So, How About That Yogurt Maker?
August 26, 2015 6:34 AM   Subscribe

I noticed that we've been going through kind of insane amounts of the Trader Joe's Greek-style yogurt recently. Since I'm already spending a small fortune on the stuff, I'd like to just try making my own. Any tips, recommendations, absolutely-best-yogurt-making devices EVAR?

Cool Tools recently recommended the EasiYo, but the reviews on Amazon are a bit mixed.

This Dash Greek Yogurt Maker also looks pretty cool.

I'd prefer the kind that makes one big batch, rather than the little cups with lids. It would also be nice if it had an attachment or something for making thicker Greek-style yogurt, although it seems that's easy enough to do without a special gizmo.

I'd rather not do the old-school oven method, just because leaving the oven on all day/night makes me very nervous.
posted by forkisbetter to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up with an EasiYo and my husband has one now that he uses all the time (as has used regularly for many years). We really like it. Very easy to use, always works, great tasting yoghurt at the end.

The main issue is to be sure you have a good source of the packets that aren't too expensive (including postage if you're buying online). Because they can get pricey rather fast and it's not designed to use anything else. This was super easy when we lived in NZ (where it's from), but isn't so easy now in Europe. If you can get the packets for a reasonable price then all is good.
posted by shelleycat at 6:40 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you have a slow cooker, but I just tried this method for the first time and it worked really well:

Slow cooker, instant read thermometer, towel to insulate the cooker while it's culturing, mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth for straining.

I would be nervous about the oven too but I had no worried about this method.
posted by brilliantine at 6:40 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've used a thermos successfully. You just need something that can hold a temperature for about 4 hours.

Lately I've been using my Instant Pot, which is a general kitchen gadget that also makes yogurt. One advantage is it can get really hot to sterilize itself, maybe helping get better results. But I wouldn't buy it just for making yogurt since it's $120 or so.
posted by miyabo at 6:43 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I was making yogurt, I just did it in a cooler. I'd heat my milk, cool a bit, mix in the last spoon or two of the last batch (to inoculate), then pour into a rubbermaid container. Pack still very warm into a cooler, then pack the cooler with something to further insulate (I used bath towels). 6-8 hours later, you've got yogurt. Worked fine every time, was cheap, didn't require a single-purpose appliance.
posted by Gilbert at 6:47 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yup, I've just used my crock pot. I used these instructions. I don't think that I've ever bothered to preheat the oven: I just wrap it in a towel and leave it in the non-preheated oven.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:48 AM on August 26, 2015

I've made it in a Crock Pot, and it's really easy and good. Looked it up on Google, so I think that may be a thing you could try before you go out and buy a cooker specifically for that purpose.
posted by xingcat at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2015

I have an easiyo and I'm pretty happy with it. I pick up the greek yogurt sachets when I see them on sale every so often - which as I am the only yogurt eater in my house of two means that 1kg of plain (slightly sweetened in my case) yoghurt lasts me awhile - but I may start trying the dried milk powder/package for starter route soon. I don't bother with any of their other flavours (I tried the honey greek yogurt, it tasted of fake honey scent a la soaps)

I do strain mine afterwards in a muslin/fine mesh sieve to get the thicker texture if I really want it, which does add additional time before I eat it and does reduce the amount you get.

It's easy to clean, it takes very little prep/brain time and I no longer spend ridic amounts on yogurt.
posted by halcyonday at 6:49 AM on August 26, 2015

Did you see this previously?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:50 AM on August 26, 2015

I had a Dash and it ran too hot, as I verified with a thermometer. I do like the strainer it comes with, though. I do the slow cooker method and strain it through the Dash strainer.
posted by mama casserole at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2015

We make it this way and it works very well. No special equipment required and the oven doesn't stay on. If you want to make it into Greek yogurt just strain some of the water out after, either by draining the yogurt in a colander lined with cheesecloth or (my preferred method) laying tea towels on top of the yogurt in the fridge until it reaches the thickness you like. This method of making and straining the yogurt is basically the same as that used by my Greek mother in law, only she doesn't use a thermometer!
posted by booky at 7:07 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Personally, I don't like buying single-use kitchen gadgets. I'm also pretty averse to big pieces of kitchen tech, so I've avoided the yogurt makers out on the market.

