When choosing a type of culture to make yogurt, cheese, or other cultured products you may come across a variety of terminology in describing the type of culture. Two competing terms you will probably run across are “reusable cultures” and  “direct-set cultures.” These two are competing in that while they both do the same job in inoculating your culture, they are used or maintained in very different ways. So let’s explore what makes these different and similar.

Direct-Set Culture

Direct-set cultures are also known as direct vat inoculate (DVI). These types of cultures are one-time use cultures. A powdered starter is added to milk and allowed to incubate, producing your cultured dairy product. While it may be possible to use some yogurt made from a direct-set culture to make a new batch of yogurt, the culture will no longer be viable after this and a new one must be purchased.

Pros & Cons of Direct Set Cultures

Pros: A direct set culture is very convenient. Instead of having to care for a reusable starter you have the convenience of removing a packet of starter from your freezer and adding it directly to milk each time. Another positive thing about direct set cultures is that they can be kept in a freezer for months or even years if they are properly packaged to prevent moisture or other elements from invading. Cons: Because you must purchase a new direct-set culture every time you want to make your cultured dairy product, direct-set cultures are much more expensive. In this way they are also less sustainable.

Examples of Direct-Set Cultures

• Mesophilic Culture • Kosher Yogurt Starter • Creme Fraiche Starter Culture • Buttermilk & Sour Cream Starter

Reusable Culture

A reusable starter is termed as such because instead of needing to purchase a new starter every time you wish to make your cultured dairy product, you can reuse the starter. When you make yogurt from a reusable yogurt starter, for instance, a small amount of each batch is used to make the next batch.

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Pros & Cons of Reusable Cultures

Pros: With proper care, a reusable yogurt starter can be perpetuated indefinitely. This saves you money as you could potentially only need to purchase the culture once if you are caring for it properly. Cons: Because of the reusable nature of the starter, you have to be diligent to feed and reculture the starter fairly frequently. Without proper care and diligence your starter could produce inconsistent results or eventually become totally ineffective.

Examples of Reusable Cultures

• Greek Yogurt Starter • Milk Kefir Grains • Bulgarian Yogurt Starter • Viili Yogurt Starter • Filmjolk Yogurt Starter • Piima Yogurt Starter • Matsoni Yogurt Starter Depending on what your goals are and your general preference for convenience versus sustainability, you can choose a culture that suits your personal needs in the kitchen.
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