I've been making yogurt just about every two to three weeks, since I made my first batch in June, and have had so much fun.
I checked the yogurt at only 3 hours of incubation, and it was quite solid. I ended up stirring the whole batch (to see if it was solid to the bottom, sometimes I've found that the yogurt is thicker on top than on the bottom - it's possible I didn't mix the yogurt well enough in prior batches).
I then left it for another two hours (after rewrapping in a towel and putting the crockpot back on the heating pad).
When I checked it the second time, I thought I had ruined the yogurt. A huge amount of whey had seperated from the yogurt and was floating on the top (it looked like the yogurt had curdled into cheese - at first glance).
Then I realized this may have been a happy accident. I got a ladel and ladeled off as much whey as I could, then I stirred the rest, until it looked smooth, and tasted (tastes good, just like it's supposed to).
I ladled the yogurt into my storage containers and put it in the fridge. We'll see what it looks, tastes, and feels like in the morning.
Usually the whey only slightly seperates (and there's only a very small amount of whey floating on top of the yogurt - and each day, I'll skim off the top layer - so my yogurt gets thicker and thicker every day).
I usually incubate about 5 hours and check it at about 3 to 4 - usually being careful not to disturb the yogurt - because that's what I read you're supposed to do. At the 3 hour checkpoint I did stir it up (mostly to see what it would do).
I'll be anxious to see what the yogurt looks, tastes, and feels like and I wonder if more whey will leech out of the yogurt.
I do like thicker yogurt, but I'm way to lazy to strain yogurt throught a sieve or cheesecloth, so if agitating the yogurt in the middle of the incubation helps get more whey out, I'll definitely be doing it every time.
So far, it seems like a happy accident, but I'll know for sure tomorrow when I serve up my first serving.
Every batch I learn something. I saw a youtube video today of a woman who made yogurt using yogurt AND sour cream as starter. Anyone hear of that?
If I had a new carton of sour cream, I would have tried it, but the sour cream I had, was already opened. And while I'm careful not to cross-contaminate I only use starter from a pristine source (as soon as the yogurt is done, I'll take out a small portion and seal it up - and it won't get unsealed except to make the next batch of yogurt). Or if I use store-bought yogurt as a starter I'll use what I need, and usually will eat the rest. This time I froze it in small tupperware containers to use as starter next time (I've never used frozen starter before, so I'll make sure to have a refrigerator backup).