The solution at our house use this temperature controller, and a crockpot. Crockpot gets plugged into the temperature controller, which now is the mega smart brains of the operation, dictates exactly how hot your crockpot gets so you have pretty precise control over the temperature of your fermentation.

I would only go this route if you're interested in making cheese, experimenting with sous vide cooking, brewing lager, or other things that require specific temperatures. If you are, this is a fantastic solution. We use that thing a surprising amount, and are considering getting a 2nd one just to control our beer fridge at specific temperatures.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I use my immersion circulator to make yogurt. I have found that holding it 95 degrees for at least 12 hours is the sweet spot for thick, sour, yogurt. Now that home models are in the $100 price range, it might make more sense than a dedicated machine.

On re-read what furnace.heart said.
posted by phil at 7:35 AM on August 26, 2015

We have one like this but we use a 4 cup pyrex glass measuring cup instead of the little cups it comes with. The lid doesn't completely close, but everything turns out fine.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:54 AM on August 26, 2015

Just make sure to do the math first. When I looked into making yogurt to save money, it didn't actually make sense when I ran the numbers, because the amount of milk I needed, especially if I wanted organic milk, cancelled out the savings. Add in the time cost (plus the cost of a yogurt maker, which I wasn't even considering), it might actually be cheaper to keep buying yogurt.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2015 [13 favorites]

Since several people have mentioned buying gadgets I wanted to point out the that EasiYo is just a plastic container. Its reasonably robust so you can throw* it pretty much anywhere when you're not using it (in the laundry room, on top of the fridge, in the back cupboard). And it just takes boiling water poured in to make it work so you can make the actual yogurt anywhere convenient. We generally use the hall cupboard but I've done it in my bedroom too before. I think the evenness of the product has as much to do with the packets as the plastic thingy - so it's kind of like a yogurt-for-dummies system for people willing to pay for something easy rather than some fancy machine.

* Maybe not throw literally, I did actually break my first one by throwing it around too much and broke a hole in the corner, although it was about ten years old at that point.
posted by shelleycat at 8:07 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

To show what I mean, this is my kitchen from a few years ago. You can see the EasiYo up on top of the cupboards in the background and the clean jar waiting for the next batch next to Mac on the microwave. So it is single use, but it's not a pain to store or use.
posted by shelleycat at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2015

I've used the Alton Brown method and it was very successful.
posted by General Malaise at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2015

Have you considered making quark instead? For us, we used it for yogurt, though it tends to have a milder flavor. You have to buy buttermilk every time, but you don't need a yogurt maker. We just used a stock pot (and a thermometer) and then you leave it on the counter overnight at room temperature. It was more straightforward for us to just make a gallon of milk into quark once every couple of weeks than to try to fiddle with a yogurt maker.

We have since started making kefir instead because we like the taste better. But you need to maintain it daily (or keep it in the fridge for a week, dormant) so probably not what you're looking for.
posted by ethidda at 10:08 AM on August 26, 2015

It's so simple and easy to make yogurt I don't know why anyone would buy a gadget or machine. If you have a saucepan, a whisk, a stove and a thermometer, you already have everything you need. You don't have to leave the oven on. Just the oven light, or the pilot light if you have one, provides enough heat.
posted by caryatid at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2015

I've been making yogurt for a really long time, and have tried just about every method, including a yogurt maker, but I do like caryatid and leave it overnight in the oven with the light on. I've done it in a few different ovens, and in all sorts of weather and conditions, and it's worked every time.

If you're making Greek yogurt, use a recipe with powdered milk added to the milk for a thicker consistency, then strain it with a cheescloth or something until it's the right texture. (If you keep going and make it even thicker, it becomes labneh.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2015

As several people have mentioned above, don't waste your money on a yogurt maker. I make mine with a dutch oven wrapped in a towel and left in the oven with just the light on. Works every time. No need for fancy gadgets.
posted by MildredMakenpace at 11:59 AM on August 26, 2015

I can't recommend The Art of Fermentation enough if you start getting into this sort of thing. I use a crock-pot for mine, and make about a gallon at a time, but the method isn't as super important as long as you hit these general points:

