- Coconut water kefir or kombucha: which is better for you?
Coconut water kefir or kombucha: which is better for you?
Not everyone has a big kitchen and a pantry that’s spacious enough to make room for cultured foods of all kinds to grow happily. You also shouldn’t mix too many cultures in one space – they can contaminate each other, and depending on what you are growing, one culture may kill off the other. If mass microbial warfare isn’t what you want to see in your kitchen (mine’s an apartment galley kitchen, so trust me – I feel your pain), you need to choose what you want to grow. If you’re vegan, that likely means water kefir, tibicos, fermented veggies, or kombucha.
I can’t cover everything in the limited space on the blog, so we’re jumping directly to the two most popular beverage options – kombucha tea and water kefir.
Why the Buzz about Coconut Water Kefir?
A few months back, the web went nuts for cinnamon and coconut water kefir, and with good reason. It’s a light, refreshing flavor that adapts well to other juice flavors, improves digestion, and is easy to make. The simple substitution of coconut milk or coconut water for water in a water kefir mix can change a beverage you can’t pay your family to try into one they crave. Coconut Mama shares a great recipe on her site, and shares how her husband won’t do fermented foods, but does like coconut water kefir. Having trouble getting fermented foods into the house? This might be the answer.
Coconut water, even before fermentation, is packed with nutrients like amino acids, beta carotene, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, C, E, K….you get the idea. It’s a smart alternative to dairy for anyone with lactose problems or those of you who live a vegan lifestyle.
How to Make Kefir Water
Wondering how to make kefir water? It’s a simple process that anyone can do in their home kitchen. And if you’re afraid you’ll have to fork over a fortune if you want coconut kefir water, relax. The process is almost identical.
To make coconut water kefir, coconut milk kefir, or water kefir, just add your kefir grains to a sterile glass container, add your liquid, cover with a cloth or screen, and let them sit in a dry place that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight (you do need good air circulation, though). The following tips, tricks, and recipes for water kefir can help.
Before you get started, I strongly recommend reading Colleen’s post on Five Little Homesteaders. She’s put a lot of information out there that you won’t find on most how-to posts, including this tip (which is more important than you might think…
“Don’t worry so much about what sugar you use. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest using GMO sugar beets or non-organic cane sugar, but don’t get too freaked out about the 5 tbsp+ (!!) that you put in initially. The whole point of the sugar is that you are giving the yeast and bacteria something to eat. You’ll see after the first couple times you drink it that, despite all the sugar you put in the mason jar, the beverage really isn’t sweet at all. I just use organic white cane sugar. Pretty easy to find.”
One thing Colleen mentions frequently is the need to find a babysitter for your kefir for trips or vacations (unless you want to bring it with you…), or to create a yummy sugar solution they can eat while you’re gone if you’re heading out on a short trip. Other things to keep in mind include the presence of some alcohol in water kefir – but not enough to really worry about. You’d have to drink a gallon or two before getting even slightly tipsy!
Water kefir is easy to make into healthy homemade sodas, and makes a great drink for kids (no, they won’t be “drinking” - there’s no alcohol taste to water kefir, and the actual alcohol content is, like I said earlier, tiny.) If you’re sick of store-bought sodas, this is a great alternative.
If you miss dairy, but live a vegan lifestyle, consider coconut milk kefir. Coconut has a lot of health benefits, and makes a great kefir. Just remember that it can be a little sour, like all kefirs.
Coconut Milk Kefir recipe from BenefitsofKefir.com:
“1. Pour the juice of coconut (4 pieces more or less) in a clean jar.
2. Add the coconut water kefir grains inside the jar.
3. Keep the jar to be sanitary by covering it using a cloth but be sure to keep the air flow.
4. Place the jar in a room temperature to allow fermentation. Don’t expose it directly under the sun. Leave the jar for 4 days.
5. After the 4 days, you will have a white, foamy and sour taste of coconut water kefir.”
A great water kefir recipe can be found on Mommypotamus. If you like fruity water kefir, check out this recipe from Crunchy Betty 1. Both are easy, consistent, and don’t include ingredients that are potentially dangerous. I’ve seen a few recipes that call for adding an eggshell to your grains. Unless you’re a fan of salmonella infections, please skip that one… it’s dangerous. You’d be giving some bad bacteria the chance to grow alongside the good guys you need to improve your gut health.
