oa South African Journal of Science - Microbial flora associated with South African household kefir : research letter

Volume 99, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



The production of kefir relies on the symbiosis between yeasts, lactobacilli and streptococci. The presence of variable fermenting microflora, however, may be a constraint in producing consistent quality. Consequently, we attempted a systematic study of the microbial diversity (with special emphasis on the presence of yeasts) associated with kefir grains from different regions in South Africa. Yeasts were isolated, identified and enumerated from kefir, fermented by different indigenous kefir grains collected throughout the country. All the samples revealed relatively high yeast populations, with counts exceeding 1 × 10&lt;sup&gt;8&lt;/sup&gt; cfu ml<sup>-1</sup>. <i>Kluyveromyces marxianus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae&lt;/i&gt; and <i>Kluyveromyces lactis&lt;/i&gt; were the dominant yeast species isolated. Other species encountered were <i>Saccharomyces unisporus, Zygosaccharomyces rouxii&lt;/i&gt; (formerly <i>Saccharomyces rouxii</i>), <i>Torulaspora delbrueckii&lt;/i&gt; and <i>Debaryomyces hansenii</i>. The yeast population of traditional South African kefir grains is relatively varied, consisting of non-lactose and lactose-fermenting species, with the latter group dominant. Furthermore, the different kefir grains each hosted a distinct group of microorganisms.

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