How Long Will Your Cultures Last?

Once you’ve ordered your starters, it’s important to know how to store them, and how to store the resulting cultured foods, so you can get the maximum benefit from your purchase.

People frequently call or email to ask how to store their cultures, or to find out whether they need to intercept the mail carrier to rush their new purchases to the refrigerator. In fact, most bacteria are quite hardy, and the type that are used to culture food will keep at room temperature for several weeks, or in the refrigerator for a long time. Our cultures do have a “best by” label, but it also helps to know the general expiration period for the cultures and the products they make.

Culturing was once one of the most common ways of preserving food for long-term storage, so it is no surprise that a food, once cultured, will actually remain viable and tasty for longer than the same food uncultured.

Here is some information to show you how long you can expect your cultures to be good at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer. The “maximum culturing temperature” entry shows the temperature at which the culture will no longer be viable for reproduction.

These times are given as a recommendation based on our experience with the cultures. Local environment including temperature and hygiene may shorten or lengthen the time that your cultures remain viable.

Yogurt Cultures

Direct-set cultures (Traditional Flavor, Mild Flavor, Vegan)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 to 12 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 112°F


Heirloom Thermophilic Cultures (Greek, Bulgarian)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 9 months unopened
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12 months unopened
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 112°F


Heirloom Mesophilic Cultures (Viili, Filmjölk, Matsoni, Piimä)

  • At room temperature (68° to 77°F): 3 to 4 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 9 months unopened
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12 months unopened
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 77°F


Yogurt

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 6 hours (may remain edible for longer)
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 7 days to maintain re-culturing viability; 2 weeks for edibility
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 2 to 3 weeks to maintain re-culturing viability; 1 to 2 months (like ice cream) for edibility
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate

 

Kefir Grains and Cultures

Dried Milk Kefir Grains

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 12 to 18 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 18+ months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Milk Kefir Starter Culture

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 to 12 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Milk Kefir Grains in Milk

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 2 days
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 1 to 2 weeks
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Milk Kefir

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 1 to 2 days
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 to 3 weeks
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 1 to 2 months or longer (like ice cream)
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate


Dried Water Kefir Grains

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 12 to 18 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 18+ months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Water Kefir Grains in Sugar Water

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 days
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 weeks or more
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Water Kefir

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 days
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 to 3 weeks
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 1 to 2 months (like ice cream)
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate

 

Buttermilk and Sour Cream

Buttermilk Starter (heirloom)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 9 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 80°F


Buttermilk/Sour Cream Starter (direct-set)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 3 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 80°F


Buttermilk

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 4 to 6 hours (may remain edible for longer)
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 7 days for heirloom variety to maintain culturing viability; 2 weeks for edibility
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 2 to 3 weeks to maintain re-culturing viability; 1 to 2 months (like ice cream) for edibility
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate


Sour Cream

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 4 to 6 hours (may remain edible for longer)
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 1 to 2 weeks
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 1 to 2 months (like ice cream)
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate

 

Kombucha

Dried Kombucha Starter Culture (Scoby)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 4 to 6 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Active Kombucha Starter Culture (Scoby) in sugared tea / kombucha

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 45 days
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 60 to 90 days
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): not recommended
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 85°F


Kombucha

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): up to 1 week, depending on sugar content (carbonation may build up)
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 to 4 weeks
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 1 to 2 months (like ice cream) (will lose its fizz)
  • Storage recommendation: Refrigerate

 

Cultured Vegetables

Caldwell’s Vegetable Starter Culture

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 6 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 12 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12 months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 110°F


Body Ecology Starter Culture

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 6 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 8 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12 months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 110°F

 

Cheese Cultures

Direct-set Starter Cultures

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 to 12 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 110°F


Cheese

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): A day or two, depending on the cheese
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 2 to 3 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): Up to a year
  • Storage recommendation: Cool, dry location, or refrigerate. Soft cheeses will keep 2 to 3 weeks; hard cheeses will keep for 2 to 3 months. Depends on the cheese and how it is wrapped.

