Q. What is kefir? A. Kefir is a health promoting fermented dairy drink, similar to yoghurt but slightly tangier. While yoghurt usually contains only two or three strains of bacteria, kefir contains a much wider variety of friendly micro organisms, including beneficial yeasts, some of which can break down lactose [milk sugar]. More detail about what kefir is: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#what's-kefir Also, please see further down the page: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#kefirnovice Q. What is *real* kefir? A. *Real* kefir is kefir prepared in the traditional fashion, starting off with kefir grains. Store bought kefir, on the other hand, is produced by culturing pasteurised milk with a limited number and species of organisms, which are strategically selected to imitate the flavour and texture of the real thing, but with limited properties. In particular, commercial kefir cannot be used to make new kefir on a continuous basis, because the culture inevitably loses viability. Kefir grains, instead, can continue to produce fresh kefir on an indefinite basis. Also, distinctive scientifically proved therapeutic properties of the actual kefir grains, when ingested, which enhance health, are not possible with the use of commercial kefir or a kefir prepared with commercial starter-cultures. For more information, please see Dom's Kefir in-site: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#real-kefir Q. What are kefir grains? A. Kefir grains are a biological mass synthesized [created] by colonies of micro organisms living together [symbiotically] to form a polysaccharide mass, which form into lumps similar in appearance to cauliflower rosettes. Grain size varies from the size of wheat kernels to that of a golf ball or larger. Once placed in fresh milk, the grains [also referred to as a natural starter-culture or starter-culture], transform the milk into kefir within app. 24 hours. The same grains (or culture) are used for the next batch, to continue the ongoing process. Q. Where did kefir grains originate? The grains originated in the Northern Caucasus Mountain region, where local people have been using the culture for centuries - perhaps for up to one and half to two thousand years. It is said that the people of this region were gifted kefir grains from Allah, or God. At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian nobel prize winner E. Mechnikov investigated the grain's health promoting properties. This initially brought much interest in the product to the people of former USSR, which followed on to the the rest of the world. More info available here: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#Kefir-history Q. Why should I drink Kefir? Is it healthy? Kefir has many health promoting benefits. In a nutshell, these benefits could be divided in two groups: 1. Kefir grains contain a vast amount of micro-organisms from 4 genus groups, including lactic acid bacteria and yeasts. The distinctive microflora of kefir is compatible with the needs of our body. Kefir micro-organisms are able to stabilize or balance the Gastro Intestinal tract, as well as ensuring better digestion and fight off harmful bacteria, yeasts [including those which cause stomach ulcers, diarrhea, and yeast infection] and viruses. The consumption of kefir has proven to stimulate the immune system, which can also assist the cells of the body to increase the production of interferon [virus controlling agent] due to a unique lipid [sphingomyelin] found in kefir. 2. Kefir may provide other benefits: the friendly micro-organisms breakdown substances such as lactose in milk and from, this synthesize favourable substances, including lactic acid and "Kefiran", a health promoting polysaccharide unique to kefir grains and to kefir. Kefiran has proven to reduce the size of certain cancers, including having anti-inflammatory properties. Certain organisms of kefir produce lactase, an enzyme which breaks down lactose [milk sugar], which provides the body the ability to further breakdown any milk-sugar [lactose] in the diet, while taking kefir with that meal. Q. OK, I have some kefir grains, so how do I prepare kefir? A. Basically, just put two to three tablespoons of kefir grains in a half litre [1 pint] of fresh milk, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. For greater or smaller quantities, vary the proportions accordingly. Unlike yoghurt, the milk with the added culture does not need to be heated and kept warm during incubation. Nor does it need to be boiled first [to sterilize or pasteurize]. Actually, brewing at a cooler temperature makes a smoother kefir [but takes a little longer to brew]. Once the kefir is ready, strain through a plastic colander or sieve and plop the grains into more fresh milk to prepare the next batch. This process is simply repeated. For more details, including tips on handling utensils etc. please go to this webpage: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html Q. Should I sterilise all utensils? A. While cleanliness is always important in the kitchen, it is not necessary to go as far as to maintain a sterile environment when preparing kefir, since kefir grains are hardy and survive quite well in the kitchen environment. However, try avoiding non-stainless steel metal utensils, because the acidity of the kefir may cause corrosion. To avoid problems, you could opt to use only glass, plastic, nylon or wooden utensils. Q. Should I rinse the grains with water between each milk change? A. This is not necessary. But if you really want to, you can “fast” the grains by placing them in filtered water for one day [one part kefir grains to 3 part water as a general rule]. The grains are then strained and placed directly in fresh milk to prepare kefir as per usual [explained above]. This can be performed once weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The water strained from soaking the grains contains Kefiran, a unique healthy polysaccharide native to kefir grains. Dom, the list owner has given a uniquie name for this solution “Kefiraride”, which has a variety of applications. For more information regarding rinsing: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#rinsing Tips for using Kefiraride: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#kefiraride Q. I’ve never had kefir. What do I need to know beforehand? A. Certain individuals may have a reaction when first consuming kefir, similar to the Herxheimer reaction. This reaction may range from slight stomach cramps to diarrhea, nausea or vomiting – which may be attributed to certain changes of the intestinal microflora due to the new micro-organisms and unique substances introduced through drinking kefir. In most cases, individuals find that symptoms eventually clear up after a short period of time. Newcomers to kefir who may experience such reactions should begin taking lesser amounts of kefir, for instance, taking a couple of tablespoons of kefir daily, and increasing the amount by one to two tablespoons each day, until one cup of kefir can be well tolerated. Once this amount is well tolerated, in most cases, the