Making Yogurt at Home FAQ – Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting

Home made Yoghurt FAQ, Tips & Troubleshooting | SustainableSuburbia.net

My post on How to Make Yogurt is so popular (about 1/4 of all visitors to Sustainable Suburbia visit that page), and has generated so many comments and questions, that I figured it was time to formalise some of the answers into a kind of FAQ of yogurt making. So I’ve spent the last few days reading books and websites, trying to come up with some definitive answers to both my own questions, and the most common ones I am asked.

They are:

Why is my yogurt runny? or Why is my yogurt not setting properly?

How do I make thicker yogurt?

Will the yogurt be thicker if I use more starter?

Why do I have to heat the milk if it is already pasteurised?

Why do they say to buy a new starter culture (or new yogurt from the shop) every three or four batches?

Do I have to use sachets to make yogurt in my Easiyo?

Why does my Easiyo not keep the yogurt warm enough?

I have some more questions & answers in the pipeline, and feel free to add more questions or comments in the comment section at the bottom of this post.

Why is my yogurt runny? or, Why is my yogurt not setting properly?

Learn to Make Yogurt

I learned a lot about making yogurt from reading this book. It is by “Cultures for Health” who of course largely just want to sell their own cultures, but they also want you to be successful so you’ll come back for more, and they’ve done a good job. And because it is advertising for them, the book only costs $0.99 – hard to go past! (Disclaimer, I will get a commission if you buy this book – of around about 5c!)

There are a number of possible reasons for this, the biggest problem people have with making yogurt at home. Firstly, most homemade yogurt is not going to be as thick and creamy as store bought yogurt, simple because it doesn’t have the additives. There are things you can do to make your yogurt thicker (see How do I make thicker yogurt?), but this topic is really about yogurt that hasn’t set, or hasn’t set properly. Or hasn’t become yogurt at all!

The most common reasons for this are:

  1. Your starter culture was too old. This may not be at all obvious until you have your yogurt fail like this. You need to understand that a) your next batch of yogurt should ideally be made before the last batch is a week old. So if you are using yogurt from the store, consider that it could be too old before you even pick it up – make sure you buy the freshest yogurt you can. And b) most store bought yogurt (including Easiyo sachets and the like), are made with a ‘direct set’ culture, which can not be reused (or regrown) more than about three or four times. So unless you are buying an explicitly ‘reusuable’ culture, you should refresh your yogurt starter every few batches.
  2. Your starter culture can also die if it is exposed to a high heat, so make sure your milk has cooled down to 43C (110F) before mixing in the culture.
  3. The temperature was not kept high enough. If the milk cools down too much before the yogurt has formed, then the yogurt bacteria will struggle to grow, and meanwhile the milk bacteria can multiply more quickly than your starter culture, killing it. Minimising the milk bacteria is one reason for heating the milk to near boiling before beginning. But even boiled milk will go off if you leave it sitting at room temperature. If you are using an Easiyo, try checking the water temperature after a few hours. If it has cooled, carefully remove your yogurt container after a few hours and replace some of the water with freshly boiled water. You can also wrap it in a blanket to help keep it warmer for longer. See Why does my Easiyo not keep the yogurt warm enough?
  4. You may have used too much culture. I know this seems counter intuitive but if there is too much culture, the bacteria will be fighting over the food (milk sugars) which then runs out before the yogurt sets. About 2 tablespoons of an Easiyo yogurt powder or a fresh yogurt is generally enough for a litre of yogurt. If you buy the culture itself, you should follow directions supplied with it (it will be much less than 2 tablespoons).
  5. Your yogurt container was not clean, and the contamination (which could be as simple as left over dish soap) has harmed the starter culture.

How do I make thicker yogurt?

Okay, so you don’t have any of the problems listed above, but you would like your yogurt to be thicker. There are a number of things you can do.

