Homemade Kefir Recipe- Probiotic Yogurt Alternative

I like yogurt. So do my kids. So does my husband. Because it's expensive to buy in the store, I make homemade yogurt for my family whenever they want it... or rather, whenever I feel like putting in the effort. I mean, making yogurt isn't a ton of work, and if you love yogurt, you really should make it instead of buying your own as the savings are tremendous... But at the same time, yogurt making entails quite a few steps- boiling, cooling, mixing, letting sit in a warm place, retrieving it to refrigerate, and then eating it...  and some time I don't feel like doing that.
Meet kefir. Kefir is a probiotic, fermented milk product, just like yogurt, but it differs in quite a few notable ways.

1) Kefir is a bit more runny than yogurt.

2) Kefir making is much easier than yogurt making in certain ways, but harder in other ways.

3) Kefir has a slightly different taste than yogurt- more tangy and yeasty at the same time.

4) Yogurt usually just has acidopholous, but kefir can have as many as 25 different types of probiotics.

5) Yogurt can be made via "chain yogurting", using one bit of yogurt to start the next batch, which you then use to start the next batch, but they get less potent each time, and eventually it'll stop working, and you'll need to start over. Kefir, on the other hand, must be made via "chain kefiring". Similar to kombucha, kefir is made by adding a SCOBY- a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast- to milk, and letting the probiotics in the SCOBY digest the milk. This SCOBY is called kefir grains (they look nothing like grains, more like clear gummy cauliflower florets); you reuse those grains again and again and again, forever and ever, and not only do they not die, they actually grow and reproduce.

6) Yogurt takes 7-10 hours to be ready; kefir takes 24-48 hours to be ready.

7) Kefir is more digestible than yogurt. Yogurt gives me stomach problems, but I can handle small amounts of kefir.

8) Kefir has a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge amount of health benefits, many more than yogurt. Its been used to treat so many different health issues, among them healing all sorts of stomach/digestive issues and illnesses, skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis and sunburns, is a natural antibiotic, helps heal certain cancers, lowers LDL cholesterol and helps with heart disease in other ways, strengthens the immune system and helps with many autoimmune diseases, helps with certain neurological issues, helps with certain age related illnesses and issues, among many other things! (See here for a full list.) 

So, how do you make kefir?

1) First, acquire some kefir grains. You can either get from someone who makes kefir already (as kefir grows, your grains will grow and proliferate, so kefir makers often have extra grains to give away) or look online for kefir grain "swap" sites (there are sites where people offer to mail/give away their extra kefir grains to people who contact them through the site- this is one example) or purchase from people who sell kefir grains. Don't buy kefir in the store for this, as store bought kefir doesn't contain the kefir grains.

2) Put milk into a glass jar and add your kefir grains. You want approximately 1 tablespoon of kefir grains per cup of milk. Don't use reconstituted powdered milk for this- I tried and it doesn't really work well... The milk can either be cold from the fridge or room temperature, but doesn't need to be warmed like for yogurt.

3) Cover your jar either with its cover, but close it loosely if you do that. Otherwise, cover it with a piece of cloth and secure it with a rubber band.

4) Leave your jar on the counter for 12-48 hours, depending on the temperature in the room. In warmer temperatures, the kefir gets ready faster. Check it every 12 hours or so to see if it has thickened. Once it has thickened, move on to the next step; if you let it sit on the counter too long, it'll separate into curds and whey, not to mention becoming too sour.

5) Take a plastic mesh strainer and put it over a new container. 

6. Pour the ready kefir into the strainer.

7. Shake the strainer so the kefir goes through the holes and the kefir grains remain behind in the strainer.

8. Take the kefir grains and put them into more milk. If you put them back into the unwashed jar and add new milk, the next batch of kefir will be ready sooner.

9. Take your strained kefir and use it as you would yogurt.

Either drink it plain, serve it with granola, make it into a smoothie, strain it to make kefir cheese, or use it in recipes in place of yogurt. You can also use the whey (the liquid at the bottom when they ferment too long and separate) to aid in making pickles or other fermented vegetables or fruit, to soak grains or nuts or seeds, or even as a sourdough starter for breads or pancakes.

Kefir strawberry date and flax seed smoothie.
If you don't want to use the kefir straightaway, you can stick it in the fridge where it'll keep for a long, long time.

Kefir Notes and Troubleshooting

  • Don't use metal utensils or equipment when making kefir as the kefir grains can react negatively with the metal. Use glass, wood, or plastic.
  • If your kefir separates because you left it too long, don't strain it right away. Instead, put the cover tightly on the jar, and shake it up as well as you can so the solids separate and mix with the liquid whey at the bottom, and then strain. You'll still end up with clumps of kefir in the strainer, but not as many as you would if you didn't shake it up. Carefully remove the kefir grains from the clumps and use for your next batch.
  • Some people rinse their grains in water between batches. Its best not to.
  • If you want to take a break from making kefir, put fresh milk with the kefir grains and refrigerate for up to two weeks. When you take it out of the fridge for a new batch, it'll take longer for this new batch to be ready, until the kefir grains "warm up" again. After making a few batches, your kefir grains should be back to normal.
  • You can make "water kefir" from these kefir grains. (Real water kefir is something else, but you can make kefir with water with milk kefir grains.) Make some sugar water and add the kefir grains to them, then leave them for a day or two. It should make a yummy sweet and sour drink. Don't do this for too many times in a row though, as these kefir grains need milk to stay healthy and proliferate. If you only make them in sugar water, they'll eventually die.
  • Make sure you're using clean, uncontaminated equipment. Yes, you can reuse the kefir jar without washing it, but make sure that other things that touch the kefir aren't dirty or you might be introducing bad bacteria that'll make it spoil.
  • You can make kefir with raw milk or pasteurized milk, cow's milk, goat's milk, or sheep's milk. (Hrmmm, I wonder if you can make kefir with mama's milk... lol.)
  • Different kefir grains produce kefir that taste slightly different. If your kefir is too sour or sweet or not how you want it to be, try getting your grains from a different source- there's a good chance that that kefir will have a different taste.