Water Kefir Benefits
Why should you drink water kefir? The health benefits of kefir water are fairly obvious – it’s a fermented food, loaded with healthy bacteria that love putting your gut in good shape. That’s not the only reason to turn to water kefir, though. It’s an easy to flavor beverage, most of the sugar in it is consumed by the beneficial microbes that make it into kefir, and it’s cheap – treat your kefir grains well, and they’ll outlast you.
Some health benefits of water kefir include (not a complete list, mind you...):
- A higher number of strains of beneficial bacteria than kombucha
- Increased immune function
Some water kefir fans even claim improvement with the following:
- Weight loss
- Acne going bye-bye
- Decreased seasonal allergies
- Relief from soriasis, eczema, and other inflammatory skin issues
- Healing of ulcers
Is Kombucha Tea Good for You?
In the section above, you found out that water kefir has more beneficial bacteria strains than kombucha (!), but maybe you already knew that. I didn’t until I researched this article… so if water kefir has more strains of good bacteria, is kombucha a thing of the past?
And if you’ve heard some of the fuss in the news lately, you might be wondering: Is kombucha tea a healthy fermented food?
Here are the facts:
- Kombucha has 1/5 the sugar of soda – and packs a powerful probiotic punch
- There’s a lot of research suggesting that it offers some significant health benefits, but the jury is still out.
- Any fermented food, if unsafely fermented or stored in the wrong conditions, can grow the bad stuff and the good stuff. That’s why I emphasize cleanliness. Wash your hands, cover your cultures, and store them properly. Make sure your jar is sterile. You get the idea…
- Kombucha has theanine. This fun little chemical is a big stress reliever, entirely natural (found in the tea plant), and might even help you sleep better.
- Because it’s made from tea, kombucha has a little caffeine – hello coffee substitute! If you’re looking to kick a morning coffee habit, homemade kombucha is a great alternative to those $5 espresso drinks you’ve been downing.
So there we have it…kombucha is a healthy option. You just have to grow it well and treat it right – same as water kefir. The benefits are different, and while water kefir packs more probiotics, it doesn’t offer theanine. If you’re like me, a little of both wouldn’t hurt you – I tend to stick with kombucha for another reason, though…I’m a bit of a caffeine addict.
What is a Kombucha SCOBY?
Phew…we’re at the point where I get to tell you the fun stuff. See, I love kombucha SCOBYs. My first experience with one was a bit harrowing (I talked about that before…). It was also a little mistreated, hence the scary appearance.
If you don’t mind a giant disc of bacteria and yeast in your kitchen (and I hope you don’t!), you’ll love having a kombucha in the house. There’s something about having a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria) disc that seems more…inviting…than kefir grains. At least, to me. Then again, if you love a good homemade soda or want your little ones to indulge in a fermented drink, I’d go with water kefir. No caffeine.
But back to the point. A kombucha SCOBY is the equivalent of kefir grains for kombucha. It’s your friend. The thing that makes the magic happen, converts tea into terrific, and provides the probiotic goodness kombucha is famous for.
How to Make Kombucha
This kombucha tea recipe from The Domestic Man 2 is based on Russ Crandall’s three years of growing this yummy, SCOBY-fermented drink. He knows his stuff, and if I tried to create a better recipe, I’d fail. Hence, I’m sending you to the master for directions.
To make your kombucha sweet, bubbly, and fruity, check out this recipe for the second ferment from Cara at Health, Home, and Happiness 3.
I bet you saw this one coming…there’s no “best” fermented drink. Just what you like, and what you don’t. Weigh the
health benefits, lifestyle choices, and work involved with each of these carefully, and choose the one that’s right for your family. If you love water kefir, drink it. Prefer kombucha? Grow it instead.
That’s all for this post – hope you found it useful! If you’re growing a kombucha or water kefir at home, send a picture my way. I’ll post it on the blog. And remember, sharing is caring – please share this post to your FB, tweet it, post it on Google+…help me get the word out about water kefir and kombucha!
Image Credits: Get Kombucha
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