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Let me start by saying this is my first attempt at using a bread maker. I just wanted to know if the temperature of the liquid used in the bread recipe matters? Cold vs room temp or warm?

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    I agree with the top two answers below, but it's particularly worth noting that if the temperature is too hot, the yeast will die. I used to follow one recipe, using a precision thermometer to get the water temp to exactly the recommended value, but got terrible results — until I realized that my flour was also hot (because I grind it myself), so I needed slightly cooler water. Just ten degrees cooler, and the recipe works great. – Mike Mar 25 at 14:17
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With a bread maker, it's important to follow the recipe closely, at least until you've got a reliable result , when you can start experimenting.

Mine, for example, expects "tepid" water for most programs, which the book defines as 20-25°C. The super rapid program requires 46-51°C. Cooler and there won't be time for the yeast to get going, much hotter and the yeast will be killed before it starts to work. This also means the super-rapid program can't be used with a delayed start, as the water would cool.

As a very general rule, slower programs will be more forgiving on temperature if you don't have a suitable thermometer and don't trust your estimation.

You can get a very good idea of the temperature of the water if you mix boiling with room temperature, in known proportions, taking a weighted average. For example that super rapid program could use 2 parts room temperature to one part boiling, mixed before it reaches the yeast. If room temp is 20°C and you mix it with actually boiling water, the resulting temperature will be (2×20+1×100)/3 = 140/3 = 47°C. Ths is at the bottom of the acceptable range for my super rapid program, so I use a little over 1/3 boiling (handily it wants 260ml, so 90ml boiling made up with cold is good).

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  • Can you provide a reference for your mixing approach? In general, that tactic requires a temperature scale based at absolute zero (K), which Celsius isn't. – chrylis -on strike- Mar 26 at 3:58
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    @chrylis-onstrike- you don't need a reference, just try it for yourself. It works because 1 degree C == 1K. So, you're just adding a constant and (for the example above), (2(20+k)+(100+k)/3 == 47+k. So the constant can just be left off. – seumasmac Mar 26 at 8:08
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    It doesn't assume a zero-based scale, but it does assume that the heat capacity does not depend on the temperature (amount of energy needed for 1C or 1K). This isn't quite true for water in this range, but probably close enough for the purpose. (Search "isobaric heat capacity water" and you'll get graphs) – Mark Mar 26 at 8:33
  • @chrylis-onstrike-, seumasmac and Mark are right. My take is that the loss of accuracy due to changing heat capacity is smaller than the error in measuring the volumes of water (should we take into account thermal expansion?) and in the temperature of the water (neither 20 nor 100 C is going to be perfectly true). Given that the manual gives a 5C range for both normal and super-rapid programs, this approximate method will be close enough – Chris H Mar 26 at 9:03
  • ... to be super accurate you would also take into account the temperature of the bread-maker pan. Is it kept in a cold cupboard until just before use? – Chris H Mar 26 at 9:04
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Temperature matters a lot, even with a breadmaker. Breadmaking is all about gluten development and feeding the yeast so they produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.

The water temperature will have a direct impact on how quickly the fungi propagate. In traditional breadmaking, ambient room temperature and oven temperature are also important.

Knowing what kind of bread you are making would be helpful in providing more specific advice. It's a wonderful thing to do and there are some great, really easy recipes that make delicious bread. Hopefully you'll next venture out to more traditional breadmaking which can be very easy with no-knead recipes and french oven recipes (such as Ken Forkish's).

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    How significant are room and oven temperature to this question about using a bread maker? – Spagirl Mar 25 at 10:12
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    The question is specifically about using a bread maker, a machine into which you dump the bread ingredients, select a cycle setting, and walk away, letting it do all the work, not about bread making in general. – Allison C Mar 25 at 19:26
  • Temperature still matters with a breadmaker. I was trying to answer more generally but could have probably been more clear to this specific case. – myklbykl Mar 25 at 21:27
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Beside the effect on yeast growth speed mentioned in other answers, the temperature of the water also has a direct effect on gluten formation. Using the same ratio of water to flour, you will get much stiffer gluten with colder water. Of course, you cannot make use of this effect in a bread maker, since you cannot influence the other variables (especially the rising time) to compensate for a changed water temperature. So do as Chris H suggested and use the water temperature that is prescribed in your user manual - both too hot and too cold will give you unexpected (and probably undesirable) results.

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