Kefir Trouble Shooting
How to Use Kefir that is Too Old, or Too Strong
1. You can often disguise strong kefir in a smoothie; however, if it tastes like baby barf, it's difficult to hide the taste. See other options below, as well as the trouble shooting section.
2. Use in your bath water. I know, who wants to smell like stinky milk, but some of the strains of bacteria are also strains that are important to the health of your skin. You can rinse off, but don't wash affected skin, or female parts with soap.
3. As a hair conditioner. Coat hair with kefir, wrap in a towel and leave for a period of time; watch a movie or tv show etc. Rinse and wash as usual.
4. Use as a face mask.
5. If you are a female and have been plagued with yeast infections, and/or UTI's place kefir on a pad and wear for several hours, or throughout the day or night, changing as necessary.
6. Of course, you will want to shower afterwards and clean-up, but don't wash female parts with soap. Repeat as necessary.
7. I occasionally use strong kefir to make a hard, raw kefir cheese. You can also use kefir in baking, in place of sourdough, however, as I like to keep my milk raw, this is not my preference.
Kefir should taste pleasant. It should be creamy and slightly tart, but more mild than store bought plain yogurt. If this doesn't describe your kefir, it's likely over culturing. When the good bacteria and yeast in kefir grains are hungry, they produce an off taste. Ideally, you want kefir to set up to a yogurt consistency at a 24 hour time, give or take an hour or two. If it cultures faster, you are using too many grains. If it takes longer, you do not have enough grains for the amount of milk you are using. Kefir grains can vary a bit. If they have been dormant, it will take more grains, or less milk to produce kefir in 24 hours. If your grains are very active from frequent use, you will need less grains to produce kefir in the same time frame. Read below for more ideas of how to adjust your kefir.
If your kefir is thin: We often think if something is good, more is better. That's not the case with kefir. Too many grains often produces a kefir that is thin, or over cultured. You may be surprised, as many other people I have helped, to have your kefir actually become thicker and creamier when you use less grains.
Kefir tastes like baby barf: This really is the best way to describe it. It smells and tastes like one would imagine baby barf. Kefir should taste tart, but creamy and pleasant. If it has an unpleasant taste, it has probably over cultured. Reduce the amount of grains you are using and keep culturing time to 24 hours.
If it sill tastes unpleasant, and you have tried reducing your grains and length of fermentation, the health of your grains may be in question. While kefir grains are very hardy, I have noticed that rehydrated grains can sometimes be difficult to get to a healthy, happy and tasty kefir producing stage, especially if you have just started your kefir making journey. Be patient and positive. Soon they will reward you with delicious kefir.
If kefir grains have been neglected and stored in milk, without fresh food for a very long period of time, they may become dormant. In turn, the flavor and quality of your kefir may be affected; however, kefir grains are hardy and usually spring back to life fairly quickly, if not right away. Keep trying. With a little patience and perseverance, your grains will start producing rich, delicious kefir for you.
Your kefir separates into a thick white portion and watery clear/yellowish liquid. This is another example of over cultured kefir. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the flavor is still pleasant, in fact my sister prefers to have her kefir separate. She then strains the clear/yellowish liquid (whey) from the thick curds, to make soft kefir cheese, similar to cream cheese. The important thing is, she allows it to get to this stage after she has strained the grains out after 12 hours. For more information on how she does this, see this post.
Kefir has separated into curds and whey and the grains are in the curds! Unlike the version that my sister does above, retrieving grains from thick curd can be a challenge. It's not impossible, but it will take a little patience with stirring and stirring and more stirring the thick curd through a fine mesh strainer. It will be easier in a larger mesh strainer, over a bowl that is big enough to catch the strained kefir. You can thin the curd out a bit with fresh milk, if necessary, to help the process along.
My kefir exploded. Kefir does produce pressure in an airtight environment as it cultures. Loosen your lid just slightly, so pressure can escape while it's culturing.
If you made thick kefir, but need buttermilk for a recipe, just thin it out with milk, or water. Even just whisking it will break the curd and thin it out.
What if I'm just too tired to do anything with my kefir? You can always put your kefir, at any stage, in the fridge. This will slow down the culturing process considerably, although it won't stop it entirely. It's best if you bring it out the next day and resume culturing where you left off. Depending on how long it was in the fridge, you may need to shorten culturing time.
Your kefir grains will continue to culture indefinitely if cared for properly. They will also multiply. When you notice your kefir beginning to culture faster, it's time to divide your grains. You can freeze the excess amount with enough milk to just cover, share with a friend, throw in a smoothie, or eat. I do like to keep a few extra grains in my freezer, in case I accidentally throw my jar of kefir with the grains in it, into a smoothie. Yup, I've done that.