If you have already figured out the correct measures of ingredients and method to ferment kefir, you can now graduate to the next level of making the second ferment.
At the start, you may find it like a lot of extra work that’s really not necessary. But, once you taste it, you will feel the difference.
And above all, making the second ferment is just as simple and easy as preparing kefir. Here’s all that you need to know about kefir second fermentation and the best ways to flavor your milk kefir.
What is Kefir Second Fermentation
The first fermentation happens when milk kefir grains are added to milk and cultured between 12-24 hours depending on if milk is kept in the fridge or on the room temperature.
Once the grains are removed we are left with milk kefir. Milk kefir can be further cultured and flavored depending on the preference.
The culturing process is called the second fermentation. For everyone that is lactose intolerant second fermentation is great as it will reduce the lactose contents.
The lactose content drops because bacteria feeds from the lactose. With the second fermentation the nutrient value increases and it provides a base to create new flavours.
The Best Way to Second Ferment Your Kefir
Before we begin, let us first have a look at the two important facts related to second fermentation:
- The second fermentation occurs by the action of the bacteria that have colonized the kefir and are floating freely. This means you do not need to add kefir grains for the second fermentation.
- The second fermentation is an anaerobic process that can continue even in the absence of oxygen. Hence, there is no need to cover the fermentation jar with a cloth to allow air to enter to support the process. In fact, you need to close the jar tightly clamping down the lid on the vessel.
Now let us have a look at the step-by-step process of the second fermentation of kefir.
Step 1: Remove kefir grains from kefir milk you have prepared using a strainer.
Step 2: Pour the kefir into a large glass jar with a tight lid. It is advisable to use the clamp-down bottling jars as the tighter lids of these jars can allow the second fermentation to occur at a faster rate without letting carbonation to escape. If you do not have a clamp-down bottling jar, you may use a normal canning jar.
Step 3: You can add flavorings of your choice such as small chunks of fruits, spices, herbs, or juice. You can skip this step if you prefer the plain taste.
Adding flavors enhances the taste of the second fermented kefir and improves its health benefits by infusing it with the nutrients in the form of flavoring agents.
Step 4: Seal the jar tightly and leave it to stand for the fermentation process to continue. It may take up about 24 and 48 hours for the carbonation to build up in the jar.
You can check the contents and taste it once in 2 to 3 hours to keep tabs on when it has fermented as desired. You can stop the second fermentation at any time you feel there is an adequate build-up of carbonation and the sour taste has reduced to your liking.
Step 5: Once you feel the second fermentation is done, pour the contents in any regular glass bottle or jar and refrigerate. In case, you have added flavorings, you may remove them by hand or using a strainer.
If you prefer, you can leave them in the kefir, especially if they were added in tiny bits and pieces and you plan to consume kefir in a reasonable time period.
Alternatively, you can refrigerate the kefir or make it in the fridge itself as given below:
If you do not prefer to second ferment your kefir fully, you can pour it into a glass bottle after removing the grains and place it in the fridge. Milk kefir, when placed in the cooler temperature, still ferments, though at a slower rate.
The refrigerated kefir is creamier and develops a mellow flavor over 3 to 4 days. It also tastes sweeter. Hence, if you would like your second ferment to be less sour and more sweet and creamier, you can try this method by letting the kefir ferment in the refrigerator itself.
Fermenting Kefir in the Refrigerator
If you want your second fermented kefir to have less tart and yeasty flavors and be far creamier, you can make kefir in the refrigerator by adding kefir grains to fresh milk. Begin with stashing the container in your fridge to get your regular kefir. It may take about 5 to 7 days to ferment kefir in the fridge.
Later, you can remove kefir grains and place the kefir in the fridge again for the second fermentation. This method will give you more mellow tasting kefir.
How Long is the Second Fermentation of Milk Kefir
Usually, it takes about 24 to 48 hours for the second fermentation to occur. However, it depends entirely on you when you want to stop the process. It is best to taste your kefir frequently during the second fermentation to get an idea of how the sourness and flavors are changing over time.
If you like your kefir to have a less sour taste, you can allow it to ferment for a longer duration.
Also, if you want to delay the process of the second fermentation, you can place the kefir milk in the refrigerator. It may take a longer duration if the climate is colder. In a hot climate, the second fermentation can occur in just 8 to 12 hours.
Benefits of a Second Fermentation
Kefir itself is known to provide a number of health benefits that are primarily attributed to the rich probiotics present in it. The process of second fermentation further enhances the probiotic nature of the drink making it an even healthier option.
The second fermentation mellows the flavor as it takes away sharp acid from the milk. Ensure kefir is kept in a jar with lid with no space for air to come in.
By adding spices and flavorings, you can ensure you have a spicy, sweet, or savory drink at your disposal to please your taste buds.
Let’s take a look at the numerous benefits you could enjoy by second fermenting kefir.
Improves Nutritional Profile
The process of secondary fermentation increases the nutritional content of kefir and even enhances the probiotic bacteria present in it.
