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What you should NEVER do when making yoghurt at home + coconut yoghurt recipe

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Ever since my good friend Jac told me about her favourite coconut yoghurt, I’ve been a little obsessed with figuring out how to make my own. Actually, thinking about it, yoghurt making has been on my radar for a lot longer than that.

You see, I love fermented foods (and beverages). At uni I majored in food microbiology and for my honours thesis delved into the bacterial populations of blue vein and camembert cheeses. Partially so I could play around with bacteria but mostly so I had an excuse to eat more cheese.

Then there were a few wayward years as a wine maker where I got up close and personal with more strains of yeast and lactic acid bacteria than I’d bargained for.

But I digress. Back to yoghurt.

Making yoghurt is something I always knew I’d do, one day.

And that day has come!

Over the last few months I’ve been perfecting my yoghurt making skills of both regular milk based yoghurt, and the more exotic coconut yoghurt.

The thing is, it’s no where near as complicated as you’d imagine. I’m kicking myself a little for not starting sooner.

So what should you NEVER do when making yoghurt at home?

Simple. You should never be tricked into thinking you need to go out and buy any specific equipment.

No ‘yoghurt makers’ need apply.

What do you need?

1. A Thermometer.
Yoghurt making bacteria are delicate souls, a bit like Goldilocks, they need their temperature to be ‘just right’ and the only way to tell if it’s OK is to measure. My Irishman recently purchased a fast reading digital thermometer for testing meat on the BBQ and it works a treat moonlighting as a yoghurt thermometer.

2. Some clean jars.
I prefer glass but plastic containers are fine too. Just make sure they’re clean. Fresh from the dishwasher is ideal.

3. A chiller bag or esky.
We need to keep our yoghurt nice and cosy for 8 hours or so. This used to put me off making yoghurt as I was worried about keeping the temperature constant. The thing is, it doesn’t need to be exact. I have a small insulated ‘cooler’ bag that does the job nicely. At a stretch you could just wrap your jars in some foil and then bundle them up in towels.

4. A starter culture.
I’ve been using a powdered culture that I picked up at my health food store. Or you could try using a few tablespoons of commercial natural yoghurt – but there’s a risk the bacteria won’t be still alive. So I haven’t tried that yet.

UPDATE: I’ve had lots of success with using my previous batch of yoghurt as a culture for my new yoghurt. And the yoghurt tends to set more quickly than when using dried culture. And it’s much cheaper! I use about 4-6 tablespoons in a 2L batch of yoghurt.

I’ve also read that you can use the powder in probiotic capsules but haven’t experimented with them yet either.

5. Milk.
Cows or coconut milk work well. Although there’s no reason why you couldn’t use goat’s milk, sheep milk or even buffalo if you have it at your disposal.

UPDATE: I had some failure using A2 milk, the yoghurt just didn’t thicken properly. I’m now sticking to regular milk.

I haven’t tried soy, rice or almond milk but if there’s enough protein they should work. Or you could try them using the coconut yoghurt recipe below. I’d love to hear how you get on if you do!

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coconut yoghurt
makes a little over 3 cups

Coconut milks and creams vary hugely in their fat content which really tells you how much water has been added. I’ve used unsweetened coconut ‘cream’ that has about 20% fat. Higher fat coconut cream will give a thicker, richer yoghurt. And of course you’ll get a less thick yoghurt with a lower fat coconut milk.

Don’t stress about it too much but you might need to try a few different brands before you find one you’re happy with.

2 cans coconut milk or cream (400g / 14oz), approx 20% fat
40g (1.5oz) egg white powder
1 teaspoon yoghurt culture

1. Combine coconut milk/cream and egg white powder in a medium saucepan. You’ll have some lumps.

2. Gently heat to 43C (110F).

3. Place 1 tablespoon coconut mixture in a clean cup. Add the culture powder and stir until it forms a (lumpy) paste. Add a little more coconut milk then stir the culture into the main saucepan.

4. Pour into glass jars and top with a lid.

5. Place in a chiller bag or esky and leave in a warm place for about 12 hours.

6. Pop in the fridge and leave for another day before eating.

VARIATIONS
no egg white powder? – You should be able to find it online or a cake decorating supplier. Whole egg powder would be fine, although it will change the flavour. Don’t use fresh egg whites as they may contain salmonella. The yoghurt is still lovely without it, just a lot less thick.

vegan – skip the egg white powder and be prepared for a runnier (but still delicious!) yoghurt

short on time? – the yoghurt can be eaten after the first 12 hours, but the flavour and texture are thicker and more yoghurty after the extra day in the fridge.

using powdered coconut milk? – mix it up with boiling water then cool to 43C (110F). Then add the egg white powder and proceed as per the recipe.

