Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish. Water kefir is also known as tibicos, tibi, sugar kefir, Japanese water crystals, bebees, Australian bees, African bees, California Bees, ale nuts, balm of Gilead or beer seeds.
Water kefir is made with kefir grains (small, translucent, gelatinous structures comprised of assorted bacteria and yeasts), water, and sugars. Kefir or tibicos cultures are found around the world, with no two cultures being exactly the same. Water kefir grains are translucent white and break easily when squeezed between the fingers. They more closely resemble irregular crystals. You can eat the kefir grains, they don't have much flavour but are a good probiotic.
If you don't want to consume dairy products then water kefir is an excellent non-dairy probiotic source. Other non-dairy probiotics include kombucha, sauerkraut and rejuvelac.
Do NOT dismiss water kefir because it contains sugars, and may be high in sugar. It contains and promotes bacteria that eat sugars, and therefore need to live in a sugar medium. Water kefir heals candida, and is suitable for diabetics in small quantities provided they monitor their blood sugar level. The numerous benefits of water kefir are too significant to ignore.
The kefir grains are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharide matrix created by some of the bacteria. The microbes in kefir grains act in symbiosis to maintain a stable culture. They can do this in many different sugary liquids, feeding off the sugar to produce lactic acid, acetic acid, alcohol (ethanol), and carbon dioxide gas which carbonates the drink. When properly cared for and regularly cultured, they produce a wonderful probiotic-rich beverage that continues to grow and reproduce indefinitely.
Water kefir is completely different to kombucha, with different bacteria and yeasts, different nutrients, different therapeutic benefits and a totally different flavour. You can't compare or replace the one with the other.
You can brew water kefir with a variety of fruits, coconut water, and various kinds of sugars, all of which come together to produce complex and beautiful flavours. After you have brewed your water kefir / tibicos, it is easy to add other flavours too.