Home Made Milk Kefir vs Store Bought

Making Milk KefirKefir Products- Homemade or Store Bought Milk Kefir?

What Is The Difference?

People often ask whether they should buy kefir products in Canada at the local grocery store. My answer is always, "It depends."

The best kefir is the one you have and drink. So the first criteria is often simply to know whether you will take the time to care for the kefir culture, or if ready-made is better. Don't get me wrong, it is not a lot of work to keep a milk kefir starter healthy, but it does require a daily milk change, and some stirring. Not much work, but still more than some people are willing to take on.

If you do have 5 minutes a day to care for a milk kefir culture, then milk kefir grains will be a very worthwhile investment for your health. You may have heard that home made kefir milk is better for you than store bought milk kefir. Or you might just assume it is better without knowing why.

Store bought milk kefir is factory made using a very few specific bacteria strains. In fact it is more similar to yogurt than it is to authentic kefir milk made from heirloom milk kefir grains. Foods sold in the store need to be standardized. It is important for manufacturers to produce a consistent product. They limit the numbers of bacteria, and inhibit their growth. They also completely leave out the beneficial yeasts that are in the products. All of this is to provide consistency, but also to prevent bacterial activity from causing enough gas that the container will explode.

When you start making your own kefir, you will appreciate what that means. As bacteria and yeast devour the milk sugars, they put out gases like CO2 that create an effervescent (fizzy) quality. I always make kefir with a loose fitting lid so the gases do not build up. Manufacturers, however, need to properly seal their product. That could be a recipe for disaster.

So here is the breakdown of bacteria and yeast found in traditional kefir milk made from authentic heirloom milk kefir grains like we sell to Canadians on this site.

Homemade Kefir Bacteria and Yeast Breakdown

Bacteria Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus brevis
Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei
Lactobacillus paracasei subsp.paracase the
Lactobacillus fermentum
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
Lactobacillus helveticus
Lactobacillus kefir
kefiranofaciens Lactobacillus subsp.kefiranofaciens
Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens subsp. My kefirgran
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis,
Lactobacillus parakefir the
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris,
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis,
Streptococcus thermophilus
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.cremoris,
Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.mesenteroides
Enterococcus durans
Acetobacter aceti

Fungi Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Dekkera anomala / Brettanomyces anomalus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Candida Friedrich the
Candida humilis
Saccharomyces Exiguus Torulopsis Holm
Candida inconspicu A
Kluyveromyces marxianus / Candida kefir
Pichia fermentans / Candida firmetari Candida lamblia by
Issatchenki orientalis / Candida krusei
Candida maris
Cryptococcus humicolus
Debaromyces hansenii / Candida Famatina A
Debaromyces occidentalis
Galactomyces Geotrichum
Kluyveromyces lactis has . lactis
to loddera Kluyveromyces
Saccharomyces cerevisiae,
Saccharomyces pastorianus
Saccharomyces unisporus
of Yarrowia lypolyti / lypoliti by Candida
Zygosaccharomyces rouxii
Saccharomyces sp nov turicensis

Kefir-specific Yeast Isolated in Home Made Milk Kefir

Kluyveromyces marxianus
Torulaspora delbrueckii
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Saccharomyces Exiguus
Candida kefir,
Saccharomyces unisporus
turicensis Saccharomyces
Pichia fermentans
in Yarrowia lypolyti

Bacteria, Fungi and Yeast Isolated In Store Bought Kefir

Kefir bars Type I (Licaucasicus and

Liberte Kefir ProductsWOW! That is quite a difference right? I don't know which brand was tested. The study I read was in Turkish so I assume it was a Turkish bought kefir product. In Canada, one of the most prominent brands (and my favorite store brand!) is Liberté brand. Their kefir is organic, and quite delicious. You can also choose between effervescent and non-effervescent types. On their site, they state, "Our flat Kefir contains 10 types of bacteria and provides one billion bacteria per serving." (Comparatively, 2 cups of home made kefir can contain as many as 5 TRILLION bacteria!!) source~ SCDiet.net

That's a great start. If you think you do not have time to care for milk kefir grains starter culture, then Liberté kefir may be for you.


So now, when someone asks you, "What is the difference between homemade milk kefir and store bought milk kefir, you can tell them, "The difference is microscopic!"

