I have recently got into making low fat, high protein and low effort yogurt. My procedure uses a single 4 pint dish for the whole process, starting with "cooking" the milk in the microwave, through the fermentation stage in a yogurt maker, to the storage stage between helpings. I add quite a lot of milk powder to skimmed milk, producing a thick low fat yogurt.

This is almost perfect, in that it only requires one item to be cleaned in the whole process. The first helping of yogurt is perfect for my palate.

The only issue is that after I take my first helping and there is space around the main lump of yogurt it separates in a matter of hours, with a liquid whey collecting in the spaces as seen below. I have dealt with this in three ways, none awful but none exactly optimal:

Pour off the whey

The simple answer is just to live with it, pour of the whey and eat the solids that remain. The main issue with this is that the yogurt changes substantially. By the last serving it is more like eating soft cheese than yogurt. There is also the issue that one is throwing away food in the form of the whey.

Serve out all servings at once

Currently I take one large serving from the serving dish and leave the rest until I want another helping. I could serve out 4-6 bowls when I now serve one, and ensure they are each level enough not to lose too much whey. The problem with this is the extra washing up, and storage space in the fridge.

Mix the whey back in

One can mix the whey back in and eat it all. This results in a slightly lumpy texture and is not so nice to my palate, I prefer the soft cheese like final helpings to this.

Is there a simple thing I can do so subsequent servings are more like the initial one, without decanting into separate containers and creating more washing up?

Yogurt with whey seperating

  • I would argue that you save nothing over using individual pots, as you have to wash whatever dish you serve it out to, while if you use individual pots you can scald the milk in them, cool to inoculate, put in the yogurt maker, and eat straight out of them, while not having "the texture problem" that the one pot (and many dishes to wash you're choosing not to count) gives you.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 16 at 1:43
  • @Ecnerwal I very much disagree. The yogurt maker I have is a 7 pot machine and I started with individual pots. Changing to the single vessel above reduced the work by a factor 4-10 for nearly twice as much yogurt, mostly as cleaning one small pot was harder than cleaning the whole pan. If you scald the milk in the pots you need to add the milk powder and culture to them individually and if you want to add stuff to the yogurt you want to put it in something else to eat anyway.
    – User65535
    Commented May 16 at 10:47

3 Answers 3


From your photo your yogurt looks pretty firm, almost like soft fresh cheese. That could be part of the problem, perhaps make the yogurt a little less set on the next batch.

Besides that, I noticed a similar problem with store bought greek yogurt. The 10% fat version seems to hold better than the 0% one, I suppose the fat helps emulsify all that water better. So one solution could be to add some semi-skimmed milk to the recipe.

One solution I apply in my case (and that will fit your problem as well) is to flatten the yogurt back down or to scoop from the top only - when you "carve" it from the side as it looks like you're doing, you create a column of yogurt and gravity will drain the whey out from the side in exposed to the air. By having it flat at all times, there's no yogurt wall for the whey to drain from and it separates less.

  • 3
    Yup. Having opted not to use single serving sized containers (which would, of course, also solve the problem) peeling each serving off the top is the way to do this. I don't think thickness is a problem and I would not "re-level" after serving some other way - just peel a layer off the top without disturbing what's below and without creating a hole for whey to drain in to.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented May 14 at 23:33
  • 1
    I'm partial to French-style 'set' yoghurt (which is surprisingly difficult to obtain in the UK), and have had the same problem with the 450g containers of it - so it's not limited to home-made yoghurt. Commented May 15 at 15:17

This is not a storage problem, and can't be corrected by changes in storage. You have to look into other options.

First, it would be helpful to change how you conceptualize the process. Yogurt is not "done" when it's out of the yogurt maker; it's done after it has done some hours of setting in the fridge. You seem to start eating the yogurt directly out of the maker. There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, you should just be aware that you have kicked off a process that you can't stop midway, so what you call a "storage" stage is an active stage in which the yogurt proceeds towards its final texture.

The problem is that your recipe is designed to produce exactly what you're getting, a very firm yogurt. If you want it soft, you should use a high-fat milk, and not add any milk powder or other sources of protein. You can try changing your fermentation conditions though, and see how far this gets you. Generally, if you use a low temperature relative to your culture's optimum, and shorten the fermentation time somewhat, you'll get less firm yogurt. For example, the instructions for my preferred culture say to ferment at 45°C for 8-10 hours; if I wanted a soft yogurt, I'd try 42°C for 6 hours and continue tweaking from there.

You could also try out other cultures; a bifidus yogurt tends to be softer than a bulgaricus yogurt, for example. If you look into a large producer with a palette of different cultures, they may have a description of the final texture of the different yogurts they offer. Make sure to adjust your temperature and time relative to the culture you have.

Aside from changing the fermentation, you have already discovered one good solution: stirring. The yogurt in Western supermarkets frequently comes pre-stirred. At home, it's not practical to do it during fermentation, unless you rig up some kind of complicated setup. But stirring after fermentation is perfectly feasible, and generally results in very good results. You say that with your extra-rubbery yogurt, the results are "lumpy" - there's a very good chance that a blender can take care of that, or at least reduce the lumpiness considerably. It should be sufficient to blend the whole batch once after it has set*, and then store it for consumption over several days; it won't re-solidify. It may precipitate a bit with your recipe, but a stir with the ladle before taking out a portion should take care of that.

And if you decide that all of this is too much work for you and you'll continue eating it as-is: you don't have to pour off the whey. Certainly continue storing it together with the whey; you can then either ladle out both and serve a lump of firm yogurt sitting in the whey, or separate them during serving, and drink the whey on its own. No need to waste it.

* as noted above, that's after some hours in the fridge, not directly out of fermentation

  • "You seem to start eating the yogurt directly out of the maker" Just to clarify, I certainly let it cool before eating, first in a bath of water then the fridge. I though I left it enough time to set, at least 2 hours, but perhaps not.
    – User65535
    Commented May 15 at 8:18
  • Our current, mostly foolproof milk powder uses full fat milk powder dissolved extra thick... something like half a cup or so to 3 cups of water Commented May 17 at 11:37

starting with "cooking" the milk in the microwave

It sounds like you might not be managing heat very well. Get a good thermometer. A study by Rani1 cites "the degree of denaturation of whey proteins [as] a major factor affecting syneresis". They then cite Grigorov2 for the optimal heat treatment for the milk used to make yogurt: 85°C for 30 minutes.

through the fermentation stage in a yogurt maker

Similarly, you should check that your yogurt maker is holding an appropriate temperature for the right amount of time. Depending on your cultures, one of the following strategies might yield firmer/less-weepy results:

  • Hot and fast: 42-43°C for 5-6 hours
  • Low and slow: 30°C for 10-18 hours.

In either case, you're aiming for a pH (acidity) close to 5.3.

Finally, if all else fails and you simply will not tolerate any weeping, you can consider experimenting with some gelling agents. I haven't tried this myself, but I would start with carrageenan (Druid's Grove Vegan Gelatin might work well). LM Pectin or even xanthan gum could work, too.

1. Rani, Rekha & Unnikrishnan, & Dharaiya, Chetan & Singh, Bhopal. (2012). Factors Affecting Syneresis in Yoghurt: a Review. 23. 2012.
2. Grigorov, H. (1966a-c) Processing of XVI International Dairy Congress. International Dairy Federation, Brussels, F: 5. Pp. 643,649,655.

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