by Life Enthusiast Staff
Understanding the benefits of kefir includes learning about misconceptions of traditional kefir. Where kefir stands today, we reflect on history in an attempt to gain optimal benefits of the culture-art as a whole. This includes expanding the practical use of kefir grains and kefir, even to the extent of using kefir grains therapeutically. Here abide a collection of unique and interesting kefir-related products; the majority of which were pioneered and developed by yours truly. These achievements are the fruits born from numerous hours of dedication, working with the amazing self-organizing micro and macro-system- Kefir grains; the natural mother-culture of milk-cultures.
I regard kefir grains to be Probiotic-Jewels... and the culture-product kefira Probiotic-Gem
Prior to the introduction of kefir into my life, way back in 1978, I already had realized the respect and admiration that I felt for human-cultures of yesteryear, and the accumulated knowledge that they have provided us, in the practical-art of natural food-preservation. Much of this know how was passed on to me by my parents and other family members. The evolution of such culture-arts has with little doubt, improved quality of life. To place in mind that this is achievable by harnessing the many goodies generously provided in abundance, by one of the most simplest life forms - the single-celled organism. However, these fine culture-arts also need preservation; otherwise they may be forever lost and forgotten. In the interest of self-sufficiency regarding the preparation of cultured-foods, this extensive site is a valuable resource for information; an ongoing work. I advise the interested reader, to take your time reading the information provided here-- and remember that what is on offer here, is to enhance enjoyment. In any case, what value is there in keeping self-acclaimed know-how to one's own self?
If you enjoy reggae-dub style genre of music, you may not want to miss out on downloading an audio track from my current CD album; Probiotix... music for-life.The title of this particular track is, Let's say Kefir!This song and the entire album is written, produced, and recorded by yours truly over many wee hours of the morning. This sound track is presented to you here as a gift. So, please, feel free to download the track from Dom's Hammond Organ and Leslie speaker in-site. The inspiration behind this particular composition, is based around the interest to provide a certain understanding regarding how individuals from different countries, pronounce the word Kefir. Can you figure out which country the different voices originate? Can you guess which voice is mine? While I'm asking all the questions here, what about yourself?... how do you pronounce the word, Kefir?.. Hmm?!
Special warm thanks go to William from Canada, Molly and Beverly both from the USA, Anja from Germany and to Alexander from the USA but originally from Russia. Thank you all SO VERY MUCH for initially providing a digital recording of your voices, which all of you sent to me via e-mail. And a special warm thanks, with lots of kefir-topping, also goes to Sandra, my better half even when halved. Sandra!!... your voice shines through like a hot-arrow, shot straight through my heart ... via my stomach, partially filled with refreshing kefir to cool off the hot arrow-tip... KISSSsssss
WHAT IS KEFIR? [I ask myself in your place]
Kefir [Kephir or Kefyr] is pronounced kef é-er Alternate names for kefir; kewra, talai, mudu kekiya [Reference: Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia]. And Ayran.
Kefir is a refreshing cultured-milk beverage, which originated many centuries ago, in the Northern Caucasus Mountains. The word kefir is derived from the Turkish word keif, which loosely translates to good feeling or feeling good. This is for the sense of well-being one enjoys by drinking the culture-product.
Kefir has a uniform creamy consistency, a slightly sour refreshing taste, with a mild aroma resembling fresh yeast [or beer like]. Kefir also has a slightest hint of natural effervescent zesty tang. There are an assortment of approx. 40 aromatic compounds, which contribute to the unique flavour and distinctive pleasant aroma of kefir. To round this all off, kefir may contain between 0.08% to 2% alcohol. However, between .08 to .5% alcohol are realistic figures for 24 hour brewed kefir-- [yep!... wow!].
Traditional authentic kefir can only be prepared by culturing fresh milk with Kefir grains. Kefir grains are not to be mistaken for cereal grains, i.e. to say that the grain part of the name is a misnomer. Kefir grains, or kefir granules if you wish, are in fact a natural-starter or natural-mother-culture. The grain's bio-structure [which I refer to as a bio-matrix], is created through the efforts of a symbiotic relationship, shared between a vast mixture of specific friendly Lactic acid bacteria [LAB] and yeasts. The grains are a soft, gelatinous white biological mass [biomass], comprised of protein, lipids [fats] and a soluble-polysaccharide Kefiran complex. The microbes and yeasts not only create the bio-matrix structure, they are harboured by the very structure that they create; abiding either on the surface [interior and exterior], or encapsulated within the bio-matrix itself <[-The abode of the friendly microbe-]>.
Today, traditional authentic kefir [real kefir] is easily prepared at home. Raw unpasteurized or pasteurized, full-cream, low fat or non-fat fresh milk is poured into a clean suitable container with the addition of kefir grains. The content is left to stand at room temperature for approx. 24 hours. The cultured-milk is strained in order to separate and retrieve the kefir grains from the liquid-kefir. The grains are added to more fresh milk, and the process is simply repeated. This simple process can be performed on an indefinite basis... for kefir grains are forever. The strained liquid-kefir may either be consumed fresh, refrigerated for later use, or ripened at room temperature over a period of days before consuming. The ripening process is useful for individuals who wish to eliminate lactose in their kefir.
As active kefir grains are continually cultured in fresh milk to prepare kefir, the grains increase in volume or in biological mass [biomass increase]. To prevent overcrowding, and to maintain a reasonable constant grain-to-milk ratio it eventually becomes essential to remove a portion of kefir grains. Apart from the more obvious advantage in preventing overcrowded, the other advantage is to produce a kefir with a reasonable constant character and consistency on an ongoing basis. Traditionally, excess kefir grains were either eaten [which I highly recommend], dehydrated and stored as a back-up source, shared among family members or traded among the tribes-people of Caucasus, in exchange for basic essentials.
Except for refrigeration, the culture-art of kefir has been performed as explained above, over many centuries by the people of the Northern Caucasus Mountains
Alternate names for milk-based Kefir Grains: Tibetan Mushrooms, Yogurt Plant, Yogurt Mushroom, Yogurt Fungus, Snow Lotus, Kin-oko or Tane-oko [Jap], Tibetanischer Pilz [German]
1. Beatrice Trum Hunter's FACT/BOOK on Yogurt, Kefir & Other Milk Cultures  Library of Congress Card Number: 72- 87858. ISBN: 87983-033-175
FRESH KEFIR & KEFIR GRAINS
To rinse, or not to rinse kefir grains
A jug [far left in picture] of freshly strained kefir, and a glass of fresh kefir ready to be gulped ...
... Salute! <-kefir-burp'n-grin-just-4-u-> excuse me!
Pssst!! Far right in the picture is a portion of kefir grains sitting in a tall cylindrical jar half filled with fresh water. I refer to this as, fasting kefir grains, and this process has its place in the art of culturing kefir. To elaborate; since the introduction of kefir to the rest of the world [in 1903], it has since become common practice to rinse the grains with water, between each milk change. Today, this practice has become well rooted. As portions of kefir grains are passed on from person to person, it is common for the recipient of the grains to be instructed to rinse the grains with water before placing the culture in fresh milk.
Under most conditions it is not essential to rinse kefir grains. Although, fasting kefir grains in water for 12 to 24 hours, may be a useful means for individuals who are in the habit of rinsing. So, the fasting of kefir grains procedure can be used as a means to wean off of the habit of rinsing. Fasting kefir grains may be performed at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. I do not recommend fasting kefir grains for more than one day per fortnight.
The clear solution strained from fasting kefir grains in fresh water, contains kefiran, organic acids [mostly lactic acid], and a small percentage of soluble protein and amino acids. The compound solution is what I refer to as Kefiraride. The solution is slippery to the feel and has many practical uses.
TRADITIONAL KEFIR of CAUCASUS
Traditionally, in the Northern Caucasus Mountains, kefir was prepared with raw, full-cream goat or cow's milk. Fresh milk with the addition of kefir grains was kept in goatskin leather bags and fermented for 24 hours at room temperature. The content was tied off to one corner of the leather bag [where most of the grains were retained], and the kefir was separated from most of the grains by pouring the contents into a container. This produced a foaming beverage, creamy in texture and consistency with an alcohol content of approx. .5% by volume. During cold conditions, the leather bag was placed out in the sun during the day, or hung near a fireplace. It was also a custom to hang the bag near a door way, whereby visitors would give the bag a gentle nudge to rock the bag as they passed by. The latter was possibly performed as a religious ritual.
