How to kick ass and save your wallet by making your own yoghurt (with no weird shit)

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by KateyAte
By: julesCC BY 2.0
I have been on a mission for a long time to make my own yoghurt. I've tried making yoghurt many times and every time I've ended up with sour, runny milk. Fine in smoothies, but not really good for anything else.

Finally, I cracked it. I managed to make proper, set, beautiful, natural yoghurt and when I did, I couldn't stop grinning like a loon and saying to my partner over and over, "I made YOGHURT!" and kind of grabbing at his face a bit as I did so.

I live in Australia and I can say that a litre of proper, natural yoghurt with no thickeners or emulsifiers (or "weird shit," as I think of it) costs roughly $5-$6 for non-organic stuff.

If you feel like $5 is a little too much to be paying for a litre of yoghurt then follow me, friends, and I'll show you how to make your own for half the price, if not less.

I'm going to be rigid with these instructions because this is how I did it, so I know it works, and I want you to have the same result. I have the bossy pants on.

First, buy a yoghurt maker. You know the ones — they have a container that sits in a bigger insulated cylinder and you put hot water in the cylinder. Or you can get super-fancy and buy an electric yoghurt maker and then you can tell me about it and I can cry with envy. You can do it without a yoghurt maker of any description, but I can't guarantee that'll work and this is an easy, non-messy way to go about it.

Also buy a cooking thermometer. Mine is one specifically for yoghurt and cheese making and it clips on the edge of a saucepan, so if you can find something similar, that'd work really well.

Get some full-fat natural yoghurt with no preservatives, no gelatin, no weird shit. In this instance, "weird shit" includes sugar.

Buy 1 litre of full-fat, non-homogenised milk. It might have been part of my problem before that I'd used homogenised milk, I don't know, but I know I've only had these good results with
non-homogenised milk (still pasteurized though – you could try it with raw milk if that's your bag). The stuff I bought was organic, but it doesn't have to be.

Now you have all the stuff, here's what you do with it:

  1. Get a big bowl and add a lot of ice cubes and some water to it.
  2. If you're using one, put the yoghurt maker on the counter because you have to move quickly once the milk is ready.
  3. Put the litre of milk into a saucepan and heat it on the stove until it reaches 90 degrees celsius, stirring constantly. You can clip the thermometer on the side of the saucepan in the milk but remember you'll get a different reading from the milk at the bottom of the saucepan and the milk at the surface. You want 90 degrees all the way through. I found it hit 90 when it was at the frothy stage.
  4. Take the milk off the heat and quickly pour it into the jar/container of your yoghurt maker and then put the jar/container in the bowl of water and ice. Don't put the lid on. Leave the jar/container in the bowl until the milk reaches 38 degrees Celsius, or between 35 and 40 degrees celsius.
  5. While you wait for it to reach the right temperature, fill the insulated part of your yoghurt maker with water, but only up to the top of the red bit inside it. Measure the temperature of the water — you want it to be as close to 40 degrees as possible so you may need to go slightly mad messing about with adding boiling water little by little until you get there.
  6. When the milk is the right temperature, stir two tablespoons of the shop-bought yoghurt into the milk. Don't get all maverick and put it in when the milk is too warm because if you do, you'll kill all the good bacteria in the shop-bought yoghurt and then all you'll have is sour, runny milk.
  7. Put the lid on and then transfer the jar/container to the insulated part of the yoghurt maker and put it somewhere where it won't be disturbed. You need to not touch it for 9-10 hours. And I mean, NOT TOUCH IT. Like, don't slightly move it over there because you need to do stuff over here. Don't even look at it.
  8. After 9-10 hours, take the jar/container out of the insulated bit and put it in the fridge.

I just realised how complicated that all sounded but it doesn't feel that bad when you're doing it, I promise! Put the TV on or something? I don't know. You can keep two tablespoons from the batch you make and use it to start the next one. This is pretty cool because you're getting a litre of proper, full fat, organic yoghurt for about $3 (cost of the milk).

