Five Things You Should Not Do When Making Homemade Yogurt

frozen yogurt starter.jpg

You may not want to let this happen. See #5.

1. Don’t be overly anxious.

I’ve had readers report sleepless nights in anticipation of a successful batch of yogurt. Getting up to check on your incubating yogurt like it was a sick child with a fever is not really necessary, although I can understand how exciting your first attempt can be.

Resist checking your incubating yogurt every 30 minutes to see if it’s “done” yet. Jostling or moving the bowl may spoil the process. After 5-6 hours it is OK to slightly shake and watch for a gelatin-like jiggle. If a slight shake causes a splash (of the milk, not just the whey sitting on top), apologize for interrupting and excuse yourself for another hour or two while the yogurt bacteria continue to multiply.

NEVER STIR yogurt before it has set.

Also, once you pour it into a strainer or another bowl, it is done incubating. If it didn’t set already, you will have to use as is or try again with more “starter”.

2. Don’t use old milk.

Using it to make yogurt is not a good way to salvage milk on the edge.

3. Don’t incubate yogurt in your oven right after using it to bake dinner.

Doing so can lead to mass murder of yogurt microbes and the sudden cancellation of your yogurt project. You might be surprised how long it takes a 400-degree oven to cool down to 100 degrees.

4. Don’t skip the heating process just because the milk you are using has been pasteurized.

I don’t completely understand the chemistry but heating milk to 175 degrees, pasteurized or otherwise, whether in the microwave or on top of the stove, rearranges the proteins in a way that is beneficial to yogurt bacteria. Skipping this step will result in thinner yogurt more suitable for drinking than straining for Greek yogurt.

5. I know it’s hard to stop, but don’t eat every last drop of your precious homemade yogurt.

Save a tablespoon to use as starter for your next batch. It’s the best (and cheapest) starter there is.

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Frozen Greek yogurt makes a great starter.

Here is a tip worth the price of this post. Go right now and put a little bit of your freshest homemade yogurt in a small plastic container. Place it in your freezer and save it for a rainy day e.g. the day you forget and accidentally eat the last of your yogurt…or when your spouse or kids unknowingly eat it all …or when you go on vacation ….or when you want to take a break from making yogurt but don’t want to give up the idea forever.

frozen yogurt starter.jpg

Yogurt made with frozen starter vs. yogurt made with fresh starter

I tried it several times and absolutely could not tell the difference between yogurt made using my own 3-day-old homemade yogurt as starter and that made with my homemade yogurt stored in the freezer for 3 months. I have not done extensive testing to know how LONG one can keep it in the freezer, but it should keep at least 3 months according to my experience.

If  you have a precautionary tale gleaned from your own yogurt-making experience, I would love to hear about it.

Related Posts:

Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt (Fat-Free)

A Cheat Sheet for Making Homemade Yogurt

Don’t Fear the Homemade Yogurt

How to Strain Yogurt the Easy Way

Answers to Your Questions About Making Homemade Yogurt

More Than Six Ways to Incubate Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker

A Discussion About Protein in Greek Yogurt

18 Ways to Use Whey–a By-Product of Greek Yogurt

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{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah June 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I seldom ever make a comment on a blog, but I had to today. I’ve made 2 batches of your yogurt recipe. Both have been perfect. I really think most of the success (other than your helpful hints) is don’t over think this. I put 2 quarts of skim milk in a bowl, microwaved 16 minutes. Used my handy dandy thermometer to watch it cool to 110-120 degrees. Stirred in some Greek gods plain nonfat yogurt. Took the chill out of my oven. Then wrapped my bowl in a beach towel with my thermometer in the milk and display on the counter. It went in the oven and I went to bed. Next morning (8″ish” hours later) it looked just like yours. I used the very fine cheesecloth (don’t have the awesome strainer YET) and strained it for a couple of hours. Added a touch of milk and whisked it well and it was PERFECT! I can’t believe I’ve been reading your blog for so long and just now attempted it. Don’t worry about it!!! Please people try it….it is SO much better than what you buy at the stores. I know at some point I’ll have a failure, but I have other failures in the kitchen and I know that happens. But this is so easy and the results are just unbelievable! I know I’m rambling and I could go on and on. Thank you so much for all your recipes, but especially this!

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Paula June 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Leah,
I’m thrilled to hear about your yogurt successes. Hope your comments will encourage others to give it a try. pr

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Patty June 10, 2012 at 12:03 am

Incubating yogurt in air laden with yeast spores from baking bread can cause your yogurt to at best not set, at worst, be slimy. Make sure to completely air out the house, exchanging for fresh, after bakingdeposit bread and before you incubate a fresh batch if yogurt.

