How to Make Kefir

Considered by many to be the most healthful of fermented foods, effervescent kefir tastes tangy and fresh. How lovely that you’ll make your own as commercially available kefir only approximates the real thing (see my Kefir Article for details).

As you work with kefir, you quickly develop a feel for the process and of how it varies according to the room temperature and the type of milk you use. Also, you can increase its thickness by using more grains; and you can increase its tartness by increasing the fermenting time.

As you continue to re-use these grains, they will multiply and you can share grain starters with friends. If you’ve a supply of milk “straight from the animal”, allow it to age in the refrigerator for a day or two prior to making kefir.

1 tablespoon kefir grains
1 scant quart milk (goat, cow, pasteurized, raw, reconstituted, skim or full fat)

Place kefir grains and milk in a quart glass jar. Tightly cover and set out at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (in hot weather, it ferments faster) but not in direct sun light. Shake the bottle a couple times during fermentation.* After shaking, release any CO2 gas buildup by opening the lid, then tighten the lid once again. (A tight lid produces a lightly effervescent beverage. To eliminate effervescence, just rest the lid on the jar rather than tightly closing the lid.)

The kefir is ready when the grains coagulate at the top of the jar. To separate the newly made kefir and to retrieve the kefir grains, pour through a strainer or colander (stirring as necessary to prevent the grains from clogging the strainer).

You may drink the kefir as is, or you may refrigerate it for up to three weeks. Or, as per below, you may further ripen the kefir. But, and this is important, don’t discard the grains.

To make a new batch of kefir, add these retrieved grains to fresh milk and repeat the process. Or, to refrigerate the grains until next use, place grains with kefir to cover in a tightly closed jar. They’ll hold for several weeks. To hold longer, place grains in quart of fresh milk, refrigerate for up to a month (shake the container several times a week).

Ripened Kefir (optional)

Once you’ve strained out the kefir grains, I recommend ripening kefir at room temperature for a day or two prior to consuming it. Ripening kefir will eliminate some lactose from the beverage and increase some of the B group vitamins. Folic acid, for example, increases by at least 116% in comparison to fresh milk or freshly strained kefir.

As the kefir ripens, the thick creamy kefir floats above the watery whey. Shake or stir to blend the ingredients. Or, separate and use the thickened kefir as sour cream and the whey in baking, for drinking or in other fermented foods. Once it has ripened, refrigerate it.

*Shaking the fermenting kefir prevents the formation of yeasts and acetobacter colonies from forming on the surface. If colonies form they will appear as a light-brown wavy film. Skim this off, discard the film and use the kefir. Should you ever loose a batch of kefir (or your grains) to rampant overgrowth, your nose and taste buds will unerringly inform you to toss it.


May you be well nourished,

Rebecca Wood

111 Responses to How to Make Kefir

  1. Hi. I have kefir in jar (raw in raw milk, at room temp, in mason jar, for over 6 months!) it’s either gonna cure cancer or hurt. Is it possible it doesn’t hurt to consume?

  2. I just got my first batch of water kefir grains last week and have made a couple batches 🙂 My second was far better than the first lol But I saw that they had multiplied enough and we cracked a coconut so I thought I would put a scoop of the grains in about 1 1/2 c. fresh coconut water, it fermented quickly! It is also very strong…but I am curious, do I need to now keep them separate from my other grains? Are they only for coconut water now? I don’t want to ruin my origianl grains, but I also do not always have coconut water. Any advice?

  3. After removing grains from strainer can I rinse the strainer with tap water for the next batch of grains?

  4. Hi there,

    A few months ago I noticed a small pinkish spot on the top of a batch of grains that had over-fermented for a few hours. I scooped it off and went about creating a new batch of kefir as per usual.

    I have been using these same grains ever since and the milk itself tastes fine and I have had no health concerns – and I drink kefir daily. The only think is the milk is never effervescent, but is still tangy and sour.

    Recently I read that a pinkish colour can indicate mold and that I should throw the kefir grains away and begin again. Can you tell me what you think? I would so appreciate it!

    Thanks so much!


  5. Hi I’m about 3 weeks new to kefir, But have been baking up a storm using up some extras. I’ve made muffins ,sourdough bread, pear bread, I’ve been wanting to try cheese, and have a quart strained off and separating for this in my fridge.. What are my options at this point and where do I find recipes for this…As in do I add salt and herbs to taste or what ?

  6. Great post, I’m curious if I’ll still get ample probiotics in my kefir with only an eight to ten hour ferment. I made a few batches fermenting between twelve and twenty four hours and found it too tart for my liking but with a shorter ferment I enjoy the taste. Thanks for any response you can give.

