If for some reason I was only able to treat one thing in people to improve their health, it would have to be their gut flora (or the microbiome, as I like to call it when I’m feeling fancy). The balance of your gut bacteria has a huge impact on your health, and treating issues in the gut can make huge improvements in a wide variety of conditions.
There are 10 times the amount of bacteria in our guts than there are cells in our body. This collection of bacteria (microbiome) can be considered its own microbial organ and it weighs 1-1.5kg – wow!
Having the right balance of these bugs is super important because they do a lot of things for our bodies including:
✔modulate our immune system
✔keep the movement and motility of our gut normal
✔help us process and detoxify chemicals and toxins and foreign substances
✔absorb and transport vitamins and minerals and energy from food
Kefir is a fabulous fermented food that helps your gut bacteria to grow and thrive. If you’re never seen a kefir ‘grain’ before, be warned it looks a little like an alien creature.
A kefir ‘grain’ isn’t actually a grain at all, rather a yeast culture. The grains develop a jelly like substance around them, which is called kefiran. How much kefiran your grain will produce depends on the strain of the kefir you get, so it will be a bit like a lucky dip.
Some people advise against using metal implements when making kefir, however there is some argument against this. Read more about that here.
Kefir is a living culture, and after you’ve made a few batches you will observe that your grains have increased. The more grains you have, the faster your fermentation process. Once you have ample grains you can start giving them away. If you need to store the grains, just put them in a glass jar and cover with milk and place them in the fridge, but they will need feeding every 2-3 weeks.
Put the kefir grains into a glass jar. Fill this with fresh milk or coconut milk until it’s about 1-2 – 2/3 fill, and then put the lid on.
From here you can choose whether you want to do a normal or slow culture time.
For normal culture process leave the jar to stand on the bench at room temperature for between 24-48 hours, depending on your preference. 24 hours will be thinner and less tart, and 48 hours will be thicker and sourer. Keep in mind that in warmer months your kefir will culture faster.
For the slow culture, place the jar in the fridge. It will take much longer to ferment, in some instances up to a week. If you don’t go through a huge amount of kefir then this option is for you. It’s advisable to occasionally leave the kefir on the bench to allow it to warm up and revitalise.
When the kefir is cultured to your liking, stir the kefir or shake the jar to incorporate the cream back into the milk, and then strain the kefir into a clean jar. I often use a funnel so that it will go directly into the jar, as my strainer doesn’t fit the jars properly. Have a sample of your kefir and place the rest of it in the fridge. If you wish, you can leave this out for another 12 hours to double ferment before putting it in the fridge.
Place the strained grains straight back into a clean jar (don’t wash them) and then add fresh milk to the batch.
Make sure your hands and implements are very clean when handling kefir, as you don’t want to introduce any unwanted microbes into your culture.
Using different milks
Organic, non-homogenised milk is an excellent option for making kefir, but you can make it out of coconut milk. The fermentation feeds off the sugar in the milk (lactose) so you may find that you need to add some rice malt syrup (only a tiny amount) to the coconut milk to encourage it to ferment. The process of using the sugar to ferment explains why the longer fermentation results in a sourer kefir. If you are avoiding lactose you might be able to tolerate kefir, however try a small amount to begin with to determine how much you can tolerate.
It’s not unheard of for some kefir jars that are left on the bench for long periods of time to explode – I’ve never had this happen to me, thankfully. If you intend to store your kefir for longer than 48 hours on the bench than use a jar with a rubber seal which will allow excess pressure to escape.
The beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to prevent the kefir from spoiling but it gets very sour and fizzy when left to ferment for a very long period.