Making yogurt

This page is moving to its permanent home.

In the blog I have two posts that deal with my findings when trying to make yogurt at home:
Part 1
Part 2

I thought I’d make this page with my findings, without the story.

There are plenty of pages in the web that show you how to make yogurt at home. They all share the same steps:

  1. Scald the milk and let it cool.
  2. Introduce the culture in the milk, either from yogurt, or freeze-dried.
  3. Keep the milk at a steady temperature for several hours (8 to 24), either in a yogurt maker or in an tricked out oven.

For me, step 1 has always seemed annoying. Scalding the milk is the most labor-intensive step, and it requires vigilance to make sure the milk doesn’t burn. Also, almost all sets of instructions on yogurt recommend that you get milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. Many recommend raw milk. But, scalding the milk at home is actually harsher than ultra-pasteurization. To me this is cognitive dissonance.

Making yogurt without scalding the milk

If you try to make yogurt without scalding the milk, using regular, non-ultra-pasteurized milk and a regular yogurt maker, you will probably find that your yogurt leaks whey, which gives it a bad taste and a bad texture.

There are two ways of getting good taste and texture out of un-scalded milk (there may be more but these are the ones I found).

  • Use ultra-pasteurized milk: I use Organic Valley. The texture and taste are great. I don’t understand all those complaints against ultra-pasteurized milk. Some people have problems digesting pasteurized milk, it is true. But for the rest of us, ultra-pasteurized is a very good milk for yogurt. Let me stress: home scalding is harsher than industrial pasteurization (if Harold McGee’s tables in On Food and Cooking are accurate)
  • Control incubation temperature: The bacilli in yogurt thrive mainly in a range of temperatures: 90-110F, or 32-43C. On the hot end of the range, the fermentation is fastest, but it produces a coarse grid that leaks whey. On the cold end of the range, the fermentation is slowest, but it produces a finer texture that traps whey. If you manage to get the incubation temperature down to 90-95F, the texture of your yogurt will improve, and they whey may disappear completely.

How to control incubation temperature

Commercial yogurt makers don’t offer control over incubation temperature. I know two ways around this:

  • Use a food dehydrator instead. These can go down to 95F.
  • Get an external temperature regulator. This is a gadget that you plug to the power outlet. You plug the yogurt maker to the gadget. The gadget has a temperature probe that you stick inside the yogurt or (how I do it) inside a cup with water inside the yogurt maker. It is then programmed to shut the yogurt maker off when the temperature reaches X, and turn it on again when the temperature is lower.

Temperature regulator

The one I know is the Johnson Controls model A419. You can get it here.

The temperature regulator



15 Responses to Making yogurt

  1. Pingback: Raw yogurt, at last « Lost among Americans

  2. Pingback: Fun with milk « Lost among Americans

  3. Shana Fuller says:

    If you please, what is the brand/model # of your temp regulator for your yogurt maker? Thank you!

  4. Dan Casciato says:

    Jamie – just purchased the Johnson Control A419 for controlling a number of different temperature controlled processes. For the yogurt making what mode, set point and differential did you use?

    I am thinking of wrapping in a heating pad after preparation and the following:

    Heating Mode, Cut-out as Setpoint
    Set Point = 105 Deg F
    Differential – 10 Deg F

    Figured that the cut out would give me a cushion for temp rise and the Differential would allow it to warm to not go below 90 Def F. Thoughts?

    Thanks Dan

    • Hi Dan,

      I set it to Heating/Cut-out, with a SetPoint of 95F, and a differential of 5, as I wanted to keep the temp between 90 and 95. Seems to have been working fine. I just kept water in one of the cups inside the yogurt maker, and stuck the probe into it.


