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FAQ: Reviving, Sharing and Storing Grains
Questions in this Section:
What if I forget about my kefir and its really old?
What's the difference between dried and fresh/live kefir grains?
What should dried kefir grains look like?
How do you reactivate stored, dried or frozen milk kefir grains?
How long does it take for dried or live shipped kefir grains to balance?
How do you share milk kefir grains with others through the mail?
Should I give my kefir grains a rest?
How long does it take for kefir grains to balance after fasting/resting?
How do you dry milk kefir grains for storage?
How long does it take for stored, frozen or dried kefir grains to reactivate?
Should kefir grains float?
What if I forget about my kefir and its really old?

Kefir keeps a LONG time, like wine. It may even smell just like wine (or pickles). Sometimes you can revive neglected or forgotten grains. Simply seperate them from the milk in a strainer, give them a rinse with some clean cold, preferably non-chlorinated water, and put them in a little new milk. They most likely won't be that active, so a little milk is enough, you don't want to waste a ton of milk until you see signs of activity. If they seem to process the milk into kefir, then they may be viable to use - keep feeding and wait atleast a few days before consuming, to ensure the drink is more balanced. As with all things, use your best judgement and common sense, if it smells badly or looks off, toss it and secure some fresh new grains from your back-up storage or a friend.

What's the difference between dried and fresh/live Kefir grains?

We offer both choices because there are unique benefits to each. The fresh kefir grains re-balance quickly and begin producing drinkable kefir within just a few days of arriving after shipment. This is an excellent option if you live within the U.S. and are able to be home to receive the grains when they arrive and attend to them immediately. If you are either a) not located within the U.S. or b) not able to attend to the fresh grains immediately upon arrival, then dried kefir grains are the best option for you. These will take a little longer to activate - about a week or so to 'wake up' and balance to where they are producing a drinkable kefir. This is a great option if they will be in transit internationally, since they are in a dormant stage and will not degrade or be as likely to be damaged as the fresh grains. This also gives you the option to stick the dried grain in your cupboard or refrigerator if you receive them but are not yet ready to use them (or want to hang onto them as a backup source or a gift to give).

What should Dried Kefir Grains look like?

Dried kefir grains color is usually like a light cheddar cheese, becoming darker (deeper orange) as it gets drier and ages.

How do you reactivate stored, dried or frozen milk kefir grains?

Grains that have been stored in milk for a short time (2 months or less), can simply be placed in a small amount of milk at room temperature for 24 hours. Start out with less milk than what you would normally use for the amount of grains at hand. Watch to see if it kefirs the milk in that time period. If it over-ferments, give it more milk, if not, continue with small amounts of fresh milk every 24 hours until the grains' metabolism speeds up and starts to produce a balanced kefir that is ready in 24 hours each time (should take anywhere from 2-10 days). If the grains were stored in milk in the fridge for longer than 2 months, it can be helpful to rinse them and gently rub them under cold, clean water. This is to help rub off a 'pickled' outter layer. You can also take some scissors, to open up the grains and expose fresher surface areas (or toss them in the blender). If your grains were frozen, allow them to thaw in the fridge, and then strain, giving them a very small amount of fresh milk and let ferment at room temperature for 24 hours. Watch to see if it kefirs the milk in that time period. If it over-ferments, give it more milk, if not, continue with small amounts of fresh milk every 24 hours until the grains' metabolism speeds up and starts to produce a balanced kefir that is ready in 24 hours each time (should take anywhere from 3-14 days). If the grains were dried, first, rehydrate them in some fresh, cold, clean water for a couple hours. This helps them to regain their shape and ability to ferment before plunking them straight into the milk (and having them sitting there doing nothing for a few hours). Then place them in a very small amount of milk (1/4 cup milk for 1 tablespoon of grains, for example). Allow it to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours. Watch to see if it kefirs the milk in that time period. If it over-ferments, give it more milk, if not, continue with increasing amounts of fresh milk every 24 hours (next day do 1/2 cup, the next 1 cup, for example) until the grains' metabolism speeds up and starts to produce a balanced kefir that is ready in 24 hours each time (should take anywhere from 2-10 days). It may take anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks (12 being extreme) to notice any kind of actual grain growth and improved appearance (more white, rubbery and fluffy) in any one of these situations of reviving the grains. They will eventually appear more normal and grow more vigorously given time and patience! Toss any yellow, brown, crumbly grains that don't seem to revive after 12 weeks.

