Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yogurt vs. Kefir

It's time to start some new cultured dairy!

Source: flickr

When we moved to Oregon, my precious Villi Yogurt and Water Kefir came along, too, transported carefully for over 1500 miles.  We kept them cool in an ice chest, then transferred them to a refrigerator at our temporary lodging here.  My dear husband cleaned out that fridge when we were ready to move into our home, and dutifully brought the yogurt and kefir into our kitchen, placing them on the counter.  In a box.  Under a bunch of stuff.  Where they sat, unnoticed, for 3 weeks.

Oh well.

Time to start again.

I'm not ready to get back into Water Kefir just yet (we have some busyness coming up in the next few months!), but it's time to ditch the yogurt from the grocery store and start making my own yogurt again.  Or is it?


I have always been pretty sold on the Villi Yogurt that I'd been making for several months, especially when I realized out how easy it is to make and how easy it is to thicken to a toddler-friendly consistency!  But I've been hearing some pretty fantastic things about a similar cultured dairy product called Kefir.  Here is a little bit of the relevant info:


  • Kefir contains even more beneficial bacteria than yogurt does, plus beneficial yeasts.
  • Instead of just passing happily through, like yogurt does, the good bacteria/yeast in kefir can actually colonize your digestive tract, fighting off pathogens and keeping your immune system in good shape.
  • It was either given to Mohammad by Allah, or it was the Manna given to Moses and the Israelites in the desert by God.
Okay, that last one I'm not so sure about.  But I have put quite a lot of thought into switching to kefir.  In true over-analytical style, I came up with this friendly little chart showing all the things that are important to me in homemade cultured dairy.


I think we have a winner!  

Goodbye, Villi Yogurt, you have been a fantastic first cultured dairy.  Thank you, Melissa at Dyno-Mom and Laurie at Common Sense Homesteading, for your inspiration and advice.  But it is time to part company (with the yogurt, I mean).

Now I'm off to Cultures for Health* to scope out the Milk Kefir grains!

* Just to be transparent here, I've used Cultures for Health several times in the past, for my Villi Yogurt and Water Kefir grains (that I killed).  Their product, and especially their included instructions and tutorials are so good that I want to recommend them to other people getting started with home-culturing.  I'm also an affiliate, so if you click on the text link here, or the add at the top of the blog, I get a small percentage if you choose to buy anything from them.

What do you think about Yogurt vs. Kefir?  Have you ever made either one, and if so, what were your experiences with them?


Posted at Fight Back Friday, Homestead Barn HopMonday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Hearth and Soul, WFMW, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter

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24 comments:

  1. I make both. I prefer yogurt for taste. I grew up not liking dairy so it's been a long road for me to get to a point where I can tolerate yogurt. Dairy kefir has a very strong taste so it's realy hard for me to eat without gagging. I mix it into things or make ice cream out of it. I love my water kefir!

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    1. Makes sense! I generally mix villi yogurt into things too, to some extent (although it has a pretty mild flavor), so hopefully the kefir will be similar! I've never heard of ice cream made from kefir though - very cool!

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  2. I just bought my first kefir today. I opened it and thought I could drink it straight up. Wrong. I had a few sips and decided it was not a straight up kind of product for me. At least not right away, but I also would love to make my own sometime soon.

    I finally got around to making another batch of homemade yogurt last week and even though I had a less than ideal yogurt culture to start with it still worked out. Homemade yogurt is so cheap and easy, so I think I'll stick with it.

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  3. I don't know if it will be a straight up thing for me either, at least for a while! Definitely a taste you learn to love, I'm hoping. It sounds like the homemade yogurt is working out really well for you. What kind of starter culture did you use?

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    1. it grows on you... :)
      I drink two cups per day of plain goat's whole milk kefir and a bottle of lemon ginger coconut water kefir

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  4. It will become a straight up thing, but it takes a while. It's much more tart than store bought yogurt. The things you can use milk kefir for are endless. I drink 8oz of it straight up when I have heartburn, works right away. You can apply it topically if you get a yeast infection. It makes great "icecream" like snacks, mix it with lemon for a lemon pie flavor. It makes great smoothies, but my most favorite use for milk kefir is in homemade ranch dressing. I use it in place of the buttermilk or vinegar. Not only is frugal to use what you have, it's also fermenting a salad dressing that kids love.

    After a while, your grain will split and you can share with someone else. I've shared with about 5 friends from a grain that a friend shared with me. Of the 5 friends, only one drinks kefir regularly, and she's shared her splits as well with several of her friends. Imagine the ripple effect of good digestive bacteria LOL

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    1. Hi, PaulaB52,
      I am SO excited for all the things I can use the kefir for! I used the villi yogurt for many similar things (it had a pretty liquid consistency too), but I'm very excited for the extra healthy bacteria/yeast benefits of the kefir! Thanks for the good ideas.

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  5. Word of advice about the milk kefir grains from Cultures for Health...they made kefir for me just fine but they never multiplied at all, and although I carefully strained them, after awhile it seemed my supply was dwindling. I finally had to scope out a local supply of fresh grains and now I have more than I know what to do with! The difference is quite amazing! I've noticed they seem more powerful too, in that they make kefir faster and the resulting product seems stronger.

