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Wednesday
May162012

Yogurt Machine Recommendations

 

Lately I have received a handful of requests for recommendations on yogurt machines so thought I'd share my yogurt makin' set-up with you. These are my essential tools for making both cow's milk and dairy-free yogurt.

The Machine

You don't necessarily need a machine to make yogurt. All that is required is a quiet, consistently warm spot (usually 100˚-110˚F). I just am partial to machines because they take the worry and guess-work out of yogurt making. You plug it in and forget about it. Pretty fool-proof if you ask me.

There are two styles of machines; the single container and the multi-container.

I use the single container Yogourmet Multi Electric Yogurt Maker (see pic at top). I find making one large 2-quart batch much more convenient than making several individual servings (fewer dishes to wash). But it's a personal choice.

If you are new to yogurt making and are not ready to make a $50 investment in a machine, swing by your local thrift shop. You just may find a nice, lightly used one. I picked up a second Yogourmet Multi for $2 at Goodwill (steal!) which I loan out to friends.

The only drawback of the Yogourmet Multi is that the fermentation container is plastic. Now it's probably safe and fine to use, but I take all precautions to avoid any leeching of chemicals into our food. So, I have replaced the plastic insert it ships with with a 2-quart (1/2 gallon) glass jar like this one:

You can purchase these 1/2 gallon glass inserts from Lucy's Kitchen Shop for under $10 or check around locally. I saw them at Sprouts in the bulk food section. It's a pretty common size, you just may have to hunt around.

Other machines you may want to look into ...

Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker: If you prefer individual servings, Cultures for Health recommends the Euro Cuisine which comes with seven 6-ounce glass jars and lids:

YoLife Yogurt Maker: Now this is cool! This versatile yogurt maker can be used with the included seven 6 ounce glass jars, canning jars, or an optional 64 ounce (1/2 gallon) glass jar. Click here for info on this machine.

YoLife Yogurt Maker.

Yogotherm: Live off the grid? Here's a reliable way (that's the manufactuer's claim, not mine) to make yogurt without electricity. The insulated container maintains the appropriate temperature throughout the culturing process. Click here for more details.

Yogotherm yogurt maker. No electricity required.

There's no rocket science that goes into yogurt machines. They really are just little incubators. The critical thing is that they maintain that consistent temperature (usually between 100˚-112˚F).

The Thermometer

Whether you are working with cow's milk, goat's milk, or plant-based milk, you will be heating the mixture. It is essential that that mixture cool to a safe temperature (around 100˚F) before adding the yogurt starter. Too hot and the friendly bacteria that cultures the milk will fry (this usually happens around 118˚F). I have gone through six thermometers and have learned that hard way that WATERPROOF and digital is the way to go. This one has performed like a champ!

Yogurt Starters

When I made cow's milk yogurt, it was possible to culture the milk with a half cup or so of plain store-bought yogurt. However, with non-dairy milk I have always used the direct-set (dried yogurt culture) method. In my research, most sources say that alternative milk yogurts (like almond, coconut and rice) are most succcessfully made using the direct-set method.

Up until October 3, 2012 I recommended Cultures for Health Vegetal vegan yogurt starter. However, I no longer do. Labeling now reads that this product is produced in a facility that also manufactures wheat, soy, eggs, nuts and fish. In addition, I have learned that barley is used as a fermentation nutrient however the manufacturer has determined that "fermentation nutrients are outside the scope of US and EU food allergen labeling requirements." Had I not dug and nor reviewed the manufacturer's spec sheet (how many of us do?), this bit of knowledge would have gone unnoticed. So this is where I leave it up to you decide what that means to you. I am no food scientist, but if I were super sensitive to gluten, I would avoid the product.

That said, Cultures for Health provides a wealth of information on the topic of non-dairy yogurt making. I just can no longer endorse their Vegetal starter as being 100% allergen-free.

So what do I use now? I've returned to using 35-40 billion CFU's (colony forming units) of Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete probiotic capsules per 2 quarts of liquid. The only downside with Klaire Labs is that they do not sell direct. Products are sold exclusively to healthcare professionals, authorized distributors, and patients with a physician-supplied authorization code. However, because it is impossible for me, a consumer, to oversee every step in the manufacturing process, I must leave it up to you to research and decide which yogurt culture or probiotic is safe for you and your family.

The one tip I can provide when selecting a non-dairy yogurt starter or priobiotic capsule is to select one that includes the lactic acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. In the United States, the USDA defines "yogurt" as containing these two strains bacteria.

A Big Pot

I heat my milk in a 5-quart stainless steel pot. I really would like something a little bigger. When heating milk, watch it carefully. Look away for a second and you could have a messy boil-over on your hands.

A Whisk

When adding the powdered culture to the cooled milk, you want to mix it in thoroughly to distribute evenly. A silicon-coated whisk comes in handy for this.

Yogurt Recipes

Here are links to non-dairy yogurt recipes on my site:

Coconut Milk Yogurt (by far the easiest and quickest to prepare)
Almond Milk Yogurt
Almond & Hemp Mill Yogurt (my first yogurt post and painfully long : )

For those who do dairy, recipes abound online. If you have a link to one, please leave it in the comments.

Why Yogurt Can Fail

Milk that's too hot when the culture is added, dead starter, unsanitized equipment, and inconsistent temperature during fermentation are the four most common reasons for a botched batch of yogurt. Other than that, yogurt is so easy to make and the results so rewarding (and tasty).

