Kefir Grains – Live vs. Dried – Which Kefir is the Best Buy For You ?

Kefir Grains – Live vs. Dried – Which One is the Best Buy For You ?

  Today someone searching to buy kefir grains on the web will find many sites selling ‘living’ kefir or dried/dehydrated kefir grains.  For someone new to food culturing there are many questions…, What is the best source to buy kefir?  What type of grains do I need?  Where to get the best grains?

There are two types of kefir that one can buy, Milk kefir grains, which are a naturally occurring organism originating in the Caucasus or water kefir grains from Meso-America.  Of the two, the live fresh active grains are the best buy for your money and time.  However, both types offer benefits unique each to itself.

The fresh kefir grains re-balance quickly and begin producing drinkable pro-biotic kefir within just a few days of arriving after shipment.  This is an excellent option if you live within the USA and are able to attend to them immediately.
If you are either
a) not located within the U.S. or
b) not able to attend to the fresh grains immediately upon arrival, then dried kefir grains are the best option for you.
These will take longer to activate – about a week or so to ‘wake up’ and adjust the balance to where they are producing a drinkable kefir beverage.  This is a great option if the grains will be in transit internationally, since they are in a dormant stage and will not degrade or less likely to be damaged over the fresh grains.  This also gives you the option to stick the dried grains in your cupboard or refrigerator if you receive them, but, are not ready to use them (or want to hang onto them as a backup source or a gift to give). Water kefir grains are known to sometimes be difficult to revive from a dried state (or just takes a long time) in some cases.  Usually it’s hard to put the blame on any one thing, they just tend to be more fragile and pickier than milk kefir grains.

Below are a list of companies and websites that sell different kefir grain starters.  Below is information from the company’s website pages on kefir:

dairy_culture_02
purchase live fresh kefir grains over dried or dehydrated

Organic-Cultures.Com

From their website…“These kefir grains are real grains maintained on organic milk.  Unlike the pre-packaged kefir starters, such as Cultures for Health, Helios, or Body Ecology, that you may find on other sites or selling in retail stores, these are the real living grains of the kefir culture.  Our kefir grains are ready for use out of the packet, no failed productions or waiting several rounds for the kefir grains (milk or water types) to become ‘active’ again.  You will not find our strains of kefir grains in any store!  These grains will last a lifetime with proper care.  Our Kefir Cultures are Always Live & Fresh…Never Dried & Dehydrated.”

Benefits:   Five different kefir types to choose from, plus many other food cultures.  Fresh, active culture starters, organic grown, kefir is ready to use from the package and a first batch of kefir is ready within 24 to 48 hours.  A 100% replacement guarantee, if the cultures are not viable.
Drawbacks:  Not able to ship to international destinations (but for Canada) due to fresh raw nature of culture starters.

 

bodyE_kefir_2Body Ecology

From their website…”Contains 6 packets that can be used an average of 7 times each.  Six tablespoons of previous batch will ferment 1 quart of liquid.”

Benefits:   Convenience and great for short time usage,
Drawbacks:   Isolated lab grown cultures, repurchase required, limited usage.  Invest in real kefir grains for long term usage.

 

dried_kefir_starter_01 Yogourmet

From their website…”Yogourmet kefir starter is prepared from selected strains of dairy cultures and yeast as well as kefir grains, so that each batch you make produces excellent quality kefir.  Yogourmet kefir starter does not require the use of a yogurt maker, since the milk is incubated at room temperature for about 24 hours.  Each box contains 3 envelopes of 2 X 5 grams and each envelope makes 2 liters of kefir”.

Benefits:
  Convenience and great for short time usage,
Drawbacks:  Isolated lab grown cultures, repurchase required, limited usage.  Invest in real kefir grains for long term use.

Helios_kefir_01Lifeway Helios Kefir & Other Ready to Drink Kefirs

From their website…”Putting a bottle of Lifeway Kefir in your hand just makes so much sense.  It allows you to be proactive about your health, filling your digestive system with friendly bacteria.  Lifeway Kefir is also loaded with nutritious ingredients.”
Benefits:  Convenience in a ready to go drink and great for short time usage or when traveling,
Drawbacks:  High price, isolated lab grown cultures, extra packaging, and limited pro-biotic content.

