i want you: to drink kefir

If you’ve spent any time around me lately, you’ve heard me singing the praises of fermented foods. If you haven’t, then allow me to introduce you to kefir, the best thing to come my way since kombucha tea.

As fermentation teaches us, good things take time. And so too with this post. I’ve been trying to craft a really great one for this, my latest obsession. Finally I’ve shot enough photos and schemed enough ways to convince you to bring kefir into your home.

raspberry kefir smoothie

Whether or not I succeed, I bring you kefir: beloved breakfast champion, superhero of lactose-intolerants, rescuer of milk + vinegar buttermilk substitutions. Apparently they’ve been doing it for years, and I’ve been stuck in the dark with plain old milk and yogurt laced with added sugar (and who knows what else).

Now that I’ve lured you in with the pink tart and tang of a fresh raspberry blend, I’ll show you how it’s done. There are TWO STEPS here. Got that? TWO STEPS. Try to follow the complicated procedure as best you can. Really, it’s very scientific:

kefir grains

obtain some kefir grains from a fellow fermentor*

homemade kefir

put the grains into a jar of milk and let everyone hang out for a few hours

Contrary to making yogurt, kefir pretty much takes care of itself. I have tried making yogurt about four times, to no avail. I wanted it so badly, but it just wouldn’t happen: The first time, tasting like the pickles that had occupied the jar prior to it, the second time refusing to thicken. Despite tedious temperature testing and the more sophisticated hot-tub incubation method of the third go, the milk still wouldn’t yogurtize. I gave up, dejected, forced to live with mediocre milk lacking the happy bacteria I’d so earnestly sought.

And then, kefir arrived on my doorstep. My dear mother had heard my plea, and sent me a container of the grains via husband-on-Amtrak, as I had done only weeks prior (with a kombucha colony in a Nalgene bottle). It was all so old-fashioned, trading gifts like this through a handsome rail messenger. We both succeeded in bringing the other over to the world of fermented foods; “good milk,” as Alton Brown says, “gone bad.” Or as I say, “gone better.”

orange nectarine

Properly pronounced “keh-fear,” this fermented milk drink comes to us via the Caucasus region, comprising the geographical areas of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan,¬†Southern parts of Russia, and North Eastern Turkey. It used to be made in animal skins and hung from doorways. Passersby would bump their heads against the bag, helping to keep the grains and milk well-mixed. In our house we keep it in a jar. We only bop our heads against it once in awhile, but it works out just fine.

Kefir is rapidly gaining on yogurt in popularity. (Go kefir, GO!) You can find it in grocery stores that have a good selection of health foods, but it’ll cost you about double that of yogurt. Now that I’ve got a never-ending supply of the stuff, I’ve stopped buying yogurt altogether. It satisfies my craving, is much more versatile, contains even more healthful bacteria, and tastes like the champagne of smoothies.

blueberry kefir smoothie

banana-rific blueberry

Lactose intolerant people benefit especially from consuming kefir. Why? Well, the yeast and bacteria in the grains survive by eating sugar. Guess what the sugar in milk is called? You got it: lactose. Being the only sugar those little guys can get their jaws on, they quickly gobble up all the lactose and leave a nice tangy product in its place. I’m not lactose intolerant, but apparently kefir (and its cousin yogurt) are more easily digested by such folks. See Alton Brown’s video for a cartoony lesson on the hows and whys.

strawberry nectarine kefir smoothie

strawberry nectarine

Not only is kefir wonderful with all the above additions, quickly blended in with a convenient immersion blender, it makes a great buttermilk substitution. I mean, how often do we have buttermilk around, really. But kefir? In our house, all the time. Not only does it make wonderful smoothies, kefir can be used in creamy salad dressings, muffins, quick breads, buns, pancakes, waffles, and ice cream. Yup, you heard that right, and we deem it a success.

Have I hooked you yet?

The other day I was haranguing a friend we’d given kefir grains to turn his kitchen into a probiotic factory like ours. He told me to send him a photo of me, Uncle Sam style, and he’d make me an I WANT YOU TO MAKE KEFIR poster of my very own. I’ve got to get on that. When I do, I’ll post it next to Sammy here…


In the meantime, I’ve got a Mango Kefir Lassi on the kitchen counter with my name on it.

