How Much Yogurt Starter Do You Need to Make the Best Yogurt?

Sneak Preview: Learn how much starter you need to make the best yogurt based on extensive experimentation. It’s less than you think.

How Much Starter Do You Really Need To Make Yogurt?Pin

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If you like to make yogurt, have you ever questioned your process? If you look online, there seem to be a zillion ways to do it. Do they all work equally well?

Recently, I received the following question from a reader,  “How much starter do you really need to make yogurt?”

What follows are the results of my unscientific experiment to determine the optimal amount of starter needed to make good yogurt at home.

Are you a questioner?

One of my favorite pastimes is questioning why we do things the way we do.

If the reason doesn’t make sense, I look for a faster, cheaper, better, or more efficient way.

Before I get too far into this, take a look at how I make basic Greek yogurt, so we have a starting point.

Happy Cooks Speak Up

After reading your article, I tried adding the amount of starter that you suggested. I must say, I have never had better yogurt!. It was creamy and delicious. Thank you.”

A Reader’s Question

The following question from a reader caused me to wonder if the amount of starter was a tradition or perhaps a cook’s insecurity (if some starter is good, add more for good measure).

Could this be why there is so much discrepancy across the web regarding the amount of starter required to make yogurt?

“I have a question about the quantity of “starter” in my homemade Greek yogurt.  I use 8-9 cups of milk and was told to bring it all to the proper temperature on the stove, then cool down to the proper temperature then…..and, this is my confusion – you suggest 2-3 teaspoons of yogurt (starter)  – when my initial recipe says to add 8 ounces – 1 cup of unflavored Greek yogurt – as my “starter”.  Which is the proper amount of starter to add?  Is it the 2-3 teaspoons or 8 ounces?  Have I been adding far too much?”

I was inspired to experiment.

a comparison of various amounts of starterPin
I staged an experiment to see how much yogurt I needed to make yogurt.

Comparing Different Amounts of Yogurt Starter

In the first trial (seen above), I added different amounts of starter, ranging from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 cup for a pint and a half of milk (3 cups).

As you can see from the picture above, they all made yogurt–even the 1/4 teaspoon.

Notice all the whey sitting on top of the yogurt in the green-plate row where I added more significant amounts than in the bottom row.

comparison of yogurt made with a lot of starter and yogurt made with small  amount of starterPin
Left: a large amount of starter from the top-left sample
Right: a small amount of starter from the bottom middle sample

When I dumped the contents of each sample onto a flat plate, the contrast was dramatic!  Look how much smoother and creamier the yogurt looks on the right, where only a small amount of starter was added to the milk.

I combined the top row of yogurt samples containing a lot of starter and the bottom row containing much less starter to make Greek yogurt, my favorite. After straining and whipping, you can see the result below.

WOW! Which one looks more appetizing to you? Surprisingly, the yogurt on the left is still entirely edible and tasted fine, even if the texture was not so smooth and creamy.

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yogurt samples after whippingPin
Left: Strained and whipped yogurt using a large amount of starter
Right: Strained and whipped yogurt using less than a tablespoon of starter

Does It Matter How Long You Incubate Yogurt?

Then, it occurred to me that the incubation time could also make a difference, so I tried again.

This time, I used 1 quart of non-fat milk for each sample and my own yogurt as a starter, with amounts ranging from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/4 cup.

I didn’t even try the reader’s suggestion of 1 cup to 8-9 cups as I could already see that was overkill after my first experiment.

comparing yogurt after 4 hours of incubationPin
After 4 hours (This yogurt sat here for a few minutes so you can see the whey beginning to separate.)

At four hours, they all made yogurt except for the 1/4 teaspoon. It is a little too thin, especially if you want to strain it for Greek yogurt.  

It’s not apparent in the picture, but the 4-tablespoon sample is already not as creamy. So, I put them all back in the oven to incubate longer.

comparing yogurt after 6 hoursPin
After 6 hours

At 6 hours, the only change was in the ¼-teaspoon sample. It is now nearly as thick as the others.

comparison of yogurt after 8 hours of incubationPin
After 8 hours

After 8 hours of incubation, the 1/4 teaspoon sample is just as thick as the 1 teaspoon sample and the creamiest. I tasted them all for tanginess and couldn’t tell much difference.

Many yogurt instructions will tell you the longer you incubate, the thicker your yogurt. I’m not so sure.

Except for the 1/4 teaspoon sample, they were all thick at 4 hours. They didn’t get any thicker, even when incubated for an additional 4 hours.

The Answer to the Question, “How Much Yogurt Starter Do You Need?”

For 1 quart of milk, 1 generous teaspoon of healthy starter is plenty. You’ll need about the same for a liter of milk. I use a tablespoon of yogurt for a half-gallon of milk.

You can make excellent yogurt with only a couple of tablespoons of starter in a gallon of milk. ¼ cup of starter per gallon is the maximum for best results.

Amount of MilkYogurt Starter Needed
1 quart of milk1-2 teaspoons of starter
½ gallon of milk 1 generous tablespoon
1 gallon of milk2 tablespoons to ¼ cup

In case you’re wondering, I always use fresh milk from Braums. It makes the best yogurt EVER. I used a previous batch of my homemade yogurt as the starter (1 week old).


Using a different kind of milk, starter, or additive, such as powdered milk or gelatin will likely yield different results. 

Making yogurt is simple, but the results from using various techniques and ingredients can be complicated to predict. Have fun experimenting!

Frequently Asked Questions About Starter

Can I use whey strained from yogurt as a starter?

Yes. Read more about using whey as a starter. However, the whey needs to be fresh. Although yogurt whey is usable for 4-6 weeks, I don’t recommend using it as a starter after 10 days to 2 weeks. The little yogurt bodies start to die off with age.

Does the duration of incubation affect how much starter you should use?

Yes. The longer you plan to incubate, the less starter you need. If the incubation time is shorter (4-6 hours), the effects of using too much starter won’t be as pronounced.

Why does my yogurt produce so much whey?

Either you are incubating too long, at too high of a temperature, or using too much starter–could be any or all.

Happy Cooks Speak Up

Interestingly enough, just recently, I was having issues (that I actually wrote to you about) with very runny yogurt.  I was always making great yogurt, then suddenly runny all the time.  I was getting way too generous with the starter and went back to preserving 2 tablespoons of the current batch in a small container to be used in the next batch.  Yogurt is starting coming out great again!!”–THERESA T.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at Hope to see you again soon! Paula

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  1. Love this! Clear examples, makes it easy to see that less really is more with the starter here!

    1. Hi Jillian,

      I’m so happy the examples helped you. Good luck with all of your yogurt adventures.

      Write back anytime you have a question.

  2. Heather Westlake says:

    Just made my first batch of Greek yoghurt tho I think I put too much starter in the batch. After straining and whisking it is the most gorgeous thick creamy consistency. Rescued!
    Thank you for all your fabulous tips.

    1. Hi Heather,

      Congratulations! Don’t feel too bad about too much starter. Almost everybody uses too much–especially in the beginning. I’m always amazed at how little it takes.

      You’re welcome on the tips. Write back anytime you have a question.

  3. Julia Lee says:

    Have you ever used raw whole milk to make yogurt? I know it can be done. I’m just wondering if the same applies to raw milk regarding using less starter is the same. So far I’ve only made it 1x and used 1/2 c store bought plain greek yogurt. it did make yogurt, but was quite runny. I did end up draining it to make it thicker like Greek yogurt. It tastes great, but now I wonder if less starter will work better. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I have played with this, but not extensively. Since the sale of raw cow’s milk is illegal where I live, it’s hard to come by, and I don’t live on a farm anymore.

      In my limited experience, the yogurt you make with raw whole milk is always going to be thin or thinner. Here is a post I wrote about my experience. MakingYogurt fromRaw Milk (Includes GreekYogurt Instruction). As far as using less starter, I would think you could definitely use less than you are now. I have gotten to where I make yogurt with whatever I can scrape out of a basically empty bowl. If your yogurt is super fresh and healthy, it doesn’t take much. Using store-bought yogurt is a different game that works fine the first time, but goes downhill fast with future generations.

      Write back if you have more questions.

      Good luck!

  4. Really enjoyed reading over your demonstration here. I’ve just started making my own soygurt using thermophilic heirloom cultures and I’m obsessed. So So very satisfying!

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Yes, so satisfying. You are ahead of me in making non-dairy yogurt. I don’t have a taste for it, so I haven’t gone down that road.

