The Origins of Kefir

Kefir – The origins and advantages discusses the two types of Kefir. Milk Kefir is a drink made of fermented milk — not unlike yoghurt and Water Kiefer — Made from Water and sugar (and can be flavoured with fruit and spices).

Kefir has been accredited with healing powers for centuries. In the 18th century Kefir grains were Called the “Grains of the Prophet,” by the tribes of the Caucasus Mountains and as such were to be kept secret from the rest of the world for fear of losing their power.

Caucasus Mountains

The origins of Kefir – The Caucasus Mountains

The people of a particular area considered Milk Kefir grains as a measure of their wealth and the closely guarded secret of producing this “Mother Culture” (the Kefir Grains) was handed down from generation to generation was to be defended with their very lives.

In the early 1900s, the two Blandov Brothers ( who were Cheese producers in the Caucasus Mountains) were contracted by the All-Russian Physicians’ Society to obtain some of this “Kefir Culture”.

The Brothers decided that to acquire the Kefir Culture they would send Irina Sakharov to “persuade” a Caucasian Prince, one Beka-Mirza Barchorov, to present her with some Kefir Grains

Irina succeeded in dazzling the prince but failed to convince him to give her the Kefir Grains, probably due to her strong religious beliefs. This prince had plans of his own and was not willing to give Irina up and commanded his men to kidnap her on her journey home.

When Irina was returned to the prince’s court, The promptly proposed to Irina but she refused.

Sometime later the Blandov Brothers rescued Irina and, with their support, she brought a case against the Prince. The Prince tried to convince her to forgive her by offering her gold and jewels but Irina was having nothing of it. Irina instead demanded and received in settlement of her claim, Kefir grains.

The Kefir grains, first brought to Moscow in late 1908 by Irina, were used, very successfully, as part-treatment for tuberculosis in lung sanatoriums.

In 1973, the then Minister of The Food Industry in the former USSR sent Irina (now 85) a letter expressing the nations grateful acknowledgement for her role in bringing Kefir to the Russian People.

Water Kefir Grains

It is not completely clear where or when water kefir grains originated, but speculation points towards Mexico. According to some research, the Tibicos culture forms on the pads of the Opuntia cactus as hard granules that can be reconstituted in a sugar-water solution as propagating Tibicos. There is documentation from the late 1800s of water kefir grains being used in a fermented drink made from the sweetened juice of the prickly pear cactus in Mexico.

Kefir Grains

Glass Jar making Kefir

Kefir is truly a gift from God. Scientists have tried for over a century to produce keeper grains from pure or mixed cultures normally found in the grains but to no avail. No successful reproduction of this healthy food has been reported to date.

The magical powers of Kefir have yet to be replicated by science.

Making Kefir

The age-old method of making Kefir is very simple but has been complicated in this modern world with our attention to modern technology and health issues.

In the days way back when the shepherds looked after their sheep in the mountains, they would simply take a goatskin filled with Kefir with them. They would hang the goatskin over their back and walk with animals. As they drank the Kefir they would simply replace what they consumed with fresh goat milk.

The magical cauliflower-like grains would work miracles in the fresh goat’s milk and keep the milk usable for days. The motion of the bag on the shepherds back would keep the grains and milk well mixed as milk fermented. This process could continue uninterrupted through the ages. Today’s Kefir grains originate from the original Kefir grains the first used many centuries ago.

Centuries ago Kefir was made in goatskin bags or clay pots but in the modern age, we tend to use modern appliances and almost any container as long as it is not metal. Making Kefir is not an involved or difficult process and we should not overcomplicate it with our modern technology.

Kefir In The New World

In the 1800s, the use of Kefir first spread when the successful treatment of various diseases such as tuberculosis intestinal and chronic stomach diseases became well-known by the Russian doctors, who began studying its properties in earnest. Although some studies into the benefits of Kefir were carried out by the 19th-century, it was extremely difficult to obtain the Kefir grains then and nobody had found a way to manufacture them. This has not been accomplished yet.

Commercial Kefir Production In The Early Days

Early commercial production of Kefir was not without setbacks. The common practice was:

  • ferment milk with Kefir grains,
  • separate grains from the fermented milk,
  • add fresh milk to the fermented milk and
  • allow it to ferment for a few days

This practice produced an inferior quality Kefir. It was thanks to the employees of the “All-Union Dairy Research Institute” that in the 1950s developed the method of adding Kefir grains to milk in large steel vessels and stirring and agitating the mixture to ripen the Kefir.

Health Benefits of Kefir – The origins and advantages

Gut health

The claimed benefits of Kefir are many and Kefir was used in hospitals in the former USSR to treat a range of conditions such as allergic disease, metabolic and digestive disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, and tuberculosis.

In more recent year’s sciences have proven that Kefir is able to improve the immune system enhance lactose digestion and inhibits tumours, pathogens and including bacteria that cause most ulcers.

Sciences are discovering that certain diseases such as some types of heart disease and inflammatory disease may be triggered by bacteria, so it’s not a huge step to consider that the regular consumption of Kefir may contribute towards continued health and longevity.

Improving your gut health is important and you may be adding supermarket probiotics to your shopping list in the belief that it is good for you but is it as good as you believe? Unless you by the correct type of probiotics, you may not only wasting your money but could be doing more harm than good to your microbiome?

NHS Tests

In January 2017, Dr Michael Moseley of the BBC 2 show Trust Me I’m a Doctor performed NHS tests to determine which type of probiotic food was the most beneficial for your health. The study found that the best results came from Kefir.

