Kefir or kephir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains, originally from the Caucasus Mountains.
Traditional kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung near a doorway.
The bag would be knocked by anyone passing through to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.
Traditional kefir is fermented at ambient (room) temperatures, mostly overnight.
Fermentation of the lactose produces a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage.
It is similar to yogurt, but as a drink, but the length of the fermentation time will affect the taste. Kefir is a good source of calcium and is rich in probiotic bacteria.
The kefir grains initiating the fermentation are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars.
This symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast form gelatinous white beads (grains) (the acceptable colour of healthy grains) to yellow.
This could be due to leaving the grains in the same milk during fermentation for longer than the optimal 24-hour period, and or continually doing so over many batches, slight differences in temperature between batches can also be a cause..
Grains may grow to the size of walnuts, and in some cases larger.
The composition of kefir depends on the type of milk that was fermented, including the concentration of vitamin B12
A complex and highly variable community of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can be found in these grains; although some predominate Lactobacillus species are always present.
Kefir grains contain kefiran, a water-soluble polysaccharide, which gives a creamy texture and feeling in the mouth.
During fermentation, changes in composition of nutrients and other ingredients take place.
Slow acting yeasts, late in the fermentation process, break lactose (the sugar present in milk) down into ethanol and carbon dioxide, which results in acidification of the product.
As a result of the fermentation, very little lactose remains in kefir.
Kefir’s abundance of beneficial yeast and bacteria provide lactase, an enzyme which consumes most of the lactose left after the culturing process.
Propioni bacteria further break down some of the lactic acid into propionic acid.
A portion of lactose is converted to kefiran, which is indigestible by gastric digestion.
It has also been shown that fermented milk products have a slower transit time than milk, which may further improve lactose digestion, which as a result means that kefir is often tolerated well by people and animals that are lactose intolerant.
Other substances that contribute to the flavour of kefir are pyruvic acid, acetic acid, diacetyl and acetoin (both of which contribute a “buttery” flavour, citric acid, acetaldehyde and amino acids resulting from protein breakdown.
Milk is a good source of protein and calcium, and kefir is no different.
However, kefir has the added benefits of probiotics.
And as you can read above, due to the low concentration of lactose, may be tolerated well by those who are lactose intolerant. (though suggest to consult your doctor first)
Probiotics are known as ‘friendly bacteria’ that can ease IBS/IBD symptoms such as bloating and digestive distress.
The anti-inflammatory/immunomodulatory effects of probiotics have been reported in some studies, although still needs to be studied extensively.
It does appear that the LAB bacteria are anti-inflammatory but whether that translates to kefir is unknown.
Kefir grains contain around 30 strains of beneficial bacteria.
Some of the major strains include the lactobacillales (or lactic acid bacteria)
Lactobacillus kefiri, which is one LAB unique to kefir, has been shown in a study to inhibit the growth of some harmful bacteria such as salmonella, h-pylori and e-coli and is used in some gut inflammatory disorders.
Some find that kefir improves digestion due to its probiotic content.
Probiotics can help restore balance in the gut, and thus improve digestion.
As kefir is rich in probiotic bacteria, it can be beneficial to include it in the diet for the prevention and or treatment of gastrointestinal disturbances.
Traditional kefir made from cow’s milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin K, which are both important for bone health.
What does all this mean for your pet?
Kefir is rich in B complex vitamins such as Vitamin B1, B12, as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and biotin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Kefir provides anti-biotic and anti-fungal properties
A must add after the use of antibiotics to restore balance to your pet’s digestive tract
Helps to prevent allergies in your pet
Beneficial for candidacies and heart problems in pets
Vitamin B will regulate the normal function of the kidneys, liver and nervous system
Helps to promote healthy looking skin, boosting energy and promoting longevity
All the micro-organisms present strengthen the digestive system
Helps to alleviate gas, bloating and heartburn
Probiotic aid may help with IBD, eczema and bad breath
Has been linked to aid in gastritis, pancreatitis, abdominal peptic issues, rheumatism, joint disease as well as gouty arthritis, weakening of bones, anaemia, as well as leaky digestive tract syndrome
Able to reduce risking potential a number of malignancies, such as colon cancer malignancy, stopping the increase of cancerous cells
Health advantages comprise of, sleep problems, unhappiness, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, all forms of diabetes, long-term weakness syndrome, allergic reactions, colitis, looseness of the bowels etc
Recommended Minimum Daily Intake of Kefir
Small size dogs or cats – 1 tsp. – 1 tbsp.