  5. Francizca says:

    Looking forward to getting recipes

    1. Welcome, Francizca.

      So glad to hear from you. If there is ever anything specific you are looking for but can’t find through the search box, don’t hesitate to write back.

  6. This is amazing, I just had to leave a comment.

    I love yogurt, it protects my digestive system from all the coffee and spicy food I enjoy.

    I’ve tried making yogurt at least a dozen times over the last couple of years. The only way I could get it at least as thick as store bought yogurt was to strain it with a cheese cloth, but that’s messy and takes up extra time. If I didn’t strain it, it would just come out like drinkable yogurt.

    I thought it was my incubation method; I’ve tried keeping it warm in the oven and eventually bought an instapot with a yogurt button. Nothing made a difference in thickness.

    But, I usually use 1/4c yogurt in a 1.8L jug of milk.

    This time I used a 1 litre box of whole milk with just 2 tsp yogurt, for 5.5 hours in the instapot.

    I wasn’t so sure it worked when I put it in the fridge yesterday, but I just checked it…
    IT’S THICK. and I didn’t need to strain it.
    Thank you so so much for this experiment!

  7. Tony Aspinall says:

    Very interesting comments which i found very helpful , will put them to the test I like Greek yogurt pretty thick .

  8. Great experiments. I have just recently started making my own cultured dairy, using the L.Reuteri as promoted my Dr William Davis. He recommends 36 hour ferments in order to maximise the probiotic CFU. On average the CFU doubles every 3 hours. Although I have seen that standard yoghurt cultures double every 1 to 2 hours, although that tends to be much shorter duration.
    I have been experimenting with the amounts of starter, and your page has confirmed the same, instead of using 100ml of whey I should use perhaps 50ml or even less. Whey I believe contains about 20% of the same volume of curds of the probiotics.

    1. Hi Greg,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Although I prefer the shortest incubation possible to set yogurt (about 3½ hours with my system), some of my readers may find this quite interesting.

  9. This is very useful information. I have just started making dairy yoghurt again after many years of only coconut as I can now tolerate sheep milk and the yoghurt it produces is delicious. Last time I made it though I whisked it after it had set (it was a bit lumpy but definitely set) and it went runny!! Do you know why please?

    1. Hi Zerka,

      Usually, it will become firm as it chills. How much starter did you use? How long did you let your yogurt incubate? At what temperature did you incubate? I need more details before I can help you. You can always send an email to paularhodes at

  10. Excellent. So grateful you shared the results of this experiment … especially giving me perfect roadmaps to ‘amount’ and ‘time’ in achieving the smoothest yogurt. Well done and thank you. I am learning.

    1. Hi Frances,
      Congratulations on achieving smooth yogurt. I’m not sure we ever quit learning when it comes to any food containing live organisms such as yogurt, yeast, and sourdough starter.

  11. Layor Nala says:

    I buy one pack of powdered yogurt ($3) which makes 1 litre. I take a level teaspoon of the powder and add it to a litre of warm dried milk powder. I leave that in my yogurt maker 8-12 hours. The result is perfect creamy yogurt.

    I normally make about a litre a week of yogurt. That means my pack of powdered Yogurt makes about 30 litres. No messing around with transferring from one batch to another.

    1. Hi Layor,
      Sounds like you have a system that works for you. High five!!

  12. sherry cochrane says:

    i’ve been making yogurt for about a month and have started trying flavored yogurt. i always start out with the same ingredients 1 -1/2 qt milk and add extract and sugar. i made lemon flavored came out great using 1 tbs extract. recently tried root beer flavored (why not) used 1/4 cup extract and 1 tsp vanilla with 1/2 cup sugar i processed for about 12 hours. It came out runny. How come? i’ve been using 1 envelope of starter

    1. Hi Sherry,
      Sounds like you are having fun with your yogurt. However, the little yogurt bodies may not be having quite so much fun. In my experience, adding any flavoring (including sugar) is best after the yogurt is processed. I have gotten away with adding a small amount of vanilla extract, but I try to avoid that. Yogurt bacteria seem to prefer an unflavored diet. Your reward for saving the flavoring until later is the ability to use the unflavored yogurt to make more yogurt in the future so you don’t have to keep buying starter. I write a lot about this in my yogurt tutorial.

  13. I just made yogurt in my Ninja and it turned a little “sandy.” There were tiny chucks of yogurt. That’s never happened before but I made it better by whipping it. Does this happen with too much starter? I just read your article and maybe next time I’ll use 1/4 tsp to 1/2 gallon milk.

      1. We make Greek yogurt in our house and I’ve seen the same thinness issue arise when too much starter is used. Our starter is whey that we’ve frozen in 1 oz cubes from previous batches (handy when hungry humans accidentally eat your yogurt that you’ve set aside for a starter). I’m finding that 4 oz of whey per gallon (down from a whopping 10oz) works well but given your experiment above, we may play around with even less. Thank you for an interesting read!

        1. Hi Sky,
          Thank you for your kind words. “Hungry humans” have a way of eating yogurt with nary a thought. That’s why I suggest always keeping some spare yogurt or whey in the freezer as you do. I’m glad you are inspired to experiment.

  14. Thank you for educating me in how long to incubate & how much starter to use in making yoghurt. I am a food manufacturer although I make yoghurt only for myself to eat , it shows your professionalism in process of making yoghurt ,with step by step sample pictures & effect of different times on final product.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, James.

  15. Hi Paula.
    What temperature should the starter be before adding it to the warmed milk? I can’t find an answer anywhere.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Many people think the starter should be at room temperature. However, after making yogurt almost every week for nearly 15 years, I don’t think it matters. I whisk cold yogurt starter into ¼ to ½ cup of the warm milk (after it has cooled down to 110˚F) before inoculating the entire batch of milk. Make sure the yogurt starter and the milk are whisked until smooth so you don’t have any “hot spots” in the yogurt which can contribute to lumps in the final product.

  16. Wendy Lane says:

    Thanks, I have learned from your experiments. To make yogurt I bought a Cosori stainless steel food dehydrator model CP267-FD that has time and temperature settings. It is 14″ by 18″, 12″ inches tall, will fit at least 6 quart jars inside, on a bottom rack off of the floor. I turn it on to 110 and put the starter in for about half an hour so it will be the same temperature as the cooled milk when mixing. It has a fan that makes noise and uses electricity, but it is great for making yogurt and is also a really nice little dehydrator.

    1. Hi Wendy,
      Thank you for adding to the conversation. This might help give someone else an idea about how they can make yogurt. You certainly don’t have to have a yogurt machine.

  17. I make 2.5 gallons of yoghurt at a time with skim milk powder. For ages, the product was kind of thin with lots of whey, with an occasional surprise of firmness. I tried all suggestions to achieve a consistently firm yoghurt but it was not until I came across your incredibly helpful site that I realized that my seat of the pants dosing the starter was a problem. As soon as I measured and reduced the amount of starter to 2 Tablespoons, I got a nice, firm product consistently. Thank you for your guidance.

    1. Woohoo! Glad this worked for you. Thanks for writing.

  18. Thankyou.. use 1 generous teaspoon for around 1 quart of milk.. amazing wonderful .. the best yogurt texture ( Iam using with that bear machine yogurt , around 11 hours time ) .. God bless you

    1. You’re welcome, Ian.

  19. I’ve tried this with a small batch (3 cups of whole milk + 1/4 cup of heavy cream), adding 1.5 tsp of the freshest plain yogurt I could find at the supermarket. It made one full pint mason jar and one half pint mason jar. I heat it up to 200 by mistake in the microwave (gasp), and kept it above 180 for 20 minutes, then cooled it to 110 before adding the 1.5 tsp starter.

    It took 5 hours in a tiny Styrofoam cooler with some hot tap water up to the bottom of the rings, and another jar filled with hot water in the middle.

    At 4 hours, it still “tilted” a bit in the jar. At 5 hours, It wasn’t “jello set”, but it was still set enough to hold its shape in a spoon. I could’ve waited another hour, but it was late, and I wanted to go to bed, so I put it in the fridge.

    I’ve frozen the remainder of the small jar in ice cube trays of generous teaspoons. We ate the big jar as a dessert for me and my husband, with some honey drizzled on top.

    PS: My husband said it was the best yogurt he ever ate in his life.

    Question: can the hot tap water in the cooler be warmer than 110, or will it hurt the yogurt?

    Question : will fresh homemade starters work better or faster than supermarket bought starter, or is bacteria a case of pot-ah-to pot-a-to? I’m trying to figure out if I have to use less of a home made starter than I would’ve a supermarket bought one.