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    1. I've had my grains from Cultures for Health for 2 years now.....they multiply SO much that at times I have to throw it in my garden. Interesting that you did not have this experience.

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  6. Hi, Raeiaroberts,
    Thank you so much for the heads-up! Do you think the problem was that they were dehydrated for shipping? Hmm, I guess I may start looking locally, if you think I might have trouble with Cultures for Health - maybe I will contact them and see if anyone else had alerted them to the problem. Thanks again for the advice!

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    1. Hi Danielle, no problem! I think it's always better to source a local, fresh supply if you can. Cultures for Health is great to fall back on if no local source is available. The problem could be with the grains being dehydrated, but I'm not entirely sure. It would be interesting to find out!

      Cheers!

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  7. I swear by raw milk kefir! I am never sick as my immune system is so built up from the beneficial bacteria. I did not have good luck with Cultures for Health milk kefir grains. The best I found were at a store on e-Bay (http://stores.ebay.com/Nicks-Natural-Nook/Organic-Kefir-Grains-/_i.html?_fsub=853669012&_sid=51196452&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322). I bought them once many years ago and they keep going strong and multiplying.

    You will get used to kefir. It is an acquired taste. I love it!

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    1. Hi, Tina,
      Bummer about Cultures for Health not being a great source for milk kefir grains... Have you heard of the kefir lady? I ran across her site the other day, and I guess she does nothing but package and sell kefir grains. I will check into the eBay option too. Nobody I know nearby does kefir! Thanks again for the tip and encouragement!

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  8. I just bought some plain kefir in the store( Publix around here in the South), and inoculated some room temperature raw milk with it like you do yogurt. I guess that has the same benefits. It turned out okay anyway.

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    1. Hi, Rebecca,
      It sounds like a really good idea. Do you think you could use that new kefir to make another batch now?

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  9. kefir is awesome. I have been making it for a year. It took a few months to get to the point where I could drink it straight, now I love it any way I can get it. Along with the ideas shared by Paula and others, I strain it and use the whey to lacto ferment things (beet kvass, fruit kvass, gonna try veggies soon) and use the remaining 'cheese' to make a yummy cheese herb spread. I have also used my grains to kefir cream and then make the cultured cream into butter/butter milk. It is amazing and no harder than making regular butter. I have also used spare kefir grains (dairy) to kefir grape juice. It is like a mild tart wine, so yummy. Those grains will not multiply and will eventually die but not for a long time (mine never died, I just ran out of grape juice to kefir so fed them to the compost). You can even use spare grains to lacto ferment veggies but I don't know how many times you can use one lump of grains to do it as I have never tried (the whey works well enough for me). Anyway, my current favorite breakfast is 1 cup of kefir that has been cultured for 48 hours (more tart and thick than a shorter culturing time) blended with 2 tbsp coconut oil, a handful of soaked/dehydrated almonds, 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder and a drop of good vanilla. It is a sugar free (diabetic friendly) protein rich breakfast that fills me up every time.
    Oh, regarding using kefir to make kefir, you can do that without the grains for a few rounds but each batch is less inoculated than the previous and you run out of enough culture to continue after a few batches.
    Danielle, if you are anywhere on the I-84 corridor I can bring you fresh kefir grains by the end of March as I plan to travel that way soon. And if you are on the East side of the Blues we could probably just meet up next time my grains are ready to split (3 weeks at the most)
    :) Thanks for the comparison, I always enjoy being reminded of why I go to the trouble instead of just opening a tub of Nancy's

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    1. Hi, Shane,
      Thanks for the additional kefir-usage suggestions! I am excited to get started with kefir. It sounds like grains are definitely the way to go. I am neither on the I-84 corridor, nor East of the Blues, so I think I will start asking around at a few local natural food stores to see if anybody has grains I could use. Thanks so much for the offer, though!

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  10. This great post is featured at Sunday Snippets this week! Thanks for sharing! Come and check it out!

    http://realfoodforager.com/sunday-snippets-january-29-2012/

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  11. Thanks for sharing this analysis with the Hearth and Soul Hop. I found it very informative!

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  12. I just started milk kefir grains that I bought from a seller off etsy. I bought water kefir grains from cultures for health and didn't have much luck with them multiplying. I didn't have any luck with their kombucha scoby either. Anyway, I ended up buying all these items off etsy. I just looked up their seller reputation and bought from reputable sellers.

    My family and I are getting used to the milk kefir taste just by mixing one TBS (for my husband and I) and one tsp (for the kids) with our regular snack of yogurt and granola. I plan on upping the amount each week. So far, so good :)

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  13. I understand mixing/drinking kefir with other stuff. I am new to this and will be ordering my first kefir from a farm in chambersburg,pa. Is sure this also called grains, or is that different? What do you do to multiply for future use? Thanks

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  14. muito legal o blog, não interessa uma parceria ? Kefir Brasil

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  15. doesn't viili contain healthy yeasts as well, as opposed to other yogurt cultures?
    see this link: http://nourishedkitchen.com/viili-piima-fil-mjolk/

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    1. Wow, I had never heard this before. Wikipedia agrees that villi contains Kluveromyces marxianus and Pichia fermentans. Maybe it's time for an update. :)

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