Get the Right Water Temperature for Yeast Without a Thermometer

May  1, 2015

In Overheard, we're sharing all of the best tidbits we couldn't help picking up onfrom smart tips on the Hotline to funny quotes heard around the water cooler and moreso we can all be in the know.

Baking Ingredients

This week, Food52er Kate was ready to make Kouign Amann (imagine extra-buttery croissants with crunchy, caramelized sugar), but was thrown off by the prescribed 110º F water temperature. She asked the Hotline how important it was for the water to be at exactly 110º F and wondered whether it was possible to figure that out without using a thermometer—Andrea Young rose to the occasion and helped out:

110º F is in the middle of the range of temperatures for water to put yeast in (105º F to 115º F). This may vary by person, but I have found that this is what works for me: I tweak the water temperature from my kitchen faucet so that when I put my hand in the stream, I get the sting of hot water, but I am able to leave my hand in the water. More than 115º F and I have to jerk my hand away, less than 105º F and the water feels warm but I don't get that bite of hot water. This "sting but can stay" temperature seems to be right at 110º F. But others may have different sensitivities to temperature, so the first time you find this spot, I'd check it to make sure it's close to 110º F.

Note that different kinds of yeast are happiest at different temperatures, so pay attention to what water temperature a recipe calls for and use a thermometer until you have a good sense of what different temperatures feel like to you.

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  • BDeming
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I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


BDeming January 27, 2016
Yeast water temp. I have been making bread for many many years. It takes 48 hours for me to come up with fantastic bread. I do this every 2 days. I never proof yeast if I know it is good. It doesn't last long enough to go bad. I put masa madre 250g (starter) in a bowl, add all the liquid 250g (except oil), 14g yeast and half the flour I will be using and put the bowl into the refrigerator (40F) for 24 hours. I remove it and softly fold in 100g of very good beer (not bud) and then put it back into the fridge for 24 hours. I then remove it add 375g flour, 15g salt, 20g sugar and 20g olive oil and kneed until i have the texture I desire. Then it goes back into the fridge (40F) for 1 hour to rest. Then I form the dough and let it rise until it is about 1.5X (or just a little more) no doubles about 1.75 hours at 82 - 85F. The bread comes out just like fresh 630g loaf of Wonder Bread. Very very soft to the slice and beautiful. If I want a firmer crumb I kneed it a little more. And for a bagel I kneed it a little more or put in in the Kitchenaid for 7 mins on #2.

I make cinnabuns the same way basically.

So this rocket science about yeast means very little. It is a time thing. It always has been about time and flavour. Note that I use the beer and masa madre for flavour.
BDeming January 27, 2016
Addition to above. The water I add is bottled water I keep in the fridge at 40F. I also keep the yeast and flour in the fridge. I put the water in a nice Pyrex bowl, add the 14g yeast and mix and then add the masa madre and mix and then add the 250g flour. Then put in the fridge for 24 hrs.

Be very gentle when you add the beer. Fold it like egg whites. Like kissing a German Shepherd on the nose.
Alicia V. January 18, 2016
this is my first time on this site and I LOVE IT"""""""""""""""
it was so helpful, im ordering your sighned copy of your new book also thanks again; in christ love a.j.
Lindsay-Jean H. January 18, 2016
Welcome, so happy to have you here!
three P. May 1, 2015
This maybe a little subjective, but not totally. Because 118F is the temperature that destroys enzymes and the body reacts to that temperature particularly with a high level of pain.
Maureen M. May 1, 2015
You don't need warm water for yeast - cooll water is just fine - but may take a bit longer to rise. If you want it warm just test the water as you would test it for a baby- I've been doing it this way for years - sort of body temperature ...
AntoniaJames May 1, 2015
I strongly recommend not using tap water. The chemicals in it can seriously affect the action of the yeast. I use cold filtered water. If it's absolutely necessary to make it warm, I simply microwave it 15 - 20 seconds at a time until it's noticeably warm. But then, I also never, ever worry about the water being too cold, because the yeast will work just fine in cooler liquid; it just will take a bit longer, which will make the dough more flavorful, which is a good thing. I start with the principle that yeast doughs reward your patience, so using just slightly warm water - even cold water -works just fine. ;o)