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Choosing a Yogurt Starter
There are many varieties of yogurt starter cultures to choose from. All of them contain probiotic bacteria, and all of them will culture various milks, with the proper care.
While yogurt starter cultures can vary in taste and consistency, the type of yogurt starter culture you choose to use ultimately depends on your personal preferences.
Jump to Yogurt Culture Comparison Chart
The characteristic tangy taste of yogurt is due to the acidification of the milk during fermentation. The flavor of yogurt can range from mildly sour to quite astringent and varies with the culture used and the length of culturing time. A longer fermentation time usually yields a tarter flavored yogurt.
Consistency and Texture
There is a great range of thickness and texture in yogurt. The culture used, the culturing temperature and time, and the type of milk used all contribute to the consistency and texture of yogurt. Yogurt may be thin enough to drink or thick enough to hold its shape on a plate. For a very thick, Greek-style yogurt, draining whey is necessary. Yogurt can also be ropy, creamy, or gelatinous. These variations are due mostly to the type of bacteria in the culture.
Perpetuation: Direct-Set vs. Heirloom Cultures
Direct-set or single-use cultures are added to a batch of milk to produce a single batch of yogurt. With some care, a direct-set starter may be re-cultured two or three times by using some of the yogurt as starter for a new batch. Eventually, however, a new powdered starter must be used. Non-dairy milks generally cannot be re-cultured.
Reusable or Heirloom cultures can be propagated indefinitely. With each batch, some of the yogurt is saved to add to a new batch of milk to make more yogurt. Reusable cultures should be propagated at least every seven days to maintain the vigor of the bacteria.
Culturing Temperature: Thermophilic vs. Mesophilic
Thermophilic means heat-loving. This type of culture is added to heated milk and cultured from 5 to 12 hours. Thermophilic cultures typically produce yogurt that is thicker than yogurt from a mesophilic culture.
Mesophilic means medium-loving, indicating that a mesophilic culture will propagate best at room temperature (around 70° to 77°F). With a mesophilic culture, there is no need to preheat the milk. The culture is simply added to cold milk and cultured at room temperature, usually between 12 and 18 hours. Mesophilic cultures typically produce yogurt that is thinner than yogurt from a thermophilic culture.
The following chart contains the yogurt cultures sold by Cultures for Health. The different combinations of bacteria produce the specific characteristics of each yogurt culture.
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