For the love of Greek yogurt
January 17, 2008 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know where to find a very, very fine mesh chinois or strainer? I seek one that will hold about a half gallon of liquid with a mesh similar in "fine-ness" (is that a word?) to those metal coffee filters.

I've been looking around for the perfect strainer to make Greek yogurt but am coming up empty. I usually make 1/2 gallon at a time. After my milk is cultured & set I will strain away the whey to thicken the end product -- which is fantastic btw and I will never go back to "yoplait" type grocery store yogurt -- but I digress. I've been using paper coffee filters and the old fashioned muslin-in-a-sieve method. They work okay, but are very messy. I'd rather not have to sanitize & re-wash fabric every time or tear open & overlap the paper filters (so they fit that much volume). Both methods seem wasteful of paper, time, and/or energy. I hope to find a large strainer/chinois with a superfine mesh that I don't need to line with anything. The standard mesh I've found on products on amazon,, williams-sonoma etc. is too "loose" to work for straining dairy without being lined. I think a mesh that's just like what's used in metal coffee filters like this would be perfect. There's a "yogurt strainer" gadget out there but it only makes 1 cup & isn't what I'm seeking. FWIW I don't have a southeast Asian/Indian or Greek grocery store in my town which might carry such a device and I've looked in all department stores to no avail. An online vendor would be ideal. Many thanks in advance for suggestions!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
How about these? Have you actually looked at the mesh on standard chinois. It's much finer than you might suppose, probably finer than the mesh on the coffee filter you linked to. I use them all the time at work for straining pastry cream, ice cream base, etc...
posted by halcyon_daze at 10:23 AM on January 17, 2008

i agree with halcyon - a standard chinois shouldn't let any particulate matter through its mesh (it's usually two overlapping meshes IIRC.)
posted by gnutron at 10:26 AM on January 17, 2008

Try Fante's, although keep in mind that chinois get very expensive quickly. It's easier to use a large piece of cheesecloth with a larger, much cheaper strainer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on January 17, 2008

Oops, didn't see that Fante's was already listed. Still, worth a second-ing — and if you're in Philadelphia, I definitely recommend a visit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on January 17, 2008

I'll second Blazecock's suggestion about the cheesecloth. I've made both yogurt and ricotta and use overlapping cheesecloth squares. Cheesecloth is very inexpensive, and if you're very frugal, it can washed and reused.
posted by Flakypastry at 10:51 AM on January 17, 2008

Thanks for the chinois suggestion... But I don't think the ones in the link would quite work for what I need. If I can see the holes between the wires, (which I can, just viewing the photos in the links and in the ones I've seen in person) then it's not fine enough and I'd loose too much of the curd. Wouldn't two overlapping meshes be very hard to clean & collect crud between them? There's also the expense ($80...eep!) If I can keep it under $25 that'd be preferable. The mesh in a coffee filter like the one I linked is so fine you can't really see the holes and it looks almost like a solid sheet of clear material. Again, cheesecloth or any other way of lining a strainer is what I'd like to move away from, as I already do that. But I do appreciate the thoughts!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 10:53 AM on January 17, 2008

Perhaps you could rig up something to nest a gold metal coffee filter inside a larger-volume container. If the grid metal is as fragile as in a chinois, you may also have to think carefully about 1) how you will press your mix through without damaging the filter; 2) cleaning the filter of residue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on January 17, 2008

Blazecock, I think you're misunderstanding how this yogurt is made--you don't want ANY of the yogurt to go through the chinois/mesh/cheesecloth, only the water/whey.

