A Simple Guide to Making Homemade Yogurt & Kefir



I’ve decided today to go over the basics of cultured dairy in a real food diet.  Because heck, who doesn’t love yogurt?!

Yogurt & Kefir are both cultured dairy products.  They both contain beneficial bacteria needed for a healthy gut. Why?

Inside our intestines are little organisms, often called good bacteria, that helps us digest and absorb our food. We want this good bacteria, we NEED it.

Many things can cause our intestinal flora to become out-of-balance.  Stress, illness, prescription medication, anti-biotics and even eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) including genetically modified foods(GMOs) can reduce the number of healthy gut bacteria.  This is why it’s so important to include probiotics in our diet.

Some symptoms of poor gut flora are:

Food Allergies
Seasonal Allergies
Frequent Colds & Flus
Joint Pain & Stiffness

Some benefits of having a clean, balanced gut flora?:

Resolution of above symptoms.
Helps digest sugars, proteins, minerals & fats.
Resolves digestive issues aka bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation.
Strengthens the intestinal lining to help block out pathogens, allergens & toxins.
Strengthens the immune system.
Aid against the overgrowth of certain microorganisms, like yeast(candida).
Produce specific vitamins.

You’ve probably heard of probiotics before and have chuckled at the familiar Jamie Lee Curtis commercials promoting Activia (a brand of yogurt) to ensure a regular bowel movement every day.

Well Miss Jaime Lee Curtis is both right and wrong.

While yogurt IS exactly what you need to improve your digestion, store bought versions are not optimal.

Store-bought Yogurt & Kefir CONS:

1) It is fermented for a very SHORT amount of time (on average one hour) which greatly reduces the number of beneficial probiotics.
2) Thickening agents are added to make the yogurt look like, well real yogurt.  I wouldn’t worry so much about gelatin being added, but I avoid products containing carageenan, guar gum and dry powdered milk.
3) Fruit and/or sweeteners added are usually refined and not of good quality.
4) Artificial dyes are often added, ESPECIALLY to kid-targeted yogurt.  Artificial dyes are linked with hyperactivity, allergic reactions, & tumor growth.
5) Most yogurts sold today on the market are “low-fat” or “non-fat”.  Remember what I said about those words!

Homemade Yogurt & Kefir PROS:

1) Typically Yogurt is fermented for 8-10 hours and Kefir is fermented for 24 hours producing copious amounts of beneficial probiotics!
2) When you use REAL WHOLE MILK, you don’t need to add any thickeners at all, plus you get all the benefits of a full fat product!  Read why whole milk is best HERE.
3) YOU control the sweeteners and YOU can avoid any nasty dyes as well!  It’s an awesome feeling not to stuff your kids with junk, let me tell you! Probably the easiest way to feel like wonder woman.
4) It’s WAY cheaper than store bought!  Woot woot!
5) Real live probiotics are about a million times better than probiotic supplements you find at your health store.

The difference between YOGURT & KEFIR:

Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria meaning yogurt PROVIDES food for your good gut bacteria and keeps your intestines clean.

Kefir is different in that it can actually COLONIZE your intestines, something yogurt cannot do.  Kefir can be made from MILK or WATER.  Remember my homemade soda?  Yep, it was simply water kefir.

So which is best?  Well, they BOTH are awesome.  Kind of like Batman & Robin.  Or He-man & Battlecat. Or Captain America & Bucky.  You get the point.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to produce 2 different cultured dairy every day, don’t worry! You don’t have to be making yogurt & kefir left and right!

My best advice on getting great amounts of probiotics in your diet?  Switch it around a bit!

I’m assuming you have milk, right?  By now I hope you’re buying WHOLE milk and none of this low-fat nonsense, right?

Well, just take that milk of yours and turn it into a powerful probiotic!  Here’s how ya’ do it…

Homemade Yogurt

Step 1) Start with the best milk you can find.  Remember …

GOOD = Whole milk, with no-rBst(meaning not treated with hormones)
BETTER = Whole milk, organic & no-rBst
BEST = Whole milk, raw & organic, mostly grass-fed & no-rBst.

Step 2) Purchase a starter online here.

There are 2 different kinds = DIRECT SET means you can make a batch then use a couple tablespoons from your first batch to make subsequent batches.  BUT, direct set starters can only be reused 2-3 times.  These usually come in packets of 8 and assuming you make a few batches from each, you have the potential to make about 24 batches of yogurt.  HEIRLOOM VARIETY means you can make a batch and then use a couple tablespoons again and again and again potentially lasting for years and years until the end of time.

I purchased a direct set at first and kept all the packets in my freezer because I didn’t know how often I would make yogurt.  Works great!

Step 3) Make your delicious yogurt! The recipe for yogurt is very simple. You first MUST heat the milk to 180 degrees while stirring constantly. This is not to pasteurize it, but to break down the proteins in the milk so that they will thicken. Then, you let it cool to 110 degrees then quickly add the culture (whether it’s a 1/4 tsp. of your powdered starter or 2 tablespoons of your old batch of yogurt) and stir.  Now all you have to do is pour it into a glass container or mason jar and incubate this milk at this temperature for 8-10 hours.  How do you do this? Well, you could wrap it in towels and stick it in a cooler. You could purchase a yogotherm, like me. Or you could buy an electric yogurt maker, which maintains that temperature for you.

Homemade Milk Kefir

Step 1) Start with the best milk you can find.

Step 2) Purchase a starter online here.

Step 3) Make your delicious milk kefir!  This recipe is EVEN simpler than yogurt!  First you have to rehydrate your kefir grains.  Kefir can only be made from a mother batch meaning it ALWAYS needs the initial culture to work.  Kefir grains look like tiny little pieces of cauliflower.  You must take 5-7 days and let your dehydrated grains rehydrate in pasteurized milk.  Basically this means once you get your packet in the mail, you simply toss in a cup of milk, leave it on your counter, and then every 24 hours strain out the grains and put them in fresh milk.  At first, the milk will look nasty and separate into curds & whey.  By day 5, your milk should look thick, not separate into curds & whey and smell fresh and taste clean & tart.

Now, you can make kefir by basically doing the same thing.  No need to heat your milk or incubate it.  Just place the kefir grains in however much milk you want and let it sit on your counter at least 24 hours.  When you don’t want to make kefir, just store the small grains in a cup of milk in the fridge.  While it’s in the fridge you will have to replace the milk every week to keep them fresh.

*NOTE* Milk kefir grains can double in size if you use raw milk.  This means you can share with friends! YAY!  Kefir for everyone!

Homemade Water Kefir

Step 1) Purchase water kefir grains online here.

Step 2) Make your delicious water kefir!  We LOVE LOVE LOVE water kefir here!  We call it Homemade Soda Pop because it gets fizzy just like regular soda!  Check out my homemade soda pop recipe here!

How often do I make homemade probiotics?

Milk kefir is constantly culturing on my counter.  I pour a cup into a small jar and strain out those little kefir grains every morning, then start a new batch.  Why so often?  Well, seasonal allergy season is here in full force and we are upping our intake of probiotics to give our bodies a strong immune system.  It’s working awesome so far!

I make Homemade Yogurt a couple times a month.  My kids LOVE it, especially with honey & bananas or granola.

I make Water Kefir every weekend for our homemade pizza night.  My kids love that stuff and so do I!  I love that fizzy flavor!

So how do you feel about homemade probiotics?  Love ’em or hate ’em?  Does this make you excited to get started? Well, then what are you waiting for?


This post is a part of: Motivation Monday