It could happen to any one of us. You thought you had everything prepared, you checked your stores and to your horror, you’ve long since used your last packet of trusty Brewer’s finest yeast.
Or you woke up in the middle of the night because you just knew something was wrong; something wasn’t right.
You rushed to your carboy, drenched in sweat, hands shaking, All your worst fears had come true at once- the brew was dying, and you had but enough to restart it.
Or or- you’re a seasoned brewer who’s done it all when it comes to the home varieties. You can’t even look at another Pilsner.
The smell of Western ales makes you sick. You’d sooner die than drink one more black stout. You’re thinking of throwing your whole brewing kit into the dumpster.
Okay, maybe a little dramatic- but there’s a whole world of brewing to explore outside the conventions of our little Western ideal.
A world of new flavors and experiences, new summits to top- and it all could begin right at home: right now in the larder, between the white flour and the icing sugar.
Below is everything you never knew you could know about using baker’s yeast in your home brew.
Can I Substitute Active Baker’s Dry Yeast For Brewer’s Yeast?
Well first of all, should you? There are many factors to consider in preparing a brew, and careful yeast selection is definitely one of them.
Yeast is the driving engine of your brewer’s dream, the workhorse of the fermentation process. No yeast, no beer.
More so than that: the success of the factors in your yeast’s growth, as well as the strain of the yeast itself, will have a vast effect on the identity and the flavor of your home brew.
As many brewers will tell you, often it all comes down to the yeast.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that many brewers will just straight up balk at the notion of using a baker’s yeast as the active catalyst for their beloved craft.
After all, how could something you pull off the shelf at the grocery store be good enough for their darling?
Plus, they use that yeast to make bread. For many hipster crafters who only use the very best apparatus and ingredients, the thrill of the unknown is too much to bear.
Listen, yeast is everywhere. If a brewer can make beer from the yeast in his beard, all bets are off. Plus, it turns out that brewing and baking yeast are strains of one species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae!
So What Is The Difference Between Baker’s Yeast And Brewer’s Yeast?
Years and years ago, brewers and bakers were brethren, cut from the same yeasty cloth.
Working very closely together, they capture wild yeasts within wort, the former taking them for making alcohol and the latter taking their share away for raising baked goods.
Over time, careful cultivation and know-how has separated these two strains of yeast to better fulfill their purpose. Bakers use baker’s yeast. Brewers use brewer’s yeast.
As these trades have become more refined, yeasts for beer, wine and bread are no longer strictly cross-compatible, no longer achieving the same result.
They may also not work as desired in different conditions-yeasts reaction to finding itself in an alcohol as an example.
Yeast is actually fatally susceptible to alcohol, which is a waste product of its life processes. As such, for its success in creating alcohol the best strain is almost always the brewer’s kind. It’s been bred for the job after all.
You may have chosen to use Baker’s yeast in your brew because you’re a seasoned brewer now, and all your fun comes from the thrill of the chase and testing your creative limits.
You may also be here because you can’t access Brewer’s yeast for whatever reason, but still absolutely need to brew right now.
In which case, it’s important that you know the difference and what you’re letting yourself in for.
The secrets of their different specialties lies in their cultivation. Brewer’s yeast strains are specifically cultivated to taste, as well as to hone particular attributes that make a better brew.
These strains have a stronger ‘beer’ flavor, attenuation (effectiveness of sugar fermentation), and consistent end result.
Brewer’s yeast strains will specifically make more alcohol and less carbon dioxide- obviously ideal for beer.
In a similar way, baker’s yeasts are more attuned to the necessities of raising bread and cakes, releasing more carbon dioxide and less capable of producing alcohol compared to their Brewer’s cousins.
However as you are about to see, less capable does not mean incapable.
How Much Baker’s Yeast Do I Need To Pitch?
11g of baker’s yeast per 5 gallons/23 liter of wort in a fermenter drum is recognized as a standard amount to pitch (about the same as you would use of brewer’s yeast). Anymore would be fairly redundant.
What Is The ABV Of Alcohol Made With Baker’s Yeast?
Bread yeast is easily capable of fermenting alcohol with an ABV of up to around 8%, without too much effort on your part.
This is generally good for beer, as many beers lie between 4 and 8%; it’s only when you’re trying to produce anything stronger than this where you may begin to wish you’d picked a more specialized yeast.
Bread yeast begins to struggle around this point, coming to a rest around 9% or 10%.
Which Beer Varieties Work Best With Baker’s Yeast?
There are certain rules which will apply to any beer brewed with baker’s yeast.
For example, it will work much better with an ale recipe and less so with lagers: baker’s yeast ferments on the top of the wort rather than the bottom.
Although not likely what we’re used to, certain beers and alcohol varieties actually work best when made with baker’s yeast, including the ones listed below:
A traditional drink from many areas of Eastern Europe with a strong bready taste, and sometimes even served with real hunks of bread floating in it.
Usually however, this drink would be described as sweet with a sour bite, owing to the use of herbs, berries and honey in its flavoring.
