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Kefir

Kefir

(appropriate after yoghurt has been introduced first)

Dr Natasha encourages people to start with yoghurt first because kefir contains more potent probiotic microbes than yoghurt.   Kefir will produce a more pronounced “die-off reaction”.

You can get a commercial Kefir starter in a sachet or use some live fresh kefir grains as a starter. If you make kefir from organic unpasteurised (raw) milk, then do not heat it, just add the starter and ferment it on the bench. Only pasteurised milk needs heating, as pasteurisation makes milk vulnerable to contamination by pathogenic microbes. Raw milk is usually well protected by its own probiotic bacteria and other factors.

Remember, that kefir contains more potent probiotic microbes than yoghurt and will produce a more pronounced “die-off reaction”. That is why it is recommended to introduce yoghurt first, then start introducing kefir. Both should be introduced slowly and gradually controlling the “die-off”. Kefir, apart from probiotic bacteria, contains beneficial yeasts. That is why it is essential to introduce for people with yeast overgrowth. A healthy human gut contains plenty of beneficial yeasts, as well as beneficial bacteria and other microbes. In order to get rid of the “bad” yeast, we need to repopulate the gut with the good yeast guardians.  People with GAP syndrome will without a doubt need to continue the constant maintenance of repopulating good bacteria in the gut to ensure that the guardians keep the bad bacteria under control. 

There are many recipes and alternative uses for kefir.  By dripping your kefir through cheesecloth you can separate it into cottage cheese and whey.  Pour the whey into a clean glass jar with a tight lid and keep it in the refrigerator to use as a starter for fermenting different foods, such as vegetables, fish, and beans (when the person is ready to have them). The cottage cheese can be the basic base for creative GAPS allowable dips like tzatziki or served with a little olive oil, cracked pepper and shallots.

How to prepare Dairy Kefir?

Simply put two to three tablespoons of kefir grains in a half litre of fresh milk (or equivalent measurement requirements) and leave at room temperature for 24 – 48 hours. If measuring kefir grains by the tablespoon, the ratio of grains per milk proportions will be 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of milk.  It is much easier to ferment kefir than it is to make yoghurt because you do not need to maintain its heat during the fermentation process.  In-fact, fermenting at a cooler temperature (at a slower rate) produces smoother kefir.  Once the kefir is ready, strain through a sieve and place the grains into some fresh milk to prepare the next batch. This process is simply repeated.

Temperature affects fermentation

Cold temperatures will slow down the fermentation process so it will take longer to make the kefir.  In contrast, if your home is warmer than standard room temperature, the process will take less time. It is not advisable to ferment kefir grains for longer than 48 hours because this will damage the grains over time by potentially starving them.    This is particularly important in warm weather when the hotter parts of the year increase the fermentation time and consumption of sugar found in the milk and water mixture and coconut water.

How to take a break from making kefir

Simply place the kefir grains with some fresh milk in an air tight container and place it in the refrigerator.  The cold temperature will greatly slow down the fermentation process and allow the culture to remain in this storage capacity for up to several weeks.  If you require more time, simply repeat the process with fresh milk.  Dehydrating your grains will allow you to preserve them for longer periods of time.  They should keep for at least 6 months in a glass jar in a cool dark place.

Dairy Kefir Instructions with real grains

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of fresh raw or organic milk (or 1 cup of milk for smaller amounts – starting out)
  • 1/4 cup Milk Kefir Grains (or 1 tablespoon for smaller amounts – starting out)

General milk to kefir grain ratio: 1 cup milk to one tablespoon of grains

Step 1: Combine Kefir ingredients

Place 1/4 cup Kefir Grains to a glass jar and add 4 cups of fresh milk.

Place a lid on the jar (not tight) and let it sit for 48 hours so it can ferment and create the Kefir beverage.  Allow the kefir to culture for 24 – 48 hours. You can stir once or twice a day while the kefir cultures if you like (optional).  Do not let the kefir grains culture longer than 72 hours or the grains will begin to starve.  As the kefir grains ferment the milk, you will notice the whey separation; this often looks like small ant colony tracks forming on the side of the jar.

Step 2: Strain Kefir

When the dairy Kefir is cultured to your liking, you can strain out the grains in a sieve and capture the kefir beverage in a bowl underneath. You may then stir the kefir and store it in the fridge.  Generally after 48 hours, it should be ready to refrigerate and consume or prepare for the ripening stage.

Step 3: Repeat the process

Repeat the process by adding the grains to a new batch of fresh milk.

Servings per day

One to two small bowls a day are encouraged

The Ripening Process

The ripening process can be performed by either storing the liquid in the fridge in a glass container with an air tight lid or kept at room temperature for 2 days before serving.  Ripening kefir under air-lock at room temperature can be achieved by attaching an air-tight lid or an oxygen preventative air-lock device purchased from Beer and Wine making suppliers. 

The secondary fermentation process with ripening over two days may produce a slightly more sour taste with all the benefits of increased nutritional value in Vitamins B1, B6 and B9 Folic Acid and carbon dioxide.  Ripening  will give time for the kefir bugs to digest more of the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk, and for the bugs to produce more lactase (the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose which your body can then utilise to further break down lactose).

Some people wish to wait longer before adding dairy to their diet and have shown success with coconut kefir which is produced from a different grain called water kefir grain.

