This massively informative post on the benefits of kefir milk is the result of a few months of research and testing as I learned how to make milk kefir, and read everything I could about it. If you’re simply wondering how to make milk kefir, I have an easy photo tutorial for you here. I’ve really been having fun brewing up kefir and kombucha concoctions in my kitchen. While I haven’t perfected my kombucha yet, I feel pretty confident in my kefir milk and am ready to share.
What you’ll learn:
- What is kefir?
- Kefir health benefits
- Benefits of kefir milk vs other forms of kefir
- Can I drink kefir if I can’t drink milk?
- What to do with kefir
- How long does kefir last?
- How to make homemade milk kefir
WHAT IS KEFIR?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that’s made with kefir grains. It’s basically the kefir starter just like a sourgdough starter or friendship bread starter. So now you’re asking, what are kefir grains? Good question! For the longest time, until I actually learned to make kefir, I thought they were really a grain. But they’re not!
So why are kefir grains called grains? That was one of the few questions my research didn’t answer. If you know, please tell me in the comments!
Kefir grains are actually a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s a complex matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars, containing lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. They look like little tiny heads of cauliflower, and they’re living organisms that grow and reproduce. Milk kefir grains will look a little different than water kefir grains so if you order them, definitely make sure you’re getting ones specifically for milk.
KEFIR HEALTH BENEFITS
Kefir probiotics rock! Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are essential for a healthy gut. You may have had a doctor recommend you take probiotics if you’re prescribed an antibiotic (and if they don’t recommend it, ask!), or you may have heard that you should eat yogurt regularly for the probiotics.
There are a lot of claims of probiotics healing and preventing various diseases from cancer to autism, but no scientific proof to back up those claims. There are studies showing reduction of cancer cells in test tubes, but no human studies as of the time of this post.
There are however studies showing probiotics to be helpful with various health issues. The Wikipedia article on probiotics has a lot of links to various studies that are really interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. Can you tell I’m so into that sort of thing? There is also a lot of anectdotal evidence from tens of thousands of people about the change in their general health after starting to use probiotics.
But the bottom line is that our body is full of bacteria, and the good bacteria (probiotics) is needed to fight off the bad bacterias that cause health issues.
The reason kefir is touted over yogurt, is that the probiotic content in kefir is significantly higher. Some studies have even shown that a probiotic specific to kefir can help fight off salmonella and E. coli.
Have you ever had salmonella? Oh friends, trust me. You want some good bacteria in your system to kick salmonella’s butt, it is nasty stuff!
BENEFITS OF KEFIR MILK VS OTHER FORMS OF KEFIR
From what I’ve read, the biggest health benefit of kefir milk vs kefir water, coconut kefir, almond kefir, etc, is the nutrients. The nutrients that occur naturally in cow’s milk will also be in your kefir milk. This means you’re getting a good amount of protein, calcium, B12 (a powerhouse vitamin needed for everything from the circulatory system to healthy skin and hair), Riboflavin (great for energy and metabolism), Phosphorus (important for bones and teeth), and Vitamin D.
Goat milk kefir is even more nutrient dense, with higher levels of calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin A, and potassium. While goat milk does tend to have a stronger taste, I was told that if you get it direct from a farm, rather than a store, it doesn’t have that wilderness game taste. I fortunately found a raw milk dairy just 20 minutes from our house and bought some goat and cow’s milk to try. The goat milk tasted just wonderful and I could drink it like any other milk.
If you want to make raw milk kefir, or goat milk kefir, you can use regular milk kefir grains. Just be aware that it may take several cycles of kefir for the grains to adjust and thrive in a different type of milk.
CAN I DRINK KEFIR IF I CAN’T DRINK MILK?
The answer to that question is a resounding…MAYBE. Sorry I can’t be more definite. It really depends on why you can’t drink milk, and how sensitive your body is.
If the issue you have is with lactose intolerance, you might be able to drink kefir milk. The kefir grains actually eat the lactose and turn it into acid, so the content of lactose in the milk is greatly reduced. The longer you let it ferment, the less lactose there is, but it will also have a much tangier taste. You can also check out these instructions for further reducing the lactose content of milk kefir.
If your issue is an actual dairy protein allergy, you most likely will still have issues with milk kefir.
My babies have both been unable to digest dairy proteins in my breastmilk. For Corban it was a terrible ordeal, for Larkin it causes extra gas and spitting up but she doesn’t suffer terribly like he did. This means I am mostly dairy free right now. I have found that I can do milk kefir in small amounts (1/2 cup or less no more than 4 times a week) without it causing her noticeable discomfort. So I save that ration for kefir ice cream!
If you have a dairy allergy, definitely talk to your doctor before trying milk kefir. You can also try making kefir with other milk products. While it won’t have all the same nutrients, it will still have more probiotics than yogurt.
WHAT TO DO WITH KEFIR
Okay, you’ve got a pitcher of kefir building up in your fridge and don’t seem to be drinking enough in smoothies to keep up with how much you’re making. What do you do?
Make kefir ice cream! I have been having so much fun playing around with kefir ice cream and turning giant batches of kefir smoothies into popsicles. Eric and Corban have no idea how much kefir I’ve been sneaking into their diet!
You can also use it as a substitute for buttermilk, use it to soak whole grains before baking, and turn it into kefir yogurt or cheese.
I started a Pinterest board called Fermentation Fun and will be adding more and more milk kefir recipes as I find and test them, so be sure to follow me on Pinterest if you’d like to check those out.
HOW LONG DOES KEFIR LAST?
Kefir can last a few weeks in the fridge, and several months in the freezer. As I said above, if I find that my pitcher of kefir is getting overfull, I just make a big batch of ice cream or popsicles and it will disappear pretty quickly over the next few weeks.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE MILK KEFIR
Is your brain now exploding with kefir facts and ideas? Then it’s time to check out my easy tutorial on how to make homemade milk kefir. It’s a lot of fun, makes you feel like a mad scientist in the kitchen, and is good for your health. What’s not to love?
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