Maturation. Liquid kefir was regularly forced through a secondary fermentation. A mixture of freshly strained kefir sometimes with the addition of fresh milk and the occasional addition of the root from the Snow Rose [Rhododendron caucasicum] was poured into wooden barrels, or clay crocks. The container of choice was plugged airtight and the content was brewed for some days, forcing a secondary fermentation. This produced a highly effervecent beverage, with an increased alcohol content to pre-secondary fermentation. This form of kefir has an exceptional good keeping quality, with a substantial increase of specific Vit B group. Folic acid may increase by at least 116% after the second day of secondary fermentation. With this the ripening kefir is enjoyed as it evolves toward maturation.
Click picture to zoom in
Far left; strained kefir with added orange peel and cinnamon bark, ripening in a 10 Lt [2.5 gal] crock [day 4]. Note the formation of foam forming on the surface. Right; the mature kefir poured in a glass. This kefir has a wonderful smooth texture with a delightful creamy mouth-feel. Yes, this ripened kefir definitely satisfies the bliss-factor in good-deed !
Today, traditional kefir is cultured in multitudes of households worldwide. Unfortunately though, the ripening process explained above is not well addressed or practiced. Omitting this important process altogether, and solely consuming freshly strained kefir, or a kefir which is stored in the refrigerator, is only in part of reaping a wider spectrum of benefits, initiated by the very mysterious natural mother-culture - kefir grains
Hey! .. is this kefir?.. milk-beer?.. or what? Hiccup! kefir-moostashed-grin-gang of New Zealand
To obtain Kefir grains, please follow this link
HISTORY & RELATED INFORMATION
Kefir grains were considered a gift from Allah [God] among the Moslem tribes-people of the Northern Caucasus Mountains. Kefir has been credited with healing powers since the early eighteenth century. Kefir grains were passed from generation to generation among the tribes-people of Caucasus. These folks considered kefir grains a source of family and tribal wealth, and the secret process of kefir was closely guarded to the extend of protecting the art and the mother-culture-matrix [kefir grains], with their very lives.
In the early 1900's, the All-Russian Physicians' Society, contacted two Blandovs brothers who owned cheese factories in the northern Caucasus Mountains, for their help to obtain the kefir culture. The brothers decided to take on the challenge, and they planned to use a beautiful young woman named Irina Sakharova, to coax a Caucasian prince named Bek-Mirza Barchorov into giving her some kefir grains. Irina indeed dazzled the prince with her beauty, but the prince refused to give her any of his precious living probiotic-jewels.
However, the prince wasn't willing to giving up Irina, so he instructed some of his men to kidnapp Irina as she was returning home. Against her will, they brought Irina back to the prince's courtyard, where the prince, hoping to win her love, proposed her hand in marriage. However, Irina refused. The Blandovs, who employee Irin at their cheese-making factory, eventually rescued her. Then, backed by the two brothers, she brought her case against the prince to the Tzar's court.
The prince offered Irina gold and jewels as reparation for the crimes done against her, but she refused his offer. Instead, as a settlement of her suit against Prince Bek-Mirza Barchorov, Irina demanded, and received, probiotic jewels [Kefir grains] instead!
In late 1908, Irina Sakharova brought the first amounts of kefir to Moscow, where it was used medicinally with great success. At the age of 85, Irina, in 1973 received a letter from the Minister of the Food Industry of the former USSR, expressing grateful acknowledgment of her primary role in bringing kefir to the Russian people.
The above information was originally obtained from an unknown Web Page, which I was provided a link to in 1999. But alas, the link to the original site has since been lost in e-space, hence no reference can been provided.
KEFIR GRAINS... A GIFT FROM GOD!
While researching culture-products in general, including kefir in the early 1980's, the author came across an interesting abstract[unable to relocate the original source-material]. This explained microbiologists' many unsuccessful attempts in the spontaneous propagation of kefir grains from non-existing grains. These experiments were performed by attempting to culture pure mixed starter-cultures, prepared under laboratory conditions from organisms isolated from kefir grains. After failing to propagate kefir grains from the pure mixed-cultures, the microbiologists turned to the Caucasians, asking them how they acquire or propagated their original kefir grains. The Caucasians simply replied with something to the effect of...
"The grains were a gift from God provided to us over 1,000 years ago"... which I thought was quite an appropriate answer
It is said that the orthodox tribes-people of Northern Caucasus Mountains, were gifted kefir grains by the Prophet Mohammed while the Prophet traveled through this region approx. 1,400 years ago. It is also said these folks referred to kefir grains as The grains of the Prophet Mohammed and the culture product, kefir, The drink of the Prophet [Beatrice T. Hunter 1973]. With this, a simple and logical question comes to mind.. How or where did Prophet Mohammed acquire the original Kefir-Grains?
Until present, it is not well understood how the bio-matrix structure is created, or in fact, which specific microorganism/s are relied upon in the construction process. This mystery still seems to remain with the kefir grains. When the secret behind the intelligent-like self-organized bio-matrix micro<^>macro-system is understood, may help us to understand not only this particular bio-system, but could also help bring about a better understanding of certain diseases. These may include diseases such as tumours, carcinomas, including diseases which may involve microbial etiology [infections e.g.], to say the least.
This could also be true, not just for this one realm [the medical discipline], but could possibly open doors in other areas e.g., discovering new methods for producing unique organic/inorganic compounds, controlling biological waste, and possibly help control some forms of pollution. I can envisage e.g., a self organized micro-bio-system which my render crude oil spillage safer by utilizing crude oil to form a floating mass, synthesized by specific microbes, which may safely digest the spillage, or localize the pollutant at a refined/defined area.There may be a high possibility that understanding the mechanism behind how microbes create a bio-matrix, such as kefir grains, a system whereby the use of microbes and or viruses may be implemented in nanotechnology e.g., for producing smaller and more efficient electronic components such as Central Processor Units [CPUs] for tomorrow's computers. Until then, I'll be happy to simply enjoy the natural benefits and nutritional value of a simple glass of refreshing real-kefir. Including the benefits of sharing and ingesting excess kefir grains on a regular basis... Cheers!
NON-DAIRY KEFIRS [& WATER-KEFIR]
Apart from traditional dairy-milk fermentation, with some adjustments, milk-based kefir grains may be cultured in alternative media e.g., Soy, Seed & Nut milk or coconut milk. The natural mother-culture may also be used to prepare some interesting cultured-products, the majority of which shared throughout my Web Pages were pioneered and developed by yours truly.
There is a variety of a refreshing effervescent beverage, often referred to as Kefir d'acqua or water-kefir, which is commonly prepared with a specific variety of kefir grains, often referred to as sugary kefir grains [SGK]. Please see table below for alternate names. The grains are cultured in a 5% to 10% sugar/water solution with slices of lemon including the addition of dried fruits such as fig, apricot or raisins, to further enhance flavour with increased nutrition. SKG are small, transparent and firm mucilaginous masses, which consist of polysaccharides [dextrans] with chains made up of glucose only . Similar to traditional milk-based kefir grains, the dextrans of SKG are produced through a symbiotic relationship shared among Lactic acid bacteria and yeasts embedded within the matrix. Scientists are surprised by the ability of SKG to ferment a media poor in nitrogen and growth factor source and doing so over many years without modifying the balance between the different microorganisms . Traditional SKG have a unique opaque texture in comparison to traditional milk-based kefir grains of Caucasus. The grains are transparent and fragile; they break apart quite easily will little applied force. SKG are not gel-like in texture or white in colour; as the case is with traditional milk kefir grains of Caucasus.
On a physical level, traditional sugary-kefir-grains [SKG] are denser than traditional milk-based kefir grains of Caucasus. The latter have a slimy elastic property which is missing in the former. The former are quite delicate having a tendency to easily chip or shear with a faceted edge. These granules bounce when dropped on a solid surface, whereas milk- kefir grains will not do so, due to the gel property. The unique property of SKG are probably due to the grains being continuously subjected to moderate pressure [CO2 gas] produced due to culturing in an airtight container. Apart from Lactobaciklus casei, which is believed to condense the polysaccharide into a non-soluble form [linked, or chained dextrans made up of glucose only], the compression factor may also play a role in regards to the grain's morphology.
