The milk used to make kefir will influence its taste, texture and flavour. Some types of milk work better than others! This guide will help you choose the best milk to make your milk kefir, whether it's from kefir grains or powdered kefir starter.
All animal milks are suitable for making milk kefir. Often, high fat milks yield better results, while raw, lactose-free and plant-based milks are more complex to ferment. Read on to learn all about the specificities of the different milks!
Making Kefir With Animal Milk
The best way to make kefir is to use animal milk. Any milk is suitable, whether it’s cow's milk, goat's milk, or sheep's milk. Animal milk contains all the nutrients for your kefir grains (or powdered starter) to be able to turn it into kefir.
Different Types of Milk, Different Results
Not all animal milks are the same. Cow's milk will produce a tangy and smooth kefir. Goat's milk, on the other hand, gives kefir a distinctive taste and more liquid texture.
The Richer the Milk, the Creamier the Kefir
Naturally, the more fat there is in your milk, the creamier and thicker your kefir will be. Fancy a triple cream kefir? Replace a cup of milk with a cup of 15% or 35% cream. Your kefir will be rich and smooth, guaranteed!
Milk in (Almost) All Its Forms Can Be Fermented
Whether the milk is homogenized, powdered or even condensed, it can be used to make kefir. The texture and taste will vary, but the grains will be able to extract the nutrients needed to make delicious kefir.
Making Kefir With Raw Milk
Can you make kefir with raw milk? Absolutely, but only if your kefir grains are very active and robust. Raw milk contains its own cultures of wild microorganisms, which could contaminate young kefir grains.
To avoid weakening your grains, activate them in pasteurized milk, until they are active and vigorous. You can then use the raw milk for your daily kefir production.
If you are using a powdered starter, it is best to avoid raw milk or boil it before the inoculation. You must give the kefir culture every chance to grow.
Avoid Making Kefir With Lactose-Free Milk
You cannot make kefir with lactose-free milk, because milk kefir grains need lactose to survive. If you deprive them of their food source, they will not last long!
However, it is good to know that once fermented, natural milk kefir contains very little lactose. During fermentation, lactose is consumed by the microorganisms in the kefir. This has the consequence that some lactose-intolerant people can consume small amounts without feeling discomfort (reference).
Making Kefir With Plant-Based Milk
Powdered kefir starters are generally quite effective at making kefir from plant-based milks. On the other hand, making vegan kefir from milk kefir grains is rather complex.
Making Plant-Based Milk Kefir With Grains
If you want to make vegan kefir from grains, be aware that in the long run, your grains will lack nutrients (mainly lactose). We must therefore feed the milk kefir grains regularly with animal milk if we do not want to lose them.
Making Plant-Based Kefir From Powdered Starter
Using a kefir starter powder is a better choice when it comes to making plant-based kefir. We recommend doubling the amount of culture recommended in animal milk kefir recipes.
Keep in mind that plant-based milks rich in protein (such as soy) or in fat (such as coconut) are more likely to produce kefir with a creamy consistency.