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Water kefir or kombucha? Which do you prefer or do you drink both? And how does water kefir compare to kombucha?
I like to think one isn’t necessarily better than the other, they are just different. Like comparing apples to oranges. This comparison is mostly opinion. For an excellent, more scientific comparison, check out Common Sense Homesteading’s post “Water Kefir vs Kombucha”
The main difference between water kefir and kombucha is the bacteria in them and what they produce. Water kefir is a lactic acid ferment where kombucha is more of an acetic acid ferment. This is what gives them their distinctive tastes.
Water kefir wins hands down when comparing the number of lactic acid bacteria. When looking through my microscope, I have no problem finding the little buggers. They are everywhere. Kombucha, on the other hand, not so rich. Of course this varies from batch to batch and can differ depending on how old the ferment is. I also found in my kombucha, the tea harvested from the bottom of the jar had more bacteria where the tea from closer to the top didn’t. This is just my experience.
Which Tastes Better?
Of course taste is very personal. What is good to one person isn’t to the other. Taste wise, kombucha tends to be more vinegary/tangy sour since one of the bi-products of its fermentation is acetic acid, which is vinegar. As water kefir sours more, it begins to taste more like a dry wine to me. So it’s just a different kind of sour.
My husband doesn’t care for the taste of vinegar so he prefers water kefir over kombucha. I love both fairly equally. The tang of kombucha is nummy and I love the more tart wine like taste of kefir. My boys say water kefir tastes too much like wine for them so they prefer kombucha. So, I make both.
Which is Easier?
As far as which one is easier to make, in my opinion kombucha is easier. While brewing the tea concentrate does take a little more effort, it’s a once a month effort rather than daily. I make a big batch of tea concentrate (one gallon which will make 4 gallons of tea when reconstituted) that lasts me about a month. About 2 times a week, I drain off a bunch of kombucha and refill with my concentrate. If I get busy and forget to drain it off, I either just have really strong kombucha or I turn it into vinegar. If I need a break from making it, I can just leave it in the pot for many weeks without worry. I’ve been really busy lately and haven’t had a chance to make more tea concentrate. I haven’t drained my kombucha in over 2 months and it’s just fine. I have a very yummy vinegar brewing right now (anyone need a gallon or 2 of kombucha vinegar?).
If you forget about water kefir, it will die. Been there, done that. It can handle a little bit of neglect but not nearly as much as kombucha can withstand.
Time wise, water kefir brews much faster than kombucha (especially batch brewing kombucha). Water kefir is ready in as little as 24 hours where kombucha can take between 1 and 3 weeks depending on the temperature and how tart you like it. Getting a continuous brewer set up reduces the amount of time it takes to brew significantly. When you first set up your brewer, it will take the 1-3 weeks to get it started but after that you can drain off a few cups here and there either daily or a few times a week.
So tell me, are you a water kefir freak or a kombucha kook? Or both?