The Ultimate Guide on How to Make Yogurt at Home
Are you thinking of making your own yogurt? Well congratulations, it is a really good idea. Making your own yogurt at home is easy, convenient, super healthy, and very practical. Yogurt, along with Kefir, cultured vegetables, and kombucha, is a great way to easily add powerful probiotics to your diet..and improve your health.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s a homemade yogurt is delicious as well.
Homemade yogurt is superior in every way to store bought yogurt.
Why Most Store Bought Yogurt is Not a Health Food
The preparation of yogurt was done in pre-modern times to process and preserve milk, becoming a popular food in many cultures. Nowadays commercial yogurt is mainly produced en-mass, in factory settings.
While yoghurt is considered a health food due to it the fact that it is fermented, a probiotic and high in calcium – many brands available today are not live yoghurts. This means that the probiotic bacteria which give yoghurt most of its renown as a health food, are mostly dead and inactive. It also means that the yoghurt might contain some kind of preservative, as the fermentation process, which acts as a natural perseverant, has been stopped.
In addition, store bought yoghurt often contains (even plain varieties) sugar, modified starch, stabilizers and/or thickeners.
Why Most Store Bought Yoghurt Does Not Contain Live Cultures
The reason why most brands of yoghurt are not in their live, probiotic state, is because they have been pasteurized to extend shelf live. The probiotic bacteria which gives yoghurt many of its healthful properties cannot withstand these temperatures – and as a result are killed.
Which Yoghurts Do Contain Probiotics
If you can find a yogurt which says ‘live yogurt’ or ‘cultured yogurt’, then this means that it is alive, and therefore a probiotic with all of the health benefits that go with them. Live yogurts can also often be found at farmer’s markets and other outlets for cottage industry products.
But, there can be an even closer source of live fresh yoghurt at hand, your own kitchen! : )
Advantages of Making Your Own Yoghurt
If you eat yoghurt on a regular basis, want to use it as a source of probiotics and enjoy eating it creamy, fresh and not overly sour, then making your own yoghurt at home is definitely for you.
Making yogurt is such a simple and non time consuming process, that it is often more convenient to make it one’s self, than source it if you cannot buy live yogurt close to you.
Making your own yogurt also can cut down the costs of it, dramatically – especially if you prefer buying live cultured yogurt which is additive free.
Speaking of additives, when making one’s own yogurt you can put into only what you want, and it is guaranteed preservative and additive free.
What You Need to Make Your Own Yogurt
The ingredients which you will need to have to make your own yogurt are super simple:
- Starter culture
But in the case of both of these, the milk and the culture, you must make sure that you are making the right selections in order to have a successful fermentation, and an end result of beautiful yoghurt.
First let’s discuss the different options you have when it comes to starters – as it all starts with the starter!
Starter cultures are very important for making your own yogurt. This is because your starter is what injects into your fermenting yoghurt all of the beneficial bacteria which make yoghurt so healthy, and who carry out the fermentation process!
There are few different options which you can choose from when selecting a starter culture:
In the world of yogurt and yogurt starter’s, there are many different types of starter’s which you can buy. This is because any starter is a combination of the different species of bacteria which ferment yogurt. The more strains a starter contains the better, because this means that its probiotic benefits are heightened, and that it is a more hardy type of culture.
However these different starters can be split into two broad categories of cultures:
Mesophilic: Mesophilic cultures are a type of yogurt culture which does best at room temperatures, roughly 70°-77°Fahrenheit (21°-25° Celsius). They take about double the amount of time to ferment milk into yogurt than their warmth loving counterparts, the thermophilic bacteria. They usually produce a runnier consistency yogurt.
Thermophilic: Thermophilic cultures prefer warmer temperatures and do best at 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius). This means that room temperature even in very warm climate is too low for the bacteria to carry out fermentation. Therefore thermophilic cultures need to be kept warm while culturing is taking place – either in a yogurt maker which is specially designed to do this, or in the oven with the pilot on, in a flask, wrapped in an electric blanket, or some other set up to keep the culturing yogurt warm. Thermophilic cultures take about half as long to culture milk into yogurt as mesophilic cultures, and produce a yogurt which is often thicker in consistency.
Culture Varieties to Purchase
Making up the two categories of cultures, mesophilic and thermophilic, are many different varieties of yoghurt cultures which you can buy to make different types of yoghurts. Here are some of the different varieties of mesophilic and thermophilic cultures:
Falling under the mesophilic category of yoghurt cultures are the follows varieties.
