Kefir grains are a healthy culture filled with living and probiotic bacteria.
Kefir grains, scientifically known as ‘kefiranomices coagulants, are a gelatinous matrix of various strains of bacteria, yeast, and lactic acid bacteria, which can consume lactose to create beneficial probiotics to feed our intestines.
Kefir grains are easy to use, inexpensive, and keep for a long time.
The only problem is that it’s hard to know the best way to store them, and how often you should use them. You can freeze your kefir grains.
Freezing preserves the grains allowing you to enjoy their probiotics on demand.
This can be especially helpful when you’re eventually going to use your grains for making cheese or kombucha.
This article will detail how to freeze kefir grains, what works and what doesn’t work.
What are Kefir Grains?
If you are unfamiliar with kefir grains, here’s a summary.
Kefir is a delicious probiotic cultured milk drink from the Caucasus Mountains between Russia and Georgia.
It has been consumed for many centuries, so people wanted to have it around by saving some grains and making more from them later.
Kefir grains are a gelatinous matrix of various strains of bacteria, yeast, and lactic acid bacteria, which can consume lactose to create beneficial probiotics for our intestines.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk or water, letting the mixture ferment for 12-24 hours, and then straining out the grains.
Kefir grains are composed mostly of yeast, specifically a few strains of the Saccharomyces family.
Other bacteria and yeasts include Lactobacillus and Acetobacter, as well as many others.
You can use them to make kefir, but you will not use them to make cheese or kombucha.
Does Freezing Affect Kefir Grains?
Freezing kefir grains does not affect them. Kefir grains are fairly resilient and will survive freezing and thawing, as well as drying out in the fridge.
Freezing your grains will preserve them for a long time, so you can take as long as you want to use them.
Many people don’t even like the taste of kefir, so having frozen grains is a great way to make sure they are always available and ready when you need them.
How to Freeze Kefir Grains?
Kefir making is a tedious process that can be repeated daily once it’s started.
You need to find a way of storing your grains to activate them when you return to making kefir successfully.
Your kefir grains must be active for at most 3-4 weeks before they can be successfully rested.
The best way for them to stay active and fresh is to cool them. You can freeze your grains for a longer break from kefir.
You will need to rinse them off with cool water. Allow them to dry on a piece of paper town.
Then, pat them down to absorb any remaining moisture. They can be left on your counter for up to an hour covered in paper.
Once your grains are dried, you can place them in a glass container that is freezer-safe and sealed with an airtight cover.
To get the best results, sprinkle some powdered milk onto the grains before sealing them.
You can store your kefir grains in your freezer for up to 6 months.
How to Thaw Frozen Kefir Grains?
To thaw your kefir grains, they can either be placed in the refrigerator or on the counter, depending on how fast you want them to be ready.
If your fridge is deep enough, place your frozen kefir grains inside to make it thaw and increase its lifespan.
If you are more impatient and need faster results, your frozen kefir grains can be placed on the counter and will thaw within 6 hours.
Allow your frozen kefir grains to thaw inside a sealed container with a little bit of milk powder sprinkled onto it.
This will prevent them from becoming too dry while defrosting and activating any microbes in the grains that might be dormant.
Freezing kefir grains can help keep them from going bad for a long period.
You will be able to get back into kefir making with the same grains after they are defrosted.
How to Reactivate Kefir Grains?
When you have saved your kefir grains and placed them in the freezer, you still need to reactivate them.
You may need to give your grains some time to get back to their best kefir-culturing condition if they have been stored in one of the mentioned ways for a while.
Reactivating them can be done in the same manner as when you activated them.
Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of grains into 1 cup of milk. Place the filter in a warm place for 24 hours and cover it with a breathable screen.
Your grains will be ready to go if your milk culture is well.
However, if the milk is still not thickened, you can separate your grains and place them in another cup of milk for 24 hours.
Keep going until your milk thickens.
How to Use Thawed Kefir Grains?
You can use your thawed kefir grains to make another batch of kefir or milk in less than a day.
If you’re going to make another batch, follow the steps in “Activating Kefir Grains” above.
If you want one cup of kefir, place 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of grains into your milk and cover it with a breathable screen.
If you don’t plan on using your thawed kefir grains right away, make sure to place them in the refrigerator, so they stay fresh.
Can You Dry Kefir Grains?
Dry kefir grains are an option to keep your kefir grains fresh and ready for longer periods.
Dried kefir grains do not culture milk quickly as liquid kefir does, but once used, you will be able to use them again after giving them the required defrosting process.
Drying your kefir grains can be a good option to have around in case your kefir gets contaminated.
This will give you the chance to use them again while keeping your milk supply safe and healthy.
Drying kefir grains is done by simply leaving them out on your counter for up to 5 days.
The drying time depends on the temperature of your home. When they’re ready to be used, transfer them to a container with a lid and cover them with some powdered buttermilk.
You can seal them and keep them in the refrigerator for up six months.
In conclusion, we can say that freezing kefir grains is a good way to keep them fresh for longer periods.
They will become dry and freezer-burned if kept thawed for too long, so keep an eye on how long you have had them in the freezer.
If your kefir grains are dried out, rehydrate them by defrosting them and allowing them to sit in some milk for 24 hours.
After they are ready, you can store them in powdered buttermilk and keep them in the refrigerator for up to a few months.