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Grainy homemade yogurt

I know there have been multiple discussions of homemade yogurt on this board, but I can't find any that seem to address this particular issue. I have been making yogurt for a couple of years, with considerable success. The end result is not always entirely consistent, but always, with one exception, good (...the exception was the yogurt that would not die...it wouldn't stop culturing/fermenting, and blew the lid off its container in the fridge). I've played around with a variety of culturing methods, in summer it just sits on the counter of the warm kitchen, in winter I've done a crockpot (heated & turned off) a low oven(also heated & turned off) and a double-bowl system, with yogurt in the small bowl nestled into a bigger bowl of warm water.
My last few batches of yogurt are coming out grainy, as if there are small (really small) lumps in it. It is still very tasty, but the texture has lost it's creaminess. Anybody else have this happen? Any ideas? I drain through a clean dishtowel, but I don't think I'm over draining. I do add vanilla and sugar after I drain, but the graininess is there before I stir the sugar in. Help!

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    1. re: DuchessNukem

      You know, I hadn't thought of it, but my starter is old,old, old. I have finally trained my husband to not eat the last of the yogurt...perhaps I have trained him too well. Good thinking. And yeah, it is a LOT like ricotta in texture...but there's no acid in there, honest, unless some of my acidic personality is seeping in.

      1. re: tonifi

        Lol @ husband. Mine knows the rule: if there's a rubberband around the container, it's off-limits (starter I'm saving, food I'm taking to work, saving for dinner, fermenting, cat food, experiment-in-progress-possibly-inedible).

        Bacterial colony composition will change over time and your stronger varieties may be dying off, leaving weaker or contaminant varieties. New starter from supermarket yogurt or purchased packet sounds in order. :)

    2. "Die, yogurt, die!"

      Is the texture anything like ricotta?

      1. I agree with the other suggestions that your starter has seen better days. I never use my starter over 4 times before starting with fresh starter....also, do you really boil your milk? I go to 180 degrees, heating slowly.
        For the graininess, try NOT stirring your milk at all once you start heating, and also do NOT STIR when you add your starter, just dump it in. I use 1/3 C. starter per gallon of milk. When making yogurt, you are essentially making cheese. Stirring makes yogurt grainy. I read where some people whisk their starter in, etc. Remember, this starter is alive, it can move around just fine by itself. When you stir, you are trying to re-combine your milk....try not stirring and let me know.....

        1 Reply
        1. re: texas grrrl

          I have never NOT stirred my yogur but rather just the opposite - HENCE WHY I may be getting that grain texture~! I've also only made it 6 cups at a time but usually do two batches using almost the whole gallon - I'm curious though, if I'm not stirring in the yogurt, how long do I let it set and 'distribute' beforea gentle stir an pouring into jars? From previous posts, 1/3 c yogurt starterto 1 gallon milk? Suggestions/comments - Thanks

        2. I noticed graininess in my home made yoghurt before when the oven was a little too hot. The curd was a little curdled and split from the whey rather than the normal creamier consistency.

          9 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima

            Oh, bless you guys! The new batch (made with a big spoonful of some supermarket yogurt...um, Kronos? I bought the one on sale...not sure which one it was...) is NOT GRAINY! I'm going to freeze the rest of the 'starter' yogurt in dollops and remember to 'reboot' every month or so. Thank you!

            1. re: tonifi

              I've never tried freezing yogurt and then using as a starter. You might end up killing some or all of the beneficial bugs. But it might work just fine, so let us know how it turns out.

              I've had pretty good success making yogurt and only a handful of batches have turned out bad, and only one I recall that was bad enough to toss (that was how I confirmed it's not good to use a very old starter). I had one or two batches that came out grainy, but I attributed that to too high a fermentation temperature. I stir gently with a whisk while heating (to 180 F) and do the same when adding the starter, and I'm pretty confident it has nothing to do with graininess. I agree with using a fresh starter after 3 or 4 batches, but that's because the yogurt gets to tasting harsh, which I assume is because the mix of bugs is getting out of balance, as Duchess suggests.

              1. re: Zeldog

                I agree with not stirring the heating product = creamier yoghurt.
                Also, I find that starting with a greek yogurt gives me a tastier tangy end product than 'old' regular yoghurts.
                It doesn't have that great thick Greek yoghurt texture, but the taste is more subtle and refined....
                Does anyone know how to get greek yoghurt texture in home-made yoghurt?

                1. re: gingershelley

                  any live starter works fine, I go for the most cultures possible, so far the most I have found is in Cascade Active 8.....8 cultures. I use the ratio of one third cup (1/3 C.) of live starter to one gallon of milk. If you use too much starter, your yogurt will be more tart and tangy. That is because it has a larger amount of bacteria from day one. Remember, your culture is always growing, so start small....it will grow rapidly. One reason the yogurt (Greek or regular) gets an 'off' taste is because the bacteria level has maxed out.....they have no more room to grow....so start small.

                  In answer to gingershelley, you can get the Greek yogurt texture by straining your home-made yogurt. Remember, the only ingredients in Greek yogurt are milk and live culture. If you start adding other ingredients, like powdered or dry milk (yuk), or pectin, or gelatin, etc., you will thicken your product, but it will be different than real Greek style yogurt. Straining is the way to get this result. Mine strains for hours, I measure the whey that drains out, and when I have half as much whey as the original amount of milk, I stop for regular 'breakfast' yogurt. If I want the thicker, yogurt cheese, I strain it longer. Measuring your whey is a way to determine when to stop straining....

