What's the difference between kefir grains and the Easy Kefir starter culture? Our Easy Kefir starter culture is a powder made from freeze-dried kefir grains. It contains all the strains and yeasts present in dairy kefir grains, and conveys all the benefits of kefir grains, without the actual grains. Our Easy Kefir starter does not create grains at any stage during fermentation, nor after it. Once you've made a batch of kefir using our Easy Kefir starter, you can use some of it to culture your next batch. This is called 'reculturing' and can be repeated several times over.
Will I need to look after grains if I use the Easy Kefir starter culture? No. See bullet 'What's the difference between kefir grains and the Easy Kefir starter culture?'
Can I make a new batch from a previously-made batch, without grains? Absolutely! Once you've made a batch of kefir using our Easy Kefir starter, you can use some of it to culture your next batch. This is called 'reculturing' and can be repeated several times over.
At what temperature is kefir fermented? At room temperature. Ideally, around 72°F to 75°F. Just place the jar on your kitchen counter. See also 'Is the fermentation affected by temperature?'
Which appliance do I need for kefir fermentation? None. You just need a glass jar with a fitting lid.
Do I need to pre-heat the milk? No, you don't have to. You can use cold milk from the fridge.
Can I use raw milk? No. It contains competing bacteria. If you wish to use it, you will need to pasteurize it first.
Can I use goat milk? Yes, but the result will be thin.
How does the fat content of the milk affect the kefir? There's a direct correlation between the fat content of the milk that you use, and the creaminess of the resulting kefir. Whole milk with a higher fat content will result in a rich, creamy kefir, while skim milk will produce a much thinner texture.
Why is there maltodextrin in the Easy Kefir starter culture? Every starter culture requires a 'carrier' for functionality and performance. In this product, the maltodextrin is there to add bulk to the powder (otherwise it would be too small to manipulate), and to provide energy for the fermentation to proceed.
Why is the starter shipped without ice? See answer to "I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather?"
I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather? Yes. Our starters are designed to remain active for several weeks in non-refrigerated transit in warm weather, without the need for express shipping or ice. The formula and the packaging provide excellent protection for the live strains. For this reason, we use ambient shipping (which is also significantly less costly for the customer). The starters are kept cold in our warehouse until your order is ready for shipping, and when your order is shipped, we send you the tracking number so that you can see when it is due to arrive. Even if left in direct sunlight for a couple of hours, the starter's viability will not be impacted by much, because reduction in viability is a slow process that does not happen immediately. Once received, the starter should be refrigerated (or frozen), and you can use it as normal. See 'How do I know my kefir is properly fermented?' and 'I forgot to refrigerate the starter. Is it still active?'
I forgot to refrigerate the starter. Is it still active? This depends on how long the starter has been left at ambient temperature and if the Best By date is still valid. The starter is designed to remain active for several weeks at ambient/warm temperatures (usually for transit purposes). The formula and the packaging provide excellent protection for the live strains. If the delay is much longer and the temperatures are very high, the viability may be affected. That said, reduction in viability is a slow process that does not happen immediately, even past Best By date. You could try compensating for the possible decrease in viability by increasing the ratio of starter to dairy (for example, by using 2-3 sachets to make one quart, leaving the rest of the ingredients unchanged), and by fermenting for a little longer, if needed, to let the bacteria 'catch up' by proliferation over time. See instructions. Also see 'How do I know my kefir is properly fermented?'. There's no harm in consuming inactive bacteria; this is equivalent to consuming no bacteria at all. If all goes well, you could later use some of your ready batch to make future larger batches. Remember to keep the starter refrigerated (or frozen) until you're ready to use it. See also 'I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather?'
Is the Easy Kefir starter gluten-free/dairy-free/lactose-free/vegan? Although the Easy Kefir starter culture ingredients contain no actual dairy/gluten/animal products, the starter is packaged in a shared facility that also handles products that may contain wheat, soy, eggs, milk, and fish; and the grains themselves were originally developed on milk. The final pre-packaged powder contains no perceptible dairy. (Ingredient list: Active bacteria strains [Lactococcus lactis, Lactococcus cremoris, Lactococcus diacetylactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Kluyveromyces lactis], kefir grains, maltodextrin). The Easy Kefir starter is primarily designed to ferment dairy.
Is the starter certified Kosher? No. Our starters are not certified Kosher.
Can I make non-dairy kefir with the Easy Kefir starter culture? The Easy Kefir starter culture is designed for dairy milk fermentation. It's therefore difficult to predict how it will perform with non-dairy beverages. Some of our customers have had occasional success with fermenting non-dairy drinks, however since the product is not really designed for these, the results could be inconsistent. On the occasions when the non-dairy drinks did ferment, this was achieved with the addition of a tablespoon of sugar or honey per quart of liquid, to replace the naturally-occurring lactose (milk sugar) that is present in dairy milks and is required to provide energy for the fermentation to happen.
