Dry Yeast: Active, Instant, or Something Else?

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From a reader:

I had a question about your homemade wheat bread recipe. You say instant active dry yeast. Are you using just regular active dry yeast or the "rapid rise" kind?

Baking a good loaf of yeast bread can be so confusing at times, can't it? Ten years ago I would have told you that baking a loaf of bread was simple -- just throw in some flour, water, and a little yeast. It really is that simple, but it also goes a whole lot deeper!

Let's talk about yeasts. Dry yeasts. Active dry yeast. Instant active dry yeast. (And give me your opinions and wisdom in the comments section!)

My mom almost always used fresh cake yeast when I lived at home. She bought it in 1-pound blocks at a local bakery. (I think it cost $0.50 for a pound.) At home, she'd carefully cut it into portions and wrap each portion in waxed paper. The yeast portions then went into the freezer until needed, extending that 2-week shelf-life to a month or two or more.

As I got older, I was introduced to the convenience and affordability of buying dry yeast at bulk food stores. I didn't know much about the yeast I was using -- the white label simply said "dry yeast; 2.25 teaspoons equals 1 packet". We used it like we did the fresh -- "proofing" the yeast in some warm water before adding it to the bread.

When I got a bread machine, I started adding the yeast last, on top of the flour, like the instructions with the machine stated. It worked.

Later, someone asked me if I was using active dry yeast or instant active dry yeast. (Instant active dry yeast is in smaller particles and can be added right to the flour. I know this now.)

When I actually read the label on my yeast, I saw that I was using instant active dry yeast. So convenient, especially for using the bread machine's timer setting and throwing all of the ingredients in hours before it started kneading!

From another reader:

In your whole wheat bread recipe it calls for 2 tsp. of instant active dry yeast.  Can I just use active dry yeast and if so, would it be the same amount and do I still mix it in with the flour or dissolve it first?

A month ago I would have told you that active dry yeast is supposed to be dissolved in warm water before using. (And yes, the amounts are exactly the same.)

But, a few weeks ago I ran out of my instant active dry yeast that I had brought with us from Ohio. I trekked to Costco and brought home a big 2-pound package of Red Star dry yeast. (For about $4 -- a very good price!)

When I got home, I realized that I had just bought active dry yeast and not instant active dry yeast.

The first few times I used it, I "proofed" it in some warm water first (the water called for in the recipe). And then I thought, "Why not?" and I just threw it in on top of the flour in my bread machine.

And guess what! It worked! So. Now I'm really confused. I'm using active dry yeast, but it's working just like the instant active dry yeast for me. Oh well, good bread is good bread and I'm not complaining!

Dear readers, what has been your experience with the different types of dry yeast? What works? What doesn't? Do you have a favorite brand?

For more info about yeasts, there is a quick summary of them here and a detailed forum thread about them here. :)


I always just buy the big cheap bag at costco too. Never paid attention to what type it was. I usually can't even use the whole bag before it's out of much rising power (usually after 3-4 months if refrigerated).

If I bought the yeast in a big bag(which is a great deal Ladies)how can I preserve it longer?Is there any way besides the fridge for 3-4 months?How about the freezer or would that be doing the same thing?

Huh? I keep my instant yeast in freezer. It is still good after three years. I sometimes kills it by adding tad too hot liquid. Nope, I don't make bread that often. In fact I'm considering Zoji bread maker so I'd make a loaf once to twice weekly instead of once to twice annually.

I have a jar of yeast I keep in my frig and a big bag I keep in the freezer. I just refill my jar in the frig with the bag from the freezer and I've never had a problem. I've kept the stuff in the freezer for many months and have never had a problem.

Thanks ShannonLynn

I also put my one pound bag of yeast into the freezer. It has lasted me 14 months and still performs just as it should. I will use the tip of putting an amount in a jar to keep in the fridge. That will save me time. I use Fleischmann’s yeast. That is the brand that our local Sam’s has carried. It is also called active dry yeast. I guess I never really gave that part much thought. I always proof the yeast to make sure it is going to work. It is no fun expecting pizza dough or hot bread fresh from the oven and I have killed the yeast and it is just a big lump of dough that has not risen.
Thanks Tammy and everyone else for all the wonderful information I can use from here.

I also use the Costco yeast - although here on Long Island, it costs more than $4! I freeze my yeast, no need to defrost before using. Freezing allowed the yeast to last well over a year as I gradually used it up.

Another note: I also make whole wheat breads and always throw in a couple of tablespoons of raw wheat germ, raw sesame seeds, raw sunflower seeds, and some flax seeds. Makes the bread really tasty. Especially when toasted. Yes, it adds to the cost, but the benefits in a healthy product are wonderful. We purchase these seeds from our co-op and keep them frozen until needed.

I've always used the regular active dry yeast in my bread machine by dumping it on top of the flower, never dissolving in water first. Guess I never realized that would be needed. I haven't ever thought about it, but I also wonder what, actually, is the difference between active dry and instant active dry yeast.

