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Water Kefir Versus Kombucha – Which one is better?

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Water Kefir versus Kombucha - Comparison of water kefir and kombucha, their microorganisms, flavors, brewing techniques and effects in the body.

Water kefir verus kombucha, which is better?

This is a question I've heard a number of times. My kids like the flavor of water kefir soda better than kombucha tea, but I generally prefer the kombucha myself, and my husband will drink either, depending on the flavor. 

Water kefir is quicker to brew than kombucha tea – unless you do a continuous ferment, in which case you can draw off  kombucha every day. Some people find water kefir is more consistent, my kombucha tends to be more consistent. Some people feel guilty about excess scobys, I have been able to give most of mine away, or I simply compost them. A few I've used to treat skin ailments, such as my son's cradle cap. (Read The SCOBY Cure.)  (DON'T FLUSH YOUR SCOBY! It may just be able to grow in your septic system and cause big problems.)

So, other than personal preference, what is the real difference between water kefir and kombucha? Both start with a base of sweetened liquid (kombucha with sweetened tea, water kefir with sweetened water). I did a lot of hunting, and what follows are some of the best explanations I found on the Net. First up, kombucha.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is also known as Kombuchal, Gerbstoffe, Combucha, Kum-Cha, Fungus japonicas, Fungojapon, Indo-Japanese tea fungus, Pichia fermentans, Cembuya orientalis, Combuchu, Tschambucco, Volga spring, Mo-Gu, Champignon de longue vie, Tea Kvas, Teakwass, Kwassan, Kargasok, Kocha kinoko, Tibetian mushroom and more.

From the forums at Wild Fermentation:

The bacterial component of a kombucha culture usually consists of several species, but will almost always contain Gluconacetobacter xylinus, which ferments the alcohols produced by the yeast(s) into acetic acid. This increases the acidity while limiting the alcoholic content of kombucha. G. xylinum is responsible for most or all of the physical structure of a kombucha mother, and has been shown to produce microbial cellulose.

From the Happy Herbalist (which I highly recommend – tons of great information):

The classification of kombucha vinegar according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is Sour, Bitter and Warm, and milder than alcohol which is Hot (alcohol contributes to phlegm and stagnation). TCM uses vinegar (kombucha) to break stagnation and to move the blood and Qi. Thus improving circulation and contributing to the general feeling of well-being.

As a Pro-biotic: Acidic kombucha, pH 2-3.5 aids the Stomach (both in the TCM and western sense) in the breakdown and digestion of food ingested. Beneficial bacteria and yeasts, that comprise the Live K-T or Pressed Extract (as opposed to pasteurized, neutralized, alcoholic or dead kombucha) compete with and help remove (suppress) harmful bacteria, yeast, parasites. … Then due to the synergism of the stomach acids and kombucha (Acid and Alkaline meets Yin and Yang, Herman Aihara ISBN 0-918860-44-x), kombucha transforms into an alkaline forming substance. Now the transformed Alkaline kombucha pH 7+, aids the Spleen (function in TCM), intestines, gall bladder and pancreas (function in western speak) in metabolizing and distributing that digest throughout the body. Thus IMHO, kombucha truly holistically balances and harmonizes the body.

And finally, from the Heal Thyself Forums:

Kombucha also has the effect of increasing detoxification in the liver. This is beneficial, unless pregnant or nursing, or excess mercury stores. You also need your detox pathways to be open first for effective detox.

So, kombucha acts as an immediate digestive tonic, much like apple cider vinegar. It colonizes the guts with friendly bacteria and yeasts. It detoxifies the liver, and generally cleans and rejuvenates the digestive system as a whole.

Water Kefir versus Kombucha - Comparison of water kefir and kombucha, their microorganisms, flavors, brewing techniques and effects in the body.

What's in Kombucha?

