Milk Kefir- The Amped-Up Probiotic Milk Beverage

Named after the Turkish word for "feeling good", this super healthy probiotic beverage is so easy to make and an essential addition to your diet!

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by Jody Gowans in Beverages, Milk Kefir, Recipes, The Basics
December 22, 2016

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 12-24 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: 12- 24 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 12-24 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!


How to Make Milk Kefir
Fermentation Time- 12-24 hours
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  1. I litre (1 quart) cow or goat's milk (for best results, do not use "Pure Filtered")
  2. 1-2 tablespoons milk kefir grains
  3. Glass jar
  1. Place milk kefir grains and milk in the jar
  2. Cover jar with a cloth or coffee filter. Leave on the counter or in a cupboard for 12-24 hours.
  3. Strain milk kefir and refrigerate.
  4. Place the kefir grains back in the jar, add more milk and repeat the fermentation process.
  1. The milk kefir is ready when the milk has thickened and smells slightly sour
The Cultured Foodie


  1. Olivia Kona says:

    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. Jody Gowans says:

      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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