Kefir Grains vs. Kefir Starter Culture

Kefir is a very popular probiotic-rich beverage and one that is particularly easy to make at home.  With more and more people looking to save money by making their own kefir, we are seeing an increasing number of questions about the differences between the various starter cultures we offer.

There are two types of starter cultures that can be used to make kefir: Kefir Grains and Powdered Kefir Starter Culture (several brands available).  Here are the primary differences:

Origin: Powdered kefir starter is created in a laboratory and is similar to a direct-set style yogurt starter.  Kefir grains are a naturally occurring culture that has existed for thousands of years and is self-perpetuating (note: kefir grains do not contain any actual grain such as wheat, spelt, rye, etc. but rather are referred to as grains due to their appearance).

Powdered kefir starter can generally be recultured a handful of time (taking a little from the batch to inoculate the next batch).  With proper care, kefir grains don’t have a set lifespan–most people will have theirs for several years.  Kefir grains are placed in milk or sugar water, juice, etc. and after the liquid has cultured (18-48 hours), they are removed and placed in new milk, sugar water, etc. to make the next batch.  This process is repeated indefinitely.

Number of Strains of Beneficial Yeast and Bacteria: The powdered kefir starters generally contain 7-9 strains; kefir grains contain close to 30 strains.

Care: Kefir grains require care the powdered starter does not.  They’re kind of like a pet (a highly productive one though!).  They need to be switched to fresh liquid every 18-48 hours and if you go out of town, you’ll need to put them in fresh liquid in the fridge.  But if you care for them well, they will generally return the favor.

Cost: Powdered kefir starter is less expensive initially but kefir grains are a far more economical option in the long run.

Summary: Kefir Grains vs. Powdered Kefir Starter Culture
If you are looking to make kefir long-term, want the highest number of beneficial yeast and bacteria strains and desire the most cost effective method, kefir grains are the best option.

If you are looking for more of a short-term solution (such as when you’re out of town) or want to make kefir infrequently, powdered kefir starter may be a better option.

Ready to Get Started Making Kefir at Home?
Click here to check out our full selection of starter cultures for making Kefir including Kefir Grains and several brands of Powdered Kefir Starter Culture.

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. says

    I must admit that I was a little afraid of yogurt making too. I remember my mom having a special machine w/ all these little cups and the temp had to be just right but since I’ve read this post, I am really feeling inspired! It’s on my list of next steps, along w/ soaking nuts and seeds. I’m still reading about that the yogurt will happen first! Thanks for the push’ =)DramaMama recently posted..

    • Shaina says

      That’s awesome! Once you’ve really gotten the hang of it, yogurt can be incredibly easy, and it’s so good!

  2. Sandy says

    How much of the Kefir grain do you get for this price? I hear some talk about a small baggie with a couple kernels that they buy. But for this price I am just wondering how much is actully in the pack.
    Thanks so much for the clarification.: )))

    • Shaina says

      Hello Sandy! The milk kefir grains rehydrate to about 1-2 teaspoons, and the water kefir grains rehydrate to about 3 tablespoons. For each of those, that’s how much you’ll need to culture a quart of kefir. They’re both indefinitely reculturable, and tend to grow when they’re culturing, so you may end up with more than you know what to do with! :)

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