Making Homemade Yogurt: The Difference Between Thermophilic and Mesophilic Yogurt

If you want to save a huge amount of money at the grocery store, try making your own yogurt. Homemade yogurt is much less expensive than yogurts purchased from the grocery store, and are usually 100 times better for you. Store-bought yogurts often have many chemical additives mixed in to improve the shelf life of the yogurt, or to change the texture or taste. When you make your own yogurt, you can avoid these unwanted ingredients while you save money! A win-win if I’ve ever seen one.

Before you start making your own homemade yogurt, you must choose a bacterial culture starter. The bacteria and cultures in the yogurt starter firm the milk, and give yogurt its familiar taste and consistency. There are two kinds of yogurt culture bases: thermophilic and mesophilic. Thermophilic cultures require a warm temperature to develop, while mesophilic cultures can develop at room temperature.

Thermophilic Yogurt Cultures

Most store-bought yogurt is made with the thermophilic form of cultures. Warmer temperatures reduce the growth of unwanted bacteria, and thermophilic cultures also develop faster. Most thermophilic yogurt cultures require a temperature between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit to develop. It takes between 4 and 12 hours for a thermophilic yogurt culture to solidify. You can either buy a yogurt culture by itself, or just purchase a container of plain yogurt, and use those cultures.

Mesophilic Yogurt Cultures

Mesophilic yogurt cultures develop at room temperature, and this form of preparation results in a runnier texture. Preparing mesophilic cultures is easier for home-based yogurt production because it does not require the use of heat or yogurt makers to produce, but mesophilic yogurt takes about twice as long as thermophilic yogurt to develop – it usually takes between 12 and 24 hours for the yogurt to reach the desired consistency when you’re making yogurt between 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit! 12 to 24 hours? Talk about set it and forget it!

Choosing the Best Yogurt Culture

There are few other distinctions between the two forms of yogurt. If you prefer thicker-texture yogurt, or Greek-style yogurt, then thermophilic starters are probably your best option. If you prefer ease of preparation and runnier yogurt, (or just use it for smoothies or frozen yogurt) then you will be happy with the mesophilic cultures. Thermophilic cultures result in thick, creamy, and smooth yogurts, while mesophilic cultures can produce thinner consistencies that can have a texture similar to that of jelly.

Whether you choose thermophilic or mesophilic cultures when making your own homemade yogurt, you will end up with a quality product free from unwanted ingredients at a reduced cost. With a good yogurt base, you can add in many different flavorings and fruit to create endless varieties of beneficial yogurt.

Have you ever made yogurt at home?

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  1. says

    I guess I’ve always made Thermophilic yogurt. :-) I let mine set overnight on the heating pad on low, covered by a big thick towel. Mine gets really thick.

  2. says

    Thermophilic cultures are dead after 140°; they certainly do not require 150-180°! Thermophilic yogurt is usually cultured between 100-115°F, though some people heat treat the milk first, before adding the culture once it cools enough. Add the culture at 150° and higher, and you won’t get yogurt.

  3. Alan Beswick says

    Heating milk to denature the protein is a bit of a hassle. So I use powdered milk. Pour boiling water into a big saucepan, and whisk in the recommend amount of powdered milk plus a bit more for extra thickness and cover with a towel to cool down slowly. After 1/2 hour, into a sink full of cold water with the pan to cool it to 40C and then add culture.

    I put the mix into 1 litre take away containers, then put 4 of them into the electric frypan as a water bath over night. The result is nice and thick, and you can turn a 1 litre container upside down with out the lid on :-)

    I do cheat a little, I made a more accurate thermostat control for the frypan, using an Arduino – just because I can. If you are not a geek, get a cheap frypan from a junk shop, play around with the control till you make great yogurt, then silicon the control knob so it will never move again.

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