 

dried_kefir_grains_01Cultures For Health

From their website…”Our milk kefir grains are shipped in a dehydrated state in a barrier-sealed packet.  Upon receipt, the dairy grains can be rehydrated in fresh milk (this process usually takes 5 to 7 days) and then used to make kefir by adding the grains to fresh milk, stirring, covering, and leaving at room temperature until the desired consistency is reached.”
Benefits:  Cultures are cheap to buy, due to mass production.  Great for shipping to countries outside the USA.
Drawbacks:
 No moneyback or return policy.  Small packet of lab produced and dried starter culture, leaving little room for error. Must rehydrate the grains before use, wasting milk and time.  Dehydrated grains may not reactivat depending on the shelflife.

Each type of starter has it’s own benefits depending on what and how the cultures are to be shipped or transported.  This is a final note on food cultures…”Buying or obtaining the freshest kefir or other starter cultures, one can, will assist in producing the best cultured and viable product.  I suggest fresh culture over dried/dehydrated if possible.”, Nirinjan Singh, Director – Organic-cultures.com

Kombucha Tea Question of the Week…

Kombucha tea in Grolsch
Kombucha tea in Grolsch style beer bottles for safety

“Hi, I’m new to making Kombucha and I have a concern about bottling KT after the second ferment.  I have read on many sites that there’s a chance the bottle can explode from carbonation buildup and that …I should be very careful. So how do I be very careful?  Moreover, is that really a concern?  I see on your site that you do not mention it when explaining how to bottle KT.  Is that only a concern after the second ferment?”

To Answer Your Question…
Bottling is the best way to extend the shelf life of the kombucha beverage.  There is a concern with excessive buildup of carbonation when bottling.  Below are some steps to follow when doing the secondary fermentation:
1.  Do NOT add extra sugar or juice when bottling.  This adds raw sugar source which the yeasts will turn into carbonation & alcohol)
2.  Use quality bottles such as Grolsch style beer bottle (Grolsch or standard beer bottles are designed to hold extra pressure)
3.  Leave a 5% head space when filling each bottle and the pH is below 4.5
(In the beverage industry, this amount is required by the FDA)
4.  Just to make sure all is safe, keep your bottles in a cardboard or plastic box to keep glass and liquid from going every where    Following these easy steps will assist you in your secondary bottling process.  Please comment below with any other questions or a tip you may have to share.

Happy Brewing!

Kombucha Tip For the Week… & Culture Question of the Week…

Kombucha Tea Tip for the Week…

Kombucha tea fast brew method… Our fast brew method can save a bit of time and the tea/sugar solution is ready to inoculate with the kombucha cultures and start tea.

KT classic recipe is as follows:
– 1 gallon water, bring to boil

– Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon

– Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir to dissolve

– Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture

– Brew 7 to 14 days

Kombucha Tea Culture Fast Brew Method:
– ½ gallon of water, bring to boil

– Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon

– Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir to dissolve

– Add ½ gallon of cold water, mix

– Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture

– Brew 7 to 14 days

The difference is that the fast brew method will require less time to cool the raw solution, thus, getting the round brewing faster.  The basic difference is cutting the water in your recipe by half and then adding the other half of the water (cold) at the very end.

Question of the Week…

My Kombucha Culture is Producing a Flat Beverage, What Can I do to Make More Fizz?

This happens to many KT brewers from time to time. First of all, use best quality ingredients you can afford, we suggest organic ingredients. Are you using city water? Then stop!  Try changing the type of tea your using and use no teas high in oil content, like peppermint or Earl Grey.
Some people will tell you to just add more sugar, however, just as in beer and saké making, adding to much sugar can make the yeast even more sluggish.
I believe temperature plays a bigger role in producing fizz in the KT, which is the carbon dioxide (CO2), produced from the yeast breaking down the sugars.  My suggestion is to make sure the temp (of the liquid, not the ambient temp) is at least 80 deg F for the first 3 or 4 days, then drop the temp down to 70-75 Deg F for the rest of the brewing cycle.  If you feel that you need more sugar then add it by ‘addition’ over the first 3 days of brewing.
Another trick is to make sure the raw tea/sugar solution is aerated. Do this by pouring the cooled tea between two vessels several times. One last tip, the SCOBY culture helps to trap in the CO2 so make sure your culture doesn’t have a lot of holes in it and that the new culture forms and seals the top of the liquid.

Hope this helps, Happy Brewin’, Nirinjan Singh

Kombucha Mushroom – Preventing Mold and Contamination

  By following a few simple measures one can keep the culture strong and contamination free. There are many types of unwanted air-born or surface contaminations; however, by keeping the cultures covered as much as possible we can greatly reduce the amount of wild yeasts and unwanted molds.  By reducing the amount of foreign and unwanted invaders,
the kombucha strains stay strong, healthy, and viable.

