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.