Yogurt By The Gallon

Picture of Yogurt By The Gallon
You've read a lot of stories about making yogurt. I think there are enough innovations here to give you something new and interesting. If you need a gallon of yogurt every week, this is the fastest, most reliable, easiest, and cheapest home process by far. I'll have further musings at the end, but let's get right to it.

You will need a gallon of milk in a plastic jug, a pot bigger than that jug, 2 coffee filters, 2 oz. of plain yogurt in a cup-sized jar, a pair of gallon-sized shallow food containers, an insulated container to hold the jug, a drill or sharp knife, a cooking thermometer, and a kitchen with a stove, fridge, and sink.

The cheat sheet.
1. Sanitize everything.
2. Heat to 180 - 190F.
3. Cool to 100 - 110F.
4. Inoculate.
5. Ferment for 6 - 24 hours.
6. Strain in refrigerator.
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Step 1: Scald the milk to 180º - 190º

Picture of Scald the milk to 180º - 190º
Poke the temperature probe through the cap. Reserve a cup or two or three for pudding and place the jug in the pot. Add just enough tap water to barely float the jug. Cover the pot if you can and set the burner to high.

It takes my electric stove about 25 minutes to heat the milk to 175F. Then turn off the heat and let it coast up to 180+. I use a timer so I can turn my attention to other things, but depend on the thermometer. 

It's hard to find the perfect vessel for this, but it really doesn't matter to the yogurt. Mine is a 12 quart aluminum pot, over 10 inches high inside, with a glass lid that has a vent hole. It saves time and heat. You can do this in an open 3 quart pot for a trial run, but it's more trouble.
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Mattazin4 days ago

Great "ible". I'm collecting the supplies & equipment. I was reading labels on yogurt @ market; would "pasteurized milk, contains live cultures" be a good starter for my first attempt at home culturing yogurt?

flavrt (author)  Mattazin4 days ago

Yes, that's perfect. Get the milk to target temps of 180F and 110F as carefully as you can, and the yogurt will take care of itself.

doctorman5 months ago

this is an easy an cool setting the only thing that worries me is warming up milk in the plastic bin, the chance of chemicals released in to the milk from the hot plastic..

flavrt (author)  doctorman4 months ago

There is a lot of concern about this, stemming from confusion about different plastics. The jug you buy your milk in has already been heated to higher temperatures during cleaning and packaging. This is safe because polyethylene is not a catalyzed plastic, and is thermoformed from food-safe material.

doctorman flavrt4 months ago

Thanks I did a search since I wrote my comment about different plastics..

the plastic type for milk bottle is TYPE 2 usually under the milk buttle the number 2 in a triangle.

that is safe to reheat..

zawy5 months ago

I kept having problems trying to get this recipe thick, so I added 3 cups dry milk to a half gallon and it came out REALLY thick after 20 hours. Just one cup would make a big difference. Dry milk is 40% more expensive, $2.8 per gallon ($15.50 for a box of it from Sams) and it work as good as skim or low fat milk. I also just heated it up to just 123 F and poured it into my larger glass jug that had some 1/2 cup yogurt in it (so starting temp was probably 120 F due to jug and yogurt coolness and the pouring). Bringing it up to 180 F took way to long to be fun, over 30 minutes, and nearly as long to bring the temperature while occupying the whole sink in a running cool water bath. I also stirred the dry milk back in several times during the 20 hours. Rather than the special insulation setup, I used a cheap "larger than 6-pack-size" Styrofoam cooler to hold the gallon jug and placed a boiling coffee cup of water beside it after 2 hours to keep it more warm. I placed no concern on contamination and it came out good.

flavrt (author)  zawy4 months ago

Yes, dry milk will instantly add solids to yield thicker and more expensive yogurt. This variation often makes sense when more product is needed from a single batch.

It does take me about 25 minutes to scold milk, which is too long to stare at a thermometer. From the experience of many identical batches, I can use a timer to alert me a little early. So 90% of the cooking time is unattended and painless.

You will get thicker yogurt by bringing the milk all the way up to 180º. Below this temperature, much of the protein won't curd and will be lost in the whey.

jlarsen11 year ago
How or where do you make/get your Yogurtron insulator? I just made yogurt using the crockpot method, which was pretty easy and this stuff (although still warm) tastes great. But I really want to get a gallon of whole milk and try your method.
flavrt (author)  jlarsen11 year ago
I made the 1st Yogurtron out of polystyrene beadboard to fit a crock.

