestions on what to do with prepared kefir coming up soon...stay tuned.....

     *** Click here to check out my post for Kefir Smoothies and Popsicles ***

If you want to read more about Milk Kefir from people who are way smarter than I am, check out these links:

Milk Kefir: What it is and how to brew it - Nourished Kitchen

Milk Kefir FAQs from Cultures for Health (a great company, btw!)

Kefir - The Elliott Homestead (Shaye is just. hilarious.)

I'm linking this post up with Tasty Traditions on The Cultured Palate, Thank Your Body Thursday, Fight Back Friday on Food Renegade, Natural Family Friday, and Homestead Barn Hop.


  1. Love me some milk kefir! We shared your post with our FB readers at homesteadlady.com.

  2. Wish I lived closer to you. I've been wanting to make kefir, but have no idea where to buy the grains to get started.

  3. Wish I lived closer to you. I've been wanting to make kefir, but have no idea where to buy the grains to get started.

    1. Hey Cara! FIrst, I suggest you move back!

      If you can't do that (pout), then I have some suggestions coming in a FAQ post tomorrow...

  4. Thank you for giving the short version AND the long version! Where did you get your strainer? (I need one that will "sit" by itself like that, but I haven't found one yet that doesn't just fall off the container because of the weight of the handle.)

    I was making kefir for a while, but we found it DISGUSTING. I had always heard it was a bit tangier than yogurt, but ours was not at all like extra-tangy yogurt - more like spoiled milk. Then a friend suggested maybe I wasn't letting it ferment for LONG enough. That had not occurred to me; I was afraid to let it go longer! Now I just need to get some more kefir grains so I can try again.

    1. Hey Rachel! I HEART my strainers so much. Because of your question - and others I've received - I have a FAQ post coming tomorrow...

  5. Kefir is one of the best natural probiotic source. Nucific Bio-X4 is the top probiotic supplement for quite a while now.

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