Transferring milk kefir grains to a water/sugar media
In early 1980, I discovered that traditional milk-based kefir grains may be transferred to a sugar/water media, to produce a suitable Kefir d'acqua or water-kefir. Milk kefir grains can produce a beverage with similar qualities as do traditional SKG. I've also discovered that alternative sugars including maltose and honey e.g., may either replace or be included with cane-sugar. Dry fruits or fresh fruits or the juice of fresh fruit may also be used. The use of fresh or dry herbs or herbal teas may be included as part ingredients [please see Kefir d'erba medica for details and recipes]. After transferring milk kefir-grains to a water-media, there is an initial lag phase of approx. 3 to 4 days. During this phase, little activity is evident as the organisms cease reproducing and fatten up, until the organisms adjust to the new source of energy [different types of sugar]. However, after the third or so batch, it should take 48 hours to culture the sugar/water-medium from that point on.
When traditional milk-based kefir grains are transferred to a sugar/water-media, after a few weeks of consecutive 48 hour batches, the grains may not successfully revert back to prepare a suitable milk-kefir. It is highly likely that the grains become non-propagable [they cease growing]. This is due to a missing bacterial component such as the encapsulated Lb. kefiranofaciens. This important microbial component is likely to become damaged after transferring milk-based kefir grains to a sugar/water media, cultured over some weeks. Although, on transferring the grains back to milk, I've observed that approx. two months of culturing with daily renewal of raw [personal preference], whole fresh milk, the grains eventually produced a form of milk-kefir with a reasonable good texture and flavour. However, the culture milk-product lacked the viscosity of traditional milk-kefir, prepared with propagable milk-kefir grains. This is highly likely due to the fact that the grains remained non-propagable throughout the culture-process. These specific milk-kefir grains were previously cultured in a water/malt/sucrose/dry fig for approx. four months, prior transferring the grains back to milk, to perform the experiment above.
Transferring sugary kefir grains to milk
When transferring translucent SKG to dairy milk, the batches prepared over the first week produced a pungent odour with an unappealing bitter flavour. Initially no curd formed after culturing for 24 and 48 hours. Although the culture-milk product stabilized as each consecutive batch was prepared over a two week period. While I observed deposits of milk-curds forming and adhering to the exterior surface of most of the SKG, the translucent character of SKG did not propagate as a white, soft, slimy texture over a ten month period, which is a typical character of traditional milk-based kefir grains. Nor was there any evidence of the gel-polysaccharide, kefiran produced, which is a typical component produced by propagable milk-based kefir grains, culture in dairy milk. This is most probably due to missing Lactic acid bacteria [LAB] component[s] such as the encapsulated Lb. kefiranofaciens, or other kefiran or kefiran-like producing LAB, native to propagable traditional kefir grains of Caucasus.
Alcohol Content of Water Kefir Prepared with Sugary Kefir Grains vs Milk-Based Kefir Grains
There are variations between alcohol content of water-kefir prepared with [5%] sugar-solution, when cultured with milk-based grains vs traditional SKG. After 48 hours, the SKG produced app .9 % alcohol by volume. On the other hand, a parallel brew prepared with recently transferred milk-kefir grains, produced app 1.9 % alcohol at 48 hours.
My HYPOTHESIS: Due to increase in biomass, in this case 122% increase by weight of SKG over a 48 hour period, a proportion of the sugar in solution was utilized by specific microbes to synthesize the dextran-based matrix from glucose, which the grains consist of. Whereas in comparison, transferred milk-based grains did not increase in biomass over a 48 hour period. So in effect, culturing water kefir with milk-based kefir grains provides a larger amount of glucose available for yeasts to convert into a greater percentage of alcohol.
Self-confessed CONCLUSION: Apart from other factors including temperature, the percentage of alcohol in water-kefir prepared with SKG, may have a direct relationship with the percentage increase in biomass of SKG.
END NOTES: SKG that I have cultured, including other individuals who culture SKG, have observed a large fluctuation regarding growth-rate of such grains. Growth increase can vary between 10% to 160% increase by weight at 48 hours, even when cultured with the same percentage of sugar/water solution [cultured at room temperature]. On the other hand, milk-based kefir grains increase at a reasonable constant rate when cultured in fresh milk. To add, many individuals including myself, have found a great potential for SKG to all of a sudden cease to propagate, and remain non-propagable, when cultured in close vicinity with milk-based kefir grains [to prepare traditional milk kefir]. I feel that this outcome is likely due to a form of contamination, where organisms of milk-based kefir grains replace certain organisms of SKG, the outcome of which damages the growth-factor of SKG.
Alternate names for Water-Kefir-Grains and Water-Kefir: California Bees, Sugary Kefir Grains, Water Kefir Crystals. Tibi or Tibicos [Latin America]. Wasserkefir or Piltz [German].Kefir di frutta [Italy]
8. The structural organization of the Tibi grains as revealed by light, scanning and transmission
microscopy. Moinas, M.; Horisberger, M.; Bauer, H.
(1980) Archives of Microbiology (128), 157-161
9. Characterization of the polysaccharide from a Lactobacillus Brevis and from sugary kefir grains. Pidoux, M.; Brillouet, J. M.; Quemener, B. Biotechnology
Letters 10 (6) 415-420 (1988) [Lab. de Genie Alimentaire, ENITTIAA, Chemin de la Geraudiere, 44072 Antes Cedex, France]
Abstract: The gel-forming polysaccharide of sugary kefir grains [11.5% of dry matter] and 1 taken from a Lb. brevis culture were identified as dextrans with some 1-Gp-3 links in the main chain, with a ratio [branched/total units] of 0.19 and 0.14, resp., [compared to] 0.07 for non-gelling polysaccharide.
COMPOSITION of MILK-BASED KEFIR GRAINS
Formalin - fixed kefir grains examined under a microscope, presented a protein/polysaccharide/lipid complex, consisting mainly of insoluble protein and neutral muco-polysaccharides. The percentage composition of freeze dried grains, with a moisture content of 3.5 % was found to be :
Total protein: 34.3%; consisting of insoluble protein 27.0%, soluble protein 1.6% and free amino acids 5.6%
A small percentage of unknown substances
Amorphous and crystalline iron was observed mostly on the grain surface. 1-5 micrometer crystals were observed also in the interior of the grain. The fashion in which the microflora is distributed over the surface of the grains, confirms the concept that kefir grains should not be rinsed with water between milk-changes during culturing.
Dmitrichenko, M.I.  Microstructure and composition of kefir grains [Lecture] pp. 43-46 [Kemerovskii Tekh. Inst. Pishchevoi Promyshlennosti, Kemerovo, former USSR]
GROWTH-CYCLE & MICROFLORA of KEFIR GRAINS
Traditional kefir grains of Caucasus is a fascinating natural mother-culture. The grains, or the matrix, is formed through the effort of a symbiotic relationship shared among the complex microflora, which render an irregular sheath, composed of protein, polysaccharide and lipid complex. The irregular fashioned sheaths usually form multiple irregular lobules covering the surface of a grain. I refer to these lobules as baby-grains, attached to a mother-grain. The irregular lobules have a natural tendency to form as self-enclosed bio-structures, having a growth-signature unique to each baby-grain [ see picture ]. Such lobules are conjoined to a common midsection radiating outwardly to form as a mother-grain [a complete grain with all lobules attached]. On appearance, the growth pattern of baby-grains share self-similarities with the mother-grain, which it forms with and is attached to. Some kefir grains also share similarity with the physical structure [morphology] of the brain, pancreas, and other internal organs [those with an interest in Doctrine of Signature may find this of some interest].
After a period of time, and possibly due to external stress or physical trauma, one or more lobular sections detach from any particular mother-grain. The smaller bodies, or baby-grains, eventually propagate into mother-grains, by increasing in overall size, with multiple lobules forming. This growth-cycle simply repeats, to continue the ongoing process in a similar fashion. This is self-propagation. Some kefir grains may not shed baby-grains for some months, and in some instances for up to a year or longer. Such grains may instead form into one large biomass or one massive kefir grain, retaining all lobular bio-structures. This can occur if the physical makeup of such grains is firm, due to certain culture conditions, and the grains are not subjected to hash physical trauma during the straining process. In such cases, sections of baby-grains may be removed from a large mother-grain, by dissecting the grain by hand [see this animation for details of the operation].
Although in such cases, large kefir grains may eventually shed all the baby-grains in a relatively short period of time. This is to say that the majority of baby-grains will spontaneously detach from the mother-grains within a 2 month period, as a common example. This process occurs as each individual baby-grain's umbilical cord-like section, which attaches the lobule to the mother-grain, reduces in circumference. Then, eventually, this section of the matrix becomes thin and weak, which makes conditions favourable for a baby-grain to spontaneously detach from the mother-ship, with ease. And if this process happens to all the attached lobules in a relatively short period, then the specific batch of grains will comprise of numerous small kefir grains. In fact, weigh for weight, a batch of grains consisting of individual smaller grains may increase weight by 200% more efficiently than a batch made up of one large kefir grain, or overall larger grains. This may be due to a larger surface area that small grains make up [or take up in the media]. Or possibly that smaller grains produce and release larger proportions of kefiran in the milk, which is freely available for the microflora to create the matrix.
