Make your own kefir: everything you need to know

Milk and water kefir, resources for anyone thinking of making their own at home.

Kefir in a glass

Kefir resources to help you on the journey of fermentation

Why not make your own kefir, it’s good for you, cost effective and much simpler than you’d imagine. Kefir is really hot right now, it’s got a high visibility in the health and fermented food niche and shows signs that it could break out in the mainstream. I say this as a guy that never heard of kefir a few years ago, now I’m making my own at home. Although making kefir is pretty easy there are a few potential pitfalls, particularly to people new to fermentation, so I decided to share resources that I found useful.

For our own practical guide into home kefir production click here.

Keeping your kefir going, a practical video guide on how to keep the grains living whilst harvesting the product.

There is a BBC guide to the health benefits of kefir, it’s a little bit dated in approach, I guess you wouldn’t expect anything less from the BEEB.

Mad Millie Kefir Kit at Lakeland was our first experience of DIY kefir. The kit contains everything you need to get started and so is a useful first step for beginners. The Lakeland site also has a lot of items that fermenters might find useful including, Kilner jars, cheesecloth, wooden utensils.

A journal study exploring the microbial interactions in kefir, largely linked to the composition and health benefits of lactobacillus.

The Wikepedia kefir page is not the best DIY resource on the internet but it gives a good overview and links to a lot of the relevant research to anyone interested in the science.

The Cultures for Health guide to Kefir, useful information for new and experienced fermenters. Links to plenty of related articles including some water kefir insights.

For information on vegan kefir, visit the Nourished Kitchen website. All the ins and outs of  home productions, tips and recipes.

Some commercial probiotics found lacking when compared to traditional alternatives

Kefir appears to offer significantly greater benefit than commercially produced probiotic drinks.

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Dr Michael Mosley has been helping to run a study for the BBC  looking at the relative benefits to gut health from a range of products. Volunteers and scientists collaborated to try to discover which of three probiotics/prebiotics had the biggest positive impact on gut bacteria.

The first product was a commercially available drink, branded as a probiotic and available in major supermarkets. The second item up for comparison was kefir, a traditional milk and yeast fermented substance, a little like yogurt. These first two foods were compared with vegetables high in natural prebiotic fibre called inulin. Inulin is found in range of foods including chicory (chicory root is a rich source) and scallions (onions, leeks and garlic).

The poorest preforming of the three in this trial was the probiotic drink. The participants in this group demonstrated a modest (statistically non significant) change in lachnospiraceae gut bacteria. Conversely significant changes in gut flora were seen in the group consuming prebiotic fibre. The people that consumer kefir enjoyed the most positive increase to gut bacteria.

It should be pointed out that any comparison between prebiotics and probiotics is not a like for like test. Prebiotics deliver the food that supports existing bacteria and create the conditions for further colonization. A probiotic is intended to introduce microorganisms directly into the body.

The BBC study concluded that traditionally produced fermented foods (or even home made versions) may offer the greatest benefits to consumers in terms of increased gut flora. A key problem with mass produced fermented foods and drinks is pasteurisation. Pasturised goods are regarded as safer, which also correlates to a longer shelf life. By comparison traditionally made kefir has to be consumed in a relatively short space of time. This is perhaps the choice we consumers face, if we want maximum health benefits from the food we make or buy we may have to sacrifice some of the convenience of long sell by dates.