Kefir is made from two varieties of Kefir “grains,” milk kefir grains, the most common and has existed for over two millennia and water kefir grains, a novel discovery.
Difference in Milk Kefir Grains and Water Kefir Grains
Water kefir grains are translucent, gelatinous structures comprised of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts, including Lactobacillus hilgardii, infused with complex sugars yielding a crystal-like clump. These grains are used to make a probiotic-rich beverage which can be processed in a variety of ways and with different flavors.
Milk kefir grains, on the other hand, are uniquely formed when the bacteria/yeast colony is mixed with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They distinctly appear like small clumps of cauliflower.
Brewing & Taste of Milk Kefir and Water Kefir
Depending on the “grains,” there are two types of basic kefir drinks, the Milk kefir, and Water Kefir.
Milk kefir has a similar taste to yogurt (strong sour based on fermentation time) and has a creamy tart flavor, and confers health benefits by improving digestion and gut health. Even Lactose intolerant individuals can also enjoy this drink, as the the Lactose is completely broken or fermented into lactic acid which is easily digestible. Water kefir is similar but devoid of casein or lactose.
Water kefir is cultured by introducing the water kefir grains into sugar (sucrose or glucose) water, jaggery water or coconut water. There is a sparkling soda effect in coconut water kefir, anybody who like soft drink beverages with fizz would love this pleasant tingling taste.
Milk Kefir is cultured by introducing the milk kefir grains into dairy milk, and coconut milk will also do.
The bacteria and yeast present in both the grains metabolize the sugars present (either Lactose in dairy milk or Sucrose in sugar water), fermenting it, introducing beneficial microorganisms, B-complex vitamins, and food enzymes. The resulting drink is a probiotic blend of nutrients and natural sugars, a natural fizzy drink that improves gut health and aids in digestion. Both are a cultured, and fermented beverage high in nutrients and probiotics, albeit they have different bacterial strains. Both the milk kefir and water kefir has vital strains of good bacteria.
The fermentation time of milk kefir is between 1-2 days while that of water kefir is 1-4 days based on the temperature and weather condition. Warmer the climate, quicker the fermentation.
Probiotic Benefits of Milk Kefir and Water Kefir
Reports states that, both milk kefir and water kefir treat a variety of diseases, e.g., tuberculosis, ulcer, acid reflux, colitis, diarrhea, constipation, urinary tract infection, and are known to prevent certain cancers (prostate cancer and colon cancer). These health drinks also help control blood pressure, diabetes and maintain blood sugar levels. Furthermore, they provide a calming sensation, against depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
However, there is a slight yet distinctive nutritional difference between the two. Milk kefir is more nutritious than water kefir due to the milk present. Milk is the life source of mammals, rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and furthermore, vitamins A and B-complex (B1, B12, and B7), carbohydrates (lactose sugar) and proteins. These are essential nutrients for growth and development.
Meanwhile, water kefir offers certain advantages as well. It has low glycemic index (GI), releasing glucose slowly into your bloodstream limiting food craving, ideal for those individuals on a diet and is less fattening too. It is also suitable for vegans who keep away from dairy. Water kefir offers flexibility, enabling you to work with any liquid as long as it has sugars to break down.
Another few other important points to consider –
- Water kefir grains can be used to make simple water kefir and coconut water kefir. Also, the ready water kefir can be used to ferment raw coconut milk and fruit juices or sodas.
- Water Kefir is dairy free, so people who wants to go dairy free or vegan can choose this option.
- Water kefir grains multiply quickly compared to milk kefir grains. Also the maintenance, preparation and handling of water kefir grains are easy compared to milk kefir grains (bit messy while separating the ready kefir milk and grains).
- We have noticed, children love coconut water kefir than milk kefir (sour curds taste). The fizz and sparkling taste with some sweetness gives them a taste of carbonated soft drinks. In fact, my child Disha loves coconut water kefir, please see the YouTube video.