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Peggy June 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I agree with whomever said not to overthink it, but even the processes I’ve seen described with towels and thermometers are too much effort. I’ve been doing this for years, and truly, it’s way easy, just like the blog author says. I heat a half gallon of milk in the microwave for 17 or 18 minutes, set it on the counter with a lid on it (to keep out other bacteria) til it feels just warm to the touch, whisk in the leftover yogurt or powdered starter if my yogurt is too old to be a good starter (like a week old instead of just a few days), put it in my cold oven and turn on the light in the oven to keep it warm enough to culture the yogurt, and go to bed. I generally leave it for at least 12 hours or so to get a really good set on the yogurt. It’s really not picky about being left for too long so don’t sweat how long you leave it. Then I drain it. The length of time you drain it doesn’t really matter either – it just determines how thick your finished product is and whether you have yogurt or yogurt cheese (there are cookbooks that provide ideas about how to use the latter). The only caveat I would add to the list of ‘don’t do this’ is: DON’T FORGET YOU HAVE IT IN THE OVEN AND TURN ON THE OVEN TO PREHEAT FOR COOKING SOMETHING ELSE BEFORE YOU TAKE IT OUT. I did that once. Major yuck – killed the yogurt but good. So I put the lid to the bowl that the yogurt is in, on the stove right in front where I’ll see it every time I walk by as a reminder that the bowl is in the oven, so I don’t forget it’s in there!!

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Paula June 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Peggy,
Thanks for the testimonial. I also forgot about some yogurt I was incubating in the oven and turned it on to preheat for baking something else. And you are right. Oh, what a mess! I like your reminder system. pr

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Vani June 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Quick question: Would you defrost the frozen yogurt starter before adding it to the lukewarm milk?

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Paula June 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Vani, I defrost it just enough to chip off a piece and dropped it into lukewarm milk. Whisk well. Some would disagree and make the whole process more complicated but it works for me.

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jeanette June 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm

After making yogurt for the last year, I guess my added tidbit of information would be to never allow a tasting spoon or finger to re-dip into your yogurt or container as the saliva will breakdown your yogurt and get runny (think baby food jar dilemma here…)
Other than that, this is the BEST greek yogurt ever!!!

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Paula June 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Good reminder, Jeanette.

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CommonSenseMom June 12, 2012 at 7:32 am

I don’t “double dip” but I seem to have that problem towards the end of the container anyway.

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jeanette June 12, 2012 at 9:08 am

yeah, with greek yogurt, even though I strain it very well, I usually have to pour out a couple tablspoons of collected whey from the top every day or so. Its just the way it is with homemade yogurt, no biggie and well worth it though.

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CommonSenseMom June 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

Is it OK to stir/disturb the yogurt while it is draining…to get more of the whey to the edges?

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Paula June 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm

CommonSense,
Yes, it is fine to stir the yogurt while draining although you run the risk of losing a few more solids. Certain strainers seem to need help, so go ahead, but stir gently.

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CommonSenseMom June 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

I’m still in the hunt for the “perfect” strainer!

I assume the point of your whisking step is to give the yogurt a more consistent, creamier texture. I haven’t tried that step yet because I was afraid it would begin to break down the yogurt’s structure and make it too runny. (I stir a serving right before eating.)

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Paula June 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

CommonSense,

Oh my, you simply must try whisking your drained yogurt. It is magical! Whisk drained yogurt that is as thick as ricotta cheese, then add small amount of milk and whisk again. It will give you a texture like sour cream depending on how much milk you add.

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CommonSenseMom June 13, 2012 at 8:33 am

Does the whisking help keep the whey from separating in the fridge?

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Piper@GotItCookIt June 12, 2012 at 9:21 pm

What about ONE more? Don’t waste the whey??? I use it for the liquid in homemade bread, or as a smoothie liquid. I know… sounds kind of yucky, but it adds a yummy tang and some protein too!

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Paula June 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Great tips, especially number 5! Thank you for sharing these with us.

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Susie June 13, 2012 at 9:20 am

great tips! another thing to keep in mind is that the yogurt incubation process may also get disturbed in some double ovens. from my experience, it has turned out better when the entire double oven is off for incubation, not trying to multi-task baking something else in the other oven & incubating yogurt in the other. the part of the double oven that is on still creates too much heat for incubation, at least in my oven.