The 2nd generation used foil-faced polyisocyanurate foam board. Available at all building supply centers. This proved to be far more durable and effective. I fitted a thick lid and sealed all the edges with foil duct tape.

Trying to be cute, I crafted round corners to fit the milk jug. Complete waste of time. Get an empty jug and build a square box to fit. All sides including top should be 1.5 to 2 inches thick.

Bonus: Put your insulated box in a shopping bag and bring it to the food store. Then you can pack frozen food inside and it won't thaw on the way home. Works much better than any picnic cooler. This is a big deal in Florida, because I don't have drive a crazy route to buy my food last.

Maybe I should build a 3rd gen Yogurton and do an Instructable on that?
rn9243050 flavrt8 months ago
Definitely do an instructable on the Yogurtron 3rd generation. I'm new to the world of home cultured yogurt and have made about 5 gallon batches in the last month. Your instructable is fantastic and has been used with my last two batches. Following your process on the second trial run I've dropped my investment time from 8 hours waiting on a crockpot to 50 minutes. The strainer is simply brilliant. It will be a permanent staple in my fridge. Thanks for all of the pointers!!!
jlarsen1 flavrt11 months ago
It's been forever, and I see you've mentioned this again :) but I was getting ready to finally make a yogurton :) and was interested in what you had thought up for a 3rd gen.

My setup includes a bunch of 1cup glass bottles, so I was going to make one that had little compartments for them all, with 3 or 4 inch shell and lid. Currently I have a normal cooler, which I fill with the hot water, and enough cool water to get the temp right at 120 before putting them in over night. Works pretty great.

Btw, I still love the post :). Come back to it regularly for the cheat sheet :)
mrbonine8 months ago
I've been using this process for over six months and it's simple, easy and, so far (maybe 30 batches) results in excellent.yogurt. I love whole milk dairy.and have experimented a bit with cream to stimulate "Brown Cow" brand yogurt, since the big chain: supermarket introduced that brand, used it to do market testing, then replaced all the popular flavors (here, all but maple) with store branded products. This tactic reduces the product quality, consumer choice, and maximizes their $/shelf area. We have very little grocery competition, but it's safe to say that the only margin they make on my yogurt purchases is 1 container of Mountaun High whole/plain with live cultures. I can't always keep enough of my yogurt as starter. Other brands I've used sucessfuly are Strauss and Fage. Honestly, i am one of the more analytical and hard to impress people you're.likely to meet, and this method cannot be outdone for simplicity, mess loo/cleaning/waste minimization, or success ratio. I hope the aut hor writes more Instructables, knowing that they may never meet this level of perfection and cnn because it's likely very.few could. If you want to make yogurt, use this method first, I doubt you will ever find one aselegant and humbling. The Yogurt does not care, neilither do corporations, or even groups of people. Help can be given collectively, but care is a person from a person. persons all animals, at least, and plants, perhaps, as well. When US courts stop thinking of $$ as speech and corporations as people it may extend humanity long enough to survive the extreme stress we.exert on our planet. What does Earth have in common witn the Easter Islands? Do some reading and understand.
bobdog10 months ago
I tried it, but after ten hours it was still warm milk. I used 2 half gallons of skim milk, scalded to 180F in a 20 qt stockpot. The jugs were suspended off the bottom of the pot by a rod across the pot and through the jug handles as the temperature rose and the jugs bloated. I cooled them to 110 then inoculated from a jar of "Bulgarian" yoghurt from Fresh Market. I packed it all into a cooler with the pot of water at 200F a few inches from the jugs, air temp right at 110. I think my thermometer was reading low and I killed the inoculate, so I have added more and a bit of publix fat free plain yoghurt for good measure and packed it back up. Wish me luck. Oh, one jug of milk separated into whey, it was left to fall to the hot bottom off stockpot after I pulled the other pot out
flavrt (author)  bobdog10 months ago
This is a robust process, and you followed it carefully. I doubt the failure was caused by the thermometer off a few degrees.

