"Just right" water temp for yeast


Happened to see a post on KAF Facebook site from someone who got little rise from her yeast. PJ said the water has to be just the right temp. My question is thus: When I prepare dough in my bread machine I put all the liquids in the bottom, which includes water at 90 degrees. However, I add cold eggs and the rest of "wet" ingredients and then I put the dry ingredients in the machine with the yeast sitting on top of the dry ingredients. Does water temperature make a difference? I've never had a problem with my results. Do eggs need to be room temp?

badge posted by: robinwaban on January 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm in General discussions
share on: Twitter, Facebook
Replies to this discussion
Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save" to activate your changes.
reply by: aaronatthedoublef on January 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm

How long are you letting your bread rise?

What is the right temp? When last I was in a class someone quoted "Beard on Bread" and I think the temp was 110 degrees. This was in Italy and we went to a local baker whose ideal temperature was loosely translated as "not too hot to kill the yeast and not too cold either".

Peter Reihnhart talks about this in his books, none of which are handy now so I cannot quote them for you - sorry. His blog is here http://peterreinhart.typepad.com/. In his book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" Mr. Reinhart using everything from room temp to ice cold liquids.

I bake challah on a weekly basis. If I remember I let my eggs come to room temp. If I don't, I put them in cold. The same with the water and the apple cider. It doesn't seem to have any affected the height of the rise it just takes longer.

I typicall will let the dough do it's first rise in the refrigerator at least over night. I then shape the bread, let it come to room temp and then give it another hour or so to rise a second time.


reply by: sandra Alicante on January 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm
sandra Alicante

If you are baking without use of a bread machine, the right temp (if there is such a thing really) depends on how warm the air is and how warm the ingredients are. Yeast needs a little warmth to get going. In winter I dip a finger into the water and allow it to be warm to the touch, knowing full well that my kitchen is pretty cool. In summer when the kitchen can be 35c, I will put in water straight from the cold tap. Most other times I just want it to be body temp, ie it feels neither warm nor cool to touch.
Yeast will however do its stuff eventually even under cold conditions, it will just take longer.

Many bread machines actually heat the ingredients while mixing, so check your instructions if using one.


reply by: Mike Nolan on January 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Mike Nolan

The answer to your question is that there is no one answer to your question.

You can find plenty of sources that say your water must be some specific temperature (those sources won't agree on what that temperature is), or that the dough should be some temperature after mixing, but except for specfic recipes (like using cold butter for pie dough) or unless you're running a production bakery, ingredient temperature is just a variable for you to work with, along with time.

Temperatures above about 135 degrees will kill the yeast, so that represents the upper maximum for the yeast, other ingredients might need to stay cooler than that. Yeast appears to grow best at around 90 degrees and 80% humidity, but having the yeast grow fast isn't the main goal of making bread at home, good tasting bread is.

The 'retarded dough' movement goes a different direction, using overnight or multiple day rises in the refrigerator to encourage enzyme activity while slowing down yeast growth to boost flavor, usually doing only the final rise after shaping at room temperature.

Most of the time I let my dough rise at whatever the temperature is in the kitchen, which means it usually takes a little longer in the winter when the kitchen is cooler.

But sometimes I will take the dough down to my office to rise, where it is a bit warmer, or use the proofing setting of my small oven (which just turns on the light, as far as I can tell.)

reply by: --jej on January 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I learned years ago to test the water temp. by putting a drop on my wrist. If it feels cool, warm it a bit. If neutral or comfortably warm, it's fine. If it's too hot for the finger when it goes in to put the drop on the wrist, cool it down.

I've used that method forever, and it works fine.

The bread machine? Like someone else mentioned, mine heats everything to the necessary temperature, so that's not a concern.

reply by: Harrison Brook on January 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm
Harrison Brook

I run the tap until the water is too hot to keep my hand under it. Then I fill my big thick pyrex measuring cup that also contains the sugar. I use the hot water to dissolve the sugar (brown sugar, white sugar, honey, caramel, molasses, etc). By the time that's done the water is lukewarm, not hot, and I add the yeast. I use wet yeast. I crumple it up in my hands and let it drop into the water. The clumps should float back to the top in a minute or so. That tells you the yeast is doing it's stuff. I then push the clumps through a strainer.
I don't let the yeast consume the sugar while in the measuring cup. As soon as I know the yeast if viable it gets mixed in with the flour. For me, everything is pretty much automatic. I am not really thinking, just doing, and my results are pretty reliable.