Many people assume that because yogurt and milk kefir are both cultured dairy products, there aren't many differences between the two.


This is actually not true. There are several differences between yogurt and milk kefir, including how each is made, the types of bacteria present in each, and their flavor and consistency.

If you understand the differences between yogurt and milk kefir, you'll be able to decide which of these cultured dairy products is right for you!


Milk Kefir

Milk Kefir is a mesophilic culture, which means it cultures at room temperature, despite which type of starter culture you use.


There are two types of yogurt starters: mesophilic and thermophilicMesophilic means that the yogurt starter is cultured at room temperature. Thermophilic means the yogurt starter is heat-loving. This type of yogurt starter is best prepared in a yogurt maker or similar appliance and it will culture at around 110ºF.


Milk Kefir

Similar to culturing yogurt, milk kefir can be cultured using a reusable or single-use culture.

While a bit of the previous batch of yogurt is used for culturing yogurt continuously, milk kefir, on the other hand, is cultured continuously using milk kefir grains. The "grains" are actually a gelatinous mass harboring a generous variety of bacteria and yeast from which one can make continual batches of kefir. Milk kefir grains need to be transferred to a fresh batch of milk about every 24 hours.

Milk kefir can also be made from a powdered kefir starter, similar to a direct-set yogurt culture. Powdered kefir starter culture may be re-cultured a few times using kefir from the previous batch, but eventually, new powdered starter will be required.


Yogurt starters come in both reusable and single-use varieties. Reusable yogurt starters, once activated, are re-cultured by mixing a bit of a previous yogurt batch into fresh milk. Once the new batch is complete it becomes the starter for the next batch, and so on. These yogurt cultures generally require re-culturing at least once a week.

Direct-set, or single-use, yogurt starters come in powdered form, and are usually thermophilic. Each new batch of yogurt requires a new packet of starter cultures. While this type of yogurt may be re-cultured a few times, at some point a new packet of powdered starter will be required.


Milk Kefir

The bacteria in milk kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract. Kefir also contains a far larger range of bacteria, in addition to containing yeasts.

For more information, this article lists two researchers' findings on the bacteria and yeast strains comprising milk kefir grains.


The beneficial bacteria found in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called transient bacteria.

This chart lists the bacteria strains found in each of our yogurt starters.


Milk Kefir

Milk Kefir is also tart, but it can have a touch of yeast flavor, due to the beneficial yeasts present in the culture. Milk kefir's flavor is more sour than yogurt's flavor, and has been described as a cross between cultured buttermilk and yogurt. It is also possible to manipulate the flavor of milk kefir based on its fermentation time.

While yogurt is almost always eaten with a spoon, milk kefir is usually consumed as a cultured dairy drink.


Yogurt generally has a flavor familiar to most people. Different varieties of yogurt starter produce yogurt that varies from mild to tangy. The consistency of yogurt varies from a thin, pour-able yogurt, such as Piima, to a fairly thick, creamy yogurt such as Bulgarian. Most varieties of yogurt are thicker than kefir, though. You can compare the flavor and consistency created by each of our yogurt starters in our article on choosing a yogurt starter.


Both yogurt and milk kefir may be made thicker by draining whey from the finished product. Draining whey from yogurt results in thick Greek-style yogurt. Longer draining times create labneh or yogurt cheese.

Milk kefir can be drained of whey to make spoonable kefir, soft spreadable cheese, kefir cream cheese, or even hard cheese.

In addition to these different cheese products, both yogurt and milk kefir are quite versatile and can be used in many recipes, from dips to baked goods.

Conclusion: The Choice is Yours!

In short, yogurt is a good source of probiotic bacteria, that requires weekly maintenance, depending on the culture chosen. It is generally a spoonable consistency and may be mild or tart in flavor. Yogurt may be used in a variety of recipes.

Similarly, milk kefir is also a great source of probiotic bacteria and yeast. If using milk kefir grains, you'll need to make time for daily maintenance to make milk kefir. It is also generally sourer in flavor and of pourable consistency. There are countless milk kefir recipes.

Despite which cultured dairy product you decide to make, both yogurt and milk kefir offer probiotic benefits and, with our starter cultures, allow you to make real food, right at home.

Cultures for Health allows you to choose the cultured dairy that is right for your lifestyle.

Whether you prefer yogurt cultures or milk kefir grains, we've got the best options for you to choose from.

The best way to start making your own food at home is our yogurt and milk kefir kits. These have all the tools and ingredients you need to start making the best-fermented food in your home!

Click here to check out all of our fermentation products or click below to check out our amazing yogurt and milk kefir starter kits!