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Making yogurt at home for you and your family is fun, easy and can save you a lot of money in the long run! To make yogurt at home, all you need is bacteria (also known as a yogurt starter culture) and milk. Yogurt making does not require any specialized equipment. (If just starting out making yogurt, this basic supply list can be helpful.)
You have several options when it comes to selecting a yogurt starter culture and type of milk to use to make yogurt at home. While the basic process for making yogurt at home is the same for all types of yogurt starters and milks (simply add the bacteria to the milk and let it culture) there are some nuances to using different yogurt starters and milks.
When choosing a yogurt starter, consider how each type works (Does it require a yogurt maker or can you culture it on your countertop? Will it make one batch of yogurt or can you culture it indefinitely?), and choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. When choosing milk for making yogurt, take into consideration how the milk will interact with the yogurt starter culture and affect the yogurt's final thickness and texture.
Once you've gathered your basic yogurt making supplies, chosen a yogurt starter culture, and selected the milk you want to use, you will be ready to get started making homemade yogurt!
Depending on the yogurt starter culture you select, you may need to apply heat to your milk to prepare it for culturing. The procedure for culturing a batch of mesophilic yogurt with pasteurized milk does not require any heat, but for pasteurized thermophilic yogurt, the milk must be heated to 160ºF, then cooled to a culturing temperature of 110ºF, before adding the yogurt starter culture.
To make raw milk yogurt, with any type of culture, there are special considerations, and an extra step may be required.
Using the correct proportion of culture to milk is important. The proper amount of milk will provide a nutritious environment for the bacteria to culture and thicken the milk properly. For best results, follow the instructions included with your yogurt starter culture.
As yogurt cultures, the temperature of the culturing yogurt should remain fairly constant, and the yogurt should not be disturbed. For thermophlic yogurt starters, maintain a temperature of 105-112ºF. For mesophilic yogurt starters, maintain a temperature of 70-77ºF.
Try these tips for Maintaining Temperature when Culturing Countertop Yogurt or learn How to Culture Thermophilic Yogurt without a Yogurt Maker.
Culturing time is an important factor in making good yogurt. The amount of time the yogurt cultures depends on your taste and texture preference. In general, the longer yogurt cultures, the more tart and thick it will become.
Toward the limit of culturing time, the yogurt may begin to separate into solid (curds) and liquid (whey). The whey is quite nutritious and can be strained off to use in cooking or culturing, or it can be stirred back in to the yogurt.
Separation is usually the result of yogurt's culturing either too long or too fast. Once yogurt begins to separate, it is not long before the bacteria will begin to die off so be sure to keep an eye on your yogurt as it cultures.
Thermophilic yogurt requires a 2-hour cooling-off period to help ease the transition between culturing temperature and refrigerator temperature. Finished yogurt should be refrigerated for at least 6 hours to halt the culturing process. Once the fermentation has been stopped, it will not restart even if the milk is brought back to room temperature.
If a thicker yogurt is preferred, draining whey from the finished yogurt is one option for thickening it. Draining whey produces thick, Greek-style yogurt. For other ways to thicken homemade yogurt, see our article on Adding Thickeners to Yogurt.
Are you finally ready to make your own yogurt? Below are some great links, with step-by-step video instructions to teach you how to make different types of yogurt at home.