Thermophilic cultures include:
When selecting a culture to use for your yoghurt making, pick one which will produce the kind of yoghurt which you enjoy, and one which will suit you in terms of having to heat it while fermentation takes place, or not. If you do not want to bother with monitoring and providing the heat necessary for a thermophilic culture to ferment at, then rather go for a mesophilic culture. If however you like a thicker yoghurt like Greek or Bulgarian, have a convenient way to keep the culturing yoghurt warm and do not mind any extra work it entails then go for that option. Remember thermophilic cultures also need less time to culture, a bonus for those of us with less patience.
Quick Hack – Making Thick Yoghurt From Mesophilic Cultures
If you really like thick yoghurt, but much prefer the idea of just being able to make your yoghurt at room temperature without keeping:
- Use an ordinary mesophilic culture to make your yoghurt.
- Once finished, use a few layers of muslin or a dish cloth and line a colander. Place your yoghurt into this, and let drain for a few hours. (You can collect the whey that runs off in a bowl to use in soups, stews and baking).
- Put your yoghurt back into a container, stirring or whisking it.
This is part of the process used to make Greek yoghurt, and one of the reasons why it is thicker than regular yoghurt. So if you are a fan of thick style yoghurts, but do not want to culture with a thermophilic culture, this can be a quick cheat to get the thickness that you like.
Making Yogurt From Yogurt
Besides purchasing a culture, there is another option which you can follow. It is possible to use a couple of tablespoons of live, cultured yogurt as starter for making your own yogurt. However it MUST contain the living strains of bacteria, otherwise it will not culture the milk.
When selecting a live yogurt from which to use a bit to make your own, take note of the following:
That you like the taste-
Make sure that the taste of the yoghurt which you choose to use as starter for your bacth of yoghurt is one that you like, as it will probably follow through into your batch. This is because differences in taste between types of plain unflavored yoghurt are caused by the strains of bacteria which make up the difference cultures. So pick a yoghurt whose bacteria will make yoghurt that you like the taste of.
Use plain, unflavored yogurt-
Do not use flavored yogurt as starter for your home made yogurt, as the live bacteria might have been damaged or compromised in some way.
When using purchased yogurt as starter for making your own yogurt, there is a chance that the vitality of the bacteria is not strong enough for you to be able to make batch after batch of yogurt, reusing the yogurt which you have made, as starter. Sometimes what happens is that the fermenting power and strength of the bacteria decline with each batch of yogurt, and the results begin to be problematic.
Lucky Packet of Probiotics
Another downside to making yogurt using purchased yogurt as starter, is that unless it is stated on the tub (and this is especially unlikely if it is yogurt made in a cottage industry or available at the farmer’s market) what strains of beneficial bacteria the yogurt contains – you will have no way of knowing which ones you are propagating and have in your yogurt. Purchased starters however should specifically say which strains of bacteria they contain, and you can then try and choose one which has a good amount of different ones present. This is beneficial for your health, and the long term health of the culture.
If you opt to buy starter yogurt, then we discuss how to make yogurt from this below.
Making Yogurt from Prebought Starter Culture
If you have opted for purchasing a starter culture, then before you start your yoghurt making you will need to activate the culture. The culture which you buy should come with instruction on how to activate it, but let’s just run through it briefly to get the idea:
If you have chosen a mesophilic culture then these are the basic steps for activating one:
- If there are two packets of starter, then set one aside in the refrigerator as backup for in case something goes wrong with the first one, or if you take a break from yoghurt making and need new dried starter to get going again, you will already have it.
- Take the other packet and dissolve the contents into 1 cup of milk.
- Cover and leave to culture for 24-48 hours. Check to see after 24 hours if it has set, if not leave for another 24 hours.
- Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
If you have selected a thermophilic starter then these are the basic steps for activating one:
- If there are two packets of starter, then set one aside in the refrigerator as backup for incase something goes wrong with the first one, or if you take a break from yoghurt making and need new dried starter to get going again, you will already have it.
- Heat up 1 cup of milk to 160 o
- Allow to cool to 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius).
- Mix in the culture, dissolving well.
- Cover and incubate at 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius) for 5-8 hours
- Let cool for 2 hours.
- Refrigerate for 6 hours.
You see! Nothing complicated. Once the culture is activated try to use it within a few days.
