If You Make Your Own Kefir at Home, Please Read This!

Working with live cultures can be a wonderful boon to health. You can buy ready-to-drink goatsmilk kefir, or you can make your own at home. Like anything, this has both benefits and potential risks! And often when you order grains online, these risks are frequently not discussed in the literature that accompanies the grains.

In order to make sure that your home-made kefir is safe and immaculate, please observe the following food safety precautions:

  1. Ferment your kefir until the pH is below 4.5 This is the level at which most bacterial pathogens are unable to survive. pH meters are readily available online, and they are not prohibitively expensive.
  2. Test your finished kefir once a month at a public health laboratory near you, to ensure that you are not re-using grains that have become contaminated. Anytime you re-use a live culture (such as kefir grains), you run the risk of bacteriophage contamination. Bacteriophages, or “phages,” as they are known, are viruses that infect bacteria. They are found in ecosystems where bacteria are commonly found, including man-made ecological niches such as food fermentation vats or jars. Bacteriophages can turn harmless bacteria into agents of disease, by transferring to them genes that produce toxic substances.1 These bacteria are then able to infect humans and cause food poisoning and other potentially deadly diseases.At Chuckling Goat we have our kefir regularly tested by a microbiology lab to ensure that it is free from any phage or pathogen infection. I recommend that anyone making kefir at home do the same! Otherwise you run the risk of a phage infection getting into your grains, which if you continue to use, will propagate the phage contamination. As you cannot sterilise the grains themselves, this is quite a risk for the home user who does not test their kefir for purity. If you contact the public health laboratory near you, they can explain how you can bring your kefir in for testing. As for a standard microbiolocal food safety screen, for a live culture product. (They may never have heard of kefir! ; ) 
  3. Please note that you see in this blog and on the Chuckling Goat website come from Chuckling Goat kefir which we make on the farm, and are not necessarily representative of any other kefir. Kefir grains are living organisms, with unique bio-profiles, and they are not all guaranteed to be the same. Our own kefir grains have been DNA-strained and trialed for efficacy by Aberystwyth University. I can not speak for the efficacy of any other kefir, made with other grains.

References:

  1. Mariángeles Briggiler Marco - "Bacteriophages and dairy fermentations". Published by Journal List on July 1, 2012.
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3530524
  2. Norwegian School of Veterinary Science - "Norwegian School of Veterinary Science". Published by ScienceDaily on April 22, 2009.
    sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090417195827.htm
  3. Gov.Uk - "Public health laboratories". Published by Public Health England on July 31, 2014.
    gov.uk/government/collections/public-health-laboratories

51 thoughts on “If You Make Your Own Kefir at Home, Please Read This!

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  1. Read with interest article on making kefir. After two batches from Chuckling Goat I decided to get my own grains. Was frightened of them at first but I do exactly as you say – they are in and out of fridge but just keep performing and they are so easy to look after. Thanks for introducing me to kefir. Love your soaps and lotions.

    1. Good for you, Veronica – the world needs more kefir! ; ) Glad the soaps and lotions are working well for you – x

  2. When you have washed your grain and do the next jar, at what point do you stop using them all when they have multiplied? Is there a weight to gauge the required amount for one litre of milk? Hope this makes sense!

        1. A 1:7 ration of grains to milk means that if you have 100 g of grains, you would top it with 700 ml of milk. Or if you only had 10 g of grains, you would use 70 ml of milk. If the grain to milk ratio gets higher than 1:7, then you should separate out the excess grains and give them to a friend. Hope that helps! ; )

          1. Enormously!. I couldn’t grasp what the measurements would be for the said ratio. Thank you very much.

  3. I am about to try my own Kefir as I live in Cyprus cannot order it. There are loads of different types on the internet is dried OK? should I look out for any type of description when buying?

    I have used you face cream for about six months now my skin has cleared and my acne rosacea has pretty well gone. Love your stuff use your soap on my skin every day.

    1. Hi Laura – No, you don’t want dried. You want real living grains. So pleased that the soaps and creams are working well for your rosacea!x

    1. Hi Liz – No, all kefir grains are most definitely NOT the same, any more than all dogs or horses are the same! They are living organisms with their own unique bio-profiles. We know that ours are powerful and effective, as we’ve had them tested by Aberystwyth University, but I’m afraid I can’t speak for the results of any other grains but our own, nor can I recommend a particular supplier.

  4. Ive had several 21 day courses and thought would try for my self
    I have a Youghurt maker , Ok to use ?
    If using Raw Cows Milk do you have to Boil it first?
    How do you tell the grains from the Keifer ?
    Many Thanks x

    1. Hi Rose – No, do NOT use a yoghurt maker! Yoghurt makers hold the milk at a raised temperature, which is too high for the grains and will kill off the kefir bacteria. They must not be heated over 22 C. You do not have to boil your raw milk first, but I would NOT use cow’s milk – very allergic and is a trigger for diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Raw or pasteurised goats milk is what you want. The kefir grains are what you put into the milk, and then strain out to make another batch. The drinking kefir is what is left over when you strain out the grains. Hope that helps!x

  5. Hi Shann,
    I started using your kifir I had two orders for you and I loved it 😂I felt so much better in myself. I am retired and couldn’t aford to carry on so I tried having a go at making it myself. I got a starter kit on line from happy kombucha. I use shop bought goats milk and it has been very successful. I dont think it is as good as yours because I cant get raw goats milk but I think its better than nothing. I have it every morning on an empty stomach and its refreshing and the best way to start the day.
    Thank you so much for introducing me to such a wonderful product.

