By December 4, 2012

Making Yogurt in the STX Dehydra Food Dehydrator

We’ve owned our STX Dehydra 600 food dehydrator for just over two months now. My model came with a plastic window that could be used for taller objects, like glass mason canning jars. I had read about people making yogurt in their dehydrators, and I was interested to see what it would be like compared to my stovetop style.

The lion’s share of the work is still done on the stove. Heating the milk up, cooling the milk, mixing in the live yogurt culture, etc. Simple steps, but they take time and some attention. There are two main drawbacks about using your stove and oven to make yogurt:

1) the incubation time is between eight and twelve hours. This means that you can’t use your oven for anything else. When I planned ahead and put the yogurt in before bedtime that was okay, but I don’t plan that well in advance all the time 😉

2) the process is a little too loose for my tastes. The oven’s temperature is generated from the oven light bulb, and I wrapped the yogurt in several towels to work as insulation. The internal temperature is supposed to be around 105°F, but who knows what it actually was from batch to batch. In retrospect, this might explain some of the inconsistencies with my yogurt.

So, I figured I’d give the STX Dehydra 600W a turn at making yogurt. It did a pretty good job, but now I’ve shifted my problems from one part of the process to another.

Four quarts of home-made yogurt getting ready for a nice eight hour nap.

What you’ll need

  • The usual stuff to make home made yogurt (1/2 gallon of milk, 2 tablespoons of live yogurt cultures, thermometer, measuring cup, etc).
  • A dehydrator that can hit 105°F.
  • Four quart-sized mason jars and lids. This will hold a half gallon of yogurt.
  • A canning funnel.
  • A ladle.

Although not strictly required, this red canning funnel is a big help when adding milk to the mason jars.

Start making the yogurt as normal. Heat the milk up to 180°F and then cool it down to 105°F. While the milk is cooling start your dehydrator up to get it to 105°F.

Divide the milk into the four jars. Add one tablespoon of your yogurt/milk starter mix into each jar.

Affix lids tightly (you’re not going to get a canning-quality seal here, you just don’t want the milk to spill) and then put the four jars on a tray in the dehydrator. Install the plastic shield. Come back at least 8 hours later. The longer you wait, the thicker the yogurt will be. Refrigerate.

One step that is missing from the stove top method I practiced is straining. I used cheesecloth at first, and then I started using a fine mesh strainer. I do not strain the yogurt at all with the mason jar / dehydrator method. This means that the yogurt has more liquid than the Greek style. This may or may not be a big deal to you. I put most of the yogurt into smoothies, where I can’t tell a difference.

You can see all the whey at the top of the jar.

An important step in making yogurt this way is letting it chill for several hours before eating it. If you eat it while it’s still a little warm it will be quite runny. Between leaving the whey in and eating warm-ish yogurt it’s going to look like this:

If you let the yogurt get cold it will thicken up and be more in line with what you’re probably used to.

Benefits to using the STX Dehydra 600W

  • Freed up the oven, and made use of an appliance that was otherwise sitting idle at the time.
  • Mason jar containers are easy to clean and manage. The entire process is far less messy.
  • Temperature is a very consistent 105°F, taking out one variable from my production process.
  • Shortens the production time, since I no longer strain the yogurt.

Drawbacks to using the STX Dehydra 600W

  • Straining the yogurt adds another step to the process.
  • The STX Dehydra’s plastic door only covers half of the dehydrator. This means you can only process four jars at a time. I am unsure if you can buy another blank or not.
  • Anyone can make yogurt at home with the stove top method, this requires a dehydrator (obviously).

Not a lot to complain about, honestly. I think the advantages to using the dehydrator outweigh the extra whey from the yogurt. If you’re really into Greek yogurt you could either process the yogurt for an additional two hours or so or strain each jar when you open it.

I’ll continue to make my own yogurt this way, and will let you know if I happen upon any process improvements.

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