If you are new to fermenting milk kefir and wonder "How do i know my milk kefir grains is working? When is a good time to stop culturing?" We hope you will find this post helpful.
When is a good time to harvest.
Before we get started, it is crucial that your milk kefir grains has acclimatized to the new environment. Think of the newly purchased grains as jet lagged and can take a batch or two to get up to speed, with the initial batch possibly taking 36 hours to ferment.
Subsequently every 18 to 24 hours will make a batch of delicious milk kefir. You can find our step by step how to make milk kefir here.
When you observe that the fresh milk has changed texture, from liquid form to a thickened texture, culturing is complete. If you leave it longer, the milk kefir will over ferment and separate into whey and curds. Over-fermented milk kefir is still good to consume, but hard to stomach as it can be overwhelmingly sour and challenging to sieve as the milk kefir grains are firmly lodged within the curds..
STAGE 1: For a creamy, mildly tangy milk kefir, we would like to harvest at this stage when air pocket is just beginning to appear. The milk kefir is uniformly firm at this point (refer video).
STAGE 2: If you like a sour and stronger flavored milk kefir, it is ready to be strained when multiple air pockets are present throughout the milk kefir. At this juncture some air bubbles would escape causing slight irregularities on the surface.
STAGE 3: A fermented food and beverage veteran? You would find a delightful sour milk kefir when the milk kefir has progressed to this stage, just before it separates further, into curds and whey. Observe from the video a small amount of whey is already present in the milk kefir. If harvesting is not an option at this point, transfer the ferment vessel into the fridge until an opportune time. Beyond this point your milk kefir will over ferment and it can be challenging to remedy. See our post on over fermented milk kefir here.
Milk kefir grains are beautiful, wondrous living things and the beauty of homemade milk kefir is there is no one or right way to make or consume milk kefir. The decision of how it goes is entirely in your hands, from milk choice to end results. Cheers!