    Thank you! Xoxo

    1. Hi Menolly,
      I would not use water warmer than 110˚F. My question for you: I can’t imagine a tiny styrofoam cooler could hold the 110˚ temperature for 4-5 hours. Have you tested the water in the cooler with a thermometer to see what the temperature is at the 3-4 hour mark? It is essential that your system can hold the temperature for the entire incubation period. Have you seen my post about incubation ideas?

      The best thing about using your own homemade yogurt as a starter is that you know exactly how fresh it is. It is usually a guess at the store. If your homemade starter is less than a week old, you may get away with using less.

      When it comes to starters, there are a lot of variables. The more yogurt you make in your own kitchen, the more you will figure out what works best for you with the kind of milk you like and your system of incubation.

  20. Question for you: When you use more milk, like a full gallon vs a half gallon, do you adjust incubation times? I noticed that, after incubating for ~10 hours, I do not get 2x as much yogurt with a full gallon vs a half gallon. There ends up being more whey and I may only get 1.25 – 1.5x the yield of actual yogurt, after straining. I wonder if I need to let it incubate for longer due to the amount of milk.

    1. Hi Matthew,
      This question is a head-scratcher. I don’t think it should matter. Are you straining the entire 1 gallon together in one container? Is it possible the weight of that much milk is pressing out the whey faster? Maybe you could stop straining earlier than normal when you make a big batch. I’m curious how much starter you are using for that gallon of milk. If you use too much starter, you will get more whey.

  21. How much yoghurt would you recommend for 4litres of milk? Non American so quarts and gallons is abit confusing.

    Also, for a thicker yoghurt, especially with skim or semi skim milk, it’s often recommend to add some full cream milk powder. Have you ever added this and if so how much would you recommend?

    1. Hi Kristine,
      3-4 tablespoons (46-61 grams) will easily innoculate 4 liters. 4 liters = (approximately) 4.25 quarts. You could probably do it with less if you intend to incubate longer than 8 hours.

      Full cream milk powder is not readily available in the states so I have not played with that, but you might try it. Some people here use powdered skim milk. However, I find that affects the taste adversely, but you might not mind it at all. My preferred method of making thicker yogurt is to strain it (Greek yogurt). That way, it’s pure fresh milk. You can see how I do it here. This method allows you to make it as thick or as thin as you like.

      Hope that helps. Don’t hesitate to write back if you have more questions.

  22. Hi, Ive have sous vide Y for years, wondering what recipes, times, temps,amounts you might explain your story a bit more which was great thx D

    1. Hi Develin,
      The recipes, times, and temps will all be the same. See my recipe here.

  23. Kimberly J Hall says:

    I was told 2 tsp of starter yogurt to 1 cup of milk ? Does this sound right .
    I am just starting out making yogurt. I started
    About a month ago.. I have been fermentation in my oven .
    I just received my Luvele yogurt maker today so I am making a batch tonight . And I used 2 tsp per cup of milk my 4 craft bowls they hold 2 cups of milk each

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      Good to hear from you. I’m glad you wrote. If you start looking around the web, you’ll find many different ideas about how much starter to add to yogurt. In my experience, most people add more than they need to. For 1 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon should be plenty. But if you want to, try it both ways to see which way you like best. That’s how you learn to make the best yogurt that suits your tastes.

      Don’t hesitate to write back if you have more questions.

  24. Thank you. This was very helpful.

  25. Thanks for sharing your fun and useful experiment!
    Is your recommendation for 1tsp per quart for a 4 hour incubation? I’m wondering why you didn’t recommend1/4tsp if it turned out creamier after 8 hrs.

    1. Hi RC,

      I don’t like to incubate my yogurt for much longer than 4-5 hours because I like a mild taste. If you only use it 1/4 teaspoon, it will generally take longer, so that’s why I went with the higher amount. There is not really much difference whether you use 1/4 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon for 1 quart.

  26. Monica Molinari says:

    I was wondering if you have done this experiment using the strained whey instead of yogurt as a starter? I would be curious to see if the quantities of whey starter would be the same as using yogurt as a starter?

    1. Hi Monica,

      Thanks for asking. Yes I have. You can see it here.

  27. Rita Waldner says:

    Maybe you mentioned it and I did not see it but what do you use for starter? Is it OK to have the starter sitting in the cooler for a few weeks with a container open to use for next time?
    I always save and freeze my whey and use it , would you put in the same amount of whey as you would plain yogurt?
    Your post was very interesting I really appreciate what you shared.

    1. Hi Rita,

      Glad you asked. You can use one of several things: 1) yogurt from the store, but it must be fresh; 2) yogurt from your last batch, but it should not be more than 7-10 days old; 3)whey–use a little more but if it’s fresh (less than 10 days old) it doesn’t take much more; 4) freeze-dried yogurt starter. After many years of doing this, I like the traditional freeze-dried starter the best. It is the most stable starter in my opinion and will last for many months (years?) if you use it every week or so.

      Thanks for writing. I think I will add this information to that post. I’m sure you aren’t the first person with this question.

  28. I absolutely love your scientific approach. Thank you so much for sharing your techniques and knowledge! It really helps everyone trying to learn how to live life in the best way.

    1. Hi Anna,

      I’m so happy this post was helpful. Do you make lots of yogurt? Can’t wait to hear more about your yogurt adventures

  29. These reviews say have been absolutely helpful…. my question is would a sweetened flavored starter affect the end result?

    1. Hi Nifemi,

      I’m so happy to hear that the reviews were helpful. My readers are the best!

      In answer to your question, it all depends on the sweeteners and flavors in your starter. So, yes, it can absolutely affect the end result. Sometimes, you won’t even notice if it’s just a little sugar and vanilla extract. Beyond that, the results can be unpredictable. It really helps when you don’t use a boatload of starter.

  30. Your information is priceless, and I usually check it every time I make yogurt (I am at an age where memory has deserted me). And it is so much better. Recently bought some heirloom strains from Cultures for Health, and if you look at how much starter they tell you to use, it is crazy! Half a cup for a quart? I think it’s something like that, but I may be off. At any rate, it is much, much more than your amounts, and since I started using yours, my yogurt is a thousand times better. Many, many thanks for the work you did.

    1. Thank you, Ellen. So fun to hear about your successful yogurt. I use those heirloom strains and love them. Never paid attention to their directions. Interesting. Happy Yogurt-Eating!

  31. zainab Alaaya says:

    When you say fresh milk, do you mean fresh unpasteurized milk from the farm cuz I live close to a farm here and they have fresh milk everyday.. is that safe to use?

    1. Good question. When I say “fresh” milk, I’m referring to any milk that comes refrigerated as opposed to milk that can sit on a grocery store shelf like evaporated milk or powdered milk. You can make yogurt with fresh unpasteurized milk but I don’t advocate it as there are certain health risks. Here’s a post I wrote about it.

  32. zainab Alaaya says:

    This article is an eye opener…I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time. But please can you do this kind of experiment for when we are using powdered milk to make the yogurt ?

  33. Chidinma Ekenne says:

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Am so happy with this information you shared. my question is with powder milk at will you do different. where i am i cannot get fresh milk

    1. Hello,

      No fresh milk? Wow! I have never made yogurt with 100% powdered milk. From what I read, sounds like you heat water to boiling and let it cool down to 110˚F. Then add powdered milk. Mix well. and add yogurt starter. I found this information at WikiHow. You might want to check it out for more info.

  34. JD Thomas says:

    This nailed my problem. The recipe I used called for using 10% of the milk volume as the starter, so about 100cc (1/2 cup)of yogurt for 1100cc (little over a liter) of milk. My yogurt maker uses 8 individual serving cups, and it didn’t really firm up that well, and the bottom 1/3 of each little cup was grainy. So I tried using just a teaspoon of yogurt starter and it came out beautiful. Thank you for doing this excellent experiment! By the way, I was using whole milk, and Walmart’s Great Value Plain Whole Milk Greek Yogurt for my starter.

    1. Yay! More is not always better.

  35. Hello,
    I’m so glad I found your article because i’m fairly sure it’s going to solve my problem.
    I’m just wondering how much one quart of milk is in grams ? 🙂 thank you!!

    1. According to Google, the answer to your question is 946.35 g.

  36. After reading your article, I tried adding the amount of starter that you suggested. I must say, I have never had better yogurt!. It was creamy and delicious. Thanks you.

