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Probiotics have grown in popularity over the last decade. It started out with yogurt and everyone ran to the store to buy yogurt (or starting making their own yogurt). Then we learned that you can also get probiotics in supplements and everyone bought tons of supplements.

Now we are in the time when we are realizing that probiotics are especially great when they are provided by the food we eat. Sauerkraut, kvass, kombucha, fermented carrots, and of course fermented pickles… we are getting back to eating these traditional foods and realizing that people who were eating these foods received more benefits than just lengthening the food’s shelf-life!

Milk kefir is one such probiotic food… or rather beverage. In this post, we’ll be looking at what is milk kefir and how to make it!

Milk kefir grains

What is Milk Kefir?

Milk kefir is a fermented dairy product. It’s very similar to yogurt except that it’s not as thick which is why it’s a drink and contains different strains of probiotics.  

Milk kefir is made thanks to kefir grains. Kefir grains are tiny cauliflower looking things. They are the symbiotic colonies of yeast and bacteria. These grains feed on the lactose (sugar in milk) and help produce the probiotics.

It should be noted that traditionally milk kefir is a dairy product as it usually uses cow milk or goat milk, but it is possible to have non-dairy kefir.

How to make milk kefir

Benefits of Milk Kefir

All probiotic foods will give you tons of benefits. Milk kefir is once such probiotic food. Here are some of the many benefits of milk kefir.

Supports Digestion

Drinking milk kefir helps keep your gut balanced thanks to all the probiotics.

Boosts Immunity

Milk kefir has many nutrients that help boost your immune system but it also contains strains of probiotics that can help defend against harmful bacteria. 

Improves Allergies

Now, please don’t use this information to start drinking milk kefir and enjoying peanut butter if you are allergic to peanuts. I do not think milk kefir works those kinds of miracles. But milk kefir can definitely help seasonal allergies or very minor food allergies (minor enough that they are more likely sensitivities and not allergies).

Studies have suggested that milk kefir helps allergies by reducing inflammatory cells. There is also the belief that not enough good bacteria in the gut can result in allergic reactions.

Helps Skin Issues

Milk kefir can help heal skin issues such as rashes and eczema in a couple of ways. By drinking milk kefir, you help balance your gut with the beneficial probiotics and that in turn helps your entire body including your skin. Milk kefir can also be used topically to help heal skin as seen in this study. (note: if you have skin issues due to a dairy allergy then you should only use non-diary milk kefir) 

Can Help Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Since milk kefir grains help break down the lactose in milk, those you are lactose intolerant may find that they can drink milk kefir. This is not a guarantee of course, some who are dairy intolerant will still not be able to handle milk kefir.

If you are wanting to try milk kefir, it’s recommended to do a skin test first and if you do not have an adverse response then you can try drinking milk kefir in very small amounts and waiting 24 hours to see if there’s a reaction.

Reasons to Make Your Own Milk Kefir

You can of course buy milk kefir but the price will add up. If you make milk kefir at home, it will cost you the same price as milk; it’s that cheap!

It’s also one of the easiest fermented foods you can make (which is why I usually make milk kefir over yogurt despite enjoying yogurt a bit more) 

What is milk kefir and how to make it

How to Make Milk Kefir

1 tbs. milk kefir grains
4 cups milk

Items Needed:
Glass Jar (that will hold 4 cups of milk)
Non-metal stirring utensil (I use a chopstick) 
Piece of muslin or coffee filter 
Rubber band
Fine mesh strainer

Directions:
1. Place milk kefir grains into jar and cover with the 4 cups of milk.
2. Cover jar with muslin/filter and secure with rubber band.
3. Place in a warm spot to ferment (68-85 degrees)
4. Ferment until slightly thickened (usually about 24 hours)
5. Give the milk kefir a stir with the non-metal stirring utensil.
6. Strain through fine mesh strainer. (milk kefir goes into new container. store in refrigerator.)
7. Place the milk kefir grains back into original jar, pour in 4 cups of new milk, and begin process again.

Note: 4 cups is a pretty standard milk kefir amount but you can definitely make smaller batches.

Milk kefir grains

Where to Buy Milk Kefir Grains

I like to buy Cultures for Health’s kefir grains but if you know someone who is already making milk kefir, ask them if they would give you some grains! Milk kefir grains reproduce like crazy so odds are your friend will have them within a few weeks if they don’t already!

How to Keep Milk Kefir Alive When You Need to Take a Break

Making milk kefir is an easy task but it is a daily task. Sometimes you need a break, sometimes you take a vacation… When this happens, simply place your milk kefir grains in their jar with new milk. Then place that jar in the refrigerator.

The refrigerator will keep things cold and that delays the production of milk kefir. Generally, you don’t want to use the refrigerator method for longer than one week but I’ve gotten away with 2 weeks before.

When you are ready to start brewing milk kefir again, simply strain out the grains, and start a fresh batch. The first batch after restarting may take a bit longer.