What Is Kefir?
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink/food that's similar to yogurt, except the mother culture is both beneficial bacteria and yeast. Yogurt is just beneficial bacteria but no yeast is present.
The end result is thinner than yogurt and even a bit effervescent or bubbly, due to the organisms producing more gas as they culture the milk.
You can make kefir with raw or pasteurized milk. It's easier than yogurt, really as the temperature can be lower and the temperature variations not that strict. Simply mix your culture (either grains or powder) with 1L of milk, cover your jar, and then incubate at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours (adjusting up or down depending on the season of the year, temperature of your house, etc.).
In case that you use yogurtmaker and freeze-dried kefir starter and whole milk the consistency might be more yogurt-like than liquid as it will be if you cultivate at room temperature.
What Are Kefir Grains?
The ‘’Kefir grains’’ are the mother culture for making kefir. They are soft and elastic and look like a cauliflower. You put them in milk and then pull them out, and can reuse them over and over again if you meet the conditions of course. They also grow (some do, some don't, it depends on the milk and conditions) … so you can share with friends or make more with your extra grains.
Kefir grains are a mixture of probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts in a base of fat, sugar and protein.
Contrary to their name, these "grains" do not contain cereal of any kind. However, they do generally contain dairy, specifically milk protein called casein. Some non-dairy alternatives to milk-based kefir grains are now available. These can be used to make water kefir and coconut kefir
Kefir grains are small irregular shaped clusters, which stick together, resembling cauliflower and they must also be refrigerated.
What's in the grains again? They are beneficial yeasts and bacteria! They live in that medium that is like elastic cauliflower. And when added to milk, they feed on the lactose in milk and in exchange create the thickened, curdled, sour, bubbly milk we call kefir! Kefir is full of probiotics and beneficial acids. It also has less lactose (milk sugar) than milk… the longer it ferments, the more lactose is consumed and this is valid for both types of kefir ‘’Grains’’ or ‘’freeze – dried’’ ones
These grains contain at least 30 (and frequently more) beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast, making them a true probiotic power house which again can deliver some side effects and should be avoided by the first timers, children, elderly or people with a weak immune system.
What Is Kefir Powder, Freeze-dried starter, direct set Kefir starter?
Kefir powder (Freeze-dried starter, direct set Kefir starter) is a freeze-dried culture of 7 to 12 kefir strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts in powder form. You mix it with your dairy milk, and it creates kefir.
The resulting kefir can be used to make new batches, but not indefinitely although if you handle with care longer than you might need.
Usually after a few batches, the culture will be weakened sufficiently that the kefir doesn't really turn out. Then new freeze-dried powder sachet needs to be mixed with milk, and you start all over again which can be beneficial if you wish to change the culture and pick a new one – Bifidus, Acidophilus, Bulgarian or another starter. Changing of the cultures regularly could enhance the immunity and enrich your body with good bacteria
Main differences between freeze-dried Kefir starter and ‘’Kefir grains’’
First, the Kefir grains contain many more strains of beneficial organisms and therefore, so does your kefir. It has more probiotic diversity! (This also means it may taste different, like be bubblier or sourer.)
This doesn't mean there aren't benefits of using freeze dried kefir starter. It can be more convenient. Just add the starter and mix with milk. No straining out of the grains when you're finished, and certainly no having to take care of the grains if you want to take a break from making kefir.
Then, if you're using grains, you remove them and put them a new batch of milk, and cover and refrigerate the finished kefir. Or if you're using freeze-dried kefir starter, you can take a few spoons and add to the milk for a new batch. You also might decide to make a new batch a bit later and keep a few spoons of kefir in the freezer for a new recultivations later.
Lastly it is important to say that the Kefir grains can be more suitable for Milk and grains suitable for Water(or Juice and also plant based milks as almond and coconut milk), so another two ‘’kefir grains ‘’products can be distinguished here:
1. Water Kefir Grains and 2. Milk Kefir Grains
On the other hand, Kefir Starter Culture is created in a laboratory and is a freeze-dried culture. It is meant to be used once, but with the proper care (boiling of the milk and pouring hot water over utensils and containers before use), can be re-cultured a few times to a few months before the culture weakens.
While there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both kefir grains and a freeze-dried 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.
Generally speaking, powdered kefir starter has 7 to 12 strains of bacteria and yeast depending on the particular brand of starter.
‘’Milk kefir grains’’ and ‘’water kefir grains’’ contain a frequently more than 30 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 milk, culture for 12-48 hours, then transfer the grains to new milk portion for the new batch. A little emphasis should be put on the word ‘’proper’’. The grains kefir should be made back to back or with a very short break between batches. It can be compared to pet at home which require food and care on a daily basis.
The freeze-dried kefir is more resistant until sealed in the sachets, can be transported and stored easily outside the fridge and can be started whenever you want. Once started, it can be re-cultured and can be kept activated (already made with starter and milk) in a freezer for the next batch for months and. The sealed sachet can survive about a year at room temperature, can be stored for years if unsealed in a fridge and a few decades if unsealed in the freezer with no supervision at all.
A small amount of the kefir made from freeze-dried kefir starter can be reserved and added to fresh dairy milk to make a new batch of kefir. Generally speaking, it can be re-cultured several times before the bacteria weakens.
How many times ? – this depends on the met conditions – it can be just 2 times but if you sanitize the containers and boil the milk the culture can be reused for more than 3 months.
Kefir ‘’grains’’ work best when cultured in back-to-back batches (and no long brake should be taken between), as both water and milk kefir ‘’grains’’ require a constant source of food. Once left with no food and they can die-regardless the temperature around. They require more maintenance than a freeze-dried kefir starter culture as basically can be used to produce kefir on a daily basis
Powdered kefir starter is well suited for individuals who do no