Has My Kefir Spoiled or Gone Bad?

I Left My Kefir Out For A Long time- Is It Still Safe To Drink?

I get this question a lot. The thing is, it is hard to establish a new habit, and once the novelty wears off, it is easy to forget to look after your kefir every day. When this happens, people sometimes leave their kefir unattended for  days, weeks or even months and then wonder if the grains are ruined. So let me address this question generally, and then we can go through some different scenarios in a little more detail.

Is it still safe to drink?

Maybe, but if you are not sure, strain the grains and dump the liquid and start over. 

Are the grains rotten, spoiled, or gone bad?

Maybe, but more likely we can salvage them. it depends on the situation though. 

So let's look at some different situations, but I want to warn you… after reading this, do not email me and say, "My grains were working just fine, I put them in fresh solution every day like I always do, and today when I woke up, there was an inch of blue mold on the top." If this is you, then check with your spouse or room-mate first and make sure you haven't been in a coma for 2 weeks, because mold does not grow into an inch of thick slime "while you sleep"! (just sayin', I've been doing this a long time! heheh) 

Milk or Water Kefir Sits On Counter For A Few Days-

In this case, the grains are fine, and you may even be able to still drink the kefir you've made. it will definitely be a little more tart, and likely have a little more alcohol and fizz than you are used to, but put it in a smoothie and you probably won't even notice a difference. 

Milk or Water Kefir Sits On Counter For A Week Or Two-

In this case, the grains are probably fine, but I would strain off the liquid and discard it. If the kefir sits out for too long, the balance of bacteria and yeast in the kefir can shift. It's probably not harmful, but not worth a chance. 

In this case, milk kefir will often get a fuzzy looking film on top. If it is white or off-white in color, it isn't mold. It'sjust a growth caused by the yeast. It's an indication that your kefir has sat for a while untended, but it isn't harmful. 

If the film is orange tinted, it is still fine. That's the fat in the milk changing color. 

If it is blue, green or black, that's mold. Skim it off and throw it out.

Milk or Water Kefir Sits In The Fridge For A Long Time-

Strain the grains and resume making kefir. It's probably fine. I've had water kefir grains in the fridge for almost a year untended and they've recovered just fine. I've had milk kefir grains in milk in the fridge for over 6 months and they have recovered fine. 

Kefir Has Been Around A Long Time-

The kefir grains you are using likely originated in Tibetan Mountains many centuries ago. Certainly they predate refrigeration. In fact, fermenting milk was a way to preserve it before refrigeration. In those days, a sac of milk and kefir grains hung by the door, and everyone who came in gave it a knock to keep it stirred up. They dispensed kefir from the sac and topped it up with milk as needed. 

So if your kefir has been untended for a long time, EVEN IF there is a small amount of mold on top, chances are you can revitalize them again. 

How To Rehabilitate Your Kefir Grains

If your kefir did sit out on the counter top for too long, they are probably still fine.

  • First, if there is any film, crust, or discoloration on top, take a spatula and scrape this off and discard it. 
  • pour the contents of your jar into a plastic mesh strainer, and strain off the liquid. Discard if you think it is too old. 
  • Gently rinse the grains- On a day to day basis you never rinse the grains, but if they've sat for a long time you just want to remove any surface crud that doesn't belong on them. Water kefir grains get rinse in fresh cool water. Milk kefir grains can be rinsed in water or milk. 
  • Put the clean grains in a new clean jar and start again. They make take a few days to recover, depending on how long they were without food, but most of the time they are working again in a day or three.
  • Set a reminder on your computer or smart phone to chnage the solution once every day or two, depending on your preference. 

If after you read this article you still are not sure, you should probably throw out your grains and start over. Kefir grains are so inexpensive! Just visit the order page to see for yourself! So for a measley amount of money, it doesn't make sense to worry. 

p.s. I have found the Perfect Pickler Click here to see it.  




31 thoughts on “Has My Kefir Spoiled or Gone Bad?”

  1. I have milk kefir grains that I have been using for about 5 years. Recently I forgot them for a few weeks or much longer than usual. They smelled funny and had a weird texture, so I’ve been changing the milk often and throwing the kefir out. It started looking and smelling normal, but this morning I see there is blue ink color on half of the top about a half inch thick.
    Should I throw out all out?

  2. Hi I’ve been making milk kefir for the past few months. As I live in a tropical country I shift the fermentation to my fridge a couple of months back after the grains grew to around 2 tablespoon worth.

    I would usually ferment it with around 1 litre of milk for around 30+ hours in the fridge.