Probiotic Bacteria: The process of second fermentation allows bacteria to grow and multiply in kefir thus making it richer in terms of its probiotic nature. The probiotics in kefir help to support the functions of the digestive organs such as stomach and intestines by improving the gut flora.
It could provide relief from acute and chronic digestive troubles like constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, and indigestion.
Vitamin Bs: Kefir contains vitamin Bs such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and biotin. These vitamins can support the ability of your intestines to absorb other nutrients thereby making more vitamins and minerals available to your body to function optimally.
Vitamin Bs also support nerve functions and provide relief from neurological symptoms such as tingling and numbness.
Calcium: The calcium content of milk increases during the process of second fermentation. It is known that calcium is an essential nutrient for maintaining the health of bones and teeth.
Drinking second fermented kefir regularly could make your bones and teeth stronger and reduce the risk of bone fractures, and cavities and caries in the teeth.
Magnesium: The higher magnesium content of the secondary ferment could enable you to avoid sleep disturbances. It can also boost the body’s metabolic processes and improve the breakdown and assimilation of food.
One of the best health benefits of second fermentation is that this process reduces the lactose content in kefir. This effect is of great advantage for people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
The second fermentation allows bacteria to use up all sugars in kefir present in the form of lactose thereby making it lactose-free and so, safer to consume.
Hence, patients with lactose intolerance can drink second fermentation kefir without the risk of developing adverse effects.
It is important to note here that the lactose in kefir is lower when the second fermentation is allowed to occur for a longer duration.
Usually, any food tends to become sourer when it is left to ferment for a longer duration. But, kefir is an exception.
It may sound strange! But, it’s a fact that second fermentation actually makes kefir less sour.
Letting your milk kefir undergo the process of second fermentation can drop its sourness by smoothing out its aggressive tartness.
When you leave milk kefir to undergo secondary fermentation, it becomes thicker and creamier. Most people love the rich, creamy taste of the second fermented kefir.
The consistency also indicates increased carbonation and reduced sugar content as the sugars in kefir get used up during the process.
Opportunity to Add in Flavorings
The second fermentation provides you the perfect opportunity to enhance the flavors of your kefir. You can change the flavors of kefir by adding practically any spices or fruits of your choice.
Also, since the process of fermentation continues in the second ferment, whatever flavoring ingredients you add would be incorporated into the contents making the flavor profile more complex.
Since the method of second fermentation involves removing kefir grains first, it prevents the risk of contamination of the grains by any foreign substance. This means your precious kefir grains would still be safe and reusable.
Secondary fermentation increases the carbonation levels in the kefir. Since the process of second fermentation is carried out in a jar with its lid clamped down or screwed on, the build-up of carbonation is trapped within the jar. It makes your kefir fizzier and more refreshing.
You will love the tingling sensation the excess carbonation leaves on your taste buds for long after you have had a glass of twice fermented kefir.
Second Fermentation of Kefir Flavors
The second fermentation is the perfect time for you to experiment with the flavoring of your kefir. Here are some great flavoring options you can try during second fermentation.
You can add chunks of fruits to kefir to make it sweetish. You can also add other natural sweeteners such as honey, dates, molasses, Maple syrup, or Agave syrup.
The additional sucrose from the fruits or sweeteners encourages the fermentation process by providing more food for the bacteria to survive.
Some really good options of fruits you can add during second fermentation include:
- Berries such as Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries
- Citrus fruits
Spices like sticks of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves can also be added in small quantities in addition to the fruits to enhance the flavors further.
You can also use a combination of fruits, spices, and natural sweeteners to create your own complex yet unique flavors.
If you plan to use kefir as dips or dressings, you can flavor them with veggies and herbs such as onion, garlic, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, and rosemary.
Tea Flavored Kefir
You can infuse your kefir with tea to enhance its flavors. Usually, teas are added to thin water kefir to make it more flavorful and thicker.
When using tea for flavoring kefir during secondary fermentation, use tea bags. If the tea is loose, you can place it on a piece of cloth and make a bundle. Tie its upper end with a cotton thread or string. Dip this bundle into your kefir.
The secondary fermentation draws out the rich aroma and flavors of the tea, the end result of which could be a highly refreshing and pleasant drink. You can use herbal teas such as green tea, mint, lemon balm, apple mint, lemongrass, and chamomile for flavoring kefir.
How to Store the Second Fermentation of Kefir
Once you feel the secondary fermentation is done to the extent you desire, you can bottle up the contents and store them in the refrigerator.
You may remove the flavorings or leave them within the bottle. If you leave the flavoring agents in the bottle, the flavors continue to infuse into kefir, though very slowly.
If you have added fruit chunks, they may become too soft and even unappetizing over time. Hence, if you plan to store the kefir for more than a week, it is best to remove the flavorings.
You’ve now learnt how to second ferment kefir and the flavors you can add to this amazing probiotic drink.
You can be creative and experiment as much as you wish. You might even discover a special blend that you, and your friends and family love.
Share below in comments your experiences with Kefir.