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Probiotic Drinks - What's the difference?

April 3, 2018


So you may have noticed there is a lot of hype around probiotics at the moment. We have to be honest, we are loving the attention but with it there comes confusion. We often get asked “what is the difference between Kombucha and Gutsy”, so we thought it might be time to clear it up. There are quite a few different types of probiotic drinks on the market so here is a run down on the major ones.


Some of the types you may have heard of are Kefir, Kombucha and functional beverages. Kefir and Kombucha have been around for a really long time but the new functional beverages are just starting to get hot now. Kefir and Kombucha are similar in the sense that they both have a network of yeast and bacteria that is used in a fermentation process, the difference is the medium that the fermentation occurs in.


Kefir is traditionally made with either cow, sheep or goats milk which is added to the “Kefir Grains”. These grains are the network of bacteria and yeast which use the lactose in the milk during the fermentation process. This traditional way was used for centuries where by the milk and grains were placed in a goat hide pouch at the front door which was in turn knocked by people passing to provide the required agitation of the brew. Eventually this turned in to commercial production where a controlled powder of yeast and bacteria was added to the milk in order to make a consistent product. Water Kefir, which uses added sucrose for fermentation, has become a lot more common now that it has started to be made commercially and can be made to be a lot more palatable than the sour beverage of milk Kefir. Bi-products of the kefir process are ethanol and carbon dioxide from the fermentation, process, as well as lactic and other acids. Although milk kefir contains all the vitamins and minerals that would be found as standard in milk, water kefir does not. Probiotic concentration in kefir can be quite high but depends on many factors including what bacteria are present in the grains as well as the base and process used.


As mentioned, Kombucha is similar to Kefir but it is made by fermenting brewed tea with sucrose added for the fermentation. It has a blend of yeasts and bacteria, known as a Scoby, that is added to the tea which in turn also produce ethanol and carbon dioxide as well as lactic and other acids. Not a lot is known about Kombucha including the true origins and how long it has been in existence but it appears to have also come from the same region as Kefir and could have been around for as long as a couple of thousand years. As with kefir, unless tested, it is not known what bacteria and yeasts exist in the Scoby and therefore what probiotics are available in the finished ferment. There will be approximately 0.5%-3% alcohol as well as a reasonable amount of residual sugar, depending on how long it is fermented for, and caffeine which comes naturally from the tea base.


Functional beverages by definition are any beverage that has an intended health benefit. This is a large genre including sports and energy drinks where “health benefit” may  be construed in a somewhat ‘interesting’ way. The drinks we are referring to in this article are specifically fortified with probiotics and/or prebiotics and can include flavoured waters, juices or powders. These drinks are not fermented so the end product has very specific known quantities and do not have any ethanol, residual sugar or caffeine, unless it has been added to the product as an ingredient.


The humble beginnings of Gutsy Life commenced when making water kefir, but we wanted to be able to provide a product that we could confidently say what the contents were in a very consistent manner. This then lead to our creation of a fortified water drink but we found it hard to justify shipping the water content around so we took that out and were left with the little power houses that are our drink sachets. If you are in love with the concept of feeding your body probiotics but concerned about making your own drinks then Gutsy might be for you.


Written by Ben Gray, CEO Gutsy Life


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