Is Water Kefir Better Than Kombucha?

Is Water Kefir Better Than Kombucha? Maybe you have heard of both of these probiotic drinks and wondered, what is the difference? Today we will explore which fizzy fermented drink is better and why!

Jars of kombucha and water kefir both plain and with fruit such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in a second ferment. Jars are on a slab of wood atop a table cloth. Tea bags and fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are sitting in front of the jars.
Kombucha and Water Kefir with Fruit for a Second Ferment

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To figure out which fermented drink is better, we must first understand what water kefir and kombucha are and how they differ.

The quick answer is kombucha is made using a sweetened tea with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Water Kefir is made using sweetened water and water kefir grains.

To be fair, the mechanics behind each drink are far more nuanced, but this gives a basic idea of the main differences of each drink.

Water Kefir Versus Kombucha

So which one tastes better?? You may not like my answer but honestly it is all up to individual preference.

What I can tell you is how Water Kefir and Kombucha taste and my own family’s preferences. I personally find that Water Kefir has a more mild and light taste than Kombucha.

Kombucha tends to have a more vinegar-y taste, which I love, but my husband is not a fan. Depending on how it is flavored during the second ferment, my daughters will drink either one. But they seem to prefer the water kefir.

However, if I have to pick one as the best, I would say that Water Kefir wins. It has a smooth mild taste without the vinegar bite of kombucha.

It has the benefits of a probiotic drink without the potential for caffeine or even small amounts of alcohol consumption, like kombucha does.

Plus it is a simpler process to make, since you use water versus tea.

From start to finish, water kefir is a much quicker process being ready in 48 hours versus the 7 to 30 days it can take to brew kombucha and complete its second ferment.

Glass jar of black tea kombucha with SCOBY and two glass jars of brewed kombucha. Loose black tea in a wooden bowl and scattered around the table.
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Water kefir grains piled on to a dark grain wood table with a wicker spoon of grains, a sprig of mint leaves, and a small jar of water kefir.
Water Kefir Grains

What is Water Kefir?

Water kefir, also known as Tibicos, is a fermented drink that uses water kefir grains as a starter culture, and those grains are fed by sugar water.

The fermentation process creates probiotics which many find beneficial to add to their diet for gut health.

To be clear, water kefir is not the same as milk kefir. Water kefir is made with sugar water, water kefir grains, and fruit. Milk kefir is made with an animal milk (such as cow’s milk or goat’s milk) or alternative milk product (such as coconut milk) and kefir grains.

The origin of tibicos grains is unknown.[3] Tibicos grains form as hard granules on the pads of the Opuntia cactus found in Mexico.[2] These granules then could be reconstituted in a sugar-water solution for propagating the tibicos grains.[3][4]

Wikipedia contributors. “Tibicos.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Dec. 2022. Web. 7 Jan. 2023.

Jar reads Kombucha with a small jar of kombucha tea and SCOBY on a burlap cloth with two glasses of kombucha and a thin bottle in the background.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented drink that uses a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as a SCOBY, which is fed by a highly sugared brewed black tea.

Kombucha is often consumed for its beneficial bacteria or probiotic properties, as well.

According to Brittanica.com: “The exact origin of kombucha is uncertain, though it likely originated in China and spread with tea along the Silk Road. It is widely brewed in parts of eastern Europe, particularly in rural Russia, and is common in China and Korea.”

Petruzzello, Melissa. “kombucha”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 7 Oct. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/kombucha. Accessed 7 January 2023.

Clear jar with hinged lid sitting on a light wood table. In the jar is water kefir grains and water kefir brewing.
Water Kefir

Benefits of Water Kefir

Water Kefir has many benefits. It is a great fizzy replacement for typical carbonated beverages such as soda or energy drinks.

Kefir is probiotic rich and may improve your gut microbiome. It is easy to make at home, with simple ingredients.

Kefir grains tend to multiply so you make larger batches of water kefir or help a friend get started.

Because water kefir uses sugared water instead of black tea to feed the starter culture grains, there is no risk of even a small amount of caffeine being left behind.

Some individuals are also concerned that the regular consumption of black tea can increase your risk for kidney stone. But I am not a doctor and thus can not verify this. (Kombucha uses a sweetened black tea to feed it’s starter culture.)

It is a great option for individuals who are dairy free or vegan.

Benefits of Kombucha

Kombucha, like its friend Water Kefir, also has many benefits. Some believe it can boost energy. It is definitely a great alternative to sugary sodas and juices.

Since it is also a probiotic rich drink, it may improve digestion and reduce inflammation. (psst…just a reminder, I’m not a doctor)

It has also been said that kombucha can improve immune health, and rid the body of toxins. Some also believe that by potentially reducing toxins, this can also improve your skin health. (Again, I am not a doctor and in no way can guarantee any of these results.)

It is also very versatile since there are only about a million ways that you can flavor kombucha during it’s second ferment.

Gallon jars of Water kefir and Kombucha sitting on a counter
Water Kefir and Kombucha

Which is Easiest to Make, Water Kefir or Kombucha?

Hands down, Water Kefir is easiest to make! The entire process to make plain water kefir takes 24 to 48 hours. To then flavor your kefir, sometimes referred to as a second ferment, it only takes an additional 24 to 48 hours.

Once you have started making kefir, you can utilize the extra grains to have several batches going in succession so that you always have a fresh batch ready.

Kombucha, while also delicious and worth while, takes 7 to 30 days to brew. The longer you brew kombucha the stronger it will taste and the lower the sugar content will be.

After you have completed the first ferment, the second ferment to flavor your kombucha will then take 2-14 days. It will require frequent burping of the bottles to allow some of the pressure to escape. No one wants to wake up to an exploded bottle of ‘bucha.

More on Water Kefir and Kombucha

Thinking about making water kefir?  Maybe you’re planning to brew kombucha for the first time! Whether you love the taste or are excited about the health benefits, these probiotic drinks can be a great addition to your diet.

Don’t know where to start? Check out the 15 Essential Fermentation Books for Beginners, and your resource for starter cultures, kefir grains, SCOBY’s, and all things fermentation over at Cultures for Health!

And if you can’t decide which fizzy drink will be your favorite, then you might try brewing them both! You may never buy juices or soda again!

one last thing…

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