  37. Linda Jones says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I used to make yogurt many years ago and usually used a powdered starter. I just recently started making it again using my Instant Pot with good results. However, after reading your article & using much less yogurt as a starter (a tablespoon or less) and using Braum’s 2% milk, the yogurt I am making now is stellar! It is so thick and smooth with very little whey. And has the perfect taste with just the right amount of tartness. Thank you again for your experiments & sharing your findings with us.

    1. Fantastic! So glad you wrote. What a day-brightener!

  38. Kathleen LaValley says:

    Hi. Just made my first batch of yogurt in an MVPower yogurt maker using BiGaia Gastrus Lactobacillus Reuteri as starter in 2 TBsp inulin. Warm water bath. Using this for for pre- and probiotic benefits. It tastes great but is a little runny. I think successive batches should get thicker.
    My question is 2 jars of 8 look curdled or have whey separation. Are these ok to eat? Are they ok or is their whey ok to use for starter?
    Thanks. Love your pages.

    1. Hi Kathleen,
      I did a little research on this different way to make yogurt. Looks like it originated with Dr. Davis of Wheat Belly fame. Right? I have not tried it myself. But to address your question: If they smell OK, the 2 jars that show separation should be fine. Either stir the whey back in or strain it off to make a thicker yogurt (my choice). You can try the whey as a starter. Since I have not made yogurt with this method, I can’t say for sure if they whey itself will work. It does usually work with more traditional methods of starter.

  39. Melody Upham says:

    One of the things I’ve found in making yogurt is that it absolutely makes a difference whether I use regular pasteurized or ultrapasteurized. The ultra *always* comes out runnier no matter what I do and if I turn it into greek yogurt (which I do), there’s a lot more whey than when using regular pasteurized. Now, I do use half and half as I’m trying to get the carbs as low as I can go so not sure if this holds true for other types of milk. I use 2 Tbs of Stoneybrook organic plain yogurt as my starter because I’ve tried different brands and it was the only one that gave consistent thicker results. I’m going to try using 1 Tbs … still a bit more than you use but it makes me nervous to make too big of a change. Years of making soap taught me that 50 people can make the exact same recipe of soap and get wildly different results even when weighing and carefully measuring. So many variables we can’t completely control. Thanks for your time and effort on this!

    1. Chris Bodragon says:

      I’m sorry, but it’s the people who are following the recipe who are at fault for any variation in the result. I am a chemist and I know for a fact that if any recipe is followed to the letter with all the correct temperatures, pressures and levels of agitation, the results should be identical.
      Having said that, one cannot expect to get exactly the same results from one recipe if one of you is halfway up a mountain and the other is at or below sea level.
      Did you ever think of that?
      Guess not.

  40. Thank you for sharing this!! Your presentation of your experiments and explications were absolutely phenomenal.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Hope you found it helpful.

  41. Thank you so much for your experiment. I only make a couple of cups at a time, so it’s really good to know I only need to reserve a tiny bit for the next batch!

  42. Loved reading this. Thank you so much. Can you tell me how much starter would be best if using one gallon whole milk? I’ve been making it with a half gallons, but would like to increase that amount to one gallon from now on. So four teaspoons? Or is two teaspoons sufficient? Thank you, and hope to hear back!

    1. Hi Jnette, I would double the amount of starter to four teaspoons up to two tablespoons. I never measure these days, but that’s about what I do.

  43. Hi Paula,

    Firstly, I am very new to making yoghurt and so far, since reading this blog, have made two small, but successful batches in an Easyio (after many failures). I want to say a huge thank you for all the information you share on this blog as has been such a life-saver and had me jumping for joy when I find that my yoghurt has worked!

    I wanted to ask what the consensus on using whey as a starter was- in terms of proportion of whey starter to milk. After reading this post and the one on the many use for whey, I wanted to double check whether it still stands that you need 2-3 tablespoons of whey per 2 litres of milk, or whether less whey/starter (as discovered through this magnificent experiment!) makes for a better result too?

    I hope this makes sense and looking forward to hearing more of your yoghurty wisdom!

    All the best,
    Ursula 🙂

    1. Hi Ursula,
      Congratulations on your successful batches of yogurt. For me, the 2-3 tablespoons of whey usually works best.

  44. This was exactly what I needed! Thank you, Paula, so much for your clear and informative research with results in images.

    I’ve been making yoghurt for many years, with quite variable results. The extent of the whey layer was always present. I never thought to reduce the amount of my starter. I used the quantities shown to me by a friend so many years ago. She used her own milk from her home dairy cow. I just assumed that it was the variability of milk quality that I was buying.

    Since last November 2018 after reading your article, I have used just 1-2 dessert spoons (instead of 3) of starter from the last batch of yoghurt and it has come out perfectly every time. No layer of whey anymore. Perfectly creamy. I make a batch of 2 litres every five days, using the New Zealand designed EasiYo containers. Just fill with boiling water and insert the filled yoghurt pots. Leave overnight.

    I have always used the UHT milk in cartons, adding a couple of tablespoons of milk powder and brought it up to heat checking with my finger. If there is a slight foaming around the edges and I cannot bear to leave my finger tip in the milk for more than a few seconds, and never bringing to boil, the temperature is perfect.
    I have found that if the milk boils the resultant yoghurt has a grainy texture. I have also found that (instead of making custard with it because I hate waste) if the milk has boiled and I add a splash of uncooked milk to the pot, the graininess does not occur. ;-P

    I then cool the milk down to blood heat. Once again, if I can bear to leave my finger tip in the cooling milk for the count of ten it is perfect to add in the starter. If I have to pull my finger tip out at seven seconds it is too hot still. 🙂 I speed this up a little by putting the pan into a sink of cold water.

    I do treat my yoghurt starter with delicacy! Stirring it until smooth and gently spooning the warmed milk in to acclimatise the beasties to their new environment, then introducing them gradually to their new home in the pots.

    Every single batch I’ve made since reading your article has been prefect. I’m so happy!

    Thank you for your efforts and sharing them with the community.

    1. Hi Anna,

      What an interesting letter!! I love the way you check the temperature. Certainly cheaper than a thermometer. Sounds like you have it down to a fine science.

      I knew about the graininess that boiling causes but have never tried your trick to redeem it. Since I heat mine in the microwave I never have to worry about the boiling. You know what else causes graininess? Additives in the starter. I wrote about it here.

      Sounds like the yogurt beasties get the royal treatment at your house. Can I come live with you? Ha! I just dump my active yogurt beasties in cold. They’ve never complained yet.

      Your story about your friend and the amount of starter is classic. If you don’t mind, I may quote you in my article about starter. Before the internet, seems like we all learned to make yogurt from family or friends. So of course, they will do it the same way they were taught. I noticed many discrepancies about the amount of starter needed in recipes across the net and set out to learn the truth. The results surprised me but I’m glad. I would rather eat it instead of using it for starter.

      Thanks again for writing. Happy yogurt-eating!

      1. Thank you for your reply Paula.
        You have some excellent points about the graininess possibly being due to additives in the culture. I have used a reliable source here in Aus to initiate the first batch (Farmer’s Union Greek style full cream yoghurt, guaranteed just milk, cream and cultures) but from there it has been my practice to save a little of the precious yoghurt batch to use in the next brew. It’s very consistent and lasts all year, through the years.

        When I tried to brew a batch of yoghurt in the UK it was a terrible failure. I used the exact same technique but, obviously, a bought culture. I checked that it was ‘live’ but took no notice of ‘extras’.? so that may have been the problem. It either didn’t set at all or was so grainy and unpalatable I threw out it. I did miss the ritual and joy of the beasties making it for my own home made batch.

        The use of one’s own body temperature is so simple, portable and can be used anywhere. It seems infallible so far. ?

        There’s a little addition to the story of received wisdom from family or friends. I just spoke to my friend last week, the one who gave me the original quantities, and she’s been having problems with her batches. She blamed it on the new cow she was milking, poor thing, I told her about your experiments and we agreed that we have both gone with the mantra “a little extra won’t hurt”!
        So the idea, which you have started with your meticulous trials, that it is the starter amount that dictates the creaminess, has an ongoing impact. ? Well done!
        I had not found any other online source for an explanation of that extra whey problem.

