Dermatologist’s Recommendation for a Probiotic Powerhouse: Home Brewed Kefir

Cynthia Bailey, MD|October 26, 2009

Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey’s Recommendations for Brewing Kefir: Home brewed kefir milk is a probiotic powerhouse and my first choice for probiotic therapy. Kefir contains a broader range of beneficial probiotic organisms than other cultured foods or probiotic capsules. The probiotics in home brewed kefir are alive and ready to immediately get to work improving your health and thus the vitality of your body and skin. Everyone benefits from probiotics, but especially people who have had antibiotics in the past. (If you are immunosuppressed or have intestinal disease, please consult with your physician to supervise your probiotic therapy. Kefir brewing is easy and inexpensive. It's been done for thousands of years in kitchens all over the world. Below is my method for brewing kefir milk in my kitchen. You can find additional instructions from the the web sites I reference at the end of this post. Materials that I use to brew kefir:

All of your kefir brewing materials need to be glass, ceramic, plastic or silicone. Kefir grains (colonies) don’t do well if they come into contact with metal. Materials needed include: * A bottle with loose fitting lid for storing the culture between brewing (like a pint sized, hinged canning jar with the rubber seal removed) * A bottle and lid to store your brewed kefir milk (like a quart wide mouth canning jar and a fitted plastic lid) * A brewing container like a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup * Funnel, strainer, spoon (all non-metal)


My Kefir Brewing Materials




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I use the plastic canning jar lids, not the metal lids with the screw-top rings.



Brewing your First Kifir Milk: Activating Your Kefir Grains for the First Time: Most people receive their kefir grains from one of the sources on noted below. The grains are typically sent in the mail and you need to reinvigorate them after their trip. You may not need to do this if you were lucky enough to find someone locally who shared their grains directly from their supply. In this case, you can skip this initial brewing/activation step. When you receive your live kefir grains, inspect them. They should be lumpy creamy yellow and moist. Bring them to room temperature for several hours and then you are ready for your first brewing to awaken your culture (for more detailed instructions see my step by step instructions below for brewing kefir to drink): * Place your newly arrived grains in about 1 cup of room temperature milk (not cold) into a non-metal container like the Pyrex measuring cup. (You can use goat, cow or sheep milk, or soy milk or coconut. Whole fat milk is best. It can be pasteurized or raw.) * Add a small pinch of sugar to invigorate the little culture grains after their journey. * Place the Pyrex cup with the milk and culture in a dimly lit location (not direct sun, but not necessarily dark either). They like your company so put them somewhere in your kitchen where you will pass by them for a little stir every now and then. Cover the Pyrex cup with a clean kitchen towel while the kefir grains are working. * Allow the culture to sit for about 36 hours. Swish it or stir it with a plastic or wooden spoon often, and talk sweetly to it. * The kefir is ready when it has lumps all the way to the bottom of the container, and is slightly thick like a milk shake. * To strain your first brew, use a NONMETAL strainer (like plastic or silicone) or a slotted plastic spoon with very small holes to strain the milk from the grains. Place the strainer on the funnel over your storage bottle. Pour the brew from the Pyrex into the strainer. Gently shake the strainer to separate the kefir grains from the curds of the milk. * Place the grains in a clean Pyrex cup with about half of the kefired milk from this first brew batch (throw the rest of this first batch of milk away, don’t drink it). THIS IS YOUR LITTLE WORKING KEFIR CULTURE; YOU ARE NOW READY TO BREW KEFIR TO DRINK Brewing Kefir to drink: Kefir is an ancient food and has been brewed in many varied conditions, in many countries and climates. Information about brewing is also varied, though there are some important points for kefir brewing that everyone seems to agree on. They include: 1. Never expose your grains to metal, 2. Don’t squish your grains, 3. Don’t expose your grains to chemicals including detergents, 4. Don’t place your grains in direct sunlight, 5. Feed your grains mammal’s milk every now and then or they will get weak (this is only important for people fermenting soy milk or other non mammal milks). I am not as fastidious about providing the temperature conditions for my kefir brewing that others recommend and my kefir quality seems to be consistent with what others describe. At the end of my instruction I list other authors so that you can compare instructions. This is how I brew my kefir (and it seems to work fine for me): * Place about 1¼ cup room temperature milk (I actually use cool milk from the fridge and haven’t noticed any problems) into your Pyrex measuring cup (or ceramic jar or bowl). The amount of milk you add may depend on the volume of your grains. Some sources recommend a ration of about 1:10, meaning if your grains are 1oz. you add about 9 oz of milk. I don’t actually worry about ratios and it has worked fine for me every time. Eventually, as your culture grows you will be able to brew a full 4 cups in your Pyrex. * Cover the container with a clean kitchen towel and place in a dimly lit location in your kitchen. Kefir colonies should not be placed in direct sunlight. DSC01589

