Making yogurt for your family is fun and easy: add bacteria to milk and let it work. However, there are some steps particular to each type of culture and milk.
When choosing a yogurt starter, consider how each type works, and choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.
Yogurt making does not require any specialized equipment. This basic supply list can be helpful when starting out.
Preparing the Milk for Making Yogurt
The procedure for culturing a batch of pasteurized mesophilic yogurt 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 starter culture.
To make raw milk yogurt, with any type of culture, there are special considerations, and an extra step may be required.
Inoculating the Milk
Using the correct proportion of culture to milk is important. The proper amount of culture will provide a nutritious environment for the bacteria to culture and thicken the milk properly. Follow the instructions included with your starter, for best results.
Culturing the Milk
The temperature of the culturing yogurt should remain fairly constant, and the yogurt should not be disturbed as it cultures. Maintain 105-112ºF for thermophilic yogurt or 70-77ºF for mesophilic yogurt.
Advice When Culturing Yogurt
Try these tips for Maintaining Temperature when Culturing Countertop Yogurt. Or learn How to Culture Thermophilic Yogurt without a Yogurt Maker.
Culturing Time Varies
Culturing time is important to making good yogurt. The amount of time the yogurt cultures depends on taste and texture preference. In general, the longer yogurt cultures, the more tart and thick it will be.
Natural Separation During the Culturing Process
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.
Refrigerating Your Yogurt
There is a 2-hour cooling-off period for thermophilic yogurt, 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 another option. Draining whey produces thick, Greek-style yogurt. For more thickening ideas, see our article on Adding Thickeners to Yogurt.
Instructions and Videos on Culturing Yogurt
Are you finally ready to make your own yogurt? Following are some great links, with step-by-step video instructions for teaching you how to make yogurt at home.
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