  7. I noticed today that a part of one of my kefir grains is very slightly grey. Is this okay? I have been storing the grains in some kefir, in the fridge, for about a week (because I haven’t needed to make any more kefir since my last batch); I don’t know if that made them turn grey, or what.

  8. I’m making a 1-cup batch of kefir right now, and it still hasn’t separated into whey and curds, even though it’s been sitting overnight, but the grains are floating at the top of the milk; is it ready, even though it hasn’t separated?

  9. Hi!I’m new to making kefir, and I’m wondering, is it okay if my kefir is thin and runny? When making it, I leave it on the counter until I notice the whey separating from the curds of the milk, then I shake it up, drain the grains from it, and put it in the fridge, ready to drink. Am I leaving it on the counter for too little time, or too much? Or maybe not using enough grains? I use 1 tsp grains per 1 cup of milk.

  10. I would like to take my milk kefir grains on holiday overse as. How do I best do this.

    • If you have a small container (like a baby food jar or even a small ziplock bag), you could store your rinsed grains in water or milk* and upon your arrival, get milk ASAP to start feeding them again. I think they would be fine.

      I ordered my grains on Amazon and they came in a small jar (without milk or water) and they were fine. It did take a few days to “wake” them up.

      So, if your travel time is 48 hours or less, I think this would work fine.

  11. So is it possible that milk kefir is not helping but hurting my acid reflux? Symptoms are, it feels like a lump or something in my throat. Have been checked and Dr says acid reflux. Thanks

    • It’s highly possible that you’re sensitive to dairy, even fermented dairy. Go without all dairy (and the other common allergens) and then you’ll know.

  12. I’ve been making Kefir for several months with grains using raw Goat Milk. The kefir is still beautiful, however the grains don’t seem so grainy or cauliflower like anymore they seem more strung out and ribbon like. Is this a problem?
    Thanks for your help.

    • It sounds like a foreign culture has been introduced to your culture. As long as your kefir is tasty and a texture you like, this isn’t a problem. At some point, you may wish to start with fresh grains.

  13. I bought a kefir starter…(powdery substance)..the kefir tastes great but i don’t notice what i would consider to be ‘grains’ power say… Am i missing something?


  15. […] 2. Kefir – Homemade kefir is like a different food than the stuff you buy in stores. There are so many more probiotics in the homemade version, and homemade kefir is so much more nutritious,  and the taste is tangier. You will need someone to share kefir grains with you or purchase some online. There is a bit of a learning curve, but the payoff is worth it. […]

  16. I was given water kefir grains and milk kefir grains and I am cultivating both.

    Is it ok to drink both – ie water kefir one day and milk kefir the next day?

    Thank you


    • But of course. We often mix ferments, i.e.: olives, wine, cheese, sourdough, beer, kraut, pickles, chocolate and coffee,

  17. Hi I have been gradually building up to home made kefir, starting initially with store bought kefir, which I had no difficulties with. I recently started making kefir at home, which thickens nicely and tastes great, but causes my stomach to react, my stomach reacted and resulted in difficulty falling asleep,neither of which happened with the strioe bought variety. I am wondering whether this Is because I am new to home grown variety? as I heard you have to start low and build up gradually

    • I’ve never heard of such a problem with either store bought or home made kefir. Keep experimenting and you’ll figure it out!

      • I drank homemade kefir for 6 months with no problem. I am lactose intolerant but the kefir grains eat most of the lactose. Then I started to get raw milk from a farmer. I started have indigestion problems. I contacted the farmer. He told me there are so many more healthy probiotics in the raw kefir than the regular that it could take a gradual change over to get used to it. I’m sure there is more probiotic in homemade kefir as to store bought. So I would try mixing the kefir with 3 parts store bought to 1 part homemade. Do this and in a day or 2 increase to 50% of each for a few days. Then 25% store bought to 75% homemade for a few days and then 100% homemade. If the issue is with the healthy bacteria, you will likely resolve the issue. I don’t know anything about it keeping you awake at night but it should resolve the stomach issues. Hope that is helpful.

  18. Hi, I understand that when switching milks kefir grains can go through a transition and produce a few strange and yeasty batches. Is this true when switching from 2% milk to whole milk? Or just between dairy and non-dairy milks?


    • I’ve not had this experience with my kefir, but then I’ve not tried kefiring 2%. When I use kefir grains for non-dairy milk, the grains loose their oomph with time but initially are “normal.”

    • Whenever you switch their milk source they can go through a transition period. This includes changing the brand of milk, the fat content of milk and the type of milk (cow’s, to goat’s to non mammal milks, etc)

      The transition period generally only lasts a few days, up to a week, if your grains were healthy at the time of transition. You can also make the transition easier by slowly introducing the new milk. For example, 3/4 full fat to 1/4 2% and continue slowly increasing the 2% until that is all you are using.