Milk Kefir Grains- Canada

Where Can I Buy Milk Kefir Grains if I Live in Canada?Nice Thick Milk Kefir

Milk kefir starters are a little more prevalent, but the kefir starters can only be used for a short time before they lose their potency, whereas kefir milk grains can be saved and used for many lifetimes, being passed down for generations. Kefir grains are meant to be shared.

Like many cultural dietary inclusions and medicines, kefir is a functional beverage that is only just becoming more widely known in North America. North America is a new 'culture' that seems to have (in many instances) lost touch with ancestral roots. Many things; folk lore, knowledge of natural cures, recipes, and healthy foods to name a few, are no longer shared. Before the internet, the knowledge of such things was lost in the new world.

I find that the farther west you go in North America, the more likely you are to find alternative medicine and food practices. I think there are many reasons for this, but mainly Western Canada and U.S. is both more densely populated and much more culturally diverse. Also the western shore is closer to Asia where alternative health is part of their culture! 

Thanks to the internet, a local economy is becoming more global. Knowledge of different cultures is available in most homes now, and people who wish to learn about the healthy traditions of long lost ancestors can easily find that information.

Once I had the knowledge of the health benefits of milk kefir, and the experience of making milk kefir from grains, I felt it my duty to make available the milk kefir grains. Canada is not so entrenched in their own culture that there is no room for something so delicious and beneficial to health. Milk Kefir IS a part of our everybody's ancestral heritage if we go back far enough.




What Should Kefir Look Like?

What Does Kefir Look Like?

How to know if your water kefir is done.
How to know if your water kefir is done.

When brewing kefir for the first time, it is sometimes hard to know if it is ready. It may take some trial and error before you really know. The "readiness" of kefir depends on several things. Personal taste is one of the factors that differs between people. There are other signs to look for however in judging whether your kefir is ready.

Signs that your water kefir is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24-48 hours
  2. It smells fermented. To me that is a slightly beery, slightly yeasty, fruity smell. 
  3. It looks fizzy- Water kefir is slightly carbonated when done and you will see small bubbles rising up from the bottom, especially when stirred or agitated. 
  4. Bubbles gather on top.
  5. The dried fruit is fully hydrated.
  6. If you used brown sugar or molasses, the liquid will be quite a bit lighter.
  7. Taste of "ready to drink" water kefir is much less sweet, slightly tangy and acidic tasting and has a definite fermented taste. 
  8. The water kefir grains have grown.

Milk Kefir separated after 48 hour fermentationThe readiness of water kefir is subjective to some degree. Some people like it less sweet, some like it fermented longer… you have to try it different ways to discover what 'readiness' tastes like to you. 

Milk kefir is a little different. It is not always as easy to see the readiness of milk kefir. It is also less forgiving, in that, over fermented milk kefir will separate into curds (a thick top layer) which float to the top, and whey (a watery, slightly yellow liquid) on the bottom.

Pic source: Dom's Kefir SiteKefir creates a unique rivulet pattern on the glass

If your milk kefir separates, you can still use it. Just shake and strain as usual. It will be more sour tasting.

Here are some ways to tell if your kefir milk is ready:

  1. It has been fermenting 24 hours
  2. It smells yeasty and slightly tangy
  3. The grains are floating on the top
  4. The kefir forms unique rivulet pattern when tipped against the glass. 

This is what my kefir looks like when readyMostly your milk kefir readiness is determined by personal preference.  This is what my kefir looks like when it s the perfect "readiness" for my tastes. Notice the pockets of clear whey throughout the jar. If I leave it another hour or two it will completely separate into curds on the top and whey on the bottom, but I like to pour it when it looks like this. It hasn't curdled yet and it still will pour freely, but it is nice and thick. If my milk has separated into curds and whey, like the 48 hour example above, then I find the resulting kefir is too sour for my liking. 

I will strain it now, and then put the strained liquid in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for a day or two. This gives me a mild, thick kefir that I really adore. It took me several months before I found the right amount of sourness and the consistency that is perfect for my tastes. 


If your kefir does over ferment, there are still lots of things you can do with it, including drink it. I will outline what to do if your kefir separates in another post. 

Kefir and Yogurt- What Is The Difference?

What Is The Difference Between Kefir Milk and Yogurt?

Making Milk KefirAs my daughter would say… "The difference is microscopic!" ba-dump-baaa

The biggest difference between kefir and yogurt is what you can not see. The types of bacteria that culture the milk and the way in which the culture is produced.