External surface area of each grain may vary from smooth areas, with areas of diverse irregularity, containing arrays of irregular small rounded protrusions, randomly scattered over the exterior surface. The surface texture of certain grains may be smooth, while other grains from the same batch may exhibit a greater proportion of surface area, which is covered with multiple irregular protrusions. Other grains from the same batch may exhibit a mixture of both surface-textures. Although less common, some kefir grains may propagate as an irregular flat sheath. Or mother-grains may shed a baby-grain as an irregular flat structure. These outcomes are mostly determined by culture conditions, and if conditions are favourable, after a period of time, any flat grains usually revert and transform into self-enclosed grains. Such a transformation may take some months to occur. I've observed that batches of kefir grains cultured in whole raw goat or cow's milk, mostly propagate with smooth, well rounded lobular structures [balloon-like]. While kefir grains cultured with pasteurized milk and at cooler temperatures mostly propagate with many tiny protrusions covering most of the exterior surface of each grain. Seasonal changes [or temperature variation] may also incur a swing between one form of growth-texture to another. The type of medium, temperature and the amount of time that the grains are left in the same milk, all these factors influence growth-structure activity of kefir grains.
Some observations suggest surface areas consisting of vast irregularity or roughness, contain higher yeast activity. While smoother areas are mainly where bacteria predominate. Yeasts and bacteria cells, particularly yeasts, seem to form large surface concentration [micro-colonies] along the protrusions over the surface; streptococci seem to intertwine with other bacteria, without forming colonies. Research suggests internal structure of the grains show a predominance of Lactobacilli with few yeasts; cells are not bound to one another but encapsulated within a muco-polysaccharide believed to be produced by the encapsulated microorganisms . Other research suggests stained sections of grains studied under a microscope, showed that yeasts were mainly located on the edge of the internal cavities, and occasionally along the peripheral channels of the matrix. While the exterior was mainly occupied by bacteria .
Short and long rod-shaped bacteria and yeast, formed separate colonies both on the outside and inside of the grain. Internally, filaments of encapsulated cells, extending outwardly from a population of long rod-shaped bacteria. One microorganism in particular, Lb. kefiranofaciens is found to be responsible for the formation of the soluble polysaccharide, Kefiran. This research suggests that the encapsulated bacteria may be responsible for the propagation of kefir grains . The reason for this conclusion seems to be due to the fact that propagation of the grains will not occur [non-propagable grains] in the absence of Lb. kefiranofaciens, which produces kefiran in the centre of the grain, under aerobic conditions and in the presents of ethanol alcohol.
DO NON- PROPAGABLE KEFIR GRAINS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO PRODUCE AN AUTHENTIC KEFIR?
Suggestions exist, surmising that non-propagable kefir grains retain kefir-producing capacity , which I personally disagree with [please see this picture of non-propagable kefir grains]. As an example, I've observed that a Kombucha S.C.O.B.Y. [a natural mother-culture or pellicle used for preparing the Kombucha beverage] was able to culture a similar culture-milk beverage, as do non-propagable kefir grains [please see this experiment at 42 months, which may also suggest the possibility of how kefir grains came to exist]. Would it be fair to suggest that the unique culture-beverage, cultured with the KKH [explained in the experiment linked above] is able to produce an authentic kefir? Even though, initially, kefir grains plus a Kombucha S.C.O.B.Y. were cultured together [as a mixed-culture] for 30 months, to produce a cultured-milk product? At present, the KKH produces a product with similar character and properties to an authentic kefir. However, the Kombucha S.C.O.B.Y. could have been replaced for pieces of leather hide in the experiment explained above, and with some certainty, one could predict that the end result [the culture-beverage] would be quite similar as in the experiment above. There was no evidence that kefiran, which is the essential component of propagable kefir grains, was produced by the microflora, which colonized the KKH [or which may colonize the pseudo-leather parts of my shoes for that matter].
The nature of wild microbes have the ability to colonize structures or materials having a porous nature, such as non-propagable kefir grains, Kombucha S.C.O.B.Y, terra cotta pots, wooden barrels, and yes, including leather hide. If kefiran is not produced due to a damaged component e.g., Lb. kefiranofaciens [as with non-propagable kefir grains], then, the specific kefiran produced by this particular encapsulated organism is absent in the final cultured-milk. With this, it is reasonable to suggest that cultured-milk beverages produced with non-propagable kefir grains, shouldn't be classified as true authentic kefir. However, such culture-products are in parallel with commercially-prepared pseudo-kefir, cultured with lab-prepared pure mixed starter-cultures. And to add, even a custom prepared mother-culture, as with KKH, or in fact, non-propagable kefir grains for that matter, these have an advantage over lab prepared starters, being that the former have the capacity to produce a culture-milk product, on an ongoing basis, without any loss of variability of the organisms involved in the fermentation process. On the other hand, lab prepared pure mixed-starters lack viability, and only have the capacity to culture no more than seven or so batches, before the culture begins to fail [see below for details regarding Bacteriophage infection].
Kefir grains have been described by Russian dairy technologists as a natural-starter and depending on the source and more importantly, culture conditions, the microbial composition can certainly vary [13, 15]. This, I understand, is not well accepted, or understood by Western counterparts, in concluding something like, These little critters have a mind of their own, which we want to control, but which we are unable to, as a typical attitude. I guess though, that minds shall be minds.. in the wild-wild west. A similar attitude or outlook, has recently influenced dairy-food technicians working in countries such as, as an example, Russia and Poland. Formerly, actual kefir grains were implemented in the culture-process to produce a commercial kefir for sale in these counties. Due to modern-day intervention, today, most, if not all commercially produced kefir around the world, commercially prepared pure mixed starter-cultures are implemented in the process, replacing actual kefir grains to mass produce the culture-product [and such culture-milk-products are sold under the name of Kefir. What have we let become of us?].
For many reasons today, the development and implementation of commercially prepared pure mixed starter-cultures for producing what I refer to as, Kefir-like or Pseudo- kefir have surfaced over recent years [on a commercial level]. I feel that these forms of kefir, including the starter-culture, should not be classified as authentic kefir, or authentic kefir-cultures. Especially if traditional kefir grains are not used in the actual culturing process, i.e. not in constant direct contact with fresh milk during the culture-process [for producing a commercial kefir-product]. Without culturing with actual kefir grains, instead, using commercially prepared starter-cultures, many of the natural properties, which only kefir grains produce, contain and release into the media, may not be found in the commercial product e.g., the water-soluble polysaccharides including kefiran This includes the kefir grains themselves, which research have proven reduce the size of tumours when ingested by mice. Not to mention recent findings evaluated the anti-inflammatory properties of kefir grains . Any potential protective agent/s, which seem to inhibit certain pathogens or weed organisms, may also be missing from such cultures and their culture-products. Not to omit that commercial cultures loose the power to culture if the same culture is recycled to a fresh media [batch-culture]. Until we can spontaneously propagate kefir grains from non-existing grains, then not enough is known about any disadvantages, by attempting to culture a form of kefir, without the use of actual kefir grains as the actual mother-culture.
For more information re commercial starter- cultures Vs kefir-grains, please go to From Us, to The Kefir-Novice section situated below.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE CONTAMINATED IS NOT THE QUESTION!
Till current date, I have yet to come across reported cases where consuming homemade traditional kefir has caused health a problem, but to the contrary. Although there are some concerns shared among dairy technologists regarding certain species of microbes isolated from specific batches of kefir grains [or the kefir itself], obtained from different regions or countries around the world. With this though, there was no evidence to suggest that there was a health problem issue, due to consuming kefir made with such grains. These mainly concern commercial kefir-producers, who wish to use kefir grains for the production of traditional kefir for sale in the marketplace. The fact that governing bodies implementing and enforcing regulations stipulated laws via Codes of Practice which restrict numbers of coliforms or other objectionable organisms and compounds in food-products intended for sale.