*Sites for finding kefir grains:

International Kefir Community

The Kefir Lady

Kefir Country


18 thoughts on “i want you: to drink kefir

  1. September 9, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I have been looking for Kefir grains for about a year now. Any ideas where I can find them. They would have to be shipped as I live in Fairbanks, Alaska. Love your site!

  2. Illa
    September 9, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I’m with you on this Jen.! Kefir is my morning “necessity” now and if anyone tried to take it from me they would have a major fight on their hands. I love it, and a side benefit…my nails have never been so strong! Mom

  3. September 10, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Jen. I really enjoy reading your blog – I’ve already turned my hubby on to your energy bars/balls/etc. I don’t know much about Kefir – from the quick snippets I’ve been reading they sound like edible sea monkeys! Is it alright if I mention your site on my blog? – Thanks, Caitlin

  4. September 10, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    OK, you’ve convinced me to try it, where in Ontario can I get the grains?

  5. September 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Want to ship some grains out to Banff? :)

  6. Sheri
    September 12, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Great post, Jen! Thanks for so eloquently saying what is very near and dear to MY heart!! Kefir totally ROCKS!!! I can send you some grains, Ev, if you like! I would have given them to you in the summer, but I guess I needed Jen to convince you!

  7. Cica
    September 17, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    My mom makes kefir in her kitchen and she got my friends into it. I just get it from Trader Joes, but I think I will make my own too. It’s just so cool! and I delute my half kefir half Pelagrino mineral water mix and viola! Cheers. It’s the perfect thickness and it tastes fantastick!

  8. Diane
    March 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Is that really all the instructions I need to make Kefir? I don’t have to heat the milk? How about some more detailed istrucitons?

  9. Jen
    March 18, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Hi Diane, yes, it really is it. Grains + milk + time = kefir. If you’re in Syracuse you can pick them up from me. Otherwise, check out the sites I’ve mentioned.

    1. Krishna J
      October 3, 2013 at 4:10 am

      Hi Jen,

      Do you have Milk Kefir grains to share. I live in Syracuse and I can pick them up.

      1. Jen
        October 4, 2013 at 6:24 am

        Hi there, I don’t live in Syracuse anymore! Sorry.

  10. April 23, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Hey,great post! I tried making yogurt once too and failed miserably. Searched the net for something else like kombucha but found this article instead on Forget Yogurt, Drink Kefir.

    Got myself some Kefir Grains from the author and have started looking for recipes just like the ones you’re making!

    I’ve got to say, i’ve never felt better and i hope you guys feel the same way! : )

  11. Anonymous
    July 5, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I love, love, love, Kefir! Thanks for this great article that I would like to share with friends here in California!

  12. Lora
    November 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I just was given some live Kefir grains a week and a half ago and it since drinking four times a day, I can notice a huge difference. I suffer from a long list of food allergies and digestive issue. For me to eat ment I am not going to feel well after words. Well, in just this short time, I feel 100% better. I can eat and feel well. I have tried everything for the past two years to find something that helped me with my issues. I finally found something that was not going to cost me my whole paycheck and worked.

  13. November 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I love Kefir. I even had a pronunciation argument with an in-law. You pronounce it the right way and that is GREAT. Keh-fear. I wish I had some grains. My family loves kefir. Especially the 16 y/o and 2 y/o boys. Still in search of free grains since the powdered culture is gross. Great post.

  14. March 5, 2013 at 6:17 am

    A milk kefir alternative is water kefir. Same idea of naturally fermented lactobacillus and all the other species that co-evolved to reside in your gut, but based on water. I have used coconut water and kefir grains to make a light, naturally carbonated, refreshing drink. Great for post workout. I love milk kefir but it is so rich and thick, I can only drink so much. I’ll drink about 32 oz of water kefir a day and is a substitute for the diet carbonated drinks I used o drink. I got my water kefir grains via ETSY.com. You can’t use milk kefir grains to make watt kefir. There are many benefits to naturally fermented foods: kimchee, pickles, etc. Enjoy.

  15. Jen
    March 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Thanks! I actually have tried water kefir but couldn’t keep up with that and kombucha. I’ll dig it out again soon I’m sure…I have the starter in the freezer.