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`Suzanne June 14, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Getting motivated to do it…gotta take the plunge :)

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Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) June 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I make my yogurt all the time. I have never given a thought to freeze it and use it as starter. That is something I will keep in mind. I strain it with a fine sieve and freeze the whey to use in baking. Also, I drain off the whey for my smoothies.

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Amanda June 20, 2012 at 9:21 am

I just found your website, and I am so excited about trying to make yogurt. I am going to buy the stuff tonight. I was wondering if you could help me with flavoring. My kids love strawberry flavoring, without the strawberry bits, any suggestions on what to use?

Thank you for your great Video!

Sincerely, Amanda

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Paula June 21, 2012 at 5:12 am

Amanda,

Two ideas: use dry strawberry jello or make this and strain it or put it in the blender. . You could leave the balsamic vinegar out.

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Sarinee June 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Hello, thank you so much for sharing your yogurt making experience. I’ve started making my own yogurt and your method was what I relied upon. I do have one question: sometimes my yogurt seems to come out salty! I do use a store-bought yogurt as my starter but I always buy the same brand of milk and the same brand of starter, but sometimes the yogurt comes out fine (mild and milky) and sometimes it comes out salty. Could you possible tell me what I am doing to result in salty yogurt? Thank you so much!

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Paula June 22, 2012 at 5:50 am

Sarinee,
I have never encountered salty yogurt. I’m sorry but I have no idea what would cause it. Are you incubating every batch at the same temperature and for the same amount of time? Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

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Sarinee June 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Thank you for the reply! I live in Asia so maybe there is something in the milk here that is different from in the States. That’s the only reason I can think of. I incubate by sticking in the oven so I think the temp is the same and pretty steady. I love your site. Cheers! :-)

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Judy June 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

Hi Paula,
I have made a few batches of your yogurt and it turned out great. I used skim milk and had no problems. Then last week I got some Smart Balance milk…it was on sale and I had a coupon :)… I have tried it 3 times now with the Smart Balance milk…the first time it came out ok…not as great as the skim milk, but still good. The next two times it was terrible. The first one set up perfect…looked just like the regular set up…but when I went to strain it it all went through the strainer. I tried putting in more starter and re-incubating it, but it never set up again. The 2nd time it set up perfect again, and I did the straining again…I used new starter for this on and it started to go through the strainer a little. I added it very slowly to the strainer. Finally I just saw whey coming out and not milk, so I was happy that it was working. I got most of the whey out but it was still kind of runny looking on top. I went ahead and transferred it to another container and when I whipped it up, it went all runny again. Seriously soupy. Anyway, I went ahead and put it in the fridge overnight and this morning it is not as runny as it was last night, but not as thick as I l want it to be either. So, I’m just wondering if you have every tried the Smart Balance milk and if it has given you problems. Or maybe I overheated the milk…can that cause this issue (I got a new microwave also and I’m trying to find that perfect cook time still). Anyway, any suggestions would be great.
Thanks,
Judy

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Paula June 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi Judy,

Frustrating. Right?

I have never tried Smart Balance milk. However, we do have a Brahms here and whenever I use their skim milk, my yogurt never turns out right. I know they add solids to improve the taste but I don’t really understand why it doesn’t work.

I wonder if any other readers have tried Smart Balance milk. If so, please share your experience.

I have overheated milk before but it still came out fine. Maybe you should stick with the cheap, store-brand milk. :-)

Thanks for writing.

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Neil October 6, 2014 at 12:32 am

That Smart Balance milk is “ultra pasteurized.” Although ultra-pasteurized milk sometimes works according to some reports on the web, it is to be avoided for making cultured products, because it usually doesn’t work. Another name for ultra-pasteurized is UHT (Ultra-high temperature).

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jessy June 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I made yogurt with smart balance milk and it turned out great. I boiled the milk – cooled and added culture. I heated the oven at 100 degree and kept it overnight. It came out great but I am not sure if it is ok to do this since the milk is pasteurized

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ELisa January 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Im really sad that my yogurt didnt set. The recipe i read said to put in oven with oven light on. My oven doesnt have a light, so i looked for alternatives. ANother blogger said to set on top of Fridge. so thats what i did. 12 hours later, it was watery still :( i put in the fridge to see if it will set, but i think that was a mistake. Any idea where i went wrong. I followed recipe to the T except for the light and also, i cut recipe in half. 1 qt milk, 1/4 yogurt, 1/2 powder milk. Can the yogurt be salvaged somehow? can I use the mixture for anything else?

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Paula January 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Elisa,
So sorry your yogurt didn’t work. I can’t imagine setting the yogurt on top of the fridge unless there is a working heating vent blowing hot air on it. Even that is questionable. Check out this post for some other ideas.

