Tag Archives: modification

Kefir Modding : Engineering the SCOBY

Several weeks ago I ordered kefir grains. Although they were viable after their stint in an envelope for close to a week, the kefir they produced didn’t seem right in taste and flavor; harsher than what kefir should taste like.

Since this did not resolve after the first few batches, I bought some Lifeway kefir at the store. The idea was that since this kefir does taste the way I wanted mine to taste, it clearly had the right bacteria and yeast in the right proportions. Since the grains are just a polysaccharide, specifically kefiran, which provides a home for the yeast and bacteria that make up the kefir SCOBY, it seemed reasonable to assume that the ones from the store bought kefir would join their brethren.

What ensued was World War I in a jar. There were clear signs of some heavy use of chemical warfare. Although kefir normally produces someĀ CO2 during fermentation, in the night that followed the mingling of the two colonies the amount generated was almost explosive.

After brewing up a batch of kefir with the grains that had multiplied quite dramatically during the short lived war, it was clear who had won. The kefir was still running and harsh.

Fortunately, I had another plan and ordered some Matsoni yogurt starter. This yogurt was described as having “a thick viscous consistency,” which suggested that Leuconostoc Cremoris bacteria in it were producing some nice polysaccharides. Plus since the other name for this particular yogurt is Caspian Sea yogurt and kefir thought to originate in the Caucasus Mountains right next door, it seemed like this ‘cultural’ addition might work.

And… It did!

The kefir that is now produced is much silkier in texture, the way that, in my mind, kefir should feel. And the taste has mellowed out considerably. Of course, the diversity of the SCOBY might have taken a hit, since suddenly a very large new population of just two strains was added. But maybe not. It’s possible that the weird texture and flavor were indicative of an unbalanced system, with one particular strain being overactive and the two new strains put the house back in order.

Thus is seems that SCOBY engineering was successful on the second try and that’s pretty good. As is the kefir, which just makes this experiment that much more satisfying.

EDIT:
Right, the “how to part” went missing. Here we go:

1.Poured off kefir, leaving the kefir grains in the sieve
2. Using a spoon, got all the grains together into a single mass, and flattened it out (gently)
3. Opened a packet of the Matsoni yogurt starter and sprinkled entire powdered content onto the grains
4. Gently worked the grains with a spoon to try to disperse the starter evenly throughout the grains, making sure there were no dry clumps of starter left
5. Mixed the grains into some room temperature milk and let the whole thing do it’s business for two days.

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