Why Drink Kefir?
Many people choose to drink kefir because it contains far more strains of beneficial bacteria than other cultured products such as yogurt. Both milk and water kefir also contain beneficial yeast strains.
While culturing with kefir grains is the traditional method for making both milk and water kefir, there is another method for making kefir at home: you can also use a powdered kefir starter culture.
What is a Powdered Kefir Starter Culture?
Kefir Starter Culture is created in a laboratory and is a direct-set starter culture. This means that it is a single-use culture. It is meant to be used once, but with the proper care, it may be re-cultured a few times before the culture weakens.
While there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both kefir grains and a powdered kefir starter culture, which one you decide to use to make kefir ultimately depends on your individual preferences. You can learn about each below to decide which option is best for you.
How Each Kefir Starter Is Used
Kefir Starter Culture can be used in dairy milk, coconut milk, coconut water, or fruit juice to make dairy and non-dairy kefir.
Milk Kefir Grains can be used to culture dairy milk or coconut milk. While other non-dairy milks may be cultured using milk kefir grains, results are inconsistent, and non-dairy milk does not thicken when cultured like dairy milk does.
Water Kefir Grains are usually used to culture sugar water, but may also be used to culture coconut water or fruit juice, with some care.
Powdered Kefir Starter vs. Kefir Grains: How They Differ
Generally speaking, powdered kefir starter has 7 to 9 strains depending on the particular brand of starter. Milk kefir grains and water kefir grains contain a long list of bacteria and yeast strains and subspecies, making kefir grains the more probiotic-rich culture for making kefir.
Kefir grains are reusable, and with proper care can be used indefinitely. Simply place the grains in the appropriate liquid, culture for 12-48 hours, then transfer the grains to new liquid for the new batch.
A small amount of the kefir made from powdered kefir starter can be reserved and added to fresh liquid to make a new batch of kefir. Generally it can be re-cultured several times before the bacteria weakens.
Kefir grains work best when cultured in back-to-back batches, as both water and milk kefir grains require a constant source of food. Although grains require a little more maintenance than a powedered kefir starter culture, they can be used to produce kefir on a daily basis.
Powdered kefir starter is well suited for individuals who do not wish to make kefir regularly. However, as mentioned above, kefir starter can often be used a few times before the bacteria weaken significantly. For best results, we recommend using or re-culturing the starter within 7 days of the previous batch.
While kefir grains are more costly upfront, kefir grains quickly become more economical, since they are reusable.
Kefir grains are the most traditional, economical, and nutrient-dense way to make kefir. However, it is not always practical to maintain kefir grains on a daily basis.
In situations where it is more practical to make kefir only periodically, we recommend opting for the powdered kefir starter.