Sequence-based analysis of the microbial composition of water kefir from multiple sources


Correspondence: Paul D. Cotter, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland. Tel.: +353 02542694;

fax: +353 02542340;



Water kefir is a water–sucrose-based beverage, fermented by a symbiosis of bacteria and yeast to produce a final product that is lightly carbonated, acidic and that has a low alcohol percentage. The microorganisms present in water kefir are introduced via water kefir grains, which consist of a polysaccharide matrix in which the microorganisms are embedded. We aimed to provide a comprehensive sequencing-based analysis of the bacterial population of water kefir beverages and grains, while providing an initial insight into the corresponding fungal population. To facilitate this objective, four water kefirs were sourced from the UK, Canada and the United States. Culture-independent, high-throughput, sequencing-based analyses revealed that the bacterial fraction of each water kefir and grain was dominated by Zymomonas, an ethanol-producing bacterium, which has not previously been detected at such a scale. The other genera detected were representatives of the lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria. Our analysis of the fungal component established that it was comprised of the genera Dekkera, Hanseniaspora, Saccharomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, Torulaspora and Lachancea. This information will assist in the ultimate identification of the microorganisms responsible for the potentially health-promoting attributes of these beverages.