    1. Hi Geraldine – That’s great news, so pleased that we got you going and that you are now making your own – my goal is that there’s a jar of kefir on every windowsill in Britain! ; ) We used pasteurised milk as a base as well now, we’ve had it tested and the resulting kefir is just as strong, as the power is really in the grains. So carry on, you’re doing grand, thanks for getting in touch!x

  6. Hi Shann,

    I love the blog, especially this one as I started making my own Kefir some time ago, as like you I intend to drink it forever!. I was fortunate to obtain some fresh ones from an Acupuncturist for a donation to a very wortyh charity! I just love making it but I am still using the BreakOut Lotion/Soap and Bath Melts. I couldn’t do without them and I will message you separately with photo’s as I am now totally free of Eczema for the first time since I had my first BreakOut Tool Kit and Kefir, exactly a year ago today. I have told so many people about you and have bought no less than 5 books to pass on as presents! Thank you Shann, Your family and helpers and all the goats.

    1. Hi Sherylyn – So nice to hear from you, and I’m so pleased that you’re doing so well, and that the BreakOut products are working so well for you. Kind words and spreading of good news much appreciated!! I rememeber those painful pictures of your poor hand, and was so pleased for you when they got so much better – goats threw a party in the barn! ; ) Please do stay in touch and keep us posted as you go – Hugs, Shann

  7. So do you put the kefir milk in the fridge once it’s ready to drink (how long does it keep) and then you have your next batch processing out on the side to do its fermenting all over again?
    Also if your producing 1 litre of kefir a day that’s an awful lot for one person to get through each day – is it possible to make it in much smaller amounts suitable for one persons daily consumption?

    1. Yes, once it’s ready to drink you can store it in the fridge. You don’t have to, mind – because the kefir is live, it just continues to ferment, never actually goes off, but gets stronger and stronger as it works it way towards cheese and alcohol. As most people prefer it at the milder end of the spectrum, probably best to keep it in the fridge because the cooler temperature slows down the processing. And then correct, your next batch is then going on the windowsill. No, you don’t have to make 1 litre – the beauty of this process is you can make as much as you want, to suit your own consumption patterns. Just keep the grain to milk ratio at 1:7. But don’t worry about it going off – because it literally never will! ; )

  8. Thank you for sharing your knowledge😀. Am on second batch of your kefir & also using your soap & lotion. I have rosacea but still have a lot of redness & flaky skin can I add anything to the above products to try to get rid of it? Also I have a very white tongue which I believe is candida, would you say your kefir alone could get rid of that?
    Thank you so much for your wonderful products. Can’t wait to try making my own.
    Kerryann

    1. Hi Kerryann – Glad you’re enjoying! Rosacea is one the most stubborn skin conditions to shift – I would anticipate you’ll need at least 3-4 courses before you really see a serious improvement. I would also suggest using goat milk, cheese and butter instead of cow dairy; using stevia instead of sugar; eat oatmeal instead of eating bread, and add good fats like coconut oil, avocado and walnuts to your diet. Your candida will resolve over time as you put the good bugs back into your gut with the kefir. Keep in mind that it didn’t get this way overnight, and it’s going to take some time to resolve – lock yourself into a 9-12 week commmitment. Anticipate a serious detox towards the end of the second course, as the kefir does its spring cleaning work. Skin condition may flare at that point and get worse. Keep going – you’re headed the right way! ; )

  9. if you add kefir to raw goats milk does it have a longer shelf life without freezing it and does the kefir affect the goats milk in any bad way thanks Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie – Yes, once you turn goats milk into kefir it has a very long shelf life, it becomes a fermented product that is working its way down the spectrum towards cheese and alcohol, so stays good for months! The kefir does not harm the goats milk, just improves it! Kefir is a probiotic, different product altogether from the goats milk that is used as a base.

  10. Thank you for sharing all this information.

    I used raw goat milk on my kefir grains and before the hours were complete – it turned to curds and whey – (I guess… it looked separated.) I shook it up and added more milk trying to get the flavor to improve… I removed the grains (which are much bigger now) and left the kefir to its 2nd ferment…

    I haven’t purchased goat milk before. We wondered if it was a bit sour itself, to start with. I have almost a gallon made. UGH!

    1) would it matter if I used “old/sour/spoiled” milk to make the kefir with?

    2) even if it’s NOT delicious…. is it still okay and healthy to ingest?

    Thank you, Shann!!

