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Making Wine With Bread Yeast... Not!

Every so often we run across someone who is trying to make wine using bread yeast or baker's yeast. Yes, I'm talking about the plain ole' yeast you pick up in the baking aisle of your local grocery store. And every time I hear of someone using this yeast, the question that always screams at me is, "why?"

There are so many advantages to using wine yeast and so many disadvantages to using bread yeast that I can't imagine why anyone would want to use it. The only conclusion I can come up with is that there is a strong misunderstanding about what yeast really are and what they do.

Yeast are what turn sugar into alcohol. They are living organisms that consume and digest the sugars. As a result, they excrete alcohol and CO2 gas. Along with these two compounds also come various trace amounts of enzymes, oils, acid, etc. These are the things that give different alcohols their different characters.

The thing to understand here is that all yeast are not the same. How one strain responds to the sugars varies from the next. There are literally thousands of different strains that have been identified or developed as hybrids, all with varying characteristics that make them suitable or not-so-suitable for performing a particular task.

This brings us back to the bread yeast. Most bread yeast will ferment alcohol up to about 8% with ease, but when trying to produce alcohol beyond this level, the bread yeast begin to struggle, very often stopping around 9% or 10%. This is short of what we'd like to obtain for almost any wine.

Bread yeast do not clear out very readily or settle very firmly, either. They typically will form a low layer of hazy wine in the bottom of the fermenter that will never completely clear out.

Even more importantly, bread yeast produce alcohol that is plagued with a lot of off-flavors. The bread yeast have to work so hard to produce the alcohol that off-flavored enzymes and fatty acids are produced along with the alcohol.

There are several other issues with using bread yeast, but these are the big ones: the alcohol, the clearing, and the flavor.

There are many, many different strains of wine yeast. These yeasts are bred over time to produce something of a 'super' wine yeast. Each one becoming the ultimate choice for tackling the particular task at hand.

Some ferment to total dryness better than others. Some have better alcohol tolerance than others. Some put off fruitier aromas than others. Some pack more firmly to the bottom of the fermenter than others. Some wine yeast even have flavor qualities that make them ideal for fermenting one type of fruit over another. The list goes on and on. And it goes without say, they do it all better than bread yeast.

On our website, we have a wine yeast profile charts listed for each line of wine yeast we carry: Red Star, Lalvin and Vintner's Harvest Wine Yeast. You can view these profile charts from a link on the product page for each of these wine yeasts.

The last thing I'd like to point out is that buying actual wine yeast is not that expensive. Currently, you can purchase wine yeast for as little as $1.55. I haven't priced bread yeast recently, but there can't be that much difference in price. So if you value your time and effort at all go with the wine yeast not bread yeast.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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Comments (24)

Name: Jack, Jr.
Time: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I know a few people, mostly homesteaders, who use any of the various bread yeasts to make their farm wines. Having tried such yeast and commercial wine yeast I have to agree with you. The homesteaders tell me they enjoy their wines as the bread yeast ferments them. And isn't that what it's all about, the enjoyment?

Name: William Collins
Time: Thursday, December 27, 2012

Never realized there was a difference

Name: Gerry
Time: Thursday, December 27, 2012

I don't know why some have problems with yeast. I always use cheap, bulk instant dry yeast (bread yeast) about 1 1/2tsp per gallon and produce real great tasting red, white or fruit wines. Frankly, I had more problems with so called wine yeast

Name: Larry Cummins
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

Read your reply Jack, but as a bit of an amateur cook I have often wondered about using wine yeast to make bread. Any information?

Name: Jacques Bakke
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

Enjoyment comes in various form. From the Parker level to Joe Schei-- the rag man. That said, some (I say, some--) folks will never be able to distinguish excellence be it Olive Oil, Walnuts, Tomari, Art work or bowls of chili. The cult of wine tasting I think, has gone beyond the majority of wine drinkers tasting abilities without some training. I often need help from my wife and will trust a woman's abilities more so than most any male taster. It is a major challenge for most and some could care less.
We all have favorites and we know what we like but of course, to compare a hundred dollar bottle of wine rated by a Parker or anyone of his caliber, cannot be included in the same conversation with "The Homesteaders" wine. I mean, I "enjoyed" my dad's home brew made in a bath tub, long before many of you were born but comparing it with a Bomberg's Rauch Bier would be tantamount to blasphemy. My grandfather used to swirl the bottle before he would drink that last swallow to capture the dead yeast floating at the bottom.
Thank you Mr. Kraus, for your web-site, enjoyable and very informative still. You have come a long way since I purchased wine and beer supplies from you back in the 80s! I think I still have some hand written letters from you answering many of my stupid questions when I lived in Ohatchee, Alabama. I have long since given up winemaking but not imbibing and I have shared your web site with many!

