Many people have heard or seen kombucha and when they hear of water kefir its likely to be compared 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?
So what exactly are they?
Kombucha is fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (there are many names for the culture including mushroom, mother, scoby). 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, 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 and they can at times be referred to as seeds. They are not seeds in the usual sense and cannot be planted!.
Comparison: 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.
How are they made?
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 full instructions and here for a video tutorial
water kefir grains are added to sugar water or coconut water and allowed to culture for 24 to 48 hours, then the kefir grains are removed. To flavor water kefir 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.This will also reduce the sugar content of the final drink.Click here for a video on making water kefir. and here for full instructions
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 however you can brew everyday with water kefir grains so over the time period you can make more kefir than you can Kombucha.
What do they taste like?
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 and the types of tea and sugar used to brew with. 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 and a little tarte. Depending on the type of sugar used, the amount of culturing time, etc., water kefir may also be slightly bubbly.
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 and both can be flavoured and brewed to your individual taste.
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 ("the mother") and the new starter culture ("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, kefir grains tend to multiply seasonally so in the summer they tend to multiply huge numbers of grains but in the cooler winter/autumn/spring months they can be harder to encourage to multiply.
Conclusions: Kombucha will generally produce another culture every time you successfully make a new batch. Water kefir grains do 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, this does not matter however as the grains will still continue to make water kefir regardless of multiplication.
Is One Better than the Other?
Basically not really......
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 as water kefir grains are easy to freeze or dehydrate they are easier to dip in and out of than kombucha and have a little more variety in the kinds of flavours that can be achieved.