After a few months of gathering the courage, I bought some kefir grains to try to make some homemade kefir. I had made a few batches of lousy yogurt and wanted to try something new. It was a total flop. The top picture is what came out of the little packet I ordered for $20.
The directions say to soak the grains in milk for 1-2 weeks, changing out the milk daily to reconstitute the grains. Also, the grains are not supposed to touch metal. So I had my mason jar of milk on the counter with kefir grains in it and changed out the milk faithfully. I think my main problem was that I don't have a non-metal strainer small enough to catch the grains, so I had to fish them out with my hands every day. It was gross. They are really small to begin with and don't feel much different than lumps of yogurty-curded milk so I must have dumped a lot of them down the sink. After two weeks of doing this, I ended up with six itty-bitty curdy lumps, pictured below.
They never did make anything that seemed like kefir or even yogurt. I imagine if I had a strainer and ended up with all of the grains I started with in this size, they might do a sufficient job. They'd still be hard to fish out of a mason jar of thickened liquid though. Anyway, I threw them out and am happy to buy kefir for now. I think I'll go back to making yogurt. I probably just wore out my starter. I hear you're supposed to use new yogurt every once in a while instead of using it from the last batch every time.