What Should Kefir Look Like?

What Does Kefir Look Like?

How to know if your water kefir is done.
How to know if your water kefir is done.

When brewing kefir for the first time, it is sometimes hard to know if it is ready. It may take some trial and error before you really know. The "readiness" of kefir depends on several things. Personal taste is one of the factors that differs between people. There are other signs to look for however in judging whether your kefir is ready.

Signs that your water kefir is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24-48 hours
  2. It smells fermented. To me that is a slightly beery, slightly yeasty, fruity smell. 
  3. It looks fizzy- Water kefir is slightly carbonated when done and you will see small bubbles rising up from the bottom, especially when stirred or agitated. 
  4. Bubbles gather on top.
  5. The dried fruit is fully hydrated.
  6. If you used brown sugar or molasses, the liquid will be quite a bit lighter.
  7. Taste of "ready to drink" water kefir is much less sweet, slightly tangy and acidic tasting and has a definite fermented taste. 
  8. The water kefir grains have grown.

Milk Kefir separated after 48 hour fermentationThe readiness of water kefir is subjective to some degree. Some people like it less sweet, some like it fermented longer… you have to try it different ways to discover what 'readiness' tastes like to you. 

Milk kefir is a little different. It is not always as easy to see the readiness of milk kefir. It is also less forgiving, in that, over fermented milk kefir will separate into curds (a thick top layer) which float to the top, and whey (a watery, slightly yellow liquid) on the bottom.

Pic source: Dom's Kefir SiteKefir creates a unique rivulet pattern on the glass

If your milk kefir separates, you can still use it. Just shake and strain as usual. It will be more sour tasting.

Here are some ways to tell if your kefir milk is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24 hours
  2. It smells yeasty and slightly tangy
  3. The grains are floating on the top
  4. The kefir forms unique rivulet pattern when tipped against the glass. 

This is what my kefir looks like when readyMostly your milk kefir readiness is determined by personal preference.  This is what my kefir looks like when it s the perfect "readiness" for my tastes. Notice the pockets of clear whey throughout the jar. If I leave it another hour or two it will completely separate into curds on the top and whey on the bottom, but I like to pour it when it looks like this. It hasn't curdled yet and it still will pour freely, but it is nice and thick. If my milk has separated into curds and whey, like the 48 hour example above, then I find the resulting kefir is too sour for my liking. 

I will strain it now, and then put the strained liquid in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for a day or two. This gives me a mild, thick kefir that I really adore. It took me several months before I found the right amount of sourness and the consistency that is perfect for my tastes. 


If your kefir does over ferment, there are still lots of things you can do with it, including drink it. I will outline what to do if your kefir separates in another post. 

8 thoughts on “What Should Kefir Look Like?”

    1. Hi Shirley Kefir is a probiotic drink… there is a really good explanation here http://waterkefir.ca/answers-to-kefir-questions/ It is the first question! 

      Kefir Nurse

    1. It definitely should not have a film. That indicates the bacteria are out of balance, or you’ve got contamination. Rinse your grains gently with pure water and start over with a fresh brew. Make sure your additives have no preservatives or sulphites, and follow the instructions closely. 

      I’m curious… why is your kefir in the fridge?

      Kefir Nurse

  1. Hello, Got my precious Kefir grains and made my first batch. I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t work because I got caught off guard because I was missing a few ingredients like spring water and apricots. It turned out quite good after 4 days. Thank you so much. I searched and didn’t find how much we should be drinking daily or weekly. Jo

    1. Hi Jo I am so glad they arrived and you are loving the result! There is no steadfast rule about how much to drink. You can drink as much as your body will tolerate! It is recommended that we have some king of fermented food or beverage every time we eat to help digestion. You need to experiment and find the right amount. Once your body becomes accustomed to the good bacteria you will be able to drink an entire bottle at one sitting with no problems at all! While your intestinal bacteria make the shift you may experience gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea when you consume “too much”. Just cut back a little from there until your body adjusts! 

      Kefir Nurse

  2. We purchased your water kefir, I have been drinking small amounts (100 ml for a few days) and have gotten a yeast infection….is this normal? Prior to the water kefir, I was taking 3 tbsp of store bought milk kefir with no problems.

    1. Hi Shawna. Thank you for your question. It is not likely related to the kefir. In fact I recently had an emergency appendix operation and strong antibiotics for 5 weeks. Just 2 days after returning home from hospital znd resuming my water kefir the signs of my yeast imbalance thanks to antibiotics disappeared. I would expect mOst people to have similar experience. Store bought kefir can not be compared to home made. There are many more varieties and numbers of beneficial probiotics than is possible in store bought …

      Kefir Nurse

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