You can try making yogurt again with the same milk if it doesn’t smell off. You need to add new starter and find a way to incubate in an environment that keeps your yogurt between 100-105 degrees at all times.

You really don’t need powdered milk unless you just want to. Also don’t need more than a teaspoon or two of starter for 1 quart of milk. That is a common misconception. But in the end, it’s whatever works for you. Keep trying.

P.s. Did you heat the milk in the beginning to 175 f and then allow to cool down to 100-115? That is important if you like thick yogurt.

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ELisa January 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Perfect!!! Thank you. I will definitely try this when i get home! I am VERY determined!!!!

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Len January 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I froze the yogurt (in ice cube tray) for future use as a starter culture for my next batch. What is best way to defrost withiut damaging the live/active culture? Is microwaving okay?

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Paula January 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Len,
I don’t recommend microwaving. I just put my frozen yogurt into the warm milk and it defrosts right quick. Or you could just let it sit out for about the same amount of time as it takes your milk to cool down after you heat it.

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Len January 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Paula,
Thanks for the quick response. What temperature is the milk, when you put the frozen yogurt in it? I worry that my milk temperature target of 110 F degrees will be negatively impacted, if I put the frozen yogurt into the milk at 110 degrees. Maybe I should put the frozen yogurt culture into the warm milk around 120 degrees, and the final temperature will fall around 110 degrees. Otherwise, should I be concerned that elevated temperature of 120 degrees will damage a portion of the culture? Today’s batch was made, as you mentioned….”just let it sit out” to defrost.

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Paula January 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hi Len,
I try to keep my yogurt at 100 degrees F so it would not bother me at all to add the frozen yogurt around 110. 120 is borderline but probably all right. Hope it turned out like you hoped.

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nancy January 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I have some homemade frozen yogurt, slightly sweetened. What would happen if I used that as a starter?

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Paula January 26, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Hi Nancy,
That is a good question. I suppose it depends on how the ice cream was made. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be the best but let me know if you try it.

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Michelle March 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Ok- I accidentally over heated my yogurt in the oven after it had incubated about four hours- but only up to 170 degrees, so I thought I would just add a little more starter yogurt into each jar when it cools to the right temp and double-incubate. Sounds good in theory, right? Will post on the result. Can’t bear to pitch a whole gallon of yourt!

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michelle April 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Update- double incubation successful! Great batch.

Mishap on another batch- I forgot about it and it incubated 19 hours in an extinguished oven instead of 12! It smells yogurty and was still warm to the touch, so I am thinking all will be fine. Any impressions anyone? (I sterilized my jars, etc, so I am not really worried about contamination.)

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Tamar March 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I just tried making homemade yogurt last week…..I heat the milk to between 160 and 180 and then let it cool to 110 and add my 1.5T yogurt and put it in the yogurt maker for 6 hours and let it chill in the fridge for 12. It is nice and thick but as soon as I stir it, it starts to go runny. Is there any way to avoid this besides straining or adding powdered milk? I don’t mind straining it, but then I have to make yogurt twice as often! Any help would be appreciated.

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Paula March 16, 2013 at 7:58 am

Hi Tamar,
My directions, which include straining, are for Greek yogurt which is by definition, yogurt that has been strained of most of the whey. Yes, you would have to make it twice as often but for me, it’s twice as good (not so tart and more protein) so I just make twice as much yogurt to begin with. If you don’t want Greek yogurt, then take the nice and thick yogurt you referred to and chill it without stirring. The whey will settle out on top to some extent over time but you can pour it off or stir it back in as you prefer. I never add powdered milk because I decided I like the flavor and texture better without it.

If you are used to commercially-made yogurt with added gelatin or other thickeners, homemade yogurt is a little different (and various batches may vary). But it won’t take you long to get used to the real thing made fresh in your own kitchen without additives if you are a true yogurt lover.

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hippytea March 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

Top tip… um… don’t walk away from the milk when you’re heating it? :o

I have a “do” rather than a “don’t”. It took me ages to work out how to flavour my yoghurt – fresh fruit made it curdle, and jam and honey seemed to be too thick – the texture broke up before they were fully stirred in. At last I found that if you spoon jam or honey on top of the finished chilled yoghurt and leave it overnight, the jam/honey will go runny and stir in very easily without breaking the texture! No idea why this works, maybe the culture does something, or maybe the jam just sucks up water from the yoghurt (sugar attracts water), but it’s great, and very tasty. The same thing happens with lemon curd.

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Paula March 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Hi,

I walk away from mine all the time. Are you heating on the stove or in the microwave? I know that in my microwave, it takes exactly 17 minutes every time and will not boil over. Your advice is well taken if you are heating on top of the stove.

Interesting observation about add-ins. I’m guessing you don’t strain your yogurt and then whip it as I do to make Greek yogurt. Adding fruit, honey or jam will not break the texture of Greek yogurt. Regular yogurt is more fragile so what you have discovered is a good tip for those who do not strain off the whey.

Thanks so much for writing.

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Cydney March 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I have been making yogurt using your directions for almost a year now and we love it. My question is – I usually save out some of my yogurt before sweetening it to use as a starter. Today I forgot to save some out before sweetening it. Can I still use the sweetened homemade yogurt as a starter or will this affect my next batch?

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Paula March 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Cydney,

I use my sweetened yogurt all the time as starter. It may depend on what you are using to sweeten and how much but it has never hurt mine. Since you only need to add a couple teaspoons to a half gallon of milk, you aren’t adding much sweet stuff.

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Miriam May 14, 2013 at 10:14 am

Hi. I make homemade yogurt all d time n im yet to have a failed batch *thank God* i use powdered milk n evarporated milk as fresh milk is hard to get where i live. For incubation i use a cooler with warm water. I check after 4 hours if its nt yet set i add more hot water to bring up d water temperature. It works for me all d time.

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Paula May 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

So good to hear from you Miriam. I wonder if you could tell us the proportions of powdered milk to evaporated milk for others who might be in the same situation as you without easy access to fresh milk.

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miriam May 19, 2013 at 12:55 am

I use 31/2 cups powdered milk, 7 cups water and 150ml evaporated milk. I mix them together then bring to almost a boil then cool to just warm b4 adding 4tbsp plain yogurt frm my previous batch. Then proceed as usual. Though d taste of this one is not as sour as d one i make with just d powdered milk which i actually prefer. N once it gets as sour as i want it i transfer it to d frigde immediately without stiring. I leave it till it gets really cold dat way its creamy n smooth. If i stir it too early it ends up being chalky with tiny lumps. Hope this would be of help to someone.

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Paula May 20, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Thank-you for telling us how you do it. Maybe it will give someone else an idea who would rather use powdered milk instead of fresh milk.

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Debra May 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I had a batch that came out too liquid. I think we didn’t have enough cultures. Is there a way to reheat the batch & add more cultures or are we doomed to use this batch for smoothies?

Thanks! So glad I found this site. I’ve learned a lot of things that explained some of my trial & error incidences :)

I’m going to have to try that powdered milk recipe & freezing the cultures. I’m really bad about eating it all, especially now that it’s strawberry season & I’ve been making preserves.

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Paula May 24, 2013 at 6:40 am

Debra,
You can try reheating the batch as long as the milk still smells good. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t according to all the comments I get. Would love to have some of those strawberries to eat in my yogurt. YUM!

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Tiffani May 24, 2013 at 5:29 am

After waiting 9 hours I went to check my yogurt this morning (I incubate in a cooler with warm water) I found warm milk instead of yogurt. I have sucessfully made yogurt many times. After doing some research I found out I killed my starter because I added it before the milk was cooled to 110. I want to know if I can warm the milk back to 110 and add a new starter and try again with the same milk or if that would be harmful in some way.

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Paula May 24, 2013 at 6:34 am

Tiffani,
Many people try. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. If the milk doesn’t smell sour, I would try it.

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Patrick May 31, 2013 at 8:00 am

How do you strain the yogurt? I have cheesecloth. The directions say to strain for 6-8 hours, then refrigerate. I figure having a dairy product out in the open air (unrefridgerated) for 6-8 hours would contaminate it. It would seem that it would be safest to strain using a cheesecloth in a sealed container in a fridge, but I don’t have the necessary tools for this. Can someone make suggestions? Thanks!

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Paula May 31, 2013 at 8:20 am

Hi Patrick,
Check out my post about straining yogurt. It should answer most of your questions. There’s more than one way to do it.

About the refrigeration issue: It is not unsafe to leave your freshly-made yogurt on the counter for a few more hours while it drains. The acidic composition of yogurt takes care of that. It will strain much faster before it is chilled–doesn’t take 6-8 hours unless you want it as thick as cream cheese. If you chill it first, it will indeed take that long–or even longer. I also don’t have room in my refrigerator to strain a gallon of yogurt which is what I make every week.

