Kefir and Buttermilk

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I just got a good question in my comments:

What is the difference between buttermilk and kefir? I have heard that both are good for you (talking health here) and just wondering what the differences are or similarities? Thank you

They have different flavors and consistencies. I too am exploring the health aspects to them. BTW- the book Nourishing Traditions is quite the eye opener! I just started it and its rocking my world.

- cultured buttermilk is the liquid that comes out of the butter-making process. (My post about butter making doesn’t include the culturing step- but the blog Travelers Lunchbox does. Its an easy process- I recommend it. ). Cream is mixed with a yogurt culture and set out for a couple of hours at room temperature. The now cultured cream is churned into cultured butter and cultured buttermilk is the liquid that is left over.

- kefir is milk that is treated with kefir grains or freeze-dried kefir culture. The grains are reusable, the freeze dried culture isn’t- a new packet is used each time you make kefir. The kefir is made in a manner similar to making cultured cream for making butter- the kefir grains are added to milk that has been briefly heated. The milk with kefir grains is left at room temperature for several hours and becomes thick and takes on a yogurt-like flavor. It is then refrigerated when it achieves a good flavor and is thicker. Kefir will continue to ferment- and become more nutritious with age.

Kefir looks and tastes like a drinkable yogurt- however it contains beneficial bacteria that is slightly different than yogurt and more active. It’s flavor is also more nuanced than yogurt’s.

How are they good health wise? Eating food like kefir is considered beneficial as it contains healthy bacteria that are digestive system needs in our gut to help our own bodies with the digestive process. Food cultures worldwide have a tradition of supplementing their diet with “live” foods such as kefir, yogurt and other fermented foods.

Another good book to explain fermentation and its context in our food culture is Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

hope that helps!



posted July 17th, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Funny, I just placed an order today for pomegranate-flavoured drinking kefir. I like to use it instead of milk with my cereal. But I recognize the commercially-available kefir in the US as a totally different beast from the stuff I used to have in Russia.

There, it’s much thinner than what you can buy here, far more acidic and can be quite aggressively bubbly (not just mildly effervescent as it’s sometimes described). I imagine that manufacturers in the West have tweaked the recipe to suit consumers’ tastes. Probably home-made kefir is the same everywhere.

The spelling “keifer” makes me think of Kiefer Sutherland. It’s pronounced ke-FEAR.

Ack! Off to check my spelling :)


- Michele
posted July 17th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Nourishing Traditions is an interesting book, though probably one to take with a grain of salt. Before I read it I went through the review comments from readers on Amazon and that helped put it into perspective!

- Aria
posted July 17th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Kefir reminds me of ‘fil’ we get in sweden and have it on cornflakes with a spoonfull of jam.

- Brandy
posted July 18th, 2008 at 10:58 am

Nourishing Traditions is a GREAT book, and I believe it is full of wisdom. I also liked The Maker’s Diet, the thoughts are quite similar. I think that people who live like this live healthier lives! Eating “low fat” and sterilizing every food we put in our mouth is dangerous for our health.
I use kefir in my scrambled eggs often! It’s super good for you! I also use raw milk, which, for most, is thinking waaaaaayyy outside of the box. :)
Thanks for the great post!

I too am using raw milk in my kitchen. I’ve got some new found goat friends to post about!


- Brenda
posted July 20th, 2008 at 2:14 pm

What an incredibly interesting post!! I have only just discovered your blog and I will certainly be coming back again.

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us – and thanks for doing it so well!!

posted September 3rd, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Great website! I am looking for the kiefer grains, does anyone know where I can buy them? A few years ago I got some from a woman in Pennsylvania but now i cant find her contact. Please help! thanks!

- Shelley
posted September 5th, 2008 at 8:37 am

I’ve been making butter from unpasteurized milk recently. A little extra work is required than making it from heavy cream, but it is a pleasure and the result is fantastic.

This is interesting Dominic- what extra steps to you use?


- Dominic
posted September 5th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Is cultured buttermilk as beneficial as yogurt? I like buttermilk but dislike yogurt.