      While your grains are transitioning you can still use the resulting kefir in smoothies or in recipes to replace yogurt/buttermilk, no need to toss it.

  19. what is the difference if any between using milk kefir grains and grains sold as water kefir grains thanks

  20. Hi, I really appreciate your detailed instructions. I just received some kefir grains and have made one batch, it seemed to be quite tart, and almost have a yeasty/alcohol odor. I think maybe this is due to only one fermentation, and perhaps fermenting too long. We’ll see how the next batch goes. One source said to ferment for 18 hrs, then the 2nd ferment for 6 hrs, so I’m going to try this and see what happens. I still drank it, blended with some frozen strawberries, stevia and chia seeds and it was delicious. Do you think I need to ferment less time or just get used to the taste?

  21. After making a milk kefir batch, do you rinse with water the grains to make a batch of water kefir?
    Thank you!

  22. Thank you so much for this information.

    I’ve been making kefir with raw goat’s milk for a couple of months now. This week was my first sketchy batch. I left a gallon of milk and kefir grains in my oven with the light on for 48 hours – longer than normal. When I took it out, it had light brown something at the top, and it smelled a bit different, but not terrible. I skimmed of the top and strained it in the fridge. I was worried that I had left it too long to strain it on the counter. I just ate some a day later and it tasted tart – my kefir has never tasted tart so far. Now I’m worried that I might get sick. Does this all sound normal to you? I just cover the jar with a cloth because I don’t want fizzy kefir. I also normally try to shake the jar but this time I did not, so maybe that’s why it formed the brown substance on top?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!


    • While it’s great just “freshly strained” just wait until you taste the ripened. It’s flavor is far superior. Furthermore, as the article states:
      I recommend ripening kefir for a day or two prior to consuming it. Fully ripened (48 hour) kefir eliminates lactose from the beverage and increases some of the B group vitamins. Folic acid, for example, increases by at least 116 % in comparison to fresh milk or freshly stained kefir.

  23. can I make more Kefir milk using raw milk & kefir milk?
    Will grains form using this method or do I need to purchase some grains?

    • Depending upon how the kefir was cultured, you can sometimes make a shabby wannabe kefir by combing kefir and milk but the odds of it forming viable grains are very slim.

      For the real deal, get the grains. You won’t be disappointed.

  24. I made some Kefir cream cheese about a week ago, we all loved it but there’s still some left in the fridge. Just wondering if you’ve made it and if once made, it keeps as long as the kefir milk? ie: as long as it’s palatable it’s ok. Thanks for the all your fabulous advice!

    • Yes, you can trust your nose, eye and taste to determine if a fermented food is still good. As the cheese contains less liquid than kefir, it is more “stable” and will have a longer shelf life.

  25. I have been using store bought organic milk not lowfat..Makes super tasty kefir. Does the process of fermenting it also make it less fattening? Will it cause weight gain? Thx!

  26. Hi,
    Just wondering if kefir is fine to put straight on skin as moisturiser?
    Thank you for your time.

    • I have put kefir on my skin to moisturize and it works well although sometimes I have noticed that it burns a bit and I need to wash it off. I would guess that this is probably because of the high acid content in the kefir.

      I would suggest testing it out on less sensitive areas before grabbing a handful and rubbing it on your face or you might not like the results!

    • I’ve used kefir grains or tibicos but I found the standard kefir grains easier to use both for milk and other ferments. Your best bet is to do an online search for a source ato purchase them and your source will provide directions.

  27. While living and traveling with the Bedouin of Egypt our camels’ milk was re-cycled through bladder’s tied to humps, saddles, slung over shoulders, gently rocking and swaying throughout the days into star filled nights. This ever available beverage remaines impregnated within organs and inner lining, and as far as I know the cultures’ within are as continuously old as a thousand caravans passing through generations, each giving birth and moving on since time-and-memorial!

    Caravans of yak-and-camel, goat-and-pony crossing steps, spanning deserts, passing through forests, over mountains and tossing oceans, always destine to places never before heard of, for generations unseen.

    These growing colonies evoke such images and answer such questions as; From where, and from when did this wonderfully tangy-and-tasty treat originate and is it the same in variety and character as human cultures? Does it vary as greatly as do we, in its taste and colonial heritage…

    Kefir is an undying treat from pantry shelf to village hut and outward bound into a sea of culinary possibilities!

    Anthropologist, Caril Ridley

  28. Hi, here are some questions I have:

    1. I was just given kefir grains with kefir yesterday for the first time. All I did to seperate them in the morning (24 hours), was use a fork to extract the grains and start over in a new mason jar. Is that wrong?

