Why You Should Make Kefir
Though this is primarily a Kombucha site, we want to talk about some of the other fermented foods you can easily make at home, both drinkable and edible. Along with Kombucha, these foods boost your health and deliver different health benefits.
Kefir, is another drinkable fermented product (like Kombucha) that’s absolutely awesome for you. It’s better tasting than milk and better for you in every single way. In fact, I have stopped drinking milk and have completely replaced my dairy intake with Kefir.
The people who are born in the Caucasus Mountain region between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea have a history of living into their 80s, 90s, and even 100s. The fermented drink known as kefir originated in the Caucasus Mountains over a thousand years ago. Could the two be linked? It’s very likely.
There are numerous well-documented health benefits of kefir and now that this traditional Eurasian drink has spread to North America and beyond, more and more people are starting buy ready-made kefir in supermarkets and health food stores. And it’s easy to make kefir at home, if you want to have a good supply of fresh kefir for yourself and your family.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a probiotic liquid that has been fermented by small clusters of microorganisms that form “grains” which are clear or opaque, and which can range in size from a few millimeters to several inches across. The microorganisms that make up the kefir grains are yeasts and bacteria that form the same type of symbiotic colony as a kombucha SCOBY, though the varieties are different.
Originally, kefir was probably only made with milk. Most people agree that the history of kefir goes back at least to the 13th century, and probably even hundreds of years before that. The Eurasian herders undoubtedly discovered kefir colonies naturally growing in the milk they got from their goats and cows, just as the tea harvesters in China found their brewed sweetened tea turning into a fermented drink.
Another type of kefir, commonly called “water kefir,” comes from the action of microorganisms in sweetened water. Its origins are not as clear, though there is documentation of water kefir being made in Mexico and South America in the early 20th century, and some studies trace it back to an origin in Asia as well, in regions where kombucha is also found. The microorganisms in water kefir grains are slightly different from those in milk kefir grains. Although you can use either type of grain to ferment almost any type of liquid, the grains will only grow and survive in their own specific medium. In other words, you can use milk kefir grains in water to make kefir, but unless you put them back into milk when you’re done, the grains will die.
Why Make Kefir?
Because it’s delicious, and it’s good for you! Both water kefir grains and milk kefir grains give a tangy flavor and a bit of extra carbonation to the liquid they’ve fermented.
When you make milk kefir, you’ll be getting all of the nutrition from the milk itself, as well as the probiotics created by the fermentation process. The yeasts and bacteria are healthy sources of nutrition by themselves, which means you can eat kefir grains after you filter them out of the liquid. You can also leave them in the liquid for a thicker drink.
Milk kefir contains high levels of amino acids that your body uses to support cell growth and cellular reconstruction.
It also has high levels of vitamin B-complex including folate, biotin, vitamin B-12, and thiamine. Together, these vitamins help you convert carbohydrates to energy, digest fats and proteins, and maintain a balance of white and red blood cells in your system.
The milk provides calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, all of which are vital to growing and keeping strong bones.
The probiotics help you keep a healthy and well-running digestive system by reducing inflammation and improving the “gut flora” that your body depends on to efficiently process food.
The proteins in the milk give you a nutritional boost, and because the yeasts and bacteria have already started to break down the proteins during fermentation, the proteins are easier for your body to digest and use.
There are lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and yeasts in water kefir grains as well, and they also ferment and acidify the liquid they’re put in. While water kefir still provides you with B vitamins and folic acid as well as millions of active probiotic bacteria that help you regulate your digestion, the nutritional profile of water kefir will change depending on what type of liquid you use. Here are some of the options:
- coconut water kefir
- fruit juice kefir
- dairy-free milk kefir
- herb tea kefir
You can get a quart of store-bought milk kefir for anywhere between $3 and $5, and for many people who only drink kefir occasionally, or who don’t have the time or space to make and store home-made kefir, this is a good option. However, if you drink milk kefir regularly, you’ll soon find that it starts to make a big impact on your weekly grocery budget.
For about the same price as a quart of kefir from the store, you can buy a supply of milk kefir grains that can last you for years and years. One of the many wonderful things about kefir grains is that they are constantly growing and reproducing. As long as you know a few simple techniques to keeping the microorganisms healthy, it’s easy to make kefir on a budget.
Once you have your supply of milk kefir grains or water kefir grains, the only other ingredient you’ll need is the milk or sweetened liquid you want to ferment. Taking milk kefir as an example, since the average price of a quart of milk is around $1, you’re already going to be saving two-thirds off even the cheapest brand of store-bought kefir. You can use milk kefir grains to culture whole milk, coconut milk, and soy milk. You can use water kefir grains to culture sweetened water or fruit juice. You can add any flavor you like to the cultured liquid or drink it plain. You’ve got so many possibilities when it comes to making delicious probiotic kefir – what are you waiting for? Buy kefir grains and get started today!