  1. Use higher fat milk. The higher the fat content, the thicker the yogurt. If you are not particularly worried about fat content, try adding 1/4 cup of pure pouring cream. It makes a big difference. A creamier yoghurt is usually sweeter too, so you may find the higher fat content allows you to reduce the sugar you need to add.
  2. Add some powdered milk. If you are just using fresh milk to make your yogurt, adding about 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered milk can help thicken it up a little.
  3. Heat the milk to 85 (185F) degrees Celcius and keep it there for 30 minutes (remember to let it cool before adding your starter culture). One of the reasons for heating your milk before making yogurt is to ‘denature’ the protein, casein, which allows the yogurt to coagulate more effectively. Heating for a longer period denatures more of the protein.
  4. You can also use non-milk additives like agar agar, tapioca or gelatin. These can be added just before adding the culture, or, if you are going to reuse your culture (ie keep a bit of your yogurt for making the next batch), wait until the yogurt is just finished, but not yet refrigerated, take a little out for your next batch, mix through your thickener and refrigerate.
  5. How thick your yogurt is can also be a function of the type of culture you use, so if you want to explore this further you could look at buying particular cultures, for instance you could try Type C aBY if you are in Australia or take a look at Cultures for Health for comparisons between their cultures, but they only ship within the United States and Canada.

Will the yogurt be thicker if I use more starter?

Short answer: Probably not.

Longer answer: Only if you weren’t using enough in the first place. If you were using enough, you may end up with thinner, or completely runny yogurt. As explained above, this is because if there is too much culture, the bacteria will be fighting over the food (milk sugars) which then runs out before the yogurt sets.

Why do you have to get new yogurt starter every three to four batches? I’ve heard about people in traditional cultures using the same starter for generations!

This is an issue of ‘direct-set’ vs ‘reusable’ cultures. Most commercial yogurt and yogurt sachets use a direct set culture, which can only be reused a very limited number of times.

Additionally, different cultures will die off at different rates, so if you are using a starter yogurt with more than one bacteria in it (which is common), after a couple of batches the balance will be off, which can affect yogurt consistency and flavour.

Reusable cultures do exist, and are available from places likeΒ Cultures for Health in America and Canada. I haven’t found anywhere online in Australia that sells it yet (I mostly just use a couple of Tbsp from an Easiyo sachet for every few batches, or buy some fresh yogurt to use).

Pasteurised milk has already been heated – why do I need to heat it again?

Because the original pasteurisation killed the natural milk bacteria, leaving the way open for other ‘bad’ bacteria to grow. This is why pasteurized milk still has a limited shelf life, even when refrigerated. Also, heating for a longer period of time will ‘denature’ more of the protein and produce a thicker yogurt. See How do I make thicker yogurt? above.

Note that you can make yogurt with raw milk, with the natural milk bacterias intact (although raw milk cannot be sold for human consumption in Australia), without this step, but it will not be as thick. This is because heating the milk also ‘denatures’ the milk protein, allowing it to coagulate more easily.

Do I have to use sachets to make yogurt in my Easiyo?

No! This is the subject of my first yogurt post: How to Make Yoghurt From Scratch in an Easiyo Yogurt Maker. It is very easy to make yogurt from yogurt (and milk) in the Easiyo without buying yogurt sachets.

Why does my Easiyo not keep the yogurt warm enough?

There are a few possibilities. Is it cracked? Is the lid not sealing properly (has the plastic warped)? Have you immersed the thermos in water? The manufacturer says not to do this, I’m presuming because if water were to get into the space inside the walls of the Easiyo it would no longer hold the heat.

I have found that sometimes the water cools early. I don’t know why – maybe I didn’t use it in quickly enough after it boiled, or maybe it was just a very cold day. Mostly it’s not an issue, but I have been successful in taking the yogurt canister out of the Easiyo, replacing some of the water with some freshly boiled, and replace the canister. This seems to work, though I don’t usually bother.

