Can You Make Beer With Bread Yeast?

bread yeast for homebrewing

You sometimes have the unfortunate position of using up all your brewing yeast as a homebrewer. You may have heard that brewing and baking are similar chemical processes, leaving you wondering whether you can use what’s in the pantry as a substitute. To help you decide whether you can make literal liquid bread with brewing, soak up the knowledge of chemists and the experience of avid homebrewers.

Beer can be brewed using bread yeast, a different strain of the same species as beer yeast, fermenting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bread yeast, however, produces fizzier brew than beer yeast and may also alter the flavor of a brew if exposed to high levels of alcohol.

Brewers can use bread yeast as a substitute for beer yeast but should consider the differences between the two strains. The different characteristics of bread yeast and beer yeast will deliver different outcomes. When deciding whether to use bread yeast, consider how much to use as an ingredient, how long fermentation will take, and the types of beer you can make with it.

What Is The Difference Between Bread Yeast And Beer Yeast?

Yeast is the active ingredient during the brewing process, which produces the carbonation and alcohol levels that give beer its characteristic taste. The yeast is responsible for turning the fermenting sugars from the grains into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which gives the beer its fizzy qualities.

Yeast is a fungal lifeform that breaks down organic compounds such as sugars and fats as energy sources, often creating carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Bread yeast (baker’s yeast) and beer yeast both have the scientific name Saccharomyces cerevisiae but differ to some degree as they are different strains. The characteristics of each lend themselves to other processes and create different products.

Baker’s yeast and beer yeast both convert available sugars and carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and alcohol. During baking, the ethanol produced by baker’s yeast evaporates, and the alcohol is removed from the bread. On the other hand, the brewing process does not remove the alcohol from the beer but deliberately retains it for flavor.

Baking strains of yeast are observed to grow more rapidly than beer yeast and tend to develop more off-flavors. Bread yeasts convert nutrients into more carbon dioxide than alcohol, inhibiting its growth when alcohol levels rise too high. Beer yeast can withstand higher levels of alcohol than bread yeast, which helps ferment beer and establish flavor but produces less carbon dioxide.

If you struggle to get your hands on beer yeast, it is possible to use bread yeast as an ingredient during brewing. However, the final product will be markedly different, even if all the other ingredients and the processes are identical. Bread yeast has trouble creating alcohol levels higher than 6%, which limits the range of brewing you can use it with.

When brewing using bread yeast, watch out for the following concerns:

  1. There is a limit to alcohol levels you can achieve using bread yeast, as alcohol will inhibit its fermentation ability.
  2. Bread yeast produces more carbon dioxide than beer yeast, so your beer will be fizzier than when you use beer yeast.
  3. Bread yeast does not sink the same way beer yeast does, which means that your beer may come out cloudier than when using beer yeast.
  4. The flavor profile of a bread yeast beer will differ from those of beer yeast. Bread yeast releases flavors into the beer described as herbal, which may not be to the liking of many.

How Long Does Bread Yeast Take To Ferment Alcohol?

After boiling a mixture of sugar and bread yeast, it takes approximately 10 days to ferment completely into alcohol, but this varies according to the temperature and amount of sugar used. The fermentation process can take up to two weeks if enough sugar is present in the mixture. Bread yeast grows more aggressively, but with beer yeast, the fermentation cycle is typically between 5 and 15 days.

The fermentation process of brewing typically follows three phases describing the yeast’s activity in the wort. Initially, the yeast will take some time to react with the wort before entering an increased growth and reactivity phase. Finally, the fermentation will slow down as the yeast dies off.

You can tell when a mixture has finished fermenting by checking whether there is still carbon dioxide foam floating atop the brew. All the particles suspended in the mix also will have sunk to the bottom. You can also smell the mixture to test whether it has an odor of alcohol.

How Much Dry Yeast Brews 5 Gallons Of Beer?

Dry yeast is cheap and convenient for brewing and has a longer shelf life than wet yeast. This makes it attractive as an option for homebrewers who want to keep things simple yet still achieve high-quality results. The question, however, is how much yeast is needed to make a good brew.

Experienced brewers have calculated the number of yeast cells in a gram of dry yeast and the amount required per sought-after volume. Using a particular gravity for your brew and an estimate of the number of yeast cells per gram, you can calculate the number of grams necessary for your mixture.

Depending on the strength you are aiming to get with your brew, you can determine the number of yeast cells for fermentation. For a 5-gallon brew using yeast in the range of 15 billion cells per gram, you need 266 billion yeast cells to obtain a beer with an original gravity of approximately 1.075. This translates to about 17.7 grams, or just over one-and-a-half 11g packet of yeast for 5 gallons of wort.

A more straightforward method uses the recommended ratio of grams per liter. Based on dosage recommendations, 0.5 to 0.8 grams of yeast should be used for every liter of wort. This comes out at around 1.89 to 3.03 grams of yeast per gallon, or between 9.45 and 15.15 grams for 5 gallons of wort.

Best Beer Styles To Use Bread Yeast With

One important consideration when choosing whether you can brew using bread yeast is the type of beer you intend to create. Bread yeast will tend to ferment on the top of the wort rather than the bottom, which makes it better suited to brewing ales than lagers.

Ales are brewed at the top of the wort at warmer temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes bread yeast a good option for brewing ale. The opposite is true for lagers, which ferment at the bottom of the tun at cooler temperatures of between 35- and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bread yeast also isn’t very resilient regarding higher alcohol levels. When your alcohol percentage gets above 12%, it is generally accepted that the yeast struggles to ferment sugars further, and unwanted flavors start emerging. Beers have various strengths, with some rising as high as 20% depending on the brewing method.


Bread yeast can be used to brew beer. Still, there are some considerations regarding the methods used, the strength of the alcohol you are aiming to brew, and the flavor profile of your beer. Bread yeast can be used in comparable amounts to beer yeast, which takes around the same time. Still, the final product may differ substantially from your usual brews.


Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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