  1. Is non-homogenized milk easy to find/inexpensive in Australia? Other homies correct me/educate me where it is sold in the US as none of my regular stores carry it, nor does the farmers market at my local CSA. There's one market that's a bit of a hike that sells it, but it's really expensive and would negate any savings of making my own.

    I know when I lived in Canada it was more widely available, so not sure if this is just a US thing.

    • My best guess would be Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. You can find it in the US in the organic milk sections if it's available at the store. I know Organic Valley makes one. It's typically easier to find from a local farm. We can usually find it being sold by a dairy farm rep at a farmer's market in our area.

    • I got my non-homogenised milk from Woolworths – it was the Paul's organic stuff that comes in a one litre white carton. Maleny Dairy non-homogenised milk and Barambah non-homogenised milk is available at lots of IGAs too πŸ™‚

    • I had good luck shopping at the "Ye Olde" grocery store – you know that one that sells those fancy European cookies and bakes its own bread every morning. The bottle of good non-homogenized milk is sold in glass and has a glass deposit, like old-school milk men used to bring around.
      But you're right, it's harder to find in the US because most Americans are 1) afraid of fat 2) afraid of "weird" food and 3) want consistency in a product. I think it's also harder to ship & store and keep it fresh.

    • I live in upstate New York and buy Ronnybrook Farms milk, which isn't homogenized. They've here in the Hudson Valley, but sell in NYC/NJ/maybe CT?. I get it at the local hippy-mart, but even the big supermarket (Hannaford) sells it.

      Non-homogenized is a bit more expensive, but it tastes amazing and is so totally worth it for my family. We buy skim, so separation isn't an issue.

  2. We only use organic dairy products in returnable containers, so I was really sad when I calculated that it was more expensive for me to make than by yogurt where I am! However, I was in a routine of making it for awhile and it was really fun! I don't have a yogurt maker and still didn't find it difficult at all. Just remember to actually have yogurt or starter on hand when you go to make it! The one time mine didn't turn out was because I had to run and get some from my neighbour and I think it was pasteurized or something because it did not yield a new batch of yogurt.

  3. I love making homemade yogurt! If you don't have a yogurt-maker, you can also make it with a saucepan, thermometer, oven, and big mason jar. I use this method, then strain with cheesecloth to turn it into thick, Greek yogurt. Yummy. πŸ™‚

  4. 1. I use homogenized milk and it works fine.
    2. Skip the yogurt-maker. Put it in a container on top of your stove or on a heating pad and make sure it doesn't go over about 115F, 120 will kill your bacteria. If you already have the heating pad, a yogurt-maker is a waste of cash.
    3. I just let the milk cool in the pan. It usually cools in about an hour and I didn't have anywhere to go anyway.

    For more info look up Alton Brown on YouTube and The Splendid Table radio show had a segment on yogurt-making. Google should turn up both.

    Enjoy!

    • A crockpot works great as well, I use mine all the time to make yogurt. It's basically the same system, you just put the milk in the crockpot, heat it up to 115F, turn off the heat, mix in your starter, then let it cool over night. In the morning you have some mighty tasty yogurt. You also can make much larger batches this way as opposed to a yogurt maker which only makes small batches.

  5. I've been doing this since I saw it on River Cottage a few years ago. I use homogenised and pasteurised milk. I have never tried uht as we don't really use it over here
    Also, I make my yoghurt using a thermos. When you heat the milk on the stove and add the yoghurt just pop it into a prewarmed thermos overnight
    am
    And if you want to use skimmed milk you can just add a teaspoon of skimmed powdered milk really helps to thicken it!

  6. This is great! I had a yogurt maker, but I sold it, because it took up too much space. We feed our dogs yogurt though, and we eat it all. the. time. I should try doing this again!

