There is nothing more delectable than thick creamy kefir that goes down smoothly. There a several techniques you can do to make that milk kefir thick. So together, "Let's make kefir thick again".
1. Use whole milk
This one is pretty obvious, but the more fat in the milk, the thicker it will tend to be. So try whole milk instead of 2%, 1% or fat-free milk. If you truly desire low fat kefir, you may have to live with thinner kefir or try some of the other steps below to get somewhat of a thicker consistency.
2. Use cows milk
Cows milk has proteins that has a thick coagulation. Goats milk and most other alternative milks have a different protein structure and will naturally come out thinner. There are ways to make a thick goats milk kefir, but its certainly more challenging.
3. Store in the fridge
Sometimes all it takes to thicken up is a few hours in the fridge. Try shaking it and then storing in the fridge and that can sometimes get it even thicker. Just keep in mind that the agitation of shaking up the kefir can cause quick separation or faster fridge fermenting. But if the kefir is already greatly separated, a good shake can help things out.
4. Ferment on the cooler side
People who have done kefir for years will generally say that they notice that their kefir is naturally thicker in the colder months and thinner in the summer. This is due to activity of the bacteria and yeast. Slow cool ferments tend to favor a more bacteria rich ferment which will result in a thicker ferment. Summer ferments tend to be fast, thin and yeasty. Still can be delicious, but not usually thick. Ideal temperature is low 70's. Anything lower and it may not ferment right and anything warmer and it tends to be more yeasty and thinner.
5. Ferment exclusively in the fridge
Typically fermenting right out of the fridge will give your kefir a thicker and richer consistency. It typically takes about a week per batch. Just keep in mind that it changes the flavor and balance of the grains a little bit. Some people prefer it as it tends to be more bacteria rich, but it loses it a bit of that multi-dimensional flavor that room temperature ferments tend to do. Also long term fridge fermentation can sometimes stop grain growth (sometimes forever).
6. Fermentation Time
Too little fermentation and it can be too thin and too long of a ferment and it can turn watery and thin. Ideally, you wan to stop the ferment just when you just start to see pockets of whey forming. Another trick that sometimes works to get it thick is to try to ferment for a short amount of time 12-24 hours and then strain and let is sit out at room temperature for another 12-24 hours without the grains.
6. Try lime or lemon peel
Try lime or lemon peel as a second ferment. Once the kefir is finished, strain the grains and then put in some lime or lemon peels for a few hours at room temperature. The milk will typically congeal with the peels and come out with a nicely thicker consistency.
7. Add cream or thickener
One trick is to add cream after its done fermenting. It will thicken it up nicely. Blend in some cream and some fruit and you have a delicious thick kefir milk shake. Other thickener options that you can add is tapioca, gelatin, ultra-gel or agar.
8. Combine with viili to make a hybrid kefir viili.
Milk kefir grains that successfully combine with the Viili bacteria will create a really thick and more mild kefir every time. Sometimes its so thick that its difficult to strain. WARNING: Once milk kefir grains combine with Viili, there is almost no turning back and they may stay that way forever. So if desired, just simply add Viili to the kefir ferment and hope that they take to the new strain. Sometimes they resist greatly and other times, they will readily accept the new viili strain. It tends to work better with pasteurized milk as a raw milk kefir is more highly resistant to the viili strain.
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