Homemade Yogurt

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This started while I was in Taiwan, one of the members in our ward had started making yogurt at home and that got me interested in trying to make it myself.  Of course I went to Google and started looking up all the do's and don'ts of yogurt making.  On June 20th, 2012 I received my first yogurt maker from Amazon.com, the Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker Model No. YM80 .  What I like about this model is that it comes with glass jars instead of plastic.  I don't know about you but I've had plenty of water that's come from heated plastic bottles that have sat in my car for 4-8 hours and just think that I wouldn't want to make my yogurt with plastic jars.

Unboxing

Here goes my first attempt at an unboxing... Okay, I forgot to take out the camera and take pictures.  I'll have to attempt this next time I have something cool coming.

My First Attempt

I recommend reading this blog on homemade yogurt, and her companion blog on how to reuse the same culture time and time again.

  As usual, I like to read through the manual before I start using things, so I read through the small booklet that came with the yogurt maker so that I could make sure I understood how to use one correctly.  There were small points in it that I would most likely have messed up on if I had not read through it.  I'll list a few of them here that I had not read in other places.

  1. Don't put the lids on the jars while they are in the yogurt maker.  You put the lids on them before you put them in the fridge.  Also, when removing the yogurt maker lid, be careful not to drip condensation into the yogurt.
  2. How to use the hour reminder. (It turns out this hour reminder is really just a notch on the lid that points to the hour of the day that you should take it off the heating pad.  In other words, it's a piece of plastic pointing at a number on the side and does absolutely nothing.  No beep, no alarm, no fireworks, nada.)
  3. Don't move the yogurt maker once you have started warming the jars, leave them be for the next 7-12 hours.

    Now, there was one point that disagrees with the blogs that I shared earlier, and I think is just another way of companies trying to not be obsolete after selling you something, and that is it mentioned to not reuse the culture that you used to start it with more than once.  Here's my untried advice about that.  If you are going to make more within three days, feel free to keep using it indefinitely, if it's going to be longer, freeze it first as soon as it is out of the incubator, and follow the steps in the blog I shared, namely to let it get up to room temperature before mixing it with the milk.  Doing this you should be able to always make yogurt from milk without having to repurchase starter.  This also significantly lowers the cost of making yogurt.

The Costs - Is It Worth It?

    This really is the question, at least for me.  I'm not a total health nut, and I don't believe that everything that comes out of a factory is bad for you, but for me it's about three things:

  1. Being self sufficient - I like to be able to do things myself and at least know how to do it.  Perhaps down the road I will decide it's not worth the trouble, who knows.
  2. Quality - Making it myself I can control the quality, and quantity, that I make.  I can have nice fresh fruits or preserved jams, eat it plain, extra thick, a little thin, however I want it, but I can know that it is of a good quality, nothing extra added in it, no added sugar.  Sugar is one of the things that comes out of a factory that I believe is bad for you, even if it is hard to avoid.
  3. Costs - I could work around the quality by buying brands I trust and getting plain yogurt.  Being self sufficient is nice when you have the time, but who has enough time to be self sufficient and make money?  Really, this is one of the things that it comes down to, how troublesome it is, and how much it costs in both time, cleanup, and raw materials.

    At the time of this writing I bought a gallon of milk for $2.49, and a quart of Dannon yogurt (why does nobody sell the small 6 or 8oz size in plain) for $2.38 from Walmart (I despise going to this store and always have a bad experience whenever I go, but that's a rant for another day and my preferred grocer did not carry Dannon).  The yogurt maker was $34.75 from Amazon (with free two day shipping thanks to Prime).  A Tillamook flavored yogurt goes for $0.48/6oz container.  I'm going to ignore the difference in costs for me to make flavored yogurt for now, but I'll also do the math with the plain quart container I got.

    So far, this is what we know:

  • Gallon of milk - $2.49
  • Dannon 1 quart yogurt - $2.38
  • Yogurt Maker - $34.75
  • Tillamook Flavored Yogurt 6oz - $0.48

When making yogurt we will have exactly the same amount of yogurt as we do milk.  There are 128 ounces in a gallon of milk.  Therefore we should be able to make 128/6 containers of yogurt, or 21.33 6oz containers.