 

Sourdough

Dehydrated Sourdough Cultures

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 12 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 12+ months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F


Active Sourdough Starter (wheat and similar flours)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 8 to 12 hours between feedings; can last up to 24 hours
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 1 to 2 weeks between feedings; can last up to 6 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): A year or more, but may take several feedings to revive
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F


Active Sourdough Starter (rice flour)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 8 to 12 hours between feedings; can last up to 24 hours
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 1 to 2 weeks between feedings; can last up to 6 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): A year or more, but may take several feedings to revive
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F


Sourdough Bread

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): A week or two
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): Unopened, up to 6 months; opened and in a closed container, a month or more
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): Up to a year
  • Storage recommendation: Room temperature (2 to 3 days) or refrigerate (up to 2 months, sealed) or freeze (up to 6 months)

 

Flours, Grains, and Seeds

Sprouted Flour

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 to 8 months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 14 months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F


Sprouted Grains

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 12+ months
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 12+ months
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 12+ months
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F


Sprouting Seeds

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F):
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F):
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F):
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F

 

Soy Cultures

Natto Spores

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 months or more
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 6 months or more
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 105°F


Koji (Brown Rice or Barley)

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): about 6 months 
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F) (recommended): 2 years
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 2 years
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 105°F


Tempeh Starter Culture

  • At room temperature (68° to 78°F): 3 to 4 weeks
  • In the refrigerator (40° to 45°F): 6 months or more
  • In the freezer (0° to 25°F): 6 months or more
  • Maximum culturing temperature: 90°F

 

 

                                                
   
Calendar


Related Articles & Recipes:

 

Related Products:

Milk Kefir Grains
Milk Kefir Grains
Yogurt Maker Yogurt Makers
Art of Cheesemaking Book
Home Cheesemaking Book

 