Possibly due to lack of specific knowledge by modern-day microbiologists regarding kefir grains, the outcome is that certain grains are classified as being contaminated. This so-called contamination could actually be favourable as a protective agent for the host. When culturing kefir with kefir grains, the contaminating microorganisms are inhibited or controlled usually to extremely low numbers, in comparison to the numbers or organisms of the microflora as a whole. These microbes were not found to overpopulate the media or the grains themselves. In fact, in some earlier papers, procedures are explained, which include suggestions and methods to minimize and control possible problems that may arise during commercial kefir-production. E.g., it was noted that coliform counts fell as the kefir became more acidic [Babina, NA. et al. 1975 ]. This is in regards to commercial dairy-plants implementing kefir grains intended as a mother-culture to prepare starter- cultures, in order to inoculate large volumes of milk. It was common to use 1 to 5 % kefir grains to prepare the initial starter, which 2% to 5% was used to inoculate 98% to 95% freshly pasteurized milk respectively. Unlike prepared kefir at home, where up to 30% kefir grains are commonly used to prepare traditional kefir. In the former, the probability for contamination due to obviously less amounts of starter used, including implementing multiple steps and procedures, all of which increase the chance for contamination.
Recent research has revealed that kefir grains cultured in a media containing Escherichia coli [coliforms] inhibited the growth of this organism. In fact, it was observed that certain batches of grains completely halted the growth of Escherichia coli for at least 25 hours .
In the commercial dairy and food industry, coliform counts are used to determine possible contamination; due to faecal matter and or improper handling, processing and storage of food or milk and equipment etc. These microbes are also part of a healthy intestinal microflora, including other organs, similar to Candida albicans. As is the case regarding counts of C. albicans kept in check in a healthy host, coliform counts seem to be kept in check, if found in certain batches of kefir grains. These microbes and yeasts are and always will be part of our environment, both externally and or internally. The secret to a healthy balance lies in keeping these microbes and yeasts in check, either by the auto-immune system or other bio-control-systems. This includes friendly microbes and yeasts which are endorsed with certain protective properties. When consuming traditional kefir, the protective properties may be propagated in the gastrointestinal tract, to become part of, or enhance the present microflora therein. Ingesting kefir grains on a regular basis may also be a protective agent for the host, either due to the natural protective chemical compounds of the grains, or by the grains inducing a beneficial auto-immune response in the host, which may help to keep certain pathogens under control [16,17]. In turn, maintaining a healthy balance in that specific bio-system [or for the host if you wish].
Westerners have a tendency to keep their surrounding environment and foods as clean as possible [too clean for our own good in fact]. Recent research suggests that people living in countries with less hygienic environments than their Western counterpart, have less incidences regarding certain infections [e.g., Gastritis or Gastroenteritis including allergies]. This is possibly due to the population in these countries being subjected to certain amounts of pathogenic microbes [or virruses] on a relatively constant basis, especially early on in life. In relative speaking terms, the auto-immune system gets a good workout [use it, or loose it]. Ingesting smaller numbers of coliforms, with larger counts or proportions of vast strains of friendly lactobacilli and yeasts [as in the case of so called contaminated kefir grains], may decrease the likelihood of contracting certain or specific infections, including the prevention of allergenic response.
THE MICROFLORA OF KEFIR GRAINS
A vast variety of different species of organisms have been isolated and identified in kefir grains. Such species are among four genus groups; Lactobacilli, Streptococci - Lactococci, Acetobacter and Yeasts. The microorganisms and yeasts share a symbiotic relationship, which in short means, they survive or propagate by sharing their byproducts as an energy source or growth-stimulating source [u 4 I + I 4 u ... a balanced relationship]. Bacteriocin may also be present, especially if the appropriate strains of lactic acid bacteria are present in the grains .
Batches of kefir grains obtained from various sources usually vary in microflora composition. In fact, the microflora from the same batch of kefir grains will vary during different seasons or due to culture-conditions [adapting to the environment]. This localized-adaptation may possibly encourage, or bring with it, a localized-protection for the consumer, sharing that specific environment with the grains and their microflora. More research definitely needs to be carried out in order to gain more of an understanding at a scientific level. Although, my intuition, in communion with logic tell me, that I may well be on a correct path of thought/feeling.
After all, Caucasians who consumed large amounts of kefir, are renowned for their longevity and healthy constitution. I'm sure the milk that these tribes-people gathered from their milking animals, contained coliform counts, due to milking conditions! These people are often classified as centenarians, in that many are known to live to over 100 years young. Not forgetting that these people were also known to ingest actual kefir grains on a regular basis - which I feel is the key-factor to their longevity [the former is not very well addressed today]!
< To behold, or not to behold a cheeky wrinkled-grin >
Typical Microflora Isolated from Batches of Kefir Grains Divided into Four Genus Groups
Lactococci lactis subsp. lactis
Units Count of Microbes in Gram Stained Kefir Grains
Bacilli [single cells, pair, chains]
The Means Range
Bacilli 66, 62-69%
Encyclopaedia of Food Science, Food Technology and Nutrition  [pp. 1804-1808] Edited by R.
Macrae, R.K. Robinson, M.J. Sadler
Opportunistic sites that have taken the material above, without my permission [Plagiarism shall be exposed... please read copyright notice below]:
http://www.kefir.com.au/9A_microflora.html If it is so that "any publicity is good publicity", then take it as a favour that I have included a link to the webpage in question.
END NOTES: Candida albicans has never been isolated in kefir grains, for conditions make it impossible for this particular opportunistic yeast to flourish. Certain yeasts of kefir include Candida as part of the nomenclature [name]. These yeasts are not opportunistic yeasts such as C. albicans, but instead have been classified as Generally Regarded As Safe [GRAS]. Such yeasts may in fact have the potential to keep C. albicans in check in the host.
10. Molska, I. ; Kocon, J. ; Zmarlicki, S.  Electron microscopy studies on structures and microflora of kefir grains. Acta Alimentaria Polonica. 6 (3) 145-154 [Dep. of Food Tech., Warsaw Agric. Univ. Warsaw, Poland]
11. Toba, T.; Arihara, K.; Adachi, S.  Distribution of microorganisms with particular reference to encapsulated bacteria in kefir grains.International Journal of Food microbiology. 10 (3/4) 219-224. [Lab. Of Anim. Products Tech., Fac. Of Agric., Tohoku Univ., Tsutsumidori-Amamiyamachi 1-1, Aobaku, Sendai 981, Japan]
12. Microorganisms in Processing of Dairy Products [pp. 284]
13. Encyclopaedia of food science, food technology, and nutrition  [pp. 1804-1808] Edited by R. Macrae, R.K. Robinson, M.J. Sadler
14. Rosi, J.  Kefir micro-organisms: yeasts. Scienza e Tecnica Lattiero-Casearia 29 (2) pp. 59-67
15. Garrote Graciela L., Abraham Analia G., De Antoni Graciela L. Chemical and microbiological characterisation of kefir grains.Journal of dairy research vol. 68, No 4 , pp. 639 - 652
Other Links of Interest:
Kefir grain microflora [By Dr. Miloslav Kaláb]. Wonderful high quality Micrographs of kefir grains revealing microflora.
EXPANDING the USE of KEFIR & KEFIR GRAINS
This section presents a general idea of many years of work in expanding the use for kefir grains and kefir, to prepare many unique wholesome products. Each product is reasonably simple and easy to prepare. Follow the links provided for each product below, which will take you to the appropriated web page with recipes. Enjoy the journey these newly found probiotic-wonderlands may venture you.
Kefir Cottage Cheese : Similar to traditional cottage-style fresh cheese. A fresh sweet curd prepared with fresh milk coagulated with kefir. Like all cheeses developed by yours truly, this cheeses is no exception and is 100% rennet free.
Kefir Mascarpone : A rich creamy fresh cheese with a taste and texture similar to the Italian Mascarpone, and also similar to Smetana, a favourate sour cream of Russia.
Kefir-Leban : The natural process of strained fresh kefir in a cloth produces this fresh sour curd cheese. Kefir-Leban is similar to Labneh of the Middle East. A 100%% rennet free fresh sour curd.
Kefir- Straightjacket : A kefir-cheese dip or spread made from draining kefir [as in Kefir-Leban above] then adding other ingredients for a taste sensation that many people have gone crazy #@|@# for. The selected ingredients also help to keep the microbes in this fresh live cheese, viable, even during storage... it only gets better! A probiotic fresh cheese-dip, come spread, come pizza topping... come on down and make these for yourself!
Kefir Pizza : A wholemeal pizza made from a kefir sourdough starter [used for making the dough rise], topped with generous dollops of Kefir-Straightjacket cheese and other ingredients... get into that kitchen and rattle those pizza pans!
