Yeast is one of those products that we just never quite know what to do with. We find ourselves using a whole lot of at one time or just using some here and there.
But until now, we never really knew if we should be doing something special to make sure yeast is properly stored and preserved.
The thing with yeast is that it can go inactive if it is not properly stored or if you have had it for too long overall. Yeast is also a product that can often last longer than an expiration date might suggest.
There are ways to proof the yeast and know for sure that it is good before going further.
But how do you store yeast? Yeast is typically stored in a pantry or in the fridge, but it can also be frozen without killing the active ingredients for up to six months. You should know the properties of your yeast before storing it, but ultimately you need to store it in a cool, dry location in sealed containers.
There are several different storage options as well as some tips for storing yeast that you should be aware of, depending on what kind of yeast you have.
In this guide, we will walk you through how to store yeast. We will cover many different variables and circumstances and give you all of the best details and tips for proper storage in an effort to help you get the most out of your yeast.
Keep reading to learn how to store yeast, and more!
The Ultimate Guide to Properly Storing Yeast
If you’re a baker of any kind, you probably are already pretty familiar with what yeast is. You certainly would know that if you try to skip yeast on a recipe, the results probably aren’t going to be what you are expecting.
When it comes to baking and cooking, yeast is a leavening agent. Yeast is typically used to make breads, and other types of baked goods, rise.
Yeast works by transforming fermentable sugar into carbon dioxide and ethanol gas that then causes a rising effect on the item in question.
We know about yeast mostly for making bread or baking products as well as things like homemade pizza crust. Creating things with yeast is not just limited to homemade bread, though.
Consider things like muffins, pretzels, rolls, bagels, biscuits, and even pancakes. All of these need some sort of leavening agent to really get them to the fluffy and risen products they are intended to be.
Without yeast, you will find that your item will be quite dense. It won’t rise or fluff up at all. In fact, it will be quite heavy and thick.
Additionally, there may be a difference in flavor as well, though you may be more familiar with that flavor than you think. After all, there are unleavened breads out there. You probably know things like pita and flatbreads.
An Explanation of Types of Yeast
There are two primary types of yeast that are used for baking purposes. There are four major types of yeast, which include baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast, and distiller’s yeast.
For the purposes of this guide, we are focusing on baker’s yeast. When it comes to baker’s yeast, there are three subtypes:
- Fresh yeast
- Active dry yeast
- Instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast
Now let’s break these down a bit.
Fresh yeast is a type of yeast that is mostly used by professionals bakers and cook who truly understand everything about yeast. This yeast is sometimes also called cake yeast or even compressed yeast.
Fresh yeast comes in a block form rather than a powder. The block is 70% moisture. It is a pale color. This block is soft and crumbles easily. It is thicker in texture than powder yeast options and has a stronger smell as well.
This is not considered a dry yeast. Again, it is used most by professionals and it can often be harder to find as well.
Active Dry Yeast
Active dry yeast is your typical yeast. This is the most common type of baking yeast, although instant yeast has certainly given it a run for its money because it activates so quickly.
When using active dry yeast, your rising time will be significantly more. In fact, it’s probably double that of instant.
This is the original yeast and it is all-natural. This is the go-to for most bakers because it really proffers the best results with baking. It gives you the ultimate baking process and flavor in the end.
Active dry yeast cannot just be mixed with dry ingredients when you are mixing your recipe. It also has to be mixed with water and dissolved before adding it to a recipe.
Instant Yeast or Rapid-Rise Yeast
These terms are used interchangeably. You might also hear bread-machine yeast. This yeast is convenient to work with because it cuts rising time in half. Some instant yeast options only require 5-30 minutes of rising time.
This is the type of yeast you are most likely to use when using a bread machine. You might lose a small amount of flavor and even texture with instant yeast but many people never notice the difference. This yeast is slightly more potent.
Finally, you can toss instant yeast in with your dry products and continue mixing. There is no need to dissolve it in water to use it.
How to Keep Yeast Alive
Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of storing yeast is keeping it alive. Over time, it is possible for yeast to go inactive. The good news is that you can typically activate the yeast, which is why you add water to dry active yeast to begin with.
Keeping yeast alive is primarily a process that takes place with wet yeast. You will notice that we did not specifically refer to wet yeast in our list above because it is not one of the most common baking yeasts.
The exception is that fresh yeast has a high moisture content.
When it comes to dry yeast, the best way to keep it alive and active is to store it in the fridge once it has been opened.
We will provide you with a specific process for this here shortly in another section of this guide. You can also freeze yeast but there are some things to be aware of.
The terminology can be quite confusing because the purpose is to keep the dry yeast from going inactive or bad. The end goal is to know the yeast is going to do its job when you put it to use.
You can refrigerate or freeze all of the types of yeast that we have discussed and this is the best way to keep them alive. Remember that you can also proof your yeast before using it.