Name: justin
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

i make about 20-30 gallons of wine per year, mostly from wild fruits. all of it is fermented with wine yeasts. some are better than others, as we all know. but i can still remember my very first batch of dry apple...fermented with bread yeast. it remains one of the best apple wines i've ever made, which now totals over 30 gallons. perhaps it was that one in 5 or 10 times when everything came together for the bread yeast doing right.

Name: bob
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

i'm one of those homesteaders that use bread yeasts and i enjoy my home made wine, i make small amounts at a time about 3 gallons a month, which i drunk with my dinners meals. Also make a lot of rolls and bread i live in the country and i can buy a pound of yeast for 4.55. i use cash only no plastic cards and i have not found a place around here you can buy wine yeast. i may try some one day but right now i enjoy what i have

Name: Art
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

My very first wine was a dandelion, picked in 1969 from the Andrews AFB air strip, My second was blackberry, both were fermented with bread yeast and resulted in exceptionally good wine. Currently, I've progressed to wine yeast with a much more mature result. Must be the enjoyment... and maybe the aging taste buds. The wine just keeps getting better.

Name: gent
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

the homesteaders should make one batch with bread yeast and one with wine yeast .i am pretty sure they will not go back to bread yeast.I say make the best wine you can using all available resources. The better the product the more enjoyment derived from it.

Name: Terry L. kiser, Sr.
Time: Friday, December 28, 2012

When I made my first wine over twenty some odd years ago, I had only old mountain recipes that did not involve the fancy yeasts that are on the market today. I don't use it much any more, but in all honesty I don't get the flavor or the comments I got back then. I also didn't use a lot of the additives I use today. Some of my wine is outstanding. Some is mediocre, some just mild at best. But they are all good. Even when i use bread yeast.

Name: Mike
Time: Saturday, December 29, 2012

Enjoyment of flavors has a lot to do with what one is used to....
Everybody's palate is different, educated by the food and drink we are accustomed to. Suffice to say that the flavors one person desires can be abhored by the next person...

Name: Borell
Time: Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wow! So many use the bread. I did at one time and now I realize why there was accumalation [precipation] in the bottles i aged. Thanks to all for comments. I started cranberry with difficult fermentation. Was very slow starting. Why????

Name: Customer Service
Time: Saturday, December 29, 2012

Borell, there are many possible reasons as to why a fermentation may start off slow. The quickest way to nail it down is to go over the "Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure" that is listed on our website: http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure/

Name: Gil
Time: Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My dad 'showed' me how to make wine and all he ever used was bread yeast, so that is what I used starting back in the 1960s. Didn't even know that there was such a thing as wine yeast back then, and then like Terry, above stated - didn't use or seem to need the chemicals I now add. But, there is an obvious difference, OR maybe I have just become more skilled and learned a great many things from the vintners I know who will willingly impart their knowledge.

Name: Pete Bray
Time: Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I have been making wine for many years and I have used all kinds of yeast to start fermentation. It doesn't matter what kind of yeast one uses as long as you are satified with the taste results. Now I prefer using the yeast that is recomended by the winemakers for each bach that I brew. To all the bread yeast brewer try using the wine yeast just one time and you will be able to decide which yeast is better for you.

Name: Nathan V.H.
Time: Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I am one of those that have started out using bread yeast as I was shown by my father. I made my first batch of concord grape wine using it(turned out very good to an amature wine maker). My second batch was that of blackberry. that too turned out very good. Both were make with-out any other addatives (all natural). I hve now started another batch of brackberry wine, but this time I am trying out three differant types. One is a natural semi-sweet(using bread yeast), the second is a natural sweet(using wine yeast), and the third batch is a sweet with all the required addatives(using wine yeast). I have maintained a log on the three batches so as to be able to duplicate the one I like the best. Surprisingly, I had my father test the three batches, and he seems to favor the natural sweet with wine yeast the best. I tend to agree with his taste buds up to this point.

