Happy Cheese Makers Since 1978

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One of the original dairy foods

What is Yogurt?

True yogurt is defined by a very specific process that dates back in time but no one really knows how old it is. It has evolved as a natural way to preserve milk by converting lactose to lactic acid with natural dairy cultures.

Traditional yogurt was made with boiled milk but today only heated to about 185F. This process prepares specific whey proteins found in milk but not normally involved in the cheese making process (most of these usually run off in the whey in hard cheese production). Their primary role is to form a thick gel with the activity of specific cultures. The higher temperatures of the yogurt making process is what changes these whey proteins to form the thick texture associated with yogurt.The specific cultures involved are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus and together work in a way that benefits both cultures. The preferable balance between these two cultures is a 1:1 ratio and it is this balance that is important to maintain. The primary role of the cultures is to convert lactose to lactic acid as well as several other flavor components found in yogurt. These are Acetic Acid (vinegar), Diacetyl (butter), and Acetaldehyde (green apples). You may also find several other cultures in yogurt today often labeled as "Probiotics" such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus lactis.

Modern yogurt in the western world dates back only to the early 1900s, was not produced in the US in any large amounts until 1940, and never really became popular until the 1970s when Dannon (originating in Spain not France) popularized their version. What currently passes as Yogurt now is a product thickened with many additives and sweetened for the mass market. It is also commonly sold in a low fat version as well.

A true yogurt will release whey when the surface is broken (this can simply be poured off or stirred back in). This is because there are no thickeners or emulsifiers added to the yogurt - simply milk and cultures. Modern yogurts rely upon these emulsifiers to keep this separation from happening.

Our Yogurt Cultures:

Our Y1 Bulgarian Yogurt is the most traditional and the tangiest yogurt we sell.

This yogurt is most like the traditional eastern European style yogurts and provides the thickest texture of all of our yogurts. It also sets in half the time of the other two yogurts Y4 and Y5.
(This is Jim's favorite and the one he uses as a culture for many of his Italian style cheeses since these all work best at this 1:1 ratio balance of the thermo/bulgaricus starter cultures)

Our Y3- Creamy is a Tangy Yogurt but milder than the Bulgarian Yogurt.

This is the most neutral flavor of the yogurts we sell and is the perfect one for blending with fruits and natural sweeteners such as maple and honey. It has enough acid to blend with berry fruits, etc.

Our Y5 Sweet Yogurt with Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium is the most probiotic culture we have.
This Yogurt has the creamiest texture of all our yogurt cultures and the least amount of acidity. The texture of the Y5 will be more viscous or honey like than the other 2. This would be a great yogurt for cooking and making yogurt sauces and condiments such as an Indian Raita (a mildly spiced yoghurt with cucumber, carrot and tomato pieces to cool down spicy curries).

Can you save money making your own yogurt?

Yes, considering that a half gallon of milk will cost $2.50-$3 and a quart of yogurt costs $4.50-$5.00 you can make your own yogurt for 1/4-1/3 of what it costs to buy it. The real benefit however is that you will know what is going into your yogurt AND you can make it the way you like it.

How to make yogurt using our "Yogotherm" :

Our Yogotherm is a simple tool for home cheesemakers that will provide a great container for culturing your yogurt (as well as the fresh cheeses and cultures for cheesemaking). It uses a very simple but efficient insulation system for keeping the cultures in the proper temperature range during the process. The Yogotherm contains an insulated outer shell with base and lid plus an insert container and sealing lid. Simple but very effective. The thermometer can also be found on our website.
We begin by pouring 1/2 gallon cold milk into a heavy stainless pot for heating. The next and probably most important stepin making Yogurt is to heat the milk to 185F, and then hold it there for 10-20 minutes. This will prepare the whey proteins which are largely responsible for the thickening of the yogurt body. This can be done by setting the milk pot directly on the burner and begin heating with careful stirring to prevent scorching of the milk .
We hear from many folks using raw milk that they prefer not to heat the milk above 102F to protect the natural cultures in the milk. This is fine but it will not thicken without the addition of milk powder, carrageenan or other thickeners. Also it will NOT be yogurt in the traditional sense.