Image credit: Mary Thompson

  38 comments for “Making Yogurt at Home FAQ – Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting

  1. Maria
    January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

    If you use 2 tbls of easiyo mix does it make the flavour weaker than if you just used the whole sachets? My children like highly flavoured yoghurt and wonder if it will taste quite weak.

    • Editor
      February 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      Yes, it does taste *a little* of whatever flavour sachet you use, but really if you want flavoured (and/or sweetened) yoghurt, you will need to flavour it somehow. I sometimes add a tsp of lemon or vanilla essence when I am mixing it, or you can flavour it afterwards with jam or fruit.

      For more on flavouring and sweetening your yoghurt (without having to buy the sachets), see the section at the bottom of this page: http://sustainablesuburbia.net/how-to-make-yoghurt-from-scratch-in-an-easiyo-yogurt-maker/

      I have weaned my son down to about half a sachet in milk (rather than water), for the flavours he especially loves that I haven’t learned to make any other way.

  2. B. Smith
    March 6, 2013 at 12:25 am

    I like the idea of using the powedered milk in the Easiyo thermos. If I were to use dried yogurt cultures, such as Euro Cuisine that comes in 5 gram packets, would I use the entire 5 grams or something less to make the liter of yogurt? (BTW, your site is great.)

    • Editor
      May 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      Hi B Smith, sorry I missed your comment earlier. You should check what it says on the packet – how much you need depends on the amount of live cultures, but because I’ve only ever made it from a previous batch of yoghurt I’m not an expert on that. I would just do what the packet says and then experiment πŸ˜‰

  3. Tania
    May 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Hello,
    I am so pleased to have found your information on making yogurt with the Easiyo. Now I know why I have been going wrong for so long!!!!

    Have you made yogurt with raw goats milk?

    Do I follow the same process as with raw cows milk?

    Any advice would be so helpful.

    Many thanks
    Tania

    • Editor
      May 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Tania, it should be the same because goats milk still has lactose in it, but I haven’t actually tried it myself. I believe goats milk generally makes thinner yoghurt than cows milk though, so raw goats milk is going to be quite thin.

      Good luck!

      • Andrea
        August 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm

        Hi, I use caprilac goats milk from Coles or Safeway and cultures from green living Australia and leave it in the easiyo for around 16 or 17 hrs. Makes lovely yoghurt.

        • Kirsten
          August 7, 2013 at 8:31 am

          Thanks for the input Andrea, that’s good to know!

  4. pauline
    September 3, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I was thinking of using uht milk to skip step one, but would like to add cream as we love thick creamy yoghurt, so would the cream need to be heated? Or could i use Uht cream?

    • Kirsten
      September 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

      Hi Pauline,

      There’s no reason you couldn’t use UHT cream. I’ve been meaning to try it but haven’t gotten around to it.

      I often (usually in fact) add fresh cream, which I don’t bother to heat. It does make it creamier and thicker BUT it also leaves a layer of solid cream on the top – this is yummy and all, but it’d be great if it was mixed in making it that much creamier, and I’ve wondered if heating the cream first would have that effect – haven’t tried it though!

      I’d love to hear how you go πŸ™‚
      ~Kirsten

  5. Genevieve Fogarty
    November 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks for these great tips. I was getting really frustrated but these will help greatly. I was using the more is more philosophy when it came to yoghurt starter. It’s also great to know I can use some of the Easiyo powder as a starter.

    Something I’ve done recently to make my yoghurt thicker when it’s been runny is to sit a sieve over a bowl, put a clean tea towel over the sieve and pour the yoghurt into the tea towel so some of the whey can drain out. Other websites said to use cheese cloth. I don’t even know what that is but tea towels work well.

    Thanks again.
    Genevieve

    • Kirsten
      November 11, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Hi Genevieve,

      My mum does that, straining out some of the whey – I should add that to the post.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Genevieve
        November 12, 2013 at 9:32 am

        Hi Kirsten

        I’ve now made yoghurt, following your tips and it was a HUGE success. It is so thick and creamy and delicious, best I’ve ever made.

