How to Make Milk Kefir: Step-by-Step Guide

How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

I’ve been in preparation mode this week, getting ready for my big trip.  Yes, that one! The trip that requires conquering fear to fly on a big ol’ jet plane. To be honest, I’m shaking in my sandals.

I’ve decided it’s only right to stock the house with plenty of good food for Dustin and the kids while I’m away. When your wife blogs about food cooking is rarely a necessity.  Monday, I loaded the kids in the car and headed to the health food store, all in the name of preparation.

After one climbing incident and a fifteen minute potty break, I was able to stock my cart full of fruit and veggies and a few convenience items for the daddy-kid weekend. I decided a special you-will-survive-without-me-treat of organic lollipops was a smart purchase.  I was able to sneak the bag of (organic) sugary goodness in my cart and finally in the car without a single preschool-eye catching a glimpse of the enticing package.

At some point between the car and our front door my inquisitive four-year discovered the hidden pink bag, buried at the bottom of bananas and carrots. Digging instantly proceeded followed by, “Please, may I have one, please?”.

“Mommy is saving the lollipops, honey. They’re an extra special treat for later.” I said.

Piper’s eyes eagerly looked back at the bag, “Just one, pleasssse!”

“If you wait, they will taste even better.” I replied.

His blue eyes glared at me, then back at the bag of lollipops. His hands grasped tightly, waiting to be put to work opening the zip seal.

I decided reasoning with a four year-old holding a bag of sugar just wasn’t going to head anywhere. At least anywhere good.  With raw chicken and my favorite cheddar cheese sitting in the hot car, I came to my senses, “Okay, just one. I’m going to keep the rest of the lollipops safe for later as a special treat.”

As I walked back to my car to unload my groceries, a phrase popped into my mind, “Good things are worth waiting for”.  I smiled, thinking about Piper and the bag of colorful lollipops now in my hand. I also thought about milk kefir and you my dear friend, waiting patiently to make homemade milk kefir, eagerly anticipating a recipe. Today, the wait is over, and I promise it’s going to be so good–probiotic good. Because all good things are worth waiting for. Except, of course, if you’re four and really want a lollipop.

How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

Homemade kefir is a probitotic drink.  It’s made using a culture of yeast and bacteria (like a kombucha SCOBY) called, “grains”, a word used to describe the appearance not the ingredients.

Kefir is similar to yogurt in offering probiotic health benefits, as well as healthy gut-bacteria. Kefir has a thick, drinkable consistency and sour taste. I personally don’t enjoy the taste of kefir straight from a glass, so I add it to smoothies, baking, and make the most delicious spreadable cheese.  Kefir is one of the simplest probiotic foods to make.

How to Make Milk Kefir

 How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

Step One

Place one tablespoon of milk kefir grains in a quart-size mason jar.

How to make homemade milk kefir

Step Two

Pour one quart of milk over the kefir grains.

How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

Step Three

Cover the jar with a cheesecloth or breathable towel, secure with a rubberband. Label the jar with the date and time. Place the jar on the counter. Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

Step Four

After 24 hours stir the kefir. It will be thick. There may also be separation, this is normal. Using a strainer, strain the kefir to separate the grains from the milk kefir. Use either a bowl or clean mason jar for the kefir.

How to make homemade milk kefir. The simplest tutorial to healthy probiotic kefir at home.

Kefir grains don’t expire, so continue to repeat the process as desired. Over time your grains will grow and multiple, providing enough to share or make larger amounts of kefir. Keep kefir in the fridge and use in smoothies, baking (in place of milk), or making spreadable cheese. Store grains in water and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to culture more kefir.

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  • Great post Kristin! I love your photos. Thank you also for including me in the round up! 🙂

  • What a great step-by-step tutorial! I used to make milk kefir a couple years ago, but gave up when I killed my kefir baby… now I see I was storing it wrong when I wasn’t using it. I’m definitely going to have to get some more and try this again! Thanks Kristin!

