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Yoghurt - what I've learnt

For several years I made yoghurt using my Esiyo thermos and the Esiyo packets.  Then I started using powdered milk instead, which was cheaper and just as easy.  And then we got Bella our house cow, so I started using real milk, not as easy, but more nutritious and just as tasty.  Bella won't give us milk all year, so when she is dry I think I will use organic milk or maybe milk powder again.  This is a summary of what I've learnt from all my yoghurt experiments to far.

What is yoghurt?
Yoghurt is the result of fermenting milk using bacteria (Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilusbifidobacteria and Lactobacillus casei are also used for some yoghurts).  The bacteria convert the lactose in milk to lactic acid, making it tangy, and also act on the proteins in milk, which causes it to thicken.

Ingredients for making yoghurt
All you need is some form of milk (powdered or liquid) and the starter cultures (either freeze dried or sub-cultured from another batch of yoghurt).  

Forms of milk that can be used
  • Powdered milk - this is the cheapest option, but there are some doubts about the effect of the drying process on the structure of the cholesterol in the milk, particularly full cream milk powder, so its probably not the healthiest option (I found one cup of powdered milk per litre of water made lovely thick yoghurt though).
  • Pasteurised milk - if you don't have a cow, this is the next best option, go for organic and unhomoginised if you can (I haven't tried store-bought pasteurised milk yet though!).
  • Raw milk - I have tried to use raw milk, and can't get it right, apparently is also depends on the cow's diet.  I have given up and started pasteurising my fresh raw milk before I make yoghurt.  (see update of raw milk yoghurt here)
The choice depends on your budget and your objectives.  No matter how you make yoghurt, you'll still get the health benefits of the bacteria used as the culture.  Even if you use powdered milk or pasteurised milk, which doesn't have all the benefits of raw milk, at least you're still getting those cultures to help your digestion.

Forms of starter culture
  • Freeze-dried - can be ordered from the internet and kept in the freezer.  A few grains are used to inoculate each batch of yoghurt.
  • Sub-culture - a spoonful of yoghurt from another batch (or from bought yoghurt) can be used to inoculate a new batch.  If everything is kept clean this can last for ages, but occasionally it can become contaminated and a new culture is required.
The Easiyo packets contain powdered milk and starter culture, so you just have to add water.  They are more expensive than just using powdered milk, but very easy to use.

How to make the yoghurt
Once you combine your milk and starter culture, the mixture should be kept at about 40degC for about 12 hours.  The time and temperatures are pretty approximate, if the yoghurt is a bit thin after 12 hours, just keep it warm for it a bit longer and see if it improves.  I have found that the easiest way to keep the yoghurt at the right temperature is to use the Easiyo thermos.  I have seen many other methods using slow cookers, and thermoses and blankets and ovens, but this is so easy and was only about $20 for the thermos and the jar insert.

How I make yoghurt with fresh milk
I have tried and tried to make yoghurt using fresh raw milk (more successful update here), but each batch was fed to the dogs!  It did not look right at all, thin and watery and kind of stringy.....  So eventually I gave in and started to pasteurise the milk first.  I heat 1 L of milk in a pot to 80degC and then let it cool to around 40degC.  I then pour it into an Easiyo container, add a grain of yoghurt culture and put the container in the Easiyo thermos containing hot tap water.  I usually leave it all day, or overnight, and then put the container in the fridge.  Occasionally I get distracted and don't catch the milk at 80degC, and sometimes it even gets to a boil, its still ok to make yoghurt, but I find I get a lot of solids that sink to the bottom and can give an unpleasant texture (although I still eat it).

Usually the yoghurt isn't as thick as I would like.  I guess its just the natural texture of yoghurt, and when I was making yoghurt using milk powder I was putting in extra milk powder to get a nice thick yoghurt and most bought yoghurts have some kind of thickener or extra milk solids added, so this thin yoghurt seems a bit thin compared to what I'm used to.  Actually the constancy reminds me of McDs thick shake!  And I haven't had one of them for a LONG time, so I don't mind it.  If that's too runny for you, you can always strain it to remove some of the whey, but then you lose some of the goodness!  I don't like to waste that whey, so I'd rather just slurp up the yoghurt and pretend its a healthy thick shake.

I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully made raw milk yoghurt without pasteurising the milk.  Mostly because it would be so much quicker and easier if I didn't have to heat the milk first!  If you haven't tried making yoghurt, its really very easy, just invest in a thermos and you'll have no trouble.

Do you make yoghurt?  What method do you use?

A few affiliate links to get you started with yoghurt:

OzFarmer - Yoghurt making kit

OzFarmer - Propiotic yoghurt culture

Biome - Yoghurt kit

Yoghurt kit at Biome

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy


  1. I'm yet to make my own yoghurt yet. I really must give it a go though.
    I was watching the Gourmet Farmer DVD yesterday and they had a segment at the end about yoghurt making and I thought of this blog. x

  2. This is such a great post about what is such a simple process once you have a process in place. You have taken all the hard work out for others wanting to learn.

