I skipped step in a recent batch of kefir and thought I lost my culture. After 24 hours in a mason jar at room temperature, all of my batches had thickened and cultured nicely. But this jar remained liquid milk. I noticed as I was going to move it into the fridge. So I poured it through a strainer into another jar. The strainer did not catch any kefir grains/curds. Which showed that the step I skipped was an essential one: adding culture from a previous batch.
I had just used up the last of my previous batch for baking. When I first got the kefir starter from a friend, I always checked that the new batch was working before using all of the previous one. But several months of success made me overconfident. I can be absent-minded as well as overconfident. When those two traits come together results are not good. I thought I would contact the friend who shared the culture, but I remembered something.
Last week, I had made a pinto bean fermentation using kefir whey as a starter. Half of the jar of beans was still in the fridge. Yesterday, I heated a pint of milk to pasteurization temperature. Normally, I make a quart or two at a time but didn’t want to waste milk if it didn’t work. After allowing the milk to cool to lukewarm, I stirred in a few of the fermented beans as starter. It went on the shelf for 24 hours. I just checked it and tasted success. My culture lives. And I’ll go back to checking my last batch before using all of my previous one – at least for a while.