Where should I store the Easy Kefir starter culture? In the refrigerator or in the freezer.
Is the fermentation affected by temperature? Yes. Ideal temperature for kefir fermentation is 72°F to 75°F. Overall, fermentation is faster in warm weather and slower in cold weather. If the room temperature is below 72°F let the kefir ferment a little longer than the recommended 18h-24h. During summertime, if the weather is really hot, check your kefir after 12 hours.
Can I use metal utensils and lids to handle ferments? Overall yes, because the metal used in utensils and food-grade lids is most probably acid-resistant, and the utensil is not going to touch the ferment for that long. Metal lids can be used provided that they are acid-resistant and do not directly touch the fermented product for an extended period of time. Opt for the type of lids with a waxy interior, used for pickles, for example. If that interior is corroded though, better not use them. Also: the jar should not be full all the way to the top, to avoid direct contact between the ferment and the lid. There's no problem using stainless steel in the preparation stage, before fermenting.
Why has my kefir separated into liquids and solids? Separation into curds (solids) and whey (liquids) is fairly common, and is the result of over-fermentation. Either the kefir has been fermenting for too long, or the ambient temperature was too warm, or too much starter has been used per the quantity of milk. Separation is even more common in subsequent batches (when a previously-made kefir is used to start a new batch), as the kefir tends to get stronger with each batch. If it smells good and tastes good (a tangy-yeasty, pleasantly-sour flavor and aroma), you can still use it. Some people like to mix the curds back into the whey; others drink the whey, and eat the curds as soft cheese.
How do I know my kefir is properly fermented? For obvious reasons, it's hard for us to assess your kefir from afar, but overall, what you're looking for in your kefir is:
Flavor: nicely tart, mildly yeasty, slightly fizzy/zesty, and may have a hint of some yeasty sweetish-ness (assuming you used plain dairy, not a sweetened one. This natural sweetness is from the lactose in the milk). First batch tends to be fairly mild. It will get stronger in subsequent batches. It might take several batches to kick into full gear. It shouldn't taste off/unpleasantly pungent. It's very normal for a homemade kefir that is made from a starter culture to taste quite different than a store-bought one.
Smell: some faint sour-dairy aroma, or none. It shouldn't smell spoiled.
Consistency: different levels of pourability, depending on the dairy used. Kefir is fairly pourable overall, but not like water. More like thin yogurt. May granulate somewhat or separate into solids and liquid (curds and whey) due to the relatively long fermentation. Both curds and whey should be pleasant to consume.
In cool temperatures and especially during the first batch or when only a small quantity of starter is used, kefir can take a couple of days to ferment on the counter, and will result in a fairly weak fermentation. You could try leaving it on the counter to ferment for a little longer, and then re-assess by opening the jar (from time to time, but not too often). If flavor and smell are as described above, your batch is probably fermented, though not very strongly. (Ultimate test would be to use some of it to reculture your next kefir). Refrigerate once fermentation is done. Refrigeration will halt/slow down the fermentation significantly. Kefir prefers to be fermented in warm ambient temperatures. If the kefir did not properly ferment within the first 24-48 hours (depending on ambient temperature), chances are it wouldn't fully culture. In which case it might be a better idea to start over with a new sachet and new milk, rather than trying to salvage it. See instructions.
How many times can I reculture? For as long as your batch comes out pleasantly tart and lightly fizzy, and thickens to the consistency of thin yogurt. See 'How do I know my kefir is properly fermented?'
I've been reculturing many times. How will I know it's time to start over and use a starter from a sachet? When your batch is too sour, or doesn't thicken as before, it's time to start over. See also 'How do I know my kefir is properly fermented?' and 'How many times can I reculture?'
Is kefir boozy? Kefir contains natural yeasts. When these yeasts ferment, they naturally produce a faint trace of alcohol that is too minute to have any significance but can still imbue the flavor with some light zest.
What are the starter's caloric/nutrition facts? These are printed on the back of the pouch. But overall, our starters contain such minuscule quantities of powder, that they are too tiny to have any impact on the final result's caloric values. Our starters come in sachets of 1g - 3g of powder (depending on the starter), most of which, apart from the live strains, is either a carrier fiber containing no caloric value, or a trace of a natural sugar containing only a negligible value. When these teensy quantities of 1g - 3g are added to a quart of dairy, the starter's original caloric values, if ever there were any, become entirely diluted in the overall mass, and are practically non-detectable. The final result's nutritional values of calories/fats/carbs etc., come directly from the dairy that the starter was added to, not from the starter itself. For example, if you use half-and-half, it will add more fat to your final result than skim milk.
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