- gloria sullivan
posted September 14th, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Have you found a good place to get keifer grains? I’m looking too.

- Barbara
posted September 30th, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I am lookig for keifer grains? Anyone out there with any to spare?

- Barb Noffsinger
posted November 19th, 2008 at 8:58 am

I just want to give an addition to your post.

Kefir is pronounced (kef e-er). It is a refreshing cultured-milk beverage that is loaded with nutritional benefits. It is made by culturing fresh milk with kefir grains. Kefir grains are not to be mistaken for cereal grains; they are a soft, gelatinous white biological mass of proteins, lipids (fats), and a soluble-polysaccharide kefiran complex. They are famous for there vast mixture of specific friendly (LAB) Lactic-acid Bacteria and yeasts.

This is the most potent source of probiotics (friendly bacteria) you can find. In most probiotic pills found in stores you will find about 15 different strains of friendly bacteria, for example (Lactobacillus bugaricus and Streptoccocus thermophilus) are just 2 of the more well known strains. To learn more about the different strains click here:
but once again Mother Nature has out done the laboratories, a natural kefir grain contains 42 different strains of friendly bacteria. There is no comparison here. Kefir grains are far superior to the probiotics you will find in a bottle.

Source and videos course :

- Sharon
posted February 17th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I just found this website (listed below) it lists people who sell or even give away keifer grains for FREE!! I found someone local to me and he emailed me back tonight…I will be picking up my grains on Saturday. Yeah!

- kim
posted April 2nd, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Is there a difference between kefir made from grains and kefir made from a starter powder?

- Robert B
posted June 7th, 2009 at 5:50 pm


I just started making kefir made from kefir grains I bought from someone online. She charges a small fee, but she is very good at what she does and guarantees the grains as well as all the help and information you could want.

The website alone is a gem, but so far, the grains have been outdoing themselves, I’m considering my options as to how to share them! Good luck in your endeavors!

- Hollye L
posted August 2nd, 2009 at 8:02 pm

yes, Kefir is similar to Swedish ”fil”. I really missed it when I moved to the states but I found that plain Kefir comes pretty close. Great little article, I saw cultured buttermilk at the store and was wondering if it was the same thing. Looks like it kindof is :)

- haley
posted July 4th, 2019 at 7:29 pm

I too have experienced the wonderful benefits of kefir.

I got mine from this blog and they’ve been really helpful.

I have been drinking for over 6 months. Grains have performed well and im making new recipes as we speak! :)

- Jenny
posted October 10th, 2019 at 10:30 am

I was given a blob of kefir grains about three months ago. They continue to make great kefir but my question is this….how long do they last? Also will the mass of starter grow larger over time so I can share them?


- Mary
posted July 19th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

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posted October 22nd, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Kifer grains will grow much faster in raw milk than

- Karen
posted October 22nd, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Oops. …than pasteurized milk. It thrives in raw milk. It should last forever if you take care Of it. Don’t use metal in the kifer and put it in room temp milk

- Karen
posted March 26th, 2013 at 11:38 am

I’m in Ukraine right now and there are a lot of different dairy options. Out of all the different buttermilk and kefir choices out there, what would you say is the healthiest?

- Alison
posted April 20th, 2013 at 6:00 am

Does anyone know the answer to the question about cultured. Buttermilk versus kefir? I love buttermilk but only Food Lion brand. Thick and yummy. But does it give me the same good bacteria as kefir? Thanks in advance.

- Jana
posted May 9th, 2013 at 7:01 am

Buttermilk consistency varies from country to country, Russia, Baltic region has buttermilk runnier and little less acidic than kefir witch is thicker and bubblier like earlier mentioned. Swedish Fil tastes to Estonian like mild kefir, to others like yogurt. Plenty of lactic acid bacteria in both buttermilk and kefir, usually buttermilk is lighter and great filling drink when on diet. Just check the labels for calorie content.

- Kristel
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posted April 15th, 2015 at 9:57 am

Hello! this is a great article. i have one question! which one is more sour? kefir or buttermilk?

- joshua

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