Kefir comes in thick and thin just like the human body. Some prefer chunky kefir others the thinner and runnier type. When I first started fermenting I thought I was doing something wrong when my kefir turned out lumpy and chunky. But, should kefir be chunky?
It is completely normal for kefir to be slightly chunky. In fact, it’s just a sign that your kefir has fermented for a long time or that there is a high ratio of kefir grains to milk. However, it is still absolutely safe to drink.
Let’s look at what causes this chunkiness in kefir, what consistency kefir should ideally have, and how we can prevent chunky kefir if you prefer the thinner type!
Why is my kefir chunky?
Kefir can get quite chunky when the kefir grains float to the top and the whey separates from the milk curds. This is a completely normal process and is just a sign that your kefir has finished digesting all the lactose for quite some time.
There are several reason why kefir turns out chunky so let’s go through them one by one:
- Too Many Grains: The primary reason most of my kefir batches get to chunky is that my kefir grains have multiplied so much that the usual amount of milk I’m using just isn’t enough to feed them all. In other words, your kefir grains to milk ratio is off.
- Temperature: Another factor that can have a big influence on how chunky your kefir tends to get is room temperature. When it gets too hot the fermentation process is accelerated causing the kefir grains to work more quickly.
- Time: Chunky kefir is usually also a result of over-fermentation. When the live cultures have digested all of the lactose in the milk and turned it into lactic acid the milk will separate. If left unattended for too long the top part of the kefir will become rather chunky and lumpy.
- Inconsistency: Believe it or not kefir grains are delicate organisms that thrive on a consistent set of conditions. Moving your fermentation vessel to a different room, changing temperatures during seasons or air movement and humidity can all affect the consistency of your kefir.
As you can see there are many reasons kefir to become to chunky. Just the other day I was straining a batch of very thick kefir and it took me several minutes of poking and rubbing the grains with a wooden spoon before they were separated from the milk curds.
Is chunky kefir bad for you?
When you get your first batch of really chunky kefir you might wonder if it is still drinkable (edible). After all, the smell can be quite intense and we have learned that lumpy milk is definitely something we should avoid.
However, as I alluded to above chunkiness in kefir is simply a sign that the fermentation process is complete. You could also call it an over-fermentation although that term is not very specific.
Chunky is completely fine and safe to drink. But brace yourself, it will taste a lot sourer than the less lumpy kefir you might be used to. I tend to like the sourer taste over the bland version of kefir. It stimulates my taste buds and reminds me of all the goodness of bacteria and vitamins I am providing my body.
What’s the ideal consistency for kefir?
Kefir comes in all shapes and sizes: thick, thin, runny, creamy, chunky, lumpy and slimy. There is really no objectively ideal texture for kefir but I personally prefer mine to have a similar consistency to buttermilk.
To find the consistency that you like experiment with the factors I mentioned above that affect the thickness of kefir and see which one you like best. There also some other tricks you can use to get the consistency just right:
Kefir production is seasonal. Summer kefir tends to be a lot thinner and runnier while winter kefir will turn out usually thicker. Also, keeping your kefir in the fridge are fermentation will increase its thickness and make it a lot creamier.
You can also experiment with maturing your kefir in a second fermentation to increase the number of nutrients while decreasing the lactose content. This process will make the kefir smoother.
How to prevent chunky kefir
Since chunky kefir is not everybody’s favorite (including me) I have compiled this list of simple steps you can take to prevent your kefir from becoming to chunky. The biggest difference I noticed was when I set a consistent room temperature in my kitchen.
These are the best ways to prevent chunky kefir:
- Adjust the Grains/Milk Ratio: The easiest way to make your kefir less chunky is to decrease the number of kefir grains used per batch in relation to the amount of milk. I tend to use a similar amount of milk every time I try to also use the same number of kefir grains. You can actually eat the surplus of kefir grains and they make for a delicious snack. Read this article I wrote a few weeks ago to learn more about eating kefir grains.
- Lower The Temperature: Usually when your kefir turns out too chunky high temperature is at fault. I’d recommend keeping your room temperature at around 70°F/21°C year-round to minimize the risk of kefir fermenting too fast and becoming lumpy.
- Strain And Drink Early: Of course, another great option is just to reduce the fermentation time and just strain and drink your kefir before it becomes too chunky. Since normal fermentation time is 24 to 36 hours, try straining it somewhere around 12-18 hours. Be aware though that your kefir will not be as probiotic and vitamin-rich as fully fermented kefir.
- Consistent Conditions: As I pointed out before kefir grains love consistency. In a way, they are the ultimate creatures (or organisms) of habit. Try to keep the conditions in your fermentation cabinet as consistent as possible in terms of direct light, temperature, movement, and humidity. This will greatly enhance your odds of producing kefir exactly as you like it!
And here is an extra tip from me: since I like my kefir thick but not chunky I use creamier milk, to begin with. Using organic whole full-fat milk results in a creamy kefir consistency that is not at all chunky.
Chunky kefir is nothing to be afraid of. It is simply a result of a longer fermentation process than usual but is still completely safe to drink. In fact, you’ll likely be getting even more beneficial bacteria and vitamins in your body that way.
Consistency is key to good kefir. Stable conditions allow you to experiment with the number of grains, the temperature, and other factors to prevent chunky kefir and create the result you enjoy most!