The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Alcohol smell from bread 4 days old

alinehuey's picture

Alcohol smell from bread 4 days old

I have been baking bread for 30 years and have learned so much from everyone's posts on this site as well as all the "leads" to other places.

I switched to measuring the temperature of my WW breads and rolls to determine doneness (200 degrees) but I have noticed an alcohol smell if the bread has been in the bag after four days. There is no mold. I have wondered if some yeast is still active. The bread is very good and nicely browned. How high an internal temp could I go?

Normally when bread is several days old I toast it but the smell turns me off so I pitch it. I never had this problem before I started using the thermometer.

What do you think?


me85638251's picture

I used to have this problem, but I was experimenting with using more yeast (a lot more) and I was using active dry (have since switched to instant). I ended up having to let the dough ferment for a long time with active dry, and originally reasoned that if I used more it would go faster, but this only lead to increased alcohol production and effectively created an "old dough" faster. Once the concentration of alcohol is high enough, not much can be done about it.

Personally, I've tried testing doneness by both temperature and by eye / thump, but haven't had the problem you described be caused by either method, this is why I suspect something with the yeast amount / fermentation time.

In my earlier experiments with higher active dry yeast quantities, I could avoid the alcohol smell if I worked fast, but even if the bread did not have (or was very weak) the smell initially it could develop as it staled.

I don't question your experience, just voicing my experience and some causes / effects. Hope this helps.

dghdctr's picture

As you might already know, alcohol is one of the two major by-products of yeast fermentation in bread dough.  The other one is CO2.  For some reason, not all of the alcohol produced is being released before bagging.

Most people don't think much about the alcohol side of it because it usually burns off successfully during the baking process.  Sometimes if you cut into a loaf when it is fresh out of the oven (especially one with a large diameter), you'll detect the alcohol that may not have burned off just yet.  When you're using a good combination of baking temperature with baking time, any alcohol that might remain will usually evaporate during the cooling process, which could take an hour or more, depending upon loaf shape and size.

  1. If you bag a loaf before it has cooled completely, you may still find some residue of alcohol later when you open the bag.
  2. It is still possible, theoretically, for some alcohol to remain in a loaf even after it has cooled.  If the loaf was completely cool before bagging, and the alcohol smell still remains, then you might want to bake an additional 5 or more minutes, lowering the bake temp by 10 degrees or so to allow longer baking without burning the crust.
  3. I guess it's also possible that if you use a lot of yeast in your formula, there could be so much alcohol in the dough that there just isn't enough time in the oven to burn or evaporate all of it during baking and cooling.  If you use instant dry yeast, then divide the weight of dry yeast by the weight of the flour you use in the dough.  Anything higher than around 0.7% instant yeast is almost certainly more than you need, even for a short 1-hour fermentation.  Anything more than about 1% active dry yeast would also be too much, I think.
  4. Or it may be that your thermometer is out of calibration and needs adjustment.  Spring-type thermometers are especially susceptible to losing their calibration, but even digital types can be off by a bit.  There are searchable threads here at TFL, I think, which can direct you in correcting that.
  5. And one more thing -- if you use a thermometer to judge doneness in a loaf, be certain that the very tip of the probe ends up dead-center in the loaf, where the area is that is "cooked" last of all.  The interior of a loaf does not bake at a similar rate throughout the entire loaf.  Since it takes longer for the heat to rise enough at the center, then that's where you want the end of the probe to be.

Let us know if you get your issue solved.  Good luck with it.

--Dan DiMuzio

a different kind of pain's picture
a different kin...

screw the rum baba, i think it'd be amazing to make a rum miche.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and haven't run across the alcohol problem.   Good points Dan!

alinehuey's picture

I use active dry yeast.

I have been experimenting with my old recipes at times, soaking my whole wheat flour with a fraction of a teaspoon of yeast for a couple hours then using the same amount of yeast as usual when I finish mixing up the bread. Maybe I am getting too much yeast.

The problem doesn't happen all the time and I don't get in a hurry to bag the bread. So I have something to watch for now.

I appreciate all the input. I know it gets said here all the time but I am so impressed by all the shared knowledge  and how much I have learned from this site.

Broc's picture

From my rather limited experience [compared to other] --

When I switched to higher hydration and stretch and fold [a-la-Reinhart], together with cold retardation-fermentation, the alcohol smell backed off immediately...

...until I kept the dough longer then four days in the fridge.  Four days -- max!

As for internal temp -- 200F to 205F is spiffy!  Remember, 210F-ish-212F and all the moisture is kaput...

I think that Dan's comments [above], you can take to the bank!

Happy Baking!

~ Broc




aaronjohn's picture

If you store your packed bread for few days you noticed that your stored packed bread smell like alcohol. 

There is a scientific reason behind this strong but weird smell of stored bread.

Let me explain you in the form of a chemical reaction–

Yeast + Starch (Carbohydrate present in flour) à Alcohol

Alcohol (acetobacter bacteria) à Acetic Acid (Vinegar)

This means that yeast (present in the making of bread) eats starch content to form alcohol and smells bad. In case, you are late to recognize then this chemical reaction will continue.

Now, there will be the growth of microorganisms such as acetobacter bacteria. It consumes alcohol and turns it into acetic acid.

At this point of time; if you open the pack, you will find sticky bread that smells like vinegar.

(Chemically, vinegar is acetic acid)

Anything beyond this, it makes bread to decompose. Just throw the pack in the dustbin as soon as possible.

If you want how to store your bread in an ideal way then you must check: