A Cheap Way To Strain Yogurt Without Using Cheesecloth

Straining with coffee filter-5.jpg


Using cheesecloth to strain yogurt is so “old school.” I know, I know…..some people say it’s not that much trouble, but I disagree. You have to scrape off any left-behind yogurt without getting it on your hands, rinse, wash, dry, fold, and store the cloth when you’re done. No thank you. I prefer throw-away or the dishwasher for this task.

My solution has always been a high-quality bouillon strainer, but my favorite one is pricey. It works great until you make a batch of thin yogurt (sad face) that flows right through it.

Recently,  a reader named Doreen left this comment detailing her method of straining yogurt:

“I wanted to say I found a great way to strain. I had bought a fine mesh sieve but, for some reason it stopped working as well- maybe dishwasher damaged it, not sure. I bought some institutional-size coffee filters and placed inside a standard sized colander and it will strain all 2 quarts in your recipe. I put the colander inside a mixing bowl and top it with the same lid that I incubated my casserole dish of yogurt. I put the whole straining setup in the fridge and leave it for a few hours. When it is thick enough it pulls right away from the filter. The whey is perfectly clear so there is no loss of yogurt. Thank you again for homemade goodness!”

Thank you for writing, Doreen. You are a genius, and you have changed my yogurt-making process for the better.

To those of you who already wrote to me suggesting coffee filters, I assumed you were talking about the little ones I use every morning to make coffee. It would take me forever to strain a gallon of yogurt with that size filter.

The very day I read about Doreen’s method, I went looking for large paper filters and found some 13 x 5 inch filters designed for a 1-1/2 gallon coffee brewer at my local restaurant supply. You can purchase them online here. I paid around $14 for 500 filters. If I use 4 a week, that box should last over 2 years. (Just discovered this same system works for straining the cold-brewed coffee I use to make my iced lattes. Forget 2 years.)

Besides the coffee filters, you will need a colander. The dollar-store variety works just fine. You could even use the basket part of your lettuce spinner if you like.

Straining with coffee filter-31.jpg

The whey from straining yogurt through a coffee filter contains no visible solids.

Why I love this method:

  • No loss of solids (see picture above)
  • Paper filters are disposable
  • Cheap (My cost was $1 plus tax for orange colander and less than 3 cents per filter. I use 2 filters to make a double layer for ease of handling yogurt.)
  • Strained yogurt easily separates from paper for quick clean up
  • Cheap colander or a colander-substitute works fine to hold paper filter
  • Strain 2 quarts of yogurt at a time (using 13 x 5 inch size filter)
Straining with coffee filter-36.jpg

This is the thick Greek yogurt (unstirred) of my dreams.

P.S. I do not place my yogurt in the fridge to strain as Doreen does. The yogurt is acidic enough to sit safely on the counter for a couple hours of straining without spoiling. In my experience, yogurt will strain faster at room temperature so it’s most efficiently done straight out of incubation.


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Deidre December 21, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I put my yogurt into large nut milk bags, hang them on my cupboard door knobs, and put a bowl underneath. Perfect!


Paula December 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Great idea Deidre.


Scott Pardee January 20, 2015 at 2:33 am

Need some quick ricotta cheese? Use the drained whey from your yogurt. Fill a coffee mug halfway with milk. Add about 1 inch of whey and stir (4 parts milk to 1 part whey). Microwave until boiling (watch out for boiling over). Pour contents of mug into a funnel lined with a coffee filter. If you have one a plastic manual drip coffee maker works even better. When the whey drains out what is left in the filter is the best and quickest ricotta you ever saw. Even more decadent is to add a little heavy cream before boiling.
Recipe can be made larger, just use the 4 to 1 milk/whey ratio.
I have seen recipes online where you can make ricotta from just the whey. It doesn’t work. Apparently yogurt uses all of the milk protein. Dairies that use whey to make Ricotta use the whey from Mozzarella, which only uses some of the milk’s protein.


gidget June 23, 2016 at 9:48 am

awesome idea! thanks!


Scott Pardee January 20, 2015 at 1:43 am

The coffee filters are a good idea, but I think the difficulty of using cheesecloth is greatly exaggerated. I use a piece big enough to fold in half and still easily cover the collander. I keep it in a zip lock bag. At straining time I dump to yogurt from the incubation pot into the large cheesecloth lined collander. The collander sits in a large salad bowl to catch the whey. When the desired amount of whey has drained, pick up the cheesecloth by the corners and set it in the salad bowl after dumping the whey out of it. Pull on two corners of the cheesecloth and the yogurt flips right into the bowl. Usually none stick to the cloth. Stir or whip yogurt and scoop into small containers. I use 4oz strofoam cups from the restaurant supply (about $3 for 50 and I reuse them, too). Now the easy way to clean the cheesecloth. Rinse good under hot tap, squeege a few drops of dish soap onto the cloth, squish it around in your hands for a few seconds and rinse real good. Stuff to cloth into a coffee mug, fill with water and microwave until water is boiling. Cheesecloth is now clean and sterile .Put it on a clothes hanger, or something like that. When dry fold and put it back in the ziplock. Done. I know this might seem complicated but it is only about a minute from first rinse to microwave. And while it dries, you don’t have to be there. And cheesecloth never tears.


Leah January 22, 2016 at 11:01 am

Thank you, this works.


bleka tänderna December 6, 2014 at 5:31 am

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Nicole November 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I usually make a gallon at a time. I have found that lining a colander with paper towels works well for larger quantities.


Paula November 15, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Somehow I tend to make a mess with paper towels. They aren’t shaped right. 🙂 But if they work for you–fantastic!


Patricia R. November 15, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Ok, this was sheer genius. I could not find a cheap source for the filters and ended up paying about $23 including shipping for 500 of them. I had my ancient Tupperware colander and the perfect size bucket for it to sit in in my fridge. I used two filters as you suggested but I might try one next time just to make them last longer, but not if it is more of a hassle. This is way faster then having to thoroughly clean the very expensive bouillon strainer. Just a quick rinse of the strainer/bucket and I am done. I make the yogurt and strain it for both me and my mother so I am constantly making and straining yogurt. Thanks for the new info. I do use my strainer for other things so it won’t go to waste but for those that don’t have one, this is a great alternative to strain two quarts at once.


Paula November 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Sorry you had to pay so much for those filters. Maybe you can find some at a restaurant supply before you need to buy again. Surely they would be cheaper.


VENKAT November 9, 2014 at 2:13 am

why not use kitchen paper towel on a tea strainer. of course some amount attached to the paper will be waster.


Becky November 2, 2014 at 9:53 am

Great idea! I never thought about using commercial sized coffee filters. I will look for some. So, you are cold brew coffee convert, too? I tried it about a month ago, and I am sold. I love the convenience, the mellow coffee flavor, and the decrease in acid. My stomach is loving it, too.


Helen November 1, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Quick question…Do you use the whey for anything or just discard? Thanks for getting back to me on this…just about to make a batch of yogurt this week.


Paula November 1, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Helen, Here are some ideas for the whey.


Angelina November 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Great stuff, will give it atry. (I learnt to make yogurt a few weeks before I found your Swedish Apple Pie that led me to your blog, but I’m “whey” in love with your yogurt posts since there’s always something new to learn.) I’ve been straining yogurt like Ina Garten did in one of her shows; lining a regular colander with paper towels, just on the countertop to thicken it a little bit for a cake recipe. I also strain it overnight in the fridge for fear of the summer temperatures here that soar to 40+ degrees celcius.


CommonSenseMom November 1, 2014 at 8:50 am

This is how I do it as well. I got my larger filters at Sams Club. However, I usually use three filters to line my colander. One is not big enough. Maybe my colander is larger. I also strain it in the fridge…but I strain overnight.


Paula November 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Hi CSMom, I suspect my filters are larger than yours. They will hold two quarts of unstrained yogurt. My restaurant supply had at least 3 different sizes and I bought the largest size. Didn’t even think to check Sams. I’m going to check Costco on my next trip and see what they carry. Surely cheaper than buying online.


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