                  1. re: texas grrrl

                    Thank you Texas grrrl, that is helpful! I want to stop buying yogurt, which I have begun to do again, as I love the thick texture of Greek yogurt.

                    I don't find, tho, that straining gives me the same result, it is thicker, but not the dense, creamy texture of my favorite greek (fage, so far). Something is very different...

                  2. re: gingershelley

                    gingershelly, plunk a colander or a big strainer into a larger bowl, line it with a clean dishcloth, or any clean bit of closely-woven cloth. Put the yogurt into the cloth and let it drain. You can drain for a couple hours on the counter, I sometimes put the whole apparatus into the fridge over night. The yogurt left in the cloth will be nice & thick, the whey in the bowl is good for baking (just use it instead of water), as a liquid component in soups or the cheese sauce for mac n' cheese, (it is also highly recommended for pets...full of nutrients, and even to water plants...)use it anywhere you might be happy to use buttermilk. Thank you, everyone, for the advice...I had yogurt & granola for lunch...nice & creamy.

                    1. re: tonifi

                      tonifi, I will try again, with less starter, and no stirring, and strain away, making note of how much whey has drained.

                      Thank you specifically, tonifi, for the uses of whey!

                      I am going to see if my kitties will eat it, they could use some extra nutrients I think... tho they are beautiful and healthy looking. Just a feeling that more nutrients for them can never hurt!

                2. re: tonifi

                  Tonifi, I haven't frozen yogurt for starter, but I'm pretty sure it would kill off your bacterial herd. (I have frozen whey for fermenting and definitely murdered my lactobacilli livestock, and ruined my ferment.)

                  Just tuck a half cup of starter into a plastic or glass container at the back of the fridge (date with sharpie).

                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                    The bacteria is not destroyed by freezing. If you are making a frozen yogurt that call for heating above 112 degrees before freezing, then the active culture would be destroyed.

                    Try making your yogurt without stirring. The consistency will be creamier and not grainy. Whenever heating milk, you need to heat slowly in a pan with a heavy bottom, and can also use a diffuser.

                    Real yogurt will separate into whey and solids unless you use emulsifiers like powdered milk, gelatin, pectin, etc. These emulsifiers can change the taste and the mouth-feel. Whey is a natural by-product of yogurt and can be used in making bread, soaking grains, etc.

              2. What is the fat content? More fat is usually smoother.

                1. I have this same problem and it is the first culture, so I don't buy the dead yogurt idea. It is still culturing and tart and produces whey. I am using Filmjolk a mesophilic yogurt culture. It made one of the best smoothies I ever had though.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: I_Fortuna

                    Wow, since this thread has risen from the dead, I'll let you all know what conclusion I drew. It did seem that the longer I used a 'starter' batch, the lumpier the yogurt became. Frozen stores of yogurt did not get lumpy at first, but seemed to be more inclined to 'lump up' the longer they were in the freezer. I have to assume that since my yogurt starter, which is just a small tub of plain yogurt of whatever type is on sale that week, contains several different cultures, some were rocking along faster than others, and as time passed, the texture became inconsistent. I now introduce a new starter yogurt every month or so, and no more problems. I've also stopped stirring it around and straining the yogurt/milk mixture prior to culturing. I'm trying to think of it as a pet or a plant that I want to grow & thrive, and not as a kitchen product that I need to clobber into submission. I've found that a very slow heat with a long hold at about 170-180 seems to result in thicker yogurt...and a pinch of salt really does make vanilla yogurt taste a bit more vanilla-y. I am DELIGHTED to report that I found the PERFECT winter yogurt-growing tool. I swiped my husband's heated 'tape' thing he uses for beer...works great. The oven, door closed and oven light on, works well, too...if I could just remember it's in there and quit preheating the oven and killing my yogurt.

                    1. re: tonifi

                      I am using mesophilic culture Filmjolk. No heat required. I do think I figured it out though. I disturbed the batch twice. I am culturing another batch and I will see what happens. We will see. I took the old batch from a cool room after a few hours to a rather warm room and this may have "confused" it and I left too long. I think a steady consistent temp is probably the key. We will see. I will try to remember to let you know. Thanks for your reply though. Maybe we will figure this out together. : )

                  2. We used to have this problem all the time with old starter. Then we came in possession of a starter supposedly imported from Pakistan. We are guarding this starter with our lives. I wouldn't want to be the person who accidentally eats the last few spoons of yogurt.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      Well, this new batch looks good, No separation yet. I put it in the fridge before it separated. I think in both types of yogurt, mesophilic and thermophilic, too long culturing time may actually be the problem. Filmjolk is not supposed to thicken that much and perhaps I left it too long not understanding that about this particular one. I think the same may be true with any yogurt left too long to culture. It is still good but separates out of the fridge and becomes grainy if left to long in the culturing state. I am having a lot of fun though and want to try other cultures too.
                      BTW, you might want to freeze a few spoonfuls of your Pakistani culture just to be on the safe side. : )