Freezing and Storing Dry Yeast
No matter what type of dry yeast you have, you can refrigerate it or freeze it. There has been some question as to whether freezing the yeast kills it. Freezing it does not hurt it BUT you must let it return to room temperature before activating it or using it.
If you are working with dry yeast, particularly active or instant yeast you can store it in the fridge for up to 4 months and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Here are your steps for freezing dry yeast – whether it’s regular or instant:
- If your packaging is unopened, you can store it in the pantry until it is opened. The key here is that it should be in a cool, dry place and not anywhere that it will be exposed to moisture or heat.
- Place your yeast containers or packets in the fridge or the freezer. If they are opened, be sure they are sealed tightly. You may need to put the yeast into a freezer bag to get it sealed properly.
- Store dry yeast in the fridge for up to 4 months.
- Store dry yeast in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Here’s the thing. It’s possible your yeast won’t last this long. It’s also possible that the yeast could blow these timeframes out of the water and last for years. Yeast is funny (and tricky!) that way.
To be sure, you can proof your yeast before you just toss it into your recipe and end up disappointed.
How to Proof Dry Yeast
Proofing your yeast is a method of checking a small amount of yeast to determine whether or not it is still active or good to be used. Remember that if it is inactive, you might be able to reactivate it.
- Grab some sugar, yeast, and warm water.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water.
- Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
- If you can smell the yeast or you see the mixture bubbling, the yeast is still good to use!
Proofing yeast is just a simple way to double-check that yeast you are worried about being bad to see if it truly is still good to use.
You don’t need to proof your yeast every single time you use it, but if you are concerned that it has sat for too long, this process can put your mind at ease – and save any ingredients from being wasted on old yeast.
Can You Freeze Fresh Yeast?
Guess what! You can freeze fresh yeast in much the same manner that you freeze regular or instant yeast. While the overall compilation is slightly different, it can still be frozen.
Here are the steps for freezing fresh yeast:
- Wrap the yeast in an airtight manner. It is best to wrap in layers. We recommend wrapping with plastic wrap, and then a layer of foil, and then another layer of plastic wrap. It seems extreme but it is necessary.
- Place the wrapped fresh yeast into a sealing freezer bag. Remove all excess air as much as possible.
- Seal the bag and label and date appropriately.
- Store the yeast in the coldest part of your freezer for up to about 6 months.
When you are ready to use this yeast, you need to let it thaw out in the refrigerator. The best thing to do is to let it thaw in the fridge overnight.
You should not thaw yeast at room temperature. It is also best if you only thaw out the amount that you need to use for whatever you are making at the time.
Using Dry Yeast After It Has Been Frozen
There is one specific trick to using your dry yeast after it has been frozen: It is very important that you allow your dry yeast to return to room temperature before you use it.
If you don’t let it return to room temperature, your yeast may not work the way it is supposed to. Whether it’s regular or instant, let it sit at room temperature.
We recommend measuring out just what you need at the time and letting it sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before proceeding to use the yeast as directed or needed.
Important Tips to Remember for Yeast Storage
We have shared a lot of information for both wet and dry yeast storage here. The storage methods are quite similar but there are few differences.
For example, wet yeast (fresh yeast), should be wrapped multiple times for proper storage whereas dry yeast typically just takes a baggie or the original packaging.
In an effort to make this as helpful to you as possible, here are our top tips for yeast storage:
- Follow proper storage instructions – airtight is best, with excess air removed.
- Use the fridge and/or the freezer to extend shelf life.
- Yeast may last longer than expected, but it also may not.
- Proof your yeast if you are at all worried it might not be active.
- Label all storage packaging for simple reference.
- Let yeast thaw in the fridge, but then let it return to room temperature before using it.
Yeast actually goes dormant when it is stored at below 50 degrees. This is why yeast may last longer in the freezer environment. Some experts would tell you that yeast can last indefinitely in the freezer.
It is possible but we also want you to be aware that it is not guaranteed. The timeframes that we have provided are considered the best likelihood of having good yeast when you decide to use it.
We hope that you have found this guide to storing yeast valuable and informative. There are many things to consider and different types of yeast, so be sure to pay close attention to the tips and the yeast you are working with.
We invite you to review the following question and answer section for some additional details that could be helpful for you.
Are There Substitutes for Yeast?
If you’ve found yourself in a hard spot and you don’t have good yeast on hand, there is a way to substitute for it.
Typically, you can try mixing baking soda with an acid of some sort. Lemon juice, vinegar, or buttermilk are good options. Mix them in equal parts. Many times, you can also replace yeast with an equal measurement of baking powder.
How Do You Activate Yeast?
Activate yeast using 1/4 cup of warm water with the yeast. Do not use hot water or cold. You just want warm water. Sugar is not necessary, but you can add sugar if you want, as well. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Can I Use Regular Yeast to Replace Instant Yeast?
Yes, you can replace instant yeast with regular yeast, but if you do not allow the recommended rising time, your item may not turn out the same.
If you replace it in the bread machine, you shouldn’t notice any major issues with the overall results although it may be slightly denser and the flavor could adjust slightly.