What is Milk Kefir?

Milk kefir (pronounced “kuh-feer”) is a yogurty, slightly sour fermented milk beverage.  This tangy drink originated over 2000 years ago in the Northern Caucasus mountain region bordering Europe and Asia.  Its name is derived from the Turkish word keyif  which means “feeling good”- perfect to describe this super healthy, probiotic beverage!

How Is It Made?

Although milk kefir resembles yogurt, the fermentation process to make it is much easier!  It is as simple as adding fresh milk to milk kefir grains and leaving the mixture at room temperature for 24-36 hours.

What are Milk Kefir Grains?

Milk Kefir Grains
Milk Kefir Grains

Similar to the bacterial culture involved in making kombucha, milk kefir is also made using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).  The milk kefir SCOBY takes the form of grains, resembling cottage cheese or cauliflower, and will grow slightly each time they are used.   The main bacterial communities cohabiting with the yeast are lactobacillus and acetobacter. These yeast and bacterial communities digest the lactose present in the milk, producing lactic acid and carbon dioxide.

 Why You Should Drink Milk Kefir

Although it has been used for centuries in European and Asian folk medicine, milk kefir has received renewed interest thanks to research connecting our gut microbial population to the overall healthy functioning of our body.

A bonus side-effect of the fermentation process gives milk kefir a very low amount of lactose.  This makes it an excellent option for those who have lactose issues. The amount of lactose can be further decreased by extending fermentation time. (note- the bacteria will continue to consume the lactose but the resulting kefir will be more sour).

Milk kefir is also very rich in beneficial bacteria for good gut health (almost 30 different types) and high in vitamins B12 and K2,  calcium, magnesium and folate.

How to Include Milk Kefir In Your Diet

We consume milk kefir daily in our house.  Our stash has permanent residence in our fridge and is a staple for most of the members of our family.  My youngest daughter, Ruby, is the biggest fan.  She likes to add cocoa powder to it in the morning and will use it to make smoothies before school.   I make smoothies for my lunch every day and also for my husband when he is on the go.  I have also discovered other recipes using strained milk kefir to make a “cream cheese-like” spread, or a sweet or savoury dip (recipes to follow shortly!)

Milk kefir can now found commercially in the dairy section of your local grocery store.  As with kombucha, if you have a starter culture, it is super easy and very economical to make it yourself! Let’s get started!

How to Make Milk Kefir

Fermentation time: 24- 36 hours


  • 1 litre (1 quart) cow or goat’s milk (for best results, do not use “Pure filtered”)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk kefir grains
  • Glass jar


  1. Place milk kefir grains and milk in the jar.
  2.  Cover with a cloth or coffee filter.  Leave on the counter or in a cupboard for 24-36 hours. The kefir is ready when the milk has thickened and smells slightly sour.
Milk kefir grains and organic 2% milk

3. Strain the finished kefir and refrigerate.

Straining milk kefir grains from finished kefir

4. Put the grains back into the jar, add milk and start a new batch.  It’s that easy!

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10 Responses

  1. Excelente art?culo mucha gracias. Soy una aficionada al tema y e le?do mucho para mantenerme al tanto de todas las cosas que podemos hacer con el kefir.
    Lo estoy escribiendo todo aqu? por si a alguien le interesa. https://kefirybulgaros.com

    1. Hi Katherine- it is likely your kefir culture is no longer viable. You can always strain the culture and put it in a small amount of fresh milk to test if it is still active. If you see see activity within 24 hours, you should toss it. In the future if you need to take a break, you can put the culture in milk and store it in the fridge for approximately 2 weeks. The more milk you put the culture in, the longer you can leave it in the fridge. The culture will become sluggish in the fridge and consume the lactose in the the milk at a decelerated pace.

  2. Hi Jody I love your recipes and photos. I’ve been successfully making milk kefir for a few years now and managed to get raw milk from a local farmer who had holstein cows. However he sold his animals and I had to resort to whole organic pasteurised milk from the store which was fine. Lately I’ve managed to get a weekly delivery of raw Jersey milk and have been using that. The amount of cream in it is unbelievable so the grains stick to it when I’m sieving. So recently I’ve noticed that the finished kefir is runny like milk apart from a little thickened kefir at the bottom of my jar. It seems fermented as i always leave for 24hrs and most times do a 2nd ferment for 6 hrs (or up to 24hrs) and that’s when it separates visibly. The taste isn’t all that sour either. So in your opinion is it a problem generally with using raw milk even although my first experience for 2 or 3 yrs with the Hostein milk was great? Could it be the Jersey milk that’s the problem? I even tried taking out some of the cream but still it didn’t have the usual consistency of kefir I ask as somebody once said that raw milk isn’t as successful Do you know why that might be and should I stick with pasteurised milk instead? Though I do believe raw is far more beneficial for health for enzymes etc I would be so disappointed not to use it. Thanks for any opinions you might have 🙂

    1. Hi Margaret- thanks for your interest and question. While I am not familiar with differences in milk between cattle breeds, I do know that making kefir with raw milk can be tricky. Raw milk, especially older raw milk, can contain high levels of bacteria that can be detrimental to the kefir culture. So it could be that the bacteria in the Jersey milk you are receiving is not compatible with your kefir culture. Separation is not really an issue, but if it is not souring, it can indicate that the kefir culture is not active (not consuming the lactose in the milk). Hope this helps and good luck!

  3. Hi Jody, I bought the Kefir pouch from you at the Hudson fair day. I can’t recall, do I need to filter the grains from the pouch the came in, or just add the complete pouch contents to the far of milk? Thanks! Danny

    1. Hi Danny- It was great to meet you! Put the entire content in the jar of milk, cover the jar with a cloth and leave it at room temperature for 12-48 hours. Good luck!

  4. Hi Jody,

    I bought a SCOBY and kefir grains from you on the first day of the Beaconsfield market at the church. I made my first batches of Kombucha (delicious!) & kefir (also delicious!). Then I made a second batch of kefir and left the grains in for about 4 days, accidentally. Now the milk kefir doesn’t look the same. The milk has separated and there are watery parts floating around amongst what looks like yogurty bits. Is it still safe to drink or should I toss the whole thing and buy some more grains? Or should I try to remove the grains and start a new batch?


    1. Hi Olivia

      Thanks for coming to the market and for your support. Great to hear you had success with your kombucha and milk kefir grains. How did your second fermentation go with your kombucha? What flavouring did you try? As for the kefir, not to brag, but my grains are very robust, and you have taken great care of them. From your description, it sounds like you “over fermented” your kefir. This is actually how I usually make mine as i like it more sour. It is totally fine. Carefully pour the whole lot in a sieve and use a clean spoon to gently stir the mixture. The liquid (whey) will drain immediately through the sieve. The kefir will slowly separate from the grains and float on the surface of the whey. Just stir the kefir and whey and use it as you would with your normal kefir ferment (second fermentation, flavouring, etc). You might need to divide your grains into 2-3 containers (multiple kefir batches), or keep an eye on your kefir ferment (the more grains you have, the quicker the ferment). This week’s article will talk about how to use excess kefir in the summer…you can also strain it to make cheese or dips (see kefir on this website)

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