  7. This is a great tutorial! Also, I want a big sparkly button emblazoned with the phrase, "I have the bossy pants on." Just to give everyone fair warning.

    • Glad you liked it! I feel like warning people that the bossy pants are on softens the blow for the blunt and directive instructions πŸ™‚

  8. Homogenized or not doesn't matter. What you need is NOT ultra-pasteurized. Just pasteurized is fine, raw milk requires a lot more work. Pasteurization is the heating process before milk is considered safe to sell in most grocery stores. I've found that local brands and "natural" brands tend to be pasteurized as opposed to ultra-pasteurized. I buy mine at Whole Foods.

    I make yogurt at home, but don't have a yogurt maker. I put it into the ceramic insert of my crock pot, wrap a towel around it, and put it into my oven with the oven light on overnight. It retains heat quite well that way, especially if I have the oven on warm or a really low (100Β°F) temp for a little while before I put everything in there.

    • In Australia you can only get plain (unflavoured) ultra pasteurised milk in the non-refrigerated aisle so I've never tried to make yoghurt from it. Whenever I used normal pasteurised and homogenised milk I never got a good set on the yoghurt and it always came out a bit runny, which is why I tried non-homogenised. Glad to hear you've had success with homogenised though πŸ™‚ maybe a difference between Australian and US milk?

      • I had this issue too πŸ™‚ If you add a teaspoon (for 500ml) of dried milk it will thicken right up πŸ™‚
        Straining it was just too messy for me!

  9. My husband and I make our own yogurt! We started out using an electric yogurt maker that we got at the thrift store for less than $10, but it had a limited capacity, so we don't really use it anymore. What we use now is a contraption that my engineer husband made for tempering chocolate β€” but it's basically a programmable fairly-low-temp heater with a large bowl. (For those interested in more details: he used a heat lamp bulb inside a bucket, with water-heater insulation around the inside of the bucket. The bowl sits in the top of the bucket. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino, and it uses a relay to turn the light on and off). We use that contraption for yogurt, chocolate tempering, and "sous vide" cooking (low temperature, long time-period cooking – you vacuum-pack stuff (or get things that are already vacuum-packed, like frozen fish β€” eggs also work well, since the shell works as the vacuum-bag-equivalent) and then put it in a water-bath that is the same temperature you want your cooked food to be, and then just leave it there, and it winds up delicious and moist 'cause there's no way to overcook it).

    As to yogurt, though, anything that'll keep it warm overnight will pretty much work β€” yes, that includes simply wrapping stuff up in lots of blankets.

  10. First of all, THANK YOU FOR THE DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS. No need to apologize for the "bossy pants". I'm doing everything you're doing except:

    1) I use homogenized ( but not ultra-pasteurized ) milk
    2) I don't put ice in the cooling water bath but I do wait until it's sufficiently cool to add the culture.

    I get great results using either a dry culture or commercially prepared yogurt ( full fat, no additives, etc ). BUT when I use the yogurt I just made as my culture for the next batch, I get diminishing returns. After about 3-4 generations it just doesn't firm up like it should. So I have to go back to something I've purchased.

    Any idea what's going on?

    • It may depend how old your yoghurt is when you try to use it as a starter for the next batch. I only make a litre at a time because there's just me and my partner (and to save on fridge space!) so the starter is usually only a week old max before it's used. Let me know how you go πŸ™‚

      • My starter is not older than a week either and I only make a little over a liter as well. I make 7 small containers and save 1 to make the next batch.

        • It sounds like your bacteria aren't multiplying in the subsequent batches as much as they did at first. You could try doubling the amount of starter to get more bacteria in the new batch, which may help it set.

  11. I'm all for making homemade yogurt! I got a 2-quart yogurt maker a few years ago and I LOVE it! It's more than paid for itself over the last few years. I sometimes use fancy organic milk, but find that sometimes ends up more expensive than just buying the big tub of Fage 0% at Costco. Still, I love knowing exactly what's going into it, and the satisfaction of having done it myself.

