I am using a new container of yeast from the store; I keep it well-sealed (it's a small jar) and refrigerated.

I make sure to use warm water in bread recipes - I check the temperature using a digital kitchen thermometer.

I follow instructions to let the dough rise in a warm, moist environment - I put it in the oven (which is off, but was recently warmed to 100 degrees or so) with a steaming cup of hot water.

However, my bread still doesn't rise - not in the breadmaker and not when made by hand.

Should I use more yeast? If so, how much more? (..as in just a pinch more, or as in double or triple the amount?) Should I use more sugar, so the yeast has something to eat? I'm really at a loss here. Should I give it up and use different yeast? If so, what's a trusted brand?

  • You say you make the bread by hand sometimes. Does the dough rise when it's on the counter? If it's not rising then, I would think you need to simply replace the yeast.
    – Al Crowley
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 12:29
  • It rises some, but not much. Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 14:52
  • 2
    Proofing the yeast was the most effective solution, but the second best was knowing about the tap water. Four tests performed simultaneously (testing tap water & bottled water each with old and new yeast) resulted in bottled water with new yeast yielding the best results. Now, to go make bread! Commented Aug 1, 2010 at 19:40
  • Too much iron in the water? Most things in tap won't kill yeast. RO or diistilled water is far cheaper than the fancy bottled stuff. Commented May 15, 2020 at 23:59

7 Answers 7


You can proof your yeast to see if its still alive:

Heat approx. ½ cup (100ml) of water to about 115°F (45°C). Add a tablespoon (10g) or so of sugar, stir. Water should still be above 105°F (40°C). Add a teaspoon of yeast, stir. Within 5 minutes or so, the mixture should be thoroughly foamy.

If its not thoroughly foamy, yeast is bad (dead), dispose of it.

(Note: Metric conversions above are rounded, just like the imperial units. Don't use these conversions for baking, but proofing yeast doesn't need anything exact.)

  • I'm guessing "thoroughly foamy" isn't just a light skim of foam, huh? Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 15:00
  • 1
    @JustRightMenus: Yep. If you do a Google Image Search for "proof yeast" you'll see pictures that are thoroughly foamy. Doesn't have to be quite that foamy, but you're looking for foam, not a few bubbles on top.
    – derobert
    Commented Oct 1, 2010 at 20:05
  • Will the good yeast be foamy even if we don't add sugar? Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 12:53
  • Here is a video of proofing yeast and what dead yeast looks like: youtu.be/SDpCzJw2xm4?t=58
    – Chloe
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 22:44

In his book I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking, Alton Brown notes (on pg. 37) that if your tap water is heavily chlorinated, hard or high in other minerals, or acidic (especially where there is lots of acid rain) these things can cause strange problems during baking or even kill your yeast.

When in doubt, he recommends using e.g. a Pur or Brita water filter, or using bottled distilled/mineral water.

I know I've had problems getting yeast to rise with our Chicago/Lake Michigan tap water (which can be so heavily chlorinated that it can smell like a swimming pool!), and more success with bottled water, so it's something to consider.

  • Neat - I had no idea this could be a problem. I tested my yeast (using derobert's method) using both tap & bottled water, and the bottled water test was a little more foamy. Still not foamy enough, I don't think. Next step: buy new yeast & compare. Commented Jul 23, 2010 at 15:02
  • More tap water chlorine/chloramine removal suggestions from homebrew here.
    – austinian
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 21:19

I had some yeast that I have bought almost two years ago it wasn’t completely dead, however when I tested it in a bowl of warm water it had very minimal activity. I hated to throw it away since I had bought a huge package of it and still had about 6 oz left. So I addd a little bit of homemade wine to it and it instantly started bubbling. After ten minutes it had a solid layer of foam on top and you could literally hear it bubbling. Glad i tried this now I don’t have to throw away my yeast and I get to make some rolls for dinner tonight. enter image description here

  • Why does this work? Fructose, acidity? Is it just the wine yeast feeding on the nutrients?
    – AnnanFay
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 14:03

Red Star is what I have been using for a while, but I have used others in the past with good results.

If there is no rise at all, then the problem is the yeast. It can be a bit temperamental to store, and box stores don't always respect this. You could try doubling the amount of yeast in the recipe, and see if that helps, but they whole bottle is probably dead. Another bottle should solve your problems.

Some general tips for yeast: add to warm water and let sit for a few minutes, don't add yeast and salt at the same time (add some sugar first, then some flour, then the salt, and the rest of the ingredients), don't use metal bowls or utensils (this is actually pretty important--copper kills them, and stainless isn't great).

  • I doubled the yeast in two different batches of bread (using a bread machine), and it rose okay. Thanks also for the note on not using a metal bowl; I usually do so, but won't any more. Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 14:57

The 100 degree oven worked for me. I put about 1/2 cup tap water @ 115 degrees, added a pinch of sugar, yeast and put it in the oven. In about 5 minutes it had foamed like I never had seen before. This after going through 3 packets of yeast. I used yeast from the same 3 pack earlier, none oven heated, and it failed ...got to stay with the oven proofing method for sure!!


It could be that the water is too warm and has killed yeast. It should feel tepid, neither hot nor cold. It will quickly adjeust to its envirnomental temperature from there, especially if you use a steel bowl.

Even if your yeast has largely died, if you have some live yeast you can still make bread, although you might need more yeast and more time. I stretch my sourdough out to a three day rise to get a certain type of flavour.

I don't think you need to worry about chlorine, especially with a commercial yeast. I know the modernist cuisine books are not popular around here but Mhyrvold made sourdough with his pool water to prove it. It just slows things down a bit. The thing is, the chlorine becomes "spent", it does not have infinite power. Once the chlorine is spent the rise will proceed as per usual. I used to go to extreme lengths to dechlorinate my water but it turns out I was just an amateur. You probably still want the dissolved minerals in the water but you can still make bread without that.


After all it wasnt the yeast. I have water that is high in iron. It basically killed all yeast no matter what. I have to use bottled water.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.