Items You Will Need For Yogurt Making
Besides the starter culture, there are a few more items which you will need for your yoghurt making.
Best Container for Making Yogurt
Look for a container to make your yogurt in which has a sealable lid, is the right size, and preferably is not metal. Bacterial cultures can have adverse reactions to metals. Also, if you are going to be using a plastic container, make sure that it does not have a lot of scratches. Scratches can harbor foreign bacteria which might contaminate your fermenting yoghurt, and with that also the starter culture for your next batch.
Very important to have if you are going to be making yogurt, especially with a thermophilic culture, is a thermometer. Too hot and you will cook the culture, to cold and you will halt the fermentation process.
Warming Set-up (for thermophilic cultures)
If you have chosen to use a thermophilic starter, then you will need to have some kind of setup which will keep the culturing yogurt at 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius). Here are some options:
- Yogurt Maker: Yogurt makers are specifically designed for making yogurt using thermophlic cultures, and make the process very simple.
- Stove Oven: If you do not have a yogurt maker, you can also use your oven to keep the culturing yogurt warm. All you have to do is heat the oven up to just over 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius) and place the yogurt inside with a thermometer. The thermometer must face the window in the oven door so that you can read it without opening the oven. Turn on the pilot light and close up. Check the thermometer to make sure that the temperature is being maintained. You can also, for safety sake, place a note on the front of the oven door to let others know that there is yogurt culturing in there – and to not turn on the oven for preheating!
- Cooler Box: You can also use a cooler box to keep your culturing yogurt warm. The way to do this is to put something in the cooler box to stand your container of yogurt on, then pour in some hot water until the temperature in the cooler is a bit above 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius), and then close it up. To help maintain the warmth, you can also place the cooler box in the sun. The downside to this method is that you can’t check the temp without letting all of the heat escape – but if you try it out once and it works, then subsequent checking won’t be necessary.
- Thermos Flask & Blanket: Thermos flasks can be great for keeping thermophilic yogurt culturing at the warm temperature that it likes. It also uses zero electricity! Start off by boiling some water and warming your flask up with that. This way the minimum amount of heat will be lost. Then pour in your mixed and heated milk and culture, seal up and wrap in a warm blanket.
- Electric Blanket: Another good one is an electric blanket. All you have to do is wrap your culturing yogurt in its container up in the electric blanket (leaving the top accessible) and turn it to its lowest setting. Check with your thermometer periodically to see what the temperature of the milk is. If you see the temperature going anywhere below 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius), then turn up the heat slightly. If the temperature starts rising above 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius), even on the lowest setting, then you can try just sitting the container on top of the blanket laid out flat.
Milks to Use For Yogurt Making
Besides yogurt starter and any necessary items you will need for the culturing of it, there is one last thing which you will need. And that is milk! Let’s take a look at the different options.
Cow Milk versus Other
Most of our dairy products these days are made out of cow’s milk due to the large scale farming of dairy cattle. You can however use any other kind of milk as well. The taste and results might be slightly different to what we are used to, but can also be very nice.
Here are some of the differences which can be experienced when using sheep or goat’s milk for yogurt making:
Goat milk – produces a thinner yogurt.
Sheep milk – produces a thicker and sweeter yogurt.
Heat Treated versus Raw
Besides the type of milk to use, you will also have to decide on the level of processing which you want. Milk can either be found in its raw form, where it has undergone no processing whatsoever, or in different stages of heat treatment. Here are the three categories:
- Pasteurized: Pasteurized milk is heat treated to 145°-212°Fahrenheit (63°-100° Celsius) for an amount of time and then bottled and sold. This processing is done to remove pathogens and increase shelf life. Pasteurized milk usually cultures very well, and is great for making yogurt with. In pasteurized milk there is no chance of foreign bacteria being present which could compete with yogurt culture bacteria.
- Ultra Heat Treated (UHT): Ultra Heat Treated milk (or Ultra High Temperature Treatment) is heated to above 275° Fahrenheit (135° Celsius), and stays at that temperature for about a second. It is then bottled and sold and can keep unrefrigerated for fairly long periods of time. It is totally free of any foreign or competitive bacteria, but due to its being exposed to such high temperatures this means that the structure of the milk is not suitable for culturing. Do not use this type of milk for making yogurt.