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Patrick May 31, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi Paula, thanks for the help. I read through your article. I clicked on the link to the Bouillon strainer. I plan to purchase it. Amazon doesn’t mention the size of the strainer. Can you confirm that the strainer at the link you provided is the 2 quart strainer? My yogurt maker produces up to 2 quarts.

Thanks again!

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Reuben Victor June 6, 2013 at 7:34 am

Is it ok to use the slimy yogurt as a starter?

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Sarah July 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

@ Rueben: In my experience, if you use slimy yogurt as a starter, and I have, your new batch be slimy. I always cool my newly made yogurt at least to room temperature and typically I refrigerate it before draining off some of the whey to thicken to Greek yogurt consistency. I don’t keep the slimy whey as I won’t use it!
If I make a batch of yogurt that’s slimy, we still eat it, but I make my next batch of yogurt with fresh starter and am more diligent in sanitizing my jars, utensils, etc. to prevent making another slimy batch. I have never had a “bad” as in spoiled tasting yogurt, even if slimy. Hope my experience helps you!

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Rebeca August 17, 2013 at 3:45 am

I’ve started making yogurt recently and I’m having some problems. Well, the first batch came out perfect even though I didn’t use a thermometer, but the second never set and there was a lot of whey. I was convinced it had added the starter when the milk was still too cold, but I’ve got the same result again after checking the temperature.

I used the same milk and yogurt as a starter I did the first time, 1 liter per 1 tbsp yogurt. Any suggestion what the issue may be?

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Paula August 18, 2013 at 9:13 am

Rebeca, When you say you may have “added the starter when the milk was still too cold,” does that mean you didn’t heat it to 180 first and then allow to cool down?
A lot of whey can be caused by several things: too much starter (although that doesn’t sound like your problem), milk that is not so fresh, or incubating too long.

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Rebeca August 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for your reply, Paula.

Oops, I actually meant to say “too hot”. I did heat the milk and then let it cool down, but as I didn’t have a thermometer I thought it hadn’t worked out because it was too hot. But my next batch using a thermometer didn’t come out well either, so I don’t know. I salvaged it by straining it and I got a super thick, delicious yogurt, so at least it didn’t go to waste.

Anyway, a couple of failed batches won’t stop me, if it worked the first time, it’ll work again. Got some incubating now, I’m actually excited/nervous to see how it turns out!
Thanks again!

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Paula August 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hope it worked Rebeca!

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Rebeca August 22, 2013 at 2:17 am

It did work that time! But the next was a failure again. I’m doing exactly the same every time, I’m clueless.

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gaz October 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I put my regular batch of milk and yoghurt culture under the light last night but I had unknowingly killed my yoghurt batch previously. As a result it did not setup at all. My question is can I add fresh yoghurt and repeat the process again or is there something to worry about regarding the milk being at 100 degrees for 10 hours already?

Thank you, Gaz.

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Paula October 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Gaz,
As long as it still smells OK you could try again but results are not guaranteed. Or you could refrigerate and use in smoothies. If the smell is questionable, throw it out.

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gaz October 1, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Thanks Paula I’ll try it tonight and let you know how it turns out.

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gaz October 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Worked out great Paula, tried it this morning and it was firm and tasted great!

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Paula October 2, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Fantastic!

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Sdavis October 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Will honey kill the good bacteria in homemade yogurt? I’m new to making it – kids love it homemade but they definitely want it sweetened. Some like fruit; some don’t!

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Paula October 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

I don’t think so. But, I’m not a food scientist so can’t say for sure. I would avoid using honey-sweetened yogurt as a starter but that’s just my gut feeling. I’m with your kids. Gotta have it sweetened somehow.

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Eric_from_Ohio October 13, 2013 at 9:56 pm

i’ve made yogurt on and off for years. the one wisdomy nugget i have to offer for beginners is, use a blender to combine the milk and starter*. i’m convinced that NOT using a blender (ie, stirring in the starter, shaking, etc) doesn’t evenly disperse that dollop of Dannon you drop into the milk, and as a result your bacterial friends don’t colonize the jar evenly and properly. just my theory. could be wrong. but the only times i made yogurt that didn’t turn out to my liking were when i didn’t have a blender handy.

* in addition to the whole milk and starter, i add one oz of plain-jane supermarket powdered milk to each quart jar. makes it much thicker and creamier. my mom used to do this AND half a can of condensed Pet Milk. her yogurt was amazing.

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Paula October 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hi Eric,
We all seem to have different experiences with our yogurt. I have never used a blender to mix in my starter. My whisk works beautifully and I don’t have to wash a blender.

