How to Store Yeast: A Definitive Guide


Yeast is one of those products that we never really know quite what we are doing with it. Most of the time we end up using a whole lot all at once, or just a little bit here and there.

Only now are we aware that we should actually be doing something specific to ensure that yeast is properly stored and preserved. Who knew? 

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You see, the thing about yeast is that it can actually become inactive if it is inadequately stores, or if you have had it for way too long.

Yeast is also one of those products that often lasts longer than the expiration date would have you believe.

You can proof the yeast beforehand to know for sure if it is good and active before you use it.

So, how are you actually meant to store yeast?

Well, yeast is generally stored in a pantry, or sometimes it is stored in the fridge. But it can actually be frozen too, freezing does not kill the active ingredients and keeps them preserved for up to 6 months.

However, you should always be aware of the properties of your specific yeast before you store it. Ultimately though, you should store it in a cool, dry place in sealed containers.

There are several ways that you can store yeast, there are also a plentiful amount of tips for storing yeast also, you should be aware of these, you should also be aware of what kind of yeast you have too, as a lot of your storage techniques ride on this factor.

Today, we will walk you through how you should be storing your yeast. We are going to cover many variables, circumstances and tips to give you all the information you need to adequately store your yeast, so that you can get what you want from it.

Let’s get started!

Our Guide to Proper Yeast Storage

You don’t have to be a hardcore baker to use yeast. If you have tried your luck at baking at any point you are probably well aware of what yeast is.

You should also be aware that if you tried to skip out on using yeast in one of your recipes your results may not be rising to the challenge as much as you hoped.

When it comes to baking, and cooking really, yeast is a leavening agent. It is typically made to use bread and other types of baked goods, helping them to rise. It makes your bread go from a small, disappointing ball into a loaf, and makes your cake go from a mushy goo into a tasty, fluffy, delicious dessert.

It works by transforming fermentable sugar into Co2 and ethanol gas that causes this rising effect in your breads, cakes, pastries and anything else you bake.

We know yeast mainly for breads, or things such as a homemade pizza crust (yum!) Remember though it is not just for ‘bready’ substances. It is also used in muffins, pretzels, rolls, bagels, biscuits, and even some pancakes too.

All of these things need some sort of leavening agent in order to get them really fluffy and delicious, as they should be.

Without yeast, you would find that your product would be rather dense, and it would not rise or fluff up at all. It would actually end up being really heavy and thick, and that is not what you want for any baked good.

There would also be an adverse difference in the flavor as well. Though you may be more familiar with that flavor than you think you are. After all there are plenty of breads that are not leavened. These include pita breads and flat breads.

Make sure to use an airtight container to store your yeast for bread dough.

What types of yeast are there?

There are two main types of yeast out there that are used for baking purposes, but there are four major types of yeast, these include; baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, and also distiller’s yeast.

But we want to focus on baker’s yeast, as this is the one you are most accustomed to. Baker’s yeast has three subtypes. These include;

  • Fresh Yeast.
  • Active Dry Yeast.
  • Instant/ Rapid Rising Yeast.

Let’s have a look at each of these in even more detail.

Fresh Yeast

Fresh yeast is a type of yeast that is primarily used by professional bakers and cooks who really understand all there is to know about yeast. This yeast is also often called ‘cake yeast’, or sometimes ‘ compressed yeast’.

Fresh yeast comes in a block, rather than in the powder form you may be more aware of. The block is about 70% moisture, and it is a pale color. This block of yeast is soft and crumbles easily, although, it is thicker in texture than a powdered yeast option, it also has a more potent stench.

It is not considered to be a dry yeast, It is primarily used by professional bakers, and thus it can also be harder to source as well.

Active Dry Yeast

Active dry yeast is your typical yeast, the one you probably have in your cupboard right now and the one you can find easily down at the local store.

It is the most common type of baking yeast that is available. However, it has certainly seen competition from instant yeast, due to faster activation.

