A detailed article on the five methods for making fresh liquid whey. Find the approach that works best for your kitchen routine so that you always have some available for home fermentation!
As a traditional diet coach since 2002, I’ve come across many different ways that people inadvertently roadblock themselves from successfully transitioning away from processed foods and the otherwise catastrophic Standard American Diet (SAD).
One of the most common speed humps is the inability to form a regular habit of fermenting foods.
Commonly, the reason a culturing habit doesn’t take hold is because no fermentation starter is readily handy.
This is important as snippets of time to put on a batch of cultured salsa, beet kvass or whatnot can be unpredictable. You have to be ready to seize the moment when the opportunity presents itself!
The solution to this problem is to have a fermentation starter available at all times!
Then, there are no more excuses for procrastinating a kitchen routine that is essential to your health!
As liquid whey is the most inexpensive, readily available culturing medium for newbies, it makes sense to always have it on hand.
It lasts for MONTHS refrigerated (I’ve had some still good after 6 months), so it is a good investment of time to make some right away.
When liquid whey is always available, as your busy life ensues, you are always ready to get a batch of this or that going whenever you have a few minutes.
So what are these five methods for making whey that I’ve used over the years? Let’s go over them below.
First, though, let me quickly say what liquid whey is NOT.
Whey Protein Not Appropriate for Culturing
Before we launch into the various methods for making fresh whey, let’s take a few words to talk about what is NOT fresh whey.
It seems there is a myth going around that you can make liquid whey by mixing a small amount of whey protein powder with filtered water.
This is not true!
Processed whey is dead and has no value as a culturing medium for making fermented foods.
Even when dried at low temperature, whey protein powder is a denatured food and should be avoided.
In short, whey protein or any brand of protein powder, for that matter, has no place in a healthy diet.
This article on why protein powder is unhealthy gives all the details on why this processed food is best avoided.
Five Ways for Making Fresh Whey
Now, let’s go over how to make fresh whey that you can add to smoothies or use as a culturing starter for the many recipes of fermented foods and probiotic cultured beverages you come across either on this blog or in ancestrally-inspired cookbooks like Nourishing Traditions.
As mentioned above, I’ve made liquid raw whey several different ways over the years.
The method I choose depends on how much I need at the time combined with my level of “busyness” at the moment!
Thus, choose the method that works best for you given your personality and level of kitchen engagement.
If you like to make large batches, then I suggest the clabbered milk method that takes the most time but produces the maximum amount of whey.
For making a single serving quickly, then use the no straining method.
If you don’t have raw milk in your area and want to make the most whey possible, choose the yogurt straining or homemade kefir methods.
No Straining Method
Unstrained whey, aka “quick whey” is the perfect approach to use if you are new to fermentation and want to “try it out” before committing more time to the process.
It doesn’t matter if the results are cloudy compared to clear whey which typically results from more time-consuming (and a bit messy) straining.
In the final analysis, both work well for fermentation.
I’ve noticed little difference between the two over the years.
This approach also works well if you need some whey fast to make a favorite fermented food recipe.
In these situations, you can obtain a few tablespoons quickly and easily from store yogurt to make a single recipe.
While either regular or Greek yogurt works, I tend to favor Greek because it is thicker which makes the whey easier to remove with a spoon or turkey baster.
The bottom line is to only use plain yogurt. Even lowfat will work, although I don’t recommend that.
All you have to do is scoop some out from the freshly opened container. Within a few minutes, the liquid whey will fill the gap and you can easily remove it with a spoon or turkey baster.
This article on how to make unstrained “quick” whey explains all the details!
If you like the yogurt idea above, but want to make more than just a single serving or two, then I suggest straining an entire quart of yogurt to make a bunch of whey at one time.
As a bonus, the process will also create homemade yogurt cheese. This is lovely to use as a dip (or spread for bagels) when mixed with fruit or herbs.
Note that you will get a lot more whey from regular yogurt than from Greek style, which is thicker because some of the whey has already been removed at the factory.
Roughly speaking, straining a quart of plain whole milk yogurt will produce a bit less than a pint of whey. The picture above shows one-pint jars to give you some idea.
You can also use homemade 24-hour yogurt for the endeavor. The raw whey will be A LOT more probiotically active going this route.
While you will get even more whey from straining a quart of nonfat yogurt from the store (removing the cream increases the carb portion of the milk, which is why skim milk makes you fat), I don’t recommend using this because lowfat products typically contain undesirable additives.
Bottom line, any type of plain, whole milk yogurt will work for straining whey, although if you choose to buy, I recommend organic yogurt from nonhomogenized milk with no additives.
These guidelines on how to buy the best store yogurt may prove helpful if you need more information.
Kefir is a similar food to yogurt. However, unlike yogurt, kefir is only acceptable for making whey if it is homemade in my experience.
This is because commercial kefir is not fermented long enough for the milk to slightly separate into curds and whey.
Store kefir is more like thick buttermilk than true dairy kefir such as what you would make at home.
This makes straining a messy process that produces little whey for home fermentation projects.
If you make your own 24-hour kefir, however, this food can definitely be strained into whey and kefir cheese. There are several ways to make homemade kefir:
- 24-hour kefir with live microbial grains
- Easy beginner kefir using store kefir as the starter
- Kefir using powdered starter (not recommended)
Once the kefir is made, the process of straining is the same as yogurt cheese (linked above).
Cheese whey is the liquid by-product obtained during the home cheesemaking process.
For some forms of cheese, the milk is heated. This destroys the probiotic value of the subsequent whey by-product. Homemade ricotta is one example.
With no probiotics, this type of cheese whey is not useful for fermentation of beverages and foods.
However, other types of raw cheese do not require higher temperatures to make. Thus, the whey by-product is probiotically active and useful for home fermentation efforts.
Nourishing Traditions describes it this way:
Modern cheesemakers consider whey a waste product, but in earlier times it was used to produce a variety of other fermented foods and beverages.
Note that while cheese whey from unheated or slightly warmed milk can be used for fermentation, it is not appropriate as one of the essential ingredients in homemade baby formula. Cheese whey will curdle the milk portion of the formula.
Hence, if you are making whey for baby formula, choose one of the other methods described in this article.
Clabbered Raw Milk
My favorite way to make fresh way is to clabber raw milk.
Unfortunately, if unpasteurized grassfed milk is not available in your area from a local family farm, then you will need to choose another method described above.
“Clabbering” is the simple process of allowing raw milk to sour slowly into “clabber”. The process takes anywhere from one to five days depending on the season and the temperature of your kitchen.
Soured raw milk that has slightly separated has a texture very similar to raw milk yogurt.
This “clabber” can then be strained into whey and cream cheese.
This article on how to make whey from sour milk and this recipe for homemade raw cream cheese explain more details if this is the method for you!
Thank you Sarah for your healthy dedication. My problem is, I have whey from making yogurt in my new insta-pot. I just don’t know what to do with it. Do you have any recipes you could share? Thanks Sarah, God bless you and the work you are doing. We appreciate you.
Yes, there are dozens of fermented recipes (both food and beverage) on this site that use whey as the probiotic inoculant.
Thank you for sharing this information, Sarah. One question: can I tell if my whey has gone bad by smelling it?
It will get mold on it.