I recently ran into a patient of mine at the grocery store. As she glanced into my basket, she asked why I was purchasing 10 cans of coconut milk and nothing else. I explained to her that I was using them to make homemade kefir. Since I avoid dairy, I use coconut milk instead. I believe it makes sense for most people to avoid dairy. In any case, I enjoy the taste of coconut milk kefir. Even more importantly, it is a good source of probiotics. She stated that she loved kefir and wanted to know how to make it. This got me thinking that others might be interested in learning how to make it at home. So here goes:
It is actually quite simple. I use a 1.6 L hermetic storage jar to ferment the coconut milk. This is easily found in any kitchen supply store. I got mine at The Container Store. The rubber gasket of this jar allows for gas to escape as the coconut milk ferments. It is important to use a jar like this. If you use a jar that seals shut, such as a jar with a screw-on top, the pressure could build up and explode the jar. Not good. I also like the 1.6 L size because it allows for three cans of coconut milk and a bit of starter.
The jar and all the utensils should be scrubbed clean to avoid any contaminants that might spoil the Kefir.
Into the jar, I pour 3 cans of coconut milk (13.5 oz). I personally like the organic coconut milk available at Whole Foods. Their 13.5 ounce cans are just the right size. I also use the regular coconut milk. This allows for a richer kefir. Light coconut milk will not work as well. It does not have as many of the sugars that the bacteria used to turn the coconut milk into Kefir.
For a starter, I have found it simplest to use a bit of the commercially available coconut milk kefir that Whole Foods carries. The brand is So Delicious. I use their plain unsweetened variety. Some might ask, why not just buy the kefir directly? One could. For a couple reasons I like to make it myself, 1) the commercial varieties use carrageenan as a thickening agent. There are some health concerns over this additive. For this reason I use a little bit as a starter, but no more than that and 2) the homemade version tastes a lot better. I’ve been experimenting with how much starter to use. I’ve gotten good results with using 2 ounces of starter per can of coconut milk or 6 ounces total for the amounts we’re using here. I have a hunch I could go with a lot less.
After I’ve put the three cans of coconut milk into the storage jar, I add the starter and stir it well. Then I simply close the jar and put it in a relatively warm spot out of the light. This could be a counter top with the jar covered by a towel. I personally put ours in the cupboard above the refrigerator. It is in the dark and gets a bit of warmth from the refrigerator. Then simply let it ferment for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. The longer you let it go the more sour it will tend to be. I personally like mine nice and sour so I let go for a good 48 hours. Plus, the more it ferments, the more of the good bacteria there will be. Finally, move it to refrigerator where it will be good for at least a week. It will keep fermenting in the refrigerator, just more slowly. Kefir generally won’t get thick like yogurt, but it does seem to thicken up a bit in the refrigerator.
It probably goes without saying that the kefir should have a white color to it. If it has taken on some other color, that would indicate that some mold got into it. Throw out that batch, sterilize your jar and utensils and try again.
While I enjoy drinking the kefir straight, it also works great as a smoothie. Put the kefir into a blender with some berries. Enjoy.