The Happy Herbalist contains links to a number of kombucha studies at  http://www.happyherbalist.com/analysis_of_kombucha.htm. On this page, they state that the typical composition of kombucha may include:

Bacterium gluconicum
Bacterium xylinum
Acetobacter xylinum
Acetobacter xylinoides
Acetobacter Ketogenum
Saccharomycodes ludwigii
Saccharomycodes apiculatus
Schizosaccharomyces pombe
Zygosaccharomyes
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Acetic acid
Acetoacetic acid
Benzoic acid
propenyl ester
Benzonitrile
Butanoic acid
Caffeine
Citric acid
Cyanocobalamin
Decanoic acid
Ethyl Acetate
Fructose
d-Gluconic acid
Glucose
Hexanoic acid
Itaconic acid
2-Keto-gluconic acid
5-Keto-gluconic acid
2-Keto-3-deoxy-gluconic Lactic acid
Niacinamide
Nicotinic acid
Pantothenic acid
Phenethyl Alcohol
Phenol, 4-ethyl
6-Phospho gluconate
Propionic acid
Octanoic acid
Oxalic acid
Riboflavin
d-Saccharic acid
(Glucaric acid)
Succinic acid
Thiamin
plus 40 other acid esters in trace amounts.

Cultures for Health Kombucha Discussion

Cultures for Health highlights key kombucha elements in their Q &A section:

Not all kombucha cultures will contain the exact same strains, but generally, these are some that you might expect:

Acetobacter: This is an aerobic (requiring oxygen) bacteria strain that produces acetic acid and gluconic acid. It is always found in kombucha. Acetobacter strains also build the scoby mushroom. Acetobacter xylinoides and acetobacter ketogenum are two strains that you might find in kombucha.

Saccharomyces: This includes a number of yeast strains that produce alcohol, and are the most common types of yeast found in kombucha. They can be aerobic or anaerobic (requires an oxygen-free environment). They include Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyes, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Brettanomyces: Another type of yeast strain, either aerobic or anaerobic, that are commonly found in kombucha and produce alcohol or acetic acid.

Lactobacillus: A type of aerobic bacteria that is sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha. It produces lactic acid and slime.

Pediococcus: These anaerobic bacteria produce lactic acid and slime. They are sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha.

Gluconacetobacter kombuchae is an anaerobic bacteria that is unique to kombucha. It feeds on nitrogen that is found in tea, and produces acetic acid and gluconic acid as well as building the scoby mushroom.

Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis is a yeast strain that is unique to kombucha. It produces alcohol and carbonation as well as contributing to the mushroom body.

Kombucha also contains a variety of other nutrients, particularly various acids and esters that give the drink its characteristic tang and fizz. Included in these components is gluconic acid, which is the primary difference between the makeup of kombucha and the makeup of apple cider vinegar!

Order Fresh Live Kombucha and Water Kefir Cultures and Brewing Equipment

Now, water kefir:

What is Water Kefir?

Water Kefir is also known as Japanese Water Crystals, sugary-kefir grain (SKG), Sugary Fungus, Tibicos, Ginger Beer Plant, California Bees, Water Kefir Grains, tibetan mushroom grains, snow lotus, water crystals, tibi, Kephir, Paris, Kephir, kefir fungus, kefir d'aqua, and more.

From Yemoos Nourishing Cultures:

(Water kefir) is loaded with valuable enzymes, easily digestible sugars, beneficial acids, vitamins and minerals. Water kefir is also generally suitable for some diabetics (though personal discretion is advised). It also is a nice option if you are trying to avoid the caffeine present in kombucha, but still seeking a probiotic drink. Water kefir supplies your body with billions of healthy bacteria and yeast strains. Some store-bought probiotic foods or supplements can help, but they are not as potent, and do not contain the beneficial yeasts usually (just bacteria).

Within your body there are already billions of bacteria and yeast. Your internal microflora support proper digestion, synthesis of vitamins and minerals, and your immune system by warding off foreign and harmful bacteria, yeast and viruses. It has thus long been known to promote and aid in digestion and overall health. Some studies show it may be anti-mutagenic and help manage free radicals in the body. Folic acid (and B vitamins) increases as the length of the ferment increases. Some people let the strained kefir sit on the counter or the fridge another day to increase the folic acid and B vitamin content before drinking (this will increase the acidity too).

Kefir may also help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. As with most things we've personally found, food and health is too difficult to reduce to facts and statistics. While kefir is not a magic bullet for health (what is) we believe kefir has a myriad of possible health benefits, and those will be individual for everyone. Some feel it helps them digest better, others get colds and viruses less often, some get more energy, and some people feel nothing much in particular, but enjoy the taste and value of it over store-bought yogurt, kombucha or kefir.

From Heal Thyself

Pat at Heal Thyself includes more information and a word of caution (she leans to the kefir side of the discussion):

Kombucha has Saccharomyces boulardii which displaces and replaces candida albicans in the gut. Candida binds mercury to keep it out of circulation. When you kill off candida in the gut, stored mercury is released back into circulation to redeposit into other organs and the brain.

