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Which is Better – Water Kefir or Milk Kefir?

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Kefir Soda
Kefir Soda
People often ask me about water kefir and milk kefir and which type of kefir I think is more beneficial. Water kefir is a nondairy kefir that is gaining in popularity. Many people start with this method of making kefir because it’s so easy and fun and they want a nondairy option. It’s made with fruit juice, vegetable juice, coconut water or an extract, or even just sugar and water. A culture is then added and the mixture is fermented. As is the case with dairy kefir, the good bacteria eat the sugars out of the juice and create probiotics, plus they unlock additional vitamins and minerals. These are a great replacement for store-bought sodas. In addition to the probiotics, the kefir in the soda eats much of the sugar, so you don’t have to deal with the adverse effects of sugar that soda often promotes, such as fluctuations in blood sugar and cravings for sweets. There are no chemicals or artificial ingredients in kefir soda. And as a bonus to those of us who crave bubblicious beverages, the kefir creates naturally occurring carbonation.

Kefir Soda
Kefir Soda
While I stand by these as a great replacement for store-bought soda, I also want to let you know that of all the cultured foods, water kefir is the one I least recommend. I’ve learned a few things from my own experience. You can then decide for yourself what’s right for you. First and foremost, there are only 10-15 strains of good bacteria and good yeasts in water kefir versus 30 to 50 in basic homemade milk kefir made with live grains. (10-15 in the powder version of kefir)
Click to view the types
Kefir and Berries
Kefir and Berries
Also, it does not contain the high amounts of calcium and magnesium found in dairy kefir. For people who have problems with Candida or diabetes, there is often too much remaining sugar if the soda has not fermented properly. Because it is made with fruit juice or sugar water, you must be sure to let it ferment fully to reduce the sugar content. The other occasional problem occurs when people use straight juice to make water kefir. Juice turns to alcohol when you ferment it, so it’s important to always dilute the juice with water. I create a half-juice-half-water mixture, and then I ferment it for a minimal time on the counter, checking it often. Water kefir can be very explosive, and your bottles will burst and shatter if you don’t release the pressure often and refrigerate them quickly after fermenting. Always use bottles made for brewing –  not bottles from a craft store since they’re not made to withstand the pressure of fermenting.

Kiwi and Blackerry Kefir
Kiwi and Blackerry Kefir
I feel that milk kefir (either nondairy kefir or dairy kefir) is far superior to water kefir. I never received the benefits from water kefir that I did from milk kefir. I believe that coconut kefir is the best nondairy kefir because of the fact that coconut has antifungal qualities as well as probiotics, making it a good choice for people who struggle with candida and are allergic to dairy. But it was milk kefir that turned me on to cultured foods. It was the first cultured food I tried and milk kefir transformed me with its abundance of probiotics and it supplied me with the extra magnesium that my body was needing, so it is my favorite. It also helped me to rid myself of Candida as well as reducing my blood pressure and blood sugars when I found myself with elevated levels of both. It changed me so dramatically that I sat up and took notice and never looked back. It transformed my little girl when she was struggling as a little baby. The results have been so astounding to me that I can’t say enough about it. You have to remember that Holli was born 7 1/2 weeks prematurely and they told me she did not get my immunities in the womb like regular term babies because she was born so early. Because of this, she was most likely going to struggle her whole life with susceptibility to infections and disease. However, when I began to give her a spoonful of milk kefir in every bottle she became a different child and from that day to this she has never once been to the doctor because she was sick. She is now thirteen. Those kinds of events in my life convinced me and I needed no further evidence. Kefir was the miracle I had been looking for and this website is a result of my journey and all the places it has taken me. You can make milk kefir with all kinds of milks, including cow, goat, coconut, almond and other types of milk. Just don’t use ultra pasteurized milks as they often don’t ferment very well. I offer lots of help on making kefir, just click here.

Kefir Soda
Kefir Soda
So have I sufficiently scared you about water kefir? I didn’t mean to. I really love water kefir, but I always want to be totally honest with you when relating my experiences. I don’t recommend things I haven’t tried. I feel that my years of experience are a wonderful asset in helping you bring these wonderful foods into your life, and that means telling you about the good and the bad. I want you to know you can trust me because I will always tell you the truth. It’s just how I roll. We’re all in this together, helping one another, and that makes it easier on the journey.

