The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fresh vs. Dried Yeast

celestica's picture

Fresh vs. Dried Yeast

Are there any advantages to using fresh cake yeast as opposed to dried?  I've read that the flavour is better and it's more "natural"  but I'm not so sure.  I can get fresh yeast here but it's 50 km. away along mountain roads and I'm not feeling that motivated right now...

nbicomputers's picture

i am sure that most members will know what i am going to say

fresh yeast it much superior to dry is any form

both for flavor and action

it works faster.  the yeast cells are in better condition than dry.  dry hax a large percentage of dead cells and if it is not rehydrated correctly that percentage goes up even more.. the dead cells have a effect on the dough softening it causeing the glitem to degread resulting in less oven spring and and changes in texture of the product.

fresh yeast can be stored in the fridge for 2 months and will be fine. 

other than having to keep if cold it requires no spicial handeling and can be crumbled directly into the mixer or flour.

also it workes better in frozen dough than dry yeast. i have forzen dough for as long as 16 weeks only to have the dough rise and bake perfectl when needed.

i am sure there are many others with diferent points of view but after using hundreds of pounds of yeast (both dry and fresh) during my many years of baking the diference in the finished products is very clear

RFMonaco's picture

can hardly ever find the stuff without buying a ton of it.

ericb's picture


I bought a little thing of fresh yeast once, made a loaf of French bread, and did not perceive any improvement over instant yeast. It tasted like French bread. So, I never bothered with it again.

On the other hand, there are a lot of very experienced people out there who only use fresh yeast for the exact reasons you cite. They have used fresh yeast more than one time, so I certainly trust their opinions. 

Here's what I suggest. When the weather gets a little nicer and you have time to safely drive on the mountain roads, pick up some fresh yeast and some instant yeast. Bake two loaves, one with each, and see how it compares. You may find that you prefer fresh over instant. Or you may (like me) find that you can't tell the difference.

Now, I do know that many recipes out there call for a ridiculous amount of yeast. If your bread tastes "yeasty," consider finding a recipe that uses less yeast. By using delayed fermentation or a poolish, you can get away with as little as 1/2 tsp for a big loaf. Since both of these methods allow you to start with less yeast, any "off" flavors you perceive from instant yeast will be minimized.

Of course, you could always use a home grown sourdough starter and eliminate the issue entirely. But that's another thread! :)


Eric Brown

fancypantalons's picture

Bah, IMHO, don't bother.  50km is *not* worth it for what I would contend is the minor (I would actually contend non-existent) benefits a home baker would see with fresh yeast.  Even some professional bakers, these days, are moving to instant yeast, as it's plenty effective, inexpensive, and doesn't have the shelf life issues of fresh yeast.

That's not to say you shouldn't run some experiments if you really feel the need.  But don't be surprised if you discover it really isn't worth the effort.

baltochef's picture

In my opinion, fresh yeast does yield a finished baked product that tastes better than one made with standard dry active yeast..In my opinion the SAF instant yeasts yield a better tasting finished baked product than does standard dry active yeast..For the home baker I would recommend purchasing the SAF instant yeasts in the 500g package and storing it in the freezer in an airtight canister with a silicone seal..

The problem with fresh yeast purchased in grocery stores is that the freshness is questionable..Modern Americans simply do not bake their bread suply at home any longer..Regardless of the popularity of forums such as TFL, fewer than 1% of consumers nationwide choose to bake fresh bread in the home..What this means is that the freshness of the little cakes of yeast, and therefore the yeast's viability, as purchased in the average grocery store, is questionable due to slow turnover..In the past 10-15 years I have had as many failures as I have had sucesses with fresh yeast purchased in the grocery store..

What prompted me to change was the discovery of the King Arthur Baker's Catalog, anf their praise for instant yeasts..Even then it took working in a soup kitchen / artisan bakery that used SAF instant yeasts to get me to try them..Something that is fresh, never having been frozen or killed, is to be preferred to a dried product..Unless one can obtain their fresh yeast from a local cooperative professional baker that is purchasing fresh yeast every week, thus insuring its freshness, I would recommend sticking with the instant yeasts that can be purchased mail order, or through the internet..I have also had spotty results from furchasing instant yeast in grocery stores..It is my belief that fresh yeast, dry active yeast, and instant yeast that is sold in grocery stores sometimes sits unpurchased for long periods of time, thus reducing its effectiveness..


sphealey's picture

Are you suggesting that SAF uses a different strain of yeast than Red Star or Fleishchman's, and that this different strain tastes different?  Because I will go back to my question from the previous thread:  if I start a poolish with 2 or 3 grains (meaning individual granules, not grams or grains weight!) and build the dough up from there how is the dough going to know the different between that and being started with compressed fresh yeast?


davec's picture

I've never used fresh yeast, but it sounds logical that it should have better flavor than dried.  Except--in all the research I have done on sourdough, it seems that the food scientists always ignore the yeast component, and concentrate on the bacteria strains and their effects on flavor.  They justify this by saying yeast has little or no effect on bread flavor--and they are not talking about sourness alone.

Admitedly, I am a novice in all this, but Bruce's post is the first one I have seen in which instant yeast was touted over active dry yeast for flavor.  The usual claims are that it works faster than ADY, you need less of it, and that it may be mixed directly into the dough.

Until a relatively short while ago, I was purely a bread machine guy, happily turning out my one whole-wheat loaf a week.  I used active dry yeast, because I could buy it cheaply at Costco in one-kilo packages, and store it in the fridge.  I always put the yeast in last, nestled carefully in a small indentation on top of the flour, because that's what my bread machine manual said to do.  I figure I used about 8 grams per loaf, and made fewer than 50 loaves a year, so one kilo would last at least 2 1/2 years.  When I heard about the New York Times no-knead bread, I had to try it.  I didn't have instant yeast, I had the last little bit of a package of ADY, so it was at least 2 1/2 years old.  So--I used the 1/4 tsp Lahey called for, mixed it directly into the flour as he did with his "Instant" yeast.  It worked fine, as it did every time I made the recipe.

So, my own experience shows that, at least for one-loaf quantities and long fermentations, as well as for bread machine applications, the two are interchangable in performance.

I would love to see someone bake identical loaves using fresh yeast, active dry yeast, and instant yeast, have 10 people do a blind tasting, and post the results.  It won't be me, because I'm using only sourdough starter these days, and I still have most of a kilo of ADY to get rid of.  But I would very much like to see the results.


belle's picture

Bruce and others..

I am curious why you think the store-bought dried yeast may have been sitting on the shelf too long...I always check the expiration date - do you think that information may not be accurate?



Rosalie's picture

You don't know how the store stored it.  I remember one time trying to decide between the bottles of oil on the top shelf and the bottles on the bottom in the grocery store.  I decided on the ones on the top, but when I put my hand up to grab one, I fell quite a bit of warmth - possibly from the lights.  The ones on the bottom were cooler, so I took one from the bottom.

While I'm at it, the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated talks about storage of various ingredients of interest to us bakers.  It talks about keeping dry yeast in the freezer, but says it shouldn't be kept there more than four months.  I KNOW you can keep dry yeast in the freezer for a lot longer than that ... a LOT longer.


ssor's picture

But there are so many variables in bread making that fresh or dry yeast is only going to make a noticable difference if you make exactly the same recipe on the same day using fresh in one and dry in the other. Making one this week and the other next weekwill be useless. After you have made the two batches then you do a blind tasting with several people.