Today we will look at the use of bread yeast in beers since, surely, this must be one of the least well-documented topics related to brewing beer and is also one that most of you must have thought about trying.
We gathered as much information as we could, asked experts as well as people who brew for a hobby, and we managed to get a pretty accurate answer to the question.
So, can you make beer with bread yeast? You can make beer using bread yeast, however, it tends to have low flocculation, it can generate higher levels of carbonation, and can often introduce subtle off-flavors, which is why it is only recommended for full-bodied and full-flavored styles, such as IPAs and APAs.
Another hugely important factor to consider is that the packets of bread yeast will have varying performance, even if it’s the exact same brand, which doesn’t really happen with yeast made for brewing.
This means that you won’t be able to get consistent results when using bread yeast.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty!
What is yeast and why is it used to make beer?
Yeast is simply a group of microscopic fungi (bacteria) and, to the surprise of some, yeast for bread, beer, and wine are of the same species, i.e. Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
What differentiates them from each other is the way they are cultivated and treated.
Does bread yeast also generate alcohol?
Bread yeast, since it’s essentially the same species as beer yeast, will generate alcohol.
However, it’s worth mentioning that baker’s yeast is mostly intended to generate Co2 since it needs to help the dough rise, or grow in size, and therefore, the amount of sugar that will be converted into alcohol will be slightly lower when compared to beer-specific yeasts and, as I mentioned earlier, bread yeasts aren’t as consistent, meaning that one batch may have higher alcohol contents than the next.
As explained in the article on beer clarification, flocculation is the agglutination of yeast cells which, as their size and weight increases, causes them to drop to the bottom of the vessel where they will settle.
The higher the level of flocculation, the more the yeast cells will aggregate together. This results in a clearer beer since there are fewer yeast cells left in suspension in the beer.
The flocculation of bread yeasts is generally low, so a cold crash and/or a clarifier will be needed to reduce haziness or if some off-flavors end up presenting themselves.
Attenuation refers to the percentage of sugars that the yeast is capable of consuming and transforming into alcohol and CO2.
For example: If you have 50% attenuation it means that 50% of the sugars have been converted into alcohol and CO2 by yeast, and if you have 100% attenuation, all of the sugars have been consumed by yeast and converted into alcohol and CO2.
If you’ve already brewed beer, at some point you may have accidentally spilled a little wort on the floor or on the table and noticed that the surface ends up all sticky, whereas when spilling finished beer this doesn’t really happen, or at least not to the same degree.
This happens because the wort has a high sugar content whereas finished beer doesn’t because of the yeast’s fermentation activity.
One thing to note is that the whole fermentation process generally takes about 5-7 days when brewing with traditional ale yeast. However, bread yeast tends to consume sugar rather quickly, resulting in a faster fermentation overall as well as a more vigorous one.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re thinking about brewing your own beer with baker’s yeast, it might be smart to keep some additional free headroom in the fermentor just in case since you don’t want it to spill over if the fermentation is that vigorous.
Many of the brewers that we asked agree that this particular strain of yeast affects the beer’s taste in a similar way to that produced by the S-04 yeast.
All bread yeasts are saccharomyces and if you manage to control the temperature properly you will not notice much of a difference when compared to an S-04, but as I previously mentioned, bread yeast is not as “stable”, meaning that different packets of the same brand might be slightly different and you won’t be able to achieve the same results with consistency.
Still, you can definitely make beer using bread yeast, just know that if you brew multiple identical batches, they may vary slightly.
Here is a comment from one of the brewers we asked who tried making beer with bread yeast:
“With IPAs and APAs you won’t notice any taste ledt by the bread yeast because the hops cover most of the flavors. However, be careful when brewing lighter beers since you might notice some unwanted flavors.“
Essentially, what this means is that, if you decide to brew beer using bread yeast, you should consider brewing heavier styles with a lot of hops.
How to make beer with baker’s yeast
Almost all the brewers we consulted agree on the instability of bread yeasts in the sense that it is very complicated to obtain consistent results when using them, even when using the same raw materials and carrying out every single part of the process identically.
If you’re still interested in brewing your own beer using bread yeast, here are the steps you should follow!
Important Note: I would recommend using dry yeast and not fresh yeast.
Amount of yeast to be used
If you decide to go through with this experiment, then you will most likely end up paying much more attention to the entirety of the fermentation process, the amount of yeast inoculated, the attenuation, or the organoleptic properties of the yeast, since, when using brewing-specific yeast types, you didn’t really have to worry too much about it.
