The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Black Tea Yeast Water

jarkkolaine's picture

Black Tea Yeast Water

Before I saw this beautiful yeast water bread by  isand66, I had never heard about yeast water. Or if I had, I had completely ignored the topic, so new it felt to me at that time.

But when I started looking into the topic, I found that The Fresh Loaf is full of people making lovely loaves of bread with this method. And I wanted to join them.

So, after an evening of reading about YW, about a week ago, I mixed a big table spoon of black tea with a cup of water and a table spoon of honey and left to rest on my kitchen table.

For the next week, I shaked the mixture a couple of times a day and watched it ferment. I couldn't stop checking on the jar and smelling it to see if something was already happening!

In two days or so, the water started bubbling and after a few days more, it smelled like the Finnish May first drink, Sima. I suppose that would have been the perfect time to try the water, but as I was travelling (the yeast water travelled with me, naturally), so I didn't get a chance to try to bake with it until yesterday. 

Here's what the yeast water looked like just before I used it:

I was worried that the YW might be overripe, but the results were very good (for a first try, at least!). Here's the formula.


  • 100 g Yeast water
  • 100 g White wheat flour

The starter was left to room temperature for about 24 hours. It was bubbling already at 12 hours, but I felt it could use some more time (and I was busy...), so I left it to ferment a bit longer.

In the morning of the bake day:

  • All of the starter above (200g)
  • 200 g Water
  • 200 g White wheat flour

Again, I left the mixture on my kitchen table and went out for the day. When we came back about six hours later, the dough looked ripe and full of life (lots of bubbles and about doubled in size), so I decided it was time to mix the dough. 

I aimed for a 75% hydration, and a quick calculation (in my head) gave me the following numbers:

  • All of the starter from previous step (600 grams, at 100% hydration)
  • 700 g flour (out of which 100 g was fine spelt flour and the rest was bread flour from Vääksyn mylly, a smallish mill near Lahti)
  • 450 g water
  • 20 g salt 

I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes and then added the salt just before finishing the kneading.

After two hours, I shaped the dough into two round loaves and left the rise for about two more hours. When I came back, I was surprised to see that the loaves had risen very fast, so I refrigirated them until the oven was ready and then baked in my cast iron pan (covered with a clay pot for half of the baking time).

Here's what came out of the oven:




dabrownman's picture

to Yeast Water Bread.  You will find many uses for it since it makes the most soft and moist crumb ever even with heavier flours - as you already so nicely found out.  I use my purple,  cherry, minneola, apple YW in conjunction with SD starters to get bread you can't with either alone.  The spring of YW in the oven can be - explosive too.  It can be a slow riser as well - or surprisingly fast as all get out.  Unruly things those wee beasties can be.

You have a fine first YW loaf, the crust and crumb a very good.  Hope it tasted good too.

jarkkolaine's picture

Thanks for the welcome, dabrownman!

This morning, I ate a slice of this new YW bread followed by a slice of my "regular" sourdough for comparison. The taste is very different. Both are good, but I can't wait to see what they will become when used in the same bread :) 

dabrownman's picture

never managed any SD taste using YW alone - even if retarded for 12 hours and the levain is also retarded for 12 hours. I can get all kinds of fruity (apple orange and cherry) by chopping up the used fruit left over from the feeding of the YW.  I freeze it  for when I want to bake a fruit bread.  Very nice with raisins, dried fruits.  I get a little bit of sour when combine YW and SD like I did today with the Bialy's - will post about it later today.  I always say that YW is good at replacing commercial yeast in formulas when a sour taste is not needed or wanted.  I like to use it in conjunction with SD whan I am making a really heavy bread with 50% or more whole grain and I want  a more open and moist crumb.

Look forward to seeing your future YW baking and other ones as well.

Bake On.

isand66's picture

Fantastic first attempt!  I am glad I inspired you and you hit a homerun on the first attempt.

Look forward to reading about your future bakes.  As DA says you can combine it with a regular starter and get new combinations and flavor profiles you could never imagine before.

I have combo starter bread in the mixing bowl right now.  If it ends up the way I want it to, you will read about it in a few days.