 The Twelve Days of Kefir 

The 12 Days of Kefir
The 12 Days of Kefir

The holidays are coming up and I have a Biotic Pro membership site with The  Twelve Days of Kefir videos. These recipes are all made with kefir.  Here are a couple of free videos that you can view and the first one is a kefir soda recipe. To see more videos and recipes and instructions on how to make kefir, you can become a Biotic Pro by clicking here. I also have tons of help on how to make kefir and recipes for free. Just look under the Culturing Basics tab at the top of my website and the Categories section on the right sidebar on my site.

31 Responses to "Which is Better – Water Kefir or Milk Kefir?"
  1. I was wondering if since i have candida and have nut allergies, a milk allergy and wheat allergy what my best approach would be? Because if I’m correct, wouldn’t the fermentation change the protiens in the foods I’m allergic to enough so that i would tolerate it? I know your not a doctor but my doctor doesn’t believe in this stuff. And would kombucha be bad for me because of the candida?

  2. Hi, i made a mistake, i put my water kefir grains in milk over night cause i thought they are from milk kefir, did i kill them? Can i still use them with water?

  3. I can a lot. Are BALL canning jars Safe to use? Your site keeps telling me that my email address is invalid.

    Barb

      • I put my water kefir grains in milk by mistake, not realizing they were for water. It has been in milk for 4 days now! It did thicken & ferment the milk, but is the resulting ferment harmful to drink? Are there proper procedures for converting it to water now after 4 days in milk? I haven’t found any answers to this anywhere online. Thank you so much for any help you can offer!

        • Well you know I don’t actually know the answer to this question.I don’t think it would be harmful its just good bacteria and if the milk smells sour its probably fine but I’m not sure about what it will do to the grains. I’d try it and see how it does.

  4. Donna, what is it in Kefir that kills Candida?
    I thought it was mainly Sacc. Boulardi that ate Candida yeast, but that’s predominantly in kombucha, right?

    • All the good bacteria (they are many) in kefir helps with candida but there are many good yeasts in kefir as well which brings candida into balance because they dominate and don’t allow it to flourish.

  5. So a question from a newbie…is kefir fermented Like beer? I choose not to drink alcohol so is kefir like that? Curious, thanks!

  6. I think this is the most informative post I’ve seen yet on the pros and cons of these various cultures, possibly a life-changing powerhouse of info in determining which is best and why! Love it! Thank you, Donna, for your generous presentation of this info. It just might mark an important turning point for many of us in how we’re managing our healing journey, even to the point of whether it’s successful or not. Thank you so much!

  7. Getting down to the dirt!
    i was totally baffled by your statement that are far more different strains of probiotics in milk kefir as opposed to water kefir. Is this true even if you use the same type of culture starter (in this case, BED Kefir starter)?
    Would this comparison be any different for coconut milk kefir? By the same token, how varied would the strains be for sauerkraut, with or without a culture starter, and which of all ferments address candida and other forms of dysbiosis the best?

    • Homemade kefir made with live grains has 30-50 different strains of beneficial bacteria and good yeasts, and the kefir powder version has at least 10, however BED keep changing the formula so its can change but you can see it on their packaging. Non dairy will have similar strains if made with live kefir grains. Water kefir has 10-15 good yeasts and bacteria. I show them below.

      I have written a blog on cultured veggies that explains more.https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/the-super-star-bacteria-in-cultured-veggies/

      I think a diverse group of cultured foods is best for candida, and I had the Trilogy – kefir, kombucha and cultured veggies when I got rid of my candida.