Kefir does not do this similarly. Some people get GI symptoms if they start kefir too much too fast due to the microbial shift in the gut. Kefir has many beneficial microbials. You only need 1 tablespoon to equate to a whole bottle of probiotics.

So, water kefir is loaded with probiotics that colonize the entire digestive tract, doesn't contain caffeine (although if you use continuous brewing, caffeine in kombucha can be significantly reduced), may help with free radicals and boost the immune system. It doesn't produce a significant detox effect.

Water Kefir versus Kombucha - Comparison of water kefir and kombucha, their microorganisms, flavors, brewing techniques and effects in the body.

What's in Water Kefir?

So what do you find in a typical glass of water kefir or kombucha?

Cultures for Health lists the following bacteria and yeasts as potentially occurring in water kefir:

Bacteria
Species Lactobacillus
L. acidophilus
L. alactosus
L. brevis
L. bulgaricus
L. casei subsp. casei
L. casei subsp. pseudoplantarum
L. casei subsp. rhamnosus
L. casei subsp. tolerans
L. coryneformis subsp. torquens
L. fructosus
L. hilgardii
L. homohiochi
L. plantarum
L. psuedoplantarum
L. reuterietc
L. yamanashiensis

Species Streptococcus
S. agalactiae
Sr. bovis
S. cremeris
S. faecalis
S. lactis
S. mutans
S. pneumoniae
S. pyogenes
S. salivarius
S. sanguinis
S. suis
S. viridans

Species Pediococcus
P. damnosus

Species Leuconostoc
L. mesenteroides

Species Bacillus
B. subtilis
B. graveolus

Yeast
Species Saccharomyces
S. bayanus
S. boullardii
S. cerevisiae
S. florentinus
S. pretoriensis
S. uvarum

Species Kloeckera
K. apiculata

Species Hansenula
H. yalbensis

Species Candida
C. gueretana
C. lamica
C. valida

Species Torulopsis
T. insconspicna

Basically, when you compare water kefir versus kombucha, it seems to me that water kefir acts primarily as a wide spectrum probiotic, whereas kombucha acts as a digestive aid, a probiotic and detoxifier. 

Water Kefir versus Kombucha - Comparison of water kefir and kombucha, their microorganisms, flavors, brewing techniques and effects in the body.

Water Kefir Versus Kombucha – Which one do I prefer?

I think both are valuable, but if I only had to choose one I would probably stick to kombucha. Both of them simply help your body to do what it needs to do – they are not miracle cures. Some sites warn not to use both, so keep that in mind. It's best to start with small doses until you body acclimates to the new inhabitants. I think it gets down to individual taste preference, and individual body chemistry. I encourage you to try both if you have the opportunity and see which works better for you.

Note: If you are dealing with candida overgrowth, note that ferments may contain candida species. Ferments may make some sensitive individuals worse, and some individuals better. Pay attention to how your body responds and adjust accordingly. Please check with your healthcare provider if you are on prescription medications, as fermented foods may affect how your medication is absorbed.

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Originally posted in 2011, updated in 2017.

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92 Comments

  1. Yes, I ferment both water and milk kefir. I choose water kefir to do the comparison because it is more similar to kombucha, but the health uses should be similar.

    1. Hello! I was wondering if you thought drinking Kefir would help with digestive problems and/or constipation?

      1. my sister claims kombucha is a marvel for constipation, and she’s an old hippy with really good food habits who’s read a ton and tried all kinds of natural remedies…she is delighted to have started culturing kombucha. I on the other hand have almost never been constipated, but I love the taste of both and drink a lot of both kombucha and water kefir, well-fermented so there’s not much sugar left. Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks for all this information on both items! I just ran into a Kombucha beverage at my local health food store a couple weeks ago. While that one lacked in the taste department, I'm preparing to explore around. New territory here! Thanks again.

  3. Great post Laurie!
    Do tell how have you used Scoby's to treat skin ailments. What type of ailments and how did you apply the scoby?
    Waiting on my son to transfer my posts, etc. to site….keep checking each day. Suppose happen this week? Can't wait!
    Pam…….all snowed in here.

  4. g&g- There's a huge variation in kombucha flavors depending on the age of the brew and the ingredients used. It's s a lot like wine. Some of mine has tasted much like apple cider vinegar, other batches have been much more mellow. Keep sampling and I'm guessing at some point you may find a flavor you like (or get a scoby and brew to order).

