Kombucha is a familiar fermented beverage, sold in many grocery stores and cafés; water kefir, another fermented non-dairy drink, is not quite as common. The two are often compared, but are they really similar? What is the difference between kombucha and water kefir? Are there benefits of one over the other? Should you drink both?
Starter Cultures for Kombucha and Water Kefir
The Kombucha starter culture is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (scoby), held together by polysaccharides. Its appearance is similar to a mushroom cap, which is why the culture is also referred to as a mushroom, though it is not a fungus. Kombucha is known to contain a variety of yeast and bacteria.
Water kefir grains are also a colony of bacteria and yeast, though their appearance is quite different, small and translucent. The term "grains" describes the look of the culture only. Kefir grains contain no actual grains such as wheat, rye, etc. Water kefir grains are also known to contain a variety of bacteria and yeasts.
Preparation of Kombucha and Water Kefir
Kombucha is prepared by adding starter tea and a kombucha culture (scoby) to sweet tea. The mixture is fermented for up to 30 days. Consult our detailed instructions and a video on making kombucha for more information.
Water kefir is prepared by adding water kefir grains to sugar water, fruit juice, or coconut water and culturing for 24-48 hours. View our detailed instructions and video on making water kefir.
Flavor of Kombucha and Water Kefir
Kombucha is tangy, slightly sweet, and can be effervescent. The flavor varies greatly depending on the culturing time and tea used. The culturing time determines whether the kombucha tea has a very mild taste or a very strong vinegar-like taste.
Drink the kombucha as is or add juice or fruit for additional flavoring.
Water kefir can be fairly sweet, depending on the sugar used for culturing. We recommend flavoring water kefir made with sugar water prior to consuming, as the taste of plain water kefir isn't particularly pleasing.
Which is Better? Kombucha or Water Kefir?
Kombucha can be an aid to digestion. In addition to the beneficial bacteria, it also contains some acids and enzymes to aid in the breaking down of food. Kombucha tea can contain caffeine, depending on the tea used.
Water kefir is more of a general probiotic beverage. While it does contain enzymes and acids, they don’t seem to have quite as strong an effect as those in kombucha. However, water kefir contains a greater number of bacteria strains than those found in kombucha.
Both beverages are beneficial in aiding natural systems of the body, and both are great for hydration. Depending on your needs, consuming one or both is a matter of individual taste.