The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Instant Yeast Incapable of Producing Excellent Bread?

novembergypsy's picture

Instant Yeast Incapable of Producing Excellent Bread?

I just came across a blurb on the internet that has disturbed me, and Iwas wondering if I could get it straightened out. According to this person, who shall remain nameless, the use of instant yeast in bread automatically, irreversably, and certainly affects the overall quality of the bread (in a bad way). According to this indivdual, use of instant yeast will mean that your bread will *never* reach really high standards in flavor, particularly.

 Now, this has thrown me, primarly because instant yeast is all I use. I plan to tackle sourdough breads shortly, but all I have is a starter who is less then two days old, and on the advice of various bread book authors and internet research, I use instant yeast. Is this person right, partially right, or a complete quack?

By the way, this person did not make a blunt suggestion for a better method. All he says is that there are better ways, far more complex, to reach the best flavor. He makes it sound, honestly, as if it will never happen in my tiny home kitchen, a depressing thought which I suppose might be true if taking my personal abilities into account, but  I had hoped I  might create full flavored beautiful loaves if I just keep trying to improve and stretch myself (like the baby sourdough starter that is currently sleeping on my counter) I will never own a profession grade oven (unless I win the lottery) and I don't have access to fresh yeast (which he may or may not have been referring to as a better choice), so I am concerned. Please let me know your thoughts.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I vote for complete quack.

Having used instant yeast and every other variety at one point or another, I know they can all make great bread. 

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

The use of IDY doesn't immediately condemn any baker to a lifetime of mediocre loaves. There are far too many accomplished bakers who have written books with formulas utilizing IDY for me to accept that statement. A baker that utilizes knowledge of ingredients and techniques can create and consistently produce excellent loaves when using IDY. It WILL take time to process that knowledge and practice to realize the techniques through work rather than just book learning.  After more than two years of membership and posting here on TFL, I've seen a lot of examples of good breads that aren't sourdough or fresh yeast.

The person that posted that opinion is certainly entitled to her or his opinion but that's all it is, an opinion. If you feel that your breads are fit to serve to your family, friends, and acquaintances and they sincerely tell you it's good, then it is good. Just because something is posted on the internet, it's not necessarily true. Keep on learning and baking.


PhilipG's picture

I have been baking seriously for 17 years. I even built a bakery  in one house, with the ability to turn out 30 full sized loavesat a time (Blodgett Pizza ovens!). The only yeast I couldn't get comfortable with was the kind folks like to use in bread machines. Too "quick " and mostly smell,not much flavor to me.  Best way to find out in your setting is do a trial. Bake a batch of whatever you normally do with each available type of yeast and record your results in all the areas that are important to you. Use a camera and take a few shots of each batch at each stage. What comes up too fast, too slow, just right? Where do you get best spring rise, etc. Hand made bread is seldom ever trully bad, always better than store bought. do your tes, organize your information and then let us know what YOUR  conclusions are. interesting project. Philip G

novembergypsy's picture

I really like that idea for a project! Thank you Phillip G. (I am very impressed by the in-home bakery, by the way. I would love to do that.) I am going to start this project directly after getting off-line. I'm very excited.Being the whole-hearted geek that I am, I love information-gathering :)

yy's picture

I also vote bull**** on this one. Are you sure you can't provide a link to this dissertation of he-who-shall-not-be-named? :-)

G-man's picture

And I have a family with a wide variety of tastes and preferences.

In my experience, the motivations behind such blanket condemnations are nearly always a lack of knowledge and ability.

novembergypsy's picture

You're right, G-man. I usually find that to be true, as well, though I am still at such a fragile-learning stage in bread baking that I let myself get a little anxious. I'll try to hold onto that thought next time. :)

breadforfun's picture

I've made bread with both Active Dry and Instant yeasts without discernable (to me at least) differences.  As many have pointed out already, professionals, such as Reinhart and Hamelman recommend IDY exclusively in their books.  For more complex flavors, sourdoughs from wild yeasts are recommended, and once you make yours you should be able to tell the difference fairly quickly.