Kefir fermenting goat milk in a dimly lit corner of my kitchen



* The ideal temperature for brewing kefir is between 72 to 86 degrees F. Kefir brewing heating pads are available if your kitchen is cooler than 72 degrees. My kitchen is probably about 65 degrees and my kefir seems rich and fine, so again, I’m not sure how much the temperature affects brewing and kefir quality.

* Gently shake or stir your brew with nonmetal utensil as often as possible. Honestly, I can only do this about 2 times in a 24 hour period.

* Your kefir will be ready in about 24 hours; it will be thicker than milk and slightly lumpy all the way through the container. If you have chosen to use lower fat milk, your brew will have a layer of watery separation. If you have warm conditions and a lower volume of milk to grains, your kefir may be very thick like a mousse.

* Strain the milk from the grains by placing the plastic funnel on the wide mouth quart canning jar. The strainer goes on top of the funnel. Pour your brew into the funnel. The milk falls into the canning jar and the grains collect in the funnel.

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Note the lumpy grains in the strainer and the liquid milk below in the jar




Kefir grains strained from the brewing milk





Note the thick slightly 'slimy' milk that clings close to the grains



Leave some of the 'slimy' liquid with the grains. Place the grains into their resting refrigerator jar with a loose fitting lid. I use the hinged pint canning jar.

* To store your grains in their resting jar, add about 1 cup of new milk to the jar containing your grains and put them in the fridge.


Kefir grains in the hinged canning jar with fresh milk, ready to rest in the fridge



You can store this little colony in the fridge without changing the milk for up to a week (maybe even 2 weeks) until you are ready to make a new batch of kefir. If you are going to be gone, have someone change the milk every week by repeating the straining step just described. (see storage info below)

* Your kefired milk is ready to drink. Store it in the fridge.

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Kefired milk ready to store in the fridge



General Kefir Brewing Points that I’ve Learned .

* Your kefir culture will improve its ability to ferment milk over time. After about 5 brewing cycles, your little colony will be able to ferment a larger volume of milk (perhaps 60 times its own volume) in 24 hours. Initially, ask your new culture to only ferment about 1 ½ cups at a time. I brew 4 cups in 24 hours at room temperature which for me is between 65 and 70 degrees.

* Play with the fermentation time to find the taste and consistency you like. Longer brew times and smaller milk volumes will make a thick kefir with a carbonated taste.

* Kefir storage: Store your brewed milk in the refrigerator and drink a at least a glass every evening.


An evening glass of kefir; the ultimate probiotic 'night cap'



Store your culture in about 1 cup of milk in the refrigerator. Change the milk every week, two at the most. The little guys need food, they are alive!

* As your colony grows, give some away. Teach others how to brew kefir and send your little guys off to a new home for others to enjoy and benefit from.


Kefir grains going off to a new local home






Kefir grains in their transport container with a little fresh milk for the journey



For more information on kefir you can reference the following web sites:

If you found this post helpful, you may like to read these other posts:

Dermatologist's Recommendations for Natural Skin Health; Kefir, the best probiotic for healthy skin

Natural Skin Health; Dermatologist's Diet Recommendations for Healthy Skin

The Alkaline Mediterranean Diet; A Magic Wand for Overall Health and Beauty

Making Sense of the Vitamin D Dilemma and Sun Exposure

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