        Thanks again.

        Genevieve

        • February 21, 2014 at 7:13 pm

          Awesome, I’m so pleased for you πŸ™‚

  6. Sherie
    December 13, 2013 at 1:56 am

    I use UHT milk with some added dry milk powder, and starter from fresh yogurt from the grocery store. My yogurt keeps coming out rather viscous (gluey). What’s happening?

    • Kirsten
      December 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

      I’m not sure Sherie, but it might be that you don’t have enough starter (sometimes even fresh from the grocery store a lot of the culture bacteria have already died), or else that it’s not staying warm enough for long enough. Does it have a sort of stretchy texture? That’s usually indicates that it hasn’t finished ‘yoghurting’. When that happens for me, I usually tip out about half the water in the easiyo thermos and refill with boiling water, then leave it for another couple of hours and test again. You could either try that, or try doubling your starter yoghurt and see what happens. Good luck!

  7. Veronica
    February 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Hi I’ve been making yogurt 3/4 weeks now and the first 3 or 4 batches were perfect but now it won’t set. I’ve been doing the UHT method (full cream) with 1/2 cup skim milk powder and 2T powdered yogurt mix. The last 3 batches have not set at all. Do you think the powdered yogurt mix could have gone off?? I am storing it in a glass screw top jar but it’s been open 4 weeks now.

  8. Lynda
    April 12, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Hi,
    I have been making yoghurt with UHT milk (full fat) method. It turns out nice and thick but when I portion it out to take to work, it goes really runny, even though I put it in the fridge as soon as I get there. Any ideas how to stop this?

    Thanks

    • Kirsten
      April 21, 2014 at 9:54 am

      HI Lynda,
      Sorry, but no, I don’t have a solution for that. Mine does the same thing. I think the ones that stay together (ie shop bought) tend to have thickeners of some sort in them. You could try adding something like agar agar, tapioca or gelatin, but I haven’t tried it myself.
      Good luck!

  9. Lan
    June 30, 2015 at 10:56 am

    To keep the Easiyo stay warm long, I usually fill up the Easiyo with hot or boiling water and close the lid, let the hot water warm up the inside of the Easiyo for 15 minutes or so, then pour the water out, and do the final step.

  10. zoe
    July 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Hello
    Would love to try making yoghurt for my girls as they love yoghurt the only problem is they have dairy intolerance and soy yoghurt is super expensive, anyways my question is: am i able to make soy yoghurt using the soy uth milk and 2 spoons of brought soy yoghurt from the shop?

    • July 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Yes, absolutely Zoe, just make sure you choose a soy yoghurt that specifies that it has live/active cultures.

      I haven’t actually done this myself, but I have read lots of times of others doing it. I believe it will take longer than dairy yoghurt to set, but the longer you leave it “culturing” the sourer it will be, so I’d maybe try it every hour or two past 12 hours.

      If you aren’t actually allergic to dairy you could also just use the plain easiyo packet as a starter with soy milk, as this person did: https://www.easiyo.com/easiyo-recipe-details/low-dairy-lactose-yogurt.html
      It’s obviously not actually dairy free then though.

      Hope that helps. I’d love to hear how you go if you try it!
      Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..How to Use Up All Those Old Fridge Magnets & Declutter Your Fridge DoorMy Profile

  11. Channie
    July 19, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Hi there!
    I have exactly the same question as Zoe! My mom has an Easiyo maker, and I’m lactose intolerant. Can I make non dairy yoghurt with it, & what would I use to get non dairy live cultures in it??

    Would really appreciate a reply, as soy yoghurt is soooo expensive πŸ™

    • July 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Channie,

      Yes, You can make soy yoghurt in the easiyo too.

