The main difference between kombucha and water kefir is the microorganisms in the starter cultures. Kombucha SCOBYs contain more yeast, and acetic acid bacteria are the dominant bacterial species. Water kefir grains contain less yeast, and lactic acid bacteria are the most dominant types of bacteria. Read the blog to learn more!
It’s not that one is more beneficial than the other…
The two beverages are just very different and involve completely unique fermentation processes. Let’s compare the two.
- Acetic acid fermentation
- Acetic acid bacteria form the symbiotic colony structure (the SCOBY)
- Yeasts carbonate in secondary fermentation
- Health benefits from postbiotic compounds
- Usually contains more yeast than bacteria
- About two weeks for primary and secondary fermentation
- Kefir Grains
- Lactic acid fermentation (and sometimes acetic acid fermentation)
- Lactic acid bacteria create the symbiotic colony structure (the grains)
- Leuconostoc bacteria produce most of the carbonation in secondary fermentation
- Health benefits from probiotic bacteria and postbiotic compounds
- Usually contains more bacteria than yeast
- About four days for primary and secondary fermentation
Water Kefir Microbiome
Tibicos (aka water kefir grains) are symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast, but these colonies contain vastly different microbes than kombucha SCOBYs. Water kefir has postbiotic benefits and also includes microorganisms that are considered probiotics. Most water kefir grains include bacterial species in the genera Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Pediococcus, and Leuconostoc.
The water kefir microbiome also includes beneficial postbiotic compounds. The microorganisms in water kefir grains produce beneficial compounds like glucuronic acid, vitamins and minerals, antioxidant polyphenols, exopolysaccharides, organic acids, and bioactive peptides during fermentation. These benefits in tandem with the probiotic benefits make water kefir one of the best-fermented drinks.
A SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast living in a polysaccharide matrix synthesized by acetic acid bacteria. I cannot give the exact microbial composition of kombucha because it varies for every SCOBY. Most SCOBYs include Pediococcus, Acetobacter, Saccharomyces, Gluconacetobacter and Brettanomyces.
The microorganisms found in kombucha are not “verified probiotics” (except for maybe the yeast Saccharomyces). That does not mean much to me because I do not think there needs to be a clinical trial on kombucha microbes to verify that it has benefits. It’s a drink that has been around since about 130 B.C. Through microbial fermentation, kombucha contains glucuronic acid, vitamins and minerals, antioxidant polyphenols, exopolysaccharides, organic acids, and bioactive peptides. It may not be “probiotic,” but it is definitely a healthy and beneficial drink.
The Difference Between Kefir and Kombucha
The main differences are brewing practices, fermentation timeline, microbial composition, and flavor. In summary, both kombucha and water kefir are beneficial and can be part of a healthy diet. Here are some recipes you might like to try:
- Summer Peach and Pomegranate Kombucha
- How to Make Healthy Grape Soda Flavored Water Kefir
- Kombucha Primary Fermentation and Kombucha SCOBY Care