How to Make Kefir from Nondairy Milk Substitutes–almond, Rice, Oats, Soy, Hemp, Hazelnut, or Coconut

You may have a difficult time finding kefir in natural food stores made from grain or nut milks because kefir culture grains won’t grow in non-dairy milk and will eventually die. You may find a delicious coconut milk kefir in your local Natural Foods Co-op. You can make your own kefir from almond milk or from any other milk make from nuts or grains if you grow your starter grains in dairy milk.

You begain by keeping some kefir starter grains growing in dairy milk to replace what you used up making almond milk kefir, coconut milk kefir, any other non-dairy milk substitute kefir using the original starter grains you began to culture in regular dairy milk. Check out the article Real Food Recipes: Almond milk kefir.

Instructions are the same as for milk kefir, according to that article. You place the liquid to be ‘kefired’ in a clean jar with the grains, leave for 24 hours, strain out grains and drink.

You’ve seen some of the Sacramento supermarket shelves lined with almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk, coconut milk and other types of nondairy milk substitutes, either unsweetened or sweetened. But what you haven’t seen too frequently is cultured nondairy milk, except for cultured coconut milk and cultured soy milk.

If you’re tired of the taste of your unsweetened almond or soy milk, try adding a culture to your nondairy milk substitutes. Making kefir from almond milk is one feat you can try at home. Or you can make kefir from various dairy milks other than cows milk, for example, cultured goat milk (kefir). You can find at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, full-fat goat milk kefir.

Here’s how to make your own nondairy kefir from almond milk: View the video,How to Make Almond Milk. Also see, Sprouted Sunflower & Almond Seed Cheese. And check out the site, What is Kefir? Also see, Coconut Milk Dairy.

Kefir is a cultured milk beverage which is popular in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Mediterranean and Russia. It is made by inoculating a milk with kefir grains, a mixture of yeasts and bacteria which will sour the milk slightly, creating a drink which is almost like liquid yogurt. Traditional kefir has a tangy, rich flavor which may be altered with the addition of ingredients like pureed fruits and sweeteners, or consumed plain. Some markets and natural food stores stock kefir, and it is also possible to order kefir grains from suppliers to make kefir at home.

The word “kefir” is Russian, and it is probably derived from a Turkish word which means “to froth.” Traditional kefir was made from camel’s milk, although milk from other animals can be used as well. People who prefer not to use dairy may also make kefir from plant or nut milks such as soy or almond milk. The beverage is typically made at room temperature, and it takes around 18 hours to mature fully, although in cold climates this may take longer.

Also look at the article, Make it Yourself – Cultured Dairy Products | Passionate Homemaking. It’s best to watch videos on making kefir rather than reading instructions in text, but there’s an excellent recipe at the U.K. Seeds of Health website, “How to Make Kefir.” According to that website, here’s part of the recipe.

See the website for the entire recipe with all the details in depth. And don’t begin until you’ve watched at least two videos on how to make kefir. That way you have a choice of using coconut milk, soy milk, dairy, or any other milk substitute with the kefir fermentation process. You don’t want any explosions of glass bottles or sharp glass to go flying. So be careful and watch the videos on how to make coconut kefir.

You’re warned: Kefir easily can explode. The glass jar explodes and the glass shatters and gets in your eyes, taking out your sight. It’s a scary warning, but you are forewarned. One way to cope with this possibility is to always use a jar with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape, otherwise you run the risk of explosions, according to the variety of how-to instructions found online for making coconut milk kefir and kefir from any type of milk, including dairy.

The same warning goes for kids or pets standing near a glass jar of kefir with a lid. The danger of explosion is there. So make kefir at your own risk.

Now, let’s get started with safety goggles, a hard hat, and gloves making coconut milk kefir. Basically, you put the culture in the coconut milk and let it ferment. That’s how it was made for hundreds of years. You let the milk with the kefir culture in it stand at room temperature for about 12 to 24 hours depending on whether you want thick or thin culture. If you let it stand for 48 hours, it will make a thicker, sourer kefir. If you let it stand for just 12 hours, you’ll taste a thinner, sweeter kefir. The temperature will effect how quickly the culture works. During the summer kefir will ferment faster.

