Just Curious, What Are Kombucha, Kvass, and Kefir?

Yeah, I know. What language is that??

So what are they? I was just asked this question the other day.

And actually, I had to think about how to describe them. Since I have been making them for years now I forget they are likely new to many people!

Kombucha, beet kvass, and kefir are non-alcoholic fermented drinks loaded with probiotic healthy goodies.

They’re commonly thought of as health tonics or alternatives to popular beverages like soft drinks etc. And actually they are quite traditional dating back at least hundreds of years in Eastern Europe and Russia. I think of them as kind of like the precursor to modern sodas, sports drinks, and sweetened teas.

Two of them (kombucha and kefir) are commercially available at most grocery stores, and the third (beet kvass) is available in specialty stores and online. All three of them can also be easily made at home.




My journey to fermented drinks

My husband started reading about the health benefits of fermented foods and drinks over a decade ago. Out of the blue one day he made this decree:

“I want to have a fermented drink every day.”

And of course I had never heard of these things before and was like, “No way!”

(Which is a pretty typical response to a new idea for me. Ha!)

But, then I started trying it out over the next few years. And what I found was…

That they’re not really hard to make.
And not really intimidating.
And not really weird tasting, either.

Rather, I found that making and having fermented drinks at home is a lot of fun! And really tasty, too. Which now has become a hobby of mine.


Why drink them?

Well, here are my reasons:

  • They taste WAY better than popular beverage options! This is now my main reason. I can’t drink soda or sweetened tea anymore because it just doesn’t taste good after getting used to these three drinks.
  • Health benefits from beneficial bacteria and live cultures, like aiding digestion and improving energy.
  • Less sugar (you know, as opposed to the Dr Pepper I grew up chugging.)
  • Electrolytes, as they hydrate better than water, which is especially important on the hot days of working in the sun on the farm.

Did I miss anything?  What are yours?


But, why make them yourself?

  1. Way cheaper!  Farmer Gene aka math wiz calculates the ingredient cost that goes into a $3.99 bottle of organic kombucha is approx $0.25.  Um yeah.
  2. Can customize ingredients!  Think lemon kefir.  So, so, so worth it!
  3. Fun to experiment!  It is rewarding to make it at home and get to know how it actually works.  And how easy that is.


So, but what exactly are they?
(Name and most common reaction from people trying them out.)

  1. Kombucha: “The ginger is my favorite!”
    Kombucha is a fizzy beverage that originated in Russia. It is made out tea, sugar, and water fermented with a kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts) for a period of several days and then optionally flavored.

    Have you ever seen a kombucha SCOBY monster? If not, come see for yourself this Saturday! See details below.
  2. Beet Kvass “Wow, it’s salty, but surprisingly good!”
    Beet Kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage that originated in the Ukraine. It is made out of chopped beets, salt, whey, and water and lacto-fermented over a period of a few days to a few weeks. Refreshing and nourishing in small amounts!

    Here’s what Wardeh Harmon says from The Complete Idiots Guide to Fermenting Foods:

    "Beet kvass, a traditional Ukrainian beverage, is an excellent blood tonic, promotes regularity, aids digestion, alkalizes the blood, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments." (p. 133)
  3. Kefir “It tastes different from what you buy in the store.”
    Kefir is a fermented dairy product that is similar to yogurt that originates in the Caucasus Mountains. It is made out of milk that has been fermented for a period of 18-48 hours using a kefir SCOBY aka “kefir grains.” It can be flavored after fermentation if desired.

    Kefir’s taste is different than yogurt, tangier and sourer. It is thinner in texture and more drinkable than yogurt as well. It is also thought to have many more kinds of beneficial organisms than yogurt.

    Have you seen the kefir grains?? If not, I’ll just tell you they look a little like cauliflower… Come see for yourself on Saturday! See below for details.


How to learn more

You can download my packet on how to make these three drinks for free here.  Hope it is helpful and get in touch with any questions you might have!  Good luck and happy fermenting!


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