Bread is a common staple in most households. It’s a shelf item that many of us keep on hand at all times. Bread can be used for so many things. Whether you buy bread or make your own bread, you understand the usefulness of bread.
Bread is so versatile and rather inexpensive. If you make your own bread, it’s typically a simple process. You can make it in a bread maker or even in your oven. Of course, you can always buy your choice of any flavor of bread at your local grocery store as well.
Do you ever get a whiff from your bread that smells like alcohol? Your bread has been in the pantry a few days and you open it up and the smell of alcohol is strong. What do you do? Is it safe to eat? This is somewhat common and it’s nothing to be overly concerned about. Bread is uniquely made—it typically has yeast. Yeast is an interesting additive that helps your rise but it ultimately falls into the fungus category. In short, when you get a whiff of an alcohol or vinegar smell from your bread, the yeast is most likely the culprit.
In this guide, we will cover just what it is that might make your bread smell like alcohol, beer, wine, chemicals, or even vinegar. There are scientific reasons behind these scents which we will share with you. We also have some tips and valuable information about how to deal with it when this happens to you.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about when your bread smells like alcohol.
Also, if you want to store your bread in a way that it will keep longer, be sure your kitchen counter has a nice bread box (I like this one from Amazon).
A Guide to Bread with Alcohol-Based Smells
Let’s start by talking more about yeast.
All About Yeast
Almost all bread is made with yeast or some type of rising agent. Some bread can even be made with beer in replacement of yeast (hmmm, maybe that’s a clue to the smell?).
Yeast is a single-celled microorganism that is considered to be part of the fungus family. There are multiple yeast species. Yeast is used in all kinds of baking but it also a common agent in making wine and brewing beer.
Yeast is not considered bacteria because it is contained within a nucleus, while bacteria do not have a nucleus. Yeast can be found in a lot of places – skin, intestinal tracts, soil, flowers, fruits, etc.
Yeast doesn’t typically just appear in that powdery form you purchase it in from the store. It is processed into that in order to achieve a purpose.
So, why do we use yeast in bread making? Yeast basically ferments the sugars within the mixture. It is considered a leavening agent. The agent produces carbon dioxide and alcohol in order to help the bread rise as well as give it texture and even aroma.
Yeast is used in the making of both bread and alcohol, which is the primary reason that you might be noticing that smell. It’s not necessarily that you smell alcohol but more that you smell the yeast.
How does yeast leaven the bread? It combines with the sugars and the oxygen that are in the dough and basically produces additional yeast as well as carbon dioxide. It is this process of multiplication that causes the bread to rise and makes it light and spongy. It’s basically a fermentation process of the yeast.
Howcast on YouTube has a great 2-minute video on how to use yeast to leaven bread. Check it out.
How Bread is Made
Now that you understand what yeast is and what it does, we think we should talk about how bread is made. Walking through this process could help bring this information together as we talk about why your bread may smell like alcohol.
If you want to make homemade sourdough bread, I highly recommend checking out this article.
This is a simple homemade bread recipe just to give you an idea of the ingredients and the overall process. Remember that this is just for reference only and not meant to be a static recipe that can’t be adjusted to your needs.
- To make homemade bread, you typically need yeast, warm water, sugar, salt, oil, and bread flour (all-purpose flour works well too).
- Start by dissolving the yeast and a small amount of sugar in your warm water. Let this stand until bubbles start to form on the surface of the water.
- Once your bubbles start to form, whisk the remaining sugar, salt, and a portion of the flour together. Stir the water and yeast mixture in and beat the mixture.
- Add the remaining flour slowly, mixing while you add it. This should form a soft dough.
- Spread some flour on a surface and place your dough on the flour.
- Knead the dough lightly for about 8-10 minutes. It will turn smooth and stretchy.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise in a semi-warm location for 1-2 hours.
- Punch dough down. Most recipes will create enough dough for two loaves. Divide in half and place in greased pans. Allow the dough to rise another 1-2 hours.
- Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
Notice that you leave the bread to rise twice. It is in that time that the yeast is doing the work within the bread dough mixture.
Why Does My Bread Smell Like Alcohol, Wine, Beer, or Vinegar?
We could separate each of these categories but there really is no need. If you notice a smell coming from your bread that is very much like beer, alcohol, wine, or vinegar, you can understand that the smell comes from the use of yeast in the bread-making process.
Don’t worry, we’re going to explain what happens.
The smell specifically comes from the fermentation of the yeast that is used in the bread. It’s a natural process that occurs when the yeast sets in the bread and converts the carbohydrates into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The bread will almost certainly have the smell like alcohol during the process while you are making homemade bread. The good news is that usually when you bake the bread, you get rid of the smell and the alcohol within the mixture from the yeast fermentation.
However, when bread sits in your pantry or wherever you store it sometimes the smell returns. It is perfectly safe to eat, there is nothing wrong with it other than the smell can be quite annoying.
Just know that the smell does not mean your bread is sour or even undercooked. You are not feeding your kids alcohol when you serve them bread that smells off.
What Can You Do About the Smell?
If you’re making your bread homemade, there are few steps you can take to potentially reduce the smell of alcohol. Remember that if your bread is fully-cooked, the smell typically takes care of itself.
However, you can also try to reduce the amount of yeast you use by 10%. This should still be enough yeast for your bread to rise properly. Use cool water instead of warm water when you are preparing your yeast for the bread mixture, this can also make a difference.
Be sure not to let your dough rise for too long. Stay within the recommended time frames. The longer the dough is left to rise, the more the multiplication process occurs, which is essentially what is causing the smell.
For store-bought bread, if you are noticing the smell don’t be alarmed. This is typically just a sign of the process the bread went through during preparation. You can attempt to bake or heat your bread slightly to reduce the smell.
Otherwise, your best bet is to simply understand that your bread is safe to eat. You don’t need to discard it from this smell. The smell comes naturally due to the process of the yeast in the dough and it’s perfectly safe and normal to eat.
We hope that you find this guide to understanding the alcohol smell of your bread to be informative and helpful. Remember your bread is safe to eat, despite the smell.
We invite you to review the following question and answer section for some additional information that you may find useful.
Can You Tell if Bread is Bad by the Smell?
We don’t recommend basing your assumption of whether your bread has gone bad by the smell. Unfortunately, that strong smell of alcohol, wine, beer, or even a vinegar-like odor just comes from the processing and does not mean the bread is bad.
Sample the bread and if it tastes odd, you can toss it. Otherwise, you can continue to eat the bread until it’s stale or it tastes sour to you. Another reason to throw it out would be if it starts to mold.
Can You Freeze Bread?
Yes, you sure can and freezing bread will extend the shelf life for quite some time. When you’re ready to use it, you can just let it thaw at room temperature and you shouldn’t have any issues.