The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wild Yeast Water

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jarkkolaine's picture

This week, I have been reading Sandor Katz's wonderful book, The Art of Fermentation. For most part, the book is not about bread, but as bread is mostly about fermentation, the book is helping me a lot in understanding what happens in the dough   and when growing yeasts.

Last night as I was reading the book again, I had a revelation: you can drink yeast water. And in fact, a lot of people are doing it already--they just have a different name for the drink!

Or what do you say? This recipe for fruit mead from The Art of Fermentation looks just like the one I used to start my yeast water (except that I used some black tea in it at first):

 Mead is honey wine. It can be flavored in infinite variations, and many of the fruits and other botanical flavorings you can add to it also serve as sources of yeasts and yeast nutritients.


My typical proportion, measuring by volume, is 1 part honey to 4 parts water. For a lighter mead (or if I'm adding a large amount of sweet fruit), I'll dilute each part honey with 5 to 6 parts water.


Thoroughly dissolve honey in water by vigorous stirring or shaking. Be persistent if necessary. Leave the vessel capped, or cover it to keep flies away; any covering, from a cloth to a tight-fitting lid, is okay. 


Stir or shake, vigorously and frequently, several times a day for a sustained couple of moments.


After a few days of frequent stirring, you will start finding the honey water with bubbles on the surface and an effervescent release when you stir. [...] Keep shaking and stirring a few more days and the bubbles will build into a formidable force.


...and so on. The instructions continue to explain how you can then further process the mead to get more alcohol and a more refined taste by aging the drink. 

From all of this,  I'm ready to equate yeast water = fresh mead.

Another revelation from this section of the book (to me) was that the purpose of the shaking is to get oxygen into the mix so that yeast cells can multiply.  

S. cerevisiae and many other yeasts, much like the cells of our bodies, are capable of both anaerobic fermentation and oxidative respiration. In the oxidative mode, yeasts grow and reprodue much more efficiently but do not produce alcohol. Vigorous stirring stimulates yeast proliferation by providing aeration.


I still don’t have all the answers, especially for the difference in bacteria between sourdough and yeast water, but this is getting interesting--and soon, I’m going to start a new batch of yeast water, this time with the idea of drinking most of it and baking only with the remains…


And then to my most recent bake, with sourdough and yeast water.

For a long time already, I have been baking most of the bread we eat at home, so when this summer we bought a toaster and my wife and kids started buying toast bread from the store, I knew I had to do something about this. Buying toast bread (of all things) was diluting all my credibility as a real bread home baker! ;)

I have been experimenting with different bread recipes for a while now, but wasn't satisfied until I finally found txfarmer’s recipes again. Although I had seen and admired them before, I had never gotten around to trying them before now. And I had never worked the dough for 40 minutes before either. Doing this, as suggested by the recipe, made all the difference!

The bread is soft, delicious and has a fine, sweet and a little sour taste that I enjoy. 

My older son says he likes it but still prefers the storebought with no taste at all… So, maybe next I’ll try to do this without any sourdough. Let’s see! 

I’m not going to rewrite the whole recipe here as you can get it from txfarmer's blog. But I made a few changes, which may or may not be interesting. So, here we go.

 The yeast water had been sitting in the fridge for about a week and gotten a lot of color from the fruit (peaches and grapes):


I used 100 grams of sourdough starter in one build (at 100 % hydration) and 200 grams of yeast water in two builds (100 % hydration) and reduced the amount of milk accordingly. Also, the original recipe used milk in the starter as well. I used water as yeast water comes with its own water… 

Final dough:

  • 100 g sourdough starter, refreshed about 8-10 hours before mixing the dough
  • 200 g yeast water starter (built in two steps during the same 8-10 hours)
  • 450 g bread flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 50 g butter
  • 120 g egg whites
  • 6 g salt
  • 160 g milk 

I’m very happy with the results and will definitely be making some variation of this bread again. Next, with some darker grains, maybe a bit of rye or at least wholegrain wheat.

isand66's picture

I have been meaning to make some English Muffins for a while now and wanted to try to use my fairly new Wild Yeast Water Starter as the levain instead of yeast.  I tried a recipe I found on The Fresh Loaf last week and unfortunatley it resulted in hockey pucks.  I decided to try a sourdough English Muffin recipe I found on The Fresh Loaf and convert it to using WYW as the starter.  Since I decided to make some extra starter with the WYW I figured I might as well try changing it up a bit and used some Durum flour instead of AP flour and also use some greek yogurt instead of milk as well as some cheese.

I have to say the Durum version with the yogurt turned out much better than the plain milk version with AP flour.  It had a much better rise when baking and turned out more tender and flavorful than the AP version.

All in all, I was very happy with the final result and would definitely make these again, but would use yogurt instead of milk.

Wild Yeast Starter Build 1

75 grams European Style Flour from KAF or AP Flour

75 grams Wild Yeast Water

Mix the flour and starter and let sit covered on your counter for 4 hours and proceed to step 2 or put in the refrigerator until ready to proceed to Build 2.

Wild Yeast Starter Build 2

65 grams European Style Flour or AP Flour

65 grams Wild Yeast Water

Mix in above ingredients with Starter from Build 1 and let sit out at room temperature in covered bowl for 4 - 6 hours.  Either use immediately after 4-6 hours or put in refrigerator and use the next day.

Version 1 English Muffins Main Dough

111 grams Starter from above

240 grams Milk

342 grams European Style or AP Flour

13 grams Sugar

5 grams Salt

6 grams Baking Soda

Semolina or Cornmeal for Dusting


Mix flour, starter and milk in your mixing bowl and mix for 1-2 minutes to combine.

Cover the bowl and let it sit out at room temperature overnight.

The next morning add the rest of the ingredients and mix for a minute.  Knead the dough either with your mixer or by hand for around 4 minutes, adding additional flour if necessary.  Next roll out the dough to about 3/4" thickness on your work surface.  You will have to put some bench flour on the work surface to prevent the dough from sticking.  Using  4" biscuit cutter or can, cut the muffins out and place on a pan lined with parchment paper dusted with corn meal or semolina flour.  You should end up with 5-6 muffins.  If necessary you can combine the scraps and roll out again but you may need to let it rest before rolling.

Cover the muffins with a clean misted or floured towel and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Heat your griddle or heavy skillet to medium or around 350 degrees  and when ready to cook spray some cooking spray on the cooking surface before placing the English Muffins in the pan.

Cover the pan to create some steam and let cook for around 5 minutes or until the bottoms are nice and brown.  Flip and cook another 5 minutes and remove to a baking rack to cool.

Version 2 Semolina English Muffins Main Dough


97 grams Starter from above

310 grams Durum Flour

150 grams Greek Plain Yogurt

100 grams Water (85-90 degrees F.)

6 grams Baking Soda

13 grams Sugar

5 grams Salt

26 grams Cheese (I used a mix of Parmesan, Asiago and Fontina)

Follow same directions as in Version 1 but add the cheese on baking day.

Both versions taste great with some butter, jam or cheese.


This bread has been submitted to Yeast Spotting here at

Version 1 Crumb
Version 2 Durum Crumb
Oriental Lilies
Cone Flower
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