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video version of the recipe

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cows milk yoghurt
makes 8 cups

This may seem like a lot of yoghurt but it will keep for a month or so in the fridge. Even though there are only 2 of us, we haven’t had any problems eating it up!

I’ve found that adding a little full cream milk powder gives a much nicer, creamier yoghurt and is totally worth the hassle. If using fresh milk, you’ll need to ‘sterilise’ it before adding the culture. This involves heating to 83C (180F) and holding for 5 minutes. UPDATE: I’ve been experimenting with skipping the sterilising step and haven’t had any failures yet, so feel free to skip it if you aren’t worried about possible contamination in your milk.

2L (8 cups) full fat milk
100g (3.5oz) full cream milk powder, optional
2 teaspoons yoghurt culture

1. Whisk together milk and milk powder in a medium saucepan. Don’t stress if there are lumps.

2. Place over a medium heat and warm, stirring frequently until the temperature reaches 83C (180F). Hold at that temp for about 5 minutes. Or skip this step and go to step 3.

3. Cool to 43C (110F). I pop the saucepan in a baking dish filled with cold water and a chiller brick or ice.

3. Place 1 tablespoon of the tepid milk in a cup. Add the culture powder and stir until it forms a (lumpy) paste. Add a little more milk then stir the culture into the main saucepan.

4. Pour into glass jars and top with a lid.

5. Place in a chiller bag or esky and leave in a warm place for about 12 hours.

6. Refrigerate.

VARIATIONS
no full cream milk powder? – Regular milk will work.

vegan – see the coconut yoghurt recipe above.

short on time? – see the head note for how to use UHT milk and skip the heating step.

super creamy – add in a cup of whipping cream or double the milk powder.

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video version of the recipe

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Recently on The Stonesoup Diaries

:: the simplest sauce, ever
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Cheers
Jules x

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{ 181 comments… add one }

  • Bron 25 April, 2013, 6:24 pm

    Hi

    Thanks for you lovely post – I adore the photography!

    I was just wondering whether you could use gelatin as a substitute for the egg white powder? What ratio do you think you could use?

    thanks in advance!

    Bronnie x

  • Bec 16 May, 2013, 10:11 am

    Hi, thank you for this post!

    I borrowed an Easiyo yoghurt maker from a friend a while back and tried a couple of times to make yoghurt using full fat coconut milk. I found that the coconut milk in the container mimicked what it does in the cans – ie. it separated, leaving a thicker, white layer at the top and a watery, clear layer at the bottom. Do you recommend using only the thicker part of the coconut milk/cream from the can, or is there a brand you can recommend for me? I didn’t add egg white powder but from the sounds of your post that’s more a thickener – I added powdered coconut milk to my second batch thinking that may help it emulsify but it didn’t seem to help.

    I don’t own a food thermometer and I’d prefer not to buy any extra equipment so I’d like to continue trying with the yoghurt maker, but any advice you could give me about brands of coconut milk that may work better would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks again :)
    Bec

  • JerryF 26 May, 2013, 12:06 am

    Very nice blog and beautiful photo’s. That being said let me go to the making of yogurt.
    I’m an expat living in the Philippines and it’s hard to get fresh milk (getting easier) and 100ml of Nestle’s yogurt will set you back about US$ ~1.25.
    So what I do is this, and I love it.
    I use only dried milk powder, haven’t tried the instant, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
    The DMS that I use call for 50g per L, I use about 75g /L, then add in some of the Nestle’s plain, 1-2 Tbspn or 30ml. Then set it on my counter (except in the rainy season when it’s cool), normal temp being around 90F or 34C, after about 8-10 hrs, I have yogurt, after 15-18 hrs it is so thick and tangy that it blows my mind. No Heating of the milk, just put it in the jar and put a lid on it. In the rainy season, I use an electric heating pad set on low in the oven.
    I use dry milk solids for skim milk, yogurt, fresh cheeses and for me it works great.
    I will do anything to avoid UHT milk.

  • Jeff 4 June, 2013, 6:41 pm

    can we mix coconut extract in milk and use it in case coconut cream is not available?

  • kezia 4 June, 2013, 7:26 pm

    i found some esiyo yoghurt makers at the op shop, is so easy to make yoghurt in them! You just half fill the 1L container (or a jar of similar size) with room temperature water, add 1 1/2 cups full cream milk powder, 3 tablespoons yoghurt (i used Jalna biodynamic for my first batch, but now use some of my own), put the lid on, shake well, then fill the jar to the top, shake again! Fill the esiyo with boiling water to the top of the red insert, put the lid on….and 6 hours later you’ve got delicious yoghurt!

    • kezia 4 June, 2013, 7:29 pm

      whoops! *Fill to the top of the jar with more room temperature water!