Medium size dogs – 1 – 2 tbsp.
Large dogs – 2 – 3 tbsp.
As always variation, moderation are key
Kefir is very safe to give to your pet,
This does not mean that some pets won’t have a negative reasction, especially when trying it for the first time.
Always go slow when introducing something new, E.G half the recommended dosage for the first week.
This will avoid digestive upset as your pet’s system adjusts to the increase of good flora in their GI tract.
Where can I Get Kefir
Most supermarkets and Polish shops sell Kefir, but you can also try farmers markets where it is produced locally (this would be preferred)
Alternatively you can make your own, that way you know your batch is always fresh
How to make Kefir
There are 2 ways to make kefir.
The first one is the easiest way
You can buy kefir culture packages
Culture packages are really easy and you can make as much as you want.
It comes in a powder form, and you basically just add milk and you’re done, so if you’re struggling or easily feel overwhelmed, the culture packages would be a great place to start.
Or you can use kefir grains that will reproduce and last a lifetime (if you don’t kill them with heat or starve them by not feeding them.)
There is a little bit more involved when using kefir grains, but it’s still really easy.
You have to keep your grains fed and happy, but in return they will make you kefir for a lifetime, and you can give extra grains to your friends or family.
Glass jar with lid Strainer
1 Tablespoon of live kefir grains 3 Cups of milk (personally I use goats milk but can use any milk)
Put the fresh kefir grains in a glass jar and fill the jar with fresh milk (best not to fill jar more than 2/3 – 3/4 full)
Put the lid on the jar or wrap it with Clingfilm and let it sit at room temperature for roughly 24 hours (Or until the milk has thickened or has become sour)
Pour the contents into a strainer and strain the kefir into a container to separate the grains from the liquid kefir
Wash the jar and then put the kefir grains from the strainer back into the washed jar.
Add fresh milk and the whole process is repeated for the next batch.
If you need to take a break from making kefir, place your grains in milk (1 Tbsp to a cup of fresh milk will last a week in your fridge before you need to change the milk). Add more milk if you have more grains.
Your grains will continue to grow and multiply with every batch of kefir you make, so you will need to add more milk as they do.
1) Water kefir need a cloth and rubber band.
Lots of people say you need to use a cloth and rubber band on milk kefir or non dairy kefir, but they will often have problems with cross contamination which will be eliminated when you put a lid on it. Kefir needs lids, but only water kefir needs a cloth and rubber band.
2) You can use any type of jar, it doesn’t have to be a clip lid (air lock) jar.
If the lid is made of metal the only thing you have to watch for is that the kefir is not touching the metal
3) A lot of products need air to ferment and if it they don’t get enough air circulation, it can cause problems with mould.
Putting it in a closed cupboard will not give them the air circulation they need.
Also, you never know what kind of bacteria have been living in your cupboard.
Leave your ferments out on the work top and try to keep them out of direct sunlight and it will do best.
Because you have a lid on kefir, putting them in a cupboard won’t affect them, but it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight, though it won’t kill them if you do get direct sunlight on them.
4) Kefir is best when it’s done fermenting at 24 hours or when it is sour and tart, letting it ferment 48 hours or longer diminishes the probiotics as the bacteria run out of food to eat.
The only time there is an exception is when you second ferment your kefir. You are placing some fruit in your kefir which gives it another food source.
This will actually increase the probiotics as it eats the sugars from the fruit.
5) Don’t wash your kefir grains in water, It washes off their protective coating of bacteria and yeasts which will harm them.
They can survive, but it diminishes the good bacteria and yeasts and they won’t be as strong.
6) When it comes to kefir, using a stainless steel strainer or spoon is ok.
People panic when they hear they’re to never use a metal strainer or spoon, kefir does not have the same kind of properties as some other ferments
Metal canning lids on jars are fine, as long as the kefir isn’t in direct contact with the metal.
7) No Batch is the same
Your home is an expression of you and so are your ferments.
They will change with the temperature and how often you use them.
They love to ferment, the more you use, the better they will perform.
Why isn’t this batch the same as the last one?
Kefir can ferment and be thin and pourable, or thick like yogurt.
The temperature in your home determines how fast it ferments.
In the summer when it’s warm, kefir ferments faster and tends to be thinner, compared to winter when it’s colder and kefir ferments slower resulting in it usually being thicker and creamier.