    1. Hi Becky – If it turned to curds and whey, the kefir was done. Kefir can work faster in the warm weather, which sounds like what happened. When you added more milk and removed the grains, you stopped the process – there is no second ferment without the grains. I don’t know what condition your milk was in to start with – so can’t address that. I would hang on to the grains, discard everything else and start over. Grains into milk, wait until it separates, then it’s done! Kefir isn’t necessarily delicious on its own – most people think it’s pretty harsh. It’s a medical food, not a milkshake! You can blend it up with banannas and stevia if you find the taste difficult. Hope that helps! Best, Shann

  11. Hi, I thought I’d seen a recipe for making your own kefir on your site but now I can’t find it! I’ve been given some kefir grains by an Indian friend from her mother’s batch, they put them in cow’s milk for 12 hours, rest them in water for the next 12 hours & the cycle just keeps going.
    So anyway, I’ve got my grains & jars, now I just need to know how long I’m ‘brewing’ my goats’ milk kefir on my windowsill for, please?!

  12. Hi Shann, I’ve recently started to make my own kefir with organic milk starter powders and have also fermented tomatoes and peppers (using starter cultures not milk of course) and am waiting on some sauerkraut that is fermenting. This whole process really excites me! I feel more in control of my health, even though I have no real health issues at the moment other than a long standing sinus problem my dr said it’s rhinitis.. I use semi skimmed goats milk for my kefir but still have a blocked up nose and mucus that is not infected. Should I continue with milk kefir which I do enjoy as I like the ‘tang’ or change to water kefir?
    Thank you, you guys are doing a great job! Diane

    1. Hi Diane – I recommend that you switch to using real milk kefir grains, as they’re exponentially stronger than powdered starters. Whole goats milk, never skimmed, never cows. Continue with the milk kefir as that’s the strongest base for probiotic; water kefir is not nearly as strong. Good luck!

    1. Hi Marina – Sorry, can’t advise on test strips in the US, as I’m only familiar with UK suppliers. Best, Shann

  13. Could you tell me if I can make kefir from some of the milk I have ordered from you please?
    By the way, I love the kefir milk.

    1. Hi Valerie – Glad you like the kefir! No, I’m afraid you can’t use our kefir as a starter to make more – you need real kefir grains, to make kefir. Best, Shann

    1. Hi Valerie –
      We do ship our skincare internationally, but not our drinking kefir. Look for kefir locally that is made from goats milk, made using real grains, and unflavoured. Best, Shann

  14. My 6 year old needed antibiotics in November for a chest infection and I started making and giving her kefir in February. She got another chesty cough in March and has been full of mucus since then – always snotty and coughing and feeling like she has mucus in her throat, although she is full of energy and doesn’t seem unwell. Could this be part of a ‘die-off’ reaction to the kefir?

    1. Hi Catherine – Are you making the kefir with cow’s milk? If so, I would change to goats milk immediately – cow’s milk is mucous producing and will simply make the problem worse over time. Best, Shann

  15. Hi, I’ve just listen your presentation in Hay house, so much information ! thank you. Since i can’t take any kind of milk do you think that fruit or water kefir will have similar results? i have eczema and my 8 year old son is starting as well.

    1. Hi Eugenia – thanks for listening! ; ) If you are specifically allergic to goats milk (rare, but it does happen) then I would suggest coconut water kefir. It’s not as strong, and you’ll need to take more of it – recommended dosage is a pint a day. Good luck! Best, Shann

  16. I just spoke with the Public Health Laboratory in Jacksonville, FL and he told me not to worry about Bacteriaphage in the keifer because it was specific to the keifer and could not harm me, can you provide more information on this so I can find out what to do exactly?

    1. Hi Carin – The person to whom you spoke was mistaken I’m afraid – transmission of bateriophage between bacteria can occur, and that in the case of E. coli it can transform a harmless bacterium into one capable of causing serious disease in humans. Read the science here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090417195827.htm. I suggest that you get a batch of your kefir tested on a regular basis, run with the standard food safety screening (E coli, salmonella, listeria, etc), to make sure that no harmful pathogens have been introduced. Best, Shann

        1. Hi Ana – The point here is that bacteria can catch viruses, just as people can. That what a “phage” is. If your kefir grains catch a virus, and you continue to use them and consume the results, that’s when things get dangerous. Re-using live cultures always carries this risk. We test all our kefir regularly – suggest that you do the same. Best, Shann

  17. Hi Shann,

    When I’m not buying your excellent kefir I’m making my own. Three months in and it’s been a miracle for my digestion. Can you tell me what is the best way to store grains when I’m not using them, and how long for? Also, I’m one of those mad people who actually love the taste of your kefir. I’m using full-fat goats milk but haven’t yet achieved such a fizzy taste. All advice appreciated!

    1. So glad that kefir is helping your digestion! Grains can sleep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, or you can freeze them for up to 3 months. Can’t advise on the fizziness of other grains besides ours, I’m afraid – all kefir grains have unique bio profiles, and are definitely not created equal!