Water Kefir vs. Kombucha
Many people are familiar with kombucha and when they hear of water kefir are likely to compare it to kombucha. Exactly what is the difference between kombucha and water kefir? Are their benefits of one over the other? Should you be drinking both?
Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (a.k.a. mushroom, mother, scoby), tea prepared with sugar, and some kombucha tea from a previous batch (a.k.a. starter tea). The mixture is allowed to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. It can be consumed plain or with added flavoring such as fruit or juice. Kombucha contains a number of vitamins (particularly B vitamins) and may have a number of health benefits.
Water kefir is a probiotic beverage made with water kefir grains. Water kefir grains can be used with sugar water, juice, or coconut water. Water kefir grains harbor a set of bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship. The term "kefir grains" describes the look of the culture only. Kefir grains contain no actual "grains" such as wheat, rye, etc. Our kefir grains are grown in filtered water and organic sugar. (There is also a type of kefir made with milk kefir grains cow milk, goat milk, or coconut milk. Milk kefir is more well-known than water kefir.)
Conclusions: Both kombucha and water kefir are made from a starter culture, though the starter cultures look very different. Both kombucha and water kefir contain bacteria and yeasts existing in symbiosis. Both are made from a sweetened liquid: water kefir with sugar water or juice; kombucha with sugared tea.
To make kombucha tea is prepared and sugar is dissolved in the tea. The tea is allowed to cool to room temperature before adding the starter tea (kombucha tea from a previous batch) and the kombucha culture. The container is covered with a breathable cloth (we recommend securing it with a tight rubber band to keep the bugs out) and left to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. Once the fermentation process is complete, the kombucha culture is removed, along with the new culture that has formed during the fermentation process. Click here for detailed instructions and a video on making kombucha.
At this time you can drink the kombucha as is or you can add juice or fruit for additional flavoring. You can also bottle the kombucha with juice or fruit in airtight bottles (click here to view our flip top bottles which are perfect for bottling kombucha) and allow them to sit for several days so the carbonation can build.
To make water kefir water kefir grains are added to sugar water, juice, or coconut water and allowed to culture for 24 to 48 hours, then the kefir grains are removed. To flavor water kefir (we don't recommend drinking water kefir made with sugar water without flavoring!) simply add fruit juice or flavor extracts (e.g., vanilla extract) to the water kefir. If a more fizzy water kefir is desired, once the juice is added you can bottle it up tightly and allow it to sit for a few days so the carbonation can build. Click here for detailed instructions and a video on making water kefir.
Conclusions: The process of making kombucha almost always takes longer than making water kefir. However, you can make a very large batch of kombucha with just one kombucha scoby whereas you are limited in the amount of water kefir you can make by the amount of grains that you have.
The taste of kombucha could be described as a tangy, slightly sweet effervescent beverage. The flavor varies greatly depending on the amount of time it has been allowed to ferment and whether or not flavoring was added. For example, fermentation time determines whether the kombucha tea has a very mild taste or a very strong vinegar-like taste. (Kombucha is made using a method very similar to the one used to make vinegar.) If you desire a more sweet taste, we recommend a very short brewing period of around 5 days. If you like a more tart taste, a longer fermentation process will allow the tea to culture more fully.
The taste of water kefir is fairly sweet. Depending on the type of sugar used, the amount of culturing time, etc., water kefir may also be slightly bubbly. We strongly recommend flavoring water kefir made with sugar water prior to consuming it as the taste of plain water kefir isn't particularly pleasing. Flavoring options include fruit (fresh or dried), fruit juice, and flavor extracts.
Conclusions: Most find kombucha to be more sour or vinegar-like than water kefir. Water kefir is generally sweeter, but the sweetness of both beverages is determined by how long it is cultured.
Does the Starter Culture Multiply?
Kombucha tea cultures do multiply. Each time you brew a batch of kombucha tea a new starter culture will form. The original starter culture (a.k.a. "the mother") and the new starter culture (a.k.a. "the baby") can each be used to brew a new batch of kombucha tea. Sometimes the new kombucha culture will fuse to the original culture; this is not a cause for concern. They can be separated (ripped apart) or used as a single culture when you brew the next batch.
Water kefir grains are known to multiply, but at times they are reluctant to do so and therefore we do not guarantee kefir grains will multiply. Even if they do not multiply, with proper care, water kefir grains can be used repeatedly to brew water kefir. Click here for more information on ways you can encourage your kefir grains to multiply.
Conclusions: Kombucha will generally produce another culture every time you successfully make a new batch. Water kefir grains can multiply but are a bit more finicky and need specific circumstances to do so, even if you have made a successful batch of water kefir.
Is One Better than the Other?
Kombucha can be an aid to digestion. In addition to a wealth of probiotics, it also contains some acids and enzymes to aid in the breaking down of your meals. Kombucha tea does contain some caffeine, depending on the tea used and the steeping method employed.
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 bacterial strains than are found in kombucha.
Both beverages are beneficial in aiding natural systems of the body, and both are great for hydration. And, depending on your needs, consuming one or both is more a matter of your individual taste.
|Water Kefir Grains (starter culture)
|Kombucha Starter Culture
|750 ml Flip-top Grolsch-style Bottle|