    It all went well until today I saw 2 small algae like grains in the filtered grains. I scoop them up and it is like the grains I have. A tiny piece of ribbon kefir grain except that it is dark green. Very much like a small piece of algae/kelp.

    The previous batch was still ok and the milk kefir from this match seems thick and creamy too. The smell is usual too.

    Anyway I’ve discarded the milk kefir and still fermenting the grains with a new batch of fresh milk.

    Just wondering if anyone has such encounter. And what would be the cause and is it safe to continue using this batch of grain?

  3. Hi there!
    The jar I use to make my milk kefir wasn’t sealed right and I’ve found a small fly, dead on my grains! On top of my milk kefir.
    Should I throw it away?
    The smell is also different from my last batch (this is my third batch ever, I’m new to this world) though the grains themselves look ok.
    I had my kefir with A bit of milk in the fridge for a few days (3-5) without adding milk daily.
    Did I kill them?
    Should I throw throw it away cuz of the fly?

    1. Hi Ronen- I personally would just scoop out the fly and carry on. Depends on your fly tolerance though. 🙂
      Kefir Nurse

  4. Hello,
    When I received the water kefir grains I placed them for 5 months in the fridge. (I had stuff going on.) Recenty, I put them in water with molasses and demerara sugar. The grains began to look hollow and translucent. I replaced that solution with just sugar-water and a scoby grew, few bubbles, and little else. I replaced that water and separated the scoby which then morphed into a white jellyfish looking blob that bobs up and down in the water with what appears to be new kefir grains growing in and around it? Also, another scoby grew on top of the original scoby. I took the transparent remaining grains, placed them in a separate container with sugar-water, another scoby grew there too. The grains (in jar #2) bubble on occasion but still look sluggish, the scoby has bubbles on and around it and grew to the fill the top of the jar. Finally, both containers smell like apple cider vinegar and look cloudy.
    Am I doing this right? What should I do with and about the scobies?
    Any suggestions and information will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks you.

    1. Hi Joyce Sounds like you’ve got some cross contamination with some other culture. I would toss the lot and start over with fresh grains.
      Kefir Nurse

  5. Thanks so much for your input.
    Headiness has gone now,no acid at night anymore. I’m not taking gaviscone satchets to bed with me…..feeling so much better.

  6. I have been making milk kefir for about three years. (Originally started after my husband’s chemo treatments destroyed his digestion tract. It healed him up nicely after just a couple of months! He is still cancer free.😊) But this past winter was a little too crazy and I left my kefir grains in about 2 cups of pasteurized whole milk in the fridge for a few months. When I got it going again, it was…different. It took about 2 weeks to get going, and when it did it would skip the thickening part and go straight to curds and whey. The grains would float to the top, and the milk immediately around the grains would thicken, and then a layer of whey would form right under the grains. But all of the milk below that would still be thin like regular milk. It tasted very sour, too, and had kind of a foamy texture. I’ve kept it going, though (for about 4 weeks now), and it is finally starting to act and smell like it used to, but it’s still very thin when it starts making whey, and it takes about 2-3 times more grains than it used to. I’ve suspected the balance of bacteria vs. yeast is off, since it doesn’t smell as yeasty as it used to, but it IS changing. Will it eventually get back to what it was?

    1. Hi Tara Thanks for stopping by! I’m going to make a suggestion- try using less grains instead of more, and don’t be afraid to let it sit longer. It sounds to me like your grains are just super hungry and they are devouring the milk sugar really fast. Yes they will probably get back to something like the kefir you used to make. It sunds like the balance is different than it used to be, but it still sounds like they are chugging along! 🙂

      Kefir Nurse

  7. Only just started buying shop bought Kefir. I’m 68 years old..I have GERD and osteoporosis and a friend told me to try it. This is my fourth day but I’m feeling really heady this morning. I make a 250lml bottle do me for two days at night. Will this change after time?

    1. Yes you will get used to it. Your body is working on getting a better balance of bacteria, and when the bad ones lose the fight they release some chemicals that can make you feel “heady” and other ways too, but keep at it. You will feel so much better on the other side!

      Kefir Nurse

  8. Hello! I am relatively new to kefir but have been making it successfully for a few months. I had a break from making it for about 6 weeks while it was cold and I changed to hot breakfasts but I went back to my grains recently which had been sitting in a small amount of milk (just enough to cover them) in a jar in the fridge for that time. When I opened the jar it made a popping sound and the smell was very strong. Also the grains have a sticky white glue like covering that stretches into very thin string like strands when you run a spoon over them. It doesn’t have any discolouration but I am not sure if they are safe to use. I tried rinsing the grains but the sticky stuff continues to stick to them. Are they OK to use? Thank you!