Kefirlac : A fermented grain drink using kefir grains and sprouted grains. This is an extension of Rejuvelac which is similar to Kvass [Russia].
Kefir d'acqua : Or water-kefir prepared with either milk-based kefir grains or the common method using traditional translucent water kefir grains.The sugar-water-media more commonly used is explained with my own rendition to the recipe.
Kefir d' erba medica : Probiotic herbal teas. This is an extension to kefir d'acqua
Kefir d'uva : This is another extension to kefir d'acqua cultured with grape juice instead of lemon juice, water and sugar.
Kefir d'pollin : This is a water- kefir with the addition of bee pollen included. This recipe may help to unlock many nutrients, which through normal digestion are mostly unavailable from bee pollen. This limitation is due to the indigestible cell-wall of each pollen cell. When including bee pollen in a water- kefir, the enzyme-rich medium may help to at least partially break down the cell walls of pollen cells, so our own digestion may then be able to further breakdown and absorb the nutrients found within pollen- cells.
Kefir Recipes : A few recipes to try, including The Butterfly [Fruit juice + kefir beverage], the Water Butterfly [water-kefir + kefir beverage] and the Kefir Charmer [kefir-smoothie]. Great for introducing kefir to children or to fussier taste buds... shneeky-he-he-heee!
Kefir Preserving Brine [KPB] : I also discovered that kefir can be made into a brine, which may then be used as a natural preservative to prolong the shelf life of certain perishable foods [stored under low temperatures]. Fresh cheeses such as Bocconcini. Tofu, cooked or raw legumes and other perishables enjoy a longer shelf life due to controlled fermentation.
Application using kefir grains for treating infected wounds: I've discovered that kefir grains may be effective in treating certain infections such as Ulcers when applied topically to the affected area. I've observed this in both man and beast alike. I've also removed warts by applying a kefir grain topically onto warts, [both planter and the common wart caused by the Human Papilloma Virus [HPV].
Implementing kefir grains with medicinal herbs to treat Ulcerative Colitis [UC] and Crohn's Disease [CD] : This is a link to a word document, which explains how to implement kefir grains with medicinal herbs to correct Irritable Bowel Disease [IBD] such as UC and CD.
WHERE TO OBTAIN REAL KEFIR GRAINS
Kefir grains may be obtained from me if you so desire. My personal stock are a mixture of eight different batches of kefir grains obtained from different sources around the world over the years. The grains are cultured with Certified Organic goat's milk, or Certified Bio-dynamic whole cow's milk, depending on the availability of Goat's milk, which I personally prefer using. Currently it is not possible to obtain traditional sugary kefir grains to prepare traditional water-kefir from me. Milk kefir grains are supplied with a copy of my 36 page manual; Kefir! A Probiotic Gem Cultured with Probiotic Jewels: Kefir Grains!
Although this is not a current business venture for financial profit, costs to provide the individual with the invaluable rare mother-culture with a copy of the manual, do need to be covered. Funds shall also secure that this site remains as an invaluable resource for information, designed to enrich the sharing of knowledge in a non-commercial environment [notice no commercial banners throughout my site]. Kefir grains can be shipped to most locations on mother-earth.
For order details please send me an e-mail Please include country of origin with any inquiry to receive appropriate details. And please be patient with my reply, for I may not always reply the same day and it may take some days to get back to you. And since the arrival of our daughter, Shedea-Nardu, fatherhood and co-caring for Shedea-Nardu has been a priority in recent months. We hope you share your understanding and your support.
Paris Creek Bio-dynamic farm is the supplier of Bio-dynamic, non-homogenized whole cow's milk which we use to culture our kefir, when organic goat's milk is not available.
It may be possible to obtain kefir grains through two lists on the Internet; Kefir_making [K_m] or Real_Kefir_Making [RKM]. These two web-based world-communities were initiated by yours truly, with the aim of having members share excess kefir grains with individuals wanting to obtain the culture. See the following section below for details.
It may also be possible to track down a source for kefir grains at this database: Clarkson kefir
There is also a source for real kefir grains in the USA, from Betty Stechmyer at G.E.M. Cultures, California: http://www.gemcultures.com/
As Betty once explained to me, "... Our Home, is our Love, is our business." God Bless you, and your works, Betty!
NOTE: When seeking kefir grains, be equipped with some facts firmly secured under your kefir-hat, by reading this section below :o)
On December 4, 1999, was the initiation of a noncommercial world community at Yahoo! groups, known to as "Kefir_making" [K_m]. On October 13, 2002, a new community list was initiated at Yahoo! groups, known as Real_Kefir_Making [RKM]. At either of these two lists, members have the opportunity to locate a source of kefir grains in their local area. Members also enjoy the giving and the sharing of not just their kefir grains, but also tips and other kefir related information. There is also a vast amount of information regarding kefir and other culture-products found in the archives of K_m. This includes photos, abstracts and links, which take up too much space on my server. Please note that K_m is generally open topic wise, while RKM is more on topic regarding kefir as the main subject of discussion. K_m is quite active, whereas RKM is less active regarding the volume of posts including member numbers.
Feel free to visit Kefir_making for further details.
Please note: Free subscription is essential in order to post messages to both lists or to view files and bookmarks etc. To subscribe, simply click the links to either list below:
And the new list dedicated to the art of culturing kefir, titled Real_Kefir_Making [RKM]. This particular list is not open to the general public so subscription is essential in order to read archives of post to the list.
Click to join Real_Kefir_Making
Or go to Real_Kefir_Making for further details.
May the good sister-ships K_m and RKM thrive on goodwill, and goodwill be the inspirational force between sharing and learning about the good-art of culturing REAL kefir!
We hope to e-see you there ;o)
FROM US to the KEFIR-NOVICE
NOVICE SPECIAL NOTICE: Because dom ingests US kefir grains, WE have decided to revolt, by taking mutiny of dom's faculties as OUR main-course of action. So, bearing with this in mind, WE kefir grains hereby declare that dom's faculties are now under OUR control. From here on, it is US kefir grains navigating the slimy typing--and NOT dom. So please, sit back, relax and enjoy what WE have to share.
WE kefir grains wish to educate newcomers to kefir, without excluding those so thought to be "in the know". With your undivided attention, we shall focus on some common issues, which appear to be causing confusion among the many among the masses. Before we move on though, please splash your screen with fresh milk, for US kefir grains are hungry. That was very kind of you.. thank you ..
... Firstly and foremostly Kefir should not be mistaken for Yogurt [now how was that for an opening line, brown cow?!]. These two culture-milk products are quite unique to each other. Kefir is cultured with US kefir grains; the only natural-motherof milk-cultures known to people. In fact, WE are an ancient natural mother-culture. WE kefir grains, including the actual kefir produced by US grains fermenting fresh milk, contain lactic acid bacteria [LAB] including streptococci, lactococci, Acetobacter [acetic acid bacteria] and yeasts; some strains of yeasts can utilize lactose [they breakdown lactose]. The vast species of organisms among these four genus groups is what make up OUR unique, complex and self-organizing microflora. However, yogurt does not contain yeasts or acetobacter bacteria, nor does yogurt contain anywhere near the numbers of different strains and types of organisms, which make up the wide spectrum of OUR microflora.
Kefir is a culture-milk beverage; and not a thick curd such as what comes as yogurt. This picture demonstrates the liquid-curd of kefir in a cup.
WE kefir grains have the ability to culture traditional kefir, with raw unpasteurized OR pasteurized milk. And WE can culture kefir at ambient temperature too. In true essence, WE make the culture-process for preparing kefir, very simple, inexpensive and flexible, for WE are quite capable and happy to prepare kefir with any milk-type of YOUR CHOICE. Including any type of commercially available dairy milk [including non dairy milk types, such as coconut milk and soymilk]. This provides the individual with the option to choose e.g., Certified Bio-dynamic milk or Organic milk with any amount of fat content, for WE shall prepare a traditional kefir with unsurpassed quality within 24 hours.. day in, and day out.
On the other hand, commercial yogurt cultures, including commercial kefir starter-cultures available today, are quite limited regarding the capacity to batch-culture [ferment batches with a small amount of previous culture added to fresh ingredients] on an continuous basis. Such starter-cultures ONLY have the capacity to prepare kefir [or yogurt] with freshly pasteurized [sterilized through heating] milk. In the case with yogurt, the inoculated milk MUST be incubated between 8 to 12 hours, at temperatures ranging between 37° C to 45° C [97°-113° F]. Bearing in mind that an incubator is essential in order to maintain these temperatures; and incubators cost money to purchase and to run. This is because of the few strategically selected organisms selected for commercial starters, simply lack the ability to culture at ambient [room] temperature.