  12. I make yogurt weekly… and it doesn't need to be this complicated.

    1. You only need to heat the milk if you want thick yogurt. And even then if you heat it slowly you only need to whisk it once in a while.

    2. You can allow it to cool naturally on it's own. I generally pour it into my storage jars (I make 4 L of milk and put it into 4 large canning jars.)

    3. You don't need special equipment to keep your yogurt warm. Just wrap it up in a wool sweater and leave it in the warmest spot in your house (think about your hot water heater).

    4. However, I make a lot of yogurt so I bought this: http://brodandtaylor.com/homemade-yogurt/ which allows me to make 4 L of yogurt at once!

    5. The longer you let it set the more sour it will be. If you set for 4 hours it will be like store bought yogurt. But I like a bigger dose of probiotics so I set mine for 24 hours.

  13. I make my own yoghurt in a yoghurt maker, without any proper temperatures or quantities or times. I feel like something in here must be too easy but I'm scared to look it up in case I prove that it's actually impossible and it stops working! This makes incredibly thick creamy yoghurt – I like it so a big spoonful will stick to an upturned spoon.

    I use the last little bit of the last batch of yoghurt as my starter. I just don't scrape the sides at all as I scoop it out so sometime I'm left with a tablespoon and sometimes closer to half a cup. I've noticed hardly any difference in the end result. I half fill the container with cold tap water and mix in all the leftover yoghurt, and give the lid a quick wash since I always get yoghurt in the screwthread. Then I add one and a half times the milk powder you would normally want for a litre of milk (or however big your container is) and give it a good shake until it's all dissolved. The normal amount of milk powder also works, but you get a far thinner yoghurt or if you leave it long enough to get really thick I find the flavour a bit overpowering. Then I top it up with more water and put it in the yoghurt maker full of just boiled water. When I remember at least 5 hours later, but sometimes up 15 or so (overnight, day at work, whatever) I pull it out and tilt the container to see if it's still runny. If it is I stick it back and if it's not it goes in the fridge.

    I try and make a batch at least once a week, sometimes I go nuts and make one nearly everyday! And if it doesn't work or I go on holiday or someone accidentally empties and washes it I just buy a little pottle of plain yoghurt with live cultures and use that for the starter.

    It's super cheap since all your paying for is milk powder, requires no extra equipment, leaves virtually no dishes and is really hard to mess up. I've only had maybe 3 or 4 failed batches in the last few years and mostly I think those were due to the last batch being too old.

    The only downside is that milk powder often has "weird shit" in it, mainly anti-caking agents. But I'm perfectly ok with that.

    If anyone is a bit more of an expert I'd love to know why this works even though I'm not heating it or measuring stuff or anything like that.

  14. Has anyone tried to make yoghurt out of goats or sheeps milk instead of cows milk? I wonder if goats or sheeps yoghurt making has some additional/different/specific tricks to it. My body can't handle cows milk but goats yoghurt is so scary expensive I can only buy it once in a blue moon.

  15. I've been making my own yogurt for over a year and a half now, and I love, love, love it! I've actually had excellent results using homogenized milk. I even use fat free milk, since it is my preference to eat less saturated fat (please refrain from throwing arguments at me for my food choices, thanks). I tend to use a packaged yogurt starter culture every few batches, then do a few batches using leftover yogurt from the old batch as my starter. I strain it using a chinois strainer, which gives me a delicious, rich, creamy Greek-style yogurt. It's as good as ice cream, I swear.

  16. I make a big batch every month with a gallon of milk, and get 4 quart-sized mason jars out of it. As long as you don't open a jar it can last a month in the refrigerator (if not longer, but I've always eaten mine around the month mark). I don't use a yogurt maker; instead of putting the jars in a yogurt maker, I put 4-5 inches of 120degree F water in a small cooler, toss in the jars, and let them sit over night. Perfection.

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