Store Bought Kefir vs Natural Kefir

Kefir production naturally carbonates the milk and the water, and this carbonation continues until all the lactose or sugar in the milk or water is used up. If you bottle the milk or the water before the combination has stopped, there is a good probability that the container will burst. It also means that Kefir will have a shorter shelf life. This makes it very difficult to produce Kefir commercially.

To stop the carbonation and to improve the shelf life of the Kefir products the manufacturers pasteurise them,

What Is Best, Store Bought Or Home Grown

Home Grown Kefir

“Dr Moseley found that supermarket Kefirs are pasteurised and the Kefir then has very little benefit because of the pasteurisation which kills off all the beneficial bacteria”.

So, If you want beneficial Kefir, a Kefir which gives you what it has traditionally given man and that is good health, then you should grow your own or purchase from someone who makes Kefir without pasteurising before selling it. Kefir is a living organism and pasteurisation destroys it. You do not get any of the Kefir benefits from pasteurised Kefir.

Where To Buy Kefir Or Kefir Grains

Kefir is fairly unknown in South Africa and Finding Kefir Grains could be difficult. Kefir Grains are sold in three states:

  1. Active
  2. Dried, or
  3. Frozen

The type you by will be determined by your location in regard to the seller. If you are in the same town, you could buy Active or frozen Kefir Grains. If you stay far from the seller or if they are to be posted or couriered, then I would suggest Dried Kefir Grains.

The difference between the three is simple;

  1. Active Kefir is just that. They have just been removed from the production container and bagged for you to collect. They will start production immediately.
  2. Tried Kefir, as the name implies, is dried and can be posted and kept out of the solution for longer periods. The disadvantage of dried Kefir is that it will take a few days to be activated. This means that you will have to place it into a solution and then drain off and dispose of the first three or four batches of Kefir product before the dried Kefir is recovered enough to produce a good quality Kefir product. One it has recovered, it will multiply and you will have the means to produce your own Kefir.
  3. Frozen Kefir is generally kept in that state by the Seller due to the volume of Kefir that they have on Hand. To keep Kefir active you have to use milk or in the case of water Kefir water and sugar mixture. To avoid overproduction produces often freeze or drama the Kefir grains. These drains recover faster than dried Kefir grains but will take one or two batches before they produce a quality product.

If you are looking for Kefir Grains you can contact us here.

Order your Kefir here

Questions and Comments

Questions Image

Ask You Questions here.

Your Comments are important to us. Please leave them in the comments section below.


10 thoughts on “The Origins of Kefir”

  1. Thank you so so much.I bought and tried, from a retail place, dehydrated water kefir and followed instructions. Mine never got bubbly, it never multiplied. I tried all the advice I got and in the end, after a lot of attempts, threw it away. I paid R230 for it. I bought water kefir here from KefirSA and it was couriered to me. I made it via the instructions that I received with the rains and within 3 days,I bottled my kefir with some fruit pieces. I had to burp it within the first day, I saw bubbles immediately when I bottled it. I then, the second day of f2 (second ferment) heard the bubbles escape from 1 bottle and went to burp it and it exploded out the top when I opened it that only quarter was left, but the best best best bubbly water kefir ever. I am still to see it multiply but I am extremely pleased. Thank you!

    • Hi Adelle, I am very pleased that you are having such great success with your Kefir. I am sorry you threw the commercial Kefir away as I might have been able to help you save them. Dried Kefir takes quite a while to recover and become productive again.

      To avoid the explosive release of the gas when you open the bottle after or during the second ferment, I suggest that you “Burp” the bottle two, or even three times a day. To slow the gas production you can place the bottles in the fridge after about 24hrs of the 2nd ferment. You should remove the fruit after 24 hrs to 36 hours to avoid the fruit spoiling in the Kefir.

      Please remember that the Kefir lives on the sugar so it will use the sugar and the drink will become less sweet (great for diabetics like me). If too much of the sugar is used by the Kefir grains, Just add a little more sugar to your glass when you pour it ( watch out for the gas bubbling out when you pour). Do not add the sugar to the bottle and then seal it as the sugar will cause more gas and when you leave it, it will produce alcohol.

      The Kefir will develop new grains all the time. When you bottle it, you could find fine whitish sediment in the bottle, this is new Kefir grains. Do not remove them, drink them, they are extremely healthy and will improve your gut health.

      If you are a first time user of Kefir, you might find that your stomach will be a little loose for a day or three while your gut health improves. This usually passes so, start with about 100 – 200 ml a day for the first day or two.

      Have fun with the flavours produced by different fruits and even coconut water. Try Gingerbeer, Pineapple beer and especially ruby grapefruit. Enjoy.



  2. Hi

    We will increase your Local Ranks organically and safely, using only whitehat methods, while providing Google maps and website offsite work at the same time.

    Please check our plans here, we offer Local SEO at cheap rates.


    Mike Palmer

    Speed SPAMMING Agency

  3. Thank you Bryan
    I ordered your fresh grains and already successfully harvested my first milk kefir..
    The packaging was carefully bubble rubbed.
    I will definitely recommend to all interested in making their own kefir through your company

    • Hi Ronel, Firstly, thank you for your support. I am glad that you are enjoying your Kefir. We package our kefir with freezer packs and bubble wrap to ensure its quality when it reaches you. If you need more recipes visit the site again or drop me a line.


Leave a Comment