First Failure of 2015: Homemade Yogurt

Adventures, DIY

Homemade Yogurt //

I don’t discuss failures very often because a lot of the time, they’re sort of boring stories, i.e., my leavening ratio was off, the dish was bland, spices should’ve been toasted, etc. They’re not really all that exciting, but I think talking about them is important because probably from the outside it looks like I ace every single dish and the reality is that I don’t. AT ALL. And also, we all know perfection is dull. Is there anything more boring than perfection? No.

Today I was hoping to share with all of youse a beautiful silky smooth recipe for Homemade Yogurt. I started out hopeful. I did a ton of research and settled on the fact that there was no way I was going to buy a yogurt maker. Because A: I don’t need another kitchen gadget. B: I don’t make that much yogurt to justify the cost.

Homemade Yogurt //

So, I did what a lot of people suggest: I mixed in a teaspoon of sugar into 2 cups of fresh milk (just to encourage the bacteria) and heated it to 170F-180F. At this time, the milk should cool to 110F. I did this. And then I mixed in about 1/4 cup good-quality Greek yogurt. (I wanted the two strands in there, so I used Greek.) I transferred the liquid to sterilized jars and left them out on my counter to sit. I’ll admit that it was drafty in my apt. It’s winter (ish) in LA after all. After around 8 hours, it was still super milky. I put it in the fridge thinking it would firm up. NOPE.

Ok, second try. I turned my oven on and set a baking sheet with the soon-to-be-yogurt on top. The oven was set to nearly 400F so it was really, REALLY warm in my kitchen. Six hours later, STILL LIKE MILK.

Tried it again just to make sure I didn’t mess up a step. NOPE. Still the same.

Josh came home, examined the yogurt and told me that at his restaurant they keep it out for longer, they move it from different places within the restaurant depending on the temperature and that it actually is fickle. It’s not an exact science.

Homemade Yogurt //

UGH! As a person who writes recipes for da innanet, I can’t deal with the fickleness, especially when we can just buy damn yogurt for like $3. Why would we deal with the moodiness of yogurt?

If we’re DIYing something that we normally would just buy, my motto is that it needs to be less expensive than buying it at the store and the process needs to be easy because time is valuable. So, rather than attacking this for a fourth time, I decided to let it go. I decided that maybe I should just buy yogurt because making it at home was too dramatic and too uncertain and I don’t have time for dat. And I’m guessing neither do you.

So, here we are, first failure of 2015.

I’ll promise to share more failures in the future. I think they’re important. Also, if you’ve successfully made yogurt in the past, LET ME KNOW YOUR WAYS!

Homemade Yogurt //

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  • Reply Stephanie January 9, 2015 at 1:18 am

    I make yogurt at home all the time and the only time I’ve flubbed it is when the milk was sour. I’m not sure what you’re doing wrong, but I can tell you what you’re doing differently.

    1. I’m not sure how much milk you started with, but I use 1 tablespoon yogurt/2 cups of milk
    2. I don’t use sugar.
    3. The range of the milk when it’s cooling down is supposed to be between 90 and 110. Maybe you should let it get a lil’ bit farther into that range before adding the yogurt. Maybe your thermometer’s off a hair and you’re frying all your guys.
    4. Are you ‘tempering’ the yogurt? I measure out the yogurt right after I turn on the stove for the milk and leave it out so it’ll warm up a bit before adding the warm milk. Then I only add a bit of the milk to the yogurt and stir it a little so it gets used to the temperature before adding the whole thing back into the milk.
    5. Be gentle with the yogurt when you mix it in. You don’t have to whisper sweet nothings to it as you coax it into the mix, but don’t whisk the heck out of it. Not sure if it’d be enough to kill absolutely everything there, but you are dealing with live stuff.
    6. And this I think (in my inexpert opinion) is the real culprit: the yogurt needs to stay warmish for several hours. I used to place it in a heat/freezer bag inside of a large crockpot covered in a towel before I got a hold of a nice styrofoam cooler. Sticking the jars into an insulated lunch bag or a cooler or just something to help retain the heat is key.

    Hope that helps,

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Hmm…I used more yogurt to milk ratio. I did use super fresh milk. My milk was at 110 when I added the yogurt BUT it wasn’t tempered. That’s an interesting tidbit. Thanks for your advice!

  • Reply Meghan January 9, 2015 at 1:24 am

    I’m a yogurt-making evangelist–my family eats huge quantities of it in the summer, and it’s so much cheaper to make it than to buy it! My bet as to what’s gone wrong is that by pouring the milk into jars, you’re cooling the milk too much, and “room temperature”, especially in the winter, is sub-par for bacteria.

