This post is about Kefir (pronounced kuh’feer) – not coffee, but kefir! Coffee, aah! For die-hard coffee drinkers, it is hard to imagine life without it. Recently there have been a spate of articles about the ill effects of caffeine. Though I have personally experienced none, I liked the idea of having a back-up to-go beverage with known health benefits.

Browsing through the aisles of a popular supermarket I came across an array of colorful bottles of a very interesting looking beverage. It was called kefir, and the label said it was a natural probiotic soda. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts good for health, especially the digestive system. I had vaguely heard of kefir, in league with kombucha (another fermented beverage), but that was it. I had to find out more.

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What is Kefir?

Its origins can be traced back to the Turkish word “ke’if”, meaning to feel good. It is a fermented beverage, which can be made using a mother culture, called kefir grains. The liquid used can be milk, sugar water, coconut water or any sweet liquid.

Kefir grains are not grains in the conventional sense like wheat, rye, etc., but cultures of yeast and bacteria. Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms present in the grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the liquid. They feed on the protein in the milk and sugar in other liquids by products of which include enzymes, lactic acid, carbon dioxide and a wee bit of ethanol (alcohol).

The resulting kefir is rich in probiotics. It contains about 30 different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than other fermented dairy products such as yogurt. You can find a list of the bacteria and yeast strains found in kefir here.

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Why have kefir?

Anyone who’s waited for a Youtube video to load would’ve seen ads with little bottles of probiotic goodness, conducive to a healthy gut. We all have an ecosystem of bacteria in our gut, both “good” and “bad”. When the balance tips towards the bad due to factors such as lack of sleep, stress and dietary habits your digestive health and overall well-being may be affected.

My experience with kefir has been absolutely positive. I tested the benefits for a month without coffee. Definitely a tremendous elevation in energy levels – feeling less fatigued and sluggish. Health benefits are a plenty, you can read more at this on this website on kefir.

How to make kefir?

Making kefir is very simple. In fact, it is way easier to make than yogurt, which requires a specific temperature to be maintained. The only tricky bit of kefir is the resulting taste that may not appeal to all. It is, as some may put it, an acquired taste. Milk kefir tastes like a very fermented yogurt or a lassi. Water kefir on the other hand is like a mildly sour bubbly soda (with carbon dioxide) with an aftertaste of yeast – making it an ideal replacement for commercial carbonated drinks.

Not all healthy stuff may taste great, though a simple addition of an ingredient or two can help. How do you make it appeal to all? Water kefir can be used to make a drink akin to apple cider, or at least I like to call it that! The juice of an apple with water kefir, fermented for 24 hours, then moved to the refrigerator. Milk kefir can be used to make smoothies – the most popular so far has been the orange, spinach and kefir smoothie.

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