Traditional greek yogurt, made using low heat incubation has bacterial strains Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus (often shortened to) L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus. These two bacteria live together in harmony and work synergistically to ferment your milk into yogurt. Different styles of commercial yogurt will also have other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria added. Yogurt typically does not require yeasts as a part of the fermenting process.

Yogurt is typically made using some yogurt from a previously made batch. By saving a little yogurt from each batch, and using it to culture the next batch, in theory you will always have a healthy yogurt culture. This is often only true if you are using an heirloom culture.

Traditionally yogurt is thick enough to eat with a spoon.

Kefir, on the other hand, could have 50 or more different strains of bacteria AND yeast living together in the same culture. Kefir does not require heat (or incubation) to culture milk, and it is made using kefir "grains" which are firm jelly-like clumps of bacteria and yeast that feed on milk sugars and produce a fermented product.

Because yeast is part of the kefir fermentation process, the end product is often slightly carbonated, and is slightly alcoholic. (0.5% to 2% alcohol)

For home culture makers, kefir is by far the easiest to make. You just need to drop the grains in a jar of milk, and set it on the cupboard. 24 hours (or so) later you have a delicious probiotic drink. Yogurt, while still very easy, is a little fussier. You need to heat the milk, then cool it, add your culture, and then incubate (keep it warm) for 6-24 hours. Then it needs to be refrigerated before it will "set".

Both kefir and yogurt are easy, inexpensive and delicious super foods.

What Are Kefir Grains?

Kefir Grains- What Are They? (and what I love about them!)

Kefir grains are officially a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast)… fancy words huh? Basically that just means that it is a group of bacteria and yeast that live happily ever after, in harmony and balance, and they make my favorite healthy drink!

Kefir grains

Milk Kefir Grains- No one has ever been able to make kefir grains in modern times at home. In ancient times there are stories of sheep stomach sacs filled with milk hanging next to a door, and everyone who came through the door would give it a knock thereby stirring the contents. From this sac would come a fermented beverage known by many names (including kefir of course) and along the lining of the sac would form harder clumps which could then be used to make kefir. 

Some scientist in Iran made kefir grains and in documented history, this is the first time we know of that someone set out to make kefir grains and succeeded. I wrote about that here… How To Make Kefir Grains At Home

Water Kefir Grains- According to a Wikipedia article water kefir grains are found in many different cultures around the world, with no 2 being exactly the same. As with milk kefir grains, the exact origin is not known, although current theory points to Mexico as being the country of origin. A scientific paper written in 1889 talks about "Tibi", which is another word for water kefir grains, growing as hard grains on the leaves of a certain cactus plant and being able to ferment sugar water. Like the milk kefir grains, no scientist has ever been able to make the water kefir grains without first having the grains themselves.

I do love kefir grains. They are living things. In my home they have become as important as my pets in my life. I feed them, and keep them clean and warm, provide an environment in which they can thrive, and in return they provide me with a drink that has so many health benefits that I feel as if my very life depends on them. 



How Can I Make Kefir Grains At Home?

Is It Possible To Make Kefir Grains Without Buying Them?

Can I Make Kefir Grains At Home?I get this question a lot and it was a question I had as well. There are not too many things I won't try if it is not too complicated, so I went about researching how to make my own kefir grains. I found most sites said that it was not possible. That in order to make kefir at home you had to purchase kefir grains from someone who had an overabundance. 

I did find one site where a gentleman claimed to do something with an ant hill. (see here… it is funny but be warned he uses the 'f' word a couple of times.) Now I know there are people who will believe anything if it is written on the internet, but I KNOW you won't be making kefir grains this way so please do not try it, or if you do try it, please do not drink it. OK you have been warned! 

Now, on to the real way to make kefir grains. No one had ever successfully made kefir grains that they could then take and use to culture milk. That is, no one until Motaghi, et al. These Iranian scientists took goat hide and formed a sac. Then they added milk, and bacteria from sheep feces. They shook the bag several times a day, kept it at a consistent temperature of 24-26 Degrees celcius for 48 hours and then changed the milk. 12 weeks later they were able to scrape some coagulated residue stuck to the inside of the bag and put it in milk in a glass jar and make kefir. 

So the answer to "can I make kefir grains" is YES. Yes you can. But hey, if that's too much trouble,

we sell kefir grains. :- D