I use dry instant yeast and it seems to do the trick.

Totally unrelated, but you are near a Business Costco, which has tons of great kitchen stuff. You might want to check it out but beware the hours are different.

And I put half in the freezer and half in the cabinet. I use it in the bread machine all the time throwing it in last like they tell you to. I read a pizza making site sometimes (these are true pizza aficiandos!) and they seem to prefer the instant yeast - not sure why, as I haven't explored it since I don't keep that kind of yeast.

Michele in No. VA

The reason why they both work is that they are the same thing. The 'instant' is just smaller particles of yeast so it has a higher surface area and will react faster. That's the only difference. I use regular yeast because its what my local store sells in the 2lb bag and I am too frugal to spend more for faster acting yeast.

An easy way to think of it is the silica gel pellets you can add to garden mixes and the same gel in paper diaper. (Gross analogy, I know.) They are the same thing, and equal amounts will absorb the same amount of water. Still, the disposable diapers have a very fine ground gel to instantly absorb all the wonders that great them, while the larger pellets you put in the garden are slower to absorb the water.

The Chem Geek aka Rebecca

I've always used plain active dry yeast no matter what the recipe called for and I've never had a problem with it. :)

This is belated but I'm in baking school and we had a whole class devoted to yeast. Anyway, instant (or "rapid rise")dry yeast you can just throw in the flour, active dry you're supposed to proof. Most commercial bakers actually prefer instant yeast because it's a little more efficient than active dry yeast. Active dry yeast has more "dud" cells in it than instant dry yeast so it yields a worse rise than instant. Of course, fresh yeast you get a better flavor but you also have a limited shelf life.

If you can get away without proofing active dry yeast, then go on ahead. I always suggest proofing it though, to get a better rise and flavor.

Remember, above all else, add the salt AFTER you add the and mix the yeast! Salt hinders yeast development and you don't get a good rise.

Thanks for sharing from your baking school knowledge! :)

When I use the bread machine to knead my dough (which is almost always) I add the yeast last, so it goes in after the salt. Never had a problem with that though! :)

You seem to be the center of the universe for knowledge on natural dough conditioners. Thanks for the knowledge! I an a newbie at bread making but I have two ideas, one I've tried and one I haven't.
1) for yeast storage I would like to suggest what I have been doing. I buy the costco yeast and carefully store it in about 5 small dry mason jars. I store them in the freezer at all times. Assuming you keep yeast both completely dry and completely frozen as well as in the dark it should last longer than I will (at 60) according to what I have read. I have had it for almost 5 years and it still works fine. The many small mason jars are very important. Mason jars are the only way to keep out moisture because of changing atmospheric air pressure. They are all glass and metal as all plastics will slowly admit water vapor even below freezing. I use many small jars in case one gets contaminated with condensation water when removed from the freezer. The other jars are still pristine dry. What do you think? Should this be published? Have you heard of anyone doing this? Is there any reason this is not a good idea?
Yeast food:
This idea I haven't tried yet You may have; please advise.
I understand that commercial grapes have chemicals on them that can kill yeast as the only thing yeast loves better than grapes is rotten grapes. From my reading some people believe that bread came from the middle east where some unleavened dough was contaminated from yeast from grapes.
Why not take organic raisins (So there are no chemicals) blend them with some water in a blender. Heat until just boiling (To kill other wee beastys) Let cool then use a few teaspoons to feed the yeast ? A good idea? Any advise?

feeding them with raisin pulp works just fine....as long as you don't go crazy and add too much.

Another very good thing to feed them is potatoe pulp or water. I save a little of the water I boil potatoes in and freeze it in trays......add a couple cubes to the measured water when you bake up bread and you have a natural food for the yeast. If you add plain mashed potatoes to your bread recipe.....say 1/2 cup.....it will help keep the bread from drying out so fast and also make the yeast very happy! Try this in doughnut recipes!

Anonymous asked: I've just recently started baking ALOT more and also am a newbie to Costco. I was super excited to find a 2lb compressed yeast block for $5?? I think, but then come to find out...it's the wrong kind. Darn it. I can't for the life of me, find the dry yeast at Costco. That store kind of drives me crazy trying to find things! I also can't find whole wheat flour, oats, dates, and black browns. Does anyone know if they even sell those there? My response: Costco should sell active dry yeast, which is what I use in my baking. A 2-pound block at our store is under $4. It's in the row with the spices. I haven't found whole wheat flour at Costco; our Costco has all-purpose flour and bread flour in 25 and 50-pound bags. That's in the baking/sugar/dry beans/rice aisle, I believe. Rolled oats are only in a 9-pound box, and sold near the cold cereals. I haven't looked for dates, and have never heard of black browns! There is the "normal" Costco store, where we usually go, and also the "Business Costco" which is more of a restaurant supply store. I've only been there once due to the hours and transportation to get there, but they carry a different food selection. One thing I noticed was that they carried 25-pound bags of dried black beans, which is something our regular Costco doesn't carry. So if you have both kinds of Costcos in your area, it could be worth checking at both! :)

For me, active dry yeast acts slower. the granules are bigger and the colour is deeper. Active dry yeast is made by heating yeast at high temperatures so that some of the yeast dies and forms a protective coating for the yeast that is still alive. Instant yeast is heated at lower temperatures so there are more yeast cells in it. The granules are smaller and pale in colour. Instant yeast should not be proofed because it acts too fast and you will be wasting the rising power.

