Need a break from your kefir brewing habit and wondering how to freeze your kefir grains?
Milk and water kefir have become very popular probiotic drinks over the past few years but buying them pre-made from the store can get pretty expensive over time. If you learn how to make your own, it can be incredibly inexpensive and surprisingly easy once you’ve got it started.
Kefir begins with a “mother culture” which you can use from batch to batch, almost indefinitely under the right circumstances. If you’re planning a vacation or simply need a kefir break for a while, you may have to store your culture safely for use in the future.
So how do you freeze kefir grains? To freeze kefir grains, you need to rinse them, let them dry, and seal them in an air-tight container. Sprinkling a little powdered milk over them before freezing will help them to stay fresh for up to 6 months in the freezer.
This article will show you exactly how to freeze kefir grains and answer many of your other kefir related questions.
Everything You Need to Know About Kefir Grains
When you first begin making kefir, you’ll need to purchase specific grains that are home to a variety of healthy bacteria and yeast.
These original grains, bacteria, and yeast will multiply with every batch of kefir you make, but you need the original grains to have the bacteria to start your “mother culture.”
You can find either milk kefir grains or a kefir starter culture set, also sometimes called a direct-set culture. If you’re new to kefir and not completely sure if you’ll be committed to it for the long-haul, a starter set is probably perfect for you.
If you’re convinced that you’re going to be making fresh kefir every few days, that starting with a great set of milk kefir grains is going to get you the best bacteria culture possible.
Milk kefir grains can be used over and over again and, if necessary, even frozen, which we’ll get into in a minute. If you know someone who makes kefir locally, you can get grains that are fresh and already thriving in milk.
Otherwise, you can order dry kefir grains online and you’ll simply have to reactivate them, which will also discuss a bit further on in the article.
How to Make Kefir
Kefir is surprisingly easy to make if you simply have a little patience. All you need is some fresh kefir grains or a starter kit and some milk.
You simply start with about 1-2 teaspoons of active milk kefir added to 4 cups of fresh milk and kept in a glass jar. The jar should be covered with a breathable cover, such as a paper coffee filter. This will allow air to escape, but protect your liquid from outside bacteria that you don’t want contaminating the good stuff in your grains.
The milk is then left to sit in a warm, dry location for about 24 hours. 70F – 85F is the sweet spot for culturing your kefir. Your milk will thicken and give off a lovely tangy smell, like plain yogurt. When it’s ready, you simply drain out the grains, place them in a new batch of milk, and drink or use your kefir however you’d like!
Most milk kefir is made with cow milk or goat milk, but you can also make it very effectively with coconut milk.
Water Kefir vs Milk Kefir
Water kefir is made with water instead of milk, making it a healthy, probiotic option for both vegans and the lactose intolerant.
Water kefir tends to be a lot lighter in flavor, making it more versatile. It’s made by fermenting water, coconut water or even juice with sugar and your kefir grains.
They’re both good sources of probiotics, but milk kefir has a wider variety of strains than water kefir.
How to Freeze Kefir Grains
Making kefir is a daily process once begun, and if you’d like to take a break without damaging your kefir grains or wasting milk, you need to find ways to store your grains so that you can successfully reactivate them when you’re ready to start making kefir again.
To successfully rest your kefir grains, they must have been active for at least 3 – 4 weeks first.
The best way to keep them fresh but inactive is to cool them down. If you’re going to take a lengthy break from kefir, you can freeze your grains.
Start by rinsing them well with cool water. Let them dry on a piece of paper town and pat them down to soak up any remaining moisture. You can leave them on your counter, covered with the paper for an hour or two to dry well.
Once they’re dry, you can put your grains into a glass, freezer-safe jar with an air-tight lid. For best results, you can dust a little bit of powdered milk over top of the grains before sealing the jar. Your kefir grains will stay fresh in your freezer for up to 6 months.
How to Refrigerate Kefir Grains
If your break is only going to last a week or two, you can store your milk kefir grains soaking in milk in the fridge. Cover your container but leave some airflow.
The milk will not turn into kefir, but it will give your bacteria something to eat while it rests. You will have to pour out the milk after 2 weeks at most, but it won’t be good to drink, so there is some waste.
A cheaper option is to soak your kefir grains in a solution of water and sugar. Again, cover your liquid, but don’t seal it completely because the bacteria need some airflow to breathe. This will store longer, for up to 2 months safely.
How to Dry Kefir Grains
You can get fancy with dehydrating your kefir, but for most home-brewers, the best thing you can do is prepare your grains as if you were going to freeze them, but instead of putting them in your freezer, leave them drying on your counter for an additional 3 – 5 days until they’re completely dried out.
When they’re ready, transfer them to a glass container and cover them with some powdered milk. Seal them well and put them in your fridge, where they’ll last for up to 6 months.
How to Reactivate Kefir Grains
If you’ve been storing your grains for a while, in any of the above-mentioned ways, they will need a little time to get back up to their kefir culturing best.
You can reactivate them in the same way you first activated them: place your 1 – 2 teaspoons of grains in 1 cup of milk. Cover with a breathable filter and place it in a warm spot for 24 hours.
If your milk cultures well, your grains are ready for a proper batch. If, however, the milk hasn’t thickened, separate your grains and put them in a fresh cup of milk for another 24 hours. Continue this process until the milk thickens properly.
The main reason most people consume kefir is for the probiotics. Good milk kefir will have up to 60 strains of healthy bacteria for your gut, which is more than the average yogurt.
Your gut is home to billions of bacteria, and anything that you can do to help the healthy good guys outnumber the dangerous bad strains of bacteria, the more your health is going to improve in almost every way possible.
For most people, adding probiotics will improve digestion, repair any damage done by having a recent course of antibiotics, and even treat UTIs, gastrointestinal infections and vaginal infections.
Overall, healthy bacteria create a healthy immune system, giving you a better chance to fight off any type of viral or bacterial infection and even heal more quickly to any other form of injury or disease.
Beyond the probiotics, milk kefir is a high protein and low-calorie drink, full of calcium, B vitamins, and many other micronutrients.
Helpful Tip: If you’re looking for a prebiotic (which is different than a probiotic), you can try baobab powder.
Milk kefir is lower in lactose than regular milk, so even if you have trouble digesting dairy products, kefir may be something you can have. The fermentation process turns lactose into lactic acid, making it easier to digest. There are also special enzymes that break lactose down even more.
If you’re highly sensitive, it may still be incompatible with your digestive system, but for most people, it’s a great way to get the calcium and vitamin D that others consume regularly with dairy products.
Is it safe to drink kefir every day?
For most people, kefir is perfectly safe for the majority of people to consume daily and even has great health benefits, thanks to all the vitamins and probiotics.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, it could throw your immune system even more out of balance, so consult with your doctor first.
Does kefir cause weight gain?
Kefir is quite low-calorie, though it’s high in protein and nutrition, so it will help you feel full even after only a small amount. This should help promote weight loss, rather than weight gain.
The other benefits already discussed above can also help get you to optimal weight, by improving your digestive system, blood sugar control, and hormones naturally.
How long does it take for kefir to start working?
Kefir doesn’t work like prescription medication or a miracle pill. Every glass you drink will have important nutrients that can improve your health, so in that sense, immediately.
However, if you’re trying to heal specific health concerns, the amount of time needed to see improvement will vary person by person, depending on the severity of your condition as well as many other lifestyle factors.
If you’re looking for a visual on freezing kefir grains, ‘the blu balloon’ on YouTube has a great tutorial on freezing kefir grains. It’s a small channel and she does take a while to take you through the steps, but she gives some great advice so I think it’s worth watching. Check it out!