Buttermilk Starter FAQ


Q.  What ingredients are in your buttermilk starter?

A.  Our heirloom variety buttermilk starter contains certified organic milk and live active cultures. Our direct-set variety buttermilk and sour cream starter culture contains milk and live active cultures.

Q.  Which bacteria strains does your buttermilk starter contain?

A.  Our heirloom-variety buttermilk starter contains the live active bacteria Streptococcus lactis. Our direct-set variety starter contains Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis biovar. diacetylactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris.

Q.  Do I need to buy buttermilk starter each time I make buttermilk?

A.  With a direct-set starter culture, each packet makes approximately eight batches of buttermilk or sour cream. Our heirloom variety culture is a reusable culture. With proper care, the culture can be perpetuated from batch to batch. You simply reserve a small amount of buttermilk from a previous batch to make a new batch saving you lots of money over buying commercial products! Raw milk users, please see the special instructions included with your order to ensure that you maintain a pure starter culture.

Q.  How does the buttermilk starter work?

A.  As mesophilic cultures, our buttermilk starters culture at room temperature: generally between 70° and 78°F. Both our buttermilk starters are easy to use and full instructions accompany each order. You can also view the instructions on each starter's in their product description.  

Customers wishing to use raw milk to make homemade buttermilk with our heirloom-variety starter will need to take additional steps to ensure a pure starter is maintained. Additional instructions concerning the use of raw milk may be found here. Customers wishing to make raw milk buttermilk with the direct-set culture can choose to heat the milk only to 74° to 77°F prior to adding the culture. Please keep in mind that sour cream made with raw cream will be less thick than if made with pasteurized heavy whipping cream.

Q.  What supplies do I need to make buttermilk?

A.  We recommend culturing buttermilk in a glass container. Canning jars (which come in various sizes) or old condiment jars work well. In addition the container should have a lid (preferably plastic) and we recommend wooden utensils for working with your starter culture. (Metal spoons can be used for consuming the yogurt but we recommend non-metal utensils when working with the starter.)

Q.  Can I use goat milk to make buttermilk?

A.  Yes, our starter cultures do work with goat milk; however, given that goat milk is generally much lower in fat than cow milk, goat milk yields a thinner consistency.

Q.  Can I use alternative milks (e.g., soy, nut, lactose-free, etc.) to make buttermilk?

A.  Yes, our starter cultures do work with soy, coconut, and lactose-free milk; however, the heirloom-variety culture, will not generally perpetuate in these alternative milks beyond the first generation or two. Therefore, if you intend to use soy, coconut, or lactose-free milk, you will need to maintain a buttermilk culture using cow or goat milk to inoculate each batch of the soy, coconut, or lactose-free buttermilk.  Please note, the texture of buttermilk made with alternative milks may be significantly thinner than buttermilk made with cow milk.

Q.  Can I use UHT (ultra-high temperature aka ultra-pasteurized) milk to make buttermilk?

A.  UHT milk can be problematic for making cultured foods as it tends to produce less than consistent results. If UHT milk is the only variety of milk available, we recommend using a direct-set variety culture. We do not recommend using UHT milk with our reusable heirloom-variety culture. The nature of UHT milk makes it difficult for the culture to perpetuate properly over several generations.

Q.  Can I use non-homogenized milk to make buttermilk?

A.  Yes. Non-homogenized milk makes wonderful buttermilk. The only difference you will see when making buttermilk with non-homogenized milk is that the cream will rise to the top of the buttermilk just like it does with the milk so the top layer of the buttermilk will be more yellow in color.

Q.  Can I use raw milk to make buttermilk?

A.  Yes! For customers wishing to make raw-milk buttermilk, this is perhaps one of the greatest benefits to our room-temperature, heirloom-variety buttermilk starter culture. However, for the buttermilk starter to perpetuate beyond the first generation, you will need to take extra steps to ensure a pure starter is maintained. The process is easy and full instructions can be found here. Customers wishing to make raw milk buttermilk with the direct-set culture can choose to heat the milk only to 74° to 77°F prior to adding the culture. 

Q.  Can I use low-fat milk to make buttermilk?

A.  Yes, but the buttermilk will have a thinner consistency than buttermilk made with whole milk.

Q.   When does the buttermilk starter expire?

A.  The sealed packet of heirloom variety culture, if kept refrigerated, should be viable for at least 6 months from the date of purchase. Once the starter has been cultured into buttermilk, it should be recultured every 7 days to maintain long-term viability. Theoretically these cultures will last indefinitely if cared for properly but due to inevitable human error, we include the extra dried starter in each packet to be used as a backup culture. The direct-set variety culture should be stored in the freezer and will typically maintain viability for approximately 12 months.

Q.  Can I use buttermilk starter to create cultured butter or sour cream?

A.  Yes.  We recommend using either piimä yogurt starter or our buttermilk starter to make cultured butter or sour cream. Click here for information on making cultured butter. Click here for information on making cultured sour cream or Crème Fraiche. 

Q.  Where can I view the instructions for using your buttermilk starter culture?

A.  Click here to view the instructions for our heirloom variety buttermilk culture.

Q.  If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the buttermilk culture?

A.  When items are being actively cultured (and don’t have lids), we suggest keeping a distance of at least several feet (and preferably more) between items. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them.

Q. Where can I find troubleshooting information?

A. Click here to view our Buttermilk Troubleshooting FAQ.



Cultured Buttermilk

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Related Products:

Buttermilk Starter Culture Heirloom Variety Buttermilk Starter (reusable, heirloom variety)
Buttermilk and Sour Cream Starter Culture Direct Set Buttermilk & Sour Cream Starter
(direct-set variety)

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