      • Niki 26 May, 2015, 3:44 pm

        omg thank you Kezia! these are the instructions I’ve been looking for! a friend recently gave me her Esiyo and I’ve been hanging to try it but wanted to use yogurt (not powdered culture) to start but couldn’t find this method anywhere! thx again :D

  • Keshia 27 May, 2015, 6:44 pm

    Hi! I love that you understand all this bacteria stuff… I had my first attempt at coconut yoghurt this week, I used a yoghurt maker and coconut cream but after 20 hours in the maker it was still very runny (I found it did thicken up left in the fridge 24hours) but what concerned me was a runny thin grey layer on top of the yoghurt before I poured it out of the maker… I just read somewhere this is bad? I bought my yoghurt maker 2nd hand but looks like its had minimal use. I sterialised all the parts. I just want to check I’m not creating bad bacteria? Can you help please?? I need someone with the knowledge! Thankyou!! :)

    • jules 28 May, 2015, 9:15 am

      Hi Keshia! Was the grey layer mouldy or could it possibly have been fat from the coconut cream?

      The best way to know if your yoghurt is ok is to taste it… It should be nice and acidic / tangy which shows the bacteria have done their job at decreasing the pH. Most bad bacteria can’t grow at the low pH of yoghurt so that’s why it works so well.
      Jx

  • Sandra 15 June, 2015, 1:40 pm

    Hi, I was just reading your yoghurt ideas….. Have you ever tried making yoghurt in the slow cooker. I make heaps of Greek yoghurt because we eat so much of it. It is cheaper. I use cows milk, here is what I do.
    I put 4 litres of milk in slow cooker and heat until bubbles form around the top (this is to kill any bad bacteria) turn off and allow to cool until it is around the temperature of a baby’s bottle (I never use a thermometer and I have never had a fail). In a bowl I whisk one cup of my milk and my culture (from my favourite Greek yoghurt or my saved culture from my last batch). Save some (2/3 tbs) from each batch to keep it going). Then whisk the mix gently with long strokes back into the slow cooker. Place the pot into a warmed oven. Do not leave oven on. (put towel on shelf then pot and towel over top and sides). Leave overnight. For yummy thick Greek yoghurt I strain off some of the whey by putting a thin cotton tea towel over a colander and loading in the yoghurt. I like mine nice and thick.
    I find making yoghurt this way so easy. Another thing you could do is leave the oven light on to keep the temperature right. I haven’t had to do this as I am in a warm climate. Have fun

  • Mike G 17 June, 2015, 7:17 pm

    I’ve been making yoghurt for over a year using dry culture from a local Australian company called Country Brewer, who also do beer and cheesemaking supplies. No affiliation.
    The reason for heating cows milk to near boiling is to get rid of unwanted bacteria and also to denature the milk proteins so the yogurt doesn’t come out slimy or “ropey”.
    This has already been done with the dollar a litre UHT long life milk so it’s only necessary to heat it to 43 degrees typically. I also stir in the full cream milk powder and I’ve yet to come across a supermarket yoghurt that is smoother, creamier or more delicious than my own brew. Also, including the powdered milk and the culture it’s only costing around $1.50 a kilo.
    Thanks for the blog.

    • jules 23 June, 2015, 10:27 pm

      Sounds like you’re all over it Mike!

  • Pauline 4 July, 2015, 11:08 pm

    Love the info on here. I buy a litre of UHT milk, a pot of natural greek yoghurt, and mix three tablespoons of the yogurt into the milk, no need to heat it as its already done for you. I put it into the easiyo jar, pour boiling water into the thermos container in to the top of the red insert and leave the jar inside the thermos for 24 hours. If you want thick and creamy yoghurt, strain the yoghurt through a piece of muslin over a bowl, I put the muslin into a sieve to hold the muslin you will see the liquid separating I think the yellowish liquid is called whey but could be wrong. It takes a while to work out how long to leave it but the longer you leave it the thicker it will be. Once you have it to the consistency you like tip away the yellowish liquid, if the yoghurt is nice and thick you will probably find you can almost scrape it from the muslin. I am sure I saw somewhere where some people keep the whey and add it to soups etc, I don’t as it has a taste I don’t like.

  • Maveric 30 July, 2015, 6:28 am

    I’ve been making my own yogurt for years and I will never buy yogurt again. Wait, that’s a lie. I do buy yogurt from the store. That’s the point of my comment.

    Here’s what you do; buy a 6 pack of yogurt with live cultures. Pop the whole tray in the freezer. Defrost a single tub at a time, as needed, or if you run out of left overs from your previous batch of yogurt and Viola! Bob’s your uncle, you always have culture. I find that buying culture is sometimes a tad expensive, so I decided to try this and I have had nothing but smooth, thick success.

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