        In the past I did try brewing my own sourdough starter for home made bread. It was very successful and delicious. But I couldn’t maintain the starter regularly. When it was left (in the fridge) without feeding with fresh flour and water regularly, it also produced a greyish liquid layer on top. This was described online in various places as a by-product or waste when the yeast doesn’t have enough food to process and it just eats itself. I wonder if it is possible that when we add too much starter to our milk there is a competition for the ‘food’ and the whey is a by-product of the yoghurt beasties (baccilli) being hungry? Just a thought. I drink it anyway as it’s all good protein. It reminds me of Dutch Karnemelk (buttermilk) a refreshing drink I recall that we had as wee children in Holland before we migrated.

        I am still gradually reducing the amount of starter because I’d rather eat it, too, than use it for starter. ?

        Thank you once again

        1. This was a great read. Making yogurt seems so simple but it can get a bit complicated when you try to reach a specific standard. Thanks for writing.

  45. Hi Paula, thanks so much for sharing your results with the quantities of yogurt culture to milk. I too am curious about how & why things r done & like to find ways of doing things that supports this precious planet & the natural order of all things that resides here. More efficient ways of doing something that utilises renewable energy sources & resources I already have. I’d wondered about the ratio of yogurt culture to milk as I discovered that when making kombucha I only needed a small piece of SCOBY and the brewing process continues 2 b successful. Kind regards Lindy 🙂

    1. Sounds like a similar-minded soul. Nice to “meet” you and thanks for writing. paula

    2. David Fhima says:

      Dear Paula, as a university student in a fod and human nutrition degree, I am working on a yogurt related assignment, I have found your experiment most helpful. can I please use your pictures in my assignment? I will obviously reference them as being yours and supply a link to this page?


      1. Yes, thank you for asking. Hope you get an ‘A”.

  46. Love this, thanks so much. I’ve been making yogurt for years, always using a bit from my last batch unless something has gone wrong with it.

    I’m pretty slap-dash on quantity of yogurt starter to my milk: always a half gallon of milk, a couple of rough tablespoons full of yogurt. I’m rigid about getting it out at 6 hours though, since I like my yogurt mild, not tangy. Sometimes that makes it difficult to find time to make it…. would be ideal to make at night and leave overnight, but usually that’s too sour for my tastes.

    Now I’m going to try it with a half teaspoon of yogurt, and leave it overnight. I’m betting that the smaller quantity of starter, since it needs longer to grow/populate the milk and convert it to yogurt, will be just right and give me a mild batch, while accommodating my make-it-easy mantra of letting me do it overnight.

    1. Hi Aurora,
      You are a girl after my own heart. I’m actually pretty “slap-dash” about the starter, too. A spoonful here, a little bit there, or whatever is left in the jar. Hoping your experiment works out for you. Another way to make your yogurt more mild tasting is to strain it as much as possible–for as much as 3-6 hours or even more. If yogurt is too thick for you, add some cream or milk to make it the consistency you like best. Happy yogurt-eating!

  47. charlotte says:

    Your post was a game changer ! First time I get such a creamy, smooth, delicious yogurt ! Thank you very much for all your research on mastering homemade yogurt

    1. Charlotte,

      I’m so glad you reported back. Thanks for verifying my research. Yay!!! Happy yogurt-eating.

  48. Any advice for goat’s milk?

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I have no experience with goat milk/yogurt other than eating it a time or two. So sorry.

  49. After umpteen batches of delicious yogurt using a little plain yogurt as a starter, I tried my first batch using whey instead. I accidentally used 6 Tbs instead of 4 for 1/2 gallon of milk, and my usual 8 hours incubating. Unfortunately, I got slightly-thick-pretty-tart-milk instead of my usual yogurt. Could my whey have been too old? I meant to grab “last week’s” batch but instead grabbed the prior week’s. Why was that even still in my fridge? 😛 Can I make frozen “yogurt” with the otherwise wasted milk?

    1. Wink,
      If your yogurt still smells OK, try again and go back to your plain yogurt starter. See this post. I haven’t tried making ice cream with failed yogurt because it almost always works just to try again. Hope you see this soon enough to do that.

      1. Thank you for your help! My second try with my usual starter was also a no-go. I’ve never *not* had yogurt set before, so maybe something was up with the milk itself or I hadn’t properly cleaned the pot. Unfortunately, I dumped it all before reading your “what can I do with failed yogurt” post, and I could have made such lovely bread! About a dozen loaves, but still. 🙂

        1. Oh dear, Wink,
          Sorry to hear that! Believe me, I feel your pain at dumping all that milk. Hopefully, your next batch will be a wild success and you’ll be back on track. Paula

  50. Hi Paula,
    Love your blog!! Just started on my yogurt adventure. It was a little intimidating at first but truly yogurt is pretty forgiving. Really, clean containers and utensils and mind your milk temperatures are the only musts. At first I would stress about how much yogurt for a starter, how long to hold the milk at 180 degrees and what if it went above 180?? What if I went longer than 10 minutes? And what is the correct temperature to heat it to? or cool it to? Everyone had a different answer… Well I have been at it about a month now…I have heated it as high as 200 degrees, and held it there for 10, 15, or 20 minutes…I use any combination of 2% whole milk, cream 10%, 18% or a splash of 32% (decadent yes), also I love coconut milk yogurt, love the flavour, have made yogurt using pure coconut milk, though that is pricey, but it is only the flavour that I am going for so I throw in a can of coconut cream, splash of cream and fill it up with whole milk…. delicious!!

    As a result of finding your blog today and your posts about using whey as a yogurt starter there is a coconut/whole milk yogurt on the go as I type … very excited about this because yes the whey weighs heavily on my mind…couldn’t resist.

    All I know is yogurt is so easy and the methods so vastly accommodating to what you have on hand that I should have been doing this long ago!!

    But seriously thank you for all the whey info, I will make good use of it!


  51. I tried making yoghurt in my Instant Pot for the first time today. Following your conclusions that 1/2 – 1 tsp is fine for a quart of milk, I went ahead and added 1 tsp to a litre of UHT milk. I warmed the milk first in a pan to the yoghurt level on my thermometer (around 100 deg), then transferred it to the scalded Instant Pot, and stirred in the yoghurt starter (I used Yeo Valley). Set it to the yoghurt setting for 8 hours and …… nothing! Literally nothing has happened to the milk. I have a pot of milk with a teaspoon of yoghurt in it and that’s it.
    I’m not giving up! I have just added a rounded dessertspoon of yoghurt to the pot and set it for another 8 hours. Hmm, I don’t have much confidence that it’ll look any different in the morning…

    1. Hi Teresa, I just had a similar experience using my Instant pot. I tried to make a gallon of yogurt using a half cup of starter. After nine hours of the yogurt has barely thickened. Were you able to eventually turn that milk to yogurt by adding more starter? Or did you have to throw it away?

      1. Hi Susan. I’m so glad it wasn’t just me then! Pleased to report that after adding another rounded dessertspoon of live yoghurt to the pot and leaving it for another 8 hours I had a pot full of yoghurt, which was lovely and thick after straining for a couple of hours!

        1. Hi Theresa,
          I purchased my Instant Pot a little over a week ago and have already made two batches of the best yogurt I have had.
          I actually used a recipe I found on Pinterest. I used a gallon of whole milk and two tablespoons of starter (oikos plain Greek yogurt). I incubated mine for 8 hours. I also strained my yogurt for about 8 hours in the fridge.
          I have never been so excited over a recipe. The yogurt is so much better than any store bought yogurt I have ever purchased, and much more cost effective!

  52. Jas Aujla says:

    I have been making 1 qrt yogurt in a yogurt maker per your inputs – 1 tsp starter and leave for 8 hrs. Turns out beautiful consistency but after refregiration and usage, it turns runny? Mainly 1/2 the jar. Literally have to throw it out.
    I heat milk to 180 deg. Cool to 100 deg. before putting in cultures. I am using lactose free whole milk. Where am I going wrong during the process.

    1. The bacteria’s main food is lactose. You shouldn’t be using lactose free milk. I am somewhat lactose intolerant but can handle high quanities of greek yogurt just fine because the bacteria breaks down most of the lactose and most of the remaining lactose is drained off as whey.

  53. I’ve made several batches and am thrilled to see an actual experiment that shows what happens with different amounts of starter. Thanks so much for doing the work!
    For my last batch I did several things differently. (I know I should only change one thing at a time) and wonder about your thoughts. I used about 2T starter for a gallon of whole milk. The starter was some greek yogurt from a local company that makes ‘gourmet’ product. I have a new toy that allows me to heat and hold at a certain temp. I heated milk to 185 and held for about 45 min (doing other stuff). Then let cool and added culture, held @ 110 X 12 hrs. It was VERY thick and set – much thicker than previous batches from powdered culture. So differences must either be due to different starter or holding milk at scalding temp for awhile. Do you have any experience or opinion on extended scalding times and texture?

