The milk you use for the kefir will significantly influence the characteristics of your finished milk kefir. The milk from different animals and how it is processed will result in different flavors, inconsistencies, acidity levels, thickness, texture and more.
Most types of milk work perfectly, although there are always a few things to bear in mind. There are also some types of milk that do not work well, and we would like to tell you about these today.
Which milk for milk kefir
Cow's milk: Cow's milk is the most popular and established way to make milk kefir. The result is a thick, velvety-soft milk kefir.
Goat's milk: Goat's milk is becoming increasingly popular and is also suitable for making milk kefir. The structure of goat's milk is different from cow's milk, resulting in a thinner kefir compared to cow's milk.
Sheep's milk: Sheep's milk is sweeter than cow's milk and contains more protein, resulting in a thicker and creamier kefir. Sheep's milk is therefore more commonly used to make cheese, but is just as suitable for making milk kefir.
Camel milk: Not yet common in Germany, but could become important in the future. Camel milk is very rich in some nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and potassium, but it is not known how suitable it is for making kefir.
Lactose-free milk: Lactose-free milk is usually not suitable for making kefir. Some brands still contain some lactose, but also the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose into its individual components, galactose and glucose. Lactose-free brands are usually ultra-pasteurised, which makes them rather unsuitable for making milk kefir.
Other manufacturers filter their milk to remove the lactose. This significantly reduces the sugar content in the milk, which is why lactose-free milk is again not suitable for making milk kefir. Of course you can always experiment, please let us know if it worked.
However, we do not recommend making milk kefir with lactose-free milk. If you have problems with lactose, please check out our post on how to reduce the lactose content of milk kefir.
Pseudomilk and milk alternatives
This includes all types of milk that are not based on the usual animal milk, but are purely plant-based.
Coconut milk: When switching to coconut milk, it is important to let the milk kefir nodules ferment in animal milk for 24 hours every few days so that the milk kefir nodules receive certain nutrients that can only be found in animal milk. We recommend doing this revitalisation period every few days for 24 hours.
Simply place the nodules in animal milk and ferment them as usual for 24 hours. After that, you can continue to use coconut milk. Due to the high fat content, coconut milk kefir becomes very creamy, but also very thin.
Nut milk and seed milk: These types of milk based on oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk and co. lead to different results for each user. We have also experimented a lot with them, but always had different results that were not consistent and reliable. These alternative milks or pseudomilks are therefore not suitable for making milk kefir.
What is pasteurised milk?
Pasteurisation is the process of heating milk to 161 °F, about 71 °C, for 15-20 seconds and then immediately cooling it down and storing it at refrigerator temperatures. Pasteurised milk has a longer shelf life and is usually suitable for making milk kefir. This milk is also very good for rehydrating milk kefir nodules once they have dried out or have been deliberately dried out during a holiday.
What is UHT milk?
Ultra-high temperature milk or ultra-high temperature process is heated to 150 °C or more for a short time and cooled down again after 1 second. This milk is cooked, so to speak, and is therefore not suitable for making milk kefir, as many components and proteins are now denatured. If ultra-high temperature milk is the only milk you have available, we can't promise you anything; but experimenting has helped many and maybe it will work for you too?
Raw milk for making?
Yes, if you have good kefir nodules, raw milk will work just as well if the milk kefir nodules have been briefly rehydrated and activated in pasteurised milk after purchase.
After the nodules have been activated, slowly adapt them to the raw milk. By this we mean start with pasteurised milk and gradually increase the percentage of raw milk until you reach 100% raw milk.
If you use raw milk, we recommend that you use the freshest raw milk possible. Raw milk contains a whole range of good bacteria, but it can happen that if you leave it too long, either spoilage bacteria will spread, or the bacterial count in the milk will already be so high that the milk kefir nodules will be hindered in their work. Both cultures will then compete for the milk and the milk kefir will not end well.
What is homogenisation?
Homogenisation is a process that prevents cream or milk fat from settling on top. Usually, any kind of milk is homogenised when you buy it.
Homogenisation is the process of forcing the milk through a tiny sieve, which reduces the size of the fat droplets in the milk. The result is that these fat droplets cannot settle on top of the milk. In this way, the natural fat structure of the milk is changed.
What happens if I use non-homogenised milk?
In Germany, all types of milk are usually homogenised. However, if you have milk available that is not homogenised, the cream will settle on top during fermentation. In this case, we recommend that you stir the milk kefir occasionally so that the fat is redistributed in the rest of the milk.
Can I use low-fat or reduced-fat milk?
Any type of milk in terms of fat content will work, but please note that milk with a reduced fat content will also result in a thinner milk kefir and a different mouthfeel and texture than full-fat milk.
It is also important that you do not change so often, and rather stick to one type of milk with a certain fat content. This will allow the cultures to get used to that fat content and consistently give you the best results.
Milk kefir with cream?
If so, creamy milk kefir works best in a 50/50 mix of milk and cream, but no more. The result is a very creamy, very fatty and sweet and sour milk kefir that many of our customers particularly enjoy. Very reminiscent of sour cream.
Using cream directly for fermenting milk kefir can lead to problems, as the result is often too thick and very likely to settle on top.
What happens next?
When it comes to the milk, it can be difficult to decide which type of milk and which degree of treatment is optimal. Each type of milk and degree of treatment results in a different type of milk kefir, with unique characteristics. You can stick to the classic, namely cow's milk with 3.5% fat content, pasteurised and homogenised.
However, you can also experiment and try different levels of fat content and different types of milk.
But please don't overdo it with the experiments: Milk kefir cultures like it constant and occasionally it is important to stay with a certain type of milk for 1-2 weeks.
Until then, we wish you happy bubbling! Let the microbes run wild!
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