When you are using an active dry yeast, your rising time will be more than the use of an instant yeast. It is probably more than double of the time required for instant.

This type of yeast is the original yeast, it is also all-natural as well. It is the go-to option for a majority of bakers, because it really does provide the best results when you are baking, it gives you the optimal baking experience, and it also gives you a stunning flavor at the end as well.

Active dry yeast cannot be mixed with any old dry ingredients when you are mixing your recipe. It must also be combined with water and dissolved before you add it to your recipe.

Instant/ Rapid-Rising Yeast

The term instant or rapid-rising is used interchangeable. You may also hear it called ‘bread-machine yeast’. This is a yeast that is convenient to work with as it cuts the rising time required in half.

Some instant yeast options may only require 5-30 minutes of time needed for rising. Which, if you are in a hurry, is an absolute god-send.

This is the type of yeast that you are most likely to use if you use a bread-machine, hence the name ‘bread-machine yeast’.

You might lose a minute amount of flavor or texture when you use instant yeast, but a majority of people never even really notice the difference. However, this yeast is a bit more potent than the others.

You can also toss instant yeast in with dry products and continue to mix, so there is a real benefit there, there is absolutely no requirement to dissolve it in water for it to be mixed in with the rest of your ingredients.

Keeping Your Yeast Alive

One of the most annoying and challenging parts of storing your yeast is keeping it alive and active.

Over time east has the ability to go inactive, which makes it pretty useless. The good news is that you can generally activate the yeast, which is why you add water to a dry-active yeast in the first place.

Keeping your yeast alive is generally a process that takes place if you use wet yeast. You will notice that there is no specific relation to wet yeast in our above listing, because this is not one of the primary yeasts.

The exception here is that fresh yeast does have a high moisture content.

With dry yeast, the best way you can keep it active is to store it in the fridge once you have opened it. Later on we will talk you through a specified process for doing this. You can also freeze yeast too, though if you choose to do this, there are some things you will want to consider first.

Terminology here can be a bit confusing, we know, the purpose is simply to keep the dry yeast from going inactive, or going off. The overall goal is to know that the yeast will do what it is supposed to do when you mix it in with your ingredients.

Any of the yeasts that we have mentioned can be frozen or refrigerated. And, do not forget that you can also proof your yeast before you use it.

Can You Freeze Yeast?

No matter what type of dry yeast you have, you can refrigerate or freeze it. There are debates on whether or not freezing can kill the yeast.

However, you need to be aware, while freezing does not harm or kill the yeast, you HAVE to let it return to room temperature before you activate or use it.

If you are working with a dry yeast, especially active or instant yeast, you can store this in the fridge for up to four months, or you can store it in your freezer for up to six months.

Now, here are a few steps for you to take in order to freeze dry yeast, whatever type of dry yeast it is;

  • If the packaging of the yeast is unopened, you can store it in the pantry until it is opened. The key with storing your yeast here is to do so in a cool and dry place, and avoid anywhere where it may be exposed to moisture or heat.
  • Place your yeast counters or your yeast packets in the fridge or the freezer. If these are opened ensure that you have sealed them up nice and tight. You may need to put the yeast into a freezer bag to seal it properly.
  • Store your dry yeast in a fridge for up to 4 months, no longer.
  • Store your dry yeast in a freezer for up to 6 months, no longer.

Now, here is the real clincher, it is possible that your yeast will not last this long. It is also totally possible that the yeast could outlive these timeframes by a long shot and last for years. There’s no sure fire way of telling, yeast is a bit like gambling sometimes.

Just be sure that you proof your yeast before you whack it in with your recipe and end up potentially disappointed and frustrated.

Proofing Dry Yeast

Proofing your yeast is a method that is simply checking a small amount of your yeast to ensure that it is still active and good to be used, or to see if it is not.

Remember that if it is inactive, you may be able to reactivate it. Let's have a look at how you go about doing this.