What about a 1/64" sifter? (Scroll down towards the bottom). Assuming the "fine mesh" chinois is the same kind of mesh as the "fine mesh" strainer, they only go as fine as 1/32". The sifter is twice as nice, much cheaper, plus you get that big ol' surface area to work with.
posted by bcwinters at 11:22 AM on January 17, 2008

When my grandmother in India made paneer (fresh yogurt cheese) she filtered the curds through a muslin cloth laid inside a mesh strainer. Could something like that work for you?
posted by peacheater at 11:43 AM on January 17, 2008

bcwinters: Those sifters look pretty good; the bottom mesh visible in the photos looks quite close the fine metal of a coffee filter. Thanx for the suggestion. I may check those out! Oh, and in regard to how the yogurt is strained; no, it's not pressed through the strainer, but left for several hours to drain slowly on its own. A superfine mesh is necessary so the very tiny curds/protein-y bits don't get strained out with the whey. I've found that the finer the strain, the more smooth & creamy the yogurt. If too much of the tiny curd is strained out the finished yogurt is more coursely textured. That's why the traditional method is to use layers of cheesecloth, a towel, or a piece of muslin fabric -- but those are so sloppy and drippy when trying to scrape off the finished product. I thought I'd try to streamline the process, minimize mess, and have one doo-dad to use instead of two (strainer+liner). :-)
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:51 AM on January 17, 2008

To answer your parenthetical question: yes, fineness is a word, but it's usually been used in different senses ('excellence.' 'purity,' 'slenderness,' etc.); this is the closest definition in the OED:

The quality of being composed of fine particles, filaments, threads, or material in general: the opposite of coarseness.
1634 SIR T. HERBERT Trav. 182 Taffataes of transparent finenesse. 1770 CHESTERFIELD Misc. Wks. II. lxix. 538 Irish linen..much about the same fineness and price of the last. 1846 MCCULLOCH Acc. Brit. Empire I. 505 Without injuring the fineness of the fleece. 1860 RUSKIN Mod. Paint. V. IX. vii. 268 Fineness of structure in the body.. renders it capable of the most delicate sensation. 1879 Cassell's Techn. Educ. IX. 158 The degree of fineness to which this grinding is carried varies.

posted by languagehat at 12:16 PM on January 17, 2008

I am pretty sure that "Greek" yogurt (in Greece, we actually call it 'strained') is strained through cheesecloth-type filters (I remember seeing this setup in delis many years ago). BTW, the most popular strained yogurt in Greece is exported to the US (I've mostly seen it in Whole Foods.
posted by costas at 1:38 PM on January 17, 2008

I've played around with straining yogurt through cheescloth and some of the solids always sneak through, plus I find that the cheesecloth imparts a faint taste to the yogurt (maybe I just have crappy cheesecloth). If you want to go high-tech, you could use fine nylon mesh inside another strainer. You can get extremely fine mesh sizes; we have some 120 µm mesh in the lab that is translucent but you can't actually see the holes.

Be aware that the finer the mesh, the slower the flow rate and the more likely it is to clog. I'd try something in the 200 - 500 µm size, at a guess, for yogurt. Nylon is of course washable and reuseable; the stuff we have is surprisingly tough for such a delicate-looking fabric.
posted by Quietgal at 2:12 PM on January 17, 2008

Have you tried a paint straining bag? They're a buck or two at most, and might work for this purpose. I use 'em as hop bags when homebrewing and they have a really fine mesh.
posted by glip at 2:47 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hops bags! I never thought of that! Mr. McSnuggy does homebrewing, betcha he has an extra one around somewhere. ("Hey honey!"....) Great idea glip, thanxabunch!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 3:19 PM on January 17, 2008

My mom always made strained ("Greek style") yogurt by straining yogurt in a fine metal lined with cheesecloth when I was a kid. Now Greek yogurt is easily available at TJ's, Whole Foods, or her corner Greek market and she doesn't have to make her own for Greek food and as a sour cream substitute.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 5:22 PM on January 17, 2008

Once you get the stuff together, you'll have to throw a Mefi party with tzatziki. MMmmmm, tzatziki.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:43 PM on January 17, 2008

For what it's worth, even if the quantity isn't what you'd like, the Donvier strainer you linked to works really really well.
posted by Caviar at 7:15 AM on January 18, 2008

This yogurt strainer might work. It looks pretty big, but if it isn't big enough you could get a second one.
posted by caddis at 9:16 AM on January 18, 2008

That's exactly the same as the Donvier one linked in the original post. It takes roughly 3 cups of yogurt and makes 1-2 cups of thick yogurt (depending on how long you strain it).
posted by Caviar at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2008

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