It is a question that we get asked all the time.“I don’t drink dairy, what non dairy alternatives can I use with milk kefir grains?”. People have different levels of success with non diary milk alternatives. The most successful however seems to be using coconut milk. In this article, we are going to talk about how to make coconut milk kefir.
So let us start if by stating the obvious, milk kefir is a fermented animal milk product, it has fermented animal milk for thousands of years. So how can it ferment coconut milk? Well, milk kefir grains ferment the sugars in animal milk (lactose). It will ferment just about anything with sugar in however for a limited time. This is includes nut milk (almond/cashew) and also soya milk. The grains won’t always thank you though for putting them into milk alternatives long term. Does that mean you shouldn’t? Absolutely NOT. Over the years, we have come across many people having great success with milk kefir in milk alternatives. Coconut milk is the most successful of those alternatives. On this article we will focus on that. Feel free to experiment with other alternatives if coconut milk isn’t your thing!
The kind of coconut milk you use is VERY important. Not all coconut milk is created equal. Most of the stuff we buy in the supermarket is filled with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, thickening agents and other rubbish. These will harm your grains, possibly event kill them. You need to make sure you use a 100% pure coconut milk. It should just be made of coconut and water. We use organic Biona coconut milk. Just coconut and water you say? What’s stopping me making my own? Nothing, in fact, many people do just that! If you really want to learn how to make coconut milk kefir, don’t sell yourself short with poor quality coconut milk.
As we mentioned above, your milk kefir grains won’t be happy spending too much time in coconut milk. What most people tend to do is rejuvenate their grains in animal milk once a week. That milk is usually simply discarded. It is however the best way to ensure the long term health of your grains.
So what about the vegan community? Most of my vegan friends refuse to have dairy or any other kind of animal milk in their fridge. So where does that leave them? Well, the vegan community has found a clever way to get round this issue…. “date paste”. That’s right, a simple mixture of dates and water blended into a paste and fed to the grains once a week seems to keep the grains happy long term. We have never tried that method here at Freshly Fermented, but many people swear by it! Adding 1 teaspoon of date paste to 500ml of coconut milk / 30g of milk kefir grains once per week seems to be the ratio most people swear by. Date paste seems to be the saving grace for vegans wanting to learn how to make coconut milk kefir.
Grains will not thrive in coconut milk, but they will survive as long as you put into action one of the methods detailed above. Grains generally won’t grow in size in coconut milk. Even if you use the method where you rejuvenate grains in animal milk, it is still likely the grains will not grow much in size during the short time each week they spend in animal milk. Those making coconut milk kefir long term, simply have to just accept that fact. As long as you already have enough grains to make the quantity of coconut milk kefir you require, then it is not really a problem anyway.
Grains generally require a settling in stage when being transferred from animal milk to coconut milk. The first batch or two might not be the best coconut milk kefir. The grains will settle in pretty quickly though.
Sadly not. Grains need to be fully activated in animal milk BEFORE you can use them in coconut milk. It is not possible to activate our grains in coconut milk. We have tried, it just does not seem to work. So if you are a vegan, we apologise, for the initial activation, animal milk will be required. Grains need to be settled and producing kefir in animals milk before the shock of coconut milk is introduced to them.
The process is no different with coconut milk than it is with animal milk. However, you will find a few differences. You will need a high ratio of grains to coconut milk. We recommend 15g per 250ml of coconut milk. You will also find it difficult to sieve the grains back out of the coconut milk. It gets VERY thick, and straining can be tricky. Try using a less fine sieve if you are really struggling. You need to force the coconut milk through. It can take some time to achieve!