    Pamela – I guess I'll have to another post on that one at some point. Last winter, my son got very thick, waxy dandruff. I read up on likely causes (skin bacteria imbalance being one of them). I "scoby'd" his head for about 15 minutes before he took his shower at night. Worked like a charm. He still gets a few flakes now and then, but nothing like he had before. I want to try and make it into a skin cream to try for eczema-type conditions, but am not sure on the base to use. I also tried applying a scoby to my bursitis hip, but that was really messy and didn't seem to have any effect.

    Good luck on getting all the posts transferred without mishap. Lots of work! We're not snowed in, but it's REALLY cold.

  5. 🙂 I guess I should have explained that earlier. If you look at the bottom picture – that is a scoby or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) AKA kombucha mother, kombucha mushroom. It's the "starter" you use to brew kombucha.

  6. Scobied his head did you!!!!! I can imagine that was quite a sight. Last summer when I had lots of excess scoby's I fed them to the 2 pigs since everyone around here that was interested in brewing had gotten scoby's from me and had their own abundance and were getting others themselves to start.
    Blog transfer began….will go live once all the quirks are out and some are beyond my comprehension. Son will work on it this weekend.

    1. I have shared excess SCOBYs with my neighbor’s chickens, the producers of our delicious eggs, and the chickens rush to consume them. I like to think they deliver benefits to our breakfast that way.

  7. I would suggest coconut oil but it's antibacterial and antifungal, so that sort of defeats the purpose. 🙂 Maybe cultured raw cream? Obviously the mixture would need to be made fresh and used right away, but there could be a synergistic effect…

    On another note, great post! I would think including both in the diet would be helpful to get a variety of probiotics. I'm enjoying some kombucha now… love it!

  8. HI Laurie,
    Your explanation was wonderful! I am going to use your post in a class I am teaching!
    Thanks
    Jane Casey

  9. Amy – most of my salve recipes use beeswax, but of course that requires heating. Alas, no raw cream available. I ground up some scoby in oil, but it's really messy.

    Jane – thanks! Glad you found it useful. There's a TON of info out there, but I hadn't seen a one to one comparison elsewhere. Where do you teach?

  10. Great post! I really enjoyed your comparison. I think in the end, it comes down to individual taste and needs. I too prefer the longer brewing cycle and the endless variety of flavors that I create. So much fun!!

  11. Hannah – nice of you to stop by. Did you know that yours was one of the first kombucha blogs I visited? I just bottled a couple of batches of kombucha yesterday. I'm trying out a new flavor – prune. 🙂 Just in one bottle.

  12. Thanks for the comparison! I have kefir at the moment… I have a question about kefir though- if you remove the kefir grains, are you still ingesting bacteria and yeast?
    Veronica

  13. Veronica – yes. The bacteria and yeast permeate the liquid. I know for sure that kombucha left in a warm space will spontaneously grow a new scoby (I've seen it). Not sure where baby kefir grains come from initially, but I do know that my kefir without grains is very much alive. I have ended up with a fountain effect while opening bottles that built up too much carbon dioxide from the live brew inside.

  14. I am late to this dance, but have you tried coconut oil (solid at room temperature) as a base for the skin cream?
    Thank you for this comparison. I am soon to be making water kefir but have been making milk kefir from raw Jersey milk for quite some time, now. I have also been using commercial kombucha in combination with it. I am looking forward to brewing my own kombucha, but haven't made the leap yet.

  15. Greg – I considered coconut oil (and tried a mix with some coconut oil in it), but CO has natural antibacterial properties. I ended up with fur growing so I had to toss the salve. (I think I started with scoby, coconut oil, olive oil and almond oil.)

    I wish I had access to raw Jersey milk! It seems crazy to live in the dairy state and not be able to buy raw milk. Kombucha is really easy to do. I'm sure you'll have no trouble once you get a scoby and tackle it.

  16. Great article. I've just bought some water crystals and am trying to learn all I can. I've been prescribed powerful probiotics but this looks much more affordable and helpful. Thank you very much.

  17. Thank you, Trish. Be patient with your body and give it time to heal, and I hope you'll experience some positive changes. I firmly believe that consuming live culture foods has improved my health. I don't go a day without them any more.