  • Cheryl Kadel says:

    What about using raw milk…straight from the dairy farm?

    • Kristin Marr says:

      Hey Cheryl, I use raw milk to make my kefir and love it! If you have raw milk available, I’d recommend using raw. If not, a low vat pasteurized will work really well too.

  • Great tutorial! Some of the best things are indeed worth waiting for. Thank you for sharing my recipes!

  • suzi says:

    so, is it best to store the grains in water in the fridge or in milk? when not fermenting, just storing the grains.

    • Kristin Marr says:

      Hi Suzi,

      I store my kefir grains in water in the fridge. You can also freeze them in a bit of water if you won’t be using the grains for an extended period of time.

  • stephanie says:

    Hi! This is great!
    I just started experimenting with kefir grains. My milk will not thicken. Does that mean they are dead?

    • Kristin Marr says:

      Hi Stephanie, A few things may be going on with the kefir:
      1. The grains may be dead or just “sleeping”. It may take a few batches of kefir attempts to awaken them and return to thick kefir again. This is usually only a problem if they’ve been hibernating in your fridge.
      2. The grains may just need to sit longer in the milk. Allowing the grains to sit for another 8-12 hours to culture may help thicken the kefir. Temperature can often effect the kefir culturing time.

  • Rena says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. Very helpful. My kefir after 24 hrs separates and looks more like cottage cheese on top, is that normal? Or should I let ferment longer? Thanks!

    • Kristin Marr says:

      Hey Rena, You’re welcome. I’ve had that issue in the past too. Maybe try fermenting for only 12 hours? That may help. The kefir is still good when separated as you’re describing, just a bit sour.

  • Rena says:

    Thank you, Kristen. I will try that and let you know!

  • Celia Horak says:

    For longer storage, why do you use water instead of milk?

  • Bob says:

    Don’t store in water
    Maybe occasion rinse
    Better to stick with medium you intend
    Water with water
    Milk within milk

  • anita says:

    I have some top floating Kefir – I can just pull it out – no strainer needed.

  • Janine says:

    I just purchased my 1st Kefir kit and it instructs me to add the grains to 92 degree (skin warm) milk. It also states to use extra grains (although it doesn’t say how much) if you are using goat milk. …………….. Is heating optional? Also, do you add extra grains for goat milk & how much?

  • Robin says:

    hi, I usually drink store bought Kefir but want to try making my own…I have an intolerance to dairy would you recommend I not use cows milk when making this? I wasn’t sure if the process makes this tolerable for those with lactose issues. Thanks!

  • Michael says:

    @Robin – From all of the research i have done on this subject – lactose is the sugar broken down by kefir grains. If the process is successful, the amount of lactose should be negligible and cause you no issues. Everytime i drink milk i have to run to the bathroom. I haven’t had that issue with kefir. (Everyone is different.)

    Hope this helps 🙂

  • Bethany says:

    I just activated my milk kefir grains from Cultures for Health. I’m so happy to be able to culture my milk without having to do the heat and incubate routine as with yogurt. Did you already do a post on kefir cheese? I’m excited to try a few things with all this great kefir I’m now producing. 😀 I love the photos in this post, the yellow colander and polka dot fabric really pop.

    • Kristin Marr says:

      Thank you, Bethany, I’m glad you liked the photos :).

      I haven’t shared the cheese recipe; totally forgot that one. To make cheese, simply pour the thickened kefir into a cheesecloth (make sure it’s large and has a couple of layers, so the cheesecloth can handle the weight). Place a bowl underneath the cheesecloth, bring the cheesecloth sides together at the top, and tie the top of the cheesecloth, so you’ll have a little sack or bag with the kefir inside. Hang the cheesecloth above the bowl and allow it to rest all night. In the morning, you’ll have soft kefir cheese. I think the cheese is very sour (the nature of kefir), but when you add herbs and garlic…wow!!!!

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