    When I make it, I bring a gallon of milk to 180 in my heaviest pot. Cool it to 110, mix in about a quarter cup of plain yogurt, slap a lid on it, and then leave the pot on a heating pad set to low for about twelve hours. This gets you Dannon-consistency yogurt–too wet for my taste, but edible, I guess. To turn it into yogurt worth telling the internet about, put a napkin or tea towel into a strainer (and, let’s be real–I use the basket of my salad spinner), dump in the sad, milky yogurt, and leave it strain for a few hours or overnight or whatever. *Then* you have delicious yogurt. This makes two to two and a half quarts of really thick, delicious yogurt for the cost of a gallon of milk and about ten minutes of hands-on work. The wait time’s killer, though.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:24 am

      AHH! Interesting. I didn’t put a lid on it. And I don’t have heatpad but I could probably use my oven. Super interesting about the salad spinner. I have one of those. Thank you!

  • Reply Fiona January 9, 2015 at 2:39 am

    My mother-in-law gave us a yoghurt maker, and honestly it’s so easy it’s ridiculous. And having been gifted it, I think we’re saving money by making it ourselves. The whole process takes 5 minutes.
    My best pro tip (received from others) is to whisk or stir it again a bit after it’s finished forming, before you fridge it. Otherwise the bacteria chains can get really long and make it slimy in texture.

  • Reply oZGe January 9, 2015 at 3:21 am

    I used to make yoghurt with machine but for 1 year I don’t need it. It is so easy to make yoghurt. Let me tell you the secret; I don’t know what kind of milk do you use, but I use fresh milk, so first I boiled it for 10 minutes to kill the possible bacteria in it.

    Then put it aside to cool. To test the right temperature, dip your little finger in the milk, and count 1 to 7, if you can stand till 7 and feel so hot after 7 it is ok. If you take out your finger before 7, wait for a little while to cool. (This method is traditional method for Turks, our grandmothers never buy yoghurt, it is as easy as pie for them to make it) The temperature is very important. (if you have a temperature it should be 43-46 Celcius)

    When the milk is ready, you put 1 tablespoon (for 1 kg) yoghurt (room temperature) to a bowl and put a little warm milk and whisk to make the yoghurt fluid. Then pour it into the milk and whisk slowly. Just make sure the yoghurt mixed in the milk then stop.

    Put a lid, and wrap the pot (or whatever you make the yoghurt in) with towels, to keep it warm. (This is what we learn from our grandparents too :))

    I open it after 4-5 hours and put it to fridge. After one day it will be perfect.

    Don’t give up, try again. You know it as Greek Yoghurt but in real it is Turkish, we make yoghurt since decades. So trust me 🙂

  • Reply Suzi S. January 9, 2015 at 5:00 am

    “I mixed in a teaspoon of sugar into 2 cups of sugar ” Wha?

  • Reply brandi January 9, 2015 at 5:20 am

    I’ve done it using a crockpot (i didn’t want to invest in a yogurt maker, either) and it was so easy! this is the recipe i used.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

      I’ve heard of the crockpot method but I don’t have one and another gadget isn’t allowed in my kitchen. 🙂

  • Reply Jessica January 9, 2015 at 6:34 am

    I’m at about a 50% success rate with my yogurt and have recently determined that my failures were when I used greek yogurt (Fage and Trader Joe’s) as my starter. I think maybe there aren’t enough cultures in greek yogurt? I switched back to Stoneybrook Farm (it lists 7 cultures) and I’m back in the yogurt game.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:20 am

      OH! I was using Fage. Maybe that’s the culprit! I have a feeling it is.

  • Reply Hannah January 9, 2015 at 6:50 am

    Despite the numerous beverages fermenting in my basement (hopefully surviving in the frigid weather here in the Northwest!), I have never attempted yogurt, so I unfortunately have no wisdom in that department. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for posting a failure. I wish there were more voices like yours on the internet that are unafraid to share imperfections. I too think they are so important! As a reader, I respect you for sharing this experience and hope you one day prevail over your yogurt-making!


    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Thanks, Hannah! Hope your fermenting beverages are ok! x

  • Reply Karen January 9, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I make yogurt not because it is less expensive (even though it is) but I make it because I was very tired of all the plastic containers I was throwing into recycling every week. Now I make 4 quarts of yogurt a week with zero waste.

  • Reply First Failure of 2015: Homemade Yogurt - The Recipe Daily January 9, 2015 at 9:12 am

    […] (Read more…) […]

  • Reply Millie l Add A Little January 9, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Even though it was a failure, at least it looks cute!

