Fermenting and fermented products are an important aspect of homesteading and healthy living. Milk kefir is one of those products that have gained popularity in recent years because of its health benefits. Kefir grains can be sourced from different locations, so if you get kefir grains from different suppliers, you may wonder if you can mix them together.
Mixing kefir grains from different sources is totally okay. The primary micro-organism in kefir will always be Lactobacillus. The different sub-species and species of yeast in the new kefir will not ruin the mixture. It may, however, change the flavor profile of the final fermented product.
Kefir grains are an ancient source of healthy bacteria and yeasts, and the products have been used since ancient times to promote a healthy gut. However, you may wonder if all the bacteria and yeast are the same mixture of types and species, even if they come from different locations. If this is the case, let’s see what happens we we mix these kefir grains from different sources.
Can You Mix Different Kefir Grains?
As we’ve said, mixing kefir grains from different sources is not a problem and will not cause any particular problems to your kefir grains or the different colonies of bacteria living on them.
The kefir grains and their associated colonies of micro-organisms will acclimatize to living in the same environment, but there may be some changes in quantities and species of these tiny creatures.
The micro-organisms will compete for resources, and the weaker colonies may well be outcompeted and thus may decline in numbers, and after a few cycles, they may disappear completely from the symbiotic colony.
This does not pose any particular health risk to you or your family, and it will not cause the final product to spoil or change any chemical composition of the final kefir product.
There will, however, be one possible change that may occur in your kefir when you mix grains from different sources. This change may or may not be one that is to your liking, so we offer some ways that you can test the products before you merge the two different grains.
What Changes When Mixing Kefir Grains?
Mixing kefir grains, as we have stated, does not pose any health risk, but it can bring about a potential change to the final kefir product.
The aspect of the kefir that could change can be the flavor of the final fermented product. The mix of micro-organisms in a particular kefir colony imparts subtle, unique flavors to the final fermented kefir.
When you introduce different micro-organisms and yeasts to the mix, it may change the final flavor profile of the kefir.
Certain micro-organisms will flourish in the mixed environment while others may die out, and the resulting balance of the micro-organisms will change the final flavor.
You may like this new flavor, but then again, it may not be quite to your liking if you enjoyed the original flavor that your own kefir grains produced.
How To Test Your Kefir Grain Flavor
To make sure that you are not going to get a subtle flavor that you don’t like in your kefir, you may want to try this method before you mix the new grains with your original batch.
Ferment a batch of milk with your new grains, even though it may be a small batch if the kefir grains are smaller in size.
Once this batch has fermented for the normal duration that you like, try tasting the kefir to see if you enjoy the flavor profile.
If you like the flavor and there is no hint of additional flavors that you can’t tolerate, then it is safe to add the kefir grains to your original grains.
If you dislike the flavor of your new kefir grains, don’t mix them in with your original batch of grains.
QUICK TIP: If the flavor is slightly different but not something you don’t like, try making other products from the batch of kefir that you would normally make, such as yogurt or cream cheese and see if the flavor works in those products!
If your ferment didn’t go as planned, you can always use the products in many other ways. An example of this is in this article I wrote about what to do when your kombucha over-ferments.
What Are Kefir Grains Composed Of?
The gelatinous, cauliflower looking structure that we call the kefir grains is simply the medium that the good bacteria in kefir adhere to as the biofilm on which they grow. This biofilm is made up of glucose and galactose in equal proportions.
The main bacteria that are responsible for starting the fermentation process in the milk are Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens in conjunction with Saccharomyces turicensis, upon which the biofilm is built.
A symbiotic community of a wide range of bacteria develop on the surface of the grains and assist in bringing a unique flavor to the final kefir product.
These micro-organisms can include yeasts, acetic acid bacteria, and a whole myriad of the Lactobacillus family of bacteria.
The primary component of kefir grains will always be Lactobacillus, but the proportions of other micro-organisms will vary from region to region.
Why Is This Important When Mixing Kefir Grains?
The regional differences in the concoction of micro-organisms and yeasts in kefir grains will impart a specific flavor to the final kefir product.
The kefir that is produced in each of these regions has a particular flavor due to variations in the Lactobacillus species from the different regions that added to the flavor in those regions.
How To Multiply Your Kefir Grains Without Mixing
One would assume that your intention of mixing kefir grains from different sources would be to boost your kefir production capacity.
If this is your intention, then you do not need to introduce kefir grains from a different source, simply go through the process of multiplying your own kefir colony.
We all know the propensity that bacteria have to flourish when they are given the right environment that is conducive to their multiplication.
Kefir grains are no different. If you give them a prime environment, they will multiply, and the kefir grains will get larger and larger. Once you have enough, you will need to slow their growth.
To get your kefir grains to multiply, follow this strategy to give them optimal growing conditions.
- Keep them at a constant, optimal temperature – Kefir grains prefer a temperature within the range of 68F to 85F or 20 Celsius to 29 Celsius. If you can keep the temperature constant within the middle of this range, they will be encouraged to multiply.
- Feed them the right food – Unpasteurized milk, whether goat’s milk or cow’s milk, is the best food for your kefir grains. If you are uncomfortable using unpasteurized milk, then you can use pasteurized milk, but their growth will be slower. Ultra-pasteurized milk is not suitable food for the kefir grains and will not cause them to flourish.
- Feed the kefir frequently – The kefir grains will consume the lactose in the milk, and as the lactose is used up, there will be less food for them to eat. Topping the milk up with fresh milk twice a day will give them more food. Just make sure the milk you add is at room temperature so that you do not chill the kefir by adding it directly from the fridge.
- Stir the grains – Give the grains a gentle swirl by swirling the jar, or give them a gentle stir with a wooden spoon. Never use metal objects to stir your kefir. The reaction of the metal in the acidic environment can kill your grains surprisingly quickly.
Following these steps will give your kefir grains the optimal environment to grow and multiply. Once they have grown to the point that you desire, you can slow their growth by placing them in the refrigerator overnight.
Mixing Kefir Grains Is Okay
It is completely acceptable to mix kefir grains from different sources, and it will cause no complications to the final kefir product other than possibly altering the final flavor profile of the kefir.
While this does not pose a health issue, it may pose a taste issue if you do not like the new flavor profile.
If you want to increase your kefir production, you will need to increase your original colonies by giving them an optimal growing environment rather than mixing kefir grains from different sources.
You may, however, find that mixing the grains will create new subtle flavors that you enjoy!
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