I received some water kefir grains in the mail recently, and they smelled pretty cheesy. Is this a bad thing? I've never had water kefir before, so I'm not sure how it should smell.
When live kefir grains are shipped, the balance of which microorganisms are dominant changes, usually resulting in unpleasant odors. It's temporary. Let them run through a few days' worth of batches, and don't drink the kefir until it smells 'right' to you, because it will taste nasty. You will know when it's re-balanced; the taste and smell will be wholesome.
If you received dried grains, they do smell cheesy. Once they've been reconstituted and have a few days to recover, that smell will go away.
Drinking the kefir that will result from the first few batches won't hurt you, but it won't taste good. If you had dairy kefir grains, the first few batches could give you a stomach ache due to bacteria present in the milk not being suppressed by the unbalanced grains.
Here is a link to the most comprehensive kefir site on the net: http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#Kefir-d-acqua
Nance is our local water kefir expert; I'm sure she will weigh in on this question too. Good luck and enjoy your kefir! :)
Here is some good info on water kefir:
TeaElf gave a terrific answer to the question you asked and I will add a bonus suggestion--start with small doses.
I started by drinking a tablespoon--which was hard for me because I felt like I was "wasting" the rest--and that was PLENTY. I definitely felt something going on in my gut and would probably have had diarrhea or something if I'd started with larger doses.
For the first few days, I added only another tablespoon (day 2: morning and afternoon, day 3: 2 in the am and 1 in the aft, etc.) but after that added 1/2 cup per day. By the 2-week mark, I was using fruit juice to make carbonated fruit sodas (a second brewing of kefir/juice without the grains) and drinking a whole bottle per day. The key is being patient those first few days so your gut can adjust comfortably.
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