In general beer making, we know that the recommended amount is 0.5 grams of yeast per liter of wort. This means that the typical 11.5-gram packet should be more than enough for, let’s say, 20 liters, or one gallon.
But, is it really the number of grams that tells us if a certain yeast can be used? We can have a 15-gram packet, but if it has been exposed to bad storage conditions, its viability will be very low and may not work.
What is recommended then? Perhaps a good option is to make a yeast starter. By doing this, we will not only improve the health of our yeast but also check if it’s actually alive and how it is going to perform in the wort. In another article, we will discuss in-depth the advantages of doing a starter.
Now, in the case of using bread yeast, what is the amount that needs to be pitched? According to the testimonial below, you could start with one pack of dry yeast and inoculate it in the starter, let it sit for at least a day, and then pour it into the wort.
“I have tried it with baking yeast and the result was excellent. An 11 gram packet is enough, but if you want to be sure you can use 17 grams., which would be a packet and a half”.
As a side note, you certainly could just pitch the dry yeast directly since it will probably work anyways without making a starter, and if it doesn’t, you can simply make a starter and use that instead.
Temperature at which to ferment
If we are going to use baker’s yeast, it is essential, as it always is, to control the fermentation temperature. If we leave the yeast to its own devices, real mishaps can occur. The working range of these strains is usually close to that of ale yeasts.
As a reminder, below is a list of the main types of yeast and their working temperatures.
Ideal temperatures for each type of yeast:
- Ale: 10-25 ° C (ideally 18-22 ° C) (50-77°F)
- Lager: 7 -15 ° C. (ideally 10-12 ° C.) (50-53.6°F)
- Kveik:35-40°C (95-104°F)
- Bread: 17-20°C (ideally 17-18°C) (62.6-68°F)
Just as it so often happens with other yeast types, when the beer is fermented at higher temperatures than it should, it generally presents off-flavors that spoil our work and our batch, and this is no different with bread yeast, so keep it in the 17-20°C for best results.
When brewing, we are used to assigning fixed times to each task: One hour of mashing, one hour of boiling, seven days of fermentation, five days of maturation, etc.
When the reality is that, in order to really know if the mashing is finished, we must do the iodine test, the boiling time will depend on the malts and hops used, the end of fermentation will be indicated by the attenuation, and the maturation time will depend both on the “greenness” of our beer and its clarification.
As far as fermentation is concerned, it is advisable to measure the gravity at least twice a day. In this way, when it’s no longer dropping, we essentially know that fermentation is finished.
Remember to use a hydrometer and, if using a refractometer, to make the necessary conversions in order to properly calculate the final gravity.
In addition to this, it is also useful to taste the samples obtained whenever we do a gravity reading so that we can observe how the beer evolves over time and to be able to correct whatever needs to be corrected at this stage.
Maturation is the process that takes place between the end of fermentation and when we can actually say that our beer is ready to be consumed.
In this article about bottling, you can learn more about the importance of bottle conditioning and all of the precautions that need to be taken into account when bottling in order for the whole process to go as planned.
According to several sources, baker’s yeast generates less alcohol than brewer’s yeast, since it is not specifically cultivated and treated to perform the function of transforming sugars into alcohol. However, I wasn’t able to find an actual study on this, so it’s still something that needs to be proven.
As for the case of Co2 generation, this study shows that bread yeast ends up generating a very similar CO2 amount to all of the other yeast types typically used in brewing, so no big differences there as well.
Therefore, when calculating the amount of sugar to be used for our priming solution, we don’t really need to make any adjustments. By the way, for this type of brewing calculation, we recommend the Brewersfriend.com calculator since it provides a lot of in-depth information.
Remember to take this experience as an experiment since brewing with bread yeast is just that, an experiment. Yes, it works, but if you can’t really get consistent results then it might not be worth it. Still, I encourage you to give it a try since it’s a great way to learn.
Now, if there is one thing we should not skimp on, it has to be the raw materials. Good malts, hops that are in good condition, and a type of yeast that goes well with the style we are going for, are the backbone of a successful beer.
Also keep in mind, as we said above, that there are certain styles where it will be more propitious to experiment with bread yeast, such as in hoppy beers, and always in ale-style beers because of the similar fermentation temperature.