how to tell if you have a bad batch of yogurt

Is Your Homemade Yogurt Really A Failure?

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When I began making yogurt at home, I was terrified of making a bad batch. I’d read so many articles with examples of a good yogurt batch versus a bad yogurt batch. And, it was supposed to be even worse for homemade vegan yogurt which seemed to have a mind of its own. If your homemade yogurt doesn’t come out like Yoplait or Dannon, is it really a bad batch of yogurt? Did you really fail if you’ve got whey on the bottom or clumps of curds? You might be surprised at the answers.

My Homemade Yogurt Doesn’t Look Right

I’ve been told numerous times that vegan yogurt is difficult to make. It may not set correctly or thicken to the preferred consistency.  I had been making soy yogurt for a year before I had a batch that I had doubts about.

I can only describe it as having the consistency of quicksand.  It set alright.  But, the center was runny.

It turns out that my soy milk was to blame.  When Silk changed their formula, my yogurt changed, too.  Different brands and types of soy milk can affect the quality of your vegan yogurt.

I was able to get better results over time, though I don’t know how.  Then, I started to get too much whey.  And, I freaked when I pulled a jar out of the oven and I had whey on the bottom.  The articles I read said this was terrible.

But, are these really bad batches of yogurt? It all depends on how you define bad.

Homemade Vegan Yogurt Can Be Inconsistent

runny yogurt batch
I called this batch quicksand yogurt

One thing I’ve learned is homemade yogurt, vegan or dairy, rarely looks like store bought yogurt unless you fiddle with it.

If your yogurt has a lot of whey, is runny, has lumps, or has that liquidy quicksand, is something wrong with it? Should you throw it out and start over?

The answer is not exactly. How a yogurt looks isn’t the biggest defining factor in whether it is edible.

How Your Homemade Yogurt Looks is Less Important Than How it Tastes and Smells

If my yogurt doesn’t look right, I should just start over, right?  Right? According to the people at Cultures for Health, who have the best customer service on the planet, the answer is an emphatic NO!

I’ve been using Cultures for Health Vegan Cultures since the beginning. I’ve gotten great results, so they must know what they are talking about.

Let’s be clear. If the yogurt looks moldy, turned a weird color, say green, then there is definitely something wrong with it. Though, I’ve never heard anyone complain of green batches.

So, assuming some weird science experiment didn’t happen in the middle of fermentation, let’s take a look at that bad batch of yogurt.

First, you are not going to make perfect yogurt every time. Heck, you’re probably not going to make perfect yogurt period.

What do the experts say.  According to the people at Cultures for Health, you can expect these things:

Curds: those little white lumps

Whey: the liquid that forms during fermentation

When you have a separation of curds and whey like the example below, it’s due to over culturing.  It doesn’t look all that pretty, but it’s perfectly fine to eat.


over cultured yogurt whey
Over cultured yogurt with whey on the bottom looks icky but it’s okay to eat

You may be able to control these things to some degree by making sure you’re heating your soy milk at the right temperature and that your incubator, whether it’s your oven, a thermos, or some other container, is keeping the right temperature throughout the process.

Rule of thumb: if it smells normal and taste normal, it’s edible.

These imperfect batches of yogurt may not look the best, but the contents are fine.

If You Want Better Looking Vegan Yogurt You Have to Fool with It

Did you know that perfectly smooth yogurt isn’t what is expected in other countries? That’s an American thing. Most people expect curds and whey in their yogurt (remember Little Miss Muffet?).

The fact is your homemade yogurt probably isn’t going to look like the yogurt you buy in stores. And, that’s okay.

If you’d like to improve on your yogurt batches, here are a few tips:

Soy yogurt made with Westsoy soy milk comes out thick and easy to scoop.
  • If you’re getting too much whey, check to make sure you are heating your soy milk at the right temperature. A candy thermometer works great for this.
  • Make sure that your incubator, oven, thermos, yogurt maker, etc., is holding the correct temperature throughout incubation. If you incubate yogurt in your oven, place an oven temperature gauge on the rack and check it periodically.
  • Don’t place your jar too close to the oven light. I started doing this after reading someone else’s tips. This is when my batches came out with too much whey (over culturing).  It was just too warm.
  • To improve thickness, add pectin to your batch. Pectin can be bought with yogurt cultures through some companies.
  • If your yogurt is too runny, you scan strain it to remove some of the whey. I’ve been told (commanded?) to save the whey for cooking and baking.
  • You can run the yogurt though a blender until you have the consistency you prefer.
  • If you want more tangy flavor, culture longer. Shorter incubation times produce a more mild flavor. More tangy yogurt usually occurs around 11-12 hours of incubation.

I don’t do anything with my yogurt. Runny, thick…whatever. If it tastes right, I’m not worried at all about how it looks unless it looks gross. That’s a different story!

Ask Around Before You Throw It Out

While it may be more challenging to make vegan yogurt, it’s not as difficult as you think. Want to give it a try?  Here’s my instructions for making unsweetened vegan yogurt.

Before you throw you hands up in despair, ask the experts. The company that makes your yogurt cultures usually has information on what to expect from your homemade yogurt.

You can’t believe everything your read on the internet. Those people complaining about failed yogurt batches may be just a tad too picky.  Don’t let the naysayers keep you from trying.

Remember the smell and taste test. It’s edible if it smells and tastes right.  If you aren’t sure, take photos and ask someone who knows.


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