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<td><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">&nbsp;</span> <br />
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Originally a simple fermented dairy product, yogurt now has many variations and personalities. It can be thin and runny, or thick and firm. It can be made from cow milk, goat milk, sheep milk, nut milk, soy milk, rice milk, and from numerous other creamy substances. In some countries the milk of buffalo, horses, yaks, or camels is used.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">For most of this discussion, we&rsquo;ll refer to yogurt in its original form: a fermented dairy milk. This was how yogurt was first developed, and most of the yogurt in the world is made this way.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Essentially yogurt is the product of beneficial bacteria fermenting milk and turning it into a thickened, acidic food that will stay fresh longer than milk itself, and that contains millions of bacteria that are welcomed by the human gut.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The History of Yogurt</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The word yogurt comes from a Turkish word meaning to curdle or to thicken. Today it is spelled yogurt, yoghurt, or yogourt, with yogurt being the most common American spelling.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">It&rsquo;s probable that the earliest yogurt was made by accident in Mesopotamia around 5,000 BC, when milk-producing animals were first domesticated. The milk was likely stored and transported in bags made from the stomachs of these animals, and the digestive juices and bacteria in the stomach linings made the milk coagulate and become acidic. Not only was it a new and interesting food, but the acidity and helped to keep it edible for longer</span> <span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">than if it had just sat out in a bowl or jar.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">There is also some evidence of yogurt being used as a cleaning product and a beauty lotion as early as 2000 BC. The acidity of the yogurt helps clean away dirt and rust, and also helps clear away dead skin and nourish healthy skin cells.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt was a popular food in the Middle East for thousands of years, and has been a staple of the Eastern European diet. It&rsquo;s now eaten throughout the world, as a main course, a snack, an ingredient in many recipes, and a condiment. It has gained considerable popularity in America in the last forty or fifty years, in keeping with general trends toward organic, cultured, and nutrient-dense foods.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt can be mildly tart or quite sour, and can be thick enough to stand up on a plate, or thin enough to pour, or anywhere in between. It contains protein and calcium as well as a variety of vitamins. Additionally, the process of yogurt fermentation is very similar to the process of digestion, so it can be easily consumed.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Many people eat yogurt plain, while others prefer to mix it with fruits or vegetables, or to add flavors or sweeteners. It is used in a variety of recipes as a flavor enhancer or leavening, and frequently enjoyed as a refreshing drink.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Nutritional Content</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Not only does yogurt contain the same amount of protein and fat as the milk from which it is made, it also contains calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. While numerous claims have been made regarding the health benefits and digestibility of yogurt, we don&rsquo;t comment on medical, health, or nutritional qualities of our products. However, a great deal of research on the subject is readily available on the Internet and in dozens of books.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">How is Yogurt Made?</span></strong></h1>
<p><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">&nbsp;</span></strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">True yogurt is made from animal milk. Theoretically, the milk of any mammal could be used to make yogurt.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">With care, yogurt cultures can also be used to ferment and coagulate non-dairy &ldquo;milks&rdquo; such as the creamy liquid obtained from nuts, rice, soy, or coconut. While these products are technically not really yogurt, they can be used and enjoyed just like dairy yogurt, alone or in recipes.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Put very simply, the process of turning milk into yogurt involves fermentation. Certain types of bacteria act on the lactose (milk sugar) that is in milk, and produce lactic acid. The lactic acid lowers the pH of the milk, and causes the milk protein to coagulate and make a firm mass. The acidified milk is an inhospitable environment for destructive bacteria, so the yogurt stays fresh longer than untreated milk.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">The bacteria that does this is called beneficial bacteria, because it supports digestion and is nourishing, as opposed to pathogenic (harmful) bacteria that causes disease. The beneficial bacteria is called probiotic. It&nbsp; is similar or identical to the type of bacteria that lives in the human gut and which is responsible for the process of food absorption. When you use live cultures, the probiotics stay in the yogurt, and the yogurt can then be used as a starter to make more yogurt.</span></p>
<h1><br /><strong><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">Yogurt and Other Fermented Dairy Products</span></strong></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">There are many different ways that beneficial bacteria can be introduced to milk and make an entirely new food. The main difference between the different fermented dairy products is the bacteria used to make them, resulting in different flavors and consistencies.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Yogurt</em> can be cultured with a variety of different bacteria combinations, each of which gives the yogurt a characteristic taste and consistency. There are typically somewhere between the range of two to six different bacteria strains in yogurt, and they are similar to the bacteria found in the intestines.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Kefir</em> is a thickened milk made from little clumps of yeast, bacteria, and milk proteins that ferment the milk. There are about thirty different bacteria strains present in kefir grains. It has a slightly sour flavor and sometimes a faint effervescence. Koumiss is a similar product, made from mare&rsquo;s milk.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Buttermilk</em> is the name given to the whey that&rsquo;s left over when butter is made, but it more commonly refers to a milk drink made by adding bacteria to low-fat milk, producing a thickened product with a tangy flavor.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Sour cream</em> is cream or high-fat milk that&rsquo;s been cultured and thickened. It&rsquo;s very slightly sour, and usually quite thick. It was originally made by letting fresh cream thicken naturally as a result of fermentation from the bacteria present in the cream. When cream is pasteurized and has no natural bacteria present, it must be fermented with added bacteria.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Cr&egrave;me fraiche</em> is a European-style sour cream, slightly sweeter than what we are used to in America. It&rsquo;s also made by letting raw cream thicken naturally, or by adding buttermilk cultures to cream. Cr&egrave;me fraiche can be heated without curdling, unlike sour cream.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">In recipes, you can often substitute one cultured milk product for another and get similar results. In fact, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a thin, tart yogurt and a thick, sour kefir or a creamy buttermilk!</span><br /><br /><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;"><em>Soft and hard cheeses</em> are also made by culturing milk over a longer period of time. Some cheeses can be easily made by straining the moisture out of yogurt or sour cream, while others require additional fermentation and culturing steps.</span></p>
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<td colspan="2"><img src="http://cdn.culturesforhealth.com/media//Greek_Yogurt_200px_1.jpg" alt="Yogurt" /><br /></td>
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<li><a title="How to Make Lebneh" href="http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-lebneh-yogurt-cheese" target="_blank"><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva; font-size: small;">How to Make Lebneh (aka Yogurt Cheese)</span></a><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva;">&nbsp;</span></li>
<li><span style="font-family: verdana,geneva;"><a title="Yogurt FAQ" href="http://www.culturesforhealth.com/expert-advice/Yogurt-Starter-FAQ.html" target="_blank">Yogurt FAQ</a><br /></span></li>
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