We all know that yeast is a natural ingredient used in food and beverage production for centuries. But is the yeast found in vats of wine the same yeast that bakers and pastry chefs use to make bread rise?
History of Yeast
It is widely believed that the single-celled organisms that have made it possible to bake delicious bread have been with humans even before formal written languages were developed by human civilization. Of course, we already know that the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians already had wine and other spirits, so they were using and mastering yeast before the West started packaging it to make it more convenient for buyers.
History tells us that yeast has been around for at least five thousand years.
Of course, our ancestors didn’t know much about how the yeast turned grape juice into wine. In the beginning, they probably thought there was some magic taking place. As for leavened bread, the ancient bread bakers had a practice where they left the last portion of the dough out of the ones that needed to be baked.
The old dough was used to create new dough. It was thought that this was made possible by wild yeast that was simply in the air and by certain bacteria like lactobacilli that occurred naturally in milk.
Many of these discoveries are accidental – it was a good thing that humans are naturally observant, and they liked to test and repeat things to see if they can get the same result.
Believe it or not, only in the late 1800s, with the creation of the microscope, humans finally understood that yeast was a living organism (single-celled microorganisms, to be precise), and they thrived by consuming nutrients around them in a medium where they can survive. The agent responsible for making great bread possible was yeast – and culinary history was never the same again.
What Is the Difference Between Baking Yeast and Wine Yeast?
Simply put, baking yeast is used primarily for making bread, and wine yeast is designed to withstand higher alcohol content, so it can be used for making wine and other spirits. We explore the differences in detail below.
- The most common types of baker’s yeast are active/inactive dry, cream, liquid and compressed. Depending on what you want to bake, you may have to experiment with the different yeast types to arrive at the best possible outcome.
- Produces carbon dioxide to allow the bread to rise. Yeast also improves the quality of the crumb and the final volume of the bread after baking. Yeast also has an impact on the texture and fineness of the bread.
- Baker’s yeast produces small quantities of alcohol and molecules like ketones as it consumes the sugar in the dough. When the bread is baked, these molecules interact with heat and contribute to the flavor and fineness of the bread, too. Well-risen dough tends to have a wonderful smell and taste.
- Depending on the strain of commercial baker’s yeast you have at home, the yeast that you have may have additional benefits such as providing more aroma to the bread, reducing acrylamide, antimicrobial action, maltase-negativity, being high in vitamin D, higher osmotolerant properties, higher freeze resistance and tolerance to the presence of calcium propionate.
- Compressed yeast is best used for speedy baking. Cream yeast requires agitated tanks and is easily scalable. It also exhibits the highest and fastest activity. Active dry yeast lasts for a year if the vacuum of the pack holds and is the best choice for retail bakeshops.
- Wine fermentation can either be pure yeast culture or mixed yeast culture. Experts believe that both types of culture have their benefits.
- While natural fermentation caused by wild yeast from grapes is still carried out, pure yeast cultures are now preferred by many vineyards across the planet. The reason perhaps is they get more consistent results when they use a pure yeast culture.
- Pure yeast culture allows the winemaker to predict the onset and speed of fermentation and better control the fermentation process.
- The wine quality is reproducible and consistent, and many winemakers use unique yeast blends to achieve robust flavors in wine.
- Active dry wine yeast is the most popular choice for making wine. Active dry wine yeast must first be adequately rehydrated. The yeast cells have to be rehydrated appropriately to maintain the durability of the cell walls. Should the cell walls rupture during rehydration, the yeast cells will not be as healthy, and this condition will lead to poor fermentation. Higher yeast populations are required for hard-to-ferment batches of must.
Can You Substitute Bread Yeast for Wine Yeast?
If you are interested in making homemade wine, it is possible to use baker’s yeast for winemaking. However, since these two types of yeast are not the same, you will not be able to create a wine of the same level as those you see in supermarkets.3
According to winemakers, the significant differences in the yeast types mean you will make wine, but the wine will generally be sweeter, with lower alcoholic content. This happens because baker’s yeast has a lower alcohol tolerance and can only survive in an environment with an alcohol content of 14% maximum. On the other hand, wine yeast has no issues with 18% alcohol content because they’re built to make wine in the first place.
Can You Use Baking Yeast to Make Alcohol?
Yes, baking yeast can be used for brewing. However, baking yeast is now brewer’s yeast, so that the outcome will be vastly different. When baking yeast is added to a vat of must, the fermentation occurs at the bottom of the vat. Brewer’s yeast works on the must from the surface rather than the bottom. The lower degree of alcoholic tolerance of baker’s yeast means the flavors that fermentation will impart to the final product will also be different.