Storing Yeast

If you’re baking a yeast bread, you want the bread to rise, period.  So how should you store your yeast to make sure that it will? Dead yeast is the primary cause of heavy, dense loaves of bread that just don’t rise.

Yeast has three enemies:

  • air
  • moisture
  • heat

Moisture, heat and air will, quite literally, kill yeast.  And dead yeast won’t do anything for your bread.  But it’s not hard to store it correctly, for the longest life.

Keep Unopened Packages Cool

Unopened packages are generally fairly airtight and moisture-proof as they come from the manufacturer.  Thus, they really only need to be kept cool.

If you’re in a cool climate, they can be kept in a cool locker or cupboard. In warmer climates, it’s good to put the yeast in the refrigerator even before it’s opened.  If that’s not possible, find a cool place — perhaps in a waterproof plastic box in the bilge or against the hull and below the waterline.  Watch out for lockers near the engine or oven!

I like to put yeast packages in either a Ziploc (with the air removed) or put several packages in a plastic container with a lid — that way, should a jar or foil package break, the mess is contained.  Further, if it’s a foil package, you can still use the yeast.

Unopened, yeast will last about 2 years from the date of manufacture IF it’s kept cool.  The problem is knowing whether it’s been kept cool throughout the distribution chain — and so I try not to buy it too far ahead of when I’ll need it.

Once a Package is Opened . . .

If you're going to make bread, you want the yeast to be good when you need it. A few precautions in storing will make sure it is!The instant that the yeast package is opened, you suddenly have to think about all three enemies:  not just heat, but air and moisture as well.  If you’re using individual yeast packets, no problem — you’re going to use the whole package.

But what about jars and larger bulk packages — the way that yeast is sold in most other countries?

Rule #1:  Never put a damp spoon into the yeast container.

Whether it’s a measuring spoon, mixing spoon — or even something other than a spoon — the first rule is to never introduce moisture into the yeast.

Rule #2:  Keep the air out.

Keeping the air out isn’t a big problem with a small jar of yeast — just don’t leave it open too long on the counter, and put the lid on tightly when you’re done with it.

But if you have a larger bulk package, you can’t store the yeast in that foil package once it’s been opened.  Instead:

  • Put enough for two or three weeks in a small airtight container and use this for “everyday use.”
  • Put the remainder in a separate airtight container and open it only when you need to transfer some to the other container.

Dividing the yeast will really extend the life of the package, as the bulk of the yeast won’t be exposed to warm, moist air every time you bake.

As with so many things, I like the Lock & Lock storage containers and the Rubbermaid Lock-It’s for storing yeast — both do a good job of providing an airtight, moisture-proof barrier and don’t pop open accidentally.  You’ll need one very small (half cup or less) container and another small-ish container that will hold about two cups for the contents of a typical bulk package.

Rule #3:  Keep the yeast cool.

Once opened, yeast will only last a few weeks in tropical heat; somewhat longer in temperate climates.  Lengthen the time to 4 months by storing it in the refrigerator in an airtight container, or 6 months in the freezer.  At least that’s the official story — I’ve heard of people using yeast that was two to three years old that had been frozen.

However you store it, and no matter how new or old it is, be sure to proof the yeast as described in 5 Tips for Baking Bread (Tip #3) whenever you make bread.

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  • Candy Williams M/V Bootlegger
    Posted at 26 December 2010 Reply

    Great ideas-I have had trouble keeping yeast! Thanks. 🙂

  • Charles
    Posted at 23 October 2011 Reply

    The best way to store yeast is in a living culture (sourdough.) 🙂

    It’s how we stored yeast for thousands of years and is still effective.

  • Sue
    Posted at 13 September 2014 Reply

    Our coolstore, part of the fridge, is perfect for yeast, red wine and medications. It keeps things about 15 degrees. ..and chocolate.

  • Hannah Gardner
    Posted at 30 May 2016 Reply

    I have a King Arthur Flour yeast container that I fill each year with KAF yeast and keep in the fridge. No need to proof, it works every time. I take the yeast out of the fridge to let it warm for an hour so before I bake. I bake bread a couple of times a week and have been doing it this way for years.

  • Glenda
    Posted at 30 May 2017 Reply

    I make bread almost every second day. I have given up using yeast and made myself some sourdough starter. All I have to do is feed it around 4pm, come back just before bed time and make a bread dough forming into bread rolls, placed in silicone baby’s bowls. They rise over night and I cook them after breakfast ready for fresh bread for lunch. Any left overs get used for breakfast toast. Yummy. And saves having the yeast problem

  • Caro
    Posted at 03 June 2017 Reply

    FYI I found a tin of Lowan dry yeast in my freezer with a UBD of Sept 2012. Made some no-knead bread with it, and it was the best I’ve ever made! Freezer method definitely works!

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