Most people tend to think that since milk kefir and yogurt are both cultured dairy products they are fundamentally the same. However, there are slight differences between the two, flavor and consistency, probiotic blends as well as their modes of propagation.
Propagation and Starter Culture
Milk Kefir is ‘mesophilic culture’. Therefore, it means that is cultures at room temperatures i.e., 25⁰ – 30⁰ C. On the other hand, yogurt can be prepared with two types of cultures, ‘mesophilic’ and ‘thermophilic’, the latter is a heat-loving kind of culture.
Propagation of Milk Kefir is similar to culturing yogurt, meaning both single-use culture as well as reusable cultures can be used. Milk ‘kefir grains’ are used to culture milk kefir continuously. These ‘grains’ are a gelatinous mass with bacteria and yeast infused within. Milk kefir grains must be transferred to a fresh batch of milk every 24 hours to ensure they remain viable. Single-use cultures often come in powder form, these can be re-cultured a few times but eventually, fresh powder starter may be required.
Yogurt propagation involves the activation of the cultures (reusable culture) and re-culturing is done by mixing a volume of the previous yogurt batch into fresh milk. This new batch becomes the starter for the next, going on in succession. Re-culturing yogurt is done once every week. Single-use yogurt cultures are primarily thermophilic and powdered. Fresh culture may be required after a few successive culturing.
Probiotic Blend in Milk Kefir and Yogurt
The microbes present in milk kefir are beneficial to us. They can colonize the intestinal tract and promote our immune system, gut health as well as aid in digestion and absorption of food. Milk Kefir also contains a wide range of bacteria.
Yogurt bacteria help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the microbiota present in the gut. They are absorbed through the intestinal wall and are called transient bacteria.
Flavor and Consistency of Milk Kefir vs. Yogurt
Milk Kefir has a tart flavor with a touch of yeast flavor present in the culture. Its flavor is sourer than yogurt’s, commonly described as a cross between yogurt and cultured buttermilk. Based on the fermentation time, it is quite possible to manipulate the flavor of milk kefir. Milk kefir’s consistency is thin and less viscous, and it is consumed as a drink.
Yogurt’s flavor is familiar to most people, with different varieties of yogurt starter cultures producing a range of mild to tangy flavor. Yogurts consistency varies from a thin, pour-able, to a fairly thick and creamy. Yogurt is thicker than milk kefir and is mostly eaten with a spoon.
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics that requires weekly scheduled maintenance, depending on the culture used. It has a consistency that may require it to be eaten with a spoon and has a mild or tart flavor. Milk kefir is also a great source of probiotics but has additional yeast. Milk kefir requires daily maintenance. It has a sourer flavor and has a thin, pourable consistency.
Despite all these differences, they are both cultured dairy products with probiotic benefits.
A person who wants to avoid diary can choose water kefir or coconut water kefir by using water kefir grains.