  3. Hi Farmer Liz,
    Yum, love freshly made yogurt, I like that it has a different texture to the store bought! I have only ever used store bought milk, but I also add a few drops of calcium chloride, this apparently thickens up the yogurt. From what I know and have experienced with my yogurt making, the process of heating the milk up to 90 degrees then allowing it to cool is a necessary process for the yogurt to set. I think this is the way milk is pasteurised anyway?? Is that right?? So in theory if your making yogurt then are you pasturising your milk at the same time??? :) Good luck with your next batch! If it doesn't work, just shake it up and drink it, you pay a fortune for yogurt drinks at the supermarkets!!

  4. The reason you need to heat the milk first is to destroy certain enzymes that prevent the lactobacilli from being able to act on the lactase. Of course you are also in effect pasteurising it which also rids it of potential pathogens and allows the 'good' bacteria to take hold easier.

  5. I haven't made yogurt in ages, thanks for the great reminder as I am over run with milk right now. I would love for you to be a part of my new blog hop Frugal "I Did It" Tuesday.

  6. I just went to a cheese making workshop and he used 1/2 c milk powder per two litres Unhomogenised milk to get that thicker texture and if it's fresh it's already pasteurized so just heated to 37' then added starter and left to set- for those who don't have easiyo he suggested just putting yoghurt in esky to set with equivalent quantity of hottest tap water possible in another container. I haven't made it yet but as soon as I use up current store bought batch I'll be onto it

  7. I make my yoghurt the same as you with raw milk,although I have a small electric maker from cheeselinks that I use in winter. In summer, when I do at least 3litres I use a dehydrator. I've had no success at all with it if I don't pasteurise it first - I've read where it works but it doesn't for me! Well it works if you like drinking yoghurt!! I sometimes get it thick and sometimes not so thick. And I always use a freeze dried starter. Great explanation!

  8. Great explanation Liz. I haven't tried making yoghurt with raw milk yet. I usually use the long life as its already in a pre-measured box in my cupboard, just heat it to the 40C, add the freeze dried grains and about 1/2 cup milk powder, then into the Easiyo.

  9. Hi Liz, I need some clarification, please. You said "I found one cup per litre of milk made lovely thick yoghurt though". Do you mean one cup powdered milk per liter of water to then make the yogurt? Thanks! I want to try this.

    1. Hi, yes, 1 cup of powdered milk per litre of water - I will fix that in the post :)

  10. There are two types of yogurt making, mesophilic and thermophilic. Thermophilic is the type you do, mesophilic is the bench top method, using very different cultures. MOST thermophilic yogurts aren't great at reculturing another batch, they will weaken over time, but mesophilic yogurts cultures can in theory be done forever. Mesophilic yogurts are not like Greek or even western style yogurts, different flavours and textures!

    I've done both types and with raw milk, tried heated and unheated. Yes, thinner yogurt is often the result. i don't eat much yogurt any more as even unflavoured plain yogurt has too many natural sugars in for my sensitive body :/ but I did enjoy all the different kinds I've made over the years!

  11. Two things I have recently learned about making yogurt.....using milk powder can make your yoghurt stringy. also cooking milk at a low heat. Warm enough for steam but not hot enough to simmer or boil evaporates the extra water in the milk creating a thicker yogurt. So the more steam coming from the milk the greater evaporation.

  12. Thanks for this interesting post, I don't like the overly sweet taste of the esiyo pouches, so I just use milk and culture now but I will try the unhomoginised milk as we have a good local,one called 'scenic rim' .
    Most of the time you can find the Easiyo canisters at an op shop for about $5 I discard the plastic jar and replace it with a glass one litre size.

    1. Good idea about the jar replacement MargaretP . My mum was asking me the other day about the plastic, the fat and the heat, all the inserts would be bpa from the opshop ( maybe new they are bpa free...but I believe that could be just as bad! ) the glass jar is a great idea! I'm passing that on :)

  13. I use to make yoghurt, but the results were too inconsistent and it seemed like a waste of ingredients. So I now buy a select, relatively economical variety, which is mostly natural. Well, more natural than the regular varieties of yoghurt out there. It's the Jalna, Greek yoghurt, "Sweet and Creamy". I can buy it for about $11, for a 2kg bucket, regular price.

    I'm not affiliated with Jalna, it just took me ages to find a plain yoghurt I liked, which didn't cost the earth - plus, wasn't filled with artificial thickeners. I might give yoghurt making another go (your post has got me thinking about experimenting again) but I've always got my favourite greek yoghurt to fall back on.

    If it's any consolation for having to boil your own raw milk, to make yoghurt, at least you don't have to deal with plastic bottles and buckets, if you had to purchase the milk or yoghurt. So that's a good thing. :)

  14. Hi Liz, I use our raw milk warm from our cow to make our yogurt. I heat the milk a bit more, to 105 F then whisk in a little of my last yogurt batch and throw it all into my insulated container. I leave it for 24 hours and its quite thick and yummy. Because it is our own cow and I am well aware of her health status, and my clean milking practices, I am very comfortable leaving the yogurt sit for 24 hrs.

  15. I've been thinking about trying to make yogurt for quite awhile! You make it sound so easy, and I think I'll be giving this a try! Thanks for the inspiration!


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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

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