What is Kefir?
Kefir is a popular alternative remedy for digestive issues. The probiotics in kefir are good for balancing out the internal flora of the digestive system. Since the correct balance of bacterial life in the digestive tract is vital to proper working of the intestines, probiotics like kefir are a great choice for anyone suffering from irregularity.
It can take about two weeks of regular usage before the digestive system gets used to the probiotics in kefir. For best results, you should drink about a cup of kefir every day. Depending on your diet before you start using kefir, you might notice some stomach discomfort initially. This does not mean your kefir is not good, it just means that your body is trying to adjust.
Kefir can be taken at any time of day. There is no evidence that taking kefir on either a full or an empty stomach affects the ability of the bacteria to colonize in your intestines. This means that you can take kefir with or before your breakfast, as a snack during the day, or late in the evening. Drink your kefir at whatever time best suits your needs and your schedule.
Is My Kefir Good to Drink?
Even though it is fermented, kefir will go bad over time, just like any other dairy product. While the bacterial cultures in kefir are good for your digestive tract, once they overgrow the kefir is no longer drinkable. Since kefir is a relatively expensive product, it can be tempting not to throw it away when you become suspicious of its quality. The safe thing to do, though, is to throw it out if you think it is not good to drink anymore.
For people unfamiliar with kefir, it can be somewhat difficult to tell if it has gone bad. It has a different texture and smell from other milk products. Unlike how every gallon of milk is the same, one bottle of milk kefir will not have the same feel, smell, or taste as another. Each batch will be slightly different, especially if the kefir is homemade or craft. But there are some tell-tale signs that it is time to get rid of a bottle of kefir.
Kefir naturally has a thick texture and may have chunks in it while still drinkable. It should look and feel like buttermilk. If the whole container has gotten chunky, however, the kefir is no longer safe to drink. It might also look like water mixed with larger, more solid chunks, which means it has gone bad.
Another obvious sign that kefir is no longer good is if there is mold growing on it. If there is anything fuzzy on top of the kefir, throw it out. Also, kefir should be generally the same color throughout the mixture. If there are patches of another color, especially one that contrasts with the color of the ingredients, that is another sign of mold infestation.
When you first open a bottle of kefir, it might smell a bit stronger than you expect. It may even have a sour or vinegary smell. This is normal. But if the smell becomes harsh or is much stronger than when the carton was initially opened, it is safer to let it go.
The same is not true for taste, however. Just because it tastes too strong to comfortably drink does not mean it has become unsafe. In the absence of other signs that it has gone bad, sour kefir can still be consumed. Try using it in a recipe, such as biscuits or pancakes, where the sour flavor will fit in.
Kefir purchased at a regular grocery store, rather than directly from a producer, will have a date on it. You can use this date to determine if your kefir is still good, but it is more of an indication as to the optimal time frame for consumption, not an absolute measure of safety.
How to Store Kefir
If left at room temperature, kefir will only keep for about a day or two. If kept in the refrigerator at around 40- or 50-degrees F, it will remain drinkable for one to two weeks.
If you really want your kefir to last longer, such as if you bought or made a large batch at once, you will want to freeze it. Freezing kefir does not kill the healthy bacteria in it, it just puts them into a suspended state. Frozen kefir can be kept for months. Once you are ready to eat it, transfer the container to the refrigerator and allow it to defrost. It will take about 24 hours before the defrosted kefir is ready to eat.
If you are making your own kefir, you will need to ferment it at room temperature. However, once the fermentation is complete, the kefir should be stored at refrigerator temperatures for it to last longer. Store-bought kefir should always be kept in the fridge. The travel time between manufacturer, store, and your home is long enough that room-temperature kefir would already have gone bad.
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