Traditional vs Commercial Kefir
Traditional kefir is kefir made using live kefir grains, as it was made all those 1000’s of years ago in the Caucasus mountains. (See “what are kefir grains”) . Commercial manufacturing of kefir on a large scale began in Russia, in the 1930’s.
Kefir grains cannot be man-made, no-body has been able to replicate them in a lab setting. Kefir grains are extremely complex and ever changing. Commercially made kefirs use bacteria which have been extracted in a lab and are then freeze dried into a powder.
Kefir made in the traditional way has significant amounts of bacteria and yeast, compared to commercially made kefir. Kefir grains can contain 40-60 different strains of beneficial bacteria and up to 10 different strains of beneficial yeast. Commercially made kefirs usually contain between 9-12 strains of bacteria, and very little, if any, yeast strains.
Kerry Kefir is made using live kefir grains, inoculated in whole fat milk in a glass vessel at room temperature for 24 hours. The kefir grains are strained out and the resulting kefir is bottled in glass bottles and refrigerated to slow down the fermentation. Fermentation continues within the bottle, as it is a living product. Over time, the kefir will get thicker and eventually turn to curds and whey- a completely normal part of fermentation.
Commercial kefir is made in stainless steel vats, which are usually heated to speed up the fermentation process. The powdered cultures are added to the heated milk, and allowed to ferment. The resulting kefir, while still containing favourable qualities, does not have the full potency or complexity of kefir made the traditional way.