Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Colorado Mountains
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First, to answer both questions...remember how they did Kefir in the old days...
They filled an animal skin bag with grains and milk and hung it near the door, so anyone walking past would give it a 'swing' to shake things up and distribute the culturing goodness....
They then just poured off what they needed and then added in more milk, never removing the grains until they probably got really big or it was starting to get too full....
So as far as using a lid or using 'mesh'....as long as bugs can't get through the mesh (fruit flies), then that's fine. A lid is also fine (on a bit loose if you have the jar particularly full and you want to let some of the gases escape.
The instructions for doing a juice ferment say a tight fitting lid, but that's probably because you want it to build up a bit of CO2 fizzyness, and if it was on loose, it'd 'POP' off, and something might get in the brew (it would attract fruit flies like made with the fermenting smell).
Milk ferments can be done either way (I've done both...I used lid, then mesh and have lately used a lid again.) The mesh did allow for a super mild smelling Kefir, not yeasty in the least bit....
Lately, I've just been straining off the kefir milk, swirling the grains a tiny bit with a silicon spatula to knock off any curds, then putting them in a clean jar and adding in fresh milk. I do not rinse them, unless I'm going to ship some of them and I want to make sure I'm getting actual kefir grains mostly in the package.
I've also let this 'brew' for up to 3-4 days just to test it...(*it is cold here, and it's been taking longer for true 'curding' and lumping up*) but man is this some mild, almost sweet, and 'bubbly' Kefir.
More grains will usually turn it 'curdy' faster, and you can add more milk, let it brew longer and not worry. If it changes texture and flavor so much you don't like it, then remove a few grains.
There is no 'wrong' way to do this..it's all experimenting and personal preference. The only bad things are subjecting them to heat, metal for a long period of time and putting 'milk based' grains in juice and never giving them milk again (that is, if you want them to reproduce still, they will still 'culture' both even if the flavor changes...)
You can definitely sit them in milk for a day or two in the refrigerator. You can even just put them in clean, chlorine free water (It's like a mini fast for them). I believe I have a 'leaving your grains unattended' info sheet on one of the threads with just this info. You can even leave them longer! They just might be 'slow' to ferment your milk if you leave them in there a VERY long time (like a month or more).