Q & A: What Kind of Milk to Use for Making Yogurt

Question: I want to use the best quality milk for my yogurt. Can I use raw milk? I’ve heard it’s a lot healthier than regular, store-bought milk.

Jerri’s answer: The main reason why raw milk so healthy is because of all the enzymes it contains. The very best raw milk comes from organic, grass-fed cows and has the most enzymes.

Individual enzymes have different functions. For example, lactase and amylase break down the sugars and other carbohydrates in raw milk, making it easier to digest. Phosphatase releases the phosphorus your body needs to absorb the calcium. Lactoperoxidase forms an anti-microbial complex that helps prevent pathogens from growing in raw milk. And lipase breaks down fat. Raw milk also contains catalase, which aids in cellular waste management.
All these beneficial enzymes are destroyed when milk is pasteurized. Milk is heated to the appropriate temperature for the type of pasteurization process being used. Ultra-pasteurization is the most common method. This process heats milk to 280° F for two seconds. Traditional pasteurization takes less heat and more time. Even so, milk is heated to a minimum of 161° F.

When making yogurt, you need to sterilize the milk by heating it to 165-180° F. This kills all the bacteria, both good and bad. That way, when you add the yogurt culture, you are culturing your milk with specific lacto-bacteria. That’s why our yogurt comes out the same every time. Many folks use raw milk for yogurt and heat it to only 105-115° F before adding the culture. Sure, some other types of lacto-bacteria are probably present, but your yogurt will most likely turn out ok, or even good. Usually, with yogurt, no matter what type of milk you use, the enzymes will be gone when you heat it to 160° F or higher; but, hopefully, the beneficial bacteria will compensate. Some folks with lactose intolerance cannot tolerate yogurt–even when made from raw milk that has been heated to 160° F. People just have to try and see what works for them.

So, for the best quality yogurt, use organic milk from grass-fed cows. It’s up to you if you want to use raw milk or milk that has been pasteurized. Whether you use cream-top or homogenized milk is also a matter of personal preference.