The 'Dom' King of Kefir has some great info on all of that. That being said, it's a BIG site and can get a bit overwhelming....http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html
I have been using my grains for about 3 weeks now (wow, time flies).
I have tried many ways of making the Kefir:
Soaked in 2 cups coconut milk, overnight on counter. YUMMY coconut flavor to it!
Soaked in 2 cups Whole, organic milk, overnight on counter - Yum, more tart and 'plain' tasting.
Soaked in 2 cups reconstituted Coconut Cream Concentrate, overnight on counter - mmm, unusual. When I refridgerated it after 'brewing' the oils thickened up and there were little 'coconut oil' lumps in it and it made it taste strange to the 'tongue' but flavor was fine.
Brewed in whole milk in refrigerator, took about 3 days to get to the point where I had it overnight. So would be good way to take a mini break.
Let sit in 2 cups clean, filtered water in fridge for almost a week to test it. Made regular Kefir with milk and it took a few hours more than 24 to 'brew' up just fine.....The 'Dom' has instructions to make a 'back up batch' of grains that are dried and then frozen.
I pour Kefir into a fresh glass jar and keep adding to it in fridge. If I can't use it within 3-4 days making morning smoothies or soaking grains in it, I strain it through cheese cloth and make the absolute most fabulous 'cream cheese' (will keep in fridge for about a month, if you don't eat it all up the next few days). Add a pinch of sea salt to the cheese, stir, store in glass container in fridge, and wa la...instant yummy stuff!
I save the 'whey' from this process in a seperate container (6 month storage life) for using for lacto fermenting foods/grain soaking. (See Nourishing Traditions Thread or the Book).
I tried Kefir Egg Nog this morning. Different! It's more 'tangy' than regular egg nog, but I got used to it after a few 'swigs'....I added some cinnamon and that helped too!
I would suggest the cream cheese for 'first timers'....I had several guests over and they thought I had bought 'gourmet' chevrie cheese for their crackers!
Oh, regarding a non metal strainer, I cut a piece of the plastic netting that elephant garlic bulbs come in (and some other onion type veges) and used that with a rubber band on lid of my Kefir mason jar.