      Here’s a list of the different types of good bacteria and good yeasts in kefir when you make it with live kefir grains:
      Bacteria
      Species Lactobacillus

      Lb. acidophilus
      Lb. brevis [Possibly now Lb. kefiri]
      Lb. casei subsp. casei
      Lb. casei subsp. rhamnosus
      Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei
      Lb. fermentum
      Lb. cellobiosus
      Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
      Lb. delbrueckii subsp. lactis
      Lb. fructivorans
      Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis
      Lb. hilgardii
      Lb. helveticus
      Lb. kefiri
      Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum
      Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens
      Lb. parakefiri
      Lb. plantarum

      Species Streptococcus

      St. thermophilus
      St. paracitrovorus

      Species Lactococcus

      Lc. lactis subsp. lactis
      Lc. lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis
      Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris

      Species Enterococcus

      Ent. durans

      Species Leuconostoc

      Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
      Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides
      Leuc. dextranicum

      Yeasts

      Dekkera anomala / Brettanomyces anomalus
      Kluyveromyces marxianus / Candida kefyr
      Pichia fermentans / C. firmetaria
      Yarrowia lipolytica / C. lipolytica
      Debaryomyces hansenii / C. famata
      Deb. [Schwanniomyces] occidentalis
      Issatchenkia orientalis / C. krusei
      Galactomyces geotrichum / Geotrichum candidum
      C. friedrichii
      C. rancens
      C. tenuis
      C. humilis
      C. inconspicua
      C. maris
      Cryptococcus humicolus
      Kluyveromyces lactis var. lactis
      Kluyv. bulgaricus
      Kluyv. lodderae
      Saccharomyces cerevisiae
      Sacc. subsp. torulopsis holmii
      Sacc. pastorianus
      Sacc. humaticus
      Sacc. unisporus
      Sacc. exiguus
      Sacc. turicensis sp. nov
      Torulaspora delbrueckii
      Zygosaccharomyces rouxii

      Acetobacter

      Acetobacter aceti
      Acetobacter rasens

      HERE ARE THE GOOD BACTERIA AND YEASTS IN WATER KEFIR:

      Bacteria

      Species Lactobacillus
      L. brevis
      L. casei
      L. hilgardii
      L. hordei
      L. nagelii

      Species Leuconostoc
      L. citreum
      L. mesenteroides

      Species Acetobacter
      A. fabarum
      A. orientalis

      Species Streptococcus
      S. lactis

      Yeasts

      Hanseniaospora valbyensis
      Lachancea fermentati
      Saccharomyces cerevisiae
      Zygotorulaspora florentina

      • Do you know how the powdered water kefir compares to water kefir grains in bacteria and yeast growth? All the bacteria and yeast lists that I am finding for water kefir are just for the powdered stuff, which is obviously going to be weaker. I have 2 different kinds of water kefir grains – ones that ferment in sugar and molasses, and ones that ferment in honey – and I’d like to find out what all is in them. I hope you know the answer! I love your website!

  8. Hi Donna – Thank you so much for this post!!! I was researching this topic just this past week and didn’t find anything nearly as thorough and candid as this post. It’s as if you had written it for me! Thank you! Thank you!

    Any suggestions on how to tell what the right amount of milk kefir is for your body each day?

    Thanks,
    Charlene

  9. My son has a severe dairy allergy. I know you always say don’t rinse kefir grains, but what should I do in this case? There would obviously be traces of dairy on the grains before I put them in coconut milk. Should I rinse them?

    • I don’t recommend this because it damages them but if you only did it once they hopefully will be ok. It be better to rinse them in coconut milk many times if you think you could remove all the dairy.

  10. Hi Donna,
    Thank you so much for all you do to help us out with our fermented foods/drinks! I bought some kombucha at the farmers market and accidentally forgot about it. How long is it good in the fridg?
    Thanks again for all you do!
    Lori

  11. Hi Donna I want to know whether if milk kefir is left to ferment like 4 days, would the sugar in it still feed candida overgrowth.

      • Thanks Donna, I love what God is using you to do in the life of people, have gone through internet and saw testimonies of Health of people changed through your discovery. don’t lose focus but keep it on. that’s your own calling on earth.

    • Kombucha has different properties and less sugar if fermented properly. I think is superior and has more health benefits than water kefir. The way it assist your liver in detoxing you is powerful and the good yeast in kombucha are some of the best and strongest probiotics around.

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