- Raw Milk: Raw milk is milk that has not been through any heat treatments or processing. Because of this, raw milk has its own specific set of micro-organisms and bacteria present. This is not good for culturing and making yogurt, as sometimes these can compete with the bacteria of the yogurt and cause problems with the fermentation process. However, if you want to use raw milk for making your yogurt, then you can process it yourself to eradicate these bacteria, and use relatively low temperatures so that the quality of the milk is preserved. You will also have to protect your culture from coming in contact with any of the raw milk’s bacteria.
How to Preserve Your Culture When Making Yogurt With Raw Milk
The trick to preserving your culture’s bacteria when making yogurt from raw milk is to make sure that the ‘starter’ yogurt does not come into contact with the raw milk yogurt. This means that as opposed to making yogurt with pasteurized milk, where you merely save some yogurt from each batch to inoculate and make the next, essentially you will be maintaining two batches side by side, one for starter and one for eating.
Make and Maintain the Starter Yogurt
– Heat 1 cup of milk to at least 160o Fahrenheit.
– Leave to cool to either room temperature for mesophilic yogurt, or to 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius) for thermophilic yogurt.
– Mix in the starter and allow to culture for either 24-48 hours for mesophilic cultures or 5-8 hours for thermophilic cultures, at room temperature for mesophilic, or at 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius) for thermophilic. The resulting yogurt is your starter. Use two tablespoons of this in under a week’s time to make another batch. Before that you can use two tablespoons to make your yogurt. Keep maintaining the starter culture batch of yogurt side by side with your yogurt for eating.
Making Yogurt from Raw Milk
When using raw milk for making yogurt, you must just add in an additional step before setting it up, and that is heating the raw milk, but not as high as for making the culture.
Before making your yogurt:
– Heat your raw milk to 112o Fahrenheit.
– Allow to cool to room temperature for mesophilic cultures, and to 110o Fahrenheit (43o Celsius) for thermophilic cultures.
So, now that we have gone through everything that you will need, and looked the different options of starter cultures, milk and heating options for thermophilic cultures and yogurts, let’s get into the making of it!
The Process: Making the Yogurt
Here we are going to outline how to make yogurt from a mesophilic starter. If however you are going to be using a thermophilic starter, the steps are much the same except for the higher temperatures required, and the shorter fermentation time. For detailed steps on how to make yogurt from a mesophilic starter, check out this post How to Make Greek Yogurt. The recipe is for a Greek yogurt starter culture, but the steps hold true for any other thermophilic starter as well.
Before we get going, have you….
Prepped Your Starter (if purchased)
If you have purchased a dry starter, remember you must activate it first as outlined earlier.
Prepped your Milk (if raw)
If you are going to be using raw milk for your yogurt making, remember that your must have sterilized some for your starter, and made the starter with that. You must also heat the milk which you are going to be using for the yogurt to 112o Fahrenheit and allow it to cool to room temperature.
What You Will Need:
1 pint (1 liter) Milk of your choice (prepped if raw)
2-3 tablespoons starter culture (purchased starter which is activated or readymade live cultured yoghurt)
Container to put the milk in to culture
Step 1: Combining the starter and milk
Mix the milk and starter together in your container, stirring well to make sure that they are well combined.
Step 2: Cover and leave to ferment
Cover the mix and set to ferment at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Do not place in direct sunlight. If you have other cultures which are fermenting, such as sourdough, kombucha, kimchi,
kefir etc, do not place the yogurt next to one of these. Keep a distance of several meters to ensure that no cross pollination of bacteria occurs.
Step 3: Check to see if it is done
After the minimum time period is up, you can check to see if your yogurt is done. Tilt the container to the side, and if the yogurt comes away in a solid (almost jelly-like) mass without any running, then it is ready. If however the yogurt has not set, then leave for up to 48 hours, checking every couple of hours if it is during the day. Yogurt that is left too long can become overly tart. Once the yogurt has set, all you have to do now is refrigerate to stop the fermentation, and enjoy!
Important: Don’t forget to set some yoghurt aside for starter for your next batch! Unless you are using raw milk, in which case do not forget to maintain your culture batch of yoghurt next to your eating yoghurt.
Making yoghurt at home is really simple to do, especially if you are using a mesophilic culture which does not require heating. One can save quite a bit on buying yoghurt if you are someone who eats it regularly, and you can guarantee that the yoghurt you are eating is a top notch probiotic, and 100% free of preservatives or additives!