Guessing the yogurt from Fresh Market was pasteurized before you bought it. Sometimes they do that for some reason. I do wish you good luck, and hope you prove that cheap yogurt makes the best inoculate.
zawy11 months ago
Since it ferments so quickly, i did not sterilize anything. I placed chopsticks on bottom of 8 quart pot filled half way with water. Chopsticks to keep plastic off pots hot bottom. while that was coming up to 180 F, i used microwave on 2% gallon milk, shaking every 1 minute. 10 minutes total. Seemed to take 30 minutes more at least to bring gallon up to 180 F, with the water very close to boiling. Then took pot and all to sink for cooling under running water and ice. Thermometer simply jammed through plastic jug cap. At 110 F, added 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt by mixing with 1/2 cup milk and then pouring oit 1/2 cup of milk. Used funnel to get it back into jug. Placed jug in styrofoam cooler. Added large coffee cup of boiling water to cooler (on top of chopsticks to protect styrofoam) to prevent temp from dropping too much. 12 hours later jug was 90 F and yogurt was perfect, better than any store bought. Simply poured the liquid off the top and shook the rest, no straining. Consistency was not too thick to pour out. Just placed the jug back in fridge, approximately half full of yogurt. I finally tried this because the milk was turning a little sour before we got to drink it. Great instructable.
zawy zawy11 months ago
For my second gallon, It was not nearly spoiling and i did not do a preliminary microwave. This time it was more normal, so I need to strain. At least before straining it is good bit more sour. A friend was crazy about yesterday's batch. This time before straining its a lot more like walmarts plain yogurt.
spider871 year ago
One more I didn't really ask but just stated, how do you know it's done fermenting?
flavrt (author)  spider871 year ago
You're welcome. It's great to see everyone having fun with this.

You can peek at it after 6 hours if you are in a hurry. If the temp in the incubator stays up over 100ºF, you'll get full curd quickly. I usually just let it go 10 - 12 hours overnight.
spider871 year ago
Just wanted to thank you again! My yogurt turned out perfect!!!
spider871 year ago
I actually had a question too, are you switching lids in this or are the pics from 2 different batches? I'm just wondering how you deal with the hole in the top? I put some tape over mine to keep the bacteria from entering. I had to use scotch tape instead of masking tape like I'd normally use... I believe the yogurt making process is anaerobic anyway so it shouldn't need to breath.. I hope...
flavrt (author)  spider871 year ago
Good to hear you are enjoying the process. That's essential.

Yes, I included images from different batches because I'm lazy like that. I used an oversized 20 quart kettle for a few batches and it surely was slow. It took me a while to find the perfect 12 quart kettle. (Most are too short, so bring an empty jug with you when you shop for a proper pot.) But the search was worth it, because the cooking goes much faster. If you are stuck with a big pot, use less water to save time and energy. You don't have to cover the jug pass half way. Just give the jug a swish to mix and assure you have an even and accurate temperature reading at the end.

I don't think the yogurt cares about the hole in the cap, so long as you keep the jug upright. Or you can keep an un-pierced cap in the drawer to use from batch to batch. To prevent the jug from swelling while heating, give the cap a turn to loosen. That's enough to vent pressure from developing inside.

Great questions. Let me know if I missed anything.
PikeMinnow1 year ago
I love the line "the yogurt doesn't care". I learned how to make yogurt from an Albanian neighbor, her gift to me when I moved away was a half-gallon of her delicious yogurt. I can't stand supermarket yogurt but if she made yogurt I would come running.

When I am explaining how to make friends I used to say "The yogurt critters will outlive cockroaches", but I like your version better.
flavrt (author)  PikeMinnow1 year ago
Thanks for a great story. We need to be reminded that our little friends have served us for a long time. The human body would be something entirely different without the bacteria that sustain us.
philby1 year ago
Hi. Just tried your method. The result was tasty but an odd sticky texture. What I did differently: used low fat milk. Heated only to ~150F to begin with. Also there was quite a drop in temp in my yoghurtron overnight from 110 down to about 73. Which of these made to glueyness do you think?
flavrt (author)  philby1 year ago
I believe you developed a condition called "ropiness." This is considered a defect in yogurt, but also a desired characteristic of other fermented milk products in the tropics.

It is definitely not caused by any variety of fat content you choose for the milk. It is possible that competing bacteria were able to work the milk protein into a different texture, but not likely with this method unless you spit in the jug.

More likely you just didn't get enough of the protein denatured. The sweet spot for yogurt curd is 180ºF. Higher or lower temp scalding will produce less solid product. Premature cooling could have stunted the production of lactic acid, but that's less important. I have batches run down into the 90's overnight without any noticeable effect.

