The Great Kefir Experiment

I have a problem following instructions. I don’t like to admit it, but I do. If someone tells me how to do something I’ll usually do what I’m told, but if given a set of instructions to read I usually don’t bother. So I guess my real problem is reading instructions, not necessarily following them.

I decided to start making kefir about a month ago. For those of you who don’t know what kefir is, it’s a fermented milk drink. It’s kind of like yogurt, but more drinkable. I thought it would be a good way to get some healthy fermented foods into my family’s diet.

I bought some kefir grains online. Kefir grains are the bacteria cultures used to make kefir. I ordered them from a woman who calls herself the Kefirlady. The Kefirlady owns Nigerian pygmy goats and grows her kefir grains in fresh raw milk.  The Kefirlady is also untrusting of the banking system and only excepts payment in the form of cash mailed directly to her home. I picture her as a hunched old woman with scarf tied around her head, a shepherd’s staff, and bony hands.

Against my better judgment, I put my payment in the mail. I swear it’s illegal to mail cash, and I was mailing it internationally at that. I was well aware that this could be some kind of scam. The Kefirlady could just sit at home collecting ten dollar bills in the mail and never send anyone any kefir grains in return. She could use the money to support a nasty coke habit.

Once I dropped the money in the post box, I was sure I’d been had, or I’d get arrested the following day. I nervously waited for my kefir grains to arrive. A week later they did, along with ten pages of instructions which I sort of read?if sort means reading the first paragraph and putting it on my desk to be buried under a bunch of other papers.

So I re-hydrated my grains in water for twenty-four hours. Then I put them in milk and thought I’d have delicious kefir in 1 week. After a week of changing my kefir’s milk  roughly every 24 hours, I didn’t have delicious kefir at all. What I had was a thin milky substance that tasted like something that was wrung out of a sheep. Now I know what a barnyard tastes like, and it’s not good. This can’t be right, I thought the first time I tasted it. Undeterred, I kept my sheepy kefir grains fed in fresh milk for two more weeks. It just kept getting sheepier and sheepier tasting. Finally, I gave up and got rid of the whole concoction.

After disposing of the Great Kefir Experiment of 2009, I decided to sit down and read the instructions that came with my kefir grains only to discover that my failure to make delicious kefir may have been my own fault. That’s unfortunate because I was sure the Kefirlady had tried to kill me. I pictured her taking my ten dollar bill from the envelope, putting it in her apron pocket, then rubbing her bony hands together, and saying, “Thanks for the ten dollars, dearie.
Now I will poison you.”

The kefir rules I broke:

1. Stir kefir with a plastic spoon. I only broke this rule once, but maybe once is enough.

2. Change the milk every twenty-four hours. On the fifth day, I got the brilliant idea to just put some new milk in with the old milk my kefir grains where  already in. Twelve hours later I went to swirl the jar to see how my kefir was doing, and it was solid. That led to the breaking of rule number three.

3. Don’t squeeze the kefir grains. Initially, when reading this rule you may think, why would anyone squeeze kefir grains? When I accidentally made the block of kefir cheese mentioned above I was horrified. How would I find my kefir grains in that? I wondered. I dumped it all out and started squeezing it through my fingers to find the little rubbery kefir grains. Does pinching each grain really hard count as squeezing? I’m afraid it might.

Lesson learned:
If something you’ve purchased comes with instructions, you might want to consider reading them unless the instructions are too long, you’re too busy to be bothered, or you think you can figure it out on your own.


  1. Anita says

    I think you broke every rule in the book! Milk kefir grains are usually very forgiving, but dehydrated grains are notoriously difficult to revive.
    Fresh LIVE grains are so much better; they’re ready to go straight away. I highly recommend you giving it another try, this time with fresh live grains from someone closeby, & you won’t regret it. Kefir is one of the best things you can do for your body. Homemade raw milk kefir that is. Simple to make, once you just do what’s necessary for them:)

  2. Lovelyn says

    Thanks, Anita.
    I recently joined a local Weston A. Price Meetup Group and am going to see if I can find some kefir grains through someone in there.