For the past few months I have been experimenting with making a fermented dairy drink called kefir. I had never heard of the stuff until our neighbours brought some starter "mother" grains back from New York with them in January. In case you haven't had the pleasure of ever drinking or making kefir, I will regale you with all I have learned about it in the past three months.

A cluster of kefir grains
Kefir grains are symbiotic communities of around thirty different bacteria and yeast strains that produce a sugar and poysaccaride matrix that binds them all together into a cauliflower-like lump. When the grains are added to milk they ferment away and produce a wonderful drink that is chocked full of healthy living cultures. It has the consistency and flavour of thin yogurt but is actually much healthier for you since there are so many different live strains of bacteria present. For anyone curious about the nutritional content of kefir here is a website that is pretty informative. I thought it was interesting that the cultures reduce the amount of lactose in the milk by about 50% and also make it mildly alcoholic (0.5% - 2% alcohol by volume depending on the length of fermentation time).

This is the basic process that I follow to create my kefir: 

1. Place grains and milk into a container with an airtight lid and place it out of direct sunlight. 
2. Let it sit for 2 days. I might let it sit for less time once the weather gets warmer since this will speed up fermentation.
3. Pour thickened kefir through a sieve to catch all grains. 
4. Wash out the container, place the grains back in and start all over again.

Fresh milk kefir, ready to drink!
Using this method I produce about a liter of kefir every two days. I find that it is the perfect amount for the four of us to put on granola or drink with a bit of honey and cinnamon. The grains will also grow larger and produce more grains over time. I have found that it is kind of like chain letters, the more kefir I make, the more grains I grow and have to give away to new people. One interesting thing about the grains is that they often contain different communities of bacteria and yeasts depending on where the grains came from originally. This can change the flavour and texture of the kefir produced. You can actually use the grains to ferment basically any liquid that contains sugar. I tried honey water and really don't recommend it. One sip and the whole batch ended up down the drain.  

Kefir has a fairly bizzare and interesting history stretching back at least a few thousand years that includes princes, magic, beautiful communists, and kidnapping. 

If you ever get the opportunity to get some kefir grains, or are anywhere near Fukuyama and would like a few of mine, be sure to take them. There is actually an international exchange where you can obtain starter grains wherever you are in the world. It is an easy, tasty, and healthy experiment and lots of fun to prepare! 


Unknown said...

I am totally going to do this. I saw kefir the other day in the grocery store next to the yogurt and was curious. I will buy some to try, and if I like it, will search out some cultures of my own!

Laura said...

I think it would be right up your alley! If you can't get your hands on any starter grains in Winnipeg I will bring some back with me this summer.

Carol said...

Me, too! I need some good things running through my system.

The Freys said...

Oh Laura, you've just evoked my food chemistry curiosity. I have learned about kefir before, but had no reason to think about it until now. James will be all over this, I'm sure!

Laura said...

Jess, I was thinking of you and your curiosity when I put up a link to the nutritional information. I bet James will try to ferment the milk as much as possible and make a kumis-like drink out of it :) I will be sure to bring you some grains in August.

audible said...

Aw… now I miss kefir. Would you be willing to do a trade or something through the mail for some grains?

Laura said...

Sure thing! Just email me your mailing address (magicacorn (at) gmail (dot) com) and I will figure out how to dry some for mailing.

Anonymous said...

Hello Laura,
I live in Winnipeg and would love to buy Dairy Kefir grains from you, if possible.
Your blog was interesting to me because my son is in Japan with his family and you were so informative.
Thank you, dear

Laura said...

Hi Dee! Thanks so much for reading our blog. I am sorry to say, but I don't know anyone personally that you can get kefir grains from in Winnipeg. I did look it up for you though, and it seems that there are a few people offering grains through Kijiji. Here is a link to the website: http://winnipeg.kijiji.ca/f-kefir-Classifieds-W0QQKeywordZkefir

Hope you are able to get your hands on some!

Cameron said...


I am an English teacher in Mie, really hoping to get my hands on some kefir grains. How did you get the grains here in Japan? I looked on the exchange site and there is only one person listed in Japan. He never got back to me... Do you have any hints?

Cameron said...

Hello there!

I am living in Mie and I really want to try this. I hear it can help get rid of acne by balancing the flora in the gut. Is there anyway you could send me some of your grains? Do you think they'd survive the mail?

Laura said...

Hi Cameron! Sure, I can try to mail you some grains. It might be a little while in coming though, since I accidentally left all of my kefir grains in Canada during our last visit. My father and mother are coming out to visit in the middle of May though and bringing some with them. Once they reproduce a bit I will send you some, maybe in June sometime. Just email me your mailing address at some point (my email address is magicacorn (at) gmail (dot) com) and I'll let you know when they are ready :)

Mia Spence said...

Hi, I am in Tokyo and wondering if you have grains to share?

Laura said...

Hello Mia, I always have grains to share :) I have mailed grains a couple of times in the past and I think it went okay. Just send me an email (my email address is magicacorn (at) gmail (dot) com) with your mailing address and we will work out the details.

Unknown said...

Hello, am in need of Kefir, can someone help out with where I can buy from in Japan?