Not so for kefir, which can be cultured at room temperature. Moreover, the culturing takes only twenty-four hours. The result is a sour, slightly fizzy beverage, rich in probiotic bacteria along with all the goodness of the raw milk.
Kefir grains—which resemble pieces of cauliflower–are a “scoby,” that is a Symbiotic Combination of Bacteria and Yeasts, just like kombucha. (In fact, water kefir grains look like diced kombucha scobys,) The bacteria are mostly lactobacillis, which consume the milk sugars and create lactic acid. Thus, the milk goes from sweet to sour as the lactose gets digested, making kefir a great beverage for those who are lactose intolerant. The bacteria do their work first, after which the yeasts kick in to break down any remaining lactose into ethanol and carbon dioxide. If you leave your kefir to ferment longer than twenty-four hours, it will become more carbonated and develop an alcohol content of about 1-2 percent.
Kefir originated in the north Caucasus Mountains, an area known for longevity and beautiful women. Traditional kefir was made by putting the kefir grains in goatskin bags with raw milk; the bags were hung near a doorway and knocked by anyone passing through to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.
An easier way to make kefir is to use a Kefirko —a specially designed glass container with a top that serves as a strainer. The design of the top allows you to measure the precise amount of milk or water kefir grains you need, and then remove them easily when the kefir is ready.
Kefirko is also developing a similar device for making fresh cheese. You can join their Indegogo campaign and be one of the first to receive the cheese-making device by visiting their website at kefirko.com.
I actually prefer water kefir to milk kefir, and found the kefirko to be absolutely super for making water kefir beverages. It has an attachment for squeezing citrus fruit right into the container. Try making water kefir with freshly squeezed orange juice and a few raspberries; or lemon juice and a natural sweetener with mint; or lime juice and a natural sweetener with fresh ginger.
My husband likes to make stewed fruit—rhubarb, apples, berries, peaches, plums, nectarines—with filtered water, a natural sweetener and always lots of grated ginger. Recently I made water kefir using the cooking liquid from stewed plums. I mixed equal parts of the thick stewing liquid and water, added the grains, attached the Kefirko top, and let that sit on the counter for twenty-four hours. Then I transferred the brew to a quart-sized jar, covered tightly, and let it ferment an additional three days on the counter. The result was a heavenly libation filled with tiny champagne-like bubbles!
The Kefirko makes one quart at a time. If you have several going at once, you will have a steady supply of delicious beverages.
Water kefir and its cousin kombucha are the best way I know to kick the soda habit—they taste much better, cost much less, and support good health rather than destroy your body and mind. The Kefirko makes a great gift for someone trying to make that change.