KOUMISS, milk-wine, or milk brandy, a fermented alcoholic beverage prepared from milk. It is of very ancient origin, and according to Herodotus was known to the Scythians. The name is said to be derived from an ancient Asiatic tribe, the Kumanes or Komans. It is one of the staple articles of diet of the Siberian and Caucasian races, but of late years it has also been manufactured on a considerable scale in western Europe, on account of its valuable medicinal properties. It is generally made from mares' or camels' milk by a process of fermentation set up by the addition to the fresh milk of a small quantity of the finished article. This fermentation, which appears to be of a symbiotic nature, being dependent on the action of two distinct types of organisms, the one a fission fungus, the other a true yeast, eventuates in the conversion of a part of the milk sugar into lactic acid and alcohol. Koumiss generally contains i to 2% of alcohol, 0-5 to 1-5% of lactic acid, 2 to 4% of milk sugar and i to 2% of fat. Kefir is similar to koumiss, but is usually prepared from cows' milk, and the fermentation is brought about by the so-called Kefir Grains (derived from a plant).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)