Thank you for the wonderful bread recipe! Finally my Whole Wheat Bread is raising perfectly and my children said ,"This is like the bread from the store, Mom!". Now, my bread is light and fluffy but doesn't have any flavor. I followed your recipe. Should I use an egg or more milk?
Any ideas why or what would help?

My first thought is.....did you add enough salt? My mother in law refuses to add salt to her cooking....and it just makes everything taste awful to me. My husband grew up eating his mom's cooking, didn't know the differenct until he left home.....but now.....agrees that just a little salt can make the recipe. (when I feel like being naughty....I serve desserts that have a tiny smidge of sea salt on top of them!!!)

Also, the brand of flour you use can greatly affect your bread's taste. I grind my own grains and use a hard white winter wheat for most of my baking...(purchased in bulk in grain form). I also like to add buckwheat or rye flour to my bread recipes....replace 1/4 the flour called for with the alternative flour.
If you buy flour....try to find some King Arthur Flour......they make a great bread flour....you don't need to add any extra gluten to it. There are several brands of flour that make great biscuits, but awful bread......as they don't have enough gluten in them. Martha somebody-or-other and White Lily are two that I can't use for bread, just for biscuits. Gold Medal and Pillsbury both make a decent enough bread flour.

Also...how fresh is the flour you are using? Flour, even store bought, can go rancid....and most people don't even recognize that it has gotten slightly off flavored.

I don't think adding more egg or milk is the answer to your problem. It will make a richer dough....but not tastier.

Do use real butter or good olive oil too....those both help with flavor.

One more thing that might help....if you make the dough by hand....let it rise in the fridge for the first rising....like overnight. Protect it so that it won't dry out....I put mine into a large zip lock bag and throw it into the veggie drawer. Take it out the next day, punch it down, shape it, put it into prepared pans, let it rise and come to room temp....then bake! That will also help flavor. Gives the yeast time to reproduce and flavor the bread! I make a lot of sour dough...and you have to let it have lots of time to rise.....so it can develop correctly.

(If you use a bread machine, you may be able to stop it mid cycle, let the dough rise a little extra and then restart the machine.....but you should consult the manual that came with that machine. I do that with my Zorushi machine sometimes, and then I let the bread get kneaded twice, but it's complicated and sometimes the results are less than perfect.)

Keep trying various things until you hit on the magic combo for you and your situation! Once you make enough bread....it will become second nature to you. In the mean time....enjoy lots of french toast, bread pudding, croutons, bruchetta and feeding the ducks down at the park!

Have a wonderful day!!!

Hurray for Friday!!!

WOW! Thank you so much for taking the time to provide me with such a thorough response. To answer your questions, I am using Hard White Wheat flour from Azure Standard (CO-OP). It seems to be very fresh, and I store it in the refrigerator once open. I also go through it quickly. I also use butter. I am using Tammy's recipe, so it calls for 1 tsp salt (with 3 C flour + 4 T gluten). I heard that salt is a yeast-inhibitor, so I would like to increase the salt, but I'm not sure how much is safe?
Also, I think grinding my own wheat would help and trying to stop the bread machine before the first rise and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator to allow the yeast to take longer to activate. Thank you for your advice. We love salt at our house also- and we are NOT scared of it! : )

Hi again...

I use 4 cups total flour for my bread, and two mounded teaspoons of kosher salt. With no ill effects for the yeast. I use a standard store bought yeast from Sam's. Since you are using a hard white wheat....you could probably back off the gluten a little. Is the texture of your bread nice and chewy, and has a well developed 'crumb'? Gluten does not add flavor....

Have you ever tried rye flour? I recommend using 1/2 to 1 cup in your normal recipe, replacing that much of the flour. It won't give it a true 'rye' flavor, but will add some depth of flavor in the back ground. If you have really sensative folks you are feeding....try the 1/2 cup amount. See if it adds a little flavor to your bread's taste profile.

Oat flour, wheat germ, barley flour......those are also good to try. I love to get the small bags of different flours from the grocery before I invest in large quanities of bulk grains.

King Arthur also sells bread "base" flavorings....those can be fun to use too. I don't use them a lot, but they're fun for special times. My favorite is the strong deli rye flavor! (I live in the deep south, and deli fare is hard to come by.)

Is the bread flour that you are buying a "whole wheat" flour, or a "bread" flour. Does your flour have all the bran and germ still in it? That makes a difference too. The normal "bread" flour does taste different, and you have to adjust your tastes a little for whole wheat flours. (always needs more salt in my opinion!)

just some more thoughts on this....hope something will be useful to you!

Have a Great Day!!!

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