      I would just start with a store bought soy yoghurt that specifies live/active cultures. I haven’t actually done this myself, but I have read lots of times of others doing it. I believe it will take longer than dairy yoghurt to set, but the longer you leave it “culturing” the sourer it will be, so I’d maybe try it every hour or two past 12 hours.

      If you aren’t actually allergic to dairy you could also just use the plain easiyo packet as a starter with soy milk, as this person did: https://www.easiyo.com/easiyo-recipe-details/low-dairy-lactose-yogurt.html
      It’s obviously not actually dairy free then though.

      Hope that helps. I’d love to hear how you go if you try it!
      Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..How to Use Up All Those Old Fridge Magnets & Declutter Your Fridge DoorMy Profile

  12. Susan Tallarida
    August 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Hi There,
    Have you tried to make yogurt with rice or almond or coconut milk as I am dairy intolerant? and soy intolerant! Hope you have some advice as these yogurts are sooo expensive to buy.

  13. Amy
    February 29, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Hi! We have followed this method after a few years gap in making our own. We used the UHT method but found the texture grainy – we assume this is due to the powdered milk. Have you come across this? Is there anything we can do about it?

    • February 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Amy,

      Yes, I have found sometimes the powdered milk makes the texture grainy.

      TBH lately I have been lazy, and instead of keeping some of the last yoghurt, I just keep a packet of the easiyo in the cupboard and add a couple of tablespoons of that – so I don’t add the powdered milk anymore. I do often add some cream which also makes it thicker.

      So in answer to your question, I had forgotten about that and forgotten what I did about it – the easiyo – which is also mostly powdered milk – doesn’t have that effect. I will do a bit of experimentation/research again and get back to you.
      Kirsten recently posted..Why Microfibre Instead of Vinegar? And Why Norwex?My Profile

      • Amy
        March 2, 2016 at 8:16 pm

        Thanks so much Kirsten!!

  14. Isabel
    April 16, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Hello! Thanks for sharing your tips with making your own yogurt!!
    Am wondering if you or anyone could help me…I tried to make yogurt in my easiyo maker using lactose free milk and Cultures for Health’s Vegan yogurt starter. I followed the instruction and heated the milk to 110F, and let it cool down before I mix in the culture. I then fill in the necessary amount of boiled water into the easiyo container & place the container in. 9 hours later, nothing happened, the yogurt did not set at all!! I am wondering if you would have an advise for me please.
    thanks

  15. Dennis
    May 3, 2016 at 2:53 am

    What a great site, just discovered it and made my first batch of yogurt using the milk plus powdered milk version. It came out a little less thick than I like. So. Can I increase the milk powder to make it a thicker set?

  16. Meredith
    May 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    I made a batch using an easiyo sachet and left it about 10 hours overnight. In the morning it wasn’t set and appeared to have gone cold. I added fresh boiling water and left it another 5 hours or so. It set but now I’m not sure how it all works. Is it possible to leave it too long? Will it make you sick if consumed?

    • May 13, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Meredith,
      The easiyo instructions say you can leave it for up to 24 hours, so I wouldn’t be worried about that. It’s weird it didn’t set at all in 10 hours though – is it very cold where you are? Maybe it went cold very quickly for some reason?
      Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..Why Microfibre Instead of Vinegar? And Why Norwex?My Profile

    • Liz
      May 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Meredith, I’ve recently noticed coming into winter that my yoghurt hasn’t been setting too when doing it overnight. And i’m in a pretty temperate climate so its not even that cold! But have changed to doing it in the daytime now – starting it before work, then putting in the fridge before bed and it is setting now. I’ve also moved the easiyo to sit on top of a wooden chopping board (so doesn’t lose as much heat into the stone bench top) and wrapping the easiyo in a tea towel blanket, maybe these have helped too?!

  17. Allyson Rendle
    August 25, 2016 at 12:11 am

    HI kirsten

    I too can only use Almond, Coconut or Soya milk. Would I get good results using these with a live starter yoghurt?

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