Great looking bread!


jarkkolaine's picture

I was very happy with the results, and will definitely try this again soon. Maybe with a mix of YW and sourdough this time. Looking forward to your next bread!

dakkar's picture

This message board is opening my eyes to a new world of baking!  I'm curious.  How would you describe the flavor?  Is it really different than Sourdough?  Does the flavor of the tea show up at all in the loaves?

More things to try!

jarkkolaine's picture

This is a good question. This morning as I was tasting the bread and comparing it to my normal sourdough, I was trying to find words to describe it... As always with tastes, they are difficult to put to words, but here's an attempt. :) 

I can't taste the tea in the bread at all. When reading about YW on the forum, I found some people saying that if you use a bigger % of YW instead of water, you'll be able to get some taste of whatever was used to feed the yeast (fruit, tea, etc.). 

Comparing to sourdough, the taste of this bread is very different: even though my sourdough is not very sour, this bread doesn't taste sour at all. I'm new to this, so I'm not sure if I got this right, but I suppose that it's because in YW, there are no acids from the bacteria present in a sourdough starter. Someone more familiar with the science can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe yeast water is just yeast, while a sourdough culture is full of bacteria in addition to the yeast.

Other than this, the taste is a little sweet, and like dabrownman mentioned above, the crumb is very moist. 

After making the dough, I fed the yeast with some more honey and this time some raisins. I'm curious to see if that will give a more fruity flavor :) 

baybakin's picture

I dont' know about in baking, but I have used a very similar method for capturing wild yeast when making hard cider and mead, and I can pretty much guarantee you there is bacteria as well as yeast in the culture, just not the same types or percentages as present in a sourdough culture.  The yeast is usually (with fruit fermentation) a smattering of sacccharomyces and brettanomyces species, and the bacteria are probably some forms of Lactobacillus, which can thrive in low-alcohol or acid environments (plus they are everywhere, and outnumber yeasts something like 10/1 in the environment).

jarkkolaine's picture

I guess there are not many places without bacteria on this planet :)

But I wonder, why is there no sour, sourdough like taste in bread made with yeast water? Is it because the bacteria are from a different species? Or is there some other reason, such a higher alcohol percentage in the mixture? (I'm just throwing ideas in the air here, as my understanding on the science of fermentation is not very good yet!) 

This is very interesting stuff to experiment with!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

absolutely beautiful!

I imagine the honey imparts more flavour than the tea.  The acid from the tea helping the yeast get started until they can defend for themselves with their numbers.  Coffee might do the same thing.  Coffee & honey.  (just throwing that out there...)  

jarkkolaine's picture

Hey Mini Oven! That's a very good point you make there. So, the acid from the tea could be one of the major things that makes this different from sourdough, altering the proportions of yeast and different types of bacteria?

And coffee! That would be interesting! :) 


WoodenSpoon's picture

Do yall think you could use a ripe YW combined with normal water and some flour to cultivate a quick (quicker then a new starter that is) yeilding sourdough start?

isand66's picture

I would think so.  Basically when you build your YW levain for a bake you are basically making a SD starter using the YW.  I assume if you keep part of the levain and feed it flour and water it should work, but I guess the only way to find out is to try!

If you do, let us know how it works out.  I may have to try this myself.

dabrownman's picture

had YW starter go to the sour side at all, no matter how long or big the levain gets.  This is odd and is counter intuitive but if it is SD you want you will have to use a SD starter to get it.  Don't know why, other than the critters that make sour aren't being cultivated, but maybe some TFL biologist or scientiist can fill us in.

jarkkolaine's picture

So far, I haven't found a clear scientific explanation for this, but when I make a levain using YW, it becomes pretty much like a poolish, and nothing like a sourdough starter... 

I'm guessing that the higher alcohol level in YW somehow prevents from lactic acid bacteria from thriving in the mixture, making it mostly yeast, alcohol (and maybe some other kinds of bacteria?).

So, my guess is that it's not such a good idea to use YW for starting a sourdough culture. But I haven't tried it, so I wouldn't know for sure :) And I'm curious to find out...

WoodenSpoon's picture

Oh nelly, tomorrow I'm going to get some OG raisins and give it a try. I'm hoping it might give the starter the extra umph of YW and after a few days or more start to get sour as well for double the awesome.