Milk Kefir vs water Kefir
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What on earth is Kefir?!
Kefir is a delicious, probiotic-rich fermented beverage. What some people are unaware of is that there are two different kinds of Kefir: milk Kefir and water Kefir. Not only do these two types of Kefir cater for most dietary needs and/or requirements, it is the gift that keeps on giving as Kefir grains proliferate and ferment indefinitely when looked after properly, meaning your Kefir can outlive you, your children and your children’s children!
Two types of Kefir… Say what?!
The most obvious difference between milk Kefir and water Kefir is that the one contains lactose and the other is dairy-free. There are other differences, but there are also likenesses. Much like non-identical twins if we were to draw an analogy… They don’t look the same, but they share many similarities and character traits :)
How is it made?
Starting at the very beginning, milk Kefir and water Kefir differ in how they are made. Milk Kefir is generally made with cow, goat or donkey milk but can be made with coconut milk (however the results are inconsistent and this can be damaging to your grains. You can read more about this under our FAQs). The Kefir is made by adding your milk Kefir grains to the milk and letting it ferment. Water Kefir, on the other hand, is made with a sugar-water solution, by placing your water Kefir grains into a sugar water mixture and letting it ferment.
How do the grains look?
If Kefir is still a foreign concept to you (understandably so…), we’ll break it down for you. Kefir grains are a combination of live strains of bacteria and yeast that form something that looks either like a cauliflower floret in the case of milk Kefir, or like translucent caviar/tapioca in the case of water Kefir. The strains of bacteria and yeast in milk Kefir and water Kefir differ, with milk Kefir containing more bacterial and yeast strains than water Kefir. This, however, does not make water Kefir inferior to milk Kefir, the benefits are different and it remains a wonderful addition to one’s overall lifestyle if you are lactose-intolerant and cannot consume milk Kefir.
So… Do they taste different?
Milk Kefir can have a sour, fermented taste, almost like a sour buttermilk (note sour, not off). South Africans will understand the Amasi reference, which is a fermented milk beverage enjoyed by many South Africans. The taste of Kefir also varies based on what type of milk is used and the culturing time (the longer it is left, the more sour the Kefir becomes). Water Kefir has a tarty, yeasty and slightly sweet taste. Similar to milk Kefir, the taste differs depending on what is added to the sugar water solution (such as molasses or salt to add to the mineral content of the water) or the culturing time. The Kefir will become less sweet the longer it is left in the solution.
What do I do with milk or water Kefir?
Oh, the possibilities are endless! Milk Kefir and water Kefir can be consumed as is once the grains have been strained, however the taste is an acquired one and if you are not a culinary dare-devil, it could be that you’d prefer to add it to your food/flavour it. Should this be the case, then there are so many options! Milk Kefir and water Kefir make for a delicious (and convenient) base for any smoothie. Milk Kefir can also be used to make Kefir ice cream, cream cheese, salad dressings, marinades, etc. and can be used as a substitute for buttermilk when baking (YAY!). Water Kefir, because of its neutral taste, can be put through a second ferment (read more about that in our FAQs) where you can make the most delicious and innovative Kefir sodas! The sky is the limit on this, as you can literally flavour it ANY way you like. Water Kefir can also be added to food, or used to create new starter cultures for other fermented foods.
Whether you go for milk Kefir or water Kefir, you absolutely cannot go wrong with these probiotic beverages! We’d love to hear some of your Kefir masterpieces/recipes. Tag us in any photos (@Craftycultures on Instagram and Crafty Cultures on Facebook) or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.