The simplest way to make homemade yogurt is with a yogurt maker - a kitchen appliance design specifically for this task. For anyone who hasn't made yogurt before, at its simplest it involves adding a specific type of bacterial culture to warm milk and allowing it to ferment for a period of around eight to twelve hours. The part that a yogurt maker plays in this process is to provide a vessel in which fermentation can take place and in which the temperature is maintained at the correct level for the duration of the incubation period.Although the principle is the same across all of these machines, there are a number of different configurations available depending on the model you choose.

The first thing to consider is the size. How much yogurt can you make in one go? Consider how much much yogurt you and you family eat. Since most of the domestic products on the market make somewhere between one and two quarts in one batch, you'll have a rough idea of how often you'll need to use it to keep up with demand.

Closely related to size are the number of containers used for fermenting. Some yogurt makers, like the Salton YM9 use one single large container. However, other models, like the Euro Cuisine YM100 yogurt maker use a number of smaller containers - six ounce glass jars in this case. One of the advantages of the smaller containers is that they can go straight into the fridge and then into a packed lunch.

Another feature to consider is either auto-shutoff or an audible alarm. Some models have an auto-shutoff feature which will turn off the machine after a preset time has elapsed. While this might seem useful at first, it's worth noting that in order for fermentation to stop, the yogurt really should be refrigerated immediately when finished. Otherwise it will keep fermenting even after the power has been turned off and you may end up producing something too tart for your taste buds.The audible alarm can be useful as a reminder. The alarm will at least notify you when everything is done. You can then put the yogurt into the fridge to stop fermentation and to chill before serving.

The last product I'll mention is the one from Easiyo. Rather than using milk as the raw ingredient, Easiyo sell pre-prepared powdered yogurt bases which when mixed with water are used to make yogurt. The other difference with the Easiyo product is that rather than being electrically powered, you just pour boiling water into the insulated incubator and the heat from the boiling water maintains the temperature required for fermentation.

Whichever model you choose, your decision to make yogurt at home is a wise one. Apart from being able to save some money, you'll also know that you're producing a healthy snack for the family using only fresh natural ingredients.