Name: tamale peter
Time: Thursday, January 17, 2013

thanks to all wine makers.my experience of now 8years in the game of wine making have discovered that the test of wine made using wine yeast will differ gsreatly from those using bread yeast .its unfortunate but t hose whho can anlyse the chemical acompostion you will tell the poisonous capacity is so high for bread yeast .strive for quality much as wine yeast is expensive compared to bread yeast.wish you luck my fellow wine makers

Name: rickey
Time: Sunday, January 20, 2013

I,ve used both ,all good results I do agree it clears up faster with wine yeast ,but bread yeast is cheaper ,and more easy to get ,wine will give you just as good of a buzz LOL ,no matter what you use.

Name: van
Time: Friday, April 12, 2013

i live in the south where we have muscadine grape i have made wine
with the wild yeast that on the grape gust added sugger came out ok i
have used bread yeast to that was ok now i us wine yeast and all of
the other wine making ingrents and it is a lot better if you have never
had mucadine you are missing out on a great wine

Name: Bill McDaniel
Time: Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I live in the Philippines and have made over 1,000 bottles of various tropical fruit wine, more than half of it using bread yeast. I have used a lot of your Red Star and Lalvaln yeasts. The only difference I can see in the two types of yeast is that the wine yeast takes longer, maybe due to the small amount being used. I use three times as much bread yeast and rehydrate it. I have no problem getting 12% alcohol, but more than 12%, even using the wine yeast takes many months, maybe up to 6 months fermentation. I do get improved results using the yeast nutrient. The biggest difference is in the fruit. I have found that generally it takes a well rounded mix of 3 different fruits to get the best wine and the best fermentation. My favorite is a wild black plum, with mango, and one apple per gallon, these fruits contain all the nice acids for wine making. Watermelon for example will not make a good wine alone, you have to add acids or other fruits. I sure enjoy your products and advice enen though some of it does not work for me, and it's interesting to read the comments of others. I will say one more thing, I do not like sulfites in my wine, it gives me a hangover that my all natural wines do not give me, sometimes if I have a sweet wine or one that does not stop fermenting, i simply pasteurize it 140 deg farenheit for 20 minutes.

Name: stuart collins
Time: Saturday, August 10, 2013

Being a scientist, I like to experiment. Also, being a graduate student I am quite poor and bread yeast was the cheaper alternative, as was reusing yeast. But as I began reusing my yeast I had the idea that the yeast which was still alive at the end of the previous fermentation was likely more alcohol resistant than some of the yeast that may have died off earlier in the process. Thus, by reusing yeast, you may be selecting for more alcohol resistant yeast and thus wine yeast. This seems logical enough and something tells me its how wine yeast may have been created in the past. Another reason why I think this could be the case is because the subsequent batches ferment slightly slower, take a little longer and produce less sediment in the end, which is almost contrary to what I would have thought because I added more sediment in the beginning by reusing the yeast. I havent done any alcohol calculations or taste tests to confirm this, so its just a poorly supported theory at the moment. Once the wine is more thurougly aged i will determine this.

Name: Ronald Duggan
Time: Saturday, September 21, 2013

I need a wine making yeast for muscadine grapes.

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, September 23, 2013

Ronald, the wine yeast we recommend for making Muscadine wine is Pasteur Champagne. It does not make a Champagne. It is simply a strain of wine yeast from the Champagne region of France. By the way we also have a Muscadine wine recipe if you need one:

Muscadine Wine Recipe
http://www.eckraus.com/winerecipes/muscadinewine.pdf

Pasteur Champagne Yeast
http://www.eckraus.com/red-star-yeast-type-pasteur-champagne.html

Name: lee73
Time: Friday, January 17, 2014

I am in a Muslim country, so bakers yeast is all I have. I used 1 Gallon of 50% Rasberry Juice/ 50% Concentrated Juice, 1 packet of Bakers yeast, left it for 7 days and Voila awesome dry red wine, Im from wine country, Cape Town South Africa, and this tastes just like Robertsons dry red!

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