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Kombucha vs Kefir

By: Brew Your Bucha Posted: August 31, 2018 in Kombucha

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the fight of the century! We’re here to witness a bout between the beverages. Who will win in the battle between kombucha vs. kefir? Who will finally be crowned the pound for pound probiotic champion of the beverage world!

In the red corner, we have the fizzy fighter, the SCOBY scrapper: kombucha!

And in the blue corner, we have the challenger, also known as the grainy-one, kefir!

Which one will be crowned probiotic champion? Stick around and see who wins the battle between kombucha vs kefir.

Tale of the Tape

Both kefir and kombucha are fermented drinks that rely on a SCOBY and its host of microorganisms. Both are purported to be healthy beverages that can greatly improve digestion and overall health. However, both beverages also have a multitude of differences.

To those who are unaware, kefir is the combination of grain-like granules that are suspended in a liquid. When discussing kefir, it’s important to note that there are two different types: milk kefir and water kefir.

The main difference between the two types of kefir is sugar. Since kefir, much like kombucha, is a fermented drink, the microorganisms require food for sustenance. In milk kefir, the bacteria feed on the natural sugars in the milk while water kefir requires an additional source of sugar, such as granulated sugar, coconut water, or honey.

Milk kefir can be made from a variety of milk, including cow and goat milk, so the flavour and nutrients can vary. Also, many recommend using whole fat animal milk for best results.

Now that we know both participants, let’s see which one will win the battle between kombucha vs kefir.

Round 1 – Health Benefits

It’s undeniable that kombucha is the more popular and well-known beverage when compared to kefir. If you’re a fan of this blog, then you already know that kombucha is full of probiotics that aid in healthy digestion and overall good health. Our guts are full of different types of bacteria working together and any imbalance in our gut can lead to issues. However, kombucha is a good way to maintain good digestion and have a happy gut. Thus, kombucha can be a good way to combat indigestion or diarrhea.

In addition to its probiotics, kombucha is also a great tasting beverage with a satisfying fizz. Consequently, it can be a great alternative to sodas, which are packed full of sugar. It’s important to note that kombucha does contain some alcohol and caffeine, which are byproducts of the kombucha fermentation process.

On the other side, kefir also enjoys a host of health benefits.

Milk kefir is a great source of calcium  and often contains less lactose than regular milk. This makes milk kefir easier to digest for lactose sensitive individuals. Water kefir has the obvious advantage of being lactose free, which is good for those avoiding dairy, such as vegans. Since water kefir relies on other sources of sweeteners, it can taste much sweeter than milk kefir. While the differences can be significant, both types of kefir rely on kefir grains, which is similar to a SCOBY and serves as the probiotic source for the beverages. Also, kefir does not contain any caffeine, but can contain tiny amounts of alcohol.

When it comes to health benefits, both types of kefirs are loaded with good bacteria, but “Milk-based kefir is loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid affectionately known as ‘nature’s Prozac,’ because of how it soothes the nervous system” (GLAMOR). Moreover, milk kefir also contains more lactic acid bacteria, which is a type of probiotic that has been used in food for years. Much like other probiotics, lactic acid bacteria help maintain good digestion and keep the bacteria in one’s system balanced.

Round 2 – Fermentation

As the battle between kombucha vs kefir rages on, we take a look at their fermentation processes.

Kombucha’s fermentation process requires three basic ingredients: black tea, sugar, and a SCOBY. The SCOBY is kept in a jar with the starter tea, which is black tea, and sugar is added to feed the SCOBY. The brew is left in a cool, dark place with a cloth covering the opening of the jar. After about 7 days, the base kombucha is ready, but it is not flavoured and has zero carbonation. To add flavour and fizz, a second fermentation process is required, but it happens in the individual bottles, not the brewing jar.

We have several recipes for brewing kombucha on our recipe page.

When it comes to kefir, both milk and water kefir have similar fermentation processes that share some similarities to kombucha’s fermentation. Instead of using a large, gelatinous SCOBY, kefir relies on kefir grains, which act like the SCOBY and carry out the fermentation process in kefir. These grains are around the size of a pebble and must be stored properly, much like a SCOBY.

The kefir grains are put in a liquid and require some sugar to ferment. If a person is making milk kefir, then the kefir grains can eat the sugar in the milk and no additional sweetener is required. On the other hand, water kefir requires the addition of a source of sugar in order to feed the microorganisms. The entire fermentation process requires 5 to 7 days and depends on the desired level of sweetness in the kefir. Kefir generally does not undergo a second fermentation process. 

Round 3 – Home Brew Capabilities

For the final round in the battle between kombucha vs kefir, we’re going to examine how easy it is to make your own kombucha or kefir at home.

Fortunately, both beverages are suited for the home brewed lifestyle. In both cases, the most difficult ingredient to obtain will be the SCOBY/Kefir grains that are required for the fermentation process. Unfortunately, many local shops do not sell these in store, which makes online shopping your best bet. While we do not currently carry Kefir grains, we do have a wide selection of SCOBYs in our shop page.   Moreover, we also carry all the necessary tools, including brew jar, temperatures strip, and cloth cover to brew your own kombucha or kefir at home. While our products are advertised as kombucha brewing kits, many of the same tools and even ingredients can be used in both processes.

The Verdict

After three hard fought rounds, we’re going to the judges decision. All three judges score this bout a DRAW!

Yes, when it comes to the battle between kombucha vs kefir, there is no real loser. Both products are great sources of probiotics, but it depends on your own lifestyle to decide which one is better suited for your own needs. While kombucha has a satisfying fizzy taste, many may flock to the calcium rich milk kefir; it depends on your preference.

Whatever you may choose, just remember to enjoy in moderation.

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