Enjoy, and have fun on your kefir making experience!

Have you ever heard of, had, or made kefir before? What did you think of it? If you don't make kefir, do you know anyone local who does, where you can get kefir grains if you'd want to start? (P.S. If you live where I do and want to make kefir, it isn't easy to come across kefir grains locally- email me at pennilessparenting@yahoo.com so I can get you in touch with people who can give you kefir grains.)
Were my instructions clear enough?
Do you have any further questions? Any thing you'd want to know before making kefir?
If making kefir doesn't interest you at all, can you share why?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Can then kefir seeds be reused if I do not wish to make a new batch straightaway?

    1. I ordered my kefir online and it came with 3 pages of information including how to "keep" kefir if you don't want to make more right away. Rinse it with Spring Water and put into a clean glass jar, cover and put in the frig. My paperwork said it will store safely in the frig for up to 4 months. I just got started with this and I'm using raw milk (Jersey cow milk) and the kefir is INCREDIBLE. In a month, the grains have increased maybe 5 times what I started with. The only problem I've seen is heating it kinda makes it MORE sour. The breakfast cereal (Cream of wheat) that I made still tasted delicious, it just gave off a more vinegar odor. I felt no ill affects but I don't think I'll try it in making hot cereal again.

  2. I LOVE kefir and can't really afford store-bought...thanks for your instructions, will try to make when I can manage (afford) to get grains. Thanks.

    1. @ catlady- Check your local craigslist for kefir grains- I give away mine for free! You might find a kind soul in your area. Or, you can try a wanted ad, that is how I got my grains.

  3. Where can I get some kefir grains? I'm afraid it is not as popular here in my area. :-(

    1. Couldn't find kefir around my area either so I got my kefir from kefirlady.com. Seems to be working great so far and I love her method of payment. You should check it out.

  4. Where can I get some kefir grains? I'm afraid it is not as popular here in my area. :-(

  5. I've been drinking the stuff for a couple of years now, and I can say I've felt the benefits. I live in a hot climate, so it's much quicker and easier. Right now, I drink my breakfast kefir at 6 am, and the next batch is ready when I get back from work at 6 pm. I strain and put the strained kefir in the fridge for an hour to cool it and thicken it before drinking.

    1. Michael
      What type milk do you use. I'm using a Siberian culture for the kefir and I'm finding my house is to warm and my fridge is to cold. Where do u store it? I'm in Las Vegas

  6. I'm in Kurdistan, Shorisha, where are you?

  7. can't I just take some probiotics I have, empty the capsule into milk, give it a day or two and have kefir?

  8. Do you have to stir the kefir grains into the milk for it to work, or do you just dump 'em in and let it sit at room temperature as is? How well do the grains have to be distributed throughout the milk for it to turn out right?

  9. I didn't use my kefir grains for 5 months. They were in milk in the refrigerator. For the last 5 times that I have tried to make kefir, the kefir is very liquid-y and has small grains. I was using different types of milk such as low fat, organic, and regular. Do you think my kefir grains died?

  10. I doubt that your Kefir has died, Julia. I had mine frozen in milk for 10 years ( forgot about it after moving house). Last week I thawed it out, and although the grains were very small initially it is growing and producing beautifully creamy Kefir!

  11. Hi Julia,
    I doubt your Kefir has died. I had mine frozen for 10 years ( forgotten about after a move) Last week I thawed it out and although the grains were very small they've grown and are producing lovely creamy Kefir!

  12. I also make kefir yogurt. First,I strain it the way you do, then I get a coffee filter and place it in my strainer and put it over a bowl, pour the strained kefir in and let it stay until it is as thick as I want - usually several hours. Then I add a sweetener and some fruit. Delicious!

  13. I make kefir and I have read lots about it. You mention not using metal but I've read from quite a few websites that sell kefir and offer care instructions say that stainless steel metal doesn't effect the kefir negatively.

  14. I have best luck using milk that comes out of a box, Plastic containers of milk don't yeild the same quality product. Never rinse with tap water, rinse grains with milk or bottled water. The higher the fat content of your milk the creamier the kefir.

  15. is kefir has to many calories and bad for cholesterol ?

  16. I am thinking of trying coconut milk keifer. I have read you can use it in non dairy milk but the grains do need occasionally a "re-boot"in a dairy milk to thrive.

  17. Hi there - my family and I all have lactose issues so we only have lactose-free milk and cream. Can I use this to start my kefir or should I buy some normal milk and use that instead?

  18. Can you make dairy free version with almond milk? I really miss yogurt!

  19. Megan the key for culture feeds off lactose of the longer you leave it the more lactose is used up so you may be able to have it.

    Kate to make Kiefer with almond milk you would need to use water kefir grains as they don't need lactose to feed.

  20. Thanks for article very easy to follow.
    I received kefir granules and have started a batch.
    we'll see how it turns out .

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