Homemade Yogurt FAQ

Since launching this site, I have had people from all over the world email me with thanks, yogurt making success stories, comments, and questions. I've decided to take some of the most common yogurt making questions I've received and compile them into this Homemade Yogurt FAQ. If you have a question about homemade yogurt, and it is not answered below, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Topics:

Equipment & Ingredients

Can I use fat free (1%, 2%, etc.) milk to make yogurt?
You can use any type of milk (cow or goat) you care to, in any fat concentration you choose. However, the less fat the milk has, the thinner the yogurt will be. I personally have had issues with goat milk labeled UHT, which indicates ultra high temperature pasteurization. This enables the milk to stay on the shelf for very long periods of time, but has given me trouble with thin, runny yogurt. Other users of the site have said that UHT works fine for them. Try for yourself and see.
Can I use soy milk to make yogurt?
The short answer is yes. However, the techniques described on this site would need to be altered to an extent beyond the knowledge and experience of the author. I would suggest learning more about soy yogurt making from someone more knowledgeable.
Can I use lactose-free milk to make yogurt?
Yes, and no. Lactose is the sugar in milk that the yogurt bacteria will consume, and produce lactic acid (yogurt's tanginess and natural preservative). Lactose-free brands such as Lactaid are made from cows milk with lactose, and lactase added. Lactase is the enzyme missing in the gut of lactose intolerant individuals. It breaks the lactose down into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. The yogurt cultures consume these to make the yogurt. So if the milk did not have any lactose to start with, it would not work. With that said, there is not much lactose left in the finished yogurt even when you use regular old milk. As a result, many lactose intolerant individuals can enjoy yogurt. You might want to try a small amount of good quality plain yogurt, and if all goes well, start making your own. If that fails, use Lactaid or other brand.
Can I use coconut milk to make yogurt?
Coconut milk is not really milk. It's pulverized coconut flesh and coconut water. So making yogurt in the strictest sense is not possible, since it lacks milk sugar (lactose). However, if a suitable sugar can be added to satisfy the cultures you have added, there is no reason it couldn't turn into yogurt, or at least some type of coconut moonshine.
How do I make Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt is very popular on the American market right now. Having never been to Greece, I cannot comment on whether or not what we are seeing is authentic. But I do know that it contains cream in addition to milk. So the added fat is contributing to the nice thick texture. Also, it is a strained product. After the yogurt has incubated, it is set on a fine sieve, and some of the whey runs out, making it thicker yet. Surely some of the healthy bacteria in the yogurt goes with it. So between the loss of cultures and added fat, I typically don't eat it. I just have some gelato if I am looking for this type of dairy treat.
Do I really need a thermometer to make yogurt?
Technically, none of the equipment mentioned is an absolute requirement. But would you bake a cake or chicken without a thermometer on your oven? Sure you can guess right with a pretty high rate of precision, once you have performed a task dozens and dozens of times. But in order to get there, and not waste a lot of money doing so, spend the small amount of money on a thermometer. It will help ensure predictable results every time out.
Can I use a crockpot instead of a heating pad to make yogurt?
My understanding is yes, but I have not personally tried it. As long as your crockpot can hold the milk at an even 105-110°F for seven hours, you can use it.
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What Went Wrong?

My yogurt has green liquid on top, is it okay?
Absolutely! After seven hours, you may open your pot to find yogurt with a green or yellow liquid on top. This is a good thing. Mix it back into the yogurt and chill it overnight per the instructions, Then, eat and enjoy.
Why is my yogurt is a little thin
As compared with most store-bought yogurt in the US, homemade yogurt is going to be a bit thinner. Many brands add pectin and other thickeners to satisfy the US market, that traditionally do not appear in yogurt. However, since that is what many Americans are accustomed to, there are a few things you can do:
  • Use a milk with a higher fat content.
  • Add some powdered milk to your liquid milk.
  • Hold your milk at 185°F for thirty minutes before cooling and adding your starter. This is how brands that do not use pectin or other thickeners (like Dannon) achieve thicker results. The extended heating denatures the milk proteins, and enables them to sequester more of the water in milk, and you lose some more to evaporation.
I waited seven hours and it is still just milk. What happened?
This question has several possible answers:
  • You used UT or UHT pasteurized milk. (see above)
  • Your starter was not plain yogurt with active cultures.
  • You didn't use a thermometer. (see above)
  • You didn't first heat your milk to 185°F
  • You didn't incubate at 105-110°F with a heating pad or other source.
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Tips & Techniques

Can I use freeze-dried yogurt cultures?
Definitely. You can buy these in health food stores or from a variety of online sources. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions when incorporating them into this process.
Can I freeze some of my yogurt to use as a future starter?
Yes! You can freeze 2-3 Tbs of your yogurt for use with future batches, and keep it in your freezer for several months. You might want to get into the habit of doing this every time you make yogurt, just so you always have some on hand. Just be sure to defrost it completely in your refrigerator in advance of making a new batch.
Can I flavor my yogurt before it is done incubating?
No, you should always wait until the yogurt has incubated for seven hours and spent overnight in the fridge. The sugars and other ingredients in flavorings like honey, jelly, james, etc., can interfere with the incubation of the cultures.
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