Now storing Kefir over a longer period of time is not so easy… Kefir (either milk of water) can be very demanding and cannot really just be left like Kombucha, even stored in a fridge you will not get very long before your grains die. The method of storage that you use will entirely depend upon how long you are likely to be away.
THE FRIDGE METHOD
The first method is for leaving for up to 14 days (perfect for holidays or when you just have too much kefir)
- Place the grains (water or Milk) in a glass jar with the usual amount of liquid that you would ferment.
ensure that you have your ratio correct so that you have the correct amount of grains to the amount of liquid you are using if you have too many grains there will not be enough food and you risk damaging the grains.
- Store the jar (sealed) in the fridge for up to 14 days
If you are storing milk kefir then simply seal the lid on the jar or cover with cling film HOWEVER if you are storing water kefir then we recommend sealing with clingfilm rather than the lid of the jar. Although the risk is small there is still a small risk of explosions even in the fridge. If you use cling film if the pressure gets too much the cling film will stretch and possibly pop but you avoid it exploding in the fridge.
- Strain the kefir (the drink produced is drinkable although it may be very sour)
It is a good idea to ensure that you pop them in the fridge in fresh solution (milk or water) at the last minute before you go and then try and get them in fresh solution as soon as you can when you return.
If you are simply resting the grains as you have more kefir than you can drink try to avoid putting the grains in the fridge too often (not more than twice per month) as the grains can be damaged by the cold temperature of the fridge. It is better to control the amount that you are making by limiting the amount of grains you use (ie remove some grains from the jar) than to keep resting the grains. The grains will always be happier if you brew smaller quantities more often rather than large amounts sporadically.
Basically this method puts the grains into a semi-dormant state and slows down the metabolism of the organism. HOWEVER, when you return to brewing as normal at room temperature you will find that the first few brews will take approximately 24 hours longer as it takes the grains a few days to wake/warm up again.
If you are going away for more than 7 days but have someone who can “babysit” your kefir (while water the plants or feeding the cats) then follow the directions for above but after straining the grains and restarting the batch pop the glass jar back in the fridge and leave for a further 7 days. This method can be used for up to 2/3 months HOWEVER…
resting kefir grains for this long will have a negative affect on the grains and the microflora in them. THERE IS A CHANCE THAT YOUR GRAINS MAY BECOME DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR so it is best to have a back up set of grains in the freezer (just in case!). When you return to room temperature brewing again it will take your grains quite some time to get themselves back to optimum brewing (up to 10 brews) and as above the brews that you perform during this time will take longer to complete.The longer the grains were kept dormant the longer it will take for them to recover I personally wouldn’t recommend storing grains with this method this long and think that if you need to rest your grains for longer than say 5 or 6 weeks the freezing method works best, water kefir can be a bit more choosy and therefore it can be a bit hit and miss.
Please be aware that the same applies with regards to resuming your brew at room temperature no matter which method you use.
I also feel it is only fair to warn you that the biggest reason for people needing new grains after a holiday or time away is that the babysitter messed it up. They either did not do what they were supposed to or just decided to throw them away. The list of things that can happen to your milk kefir grains whilst in the care of a babysitter is endless to be warned. Choose your sitter carefully!
FREEZING OR DEHYDRATING
If you are just wanting to stop making kefir for a while or you are going away for an extended period then freezing or dehydrating is the only option.
Frozen grains can be stored for around 3-4 months and dehydrated grains can be stored for 12 months.