There is nothing quite as ruinous to your appetite as having milk that is past its prime.

We all know that taste – sour, off-lactic and a wretchedly smeary tongue coating layer of conjugated proteins and fats.

All these images sprang time mind when I held the effervescent, cottage-cheesy fermented probiotic milk drink – kefir – to my nose the first time.

Inspired and on the road to microbial gut healing for Mrs B, and a curiosity of fermentation that spans back to winemaking days, we acquired some kefir grains from The Brook’s Mackay mum.

To us, she’s the queen of all things fermented. Bokashi, kambocha, kefir water, and now the wild and wooly world of kefir milk.

I believe we are on the cusp of a revolution in to the world symbiotic microbes and immunoregulation. This of course, is not a new discovery, for the concept of the hygiene hypothesis was starting to bubble up and appear in the 1900s by Russian microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff in the book Prolongation of Life.

Dietary intolerance to all manner of seemingly benign foods are now being correlated to the intestinal performance and gut flora diversity. After all, our digestive system is regulated through our gut. Put simply: healthy and diverse gut flora = less food allergies and stronger immune function. As a side note, I personally think gut health and mental health are inextricably linked.

Of particular excitement the concept of damping down autoimmune responses by dietary means. Enter the world of probiotics.

Historically, fermenting foods have been the mainstay for produce perseveration until relatively recent invention of the refrigerator. Sure, cultures had access to cold storage in amenable climates, but generally the controlled spoilage of food by way of fermentation had the added benefit it being crawling with beneficial bacteria. This is where we begin our story with kefir.

Instructions to make kefir

Principles

  • Keep the grains in a constant growing pattern by feeding them daily
  • Like all fermentation, temperature modulates growth
  • Adjust the timing to suit your taste, longer equals more sour and thicker.

Materials

3 similar sized vessels (around 750ml capacity, we use the Cusineart smoothie blender vessels as they came with four and it perfectly fits with the aeropress coffee filter.

Larger aperture non-metal filter (something like a colander, we use the areopress coffee filter part)

Kefir grains (obviously)

Fresh milk (we use organic homogenised, pasteurised but would be nice to get raw)

Wooden chopstick

Method

  1. Once you receive your grains, they will be in milk and should last a day in the fridge (less so at room temperature).
  2. Transfer them to vessel 1.
  3. Fill the vessel with milk.
  4. Leave it to ferment. Over time you will see it start to form a cap, you can break this up by stirring and this helps tick the ferment along.
  5. The batch should be ready in less than 24 hours.
  6. Begin by breaking the final cap by stirring vigorously, this will homogenise the curds and whey from the grains – so you don’t need to sit in the corner it eat it.
  7. Strain the into vessel 2. You may need to coax the curds from the grains to allow the liquid to flow through the filter.
  8. Drink the strained milk without haste.
  9. Plop the grains into vessel 3 and wash vessel 1.

You’ve just had the cheapest probiotic around. Don’t just trust me though.

Learn from our mishaps:

  • Don’t use a fine filter like a mesh – this will clog faster than a festival portaloo.
  • If you find you’ve left it too long and the kefir has chunked up better than the Senate at voting time, empty everything in a bowl. With clean fingers gently rub the curds from the kefir grains in the same mesmerising fashion as President Trump’s gesticulation. You can wash the grains in milk to thin out your chunky kefir batch after.
  • Divide off your cultures as they multiply – gifting them to family and friends.
  • Try modulating the temperature, for example all day out, overnight in fridge. That way you have nice cold kefir first thing in the morning.