Milk Kefir Basics

Milk kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir "grains" (a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter) and has its origins in the north Caucasus Mountains. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

 Kefir grains are a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars, and this symbiotic matrix, (or SCOBY) forms "grains" that resemble cauliflower. For this reason, a complex and highly variable community of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can be found in these grains although some predominate; Lactobacillus species are always present. Even successive batches of kefir may differ due to factors such as the kefir grains rising out of the milk while fermenting, or curds forming around the grains, as well as room temperature.

The resulting ferment, once strained, is a runny, rather sour yoghurt like drink with high numbers of probiotic bacteria.
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