The next step is to cool the milk as quickly as possible. I tend to cool the milk to 120-125F before pouring the milk into the yogotherm container to avoid the cooler container reducing the temperature too much. I then continue cooling to my target temperature for innoculating the yogurt right in the yogotherm container. This can range from 115F to 108F and lower, however the lower temperatures will produce a thinner texture and take longer to complete the fermentation. The lower temperatures will change the relative activity of the various culture components.
We normally cool the milk by running cold water around the yogotherm container. Stop a degree or two before the desired temperature is reached to avoid overcooling the milk.

When the milk reaches the proper temperature for inoculation. It is time to add the direct set yogurt culture (as per culture instructions), it will be a mix of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus plus any probiotic additions the culture may contain.
Instead of adding a new culture you may use 1-2% by volume of milk (usually 1 heaping tablespoon per quart) of a recently made yogurt. However be aware that the previously made yogurt may be changing its culture balance and successive batches may become more acidic. We find that we can do this 8-10 times before we feel it is time for a new culture.

According to the standard of identity established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order for a refrigerated product to be called "yogurt," it must be produced by culturing permitted dairy ingredients with a bacterial culture, which contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Your next step will be to incubate the cultured milk for the required time. This can be done easily by using our Yogotherm or another insulated container. The best approach here is to preheat the outer container before inserting the inner container of milk with culture added. We do this simply by pouring hot water into the insulated base of the yogotherm and allow it to heat up while heating our milk. Once our cultured milk is ready we simply pour out the tempering water and insert the container. This will be adequate to keep the milk at the correct temp for several hours .
Place both covers on the yogotherm container and then you need to let it set quietly for several hours. Y1 will take about 3-5 hours depending on temperature control. Y4 & Y5 will take 8-10 hours and will not be as tangy as the Y1.

The time of incubation will determine the thickness and texture of the final yogurt as well as the final acidity. In our cheese room we use a separate clock to monitor the process. We set it to 12:00 and then simply monitor that for time. In your kitchen a timer works just fine.
Longer times and/or higher temperatures will make a thicker yogurt and a tangier flavor. Shorter times and/or lower temperatures will make a sweeter but thinner yogurt.

Yogurt ready to ripen

Setting the timer

The finished yogurt ready to chill
Your final step will be to chill the yogurt as quickly as possible as soon as you find that the texture and acidity is to your liking. Once cooled, it will have a much more solid texture.

Drained Yogurt:

"Greek Style" or drained yogurt such as produced by "Fage" is one of the current 'hot items' in dairy. It provides a more concentrated yogurt flavor and a rich creamy texture for mixing with fruit, herbs, etc. The other advantage for the lactose intolerant folks is that it reduces the lactose level of yogurt even further than regular yogurt by draining the residual lactose away with the whey.

To make this at home simply spoon your yogurt into a strainer lined with a Butter Muslin cloth and let it drain for several hours until you have achieve the desired thickness. You can use any one of our delicious yogurt cultures to make this.

The yogurt draining is begun by first sanitizing a spoon, strainer, and draining cloth into which you spoon your prepared batch of yogurt .

You can now gather the 4 corners of the cloth and hang the yogurt to drain. The longer you drain it and the higher the temperature, the thicker the yogurt will be.
Once the yogurt has achieved the thickness you like, you may then transfer it to a container and refrigerate. If you have collected the whey as shown here, this is a great high protein beverage. You can also use it in cooking and baking.

Yogurt and Health:

There are many claims to yogurts health benefits especially in the "Probiotic" realm but science is still working the facts out here. Currently "Acidophilus" and "Bifidobacterium" are two cultures that survive in the digestive tract and have positive effects in enhancing immune responses.

Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus do not survive the initial digestion phases particularly well nor reach the gastrointestinal tract in great numbers, but they can improve lactose digestion in some individuals and may help promote a healthy immune system. The combination of these two bacteria will convert a large percentage of milk lactose to lactic acid. Jointly they will convert more than either culture separately. This is primarily why yogurt can be consumed by lactose intolerant individuals. For the extremely lactose intolerant, simply draining the yogurt further (see "Drained Yogurt" above) reduces almost all of the residual lactose which drains off with the whey.

More Notes on Yogurt:

  • Yogurt from goats milk will always be thinner because the proteins in this milk are so different than cows milk. This can be improved by adding 3 tablespoons dry milk powder for each quart to the goats milk.
  • Adding dry milk powder to milk will increase the amount of lactose and thus increase the residual lactose in the final yogurt.

Hearing about your wonderful cheese making adventures always brightens up our day. Please feel free to send us stories and maybe even a photo to:

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