Kefir has been around for a long time. However, it’s only just getting mainstream attention due to its significant health benefits, especially for topping up the ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.
Here’s my buyer’s guide on where to buy kefir and kefir grains in the UK, both online and in supermarkets. This also covers different types such as water kefir and grains, and non-dairy coconut kefir. Also, there’s some advice on where to get kefir grains for free.
Where to buy kefir in UK supermarkets or shops
Firstly, you ought to know the difference between ‘commercial’ mass produced kefir and kefir that is traditionally fermented. Some commercial brands use kefir powder rather than grains, so they can keep a consistent texture and flavour. This is fine, as it’s still full of ‘good’ bacteria, but powders often have lower volumes and fewer varieties of live cultures. The best quality kefir is fermented from kefir grains.
Many UK supermarkets aren’t stocking many pre made kefir products or drinks yet. However, kefir yoghurt and milk drinks made by The Collective and Bio-tiful Dairy are available at most Waitrose stores and a handful of Sainsburys. I’ve seen them in the very big Tesco and Asda branches, too. Some bigger health food shops such as Holland & Barrett have it in their fridges, but it’s a good idea to call ahead and check.
Kefir originates from Eastern Europe so good ‘hidden’ places to get milk kefir are from Eastern European and Polish delis or shops, as well as the ‘International’ aisle in some supermarkets. Look for the ‘Milko’ brand as the most common, which is made in Poland.
Buying a pre made milk kefir drink is a good test to see if you like the taste and texture of milk kefir before you make your own or splash out on an online delivery of artisan products, listed below.
Where to buy kefir online in the UK
Since fermented kefir made with grains needs to be made with care and can’t be mass-produced easily, a handful of small independent companies sell their kefir online in the UK. This is usually very high quality with a good volume of live cultures.
Bear in mind that kefir bought online is often a “course” – three or four bottles of kefir intended to last for a suggested number of days or weeks if taken daily. Here are a handful of ones that I’ve either tried myself or had recommendations for:
Milk based Kefirs
The Live Kefir Company are based in Yorkshire and make several types of organic Kefir by hand, including flavoured smoothies. They are available to buy online for home delivery. Dispatch takes three or four days, but it’s usually free. Click to check their milk kefir range on Amazon or their eBay shop. They are the only UK company to have over 30 accredited health benefits on their kefir products, too.
The Chuckling Goat’s kefir is the only university tested and approved kefir in the UK. It’s made in Wales from goat’s milk and is very powerful stuff – so much so, they recommend starting with just a tablespoon of it. They frequently test the microbiology of their kefir batches and are a trusted name in the kefir industry.
If you want to buy kefir in London, you can take advantage of Planet Organic’s express delivery in the capital – they have one of the most varied selections of kefir drinks in stock. Click to check what they currently have available.
Water kefir drinks and non-dairy Kefirs
The Live Kefir Company make traditional milk kefir as listed above, but they also have a range of dairy-free coconut milk kefirs that have good, consistent reviews. Click to check the price of their coconut kefir on Amazon or their eBay shop.
The King of Kefir company in Ireland make small batches of water-based kefir drinks with flavours such as Lemongrass & Ginger, Chilli & Ginger and Cucumber, and Mint & Thyme. They’re Dublin based, and make their products in Ireland’s first dedicated water kefir brewery. It’s hard to find their products outside Ireland but there are a few available on Amazon (link to check the current prices).
Other kefir products
Since kefir is produced in a similar way to probiotic ‘live’ yoghurt, some of the companies listed above also make “kefir yoghurt” products too. You can also find this in some supermarkets, such as the Yeo Valley range of yoghurts, but the jury is out on whether these are effective or powerful as drinking fresh fermented kefir produced from grains.
If you make your own kefir then the range of kefir products widens. You can make kefir butter, cream cheese, hard cheese and other items that would normally use ordinary milk or coconut milk. To do this though, you need to make your own kefir at home with kefir grains.
Where to buy kefir starter culture (kefir grains and water kefir grains) in the UK
Many companies who make kefir will also sell you their particular strain of kefir ‘grains’, which is the popular name for the kefir starter culture. The word ‘grain’ refers to their appearance – they don’t contain any grains, they just look like little jagged grains of material, hence the name.
Different grains are used depending on what type of kefir you’re making. There are traditional milk grains for dairy-based kefir, coconut milk kefir grains for those who cannot eat dairy, and water kefir grains for using in water-based drinks.
There are loads for sale on Amazon (click to check what is currently being sold in the UK) and surprisingly, eBay is also a good source for people selling their own grains pretty cheaply (click to check which sellers have kefir grains online for sale at the moment).
When buying fresh kefir grains, look for white ‘cauliflower’ shaped grains as these are usually the best quality. Water kefir grains should be translucent, with the same shape. Check online reviews and you can quickly see which grains are producing consistently good results for people at home.
Recommended kefir starter packs and kits
If you’re buying kefir grains for the first time, it might be wise to opt for a starter kit – that way, you have everything you need to start making kefir from the grains, without guessing or substituting equipment. The kefir grains/starter cultures are usually included – you just need to add water, non-dairy milk or milk to start making your choice of kefir.
Two kefir starter kits that come recommended are:
The complete milk kefir home fermenting Kit by Happy Kombucha (click to check the price on Amazon). This is a good all-you-need kit for milk kefir. Happy Kombucha are a well-known brand who sell most things to do with home fermentation (including kombucha). This kit includes a jar, kefir grains, a brewing cloth, spoon, bottles and sieve.
Crave Longevity have a water kefir starter kit for those who want to make non-dairy water-based kefir drinks (click to check the price on Amazon). This includes everything you need to make water kefir including live organic water kefir grains (also known as ‘scoby’), a jar, spoon bottle, measuring jug, sieve and instructions.
If you want to make non-dairy kefir that is based on a milk such as coconut milk, you can use the same kit that is intended for milk kefir – you just need to make sure you replace the milk grains with ones raised in a non-dairy product.
Like many fermented products, you never really run out of kefir grains, as they multiply (this isn’t always the case with kefir that is made from powders). This means that eventually, if you keep making kefir, you’ll have surplus grains left over. Which brings us to the obvious tip…
How to get kefir grains for free
Lots of people are making kefir at home and they have a surplus of happy, healthy kefir grains that need a new home. This is where you can get kefir grains for free.
There are some Facebook groups dedicated to sharing and giving away kefir grains and other types of fermented products, very much like the way our grannies used to share bread ‘starters’ for sourdough (you might even find them too). Search “Kefir UK” and you’ll find a few groups.
Also check other classified sites like Gumtree, or local foodie networks. Sometimes there’s a small charge for postage, but usually the kefir grains are free or extremely cheap. If you’re a kefir lover, this is the most economical way to make it yourself and enjoy its benefits more frequently.