Perhaps you can name the nameless if it is a public comment...



novembergypsy's picture

Thank you for the reassurance, Brad. I feel much better, with all these encouraging posts. I was just worried that I had missed something at some point. And I can overreact, on occasion :)

longhorn's picture

Simple BS. At issue, in part, is a definition of what "Excellent" bread is, but...placing his limitations on others is IMO inappropriate.

hutchndi's picture

Ha Ha, or if not me, maybe someone who I learned from back at RFS, but then we were all seriously one sided. What's more I actually believe it, but I have gone beyond the stage of pushing that opinion on everyone (usually anyway)! But in my defense I do live in Rhode Island, which is about as big as a postage stamp and I rarely go anywhere else where I might find good bread, and I also have about zilcho experience using commercial yeast. What bread I have had here, as far as I am concerned cannot compare with the sourdough loaves I make myself.  I so dreadfully want to believe that someone somewhere can make excellent bread with instant yeast, it just has not made it to my mouth yet, so please send some to Rhode Island, hopefully it will not stale in the mail....


novembergypsy's picture

:D At least you're honest! But,no, it wasn't you, a thing which is very easy to tell from the fact that you are much more reasonable in your belief. From you, it sounds like what it is, opinion...the other guy? Not so much. But I am interested now, instead of just panicked. Do you mean that you feel that instant yeast cannot provide the same excellence of flavor as sourdough, no matter the talent of the baker, or that the home baker ,  just because he or she (as in this case) is a home baker,  cannot turn out a loaf which can be considered high quality? This is, basically, what the person in question was intimating. Again, I really appriecate your honesty.

hutchndi's picture

novembergypsy, in all honesty I am the only one I know in my area personally who bakes bread of any kind, other than knowing that somewhere behind the walls of the few bakeries I frequent (when it is too hot out to bake myself) is a real live baker person. I do read  bread books and frequent bread forums, but mostly I bake allot of sourdough bread the way I like it (allot of bakers would probably think that my crust is too thick and chewy and my loaves were allowed to proof too long, but I prefer it that way)  so I can only speak for this home sourdough baker. What I do know is that the "mouthfeel" and flavor of well developed sourdough I have yet to find in a commercially yeasted bread, but whether those characteristics of bread lean toward anybodys idea of excellence is their own opinion. I admit to being of that mind, and I do not pretend otherwise.  I can only hope you find that your journey into sourdough is as rewarding as my own. Glad you are interested in sourdough now, and by the way, it is the thought of making bread with instant yeast that would panic me, I am not one for life in the fast lane...

flournwater's picture

IMO, if you can't make a good loaf of bread with IDY you need more and better instruction.  The amount of yeast used and how it's handled affects the process more than the type of yeast used.  If I'm not working with sourdough I routinely use IDY or ADY and have never experienced a problem that was yeast related.  Novembergypsy, I recommend you ignore your source.  The Internet is full of nitwit information that has no basis in science.

novembergypsy's picture

Thank you, Flournwater, I appriecate that. I didn't mean, to be clear, that he was suggesting you couldn't make bread at all with IDY yeast (even if he had said that I would have known better, since I turn out at least three loaves a week with the stuff). What he was saying was that I was never going to get very far in the quality department because of the use of IDY. I know better, most of the time, then to worry about internet dribble, but he sounded so sure of himself (and I will admit that my bread-baking ego is a bit frail at this point in time.) Thank you for the ressaurnce, to you, and everyone who has answered.

FlourChild's picture

Best-tasting loaf I ever ate was made with instant yeast!  (Craig Ponsford's Ciabatta from the book, Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer).

Rose Beranbaum explains the issue perfectly in the Bread Bible:  active dry yeast has about 25% by volume stuff that won't rise your bread (dead yeast), whereas instant yeast is all alive and useable.  So to get the same effect from instant as from active dry, you use 25% less. 

The perceived problem with instant is not related to the taste or aroma of the yeast, it is due to the fact that a faster rise is generally associated with less flavor.  To get a nice slow rise, you just use less yeast. 

Good luck with your sourdough starter, that's a road I'll be going down soon as well. 

LindyD's picture

 Is this person right, partially right, or a complete quack?