When I first started making yogurt, I also added powdered milk to my yogurt. I no longer do that. Did not care for the taste or chalky texture. However, if you like it, keep doing it. That’s the beauty of making your own yogurt. You get to customize. Thanks so much for writing.

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Betsy November 2, 2013 at 2:20 pm

How long does the yogurt last? And what is the best thing to store it in? I made mine last night and it is draining now :)

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Paula November 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Hi Betsy,
My yogurt doesn’t hang around long so I’m not sure how long it will last but at least 2-3 weeks. I store my yogurt in glass jars (see my favorites here) but have also used plastic containers. Hope you love your yogurt.

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Erica November 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Paula, thank you for the tip about freezing your starter. I’m going to do that now with the batch I made today.

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Paula November 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

I don’t have an Oven light. In summer I can wrap the yogurt in a blanket and it will set after 5 – 6 hours. Unfortunately in winter the weather is too cold to do this and get successful yogurt. In this case I have a big pan that can fit my container where I am making the yogurt and I fill this pan half way with water that is at about 120 degrees. Then I place my yogurt (with a lid on to avoid water dripping in from condensation) inside the pan with the warm water and then put a lid on the pan. I place the pan in an area that doesn’t have a draft and wrap that in a blanket. After about 1 1/2 hours I carefully lift out the yogurt without shaking it and change the water for new water that is at about 120 degrees to ensure the temperature is maintained. I continue to do this every 1 1/2 hours till it has thickened to the desired consistency. This seems a bit of work, but if you don’t have other tools, this one has never failed me. Perfect yogurt every time just very cautious when moving the yogurt as to not disturb the bacteria.

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Brianne November 16, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Help! My yogurt maker has a timer and I had a pregnancy brain moment and turned it on 1 hour! My yogurt cooled after 1 hour! I turned it back on but is it ruined?!

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Laurie November 25, 2013 at 7:26 am

Great post. I’m hooked on homemade yogurt too, but have always heated my milk on the stove, and of corse I scorch it or boil it over every once in a while. I’d like to try the microwave method. Can anyone who’s used a microwave post how many watts their microwave is along with how many minutes? Many thanks!

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CW November 30, 2013 at 10:06 am

hi, I’ve been making yogurt for a while and one thing I really can’t figure out is that my yogurt is never sour, even the incubate time is up to 24 hours. I have tried low fat milk, full cream milk and fresh milk, the results are similar. Please help

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Paula December 1, 2013 at 8:24 am

CW,
I am always trying to make mine less sour so you may be asking the wrong person. Normally, your yogurt will get more sour the longer you incubate it. Beyond that, it depends on your starter. Many people find that using their own homemade yogurt as starter will eventually make yogurt that gets a bit more sour with each batch. If that doesn’t work, I would look online for cultures that claim to make a more sour yogurt.

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Bonnie December 1, 2013 at 8:37 am

Greetings – am just beginning my adventures in home made yogurt – first attempt failed, looked more like a brick of cheese – left it too long and the warmer warmed more (130) than it had during my test (105) using water in the crockpot. That aside, am going at it again. My question to you is this – heating the milk in the microwave? My kids are 20something, and have recently shared some research concerning the microwave. A student wanted to study the effects of microwave, used plain water & microwaved water to care for plants… The plants which received the microwaved water were much more stunted in growth than the regular water, all other factors were the same. Just enough info to make me stop and think before I use the microwave oven, I don’t know how you might feel about that. I will try your way this time, but will heat the milk the old fashioned way on the stove top with the candy thermometer.

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Paula December 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Hi Bonnie,
Hope your second attempt at yogurt was successful.

Re use of a microwave: we all have to decide who to believe since extremely few of us can do the actual scientific research on microwave cooking ourselves. You can read and support just about any opinion you want on the internet these days.

Meanwhile, I have absolutely no qualms about using a microwave for myself, but if using one makes you uncomfortable, by all means don’t. I’m not here to change anybody’s mind–just sharing the fastest and most efficient method that works for me.

Happy yogurt eating!

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Dawn January 1, 2014 at 6:00 am

Could the whey be used as yogurt starter? In all my googling before attempting to make yogurt, I read somewhere to put whey in ice trays and freeze to use as starter for yogurt. Now that I have successfully made yogurt and straining the whey off, I tried to find that blog again and can’t. Has anyone tried this?

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Paula January 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Yes, Dawn. I have made yogurt with whey. Works just fine. I have not tried freezing whey but you can make yogurt with frozen yogurt (not the dessert stuff) so I’m sure frozen whey would also work. Perhaps I will do a post about it. Thanks for the idea.