Keep the yogurt between 110-115 F while it's fermenting (Which, depending on how cold your kitchen is, you can do by just leaving it in a thick walled cooking vessel on the counter wrapped in a towel)
If you can find a non-commercial starter (as in not from store-bought yogurt) it'll probably die off less frequently.
Slower heating of the milk means a smoother texture
If you heat the milk above 180 F and then let the temp. drop back down and add the starter you'll get a thicker yogurt than if you just heat it up to 115 and add the starter. (That takes my crockpot about 5 hours for a gallon sized batch, 3 heating up, 2 cooling down)
Less starter added = thicker yogurt (the book suggests about 1 TBS for ever quart of milk, which consistently gets thicker yogurt than when I was adding more starter).
It only takes about 3 hours of fermenting at 115, longer at 110. (although I just leave mine on the counter overnight and haven't had a problem).
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:14 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I use a styrofoam cooler, a bath towel, and a tupperware. No fancy device needed and it comes out great.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:22 PM on August 26, 2015

I've done the crockpot too, and it's super simple and just about fool proof.
posted by goggie at 12:23 PM on August 26, 2015

I have an Easiyo and love it. The sachets do get expensive, though.

However, while I have no personal experience with it, I will pass on this tip: use UHT milk and a tablespoonful of live yoghurt, mixed, in place of the cold water/easiyo powder. Do everything else like you normally would, and it turns out fine. I haven't tried it, but I've heard of several people who have and have had it work.
posted by Solomon at 1:54 PM on August 26, 2015

I have an Easiyo and love it. The sachets do get expensive, though.

Yeah, you definitely don't need to use the sachets in an Easiyo. Milk & a little live yoghurt will get you started, make the next batch using a little of the previous - just like yoghurt has been made for millennia.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:18 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another vote for a cooler as the incubator vessel. I fill the cooler to a mark I've made on the side with water at about 120 deg. Then I use a thermometer and heat a half gallon of milk to 170-180 on the stove top, then cool it to 120, then add in a bit of starter (just yogurt from the last batch, or initially from commercial yogurt with "live cultures"), put it in 2 quart mason jars with caps and put them in the cooler, close the top, and let it sit overnight. (The mark I've made on the side of the cooler is the height of water needed so that once I put the 2 quart containers in, the water comes most of the way up the bottles.)

I used to use rectangular glass quart containers instead of the mason jars, wrap them in 3 layers of dishtowel, and let them sit on the counter. I think I got this from an NYT article. It worked most of the time but not always, which is why I switched to using the water in the cooler.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:30 PM on August 26, 2015

When I couldn't handle the expense of Greek yogurt anymore I changed to cottage cheese. That's my out there suggestion.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:59 PM on August 26, 2015

Just to reiterate the main points:

- you don't need to buy fancy gear
- you can use ordinary milk, not special powder
- you get thicker yoghurt if you heat the milk higher (actual Greeks bring it to boiling first, I believe) before cooling
- less starter = thicker yoghurt
- strain the yoghurt for really thick. Use the resulting whey for pancakes.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:20 AM on August 27, 2015

Oh yeah. You can use commercial yoghurt for starter for the first batch, and then keep using the previous batch as starter for the next. Have been continuously making yoghurt this way weekly for many months without mishap.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:21 AM on August 27, 2015

To clarify: I use 2 one-quart mason jars, not mason jars of 2 quart size.

Also, I use whole milk. I tried adding dried milk but it added to the cost and I don't remember it making a big difference in the actual yogurt (it was a while ago). The texture is about that of regular commercial yogurt, maybe a bit thinner. It's definitely not Greek-style thickness, but it can be drained through cheesecloth or a coffee filter to make it thicker.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 4:37 AM on August 27, 2015

I'm in a similar situation (going through ungodly amounts of yogurt), and after a lot of research, I recently decided to purchase this Instant Pot. It is a combination pressure cooker/crockpot/yogurt maker, and has rave reviews. I haven't used it myself yet, but it looks very straightforward and simple for yogurt making. One of the best things about it is that, unlike most crockpots, you can set a specific temperature.
posted by ClaireBear at 9:44 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tried making yogurt as suggested by several of the recipes people linked to and it came out really nicely! I may invest in a gadgety thing in the future just to make it that much easier to control the temperature, but for the time being it seems like just leaving the oven light on will do the trick.
posted by forkisbetter at 1:27 PM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

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