  • Reply Jenny @ The Peachy Pair January 9, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Love that you posted this! Makes us newbies to the blogsphere encouraged that we are not the only ones falling on our faces from time to time!

  • Reply Terry January 9, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I purchased a yogurt maker from QVC specials several years ago for $30. I have used it every week to make great greek yogurt which I use in all my cooking instead of sour cream. The name on the bottom is DASH – give it a look – it does a great job#!}

  • Reply Anne January 9, 2015 at 10:11 am

    My homemade yogurt came out fine, but like Stephanie, I was careful to keep the mixture warmish after adding the yogurt to the milk. I put it in my unplugged slow cooker, wrapped in a towel, inside a big insulated bag, where it sat undisturbed (which I also think is important) overnight.

    Recently I found a one-quart yogurt maker at Goodwill for a couple of bucks. I haven’t used it yet, but I will soon, and I’m pretty happy about it.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Reply Rebecca January 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Thanks for keepin’ it real. I was recently toying around with the idea of homemade yogurt after receiving Whole Grain Mornings as a gift this Christmas. The photos of the expensive-tea-towel-wrapped mason jars with homemade yogurt are intoxicating. However, after researching the different methods, the time needed, etc. I decided that store bought greek yogurt is what I am about.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

      I think I’m in this boat too. I just don’t eat that much yogurt to deal with its fickle self.

  • Reply Linda B January 9, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I would just lke to share that I used to make yoghurt while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda in the 80’s, no electricty and no oven available. To my recollection, I would make up powdered milk (full fat), heat it on my propane burner, cool to warm temp, tested on my wrist, and stir in some yoghurt from last batch, or a new container. I would then cover the container and wrap it in a towel over night. Then, voila, in the morning I had yoghurt. Only problems I recall were when the batch would become contaminated by another fungus or bacterium. Then, I would need to buy a new container. Yoghurt was an important protein source for me, living in the bush with no access to a grocery store except once a month. I guess the bottom line from my experience is it doesn’t need to be too complicated!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Linda! That is so awesome. I actually have read that adding powdered milk will thicken it tremendously but thought people using powdered milk in the states would be a bit strange. Maybe not! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Chrissy January 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Hooray for failures! I had my first of 2015 with a chicken dish that tasted sort of like mud. And it went up on Wednesday, so kudos to you for putting yours up too! Here’s to a lot more successes than failures for both of us this year.

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 9, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Just checked it out. Haha. Love that you shared it, too! xo

  • Reply Andjela January 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I think it’s so important for people cooking at home, especially novices, to know that failures sometimes happen to the best of us. I agree with earlier commenters that suggest that the temperature was probably the issue when you poured just mixed concoction int cold jars. Room temperature is key for the development of bacteria in yogurt and kefir once the starter is mixed into the milk. I also don’t think that there’s no one right way to make yogurt as the experiences shared here show, but one can easily become very good at it so don’t let this failure stop you from trying again. Warm up the jars to 110F in the oven next time and that will probably do the trick. Once you poor the mixture, turn off the oven and place the jars. Let them rest in there for 5-6 hours and check consistency by gently pushing the top. If it’s firm enough place the jars in the fridge; if not, let them sit in the oven for another couple of hours. I keep my jars in the oven and not on top of the counter because a) they are less likely to be disturbed or knocked over (important if you have small kids and/or pets) and b) once the oven has cooled down the ‘room temperature’ inside it will fluctuate less than the ‘room temperature’ outside it. You also might want to try a different starter next time or a larger quantity of it.

  • Reply cynthia January 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    BOO failures!! But I gotta say, I am SO in love with these gorgeous photos <3

  • Reply Cat January 9, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I make my yoghurt pretty much the same way you do (heat milk, cool to 110, add yoghurt). The only difference is that once I’ve added the yoghurt, I pour the mixture into a pre-warmed thermos and let it sit overnight in that. Maybe the residual heat gives the bacteria more time to thicken the yoghurt? I’m not sure, but it always works for me. Hope it works for you if you ever give it another go!

  • Reply Deborah Harris January 9, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Invest in a yoghurt maker. I bought mine brand new at a market & it only cost me $10. They cost more than that, but I would still buy one when mine stops working because it makes it so easy to make. Mine came with a jar & lid that fits inside the container that keeps it warm for you. I use a good quality plain yoghurt no sugar & I always get perfect yoghurt, thick & creamy.

  • Reply Rianna January 9, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    This is one of the prettiest failures I’ve ever seen, these photos are beautiful.