  18. Hi there Laurie,

    Thank you so much for your in depth information, I just got Water Kefir grains last week and I am currently making my third Apple Kefir, made from 2 liters of unfiltered coldpressed applejuice, 2 tablespoons of Organic sugar and 2 tablespoons of Kefir grains, they love applejuice! Ordered Kombucha Yesterday, and was wondering if it is at good idea to drink both or is it too much for my body at the same time. I also eat a lot of Rawfood (that is 50% raw and 50% vegetarian!) and make green juices, and am thinking of blending Apple Kefir or Kombucha Tea with a green juice. Love waves from Isabella Sofia, Denmark. sofiasheaven.blogspot.com

  19. You should be okay drinking both, as long as you don't do too much – maybe no more than 120 ml kombucha per day, and a similar amount of kefir. Each person's body is different, and I don't have experience being on a raw food diet, so I'm not sure how your internal flora and fauna will react. Start slow and pay attention to how your body feels. The apple kefir sounds delicious!

  20. I know you posted this a long, long time ago, but I couldn't help adding my two cents. The Happy Herbalist website you recommended cautions against pregnant or nursing mothers and kids under age 4 drinking kombucha! That made my decision easy. 🙂 Thanks for putting all the information together to make the decision-making easy for the rest of us!

    1. I just want to point out that I drank kombucha all the way through my last pregnancy and nursing, and my little guy drinks it every day at 19 months old. He and my older kids have been drinking it for quite a while now and love it. I can’t imagine why someone would say it would not be recommended in those circumstances.

      1. You know how it is – there is a minute possibility of someone having a reaction of some sort, so in order to protect from liability, pretty much everything has to be labeled “use caution when pregnant”. As a long time kombucha drinker, I’d personally have no concern about drinking it while pregnant, either.

  21. Thanks for this informative comparison Laurie. Your blog is full of so much helpful information. I sure appreciate it.

  22. Thank you for this information! I have been wondering if Kefir was better or different from Kombucha. Mainly one appealing to those that prefer fruit juice versus tea. Your information was very helpful. I noticed that Candida valida is listed under the Kefir section under the What Do You Find in a Typical Glass of water Kefir/Kombucha? I thought Candida was bad for our body? Unfortunately I have taken antibiotics many times and have symptoms of Candida. I've been following a anti-candida diet with very good results. At this stage of the diet I was told that I could probably consume Kefir because the sugar is greatly reduced in the final product. So far I haven't had any problems or change in the improvements with the Candida symptoms. However, after seeing it listed here I am a bit concerned. Is all Candida the same or is C. valida different from the one that normally causes problems?

  23. From curezone.com (http://curezone.com/forums/fm.asp?i=1792973):

    The strain that causes us all the problems is Candida albicans…the strain in Water Kefir is Candida valida.

    Food matters (http://www.foodmatters.tv/_webapp_348606/How_to_Overcome_Candida_Naturally) suggests some cause for concern with teh consumption of yogurt or kefir: Usually yogurt or kefir would be good sources of probiotics, however many Candida sufferers are intolerant of their lactose (sugar) content. They are not recommended as a good source of probiotic therapy but good quality yogurt free of sugar or Kefir made with raw milk would be ideal to include in the diet once Candida is again in balance.

    The Food Matters article has a lot of good information on treating candida overgrowth naturally.

  24. Thanks again! Your information is very helpful. I make my own yogurt without fruit or sweeteners. I am lactose intolerant but the yogurt has not caused any problems. I use a long fermentation time (of 24 hours or longer) for the production of yogurt. I find that this long fermentation provides the ability for the milk sugar, lactose to be optimally degraded/broken down. I do the same for water kefir if using juice for flavor during the second fermentation. The longer fermentation produces a less sweet taste. For Kefir I find it to be more like Kombucha. However for my family I have to use a shorter fermentation for the sweetness that they prefer. I have had a very significant improvement in my health since adding homemade yogurt and kifer to my diet. For me the key was making it myself. I did not experience any change when I used the store products. This along with addressing diet changes for leaky gut and food allergies has got me back on the path of healing. Each of us is unique and I believe that there is no one diet that can suit every person’s health needs. No one size fits all. That is one of the reasons I am grateful for sites such as this one. I have learned so much valuable information that I would have never been aware of without the help of people like Laurie and others sharing what they have learned. Thank you again!

  25. I think that introducing friendly microflora and microfauna is a good idea for most people, as our SAd is sadly lacking in probiotic foods.