Through either neglect, improper environmental conditions, or the wrong nutrients the mushroom culture can become weak and susceptible to contamination.  By following the steps below, your kombucha
culture should last a lifetime and more
.

kombucha_mold_1
Kombucha & Mold

Steps For Preventing Mold and Contamination on Kombucha Mushroom
and Tips For Keeping Your Culture Starter Happy & Healthy !  

1. KEEP CULTURES COVERED AT ALL TIMES    Keep the culture jars or brewing containers covered with a clean section of cloth or breathable material and secured tightly with rubber bands or string. .

2. NO SMOKING    Do NOT smoke cigarettes and tobacco around the kombucha fermenting area or even better not to smoke in the same house.  Smoke molecules may kill or weaken the cultures.  The constitutes within the tobacco smoke are not to the kombucha bacteria and yeast and will be directly affected by this action.

3. USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS    Though at first this may not seem to be a step in preventing mold contamination,
however, by feeding your culture (and yourself) the highest quality
ingredients you provide the best range of nutrients
and less chemicals and preservatives.

kombucha_brewing-112x180
KT Brewin

4. SELECTING A PROPER BREWING SPACE    Selecting a proper area for the kombucha tea to sit and brew can make all the difference in the world between a healthy culture and a weak one.  The kombucha mushroom requires a nice warm place, out of direct sunlight, to ferment the tea solution.  The closer to 80 deg F the better the cultures will grow.  The faster the cultures can grow out within the tea/sugar solution the less chance of contamination by mold.  Keep the kombucha out of the kitchen area.  Although this is the most convenient place for most people to store and brew, it is also the worst!  Smoke from cooking, burning fats, and other particles are again not to the liking of the mushroom culture.  Out of all areas in your house, including the bathroom, the kitchen area has the most wild yeast, molds, and germs.  Not only do dirty surfaces, sink drains, and leftover food particles in the kitchen provide a breeding ground for unwanted molds and bacteria.  The kitchen area also provides other abundant sources of molds and wild yeast
through the washing and prepping of fruits and vegetables.  Do not worry though, if kept at the p
roper pH, the acidic nature of the kombucha culture mushroom will protect its self from contamination.
 

5. KEEPING PROPER TEMPERATURE    This may not seem to have much to do with contamination, but, by maintaining the proper temperature range of 75 to 85 degrees F the kombucha will ferment the tea solution much faster.  The faster the kombucha yeast and bacteria strains can culture out the tea solution the less chance of contamination by invaders.
Finding the correct place within your home can make a big difference on the temperature of the brewing tea.

ph_test_strip_01
‘pH test strips

6. CORRECT pH    This, by far, is the most important factor and the key to keeping your kombucha  and other traditional food cultures healthy and viable!  Why?  Because if the pH of any solution ormixture is below 4.5 pH, on the pH scale, it is almost impossible for micro-bacteria to grow.  By keeping the pH low, the likely hood of mold ever growing on the surface of your SCOBY is very unlikely.  This is also the easiest tip to follow.  We keep the pH of kombucha low by adding what is called ‘starter tea’ to every new batch of tea.  Keep the pH of the culture below 4.5, as most molds can only grow in a higher pH solution.  Do this by using a good amount (about 10%) of fermented ‘starter tea  from your last batch to lower the pH of the new batch of fresh tea/sugar solution.  Testing a new batch of tea, using pH test strips with a narrow range of 0-6 pH, will tell you the acid content of the tea.  It is recommended to keep adding starter tea until the pH is lowered to the correct range.  However, do not lower the pH factor to much or the Kombucha culture cannot complete the brewing cycle properly.  Purchase pH test strips here. 

7. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS AND LAST TIPS    Keep the cultures away from plants, as the soil contains millions of spores and microbes in the soil, keep plants in a different room if possible.  Do not neglect your culture!  Allowing the top of the kombucha SCOBY to dry out is the number one cause of contamination.  Lastly, use common sense and good hygiene when brewing your own tea.  Clean any glassware and utensils before each use and wash hands before handling the cultures.  DO NOT use anti-bacterial soaps.  Remember, properly fermented tea always has a slight vinegar smell not a musty or moldy smell.
Of course, if there is mold on the kombucha culture then discard the tea cultures and never try to ‘save’ a culture once it has
been overgrown with something unknown that could be dangerous to your health or life.

By Following a Few Simple Tips Your Kombucha Will be Happy & Mold Free!