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Dawn January 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thanks Paula! I was thinking of how easy it would be to pour up the whey into ice trays and if that worked as a starter, it would be less messy I would think. Would you use the same amount of whey as you would yogurt as starter? When you use your yogurt starter frozen, do you put it in fridge to defrost overnight before hand? Cannot get over how much better homemade tastes! Don’t think I can enjoy store bought now!

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Mike February 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have made excellent, super-thick yogurt with frozen starter that was 6 months old (I have used all milk down to 1%). I started with a just-purchased 32 oz. tub of Dannon all-natural plain yogurt and portioned it into ice cube trays (each cube in the tray held 2 tablespoons of the yogurt).
After removing the 24 cubes from the trays I placed them into a ziploc freezer bag. Each week when I made yogurt I used one of the cubes and I let it defrost in a small bowl while my milk was heated and then cooled down to the proper temperature. I haven’t had one failure. One time I even left the bag of cubes out and they melted. I refroze it, and the starter still worked fine! For my next batch of starter cubes, I intend to freeze the yogurt in the preferred 1 tablespoon portion (for 8 cups of milk) and see if this amount works as well. Then I’ll be able to see if the cubes are viable for 1 year! I’m sure that you could do the same with homemade yogurt as starter.
I have to add that I think the other most important thing for successful yogurt-making is always maintaining a constant 100-110 degree temperature while the yogurt is growing.

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Paula February 2, 2014 at 7:45 am

Hi Mike,
I like your efficient system for storing starter. Have you ever tried freezing the whey? (if you drain your yogurt, that is) Also makes a great starter.

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Renée February 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Hi there!
I’m becoming quite a yogurt expert researching it for my job right now and I thought I could clarify the science behind point #4 (not sure if anyone already clarified this, I don’t really have time to read ALL the comments but I thought this could be useful to some anyway):

Casein is the milk protein that gels to form yogurt, encapsulating whey in a “spongy” matrix. Casein floats around in milk in the form of globules, or micelles. In fresh milk, the suspended micelles bump into each other and bounce away, going off in different directions.

When an acid is added to the milk, the interactions between the protein micelles are modified, and now instead of bouncing off each other, they stick together when they meet.

Now here is the reason why you need to heat the milk and failing to do so results in sub-par yogurt:

As the milk is heated, the microstructure of the protein micelles changes, they become bumpy. Micelles in unheated milk do not have these bumps.

The bumps on the micelles make it so only a limited number of sites on its surface are available to interact with other micelles. This means that the micelles can only adhere to each other in branched chains.

In unheated milk, there are no bumps to prevent adhesion, so ALL sites are available, and instead of forming a spongy matrix, the proteins form a curd. This means that less liquid can be trapped in the “pockets” of the matrix. Therefore, you will have runnier and grainier yogurt.

Check out this link for technical details and diagrams: http://www.medicinalfoodnews.com/vol01/issue5/kalab.htm

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Donna February 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Hello,

I use Dannon plain unflavored, unsugared yogurt as a starter. My problem is I’ve become lazy in freezing the yogurt for starter for lack of something decent to freeze it in. So I leave it in fridge. But it’s in there a week before the next batch gets made. Is it dangerous to do this? I mean to my health? Or is it just merely not as effective cultures. I don’t have any idea how old the yogurt is when I purchase either, but am wondering.

Thank you,

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Paula February 28, 2014 at 11:01 am

Donna,
If your yogurt doesn’t smell bad or have weird things growing on it, it should be fine. However, the older it gets, the fewer live bacteria it has. And you are right. It’s hard to know for sure how fresh the yogurt you buy really is. That’s why I prefer to use my own yogurt.

Have you thought of putting some yogurt for starter in an ice cube tray? Of just spoon a tablespoon or two into a little snack baggie and freeze.

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Larry March 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I’ve been making yogurt for years. I recently switched to greek yogurt but couldn’t figure out why it was slimy. I cool the milk in a pot of ice water and let it get to room temperature. I’ll try again. I learned some great tips in this article. Thanks.

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Lisa April 14, 2014 at 8:49 am

It seems the comments are geared towards making greek yogurt, but I was wondering if anybody here had some tips on making Piima yogurt? Since that is a thinner variety that I’ll be using in smoothies, do I need to worry about straining it?

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vernon April 27, 2014 at 9:39 am

I reduced 2 gallons of milk and added some of my previous culture. Left the pot on the stove (off) over night and noticed the liquid congealed when shaken, but when i cut in with spoon the yogurt is almost like egg white slime consistency.. it taste great not as sour as i would like it.. does any one know if this still good or need more time to set or is this bad???

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