    1. Hi Kam,
      I have not experimented with holding the temp high for an extended period. I don’t have the patience and don’t see the benefit, to be honest. Also, I find heating to 170 to be quite adequate. On a different subject, I usually incubate for only 4-6 hours. Incubating longer does not make your yogurt thicker, only more tart/sour. Some people like that but it’s not my preference.

      1. Heidi Waldmann says:

        Hi, Paula! I landed here wanting to find out about using whey as a starter, and trying it riht now. Reading about time and temperature I came across a suggestion to heat the milk to over 200F, even to boiling, and keep it over 200F for ten minutes before culturing below 100F. I tried thar last time, bur cultured in IP Ultra at 104F, the lowest temp I could set in Custom. Same milk as always—non UHT, whole—and it was the best yogurt I’ve ever had, much less made! Worth the slight increased hassle, less whey after straining.

        1. Hi Heidi,
          I guess you’ve already figured out you can use whey as starter. I wrote about it here. If you surf the web you will find a million variations on making yogurt. It’s not an exact science as you know. I do not like to heat up the milk to 200F, but if it works for you, and you like the yogurt, keep doing it. I find that it can make a grainy texture sometimes. Some people claim there are health benefits to a higher temperature and like to hold it there for awhile. That’s lost on me. I don’t want to fuss with it. Keep in touch. I would love to know how you eventually decide is the best way to make your favorite yogurt.

          1. Holding the temp for a while evaporates water and so can result in a thicker yoghurt, it’s quite standard in Indian curd making to simmer low and slow for a while for thicker end product

          2. Interesting, Leanne. I can see that. I drain off as much as I can when it’s done. But if you don’t want to drain the whey, I can imagine how this technique would give you a thicker end product. I’ll have to experiment with that some time. Although I’m thinking the yogurt would be more tart if you don’t drain the whey. I prefer my yogurt mild but still, it’s worth a try.

          3. Thank you for taking the time to run these experiments, it’s amazing the dkfference it makes

  54. For a quart of yogurt I: heated half the milk to 180 degrees n saved in fridge till ready to make yogurt. Then heated other half to 180 then added chilled half. Presto now just add starter n keep at 110 degrees for 8 hours. It worked fine.

  55. Hello Paula,
    I have been using the freeze-dried starter and would like to try using whey instead.
    1- should the whey be refrigerated or stored in the pantry ?
    2- if refrigerated, can it be use cold when mixing it in or room temperature ?
    3- can it be frozen ? I like the idea of ready made ice cubes.
    4- as an alternative, could I use a 7-10 day old yogurt that I made as a starter?
    Sorry if you have answered this elsewhere, I keep bouncing form page to page.
    I use a Thermos for incubation and large handkerchiefs for straining, ‘whey’ clearer than cheese cloth.

    1. Hi JPF,
      1. Whey is perishable. Refrigerate or can be frozen.
      2. Yes,can be used cold.
      3. yes
      4. yes, I do it all the time, fresher than store-bought most likely
      See this post.

      1. Hello again,
        Well it works, one ice cube of whey for 2 quarts of milk.
        Incubation takes longer though, from 7 hours with the freeze-dried starter to 12 hours with the frozen whey.
        The taste, to my surprise, is not as tart, and to me, that’s a plus.
        I still strain it with a handkerchief for 45 minutes and that leaves me with 8 x 4oz jars.
        Thanks again Laura for all your help

        1. Thanks for the feedback, Laura. I would use more ice cubes of whey for quicker results. I’m used to incubating for only 4-6 hours.

  56. Stephanie says:

    How much of powdered probiotic to think I could use in a cup or two of milk to make a starter? I have refrigerated bifidobacterium infantis. A high quality and highly concentrated. Thinking 1/4-1 tsp but I have not found an answer in all of my research today.

    1. Sorry Stephanie. I have no idea.

  57. I am fairly new to yogurt making but have been successful so far (beginner’s luck, I think!), so I hesitate to deviate, but….I’m out of starter but I do have a jar of whey that’s about 4 weeks old. From what I’ve read in the comments, I can possibly use the whey as a starter….but how much? I’m making a gallon of yogurt (well, starting with a gallon of milk).

    1. Vicki,
      Yes, you can definitely use whey. See this post. I would probably use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of whey for a gallon of milk. With some experimentation, you may find you can use even less.

  58. Hi Paula..

    Incredible post.

    I recently purchased a yogurt machine and as per the instructions the ratio of milk to starter yogurt was 7:1. The yogurt did set but had a lot of whey and was grainy. I searched online and everyone said that its ok to have whey and grainy yogurt. Your post made everything so clear. I was using around 6tsp yogurt for every cup of milk. Now I use 1/4 tsp and it comes out perfect. I have tried with whole milk and yet to try with low fat milk.

    Let me thanks you as because of you now I can make yogurt at home and never need to buy yogurts with pectin and preservatives.

    1. Your welcome! My favorite comment this month. Thanks for writing.

  59. Stephanie says:

    I’m very new to this yogurt making thing and twice now my questions/searches have landed me here for the answers. Thank you taking the time to detail the differences, this was really helpful!

  60. Paula,

    Loved your many experiments using different ammounts of starter and inoculation times and well documented.
    I have been making yogurt for years and have tried many different yogurt types as starter as well as temperatures and innoculation time.
    I actually use 1 cup of Fage greek yogurt to make a 8 cup batch. I built something that I connect to my yogurt maker that keeps the temperature at 109 -110 and innoculate for 13 hrs.
    My yogurt comes out thick with no straining needed. I am able to save a cup from each batch to start the next one. I can get 4 batches from this without having to start fresh.
    One thing that I learned about the 2 main cultures in yogurt is that they are anaroebic and one of them slowly dies upon exposure to oxygen.
    In order to resolve this problem, I use fermentation locks in the lids when storing my yogurt in the frig.
    The cultures continue to eat the food available and produce carbon dioxide which pushes the air out of the fermentation lock and keeps your yogurt fresher longer.
    I know that if you put in too much starter, the cultures all fight for it and you end up with weak cultures and runny yogurt.
    I think your experiments have been well done.
    Your website is in my favorites for sure


  61. This is a GREAT post! I appreciate you doing this experiment. It really helped me to SEE what I am doing wrong (adding too much starter) and knowing what to do to correct it. Thank you!

  62. Hi, Paula!
    Your site has been one of my main research tools for learning about this yogurt-at-home business, and I really appreciate how thorough you’ve been! I’d really like to make this yogurt in my crock pot, and the question of how much starter to use is my biggest issue right now. This post has helped a lot, as I would much rather use the least amount possible of store-bought yogurt for my first time, but every crock pot recipe I find says to use 1/2 cup of starter yogurt. Can you think of any reason yogurt made entirely in a crock pot would need more starter than the same yogurt that started out in the microwave or on the stove? I honestly can’t account for the difference unless it has something to do with how quickly or slowly the milk is warmed, but I’m just terrified enough of wasting a lot of ingredients that I don’t want to do the wrong thing! What do you think?

  63. Great information! I just made my very first batch of yogurt & hit the Internet to determine how much starter to use. And it varied widely. After reading this, I used 1tsp per quart of milk, incubated in my Excalibur dehydrator, & it turned out PERFECT! Thanks so much!

  64. -What works well for me is using a stainless steel gallon pot.

    -Heat to 185 degrees with occasionally stirring with a flat edge pizza spatula.
    Then after cooling to 115 degrees add starter.

    -For $15 I purchased a sunbeam heating pad that I place the pot on and cover with a thick towel or small blanket.

    -The heating pad is set at LOW that maintains the temperate at 110 degrees.

    -perfect yogurt.

    1. Thanks for sharing your method. The heating pad has worked great for me, too.

  65. Using less starter is wonderful news! I live in China and dairy products are very very expensive here to begin with (milk – $9 a gallon). The local store bought yogurt is very sweet and runny and sour cream and Greek yogurt really non-existent (unless you buy the uber expensive from the import shops). I have been making my own in a yogurt machine, but using the instructions that called for 1 cup of starter – so glad I can now use a much smaller amount and have better results, as I prefer thinker yogurt. This will save so much money.