The person is irrelevant.  

Why should anyone give credence to a fleeting and unsupported opinion found on the Internet?

All that counts, novembergypsy, is your opinion about the breads  you bake.

Grow in your own baking, keep learning, trust your own instincts and tastes, and enjoy the experience.

That's what matters.

Franko's picture

Breads made with instant yeast do taste differently from ones made with natural yeast but saying they will *never* reach really high standards in flavor, is nothing more than opinion. Opinions are cheap and everyone has one, so give this persons opinion as much credit as you think it's worth. High standards of bread are reached each and every day globally through the use of instant yeast. What on Earth this person is talking about I have no idea, since he/she is grossly uninformed.


gary.turner's picture

From personal experience, a mediocre loaf is due to my cutting a corner or three; not at all due to the yeast being used. From your take on what your unnamed reference said, we can only presume he was talking through his hat. It may be, though, that you missed an important clue about his viewpoint. I'll use as an example hutchndi's complaint. I take from him that he's (likely) conflating quality and flavor profile; comparing apples to oranges. In a very rough comparison of flavor profiles, a commercial yeast's lean bread1 is dependent on the balance of sugars due to enzymatic actions, while a sourdough's profile  is dependent on the balance of acids due to aceto- and lacto-bacteria.    There are other influences, but I did say this would be a rough differential. Consider how the chocolate cake lover would compare a yellow cake to his favorite. That yellow cake could be the finest cake ever baked, but it would fail in comparison to the chocolate lover's okay chocolate cake.

At this point, I was planning on an erudite discussion of the nuances and complexities of these broad classes of breads, but I'd doubtless poorly describe, or worse, use a term improperly. That would cause the whole village to rise up and come after me with their torches and sharp agricultural implements. So, I won't.



1. Enriched and rich breads are another set entirely, deriving their flavors strongly from their enrichments.

novembergypsy's picture

Gary, I think you raise a valid concern about whether I misunderstood this person.  The reason I chose not to disclose the location of his opinion was because I didn't want him to be attacked by others more sure of themselves for his viewpoints. Make no mistake though, he was not presenting his opinion as opinion. I am not taking this out of context in a way he didn't mean. He very much did mean exactly what what I have described. I would not have asked about this in the first place had he only suggested that he felt that IDY was subpar. He seemed so assured about this, that I was worried I had missed some important point along the way. I now see that sourdoughs create a depth of flavor that is different then Instant, but that good quality breads can be made with experience and talent with either, thanks to this forum. I don't mean to be unkind or unfair to this person. Again, that's why I didn't link to his opinion. I have no idea if the person in question was talking about enriched breads or hearth breads, but I suspect (only suspect) that he meant breads in general.

I appriecate the thought on cutting corners. And I wouldn't mind a discussion on the differences in classes of breads, but I understand your concern. People can get shockingly excited. :)

PastryPaul's picture

So, some guy/girl says you can't make "excellent" bread using Instant Yeast. What does "excellent" mean? To me, it means seriously darned good, so his/her statement is total crappola. We use Instant nearly as much as fresh in the shop (I leave it to the baker's preference since, based om our costs, there is hardly any cost difference). I, for one, can't tell the difference between breads made from the same formula but using instant versus fresh yeast. I rate both as "excellent" otherwise they wouldn't hit the sales floor.

Yeast is yeast and diferent types have different qualities and characteristics. Make the appropriate adjustment and move on with your life.

Rather than immediately qualify the writer as a moronic quack, perhaps we should consider whether he/she was trying to say (or rather over-say) that sourdoughs are preferable to yeasted doughs? If that is the case, then I would have to agree that it would be very difficult to get the complexity of a good sourdough out of a "normal" loaf. Would I go so far as to say that only sourdoughs are "excellent"? Heck no. I've had excellent breads of every description. In fact, my personal favourite baguette is a straight dough version. I've also had some seriously crappy breads of every description, including sourdoughs.

