In the past I have successfully followed the instructions at makeyourownyogurt.com to make yogurt using siggi's as a starter for the first batch and from then on used the last of the previous batch as a starter. This worked great for a few batches.

For my latest I used some milk that had just gone off. It was at that stage where it smells a bit off and will separate in hot liquids. The end result was not yogurt. It was very liquid, but smelled like yogurt. A night in the fridge and it was separated into a white solid and a pale yellowish liquid. I poured off the liquid, and noticed the solid smelled and tasted like strong yogurt. I squeezed the solid through a cheesecloth and have obtained a crumbly cheese-like solid with a strong yogurt tang. I've used it in my oatmeal. I would put it on a cracker and serve it.

  • What have I made? Pot cheese? Queso Seco? A mess?
  • Is there anything I could have done to fix the mistake?
  • Was he off-milk the likely culprit, or a dead starter, or something else?

2 Answers 2


The white part is curd and the yellow part is whey. They can be separated in milk by the presence of acid, and helped along by enzymatic action. More acid typically yields better separation. Fresh cheeses are produced by directly adding acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. In cultured diary products such as yogurt and all other cheese, the acid is produced by bacteria like Lactobacillus. The reason fermentation acts as a short-term preservative is that many harmful pathogens do not fare well in an acidic environment, and when fermentation proceeds properly the "good" bacteria will simply outcompete the "bad."

When milk starts to "go off," that's because it's actually going off in the sense that most other people understand the term: it's starting to go bad. Whatever small amount of bacteria was in the milk has started to multiply, and has started to lower the pH. Coffee is not acidic enough to curdle fresh milk, but if the milk itself is slightly acidified then coffee will curdle it.

The fact that your yogurt separated so thoroughly is a sign that some acid-forming bacterium did serious work on your milk. I like Siggi's but I'm not a microbiologist, so I can't say whether you just had a weird batch of yogurt or there was already something living in your milk. It's probable that whatever turned your yogurt into cheese is in fact harmless. But it's also not improbable that something very unpleasant grew alongside it.

I think you got lucky. This is probably how our ancestors figured out how make different cheeses, but it's not exactly a reliable method. It doesn't help that commercial milk production is potentially a less sanitary process than it might have been in the past (although this might depend on historical place and time), and that the bacteria living in your refrigerator are probably very different from the bacteria living in animals' stomachs and wherever else people used to store their milk in prehistoric times. I don't know if they had listeria back then, but we have it now and it is something you absolutely do not want inside you.

Throw it out. Unless you know any microbiologist friends, in which case you should bring it to their lab and have fun seeing what's in it.

  • "I don't know if they had listeria back then, but we have it now and it is something you absolutely do not want inside you." :D
    – fectin
    Dec 5, 2022 at 20:05

Never use spoiled milk. You don't know whether the milk has safe cultures or the milk is going to kill you. I am assuming that you use UHT milk. Then you have curdled milk which is very likely spoiled. I think you made a kind of yogurt-flavored casein-based plastic / play-doh that is inedible ;)

  • 1
    I didn't use UHT milk, it was whole homogenized. The milk has no visual indication of being spoiled, but the smell was a bit off and it separated in hot tea. It would have been fine in cereal for another day or two. The result is certainly edible and has a crumbly consistency, it's not plastic at all.
    – Schwern
    Nov 8, 2014 at 21:21
  • 1
    @Schwern I thought you meant by "milk that had just gone off" that the milk is spoiled. I'm sorry, I'm not a native English speaker ._. Otherwise I would have said that spoiled milk does not have necessarily a visual indication. Nov 8, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    @ChingChong "Gone off" sure sounds like spoiled to me too.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 9, 2014 at 7:45

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