When I was in the 5th grade I remember learning about yeast. We were studying Biology, more specifically cells and how they multiply, and yeast is a great example of this. You can actually see yeast growing right before your eyes. To this day I don’t know what type of yeast we used. I have always been curious, how many types of yeast are there? I thought it was a leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder and there was different brands but not different kinds. On my quest to learn about yeast I learned way more than my 5th grade mind could have handled.

What are the different types of Yeast?

 Most people are referring to Yeast for baking when they ask this question. Baker’s Yeast is the type of Yeast used in home and commercial bread baking. The four most common categories of Baker’s Yeast sold at grocery stores are Cake Yeast, Active Dry Yeast, Quick Rise Yeast, and Instant Dry Yeast.

In my research, I was initially confused because there are 160 species of Yeast. These species of Yeast are found worldwide and are living, single-celled organisms found in the air we breathe, on our skin, and on the skins of fruits and vegetables. The scientific name of Yeast that commercial and home bakers use is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, otherwise known as “sugar-eating fungus.” The most common strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae is baker’s Yeast. The real question is, how many different types of baker yeast are there?

What are the Four Forms of  Baker’s Yeast?

Initially all Baker’s yeast starts out as “cream yeast”, which is a liquid form of yeast. including Cake Yeast (also known as Wet, Fresh, or Compressed Yeast), Active Dry Yeast, Quick Rise Yeast and Instant (or fast-rising) Yeast. Let’s focus on these four types of Yeast.

Cake Yeast

Cake Yeast

Cake yeast is processed one step further than cream yeast. Cake Yeast is also called “wet yeast” or “fresh yeast.” It is currently sold to consumers in 2-ounce blocks. You can usually find it in the dairy section of the grocery store but it is becoming increasingly harder to find.  The yeast is characterized by a high moisture content hence the nickname “Wet Yeast.” The other nickname “Fresh Yeast” comes from it being very perishable and needs to be stored under refrigeration at all times. Cake yeast should be used by its expiration date, which is about 8 weeks from packaging. If there is any discoloration or hard spots discard your cake yeast because it has gone bad. Since this yeast is very perishable I do not use it. I have a hard enough time keeping track of best by dates on my staple foods, yeast is the last thing I need with a shortened expiration date.

Active Dry Yeast

This yeast is processed one step further than Cake Yeast. Due to the low moisture content, the yeast is in a semi-dormant or sleepy state and is therefore more stable than cake yeast. Consumer packages of Active Dry Yeast are stamped with a ‘Best if used by date,’ indicated by the month and year. The shelf life of an unopened package is two years from the date of packaging. This is the yeast I grew-up watching my dad use. He would always proof this yeast. Feeding this yeast sugar and adding warm water will tell you if the yeast is good.

This is the science process called “proofing” the yeast. So my 5th grade self remembers being in the boring group that just got warm water and yeast and the exciting group got sugar to “feed” the yeast and we all watched that yeast start to go through the fermentation process. You can test all forms of yeast to make sure the yeast is still active before proceeding with a recipe. Nothing is more frustrating than to spend the time making bread for it to come out flat. It’s such a disappointment so check your yeast (or proof it) before you start mixing.

Quick Rise Yeast

Quick Rise or Rapid Rise yeast only requires one rise and no proofing is necessary. This type of yeast is used in bread machine recipes. To keep quick rise yeast fresh, store it in your refrigerator. In the early 1990’s I remember my parents getting a bread machine. I started making it myself but I felt it took forever. I wanted fresh bread fast and the bread machine would take hours. Maybe something about it just not being instant was a poor reflection on me and my lack of patience but really I think it was the yeast. When I say I want things fast I guess I mean I want them now. Why wait when you don’t have too! Use instant yeast and the “hovering over the bread machine days” are over.

Instant Yeast

Can you guess what my favorite Yeast is? Well it’s Instant Yeast and I love it. It is the only kind of Yeast I use. Being the Fast Easy Bread Girl, do you think I would use anything else? Instant Yeast is also known as “fast-rising” or “fast-acting” dry Yeast and it can shorten the rising time in traditional baking by as much as 50%. The first time I used this Yeast I fell in love. I had friends come over for dinner and I would start dinner rolls as they arrived and in 30 minutes we would be eating fresh hot rolls right out of the oven. With the addition of soy liquid lecithin in my recipe, my rolls looked professional. I was impressed and so were my guests. The Instant Yeast comes in a vacuumed sealed brick. I cut the top of the packaging and pour it into an airtight container and keep it in my freezer. I have also found with this particular Yeast I don’t need to use the perfect temperature of water. I find that hot tap water works every time. My go to bread recipe calls for Saf Instant High Power Premium Yeast. I really feel like a professional bread maker when using this Yeast.

Choosing the right form of Baker’s Yeast

Baker’s Yeast

Choosing the right form of baker’s yeast is so important to making homemade bread. But, understanding what form of yeast to use is important to making homemade bread fast. There is just something about fresh baked bread, the outer layer of crispiness and the inner soft layer of deliciousness makes for a delectable sandwich. What kind of yeast you use will help you get to the end result of fresh baked bread.  Can you imagine going to your favorite sandwich shop and asking for cold cut classic on fresh baked bread and them telling you it will be three hours until the bread is ready! If local sandwich shops can make delicious bread fast and easy so can you! Using Instant Yeast will help you accomplish your goal the fastest!

More about Fermentation

Yeast loves to be able to eat sugar in a warm, moist environment where they will multiply in numbers. As the yeast begin to dine on their sugar diet, a process called anaerobic fermentation begins to take place. The by-products of this process are alcohol and carbon dioxide. During this fermentation time, the carbon dioxide is trapped by a series of strands of gluten in the rising bread. This is what causes the bread dough to rise, and expand leaving behind a somewhat uniform series of air pockets in the dough. Fermentation is the step when the yeast makes carbon dioxide in the bread making process. The yeast eventually dies off, from the heat when baking, and any remaining alcohol evaporates. Yeast fermentation also provides that wonderful aroma that you expect from yeast-raised products.The air pockets left behind are what give baked bread its crunchy goodness.

Related Questions

Why are people scared to use Yeast in baking? 

It comes down to the fear, fear of failure and the fear of the unknown. The first time I used Yeast, I had no idea what Yeast did in the recipe, just that it was called for in the list of ingredients. I know now that Yeast isn’t scary, and my bread products will turn out whenever I buy quality yeast and store it properly.

What’s the Difference Between Active Dry Yeast and Instant Yeast? 

Active dry Yeast has to be dissolved in water because it comprises larger granules. Instant Yeast, on the other hand, can be mixed with dry ingredients because it comprises smaller granules.

How does altitude affect yeast baking? 

Higher altitudes might cause the dough to rise faster due to decreased atmospheric pressure. Adjustments in rising time and flour or liquid quantities might be needed. 

Is there a way to slow down yeast fermentation? 

Yes, cooler temperatures can slow down yeast fermentation. Storing dough in the refrigerator can retard the fermentation process.