  66. Hi, thanks for showing me how to make yogurt. The idea just came to me one morning, and uncle Google showed me your blog. I haven’t tried it yet, but have you experimented with trying to use strained yogurt whey as starter? I’m just guessing that a lot of the cultures are probably still in the whey. Any reason you can think of why it wouldn’t work?

  67. Archana G says:

    Does it get tangier from 4 to 6 to 8 hours?
    Is it sweeter at 4 hours?
    Is the yogurt that set at 4 hours the least tangy and sweetest?

    1. Yes, it does get a little bit tangier but that may not be easy to discern in 6 or 8 hours. Sweeter at 4? I would say milder. A lot of the flavor of yogurt depends on your starter and the type and brand of milk you use. Different brands of yogurt contain different bacteria and this can make a difference. I have a favorite brand of milk I like MUCH more than any other. I just like the way it tastes.

      These are all things you can experiment with until you find your favorite. That’s one of the fun things about making your own yogurt. 🙂

  68. Maeve Robertson says:

    I want to thank for your excellent instructions. I just bought a yogurt machine and tried following their instructions. “Heat the milk until it begins to crawl up the side of the pan.” What a freaking disaster. The first time I got the pot to the sink before it boiled over. The second time I did it in the microwave with a pyrex bowl. Since they also used the word “boil” I used an instant read thermometer and heated it up in stages to 212. Pulled it of the microwave (bowl had a handle,, thank you God) and the milk surged up and everywhere. Fortunately I was able to get the bowl to the floor without dropping it and only burned a forefinger, slightly, but what a mess! It would be in the least accessible part of the kitchen. However, I found your blog, tried again using the instant read, voila! no milk eruption and using just a table spoon of the previous batch, instead of a whole jar as the machine instructions directed, I have perfect yogurt! Thank you so much for sharing your techniques.

  69. Kelly Thompson says:

    Thank you so much. Very interesting.

  70. Eric_from_Ohio says:

    hi guys,
    i own a yogurt maker, but i made it myself out of an old plastic cooler and a lightbulb. i went to lowe’s and bought a cheapo lightbulb assembly and drilled a hole in the cooler and mounted the bulb inside on one end of the cooler. i put the jars of ready-to-incubate goodness in a big stockpot waterbath at the other end of the cooler. i also put a piece of aluminum foil around the side of the pot the gets blasted by the light so that that side won’t get hotter than the other.

    i had to experiment a bit with different wattage bulbs to get the temp just right. a 100-watter was just a bit too hot (116/117 degrees), and a 40-watt bulb was a bit too cool (105-ish). a 60-watt bulb turned out to be perfect, and kept four full jars and a surrounding water bath at a perfect 110 indefinitely.

    here’s some pictures of my cooler setup:

    the lightbulb cooler method is awesome and makes great consistent yogurt every time, but there’s an even easier way to maintain temp that you might be able to use that you should try first: put a big flat rectangular plastic container with a lid (like one of those tupperware containers that’ll hold a bajillion cookies) filled with hot tap water (140ish?) on the bottom rack of your oven, then put the yogurt jars directly above it on another rack. ovens are basically big insulated boxes, so you should try this first. to test it, just use jars filled with 110-deg water and then test the temp of the jars every 30 min or so for a couple hours to see if it stays where you want it. if they cool off before your yogurt would have been fully incubated, reset the experiment and use slightly hotter water in the container. unfortunately i dont remember exactly what the temp of my hot tap water was back then, but i do remember that we had it turned up pretty hot and that once it got to temp you couldn’t put your hand under it without it burning you. also, i think that using plastic container for this was key because a metal container would maybe emit its heat faster and thus cool down faster. somehow the rate that it gave up its heat was just perfect to maintain the jars above it. but at any rate do try this in your kitchen because if it works then you’re set and you might not even need to buy anything!

    btw, don’t forget, when testing your oven, if you were to just test it after 8 hours or whatever, you won’t know if the temp went way up and then back down during that time. the jar temp could conceivably have shot up to 130 and then come back down to 110 by the time you tested it, so you need to test it in smaller intervals to make sure. years ago i had an oven/plastic container combo that, when the container was filled with water from the tap i had let run hot, would maintain my jars at 110 for at least 10 hours! it was so perfect. but for some reason i’ve never been able to reproduce it since. hence the cooler.

    my recipe: i use one gallon of whole milk (“red cap”) from the grocery, heated to 170-ish in a stockpot and then cooled back down to 110. i put about a cup and a half of the cooled milk into my meticulously just-cleaned blender jar and blend in one ounce of powdered milk (just the cheapo kind from the supermarket) and about one level tbsp of Dannon Plain for starter. i use the lowest blender setting and the pulse feature to ensure a good blend yet keep the foaming to a minimum. then add another two cups of milk, pulse once or twice to mix, and pour into jar. repeat for the other three jars.

    **one thing that i’ve become convinced is really significant, and may account for lots of beginners having weak batches that barely set up, is using a blender. yes, it does create some foam, which isn’t ideal. and the first time you make yogurt you’re guaranteed to make a mess of your kitchen counter. but if you don’t blend it, and just stir or even shake it up with the lid on, i think you don’t properly disperse that dollop of starter evenly throughout the quart of milk. i think it’s the dispersing effect of the blender that’s critical. just my theory, but i’ve never made yogurt i liked without a blender.

  71. Thanks for this post. 🙂 I am just now learning how to make yogurt and was confused on how much starter to put in. I have a batch incubating right now (my first!) and I think I might have overdid it with the starter. We’ll see what happens in 8 hours time….

    1. Dayna,
      Don’t worry. You can reduce it the next time if you went overboard. It will still taste good.

  72. Christopher says:

    Paula….I very successfully “dehydrated” my greek yogurt and it works!!! I just spread a thin layer on a plate and let it sit out. NOT covered. When it was totally dry I put it in a coffee grinder and ground it until it couldn’t be ground any further. Then I sifted it through a small mesh strainer and some of I had to press through by running my thumb against it until i passed through. I then used 1C of whole milk and did the procedures you state to make yogurt…and it worked!! Took about a whole tablespoon to make it work. But it worked!!! 🙂

    1. Christopher says:

      next step will be to freeze it for a while, and see if it still works.

    2. Very interesting, Christopher. Have not even considered such an idea. I wonder how long it will keep. Thanks so much for sharing.

      1. Christopher says:

        I should tell you that I put plastic wrap on top of the plate, very tight, then spread the yogurt on it. The batch I ground is about a week old, and sitting on my counter covered tightly. Will update when I figure out how long it lasts.

  73. Thanks for this post, Paula, it’s really useful information. I have a question for other readers: do any of you use a Yogourmet electric yogurt maker? Mine works pretty well, although the temperature of the water bath, which should be about 110F, can vary, depending on the temperature in the room. I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s experience. The instructions call for far more starter than you use, Paula, and the incubation time is given as about 4 hours for regular (not probiotic) yogurt. That can give me chalky-textured yogurt, so I’m thinking I should reduce the amount of starter and go for a longer incubation time.

    1. Hi Helen,
      Maybe someone who owns a yogurt maker will respond. Even if your water temp drops to 100F, you should have no problem with your yogurt.

      In regards to time of incubation, I suspect your yogurt will still make in 4 hours, even with less starter. Are you adding any dried milk solids to your milk before incubating? That can cause chalky-tasting yogurt, too.

      1. I usually use organic nonfat milk and generally don’t add dry milk to the mix. I’m wondering whether/how our altitude affects the process. We live at 7800′, and at this altitude, water boils at a little less than 198F. I have no idea what this might mean, if anything, to the recommended scalding temperature of 180F. Cooking here can be an adventure.

  74. By the way u did a great job there thanks. Please can i get a link to your bread recipes. That is another thing one can get addicted to. And cakes maybe?

  75. It sure is addicting! Sometimes i purposely finish my starter so that i can rest!!! But making yogurt is fun really, there i go again……..

  76. Just starting to make my own yoghurt– this is so helpful, Paula!

    Thanks also to others for mentioning slow cookers, which sound useful and practical.

    1. Join the club Bonnie. But be warned it can be addicting. 🙂

  77. This was a truly fantastic post. Thanks so much for writing it. I’ve tried and failed to make yogurt in the past….I think I’ll give it another go. Thanks again.

    1. You’re welcome Dana. Hope it works for you next time. I was not thrilled with my first attempts but as I experimented with different starters, milk, and incubation techniques, it got better and better. Happy yogurt making!