However, WE kefir grains have the capacity to propagate, AND the ability to culture traditional kefir at wide temperature spectrum, ranging anywhere between 4° C to 35° C [39° F - 98° F]. This comes natural for US, mostly because of the fact that OUR microflora has developed a high order of self-organization due to US evolving in raw milk, cultured at ambient temperature, doing so over many centuries. In effect, US kefir grains have the muscle needed to get the job done - and done right at that.. a simple cool fact.
Traditional authentic kefir CAN NOT be cultured with commercially available kefir starter-cultures often referred to as kefir-starters or kefir starter-cultures. Such commercially available starters come prepackaged, mostly in powder form. As such, these are not US kefir grains, but instead, are an inferior starter-culture, designed to exploit OUR good name and long standing good reputation. Similarly to yogurt cultures, commercial kefir starter-cultures simply lack the ability to culture unpasteurized raw milk. In simple terms, this can be put down to the fact that the native microflora of raw milk out-competes the organisms of commercial starter-cultures-- and as a result, the commercial starter ends up loosing the battle for nutrients by the first round.
To current date, it is impossible to spontaneously propagate US kefir grains, from non existing gains. Or by attempting to culture any form of commercial kefir in n n attempt to culture kefir grains from such culture-products; this includes commercially prepared kefir starter-cultures. Such culture-products can not propagate US kefir grains...
... because of this fact, US kefir grains can only be propagated from EXISTING, PROPAGABLE KEFIR GRAINS. So one needs to initially obtain US, in order to propagate more of US, while preparing traditional authentic kefir WITH US [no grain = no grains = no gain]
Please take a short break and splash your screen with more fresh milk, for all of this maneuvering of dom's faculties has made US quite hungry and thirsty. While you're there, please take this opportunity to enjoy a glass of traditional kefir. And don't go crying over spilled milk, well, not unless it's trad-kefir. Thank you.
With any type of non-genetically modified commercial lactic acid starter-cultures available today, a point comes whereby the organisms SHALL eventually fail to culture. One of the main reasons for commercial starter-culture failure, is due to a specific virus infection, referred to as Bacteriophage infection. Each specific type of phage virus can only infect, or target a specific strain of [susceptible] lactic acid bacteria [LAB]. Phage viruses cause infection by the virus injecting its chromosome or RNA into the LAB cell. The infected bacterium then becomes a virus producing factory, producing within each infected cell numerious new viruses. Eventually, the cell wall of the infected LAB ruptures [lyse], releasing multiple numbers of newly created viruses. Needless to say that lyse destroys the LAB in the process. So,within a short period of time, the once large population of LAB are lost in the process. In this way, Bacteriophage infection is also responsible for the loss in potency of commercial kefir-starters. It is quite common batch-culturing seven or so batches of pseudo-kefir, the commercial starter is unable to culture further more batches. This is when it becomes inevitable for the consumer to purcha$e a refresher pack from the culture-vendor.
In effect, phage viruses have a positive edge; leaning towards the financial benefit of starter-culture-venders. On the other hand, once obtaining US kefir grains, WE do not ask you to go running to any vender to purchase more kefir grains. If simply care is observed and followed accordingly, WE have the ability to outlive YOU, including the potential to outlive your children and their children's' children. Yes, not only do WE make the preparation of real, traditional kefir simple, affordable and quite flexible, WE also have the ability to forward these gifts on to your future generations, so that they may enjoy similar benefits
The limited diversity among the species of organisms strategically selected to prepare commercial starter-cultures today, is a limiting-factory in its own right. However, with US kefir grains, any particular strain, or type strain of organism[s] among OUR microflora, has the capability to overcome many limiting factors. Including being endorsed with a natural protection against phage infecting agents [immunity]. In the event that any one particular strain of organism among OUR species may fail, there is a great chance that another strain, or type strain, has high probability to prevail; carrying with it, survive mechanisms in future generations [or progeny]. This can basically be put down to the vastness in the types of organisms and the complexity among OUR self organizing microflora. And to further add, because US kefir grains understand proactive workable relationships, WE have the ability to adopt local wild friendly organisms, native to your area. Such adopted organisms may then become part of OUR extensive family.. all sharing the accommodation of the abode of the friendly microbe i.e. US kefir grains. It brings advantages for OUR microflora, if the adopted organism[s] come readily equipped with resistance to infecting agents, such as phage viruses etc.
This is one of the main reasons why WE kefir grains have successfully propagated over so many centuries, and in the hands of peoples at that!
If the individual's health and well-being, even be it in part, is a reflection of what the individual consumes.. then it is reasonable to prefer, and to demand, a natural, traditional culture-product. Especially one which has stood up to the test of time such as traditional kefir grains and the culture-product that WE produce.. AUTHENTIC TRADITIONAL KEFIR!
To produce commercial culture-products, such as commercial kefir including kefir-starters intended for sale, there are specific Codes Of Practice, which Commercial producers and retailers have to abide by, by Law. In certain countries, or states of, such codes of practice stipulate specific restrictions regarding what is, and what is not allowed in food-products or starter-cultures intended for sale.
To give as an example, WE quote the Californian Food And Agricultural Code, Section 38871: "Market milk or market milk combined with nonfat milk from market milk, with or without added market milk solids, flavoring, or seasoning, which is certified raw milk or has been pasteurized and afterwards fermented by Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus caucasicus may be sold as kefir, reduced-fat kefir, low fat or light (lite) kefir, or nonfat, skim, or fat-free kefir, or such names as may be characteristic for the product and approved by the secretary. The product may contain harmless edible stabilizers not to exceed six-tenths of 1 percent. It shall contain no more than 10 coliform bacteria per gram and shall be free of molds, yeasts, and other fungi, and other objectionable bacteria that may impair the quality of the product."
The code above clearly stipulates that kefir intended for sale must be free of yeasts and fungi. And yet, yeasts are one of the essential components of traditional authentic kefir. To shine the limelight back on OUR favourite subject, i.e. talking about US kefir grains, WE quote the following research to clarify:
Sub-Abstract: "578 samples of kefir grains were examined bacteriologically in the Moscow, Irkutsk, Tula, Stavropol' and Kuibyshev dairy factories".... "On direct observation through microscopy, lactic acid, streptococci and yeast cells should always be detected."
Sub-Abstract: "When kefir was made from grains with yeast; lactic acid bacteria ratios 1:5.6, 1:15 [traditional culture] and 1:46, increasing or decreasing the proportion of yeast in the grains resulted in flavour defects."
In many situations, codes of practice such as the FAA Code Section 38871 quoted above, with little doubt, strategically overlook such simple facts provided by much research. Instead, such codes of practice have placed a strangle hold on the possibility for the use of US kefir grains to be implemented for the production of authentic traditional kefir, intended for sale. However so, this sits just fine with US.
Alas, WE feel that most if not all natural, traditional culture-products of yesteryear, are extremely challenging to mass-produce for the marketplace. Not without adulterating the product for product name $ake. This seems to be the case with traditional-authentic-kefir. WE kefir grains, a Gift from God for the common everyday person. That is if you so wish to receive such kefir-jewels as a gift as such.
OUR CHALLANGE FOR COMMERCIAL-PRODUCT PRODUCERS
Before WE hand over dom's faculties back to him, we would like to leave you with this challenge. WE kefir grains feel that if folks have the ability and the right to pioneer or develop a unique culture-milk starter and or culture-milk product intended for sale, a respectful option is to provide the unique culture-product a unique name for it to be sold by, rather than simply steel or borrow an existing name which is already taken for what WE are [KEFIR GRAINS], and what WE produce [KEFIR]. This should be quite simple to accomplish. WE challenge your creativity, your honesty including your ignorance! By this, it should at least prevent the misleading conception about commercial kefir or commercial kefir starters. It is to your advantage to take this as guidance.
We hereby give notice that as of the end of this here notice, WE shall hand over all of dom's faculties back to dom. It was a pleasure having you and thank you for having and sharing US, dom.
<-[ Chew n'gulp!... Hhmm... nice tasting kefir grains. Hey! hang on a tick with a pair of tweezers! I don't recall typing the above section?! And what's with all this milk running down my monitor ? ]->
WHO PUT "REAL" with "KEFIR" ON THE INTERNET?