individual can then take one to four or more cups of kefir daily, if required. Q. How much kefir can one drink? A. As much as you feels comfortable with. Many individuals may have one cup of kefir in the morning and one at night before bed time. Some individuals enjoy a small glass of kefir before each meal. One word of caution: like yoghurt, kefir contains lactic acid bacteria which can erode the tooth enamel, so be sure to rinse your mouth with water after consuming kefir, or after consuming food which contains lactic or acetic acid. Q. Is it true that the grains grow? A. Yes, healthy kefir grains should grow by 5 to 15 % daily [by weight]. This enables generous people to share extra grains with others who are interested in the preparing the drink fro themselves. For additional tips on what to do with growing grains, please check out: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#growthrate Q. Is it true that people eat the grains? A. Yes! Grains contain many beneficial properties. A Japanese study showed that among mice that had been inoculated with cancer and later fed with kefir grains, cancer growth stopped and even receded. For further details including recipes, check out: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#ingestingkg Q. Any tips on handling grains? A. Avoid exposing them to excessive temperatures, since some of the micro-organisms are quite sensitive to heating above body temperature. As a rule of thumb, milk that is too hot for you to put a finger in it, will surely kill your grains. Q. What do I do if the grains become contaminated or pink spots appear on the surface of the cultured medium? A. This might happen especially if you covered the jar with a cloth, which might favour certain mold spores or weed micro-organisms to fall in the kefir. Simply strain the grains and rinse them in filtered water. “Fast” them in plain water for 24 hours in the fridge. Rinse the grains with fresh water and place them in fresh milk. You might want to discard the first batch of kefir, since it might still taste unusual. The second batch of kefir should be good enough to drink. Q. I have problems drinking milk. What can I do to have kefir? A. Either: you are lactose intolerant: in that case, leave your kefir to ripen one more day before drinking it. This will give time for the kefir bugs to digest more of the lactose [milk sugar] in the milk, and for the bugs to produce more lactase [the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose which your body can then utilise to further break down lactose]. For more info: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#Storing OR you are allergic to casein (the protein in milk). In such cases you might try different milks (goat's and sheep's milk is less allergenic than cow's milk), or you may have to avoid dairy altogether, in which case you should read the next question. Q. Can I make kefir with non-dairy milk... e.g., soy milk? A. Yes, with some adjustment, you can use just about any non-dairy milk. The only drawback is that the grains will not be able to grow any longer, because they need their native dairy medium to grow. For more details on non-dairy kefir, please check out Dom’s alternative dairy milk kefir page: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/vegmilk.html Q. What is kefir d'acqua? A. It's Italian for water kefir [in Italy this form of kefir is more popular than milk kefir]. It is thought it was originally obtained by adapting some milk kefir grains to a new, water-based medium. It can be made to be fizzy and mildly alcoholic. For more information on water kefir and the unique kefir grains to produce the beverage, please check out: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#alternativekefir Q. How do you make kefir d'acqua? A. Water kefir is made by adding sugar, lemon juice and a dried fig/plum/date/apricot etc. to water and special crystal-like water kefir grains, which are quite different than milk kefir grains. For more information on how to prepare water kefir: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#Kefir-d-acqua For more information regarding sugary water kefir-grains: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#alternativekefir Q. Can I make water kefir using ordinary milk-based grains? A. Water kefir can be prepared with milk kefir-grains. Use only a portion or extra milk-grains for this. First rinse the grains with filtered cold water and place them in a 5 to 10 % sugar solution. Add some lemon slices and brew for 48 hours at room temperature. Initially, the grains will take up to 4 days to begin brewing the new form of kefir. This is normal since they have to get used to the new medium. Please note that once converted to water, milk grains will stop growing and will no longer be able to produce milk kefir any more. So make sure to only use extra grains to make the water version, and always brew the two types separate from each other. Q. Is it necessary to add all that sugar to kefir d’acqua? And what is the dried fruit for? A. If using milk kefir grains transferred to a water media, then it is suggested to feed the grains with a variety of different sugars. This helps maintain a diversified microflora in the kefir. Instead of dried fruit, you can add fresh fruit. The lemon keeps the solution slightly acidic and produces a lemonade-like flavour. Different fresh fruits will produce water kefir, which retains the flavour of that fruit. Q. What about kefir made with grape juice or other fruit juice? A. Detailed instructions here: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#Grape-juice_Kefir and http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html#addfruitjuice Q. Are there any precautions to take when making kefir d'acqua? A. Yes, there are two things that one must be aware of: 1. Kefir d'acqua is a fizzy drink. If you brew it in a tightly sealed jar, pressure will build up pretty fast. It is important to use a strong enough vessel to withstand the pressure, but especially to leave plenty of room in the jar for the gas to accumulate. Typically, you should leave your jar half full with the kefir ingredients. 2. Kefir d'acqua is a mild alcoholic drink - it may contain between 0.5 to 3 % alcohol per volume [depending on the amount of sugar and fermentation time]. So it might not be advisable to give to small children, or animals, and one should be careful when driving a car to avoid accidents. Q. Are there other kefir recipes? A. You can make kefirkraut [fermented cabbage, a bit like sauerkraut], several kinds of cheese (see next FAQ), and pizza/bread dough. On the sweet side, smoothies and desserts may be enjoyed with the addition of kefir. The group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Kefir_making has all this information and recipes. Instructions for kefirkraut: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirkraut.html Some recipes with milk kefir: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#the-butterfly Q. How do you prepare kefir leban [fresh kefir sour cream cheese] A. Please visit Dom's kefir-cheese site regarding recipes for preparing fresh cheeses with kefir.