Kefir Grains or Powdered Kefir Starter?

Which Kefir Culture?

If you want to make your own milk kefir, then you can use traditional kefir grains or a commercial powdered starter culture.

If making homemade kefir is new to you, then you will probably want to learn more about these different starter cultures before you decide which one to use. Have a look at our information below and decide for yourself which type of starter is for you!

Powdered Kefir Starter

Powdered kefir starter is commercially produced. You can usually buy this type of kefir starter as a single or multi-pack. This type of preparation contains a limited number of probiotic organisms, which are usually listed on the packet under "ingredients". Powdered kefir starter should be stored under refrigeration.


Powdered kefir starter is easy to use and is therefore ideal for first time users. It is prepared in a sterile environment and cultured commercially. The benefit of the latter is that the product ingredients include a comprehensive list of all the probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts contained in the product. If you choose a powdered kefir starter therefore, you know exactly which beneficial organisms you are using and ultimately ingesting.

You can also buy individual sachets of commercial kefir for around $5 USD. This makes it relatively cheap to try making your own kefir.


The downside of commercial kefir starter is that you generally cannot use these cultures over and over again. At best and depending on the brand you buy, you may get around six batches of kefir out of your sachet of commercial starter culture. However be aware that the number of recultures from your sachet may be considerably lower than six. In the long term therefore, this makes commercial kefir starter culture more expensive than the grains, which can be used over and over again.

Kefir Grains

Kefir grains look like cauliflower florets

Kefir grains are a mixture of probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts in a base of fat, sugar and protein.

Contrary to their name, these "grains" do not contain cereal of any kind. However they do generally contain dairy, specifically milk casein. Some non-dairy alternatives to milk-based kefir grains are now available. These can be used to make water kefir and coconut kefir

Kefir grains are small irregular shaped crumbs, which stick together, resembling cauliflower florets. Like commercial kefir starter, they must also be refrigerated.


The key advantage to kefir grains is that you can use them over and over again, provided of course that you store them correctly. If you do so, they will last forever! You simply make your initial batch of kefir and then retain the grains for your next batch and so on. Once you have purchased your grains therefore, you should never have to buy them again. In the long-term, this makes them extremely good value for money.

Kefir grain costs around $20 USD. However there are a number of on-line kefir communities where grains are swapped or given for a nominal fee or free.

Another great benefit to these grains is that typically they contain a much larger and diverse range of probiotic bacteria and yeasts than does powdered kefir starter. The exact species and strains of bacteria contained in your grains will vary depending on your geographic location. Traditional kefir grains in Russia for example will contain a different mix of probiotic organisms to those in the USA.

Finally just like powdered kefir starter, traditional grains are really easy to use.


The main drawback to traditional kefir grains is that their preparation for storage requires a little time. Once you have made your kefir, you need to retain your grains. To prepare them for storage you must then rinse them in cold water, place them in a container and cover with cold water. You must then place your kefir grain in a refrigerator.

The initial outlay may be another deterrent to kefir grains. Perhaps you are not sure that you will like kefir and thus you may feel that the approximate cost of $20 USD is rather high. If this is you, then perhaps the best way forward is to buy either a single sachet of commercial kefir starter or alternatively to buy some ready-made kefir milk. Be aware though that homemade milk kefir tastes much better than bought kefir.

Finally, details regarding the exact species and strains of probiotic organisms contained in kefir grains are not usually available. You therefore will not know exactly which probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts your homemade kefir contains.

Which Kefir Starter?

The choice is yours. Kefir is easy to make irrespective of whether you choose a commercial kefir starter or traditional kefir grain. Have a look at our dedicated page on how to make kefir. for more information on making kefir. Good luck!

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