When we started our Kefir adventure, we all had some prior knowledge but still relied on the “trial and error” approach. I’m no exception.
However, after a series of trials and mistakes, some attempts appeared to be successful and became a part of my everyday routine in making Kefir.
I am about to share with you these three simple tricks for better Kefir. They are straightforward and won’t cost you anything, but their effectiveness is proven throughout many years of successful kefir making.
At first glance, they appear too simple and obvious, but you will be surprised by the results. Details make perfection, and perfection is not a detail. Enjoy!
1. Avoid rinsing your kefir grains
Most of you have noticed that after a couple of brews, the kefir grains get covered by a slimy substance that some people find weird, to say the least. Many websites, social media groups, and forums dedicated to Kefir advise kefir makers to rinse their kefir grains at each milk change to eliminate this “disgusting” slimy stuff.
However, the truth is slightly different. This “slimy stuff” covering the kefir grains is called kefiran and is a biofilm secreted by the bacteria of kefir grains. This biofilm creates a suitable living environment for kefir microorganisms and is needed by them.
Rinsing (or washing) this biofilm from the grains will only force them to regenerate it, costing them energy. The contact of kefir grains with water inevitably destroys their living environment, which may have only adverse effects.
Moreover, rinsing kefir grains with tap water (most likely chlorinated) could do even more harm because chlorine will inhibit or temporarily stop their activity. Don’t be afraid, though; chlorine is unlikely to kill your kefir grains but will inevitably drive them out of biological balance, and you don’t want this!
Here’s what I have done with my kefir grains for many years:
Once I strain my kefir grains from the fermented brew, I put them in a plastic container, cover them with fresh milk, and place the container in the fridge. Whenever I need the grains for the next batch of Kefir, I pour the entire content of this container into the jar for the new batch and add the required quantity of milk (see illustration below). Then I thoroughly stir the mix and let it ferment. As simple as that.
2. Periodically stir your kefir mix
For smooth and tasty Kefir, it is vitally important to make sure your kefir grains are in constant contact with fresh milk.
One of the most frequent mistakes that kefir beginners make is that they do not take care of their Kefir during fermentation.
The problem is that kefir grains tend to float on top of the brew. Once on top, the upper layer of kefir grains contacts the surrounding air and may dry out.
Moreover, thanks to the constant contact with the grains, the upper layers of the milk ferment faster than the lower layers resulting in uneven fermentation and an increased tendency for kefir separation.
The solution to this problem is more than straightforward: periodically (once every couple of hours) stir your kefir mix with a wooden or plastic spoon. In this way, you will ensure a constant flow of fresh milk around your kefir grains, making your Kefir smoother and tastier.
Remember that in the ancient Caucasus, the “homeland” of Kefir, people used to place the leather bag with Kefir at the house entrance so that anyone passing by could shake it, ensuring that Kefir gets constantly mixed and kept in perfect shape.
3. On hot summer days, let your Kefir ferment in the fridge
You may have heard that the kefir grains stored in the refrigerator may not grow and may not last as long as grains cultured consistently at room temperature. Well, this is not entirely true.
The only thing that relatively low temperatures do to Kefir is to slow down all fermentation processes. They will neither stop them nor negatively affect them. Quite the opposite: slower fermentation usually leads to a smoother and tastier kefir drink.
That is especially valid for secondary fermentation, but if you are not in a hurry, even the primary fermentation of Kefir can be carried out in the fridge. In this case, your Kefir may need 24 or even 48 hours to ferment fully, but it will taste better and be smoother and creamier.
Honestly, I couldn’t find any scientific explanation for this. Still, the fact is that Kefir, slowly fermented in the fridge, gets smoother and tastier than the one fermented at room temperature!
But mind you! We are talking about the refrigerator, not the freezer. While freezing the kefir grains may be appropriate under certain conditions, it completely stops all processes in Kefir to a complete standstill, so you can only use it for more extended storage of the grains.