Kefir: what it is and types

What is kefir? How to eat it Does it bring any health benefits? Get all your questions about this type of fermented milk answered.



Kefir is a fermented dairy product, similar to yoghurt, which is available both to drink and to eat with a spoon. It is fermented through the combined action of yeasts and lactic bacteria; a culture prepared from kefir granules, lactobacillus kefiri, of the genus leuconostoc, lactococcus and acetobacter that grow in a close and specific relationship. Kefir granules consist of both lactose fermenting yeast (kluyveromyces marxianus) and lactose-free fermenting yeast (saccharomyces unisporus, saccharomyces cerevisiae and saccharomyces exiguus).

Both the granules or nodules used for the production and the resulting liquid are called kefir.

The difference between kefir and other fermented milks is the use of yeasts, which are responsible for the bubbling taste produced by the gaseous by-product (carbon dioxide). Carbon dioxide is a residue, the result of alcoholic fermentation carried out by yeasts with the lactose components (milk sugar). This reaction is possible only in the presence of yeasts.

In Turkish kefir apparently means "blessing" or "feeling good". Because of its digestive benefits it has been consumed for many years in eastern Europe and Asia, in regions such as Bulgaria, the Caucasus, the Balkans and Turkey, among other countries, because of it´s digestive benefits.


Types of kefir

Kefir can be grown at home in water or milk, from kefir granules. 

Milk kefir: the resulting product has a double fermentation, that of the fungus granules and bacteria and that of the sugar in the milk itself:

♣Put 2 -3 tablespoons of kefir granules in a glass jar and add 750 ml of fresh or pasturised milk (UHT). It may be made from cow's or goat's milk, but must be whole. A third of the empty jar must be left to accommodate the fermentation gases.

♣The granules and milk are left in the fridge for 24 hours, during which time the double fermentation takes place. It can also be allowed to stand at room temperature.

♣Then the liquid drips and the milk kefir is ready. If we want to do more, just add more milk to the nodules. Milk kefir is tastier than the water-based version, has a smoother texture and a somewhat acidic taste.

Water kefir:

If you want to make kefir with water, sugar should be added to the granules to facilitate fermentation, in addition to using spring water. The fermentation time is around 48 hours and  lemon peel or dates can be added to the mixture to flavour the kefir water. Some of the advantages of water kefir versus milk kefir is that it can be consumed by vegans and also by those who are lactose intolerant.

However, if you don't want the complications of making kefir at home, there are a number of options on the market for buying it ready made. 

Kefir benefits

Kefir is a probiotic that facilitates digestion and improves the body's defenses. Like yoghurt, it is considered a food with probiotic effects, which means that it has a beneficial influence on the correct balance of intestinal flora.

Caloric content and nutritional composition depends on the milk it is made from (cow, sheep, goat). Kefir is a source of calcium.