Happy yogurt making. I hope this post has been helpful.

xoLexie

 

Reader Comments (17)

Hi Lexie. About a month or so ago I was looking around for one of those glass containers and not having a ton of luck. Then it hit me. Consistent temperature? Dehydrator sitting around? So I got out several small canning jars, preheated my the dehydrator when I started to heat the "milk" and stuck those suckers in it for 7 hours at the 115 degree mark. Perfect. I know lots of folks don't own a dehydrator, but if you do... :D

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

Hi Lexie,
Thanks for the great write-up on the yogurt machines. I was wondering if you can reccommend ice cream makers that are non-roxic and where rhe drum or main part of the maker does not leach. I wld be very appreciative to know which one(s) you think are safe.
Many thanks,
Hannah

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Laurel ... Thanks for that reminder. Dehydrators are great for making yogurt as long as the temp remains in that consistent 100-112˚F temp. I bought a dehydrator that claimed it was a steamer, dehydrator, yogurt maker, all in one. So dissappointed. Lost many batches of yogurt to that machine. I know there are thermometers you can buy for dehydrators ... that may have been handy. xoLexie

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

Aw. I bet that Taylor Instant Read thermometer would have been handy too. I hope you can still steam in your "multi" purpose contraption. Poor Lexie. :-(
P.S. Great write-up. xo

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

Hey Lexie - thanks for all the great recommendations. I've ordered the YoLife - fingers crossed for great yogurt! I'm going to order the vegan starter as well. Do you use it each time you make a batch of the coconut milk yogurt? Or make it once with the starter and then use some of the yogurt as a starter for new batches??

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Nancy, non-dairy milk is not the same beast as dairy when it comes to culturing with say, a half cup of yogurt. I always use the direct-set method ... adding of dried culture. All the sources I have read and the experimenting I have done have confirmed that using a starter each time for non-dairy milk is the way to go. xoLexie

May 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

Laurel, yeah, that'll teach me to think that there is an all-in-one that can even give the dog a bath! : ) xoLexie

May 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

Hannah, oooo, that's a tough one. With an ice cream maker I have to think that there isn't a ton of leeching going on as it's operating at a freezing temp. However, getting the ice cream out without scraping the sides can be tough. So I always use a silicon scraper. I don't know of any other style freezer canisiter out there. There are some items (like a non-stick) for occasional crepe making that I just can't give up : ) xoLexie

May 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

I have lots of appliances, but not a yogurt maker. I've been thinking of getting one so thank you for your review!

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette

No, Lexie you post this now? I ought my yougurt maker a week ago. LOL
I am very satisfied I did buy a eurocuisine but i bought the 2 quart canister. Do to some umm help from another adult in the house the yogurt maker was unplugged too soon during my first batch and we ended up with somthing akin to kefir. Still yummy but the next two batchse were mch better. Thx sooo much for your coconut milk recipe!

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

Kendra ... hooraayyyyy!! I have an outlet that shuts off at whim, so I know your grief : ) The Eurocuisine looks like a great machine. Good purchase!! xoLexie

May 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterLexie

Consider this a long overdue thank you for your yogurt recipes and all the work and careful testing that went into them. I make your almond milk yogurt every week without fail. In fact, I double the recipe and end up with a gallon of the stuff! I eat it for breakfast, as does my husband. I also put it my son's smoothies, have it for dessert with fruit, and use it in your totally addictive mini cheesecakes. It's lovely, lovely stuff. I followed your suggestion and get my starter from Cultures for Life.

I use my TSM dehydrator, which has a small hole in the front door that fits the stem of a thermometer. I find I can get the dehydrator to reliably stay between 100 and 108. I also put four glass jars filled with water behind the yogurt jars, which I think helps the temperature stay steady. (I use four quart sized glass jars for the yogurt mixture.) I've only lost one jar-worth of yogurt to a suspicious pink blotch, but since the others in that batch were fine, I imagine the jar itself had a contaminant.

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamar Bihari

Tamar, THANK YOU! It's always nice to hear from people like you who are making it and enjoying it. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to share. xoLexie

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

8-17-2013

Recently I started making yogurt without first reading how to do it. It was very successful and tasty Greek yogurt.

I found a 2 qt electric plastic container, without a lid, bought Mt. High yogurt with 5 live cultures, took frig cooled skim milk, poured it into the container, added 2 tbls of chilled yogurt, plugged it in, covered it with a plastic lid from a jar.

BINGO!!

10 hrs later delicious yogurt. I then put a dish towel into a calendar, put that into a larger plastic bowl, poured in the warm yogurt, and set the whole thing in the frig. an hr later, a bowl full of whey and great yogurt.
I am now looking for ways to use the whey.

I then started to research other methods. Why the sterilization? One site talked about dying from contaminated culture, sterilizing all utensils, bowls, etc. all used heating the milk first,

Why am I getting tasty yogurt???
I have gone through 3 gal of skim milk with great results. I started looking for recipes to add ingredients and here I am.
I was also looking for another machine as this old plastic thing has a loose container and I am afraid I will shock myself if I keep using it.
My mother made yogurt in the 1940's during the war, Just wrapped up a bowl of milk and starter and next morning we had yogurt
Why all the big whooptodo

Ralph

August 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Ralph, glad your method works for you ;) ... here I make nut milk and it's a slightly different beast. xoLexie

August 20, 2013 | Registered CommenterLexie

I am just starting to look into making yogurt at home. Can you tell me, is there a yogurt maker that is fully automatic? Or do you have to heat the milk on the stove & add the culture, for all yogurt makers?
Thanks !
Julie

December 1, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjulie milner

Great question Julie, I have not come across a fully automatic machine :) Maybe one needs to be invented, ha! xoLexie

December 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

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