Fermentation times are recommended
between 12 and 72 hours. Some instructions from the tropical North
Queensland recommend a fermentation time of only 6 hours.
The fermentation time has to be longer with a lower average
fermentation temperature and shorter with a higher average
Shorter fermentation results in a milder, sweeter aroma and a lively
sparkling product. Longer fermentation makes a stronger Kefir aroma,
sparkling and slightly sour.
Brigitta Cadisch-Umbricht found that Kefir fermented for 24 hours has
a mild laxative effect, fermented for 48 hours is balancing and
longer fermentation of about 70 hours has a very mild constipating
The Right Temperature
The best fermentation temperature for
Kefir is between 22oC and 30o C (72 - 86o F).
Researchers have found nearly 30 different bacteria and 25 different
yeasts in Kefir cultures. Every bacteria and culture has specific
temperature requirements, this is why a constant low temperature
can't be compensated with a longer fermentation time, or a constant
high temperature with a shorter fermentation time. Your Kefir brewing
needs some balance like hatching an egg. A fertilised egg, for
example, kept under a temperature of 37.4o C (99o F) for 21 days will
bring forth a healthy chick, a higher temperature and quicker
breeding time will result in no new living chicken but only in a
It does not matter if your temperature varies during fermentation
time between 18o C and 30o C which gives a wider spectrum of
bacterial and yeast growth. A fermentation of a constant 18o C or
constant 30o C is not recommended.
The temperature requirements of the bacteria Leu. citrovorum has a
temperature requirement of 20o C (68o F), Lactobacillus acidophilus a
requirement of 38o C (100o C) but some literature recommends 43.3 -
44.5o C (110o - 112o F). Lactobacillus bulgaricus likes temperatures
between 43.3 - 46.6o C (110o - 116o F).
In winter and in cooler ares a heating device is recommended. A
special designed heating panel for Kefir home production is
The Fermentation Pot
The most suitable fermentation pots
are glass, glazed pottery, or porcelain. When using pottery please
make sure that non lead glaze is used.
Copper is not recommended either and I think everyone knows that
aluminium should not be used for food processing at all and in any
case, aluminium is not suitable for lactic acid fermentation. In the
country of origin, leather bags have been used for Kefir fermentation
Problems Associated with Kefir
There is no doubt that you should
ferment Kefir hygienically, as with any food processing. Contaminated
bread, meat or fish is unhealthy and Kefir is no exception. Kefir is
fermented in a covered container, and is not likely to be
Don't make a science out of simplicity and believe scare tactic
campaigns from people who don't really know about Kefir and/or do not
want you to be healthy. Kefir was with us for a very long time and
was produced in Russian farm kitchens where modern hygiene was not
In my opinion if the Kefir grains or plants are left in natural
balance, then brewed in a home environment as before, then you are on
the safe side.
If manufacturers extract a single strain of a bacteria and culture
that, as it is done with acidophilus or the Yakult Strain then
laboratory cleanliness is the only solution. Both products are a
blessing and so is your own product.
Kefir, an alcoholic
Depending on the fermentation
process, fermentation temperature, time and type of culture used, the
alcohol content of Kefir will vary from 0.06 % (Marshall 1984), up to
a maximum of 3% alcohol. The average alcohol content in home brewing
is around 0.5% with a loose lid and 1% in an airtight jar. Shaking
the fermentation container during the fermentation time also results
in higher alcohol content.
Can I eat the grains?
Yes, you can. The stories about
Kombucha which are now starting with Kefir, that cultures can grow in
your brain, stomach and so on, have never been proven. I received
thousands of phone calls in this regard and offered in broadcast
interviews $1000 for the first person who has a culture grown inside
the body. The $1000 has not been claimed. If you hear fairy tales
like that, ask for the address of the person, and talk to the person
or the doctor personally, and let me know only if you have proof.
Please don't waste your money for a phone call or letter and my time
with nonsense like that.
How long does the culture
The grains or plant live, with proper
care as long as their owners. Kefir cultures reproduce themselves and
do not know a physical death.
Storage and Care for the Kefir
There are many brief information
sheets given to friends along with the Kefir culture and the
recommendations of care for the culture and storage vary
dramatically. Most recommendations advise to wash the culture before
every use. Some say with cold water, some with water around 20o C.
Washing is recommended to clean up unwanted or unfriendly bacteria
which may settle on the sibiotic system. The advice to wash a
culture, you only find in Western literature. The people I know from
Russia, Poland, Romania and Hungary who have known about Kefir
fermenting from childhood do not recommend washing. They say that the
beneficial micro flora around the culture will be disturbed or
destroyed - definitely with chlorinated water and fluoridated water -
and don't wash the culture except for drying purposes or if
fermentation is paused for a short term.
I personally agree with the natural way in not washing the culture.
For a short break of Kefir fermenting, like going on a holiday for a
fortnight, the grains are placed in fresh milk, and then stored in
the refrigerator at 4o C.
The Kefir grains are tougher than
most people think. To compare different cultures, I asked a friend in
north Queensland (and it's really hot up there) to send me a culture.
I live 3000 km south and the parcel was 12 days on the road by
Australia Post. The fresh grains, bottled together with a 1/4 litre
milk arrived absolutely active and the first brew was perfect. Not
only that, the long fermentation and 3000 km truck shaking, produced
a very pleasant tasting Kefir.
If you are not sure in the handling
of Kefir then try to think a few hundred years back in a simple farm
kitchen in the Caucasus mountains and make your own mind up. Like the
Australian saying- "use the KISS method" Keep It Simple Silly.
For long storage it is recommended to
change the milk every few weeks to feed the grains and keep them
Some say that deep freezing may kill
the culture and others had no problem to reactivating the culture
after a long storage in a deep freezer.
Storing your Kefir once it has
After fermentation with the culture,
you may store it in the refrigerator. At a temperature of 4oC your
Kefir will be of good quality for about 14 days.
Maybe you can try different ripening processes with a few batches.
Instead of storing your Kefir in the refrigerator until you use it,
you can ripen it at 10 - 18o C for another one to four days. Ripened
Kefir has a stronger aroma, takes on a mousse-like appearance, the
yeasts become more active and the alcohol content rises to 2 - 3 %.
Harald W. Tietze
Kefir for pleasure, beauty and well-being.