Aw, crap.

I got out of the habit of testing my yeast, because it always worked. So two days ago I baked bread and had what could most definitely be termed a failure to rise…


I keep the bulk of my yeast in Landlady’s freezer, and a working supply in a little 4 oz. jar on my counter. So I tested the yeast in the jar, and it was dead like unto a doornail. Oh well, I thought, that’s why I keep most of it in a fridge. So I just got back from tending Landlady’s chickens, and while there I filled the jar with yeast from the freezer. Brought it home and tested it.


WTF? I buy my yeast in 2-pound packages, refrigerate it as soon as it’s opened except for what I keep at the Lair. I’ve never had it go dead on me before but I’m getting toward the end of the package so dead yeast in the jar isn’t that big a surprise. But I never would have thought both bunches would go bad at the same time. Last baking day it worked fine.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to Aw, crap.

  1. s says:

    How long does 2 lb of yeast last you?

  2. Joel says:

    I never properly note the date when I open them. Something in the neighborhood of a year.

  3. -s says:

    I used to work for a mom&pop bakery. He was a 2nd generation baker, and squeezed every penny until Lincoln bled.

    We were small as bakeries go, but a typical batch of bread was 2 or 4 gallons – meaning you put in that much water, with flour, yeast, salt, etc. to match. There would typically be a pound or two of yeast in each batch.

    He bought yeast one-lb blocks, cake yeast, and we stored it in the walk-in fridge. He got a better price for buying skids of 144 lb (? I’m not sure, it’s been a long time). I was low man and hauled the 100 lb sacks of flour and fetched stuff from the freezer and fridge.

    This penny-pinching baker would throw out yeast more than 2 months old. I was a curious kid and we talked about yeast many times. Rather a keen topic for bakers.

    He explained that the yeast was less viable every day after manufacture. Low viability doesn’t just mean longer rise times – and time is money in a bakery. Degraded yeast produces a less tasty bread. Really old yeast produces off-tasting bread – all that dead stuff is a form of pollution; and the longer rise times gives wild yeasts, bacteria, etc. longer to grow. You want your yeast to out-compete everything else.

    He thought that most home bakers didn’t use nearly enough yeast, and when I scaled his recipes to my 2-4 loaf size, I agreed. I typically use 3 or 4 1-oz packs of fresh cake yeast, purchased that day (I don’t bake often) in my breads. That’s 2 or 3 times what most cookbooks call for. The bread tastes great!

    He figured 2-month old cake yeast was at best 50% viable, 3 months 25%. One year old? Dead. Anything living in it isn’t the original yeast.

    He didn’t use instant yeast, the dried powder type. Instant yeast, unlike cake yeast, you can put in a freezer, where you might get one year, but it would still be severely degraded.

  4. -s says:

    Oops, I meant to write “a lb or two of yeast for each gallon” not each batch. It depended on which bread we were making.

  5. abnormalist says:

    fwiw, most instant yeast/vacuum packed yeast is encouraged to spore (hence the small balls you see when you open it and the encouragement to “activate” it) and is good for a crazy amount of time. Spored yeast (not cake yeast or other live active cultures that need maintenance) has been recovered from archeological digs still viable and usable..

    Odds are some of it was still viable, and with a small starter (IE boil water and sugar, let it cool covered to minimize any wild yeasts, pitch some yeast in it and give it a day or two) you could have resurrected the batch.

  6. Queen Bee says:

    Well, look on the bright side Joel, I’m sure the chickens don’t care how much yeast is in the bread if they are like mine. My husband calls them the feathered pigs, they will eat anything. 😉
    Miss Violet

  7. UnReconstructed says:

    You could probably resurrect it… abnormalist said. Personally, I would feed the ‘dead’ yeast 1/2 C flour and 1/2 C water and a tsp or two of honey. Cover it with saran wrap, Wait a day, and feed it 1/2 C water and 1/2 C flour and wait a day. It should be fairly active then…..

  8. MamaLiberty says:

    I bought a case (20 pounds) of active dry yeast about five years ago. They are all vacuum sealed in foil/plastic lined packages and, unopened, they are kept in my basement storeroom. I use one about every six months or sometimes a little less. I pour the entire package into three sterile pint canning jars when it is opened. Two go into the freezer, and one stays in the refrigerator. I am careful to use clean spoons to measure it, and return it to the refrigerator immediately. I’ve never had any “dead” yeast. I also use more yeast than regular bread recipes call for. If you use my book of recipes, that’s already factored in. :)

  9. MamaLiberty says:

    Forgot to say that the 20 pounds are packed in one pound bags.

  10. -s says:

    My baker/employer had bad things to say about active dry yeast. He was a yeast snob, but he wore it well. His bread was really very good and some people came from quite far away for certain kinds.

    I’ve never done a direct comparison of active dry yeast versus cake yeast. The baker claimed that cake yeast produced better tasting bread.

  11. MamaLiberty says:

    Well -s, I’ve been baking for almost 60 years, and have tried all kinds of yeast. I have had the most consistent results with the dry stuff, and there are a good number of folks who would come close to killing to get my bread, so I’m content. LOL

    I’m an orchid snob myself… each to his/her own. :)

  12. abnormalist says:

    Always been a beer snob myself, and for that I do use active live cultures, and often culture my own from spent beers.

    I agree that it gives a more vibrant flavor (at least to beer) and you can taylor that flavor a bit more.

    But for bread, I stick to the stuff that stores well. Beer yeast on the other hand, stores great, as long as you dont drink your “yeast supply” beers 😀

To the stake with the heretic!