  78. Interesting, even though I buy my yogurt at the grocery store.

  79. GREAT post, Paula! You put in a lot of time and effort to make this all so clear. I just checked to find a location near me for the milk you use and there are none close by. My yogurt comes out a little thinner than I prefer and the quantity after draining off the liquid for Greek yogurt is much less than I would hope for. Lately, I have been buying yogurt from Aldi.

    1. I’m with you Lorraine. I wish the half gallon of milk made more greek yogurt. That type of milk is not sold in Michigan. I’m going to search for something similar because I just use regular milk.

  80. So this explains a lot as I’m a ‘if a little bit works a lot will work better’ type of person. So if I understand this correctly this would explain why I have so much whey when I drain my yogurt for greek yogurt? I do mine in a container and micro like you, and then wrap it in a beach towel and place back in the warm micro overnight and there *is* whey sitting on top every time. After I strain it I feel I have almost as much whey as I do yogurt but didn’t know why! Thank you for all of this very scientific and hard work to explain this!!!

    1. Lisa,
      Yes, too much starter could be the problem. However, there are other variables as well. The kind and brand of milk you use has a lot to do with it as well as the time of incubation. But try less starter and see if that doesn’t help. Mine never has whey sitting on top before I disturb it, however I can still strain a lot of whey and yes, there may be just as much whey as yogurt. That’s one reason why Greek yogurt is more expensive in the store. It takes more milk for the same amount of finished product.

  81. Wow, Paula! This is a great post with a lot of helpful information!

    I made a batch of yogurt a while back to see if I could make it in my new thermal cooker. Thanks to your previous posts, it was a success. A thermal cooker is a little like crock pot cooking, but you don’t keep it plugged in. It slow cooks for up to 8 hours and is completely portable. On my first batch of yogurt I tried just four hours in the thermal cooker and it worked. What is nice about the unit is that you can choose either to put your milk mixture in mason jars (the size of the jar does not matter), or you can simply put the whole mixture in the inner cooking pot, leave it in there for the desired amount of time, and then strain the whole batch before putting it in smaller containers. Since the thermal cooker is insulated, it keeps the yogurt at the ideal temperature range for incubation.

    Thermal cooking is very popular in Europe and Australia. It is just now really getting started in the US market. I purchased mine because it is ideal for emergency use because all you have to do is bring your food up to a boil (from a camping stove or rocket stove) and then it continues to cook for up to 8 hours without additional power. But even when there is not an emergency, the thermal cooker can be used every day and you just use your regular kitchen stove (gas or electric). It’s great because you don’t have to heat your kitchen up in the summer, you can cook while you’re not at home and nothing is left plugged in (like a crock pot), and it is completely portable. You can take it on the road with you and it will cook while you drive. You can take it camping, hunting, tailgating, etc. and have a meal ready to serve piping hot hours later.

    And it is IDEAL for making yogurt! I love when I find products with multiple uses and various applications.

    Thanks, Paula, for experimenting for us! It seemed that 4 hours was enough time, but since I am new to making yogurt (and actually have never eaten it), I wasn’t sure I was doing it right! I now have more confidence to keep going.

    1. I just looked on Amazon to see what people are paying for yogurt machines. They are mostly in the range of $50.00 – $100.00. And most of them just make yogurt. A few do ice cream. For about $100.00, one could get a thermal cooker (I recommend Saratoga Jacks) and have an ideal yogurt maker, a slow cooker, and even a cooler (the insulating properties keeps cold food cold). AND it is ideal to use for emergency use when your home loses power.

  82. I use a Progurt machine and 2 tbsp of regular store bought yogurt (plain and sweetened) and it always makes a perfect creamy batch of yogurt overnight.. however..

    Whenever I freeze a portion to use as the starter for the next batch (perhaps a bit more than 2 tbsps) , the ‘yogurt’ comes out watery and not at all creamy, despite 12 hours of incubation!

    Not sure if it’s the freezing of the bugs or the bit larger amount of starter.

    Last time, I tried using the frozen sample, plus a couple tablespoons of fresh store bought yogurt, but surprisingly, I still got watery kefir like yogurt.


    1. Ben,
      Are you freezing store-bought yogurt? I wonder if there might be some additive in there that doesn’t react well to freezing. Have you tried freezing a small amount of your own yogurt to use as starter? Mine always works great.

      1. (i make my yogurt in the crockpot) I tried freezing like 3/4 cups of my first batch of homemade greek yogurt. when i used it as a starter it didn’t work at all. i think, due to the hot summer, i might have killed off the cultures while it thawed. after about 9 hours it looked a little thick but ran right through my bouillon strainer. i have made a few since then, without freezing my starter, and they have turned out well. i do not measure the starter but i use like a heaping tablespoon. great experiment! very informative. i will now cut down on my starter. my last batch of yogurt was super super thick! i didn’t whip it at the end like your youtube video says because i use my yogurt for smoothies. since its going in the blender no need to whip. thanks for such great post!

        1. Hi Adrienne,
          Sorry about your frozen starter. It works great for me and is a wonderful trick to keep in your back pocket when you go on vacation or take a break for making yogurt for awhile.

          About the whipping, I agree that if you are using it in smoothies, you probably don’t want to whip or drain. Sounds delicious and nutritious.

          1. Thanks so such a quick reply! I think I will try freezing again and just thaw in the fridge for a while. We have a little heat wave going and I think it messed up my last batch. I think I will wait til Michigan cools down before I make more. I’ve only made a few batches and I’m enjoying the learning process. Thanks so much for the help!

        2. Christopher says:

          read my post, if you would please. Might help you.

          1. Thank you Christopher!

      2. Paige Tirone says:

        I make yogurt every week as part of my Specific Carbohydrate Diet which is fermented for 24 hours to remove the lactose and I believe casein, although this link doesn’t mention casein.

        This last batch I made, is grainy and not so tangy and yes, I just dumped a lot of whey AND yogurt in. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here with your experiment! Normally my yogurt turns out great but on occasion it is terrible. I’m definitely a “more is better” type of cook, obviously to my yogurt’s detriment.

        Thanks for the great advice!

        1. I forgot to mention I use a dehydrator to ferment for the required 24 hours. It is a little bit of an investment up front but worth it so there’s no concern about temperature. Works great plus the other uses make it more than a one hit wonder considering it does require plenty of space.

        2. Hi Paige,
          Nice to hear from you. There is another possibility for the cause of your grainy yogurt. See this post about grainy yogurt.

    2. Hi again, Paula!

      Thanks for replying! Incredibly the tiny cooler kept the temperature above 100 during the 5 hours. It’s one of those really thick ones from Omaha. At the 5th hour, it was still at 104, so still in the good 100-115 range. I had a probe I stabbed through the Styrofoam the whole time, to check.

      I did check your post on alternate methods. I had high hopes for my ovens’ “proof” cycle, but, although it’s supposed to go to about 100, none of the thermometers I put inside (including my instant read) went above 74. So, big bust, there. 🙁

      I’ve now bought a heat mat with a thermostat that was on sale on Amazon. It goes all the way way to 100. It’s supposed to be for my seedlings, but nothing says I can’t use it for my yogurt, lol. I’ve made a test with a bigger cooler, today. One of the hard blue and white Colemans. I’ve put the mat on the bottom, a cooling rack on top of the mat, then a towel, then my 12 closed half pints “fake yogurt” mason jars full of tap water at around 115, and I surrounded them by bigger, Quart jars, that were filled with boiling water. No hot water at the bottom, this time, obviously, since the heating mat, while waterproof, cannot be submerged.

      I set the thermostat to the max 100F, put the probe in, hanging right above the jars, and closed the lid.

      I watched it for 4 hours. The temperature inside the cooler oscillated between 104 and 107, depending on whether the thermostat was turning the heat on the mat or not, so the test was successful. I also tested the temperature of the water in one of the fake yogurt jars at the end, and it was at 105.

      Which means, tomorrow, YOGURT! Woo-hoo!

      1. Hi Menolly,

        I hope you have yogurt!!!

        I also want to encourage you that what you’re going through to find the best way to incubate in your kitchen is absolutely normal. Armed with your temperature probe, you will get it. Meanwhile, I would look into getting your oven fixed. It might be an easy fix depending on your oven. The proof setting in my oven works perfectly and is super easy and dependable to use.

  83. If you get the crumbly texture, put the mess in cheesecloth to drain at room temp for a day (or two), add a small amount of salt, and then refrigerate. You have delicious, very inexpensive creme fraish.

    1. Interesting. I must try it although I’m not in the habit of making crumbly yogurt. Only to make a point. 🙂