When it’s the thickness and sourness you want to taste, then strain the kefir into a clean jar. While it’s fermenting the kefir grains will float to the top of the milk along with any cream. It’s a good idea to stir it gently with a wooden spoon to mix up the solids and liquids to make it easier to strain. Use wooden not metal spoons.

Scoop out the culture from the kefir. It will be thick. Separate the kefir from the liquid. The kefir culture produces a jelly like polysaccharide substance that develops around the grains as they lengthen. It has unique properties and it’s own name ‘kefiran’. Grains may be coated with a gel. This is the kefiran. Stir the kefir to distribute the kefiran in the kefir. This helps to thicken the finished kefir. You’ll get a wide variety of kefir thickness. Some will be thin and other kefir types will be thicker.

After straining, the grains are placed straight back into a clean jar without washing them first. Fresh milk is added to the grains to make the next batch.

Keep the bacteria from your hands out of the kefir culture

Bacteria from your hands, hair, and the air will get into the kefir. Use a clean wooden spoon and a clean kefir-making jar. It’s a living culture, a complex system of bacteria and yeasts. Don’t contaminate it. Use freshly cleaned hands, clean jars and clean non metallic implements.

Refrigerator Kefir
A cooler temperature slows the fermentation down and makes a thicker kefir too. Some people like to ferment their kefir in the fridge, leaving it for 5 days or more to compensate for the much slower fermentation process.

Double Fermentation
Maybe you’d like to try the double fermentation technique that you can read in depth at the Seeds of Health site. First ferment by adding the culture to the milk and leaving for 12-24 hours. Then strain out the culture and leave the kefir out to ferment more slowly for another 12-24 hours before putting it in the fridge.

Continuous Fermentation
Then there’s the traditional ‘continuous fermentation’ approach. You store your kefir in a large jar but don’t put it in the fridge. As each new batch is ready it’s added to the existing kefir in the main storage jar and then the lid goes on. See this method also at the Seeds of Health site.

You could ferment for five days in the refrigerator rather than for up to 24 hours in a warm place full of all types of bacteria that could contaminate your kefir. It’s your choice. If you’re working with raw animal milk, advice from scientists is to heat the milk and simmer it. For more information on making kefir from raw animal milk, see the video, “Dr. Marshall Talks About Kefir.” The biochemist and nutrition radio talk show personality making kefir from raw milk in this video explains all the steps.

Kefir continues to ferment as it is a live food. When it’s outside your refrigerator fermenting, it will become very sour and begin to fizz. Again, this warning is repeated: always use a jar with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape, otherwise you run the risk of explosions.

Storing the Culture

Real kefir from live culture is an endlessly self propagating process, according to the article and recipe, “How to Make Kefir.” After each batch you’ll have a few more grains as the culture grows. Eventually you’ll have a large batch of grains and they’ll speed up your fermentation time. Spare culture can be stored for a time in a jar in the fridge with some milk.

The fermentation will slow right down and you can store spare culture for a few weeks this way. Rotate your spare culture with the grains you’re using for your regular kefir-making time so that the grains get a chance to warm up and restore vitality to their microflora. Don’t make too much spare culture, though. Just make what you need for a specific time.

Storing the Kefir

Store the kefir in a glass jar in the fridge. The kefir will keep a long time in the fridge. Add new batches of kefir to the storage jar as they are made and give it a shake to mix them.

You can store it on the kitchen counter instead of the fridge but be aware that it will continue to ferment, although not as fast as it would with the kefir grains in it. If you want to do that you should, for the third time, be reminded here to always use jars with a rubber seal that will allow excess pressure to escape and prevent possible explosions. It can be a very vigorous culture and has caused jars to explode when stored out of a fridge over a period of time. A kilner jar is good.

The beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to prevent the kefir from spoiling but it gets very sour and fizzy. In the United States, a jar sealed with a metal hinge leveraging down a glass lid and rubber seal is said to be using a “bail closure.” A Kilner jar is a rubber-sealed, screw-topped jar used for the storage of food, which was invented by the Kilner family and produced by John Kilner & Co, Yorkshire, England, according to the Wikipedia site.

Classically, it was a glass plug with a rubber seal attached to it in the top, with the whole being secured with a metal screw-top lid. Contemporary “Kilner-style” jars usually have a lid made entirely of metal. Kilner jars are used for storing and preserving home-made jams, marmalades and other relishes.They are also used for pickling food such as eggs, onions and garlic.

It’s spring, and eggless vegan coconut kefir is popular as the weather warms. You can make coconut milk with lime juice or culture the coconut milk and add vanilla, rum flavoring or almond flavoring and a pinch of stevia or a tablespoon of your favorite sweetener, such as pureed raisins with cinnamon and cloves, or two tablespoons of pineapple juice concentrate to a quart of coconut kefir.

You can buy the flavoring, a pinch of stevia, pureed, spiced raisins, or fruit concentrate at any supermarket. The trick is to make your own coconut kefir from scratch and then add any sweetener such as pureed raisins spiced with cinnamon and cloves to the basic coconut kefir. To start, here’s how to make (or buy) the coconut kefir.

In Sacramento, you can buy coconut milk kefir at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop in midtown at 1900 Alhambra Blvd. Also the Whole Foods Market at 4315 Arden Way carries kefir in different varieties. Besides cow’s milk kefir, either non-fat or whole milk, there’s also soy milk kefir and goat milk kefir. You can buy kefir flavored with berries or the unsweetened types. To make coconut milk kefir, the recipe is at the site, How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir | Passionate Homemaking.

See the uTube video on how to make kefir from coconut milk, “How to Make Coconut Kefir.” If you price coconut milk kefir in most markets, you’ll find prices close to $5 for a quart. So it’s more cost effective to make your own coconut milk kefir. You can make it using a can of coconut milk. See, 7 Companies You Can Trust to Use BPA-Free Cans: TreeHugger and BPA-free Canned Food Options | The Soft Landing Blog. For example, the brand: Native Forest/Native Factor, all canned foods, including the company’s canned coconut milk uses a BPA-free can.

Coconut milk is naturally rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Two of the primary MCFAs found in coconut milk, lauric and capric acid, are known for supporting the body’s immune system, according to the article, How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir | Passionate Homemaking. Coconut products contains monolaurin, a fatty acid found in human mother’s milk, which has proven antiviral, antibacterial, and fungal properties that support natural immunity.

It has a creamy taste and texture that’s similar to cream (with half the fat and calories) or milk (when diluted). It tastes on the flavor of what you mix it with, making it ideal for both sweet and savory recipes. It is completely free from any dairy, gluten, and soy. View the Healthy Cooking Coaches recipes for Strawberry & Vanilla ice cream using coconut kefir.

Since kefir can be found in most supermarkets in Sacramento, you might try making your own kefir. Sometimes a bottle of coconut milk kefir can cost up to $5. The fat in milk makes the kefir thicker.

That way you choose what kind of milk or nondairy product to use. Here’s how to get started. It’s all about finding a liquid that has its own natural lactose sugar and using the kefir cultures to convert the lactose sugar in the milk, be it cow’s, goat’s or coconut milk or soy milk, into glucose and galactose. That’s why kefir usually can be consumed by some who can’t tolerate plain cow’s milk.

You can make kefir from coconut milk, soy milk, cow’s milk, goat’s milk or even raw milk. Kefir converts the sugar, lactose into glucose and galactose. This helps many lactose-intolerant people enjoy kefir. To make kefir using raw milk, view the video, “Dr. Marshall Talks About Kefir.”

The three items you need are a special type of glass jar like a kilner jar with a rubber seal that allows pressure to escape, a tablespoon of kefir culture, for example, from a container of kefir you buy in the store or freeze-dried kefir culture, and fresh milk. You can use whole milk, nonfat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, or any other milk substitute that will ferment with a kefir culture.