    I'm glad that you're finding options that work for you!

  26. This is really interesting. Thanks for posting it. It seems there is a lot of anecdotal info about these fermented beverages. By the way, there is a yahoo group called original-kombucha. They talk about all kinds of kombucha uses. To make a scoby cream, you can just stick a scoby and some kombucha in a blender and whip. Some people leave kombucha in narrow glasses so that a small scoby forms for band-aid uses. Some people eat them.

  27. So many Facebook pages, so little time. 🙂 I have tried the kombucha bandage – I just cut a larger SCOBY to size. I haven't tried the cream, but I have eaten small SCOBYs. They remind me of oysters.

  28. This was a very informative post. I have recently begun drinking water kefir and have wonder about the differences between it and kombucha. This has helped a lot. Thank you.

  29. Thank you, Pam, for taking time share your thoughts. My boys prefer kefir and I prefer kombucha, so we keep both in the house.

  30. My father loves this sort of stuff. I’d really like a book that i could get him for christmas associated to this topic.

    1. Donna at Cultured Food Life just came out with a book recently that you can find on her site, http://culturedfoodlife.com/
      The book is called “Cultured Food Life: Learn to make probiotic foods in your home”. I haven’t read it yet, but she’s wonderfully creative on her site, so I expect that it’s very good.

      1. Hi. On this same site she also says that water kefir has much less strains of bacteria than the milk kefir. She says that there are only about 10 strains in water kefir as opposed to over 50 in milk kefir. If was for this reason I’ve just ordered a kombucha kit. Do you disagree.? Thanks, I’m confused.

        1. I don’t understand the question. If you are asking about kombucha over water kefir, that would be my personal preferred option, but all of them are good. Each person and each digestive tract is different, so it’s best to try different things and find out what works best for your body.

  31. Is Kombucha actually alkaline-forming? We know that lemons are alkaline forming but has anyone ever tested to confirm that Kombucha is too? I hope so but do you know if this is hearsay or based on study?

      1. That article seems to me to say that it is alkali forming in the body after digestion though it is acid in ‘nature,’ I guess it could be put. Same as a lemon is acidic in character but produces an alkali reaction in the body.

    1. I asked my doctor about all of these probiotic foods. He says the jury is still out on the benefits but that it can’t hurt.

  32. I have a totally off-topic, superficial question–What is the china pattern of the bowl in the kombucha photo?

  33. So…am I the only one to notice the little joke in the Kombucha ingredients list? Um…Lb. hilarities
    Lb. homophobia
    Lb. plantarum
    Lb. pseudo plantarum
    Lb. admonishes
    Riiiiiight. I think I know what website that was gleaned from! Dom has a sense of humor! Hehehehe. I, for one, do not want to consume Lacto-bacillus Homophobia!!! Hohohoho hehehehe hahahahaha!!!

  34. So, I got a scoby from a friend last month and have been thoroughly enjoying a half cup or so (mixed with juice) each day and although being 6 months pregnant have a ton of energy- so now I am nervous- should I cut down or cut out kombucha until after I am done nursing. I really love it, and have been making milk kefir (a bit, I am casein allergic, but can tolerate a little) and just today started water kefir. I am loving all these but am a bit uncertain about continuing the kombucha. Thanks for your input!

  35. I find that I have to boil(not just wash in hot water) my jars and equipment for kombucha else I get fuzzies (probably a form of mold.) Does anyone else have trouble making their kombucha?

    Also, I looked everywhere for a SCOBY before I found they can be made from kombucha from the grocery. Is there a tip for finding the crystals for making water kefir?

    1. That’s interesting. I just wash like normal dishes and air dry thoroughly. My bottles I either set on the back of the stove or in a sunny window to make sure they dry completely. What part of the country are you in? I’m in Wisconsin, so may have different conditions.

      I haven’t seen anything about growing your own kefir grains.

  36. There does not have to be caffeine in Kombucha. I almost always use an herbal tea blend for my base and then use maple syrup for the sugar. I get great results and haven’t had an issue with my SCOBY. I have been doing it this way for more than 6 months now.

    I also remember reading an article one time when the author said they noticed a thin film on top of their Kefir, so they saved them up and were able to make a batch of Kefir just a good as with the grains.

    I wonder if the major difference between the two is the aerobic vs anaerobic fermentation process and that one has a tea base while the other is usually a water base.