Coconut Kefir

Coconut kefir is a good substitute to dairy kefir for individuals not starting the GAPS protocol with dairy from the beginning, however coconut can be fibres and should be avoided if diarrhoea is present.  The crystal-like water kefir grains, are slightly different in texture than milk kefir grains.  The water kefir grains consume the natural sugars in the young green coconuts, however be sure to use young green coconuts because old brown coconuts do not have the same effect because they do not contain as much natural sugar as the young green coconuts.

Coconut Kefir Instructions

Water kefir grains and coconut water/juice can be used to ferment your own coconut kefir. Simply add the grains to young green coconut water and ferment for approximately 48 hours on the bench top.  Many Coles and Woolworths stores will stock young green coconuts, however they are not always readily available.  If you use the young green coconut, you will have to punch some holes in the top to retrieve the juice, however if they are unavailable, you may use a commercial coco juice which is a store bought natural product found in most health food stores.  After two days, you may strain the coconut kefir through a strainer to catch the grains.  Place the grains into another clean jar and add more coconut juice to repeat the fermentation process.   Store your fermented coconut kefir in the refrigerator for two weeks. 

 Serving: Consume 2 half cups a day, first thing in the morning and last at night or with meals to aid digestion.

Water Kefir

When using live water kefir grains to make coconut kefir you may want to alternate your coconut kefir making with water kefir and this allows you to continue feeding your grains without the over production  of coconut kefir and consequent wastage.  In doing this you can store the water kefir grains in mineral water, sugar and a little bit of fruit such as dried figs, sultanas, dates, apricots etc.   The kefir grains feed of the sugar or honey to survive and proliferate.  Whilst we generally only use the sugar or honey water kefir to keep the kefir active in between each batch of coconut kefir you can drink it but there is no telling for sure how much sugar is left in the fermented water after fermentation and this is why honey is a better option.

Water and kefir grain ratios

One tablespoon of kefir grains will culture 4 cups of water or coconut kefir every 24-48 hours. 

Sugar ratio to water for water kefir grains

A ratio of 1/4 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water (or 1 tablespoon sugar or honey to 1 cup of water) when making water kefir is required to ensure the right balance.  This ratio ensures that the kefir grains are adequately fed.  The grains are at risk of starving if left to ferment for longer than 48 hours or left with insufficient amounts of sugar to feed off.  

Type of water for making water kefir

Mineral water is the best water source as recommended by many water kefir enthusiasts, however Dom suggests using fresh filtered water preferably spring water, rain water or good well water. Distilled water or water filtered though a carbon-activated filter is not recommended because they are known to remove a great deal of the minerals in the water which results in less healthy kefir grains.  If tap water is your only option, it is important to remove the chlorine by boiling for 15 minutes or aerating it by letting some water sit on the bench in a glass vessel uncovered overnight or aerating it through a blender.

Taking a break from water kefir

Simply prepare the regular sugar water mixture, place the grains in the sugar water, place an air tight lid on the container and place it in the refrigerator.  The cold temperature will slow down the fermentation process and allow it to remain in the fridge for several weeks.   Dehydrating the grains will allow a longer break for 6 months.

Where can I obtain young green coconuts or pure coconut juice?

There are some suppliers that provide pure young green coconut water.  You want to ensure that they have not been stored in aluminium coated packaging containers or contain any additives.  Many people have concerns about possible radiation exposure when coconut water is transported into the country, however the fermentation process will remove these ill effects.  You can buy young green coconuts from most supermarkets like Coles or Woolworths or you can try trusted commercial sources like Dr Martins coco juice. 

Water Kefir Instructions

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of mineral water (or 1 cup of mineral water for smaller amounts)
  • 1/3 cup of organic brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons of organic brown sugar for smaller amounts)
  • 1/4 cup Kefir Grains (or 1 tablespoon for smaller amounts)
  • One small tablespoon of raisins and one dried fig
  • One jar with glass lid (canning jar with rubber ring is good)

Step 1: Prepare the water solution

Mix the water and sugar or honey  in a clean preserving jar until the sugar is dissolved

Step 2: Add Kefir Grains

Add Kefir Grains. Place a cap on the jar and let it sit on the bench for 48 hours so it can ferment and create the Water Kefir. Do not let the kefir grains culture longer than 72 hours.  As the kefir grains culture, you will notice tiny bubbles forming and travelling to the water surface.

Step 3: Strain Water Kefir

When the Water Kefir is cultured after 48 hours, you can strain the kefir grains in a sieve and capture the solution below in a glass jug for drinking. You may store the kefir water in the fridge and drink it or throw it away and prepare to make your next batch of coconut kefir which will be more beneficial.

Step 4: Repeat the process

Repeat the process by adding the grains to a new batch of water solution or commence making your coconut kefir by adding the young green coconut to the water grains.

Testing the success of your coconut or water kefir   

The taste of the kefir will become more tart and not resemble the same sweet taste you began with prior to fermentation.  The longer you ferment, the stronger the taste.  Depending on the fermentation time and the ripening process to which you ferment under airlock, water kefir and coconut kefir may also produce bubbles that represent an effervescent or sparkling wine consistency. 

Learn more about Kefir here

See our Resources page for kefir suppliers