  5. lisa truitt says:

    Thank you! Someone with some common sense is refreshing. That ultrapasteurized milk, or pasteurized milk would be so bad made absolutely no sense to me. Especially the idea that it couldn’t make yogurt. I think this is coming from some misguided health gurus. One source that I know of is the website, the site of the Weston Price Foundation. They do have a lot of good info. on nutrition and really stress natural foods raised and prepared as our ancestors did. Things like pastured animal products rather than animals confined indoors where they can’t get sunlight, fresh air and their natural diets of grass, bugs, etc. The animals are healthier and have higher nutritional content in their meat and milk. But it seems to me sometimes they can be unscientific and extreme. They make a statement that ultra pasteurized milk is so denatured and its nutrients so destroyed that the microbes that make yogurt can’t even live in it. That is absurd. I have made yogurt myself from ultra pasteurized and it came out just fine. I’m not sure where they get these ideas. Sometimes I think they just read stuff that sounds good to them based and go with it even though that haven’t confirmed that it is really true. I have read a number of mythical statements like this. I have seen studies that showed that people who consumed dairy products were healthier than those who didn’t, and the dairy in the study was regular store bought stuff. They also say goofy stuff like that b vitamin supplements, the type synthesized in a lab will not cure beri beri, and that supposedly Korean pows experienced this. I can’t find any documented proof of this anywhere, and have found considerable info refuting the idea that supplemental non food sourced b vitamins won’t cure b vitamin deficiency disease. They completely discourage people from supplemental vitamin or minerals that are not food source, when there is a great amount of evidence that they can be very helpful in correcting defiencies and maintaining or regaining health, and when it is just not feasible for most people to spend the tremendous amounts of money that it would take to buy all the pastured, organic, foods and the numerous superfoods that would be needed to provide all the different vitamins and minerals, not to mention that the dosages of vitamins and minerals that could be obtained even with all this effort would not be enough to take care of certain health problems related to low levels of various nutrients in some people.

    • Really can you provide a link or article name there where the absurd statement is made ? That sounds more like a blog post to me.
      In my search I did find a ref to the concept of poor calcium absorption from the pasteurized milk. “We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium.”

  6. nasukaren says:

    You can controll the temperature precisely with a PID controller, which is what many DIY sous vide people are doing. Look up “DIY Sous Vide” on the google.

  7. Andrew Sistrand says:

    I use raw milk heated to only 110 degrees in a microwave. Then I add culture and place in a food dehydrator set at 105 degrees. The yogurt is perfect with no separation of whey, and all nutrients are preserved with the low-temperature method.

  8. Andrew Sistrand says:

    I forgot to add- I leave the yogurt in the dehydrator at 105 degrees for 12 hours

  9. CityKid says:

    Scalding milk changes the chemical nature of the milk (casein specifically):

    “Some milk proteins unfold at scalding temperatures. In yogurt making, this allows for a tighter matrix to form as the proteins refold in the acidic environment, resulting in less whey separation and a firmer end product
    This unfolding of protein also seems to help in bread making, resulting in a finer crumb and better rise”

  10. Teresa says:

    Thank you, Jamie – this was helpful 🙂

  11. Magnus says:

    I have made yogurt at home for about six months. My temperature controller is a Dorkfood DSV, which probably does the same thing a Johnson control does. I rig a water bath on a hot plate to scald the milk. The temp probe goes on the bottom of the water bath and the milk is heated to no more than 185 to 190 and remains at that temp for about 30 minutes. Then I fill the sink with ice water and cool the milk vessels down to the inoculation temp range. I introduce the culture and start a new water bath at a lower temp, typically 99 or 100 degrees F. I leave it for up to a day. When I get home from work the following day, I have very tart and smooth yogurt ready for the fridge. Sometimes there is a bit of whey, but I just give the vessel a shake or two and it mixes right in.I did try a small non-scalded batch once. I only brought it up to 100 degrees and inoculated. The result was yogurt but it was basically fluid, but no whey.
    I have recently retrofitted a 1972 Frigidaire with a PID controller and I’m going to see if I can make yogurt in the oven instead of water bath.

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