  37. Thanks so much for spelling it out. I just ordered my water kefir grains, and my coworker’s gonna make kombucha. We’ll see who gets healthier, haha.
    I personally wanted to avoid the potential caffeine of kombucha, & didn’t love the idea of loose mercury floating around because I lacked candida all of a sudden. Even if it’s “just” a probiotic, and isn’t the detoxifier and digestive aid that the kombuchu is!
    PS I never knew, candida can be a good thing, in that it binds with mercury?!

  38. Acidity & Tongue

    I’ve been brewing for a 3 months now (kt & water kefir) and find that, while I LOVE it!!!!, the acid is burning my tongue. I’ve cut it almost all out this week (noticing the gut difference seems happier when drinking it), and my tongue is slowly healing, but not there yet.

    My guess is that it’s either the actual drinking of the acidic drink (kombucha), or it is coming back as acid reflux while I sleep, or my body is getting too acidic.

    So my tongue feels burnt, all the time now. How can this acid be good for the inside of my body? Do you water your’s down? I’m torn, because my tongue feels this way for a few weeks now.

    Anyone else have this?

    (KT brew: black and/or green tea. …7-8 days. or 14 days (but that is way vinegary) 2nd fermentation 2-3 days, …usually with ginger, passion fruit, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple… refrigerate)
    (water kefir brew: 1-2 days. Refrigerate)

    1. Are you on any medication? That and other factors influence how your body will react to the kombucha. A burning mouth is something I would try to avoid. In warmer temperatures, the fermenting will progress much faster, and you may need to shorten your fermentation times and/or reduce the amount you are drinking. In hot temps 3-4 days primary ferment with 1 or even a half day 2nd ferment may be plenty of time. I drink less if it is stronger, or add some unfermented sweetened tea to cut it.

  39. Hello, and thanks for a great read. I’ve started my first batch of Kombucha a week ago….tastes very high in vinegar. I didn’t have starter tea (well i did but my jar tipped and emptied!!) so made a mix of passionfruit green tea brewed in R/O remineralized water, organic cane sugar and added vinegar. My SCOBY is growing well but the Kombucha is a really strong vinegar taste. Do you have a basic starter tea recipe that you don’t mind sharing? Or does the second ferment with fruit really help? I’m thinking ginger peach….
    Today I purchased water kefir grains as well. I’m particularly excited to try this as its a quick process. I used organic peach in one jar and organic cherries in another jar. I included a tiny amount of unsulphered molasses to keep the grains working….and organic cane sugar, of course! I’m wondering, can water kefir grain go towards milk kefir? I look forward to hearing back from you 🙂

    1. Kombucha tastes too much like vinegar = too long ferment. If it’s warm, the fermentation process will be accelerated. You can start tasting after a few days and see when the flavor is right for you. The basic tea recipe is 1 quart water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon (or two tea bags) or tea. There are links at the bottom of the post to more detailed instructions.

      You can salvage a batch of kombucha that has gone too acidic by adding some freshly brewed starter tea when you bottle. The flavor won’t be the same, but it will be more palatable. A second ferment with flavorings will help some, but not as much as fresh tea.

      I usually ferment my water kefir with only sugar water and mineral drops to start, and then add fruit or juice for the second ferment.

      Sometimes water kefir grains can be successfully adapted to milk kefir, sometimes not. It depends on you particular kefir strain. Using grains that have been grown in the medium of choice produces more reliable results.

    2. I don’t think water and milk kefir grains are the same. They look very different. I use both.

      Milk kefir is my favorite. It’s very easy to find grains on the internet. I have a glass morning and night and use it in fruit smoothies. Love it!

  40. Can you give a link for more info on why kombucha isn’t good when nursing? Or for people with metal fillings? I’ve seen it on several posts around the net, but haven’t seen why. Thanks!

  41. I have not made either kefir or kombucha but I did purchase kombucha @ my co-op. I thought – green tea/ginger. How could this be wrong. Oh it was so wrong. I could not drink it. I had not had kombucha before so not sure what I was expecting but it sure was not what came out of that bottle. I asked at the co-op and several of the volunteers loved that brand so it isn’t the brand or even the flavor – just me. So I thought I would like to try water kefir as I don’t eat dairy due to intolerance. Have not been able to find a water kefir to purchase so will need to buy the grains and try it myself. That being said, I do ferment my own sauerkraut and other fermented foods for the probiotics and love fermenting.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. There’s a huge variation of flavors possible with kombucha, so don’t give up on it entirely. I tried a few really awful purchased ones before I started brewing my own.