  • Reply Jen January 10, 2015 at 5:16 am

    I use my cast iron pot to retain the heat. I also preheat my oven just a bit then turn it off. I stick the pot in the warm oven and leave it overnight. The oven and pot retain enough heat to keep the yogurt warm. Then I stir gently, transfer to jars and refrigerate. I agree with the commenter who said you may need to bring the temp down just a bit more under 110. I also use Stonyfield and have never had a problem. I make a gallon at a time (6 kids in the house!) and use whole milk. Usually just whatever milk hubby has picked up at the store. I have a friend who said that a woman from India told her that the heat from the oven light is enough to keep your oven warm overnight. She also said that in India they just leave it on the counter overnight, but, India’s climate is signifigantly different than mine…Minnesota…in January.

  • Reply Allison January 10, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I love this post! Kitchen experiments aren’t always successful; as bloggers we try to make the food we post look perfect and effortless, but you can’t always see the mess on the counter and the flour all over my sweatpants as I stand behind the camera. Plus I totally agree with your logic about only going the DIY route if it will save money or time. Thanks for this hilarious and honest post!

    xx Allison

  • Reply Emily January 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Was the milk you used Ultra High Pasteurized? If so that is probably why it didn’t work. Ultra high pasteurization (280 F) denatures the milk protein too much. I love using Saint Benoit milk for yogurt, they only pasteurize to 145F.

  • Reply Adrianna Too January 10, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I make all my own yogurt, ever since I embraced full-fat dairy. My nearly-foolproof method:

    Heat 4-8 cups milk to 185 degrees on the stove.
    Let cool to about 165; strain to get rid of the skin.
    Let cool to 110-112; whisk in about a quarter cup of yogurt.
    Cover with saran wrap with some holes poked in it.
    Into the oven, turned off but with the light on, overnight.
    In the morning, into the fridge to cool, then stir and strain thru cheesecloth.

    I’ve deviated on quantity of milk and yogurt, heating it well past 185, many brands of yogurt, initial yogurt temp, straining with a paper towel, all without screwing up my results. Only things that have ruined it are not getting the yogurt incorporated thoroughly and forgetting to turn the oven light on (oops).

    It’s a leap of faith to leave a bowl of dairy out overnight, but I’m still standing!

    PS. Most other Adriannas I have known spell it with one n. I love having you as a name twin!

  • Reply Lauren January 11, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I love failure posts. Somehow the internet became a place where we are all encouraged to be perfect. Thanks for injecting a little bit of reality into the mix.

    I’ve never made yogurt for many of the same reasons you’ve discussed. I like the idea of it, but a quart of store bought yogurt is $6 and 3 blocks away so it’s never been worth the hassle for me. There has been a lot of excellent advice in the comments on this post though, so maybe this will give me some motivation to give it a shot.

  • Reply francesca January 12, 2015 at 6:19 am

    You made even failure look good. Thanks for your honesty – some blogger hyper-curate which tends to make me feel like a yea. Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Justine January 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I have used this recipe many times with 0 failures.

    I like thick yogurt so I strain it for about 8 hours. It comes out so cool and creamy – it’s better than any store-bought yogurt I’ve had! The only trouble is that now my oven light is burnt out.

  • Reply Peppermint Dolly January 16, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    This piece is so endearing – thanks for your honesty, it was a lovely read that gave me a chuckle and a bit of comfort. When trying out new recipes in my kitchen there’s sometimes a bit of a throw down and a minor shouty “BUT I’M RIGHT” to the recipe – yet it still doesn’t work – good to know I’m not the only one! 🙂


  • Reply Lakshmi January 17, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Like you I have struggled time and again to make yogurt and come to the realization that the starting yogurt culture and the temperature are very important. Summer time is the easiest, you can leave the yogurt to set on the counter top and it is set in 8-10 hours.

    If the yogurt is not set, there are ways to still fix it after 8 hours. The way I do it is bring a large pan of water to boil and place the yogurt jars or dish in the water to warm. I do this 2-3 times sometimes and yogurt sets once it warms up to the required temperature.

    I collected a few tips over time and post on my blog here:

    BTW, I found you on PBS Fresh Tastes and followed you here.

    Cheers and good luck!

  • Reply Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe January 26, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I usually make my yogurt at night, then cover the bowl, wrap it in a big towel and store it in the oven overnight to incubate and transfer it to the fridge in the morning. If the oven has a light, I’ll turn it on for an extra bit of warmth. That’s the only thing I notice in your recipe that seems like it might be lacking – the incubation time. That said, I usually do use some powdered milk in mine. Recently though, the price seems to have skyrocketed, so I didn’t bother replenishing my stash when it ran out – since then, I have made yogurt twice without and haven’t noticed much of a difference in the final texture.