It has been over 6 years since I began to use the word real, in conjunction with Kefir on the Internet, when explaining this fine art of culturing traditional kefir. I use the word real, with the intention to try and bring about clarity to the masses, regarding the differences between using actual kefir grains Vs the use of implementing man-made [commercially prepared] starter cultures for culturing milk to produce real, authentic, traditional kefir.
Over recent time, the word real has become quite a loose fitting term, used by certain commercial enterprises, whereby exploiting their [particularly] non kefir-grain product for sale, which are readily available in today's marketplace. However, I feel that because traditional kefir does not enjoy any real protection under any Foods and Drug Administration, or similar governing body, then any company can use the term real, really loosely, and cleverly too. If one had no real sound knowledge of what real kefir making is all about, then certain commercial enterprises could take consumers for a real ride. Unless kefir-culture-vendors state that their commercial culture-product actually contains REAL KEFIR GRAINS, when explaining their product, then one could be correct in assuming that certain companies are in fact be selling man-made, commercially prepared, pure mixed starter-cultures... and not actual kefir grains.
The key to look out for here is, that Kefir Grains HAVE to be the actual starter-culture.. and not just a few microbes isolated from kefir grains, which are then incorporated in the process of preparing any pure, mixed starter-culture. Anything else with the phrase real kefir or real kefir grains etc. may imply that the microbes used to prepare the commercially prepared starter-cultures, may have originated from real kefir grains. But such organisms, unless these are within, and left intact with propagable kefir grains themselves, will not culture a real kefir, but instead shall produce pseudo-kefir. It may well have been yours truly, who may have put the word real in conjunction with kefir on the Internet, to help explain traditional kefir-making. However, certain companies seem to be using this phrase to sell their pseudo-kefir-making kits and caboodle's too. So consumer, please try and be aware of these facts and or fallacies.
My current understanding is that, as an industry-standard, commercially produced kefir-like products, the quality of the product is determined by comparing it with the quality of traditional-kefir prepared with traditional kefir grains!
This goes without saying; for what else would an artist use as a model to paint a portrait of an apple? [Thanx for the pointer, Basirah!]
As a result of my research and personal experience, kefir grains produce a superior authentic culture-milk product with unmatched qualities. However, everything has its place in the marketplace; even misleading *miss-no-mass aimed at mass-distraction.
*Insidentlee, I do know how to spell misnomers, nor does anyone have to know whether I'm joking or being serious-- this includes me [whom did I just quote, using my interpretation of the original quote?]
The Most Significant Bit left for Last but not the Least Significant Bit
Ingesting kefir grains on a regular basis, as performed by the original masters of kefir, in my opinion, is a must-do if one wishes to gain optimum benefits of the kefir-ritual as a whole. Most research performed to date, which shows much promise, has been performed with actual kefir grains or the polysaccharide Kefiran, which kefir grains produce, consist of and release in the media [extensive research has not been carried out with actual real-kefir]. One cannot ingest kefir grains if one doesn't have kefir grains to begin with, in order to propagate more grains from!
Taking this to another level: Initial interest in kefir came about when the famous Russian scientist, Professor Mechinkov, learned of the long-life-span, which the Caucasian tribes-people enjoyed. It was believed that kefir was an important link for these people to enjoy such a long-life-span. Although, if one neglects the fact that these people did in fact ingest kefir grains on a regular basis [as a kefir-ritual in whole], then AN, or THE important ingredient may be missing from the long-life-soup!
Out of all the culture-products known and prepared to date, kefir grains and traditional-kefir stand in a unique class of their own. No other culture-product propagate bio-wonders such as kefir grains. Such probiotic-jewels are part and parcel of the culture-process. And with their culture-product [kefir] a natural culture-system in completeness is attained if maintained. With using simple intuition in communion with logic, for me, suggests that these TWO-CULTURE-PRODUCTS can not be separated from each other, and expect to RE-ATTAIN FULL POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF THE ART AS A WHOLE
Taking this to reach the ultimate angle as possible: To add to the let's try and do this the best we can; we need to consider looking into another missing or overlooked link-factor of the matter. I am referring to the ripening of liquid kefir. Unique advantages may be gained by ripening strained kefir for several days, before consuming the culture-milk product. I find mild ambient temperatures, ranging between 12° C to 22° C [53° F to 71° F] is a good temperature range for ripening kefir. At day 1 to day 2 of ripening, Folic acid should increase by some 117 % to possibly 125 % compared to folic acid found in the original fresh milk. There are other B Vitamins that increase due to ripening, while a few other B Vitamins are found in slightly less amounts, or remain the same value to that found in fresh milk. Other benefits of ripening include the reduction of lactose, which is desirable for both lactose intolerant individuals, or for the low carbohydrate dieter, be it for reasons other than Diabetes. Other properties of ripening, is through the evolution of the microflora, as the kefir matures, encourage certain organisms to proliferate, or to be triggered into propagation, due to certain conditions and byproducts produced by other specific organisms, after time. With this, the unique beneficial value of matured kefir, is different to that of a freshly strained kefir.
Practice makes permanent perfection or imperfections perfect permanently, when practiced accordingly: The people of Caucasus ripened, or brewed strained kefir for some days before consuming the culture-milk beverage. The fresh root of the Snow Rose [Rhododendron caucasicum] a native rhododendron to the area, was often added and brewed with liquid kefir [left to ripen]. The root of the Snow Rose contains powerful antioxidants. Specific herbs may be added with liquid kefir, and brewed together to ripen, or mature. Such procedures can be taken advantage in order to tailor brew a specific kefir, intended for specific conditions. As an example, to relieve flatulence and or to fortify gastric function, caraway, fennel and anise seed and cinnamon bark, can be ground to a powder, and added to fresh kefir, and then left to ripen at room temp for 1 to 2 days. This form of kefir may be highly recommended for the prevention of, or to control Diabetes, due to cinnamon bark's beneficial property for Diabetic
To realize a wider spectrum of the benefits of kefir, is to maintain the traditional culture-art in its completeness. Ingesting excess kefir grains, consuming ripened kefir with added herbs and enjoying freshly strained kefir; these should be considered worthy of our focus
SOME RESEARCH TO CHEW ON :It was found that lactic acid products were ineffective in fungus and proteus dysbacteriosis . Whereas a mixture of Lb. acidophilus + Kefir grains [Aciprole] was used to manage antibiotic dysbacteriosis as an adverse reaction of antibacterial therapy . The fact that the therapy under the antibiotic plus mixed probiotic regime with antibacterial therapy, prevented the development of the clinical signs of dysbacteriosis is of practical importance .
Bearing all this in mind, is it quite possible that this is what certain pseudo-kefir producing companies wish to withhold from consumers or potential customers? Or is it that such companies are not aware of such simple facts?
A PERFECT MARRIAGE... is to persevere and continue with no full stop
May we bathe in the fountain of Life, Love, Health, Joy and showered with Peace and Prosperity of enjoying Fresh and Ripened REAL-KEFIR and KEFIR GRAINS
16. Sukhov SV, Kalamkarova LI, Il'chenko LA, et al.  Microflora changes in the small and large intestines of chronic enteritis patients on diet therapy including sour milk products. Vopr Pitan ; 4:14-7
17. Oleinichenko EV, Mitrokhin SD, Minikov VE, et al.  Effectiveness of aciprole in prevention of enteric dysbacteriosis due to antibacterial therapy. Antibiot Khimioter ; 44:23-5
18. * Zubillaga M, Weill R, Postaire E, Goldman C, Caro R, Boccio J.  Effects of probiotic and functional foods and their use in different diseases. Nutritional Research 21 569-579 [Publication available online below]
19. Bugrova, V. I.; Bursak, G. Z.; Rudykh, K. I.; Muzyukina, T. M.; Fel'dberg, F. L.; Shlyakhova, V. V.; Zhelikhovskaya, F. M.  Bacteriological evaluation of kefir. Moskovskii Nauchno-issled. Inst. Gigieny imeni F. F. Erismana, Moscow, USSR. Gigiena i Sanitariya, 34 (7) 91-92 [Russian Document]
20. Drewek, Z.; Czarnocka-Roczniokowa, B. Acta Alimentaria Polonica 12 (1) 39-45  Microbiological processes in folacin synthesis in kefir. [Dep. of food Eng. & Biotch., Argric. & Tch. Uni., Olsztyn Poland]
* http://home.kmu.ac.kr/~food/function/funcdisease.pdf An interesting article regarding benefits of kefir. Needs Adobe Acrobat reader to view.