Becoming a Better Baker: Testing Your Yeast

Have you ever gone through the work of making your own bread only to find that it never rose? Well, it could be your yeast. Learn the trick of testing your yeast, so that you’ll be sure your baked goods have the proper rise.

active yeast

“My sister made your buns the other day and they were flat!”

Now, that is not something that I want to hear: That a recipe in my newly published cookbook has failed someone. After my heart stopped racing inside my chest I asked my friend, “Do you know if her yeast is good?”

That question was met with an odd look on my friend’s face because really is one suppose to know if one’s sibling’s yeast is fresh?

The issue then moved on to Facebook where the sister (also a friend of mine) reached out to me directly.

She asked, “How do you test yeast? Supposed to bubble in warm water? Does it depend on how warm the water is? I think I have some bum yeast.”

  • Ashley: The water should feel warm to the touch. Just above body temperature. Stir a bit of yeast into it, let it sit for 10 minutes. After that time there should be some bubbles and it should start to smell, well, yeasty. If you don’t see bubbles time to get some new yeast. I store mine in the fridge so it lasts longer.
  • Friend: Thanks! It appears I had some bad yeast. Bummer, too. I just bought it!
  • Ashley: So strange. But at least now the mystery of the flat buns has been solved!
  • Facebooker #1: I use an intstant read thermometer. I fill a pyrex measuring cup with hot water (the amount that I require). When it’s around 110F, I add it to the yeast & sugar.
  • Facebooker #2 : flat buns. serious issue.

Sure enough, the yeast was bad and definitely the cause of the issue with the flat buns.

For beautiful buns - test your yeast!


For beautiful, fluffy buns like these you need active yeast!

Have you ever had this problem? It can be so frustrating when you go through the work of making your own bread only to have the yeast not work and the recipe is a failure. Especially if you don’t bake or use yeast on a regular basis, it is very important to make sure that you test your yeast.

Since the Facebook exchange I’ve learned that adding a bit of sugar to the yeast/water mixture is key as well. Because yeast feeds off the sugar and you’ll see the activity of the yeast much more quickly when it has food to eat.

So here is how to test your yeast:

Step 1:

Add 1 cup of warm (110°F – 115°F) water to a glass measuring cup or bowl.

warm water

Note: A thermometer is the most accurate way to tell if your water is the right temperature but it’s not necessary. Just feel the water. It should feel just warm but NOT hot.

Step 2:

Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the water and stir to dissolve.

add yeast and sugar

Step 3:

Stir in 1 packet of yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoon.

Step 4:

Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes. After this time it should look like this:

active yeast

Notice how it’s bubbled up and mounded. That yeast is alive and kicking.

Now you can proceed with your recipe subtracting 1 cup water from the list of ingredients.

If your recipe calls for milk instead of water you can test your yeast with milk instead.

It is recommended to use the yeast within 4 months after you’ve opened the package. Storing in the refrigerator or freezer prolongs the shelf life. Always store yeast in an air-tight container.

Now that we are all yeast experts we can start baking. Learning to make no-knead bread is a great place to start!

Make artisan-style bread in minutes!


From baguettes and boules to your favorite sandwich loaves, bread-baking has never been easier.Enroll Here Now »

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