    2. When I opened the fridge to see my finished product I saw a big, long, rubbery substance with what looked liked grains inside? I assumed it was kefir grains that I’d missed & added it to my new batch. Can the grains take on a different appearance when reproducing? And when reproducing do they seperate or just get bigger?

    3. Are there benefits to seperating the whey from the kefir and is using one over the other more beneficial? or should I just mix or blend it all together?

    A lot of questions, I know. I’m really new at this & quite nervous about trying it. Thank you for taking the time to answer.

    • Q. # 1….sounds right. #
      #2. I haven’t a clue
      #3. Both are good;; however, kefir is typically separated from the whey.
      Just keep on working it and you’ll soon have it down.

  29. Two questions:
    1. Still confused about refrigeration once Kefir is made. Have read that orgianlly when cultrued in goat stomachs, herdsmen simple stored without any cool storage. Is this because they drank it in a matter of days and therefore no problems as with other milk products?
    2. I put NuStevia in my kefir for taste. Will this alter the probiotic action of the drink?

    • Once kefired, the product continues to ferment and eventually reaches a point where it is too sour to be taste good.
      To retard fermentation, refrigerate.
      Flavor your kefir as you wish.

  30. Kefir grains are not readily available where I live in Canada. I can however get at kefir culture starter for milk. How will that work to culture grains or is it the same thing?

    • It might be. If the starter replicates itself so that you can use it indefinitely then you’ll know it’s the real thing. Look again at my article and the various resources and I’m sure you can find a way to get kefir grains in Canada.

  31. Hi ,
    I have been making keifer awhile. I am wondering if a keifer that is more than 48 hrs would still be safe. Do you know if there is a limit of time to keep at room temp ? Thanks

    • As long as it tastes good, it is good.That’s the beauty of lacto fermented foods, they’re safe. However if left out too long, the flavor becomes overly sour and not pleasant to drink.

  32. When making almond milk kefir would it be advantageous to cycle the kefir grains w/ milk kefir…meaning…make almond milk kefir then feed the grains w/ milk and back to almond milk? Would this cycle keep the grains alive?

    • When using non dairy milks for kefir you do want to switch to normal mammal milk (cow, goat, sheep etc) about every 4 batches to keep the grains alive and growing.

      Another good idea, keep a separate batch of grains growing with just mammal milk so that you have a backup should something go wrong with your other grains.

  33. You said it’s good to ripen the kefir for 48 hours at room temperature. But I understood that you are supposed to change the milk every 12 to 24 hours. I’m confused about that. Should you leave the grains in the same milk for 48 hours to ripen and what about the 24 hours? Did I miss something?
    I’ve been changing the milk every 24 hours and then refrigerating the results which have been very tasty. The first “batch was very thin which I threw out but the second was very thick and the 3rd and 4th batches have been in between the first two.

    • Hmmmmm, I’ve never heard of changing the milk every 12 to 24 hours. Keep it out until it has the flavor and consistency that you enjoy which is a matter of personal taste. Not to worry, before it can go bad it will taste more sour than you’d like.

  34. Hi,
    Do you boil the pasturized milk before making Kefir?? Like when you make yoghurt we do bring the milk to a boil, was wondering whether its the same with Kefir

  35. My kefir came out very thin. I have made it in past and was as quite different, and much more delicious. I used a very small nylon strainer. Might that have beent the problem?
    Thank You,

  36. Can I make kefir by using kefir? I use yogurt to make additional yogurt and buttermilk to culture more buttermilk. Can I use kefir in the same way? If so, how do I do this? Thanks for your help.

    • You can make a lousy and not so tasty approximation of kefir using just kefir. But why bother? Get the grains and you’ll have a great and sustainable beverage.

    • Yes, kefir grains will kefir both juice and milk. With milk the process is sustainable and produces more grains. In juice, the grains do not increase and their life span is limited.

  37. i would love to make some kefir milk can i get the kefir grains at a health food store and what are the best ones to get thank u very much, rita

  38. My questions: How do you determine
    1. when the kefir fermentation has finished?
    2. how long do the grains last and how many times can they be re-used?
    3. from where do you obtain the grains?
    Thank you for your time and assistance.

  39. My Mom used to let some of her fresh milk sit and “clabber up”. She then drank it or used some in baking. what is the difference between it and Kefir?


    • You’re describing naturally soured or clabbered butter milk which, indeed, is tasty.
      Kefir is even tastier. It is incubated with a specific culture which provides invaluable probiotic. Also, depending upon how you make it, kefir can be pleasingly effervescent.

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