Kefir is a dairy product that can be prepared from different milk types, such as goat, buffalo, sheep, camel, or cow via microbial fermentation (inoculating milk with kefir grains). As such, kefir contains various bacteria and yeasts which influence its chemical and sensory characteristics. A mixture of two kinds of milk promotes kefir sensory and rheological properties aside from improving its nutritional value. Additives such as inulin can also enrich kefir's health qualities and organoleptic characters. Several metabolic products are generated during kefir production and account for its distinct flavour and aroma: Lactic acid, ethanol, carbon dioxide, and aroma compounds such as acetoin and acetaldehyde. During the storage process, microbiological, physicochemical, and sensory characteristics of kefir can further undergo changes, some of which improve its shelf life. Kefir exhibits many health benefits owing to its antimicrobial, anticancer, gastrointestinal tract effects, gut microbiota modulation and anti-diabetic effects. The current review presents the state of the art relating to the role of probiotics, prebiotics, additives, and different manufacturing practices in the context of kefir's physicochemical, sensory, and chemical properties. A review of kefir's many nutritional and health benefits, underlying chemistry and limitations for usage is presented.
Keywords: biological effects; composition; kefir; nutritional value; physicochemical properties; sensory characters.