  • Grab yourself some sugar, some yeast, and some warm water.
  • Mix a teaspoon of sugar, two and a half teaspoons of yeast and one quarter of a cup of warm water together.
  • Leave your mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Give it a sniff, if you can smell the yeast, or if the yeast looks to be bubbling, then your yeast is good to use!

Proofing your yeast is a great way to double-check and see if the yeast you are worried about has gone bad or if it is still good to be used.

To be honest, you do not need to proof your yeast every single time that you use it. But if your yeast has been sitting there for a while, this process can give you peace of mind, and also saves on any ingredients or time being wasted on an old and useless yeast.

Is it possible to freeze fresh yeast?

Earlier we mentioned fresh yeast, and it came across as a little more difficult to work with a store than dry yeast. So, you may be a bit hesitant about freezing something that is this problematic.

But, actually, you can freeze it, and it is not as troublesome as you would imagine. While its overall construct is different, it is still doable.

Let's see how.

  • Wrap the yeast up in an airtight manner. You should wrap it in layers, plastic or cellophane wrap is the best, then follow it while a layer of foil. Add another layer of plastic wrap. While this may seem extreme and like a lot of plastic wraps, it is necessary.
  • Place your wrapped fresh yeast into a sealable freezer bag. Be sure to remove all the excess air as much as you can before you place it into the freezer.
  • Seal up the bag and be sure to date and label it, so you know how long it has been there for.
  • Now, store your yeast in the coldest part of your freezer for up to or around 6 months.

When you are ready to use your yeast, you need to let it thaw in the refrigerator, so ensure that you give it enough time. The best thing to do is to take it out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

It is best to avoid thawing it at room temperature. You should also be mindful of how much you need, only thaw what you need to use, otherwise you will likely not be able to freeze it again. You should never freeze something more than once.

Using Dry Yeast Post-freeze

There is one very nifty and specific trick to using your dry yeast once it has been frozen. First of all, you need to allow your dry yeast to return to room temperature before you use it. If you do not do this then it will not work the way that it is supposed to, and you will be disappointed.

It is advisable that you measure out exactly what you’re going to need at the time, then let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 to 60 minutes before you proceed to use the yeast.

Top-tips for Yeast Storage

We have a plethora of information on wet and dry yeast storage, as you can see. The storage methods for both wet and dry yeast are rather similar, however there are some differences between them.

As an example, wet yeast, otherwise known as fresh yeast, should be wrapped many times over for adequate storage. Where on the other hand, dry yeast does not typically require any more than an airtight baggie, or just the original packaging.

We want you to leave today with all the most useful information, so we want to provide you with some additional top tips for storing your yeast.

  • Make sure that you follow the necessary storage instructions, air-tight is always recommended, with all the excess air removed.
  • Do not be afraid to use the fridge or freezer to extend the shelf life of your yeast.
  • Be aware that your yeast may last longer than you expect, but it can also go the other way and last less time than you are expecting.
  • Proof your yeast if you are worried in any way that it may not be active, it won’t do any harm, and it will put your mind at ease.
  • Label all your storage packaging, doing so will give you a point of reference when you go to use your yeast, giving you an idea of how long it has been there and if it is likely to be active.
  • Be sure to let your yeast thaw in the fridge, then once it has thawed in the fridge, give it around an hour to return to room temperature before you use it.

The reason why yeast can be frozen and still active is that yeast actually goes dormant when it is stored below 50 degrees. It allows yeast to last longer in a freezer than it does in your cupboard or even in your refrigerator.

Some people would even tell you that yeast can last indefinitely in the freezer, although this is debatable.

It is possible that it may last indefinitely in the freezer, but it is not a guarantee. We provided the timeframes we have because these are the timeframes which are considered to be the best for providing you with a good yeast when you do decide to use it, you can go beyond this, but if you do, it’s best to proof before use. 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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