How long does it take for dried or live shipped kefir grains to balance?

This can take anywhere from a couple days to a week. Milk differs region to region (and brand to brand), so the grains will also be adjusting to new milk most likely as well. Even large scale suppliers such as Costco and Dannon have regional suppliers, so what's in their gallon in New York is not even from the same farm as the gallon of milk sold in San Diego. Dried grains can take a little longer- a week to 2 at the most. Kefir grains may not start growing right away, but they should be properly kefiring the milk they are in by this time. Growth can start happening right away, or it may take up to 3 weeks before you start noticing growth (usually the case with dried, not live).

How do you share milk kefir grains with others through the mail?

Milk kefir grains can be shipped fresh if shipped quickly - 2-5 days being the max transit time. Simply put them in a bag or bottle, and fill with milk, leaving the bag or bottle 2/3 empty. Squish the remaining air out (so there is room for expansion to help the bag from popping open). Place the bag or bottle in another bag for added security, and ship immediately. Shipping dried is quite simple - just dry the grains, and package them securely in a bag or envelope (preferably padded). This can be shipped as slow as desired, since these last atleast 6 months.

Should I give my Kefir Grains a rest?

It's always helpful for everything under the sun to have a break once in awhile. A couple times a year is quite sufficient, they will keep going regardless of getting a rest or not, but it seems they do appreciate a vacation once in awhile.

How long does it take for kefir grains to balance after fasting/resting?

Since fasting or resting is only done for a week or less, it usually takes around 2-5 days to balance and be back up to speed in no time!

How do you dry milk kefir grains for storage?

Simply rinse them in cold, clean water (either under running water in a sieve, or stirring gently in a bowl of fresh water, changing the water a couple times). Then pat dry with a clean, ironed towel or clean papertowel. Wrap these grains in a dry clean, ironed towel (or papertowel), sealing the edges to prevent fruit flies. You can place them on a clean plate or other clean flat surface that has a breathable but fly-proof top. Let them sit in a well-ventilated area that is not too cold or hot. They should take 3-5 days to dry. They will be fully dry when they are completely hard and a dark yellow-orange (and half their original size). You can also try dehydrating them in a food dehydrator at about 78°F (25°C) for approximately 2 hours.

How long does it take for stored, frozen or dried kefir grains to reactivate?

Stored grains from the fridge, freezer, or dried in the cupboard are very similar to re-balancing live or dried grains from the mail. It can take anywhere from a couple days to a week. Dried or frozen grains can take a week to 2 at the most. Kefir grains may not start growing right away, but they should be properly kefiring the milk they are in by 5-14 days. Growth can start happening right away, or it may take up to 3 weeks before you start noticing growth (usually the case with dried, not live).

Should kefir grains float?

Yes, most of the time. Most kefir grains encapsulate some of the carbon dioxide gas that the yeasts give off while fermenting. Also, some grains have less density than the milk, and simply float. Some will be dense enough though (and manage to avoid capturing bubbles) that they sink. Typically if the grains are very bacteria rich or lacking yeast, they may stay at the bottom most or all of the ferment. This can happen after a transit or a rest in the fridge. If you are using dried milk powder, and all the grains are at the top, simply add some more water to increase the density which will allow the grains to relax a bit. Sometimes grains that have been subjected to severe freezer burn, high heat or their outer layer is too encrusted and hard from being dried (or old), also float (and they may not be able to be revived). In this case these grains will usually have a darker color and less soft and sponge-like texture. It is best to see if these are able to propagate new grains (though they themselves may not recover) or toss them if no growth or kefiring is achievable with them. If they reproduce new grains, then you can toss them once you have enough of the new grains (you will be able to still visibly tell which ones are the old, darker ones to be tossed).
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