    1. Joanna That sticky stuff is Kefiran and it is what every kefir maker wants. It’s too bad you rinsed them… with kefiran present your kefir will be much healthier for you and the grains should grow and thrive much faster.

      Kefir Nurse

  9. I have a question. My husband has been drinking kefir for about 2 yrs but his mason jar is full of grains, so he is drinking very strong kefir. Could this affect his sperm as we have been trying to have a baby for 2 yrs and I know I am ovulating. I read that women trying to fall pregnant if they are having to much kefir can have a high acidic level in the vagina which will kill sperm but could this happen to the man if he is having kefir that is too strong ?

  10. I make 2 cups of milk kefir every morning with 3.25% homogenized milk for 4-5 days and keep it in the fridge for 1-3 days for the days I don’t drink it. I continue this routine to make a new batch every day for the next 4-5 days and store in fridge 1-3 days when I don’t feel like drinking any.

    my husband once bought bio milk and the kefir had a blue film on the top. so I threw out the kefir milk, rinsed my kefir grains and also threw out the milk my husband bought. The same thing happened this morning with regular 3.25%milk, the top of my kefir has a blue film on the top. the milk I have expires in April but we’re March 26th. What causes the blue film?

    1. Hi there- Hard for me to tell without a picture. Blue usually means mold but without a pic I can’t say for sure.
      Kefir Nurse

        1. Hi There The best thing to do would be upload it to drop box or snap chat or something like that and then post the link here
          Kefir Nurse

  11. Hi,
    I have Kefir that I’ve rehydrated and feed it with raw cane sugar. It’s growing well and fizzing away.. bubbles are always appearing.
    Only think is that the grains have started to grow little black/grey specks? They aren’t growing ON the grains, maybe just appearing from the water around them.? I rinse them out but they come back by the next day. And in the inside walls of the glass jar I use there’s a bit of something growing in the surface, it could even be the start formation of grains (water kefir).
    I know that there’s going to be some backteria from my home around.. would this be it?
    I understand that you aren’t able to see first hand… Do you think I should worry about this? Start again? Is the growth dangerous.. I presume it’s mold, but it’s. It hairy or anything!

    Thanks so much,

  12. I have noticed some white spots on my water kefir-is this normal? I have been making water kefir for about a month now but I have noticed these spots. The grains are bubbly and I am getting growth but I wonder if they are contaminated

    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Melanie Kefir grains will always take on some of the bacteria that lives in your home. That is why no 2 cultures are the same! If the culture gets contaminated in a bad way you will see other things like bad small, thickening liquid, lack of fermentation etc. If you don’t feel like anything is wrong with the kefir you are producing then it is probably fine. Of course there is no way for me to know for sure so you have to follow your instincts a little. Are the spots growing on the water? Or the kefir grains?

      Kefir Nurse

      1. Hi there, such a fan of your site!
        Now that Melanie mentioned it, I’ve also discovered that some of my water kefir grains started growing white spots.. it’s not only on the surface but in the grain itself? Seems like they are doing ok otherwise, just these white spots everywhere?

        1. Hi Nadia Thanks for the message. I am thrilled you like the site. A lot of love has gone into it. As long as the kefir is ok, carry on. If the quality of your kefir changes, then we may need to change something.

          Kefir Nurse

  13. I received my fresh water kefir grains about a week ago and promptly put them in a concoction of water(purified), ginger, lemon juice (freshly squeezed) and sugar. I’ve repeated this process three times and haven’t gotten any growth, fizz or decrease in sweetness- no signs of life. What’s going on? Am I doing something wrong? I’ve had water kefir grains in the past and the same procedure gleaned fabulous results. Were the grains damaged i transport?? I’d like to try some dehydrated grains to see if they fare better. Does this happen often?

    1. The culture won’t be dead. It can take up to 10 days or so to find balance and start culturing properly once in a new home. 

      Could you look at the instructions on Making Water Kefir- Basic Instructions and Recipe and follow them for a week or so? Use a slice of lemon instead of juice. Make sure water is non-chlorinated and added fruit has no sulphur or preservatives. Once you read that page, if you have any questions, let me know? 

      I feel confident your grains will work given the right environment. Then after they are thriving you could experiment with favorite recipes!  I’ve never seen a culture not revive YET given the right circumstances.

      Kefir Nurse

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