As regards formulae from the bread books. I may be wrong, but I assume that the original formulae were based on fresh yeast (most prelevant in the industry) and adjusted to instant or active dry for publication. The reason for this would be purely economic. Most home bakers, and indeed small bakeries, could not tolerate the short shelf life of fresh yeast. Imagine buying a kilo of fresh yeast to bake a few loaves then tossing three-quarters of your yeast in the trash.  It would be cheaper to just buy the bread.


proth5's picture

Not the great "Fresh vs Instant" yeast debate. 

I've used 'em all - Fresh, Instant, Active Dry (even some others like osmotolerant and SAF "Super").  I've even used Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast.

The pizza crust yeast is filled with dough conditioners so that youy can mix and shape immediately - so it is not for what most of us want to deal with.

I love fresh yeast, but it is hard to find and perishable.  I love how it smells and I love its quick action early in the mix.  If I had it readily available I would use nothing else.


In the finished product I cannot tell the difference between it and instant yeast.

In fact, I attended a seminar where Ciril Hitz told the assembled mutitudes that he had converted all of his formulas to instant yeast as he saw no difference between the two. I'm guessing that he strives for excellence and maybe even reaches it.

Active Dry Yeast is the same yeast dried in a way that leaves more dead yeast cells and larger granules. So, generally one uses more to get the same result. Inactive yeast is used as a dough conditioner to help make dough easier to shape and so some bakers see ADY as an advantage (others dislike it because you really should dissolve it and this messes up the way they run their mixes.)

No commercial yeast adds the kind of flavor profile one gets from "wild yeast" or sourdough - but "excellence" does not require that profile.  Some peopel may crave it, but I have worked with bakers that strive for (and achieve) excellence and they make certain breads with only commercial yeast.

But I know the debate will go on.  And yet now there is a citation on the interweb that rationally discusses this.



G-man's picture

Flavor takes time. Instant yeast typically isn't what people think about when they think about waiting to make bread. You use instant yeast because you want bread fast. When you think that way, you're going to churn out a nice, bland loaf that relies on other ingredients for flavor. There's nothing really wrong with that. I make awesome pizza rolls as appetizers for my family when we get together, they take about two hours from mixing bowl to table, more or less. The flavor of the bread, while important, is not the main attraction. This is a lot different from my actual pizza dough, which will sit for a day or more.

If you want to squeeze flavor out of dough you need to let it sit. Utilize pre-ferments such as a poolish, biga, etc. Anything that has the flour mixed with water and sitting. Then you add more flour, turn it into a dough, add yeast, rise, etc. Since a large portion of the dough has been sitting, the flavors created through the actions of yeast and naturally occuring enzymes in the wheat itself come through in the bread. Non-sourdough artisan breads tend to be made utilizing these techniques precisely because they create deeper, richer flavors. For that matter, sourdough breads are made using these techniques for the same reason, but that isn't really the discussion. What yeast you use, whether Instant or Active Dry, doesn't matter that much as long as your technique is designed to take time to get what you can out of your ingredients.

Elagins's picture

The great yeast debate is really a nonstarter (pardon the pun LOL). If you think about it, all commercial yeast, whether fresh, instant or active dry, all consist of live cells of Saccharomyses cereviciae, aka good ol' bread yeast, and the purpose of adding yeast is to inoculate the dough with the yeast, which can then feast on the carbs, be fruitful and multiply. At the end of the day, the source of the yeast cells is irrelevant; the differences among fresh, IDY and ADY have to do with early-stage solubility and the concentration of live to dead yeast cells -- nothing more, in my opinion.

This pointless debate has gone on for way too long.

Stan Ginsberg

PS: I use fresh yeast most of the time because I keep it on hand, but also have no qualms about substituting one of the dry varieties when circumstances dictate.

Wild-Yeast's picture

At least they didn't mention sourdough - that's a relief...,


amolitor's picture

And this is important. Flavor DOES take time to develop. Here's my solution:


A pinch of instant yeast will, eventually, raise any amount of flour. I never use more than 1/2 a tsp for up to a 3 pound loaf, and I always adjust for temperature and available time. If it's cold in the kitchen but I have all day, I'll just use a pinch. If I'm in a hurry, use more. One gets the feel for it after a while -- I pretty much never measure yeast any more.