This is a low alcohol drink, and sometimes in its hardy, frigid homelands of Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the Balkans, even classified as non-alcoholic.
Sahti is a real homebrew tradition- it stems from ‘farmhouse ale’, in which a farm would produce alcohol from the variety of grain unique to their homestead- the practice of Sati dates back to the 1500s.
The result is a phenolic-tasting beer which has been likened to the taste of banana, often offset with the bitter taste of juniper. It is often sold in its Finnish homeland in a highly alcoholic form- about 8% ABV.
Cloudy, unfiltered and rich in sediment, this grain-based and delicious ale is an ideal candidate for baker’s yeast-curious brewers.
Here are some more beer varieties that are supposed to have a bready flavor if you’re keen on baker’s yeast brewing and fancy doing your own research:
- Weihenstephaner Korbinian
- Hacker Pschorr
What’s Wrong With Using Baker’s Yeast To Brew?
So you’ve applied baker’s yeast as your active agent. You may be beginning to notice that your brew doesn’t look as clear as you’re used to- and maybe, doesn’t taste as it should.
Well this is baker’s yeast: you should get used to the fact that things are going to be a little different. Your concerns come from the fact that baker’s yeast just doesn’t settle as well as a specialized brewer’s yeast.
Baker’s yeast is less capable of flocculation, which is when the yeast clumps together into clumps or flakes and sinks to the bottom of the trub.
A high-flocculating yeast, such as brewer’s yeast, is generally more desirable as it means it is easier to separate the excess yeast from your brew.
As such, you may be noticing a higher-than-usual yeast presence in your baker’s yeast brew. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate this.
When bottle conditioning, cold-crash the fermented wort (the primary), and then rack it into a bottling bucket before bottling.This should help clear some of the baker’s yeast from the mixture.
Baker’s yeast remains suspended in beer for longer than a brewing yeast, potentially floccing out and sticking to the bottom of your bottles.
Colder temperatures force baker’s yeast out of suspension; careful chilling and pouring will help to clear your brew and bring it more in line with what you’re used to.
Finings can also be used to help clear baking yeast particles.
As previously stated, the strain of yeast is one of the most important components in your beer’s flavor.
Many brewers complain about the unexpected taste that baker’s yeast gives their brew, as it can produce phenolic flavors, which have been bred out of most brewer’s yeast strains.
In some cases, the baker’s yeast can even produce a ‘bready’ or overly-yeasty flavor which many don’t appreciate.
If you’re simply looking to get started brewing and are just naturally questioning the logistics but still just want to make a ‘normal’-tasting beer, then you should probably just source a brewer’s yeast for the flavor that you’re used to.
Why Is My Beer More Carbonated After Using Baker’s Yeast?
Brewer’s yeast has been expertly cultivated and specially selected to produce more ethanol and less carbon dioxide. After all, that’s what you need to brew.
Baker’s aren’t interested in alcohol content-making abilities, but need that bread to rise.
They do want more CO2, and that’s why when you use a baker’s yeast you’ll notice that your krausen is much bigger than usual: your brew is far more carbonated.
Be mindful that your brew isn’t too carbonated, or you may experience the mess of exploding bottles.
Can Baker’s Yeast Be Used To Make Mead?
Baker’s yeast has a wide variety of applications for alcohol- for mead, and even wine! Some specific or traditional mead recipes even call for the use of a baker’s yeast.
Can Baker’s Yeast Be Used To Make Apple Or Pear Cider?
Baking yeast can also be used for hard cider brewing- a baker’s yeast-brewed cider should sit at a nice 6% ABV. For best results, hydrate the yeast before pitching, and go easy on the sugar.
You can even ferment apple juice with baker’s yeast. ‘Turbo cider’ as it’s known, really does test the boundaries of the human palate and packs a real sting; but can be cut nicely with Summery soft drinks such as lemonade until it isn’t quite so offensive.
Can I Use Baking Yeast To Rescue A Beer That’s Stopped Fermenting?
The worst has happened, and your brew is about to croak- baker’s yeast can be easily used to save the day in a pinch. Activate the yeast in water and pitch it into your brew to get the party started again.
Just be aware that standard baker’s yeast brewing rules now apply- and also that adding any second strain of yeast will have an impact on the final taste of the brew.
Can I Use Brewing Yeast To Bake Bread?
Yes! Just as baker’s yeast could be used to make beer, the same is true vice versa!
As mentioned previously, both brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast are strains of the same species, and brewing yeast is also an ‘active yeast’; so technically, it could also be used to make bread.
Baker’s yeast is a strain specialized for raising baked goods however- it produces far more carbon dioxide than other active yeasts; so if used to make bread it can be theorized that a brewer’s yeast would produce a very dense, beer-tasting loaf.
Brewer’s yeast is also quite a bit more expensive than standard baker’s yeast, so whether the novelty is worth it is up to you.
Brewer’s yeast may be the industry choice for brewing, but as demonstrated above, experimenting with non-standard yeasts can actually open up a world of history and different flavors for you to explore from the comfort of your own home.
We wish you all the best of luck on your travels!