      Thanks for your comment.

    1. Hey, Sam. That’s something I’ve been looking into lately also. I loooove kombucha, but have recently discovered that I have a candida overgrowth issue and have given up the “booch.” It makes me sad. I’m hoping that maybe water kefir will be a healthy alternative, but still doing some research on that also.

  42. Wait, whaaat? Kefir commonly contains Streptococcus pyogenes? That’s freaking me out a little. Ok… a LOT. Like a lot, a lot.

    1. “Potentially”, not necessarily commonly, but apparently the mix keeps it all in check, as we’ve never had any issues with strep infections while consuming kefir.

      1. Toxic shock syndrome just scares the bejeezus out of me. Always has. And yeah…. I know that contaminants from the GI tract *shouldn’t* wind up in the vaginal canal…. and yet they sometimes do (hence vaginal yeast infections). I don’t know. I really want to try kefir, so I’ll probably just do it anyway. 🙂

        1. I suspect most yeast infections have as much to do with a compromised immune system and/or off kilter body chemistry as they do with opportunistic bacteria, since not everyone who has fecal contact with their vagina area ends up with a yeast infection.

  43. I have seen that kombucha and water kefir may contain cyanocobalamin —B12. Isn’t this incorrect? Shouldn’t it be methylcobalamin as cyanocobalamin is man made? Or is it a misnomer – much like calling all gelatin “Jello?”

    1. I’m not familiar with all the science of the fermentation, but in the comments of the article “Which type of vitamin B12 is best–cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, or hydroxycobalamin?”, there’s a discussion of how cyanocobalamin is produced:

      Cyanocobalamin is commercially prepared by bacterial fermentation. Fermentation by a variety of microorganisms yields a mixture of methyl-, hydroxo-, and adenosylcobalamin. These compounds are converted to cyanocobalamin by addition of potassium cyanide in the presence of sodium nitrite and heat.

      So perhaps the Cyanocobalamin is produced by the yeast of the scoby during the fermentation process? I’m really not sure and don’t have a lab to test.

  44. I’m confused. I had been doing fermented veggies, water kefir, and kombucha, but my functional medicine doctor said I was too acidic and took me off these and told me to eat only homemade yogurt. Does anyone know why? I thought fermented veggies and drinks were alkalizing?

    1. Are you sure your doctor took you off because they were acid forming, or was there another reason? Everything I’ve read indicates fermented foods to be acidic before consumption, but alkalizing in the body. For example – http://bodyecology.com/articles/acidic-foods-and-acid-forming-foods-do-you-know-the-difference

      If you have candida, home fermented foods might be limited, especially kombucha, because kombucha may contain candida yeast. You can learn more about candida at Candida – Missing Link to Healing Psoriasis and Other Illness.

  45. I’ve been consuming Jun kombucha and water kefir daily for a few months now. You mentioned that doing both is not recommended by some people. Can you explain why?

    1. As I understand it, there’s some concern that it’ll basically turn your guts into a round of dueling banjos, probiotic style, if you overdo consumption of the different microbe families. A little is good, more is not necessarily better. Probiotic foods and beverages should complement your own gut microbes, not overwhelm them.

    1. It may help with both, but it depends. Every person is different.

      The probiotics in kefir can potentially help restore gut health, which may in turn improve psoriasis. That said, some people react poorly to it, and in some cases you may need more than kefir.

      When I had a bad psoriasis outbreak, I eventually figured out that mine was linked to candida overgrowth. I used diet, herbs, supplements and other lifestyle changes to get it under control. For a while I stopped using fermented foods and used probiotic pills instead, so I knew for sure that I was only dealing with specific strains of microbes. Now we are brewing again, and I enjoy in moderation.

      More on the diet and supplements I used here – https://commonsensehome.com/anti-candida-anti-psoriasis-diet/

      I didn’t find much research specifically linking kefir and the liver, but there was one mouse study that indicated the kefir improves NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).

      Kefir improves fatty liver syndrome by inhibiting the lipogenesis pathway in leptin-deficient ob/ob knockout mice.

      “CONCLUSION:
      On the basis of these results, we conclude that kefir improves NAFLD on BW, energy expenditure and basal metabolic rate by inhibiting the lipogenesis pathway and that kefir may have the potential for clinical application to the prevention or treatment of NAFLD.”

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