The microbial community composition and chemical characteristics of a Brazilian milk kefir sample produced during its manufacturing and refrigerated storage were investigated by culture-dependent and -independent methods and HPLC. Lactococcus lactis ssp. cremoris and ssp. lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, Acetobacter lovaniensis, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae were isolated, whereas the detected bands on denaturing gel gradient electrophoresis corresponded to Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactobacillus kefiri, Lactobacillus parakefiri, and S. cerevisiae. After fermentation, lactic acid bacteria were present at levels of 10 log units, whereas acetic acid bacteria and yeast were present at levels of 7.8 and 6 log units, respectively. The lactic acid bacteria and yeast counts remained constant, whereas acetic acid bacteria counts decreased to 7.2 log units during storage. From fermentation to final storage, the pH, lactose content and citric acid of the kefir beverage decreased, followed by an increase in the concentrations of glucose, galactose, ethanol, and lactic, acetic, butyric, and propionic acids. These microbiological and chemical characteristics contribute to the unique taste and aroma of kefir. This research may serve as a basis for the future industrial production of this beverage in Brazil.
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