What's the difference between water kefir and kombucha? Both have excellent probiotic value, but water kefir has a much faster ferment and more mild flavor. Just like kombucha, it can be bottled to increase carbonation, and flavored. Kombucha takes about 5-14 days to ferment, whereas water kefir is ready within a day or two.
Water kefir is simply sugar-water that is fermented at room temperature with kefir grains for about 24-48 hours. It has many wonderful health benefits and can be better tolerated than a soda for diabetics because of its lower GL (due to its acidic nature). It's a wonderful alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to casein in dairy. Water kefir is full of probiotics and can have just as many (if not different) benefits than traditional yogurt or milk kefir. The affordability of sugar and water makes it not only healthier than most beverages, but cheaper too. The reusable, sustainable grains also make it more economical.
Kefir has gained in popularity lately, due to interest in local, economical and responsible eating, combined with a greater awareness of the health benefits of probiotics.
But with that popularity has come a load of misinformation and deceiving products on the web. Authentic kefir can only be made by real kefir grains, not from any kind of packet or powder. Kefir available at the stores are simply imitations. This is due to regulations to ensure consistent products, ingredients, bottling procedures and to comply with packaging and shipping standards. As with most nutritious foods, real kefir can only be made and experienced at home.
Water Kefir's origins are a bit obscure, pointing towards either Mexico or Tibet (or possibly even Russia). Regardless, it has been around for centuries and has gone by many names including Tibicos, California Bees, and Japanese Water Crystals, amongst others. An old popular beverage in Mexico called Tepache is traditionally made with 'Tibi' (ie water kefir grains), pineapple and cinnamon. If you have more questions you can check out Yemoos Nourishing Cultures to see photos, FAQ's, health benefits and other information on water kefir.