    To purchase the same amount from the store in flavored yogurt we would have to spend

            21.33 * $0.48 = $10.23.

    That doesn't sound too bad, one yogurt a day and you can eat it for three weeks.  Now what does that equate to in our costs?

    I'll first run the costs without the initial investment, then later I'll figure out how much yogurt I'll need to make to payback my investment.  What we have is, milk + yogurt (forget the negligible electricity costs, we live in Washington State, home of hydroelectricity).

            $2.49 + $2.38 = $4.87

    Wow, when we were thinking that about $13/mo for yogurt isn't bad, look at this!  We are saving $5.36 per gallon of yogurt, and I didn't even calculate that we would still eat the rest of the Dannon container, another 32oz, or 5 containers worth.  Adding that in the previous costs is more like this:

            (128+32)/6*$0.48=$12.80

    That's more nearly triple the costs now!  Maybe I should get into the yogurt making business.  Now, to be fair, I'll do a few more calculations.  One is to use the Dannon plain yogurt for the cost basis.  This is a bit easier because we know that there are 4 quarts in a gallon, therefore we need five containers (remember the extra container for a starter that we'll still eat).

            $2.38 * 5 = $11.90

    A modest savings over the flavored variety, but when compared to homemade, it's hands down cheaper to just make it yourself.  But wait, what about the next batch in which we don't use any Dannon? you ask. Well, it'll be on a parabolic curve, because we have to include the costs of saving one 6oz container as a starter for our next gallon (this could possibly be less, but I haven't had time to experiment with how much starter to actually use).

    Let's first calculate the cost per 6oz container, to have a more meaningful measurement.  We know that there are 160oz in our concoction, that equals out to

            $4.87 / 160oz * 6oz = $0.18 per 6oz container.

    Now we'll calculate out our new costs, keeping the same formula milk + yogurt:

            $2.49 + $0.18 = $2.67

    This time we only added a 6oz container, which will be the same 6oz that we take for the next batch, so we don't add that in here and just calculate out the 128oz.

            $2.67 / 128oz * 6oz = $0.125 per 6oz container

    Now this is what I'm talking about, under a quarter for a nice thing of yogurt.  Now our third batch will finally be where we are no longer acquiring the costs of our starter.

            $2.49 / 128oz * 6oz = $0.117 per 6oz container

    This time I left on the extra cents to show that it does get a little bit cheaper, but it doesn't really show out that well.  The final part is to figure out how much yogurt we must consume to have made back our initial investment.  This should be:

            Investment + 1st batch + 2nd batch + 3rd Batch * x < Dannon * 4 * (x + 2)+ 1 Dannon

            $34.75 + $4.87 + $2.67 + $2.49 * x < $2.38 + $2.38 * 4 * (x + 2)

            $42.29 + $2.49 * x < $2.38 + $9.52 * x + $19.04

            $42.29 - $21.42  < $9.52 * x - $2.49 * x

            $20.87 < $7.03 * x

            2.97 < x

    Therefore by our thrid batch we will have made enough yogurt to have earned our investment in savings. If you have a large family that enjoy's yogurt, this can be huge.  At a standard rate of consumption of 1 gallon per month, it would take 3 months to earn your ROI.  After that it's just more money in the bank.

    Sorry about being a little long winded about the costs.  This obviously doesn't account for accidentally eating your starter, gas to the store to buy milk, adding sugar, honey, or fruits or anything else to the yogurt.  I'll leave it as an exercise for yourself to figure out the cost savings using Tillamook flavored yogurt vs making your own yogurt and adding fruit.

The Results

    Many words could be used to describe this concoction.  It was fabulous, smelled just like yogurt, tastes just like yogurt, eats just like yogurt.  By golly, I think I made yogurt.  I've tried it with maple syrup, cherries, and strawberries so far and it's just delectable.  My wife tried it with oranges, also good, although she really likes it with the maple syrup.

    In conclusion, I believe this contraption is a worthy investment, it makes making yogurt easy and not time consuming.  It took about 10 minutes prep time (perhaps a little longer, but we ate dinner while we boiled the water to sterilize the jars), then it just sat for 9 hours while we slept.  My recommendation is if you like eating yogurt all the time, just make it yourself, you're doing yourself and your pocketbook a favor.

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