I hope you try again for better results. Start with a fresh commercial culture and pre-warm it on the counter while your milk is cooling. Hit your temp marks carefully and scrounge more insulation for your incubator. Once you have a few good batches, you can slack like me.
philby flavrt1 year ago
Thanks very much for that helpful reply. You are the Yoghurt King! I'll give it a try. I am a bit unwilling to do the heating part in the plastic bottle because we here in Australia have plastics that I am not convinced do well at high temps - i.e., the bottle tends to deform. So I am heating the milk carefully in a pan. I imagine there is no particular difference as long as the right temp is reached.
flavrt (author)  philby1 year ago
You are very welcome. Cheers from Sarasota.

I looked into Aussie milk jugs at and found that your dairymen use the same container material as ours -- high-density polyethylene. I promise it is safe for this purpose, but many commenters have expressed cultural reservations about using any plastic as a cooking utensil. Obviously there is no point to making food if it is not appetizing to you for any reason.

Bear in mind that scalding in the plastic jugs isn't just faster and easier. It's also safer than a pot and far more sanitary. That is part of what makes a fermented food product appetizing too. Truth is, now that I'm producing 2 gallons every week, the jug method is my only practical option.

However you go, please leave a note to tell us of your success.
philby flavrt1 year ago
Ok, just to bring the conclusion in: you are the King of Yoghurt. Perhaps the Emperor. Second batch - consistency was good but a bit tangy! I think using the first culture made it go odd… like the sour yoghurt we used to get in Central Asia… Batch 3 was a ripper. brought it to 80C, cooled to 42C, stirred in culture from a new yoghurt and 8 hours later - perfect. I am now on batch 4 - we eat a lot of it.
Thanks for your help.
flavrt (author)  philby1 year ago
Thanks very much for the feedback. Learning about your experience makes this more valuable for everyone. Sounds like you did get some stray bacteria in the 1st batch that carried over to the 2nd. Now that you've worked through all that, isolate a slug of your good yogurt right away to keep a pure starter for the next batch.
spider871 year ago
For the record, the pot that I used was way too big. It took about an hour to get up to temperature!
spider871 year ago
I am currently incubating my first batch! Not sure how to tell when it's done but I'm excited! It's only been 6hrs so ill likely just wait another 12 until I've come home from work to be safe.

Let me say, about 30 minutes in when the milk gets to around 120F it's a very dramatic experience! Steam pouring out of your pot in every direction, water jumping out, jug inflated like crazy. I was a little frightened haha
spider871 year ago
This tutorial is awesome! Clear, concise and I love the reiteration of "The yogurt doesn't care" to assure us the process doesn't need to be perfect!
flavrt (author)  spider871 year ago
Thank you. I hope you can put this method to good use.

This month I surpassed 100 gallons. My culture is almost 2 years old. With warm weather, I'm making salads for lunch with yogurt dressing. To keep from running out, I need even bigger batches, and found that 2 jugs fit in a 20 quart kettle. With double the thermal mass, the process works even better and takes half the time.
metqa1 year ago
I've been making yogurt by the gallon for a few years now and it never occured to me to heat the milk right in the container! That would save me SO many steps and grief from pouring and trasfering etc. I've got a gallon in the fridge and I'm waffling whether to feed it to my kefir grains or make some yogurt with it. Bah, I'll just buy a nother gallon and do both! Thanks for the ible. Your methods look sound and add to the community! Cheers!
flavrt (author)  metqa1 year ago
"I'll just buy a nother gallon and do both!"

I like the cut of your jib. Yes, if you are culturing milk routinely, this method can save several days a year of your life. Put them to good use. And thx for the encouragement.
mschutze1 year ago
Hi there! Your post gave me some great ideas. One of them was building a controled temperature box for the yogurt to ferment: I just built it today and hope to try it out soon!
flavrt (author)  mschutze1 year ago
You Arduino people are very clever. I'm envious of your ability to manipulate these devices. Your invention will certainly be helpful to people in cold houses.
adillbeck1 year ago
So I finally tried this yesterday on a quart of milk, and as I feared it cooled down quite a bit over night. I can tell that it has some chunks in there, but I also looks milky, so I think it may need to sit longer.
I wrapped an electric heating pad around it this morning, hoping to give the little guys a boost.
From what you've said it sounds like they will keep working even if it's cold, but will do better if they are kept warm... How do I tell when they are really ready?
Never mind. It appears to have worked.
flavrt (author)  adillbeck1 year ago
Good to hear. You will always have better results with a gallon than quart. The larger mass helps to stabilize the temperature of the ferment.
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