Active Dry and Compressed Yeast both have many characteristics to try out in your home bakery.

Active Dry Yeast vs. Compressed Yeast

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Active Dry and Compressed Yeast both have many characteristics to try out in your home bakery.

Active Dry and Compressed Yeast both have many characteristics to try out in your home bakery.

Every now and then, the home baker will run into a recipe that requires compressed or cake yeast. Most of us are used to using what is known as active dry yeast, which usually comes in packets or jars in an almost granular-looking form. But compressed yeast, which most often comes in two ounce to one pound cakes, finds its way into lots of home applications too. It’s helpful to know how to use both, as well as how to substitute one for the other. Here’s a little information on each to help you get started.

Active Dry Yeast is one of the most common forms of yeast in home baking and in some countries (including the US) it’s far easier to find in stores than any other form. Part of its preference in the home bakery comes from its shelf life. Unlike compressed yeast, which must be used within a couple of weeks at most, active dry can keep for a very long time. While it keeps best under refrigeration, you can actually store dry active yeast at room temperature for several months before it loses potency. It usually comes in ¼ ounce packets or jars of varying amounts. As far as taste goes, it imparts a bit of a sharper and more fermented flavor to your baked products than does compressed yeast. It does require a bit of preparation to activate properly. The best method for this is to sprinkle it on top of water heated to 105-115 degrees. Once the water shows some foam forming (usually about 5-10 minutes), the yeast is active for use.

Compressed yeast, despite the downfall of its faster perishing time, is far superior to dry active yeast in the speed at which it becomes active and the length of time it stays active. It won’t keep nearly as long as dry active yeast in storage but can be frozen for several months (it’s best to give it a full 24 hours of defrosting before use). While it does not need the same activation technique as the dry active does, some prefer to soften it in lukewarm water (70-80 degrees) before use. Its flavor tends to be a little milder than dry active yeast and tends to impart sweeter tastes (ideal for softer breads such as an Italian or French bread).
You can play around with using each kind as a substitute for the other when you want to try different characteristics of flavor and activity. The conversion rate for doing so is as follows:

One (1/4-ounce) yeast packet of dry yeast OR 1 cake fresh, compressed yeast EQUALS 2- 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (active dry or instant active dry)

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33 Responses to “Active Dry Yeast vs. Compressed Yeast”

  1. Where oh where can you buy fresh compressed yeast?? I used to own my own bakery and used only fresh yeast. It makes such a difference!

    Now that I don’t have access to buying a 20+ lb case of yeast from a bakery supplier, is there anyone who sells it over the internet??

    I’ve tried all local health food stores, etc and can’t find it anywhere!

    • @ Suzanne

      As I mentioned above, compressed yeast is more easily found in overseas markets as we have many laws about the sale of food items that spoil quickly here in the states. I’ve heard many people mention that a good source is a local bakery or pizza shop that orders it in bulk. They will often sell small amounts to local patrons for minimal cost even though it might not be a retail item in their shop. In ethnic or international food markets (somtimes in regular supermarkets but this is rare) you can also find it in cube form or what looks like a small milk carton in the dairy section. As far as an online source, Red Star and Fleischmann’s sometimes have availability in smaller amounts. Here’s a link to the Red Star site to let you know what you’re looking for in the store: Thanks for the inquiry!

  2. Active dry yeast does not need to be started in warm or hot water. I have used this particular yeast for years and just sprinkle a teaspoon in with the dry ingredients. It makes great bread, rolls, pizza dough, pretzels and bagels. I can’t think of anything else I have baked with it..

    Watching yeast bubble in a bowl of warm water is a waste of time. Active dry and especially “instant” and “rapid-rise” do not need to be put in water to get started. Just mix your flour and other dry ingredients with the yeast, then mix with your wet ingredients, knead and let rise.

  3. I should have added to my previous comment that I suspect that “ sprinkle it on top of water heated to 105-115 degrees.” as the article states probably is an effective way to check if your yeast is good. No bubbles = no good. However, I just keep it in a jar in the refrigerator for 2-3 months between refills and my experience tells me there is no need to do this when making bread and similar items. Perhaps if this has been in the pantry for a year, you may wish to test it with warm water.

    • @Shiralamb Our active dry yeast should last a year when refrigerated. I have had yeast last longer. It’s always a good idea to check if you’ve had it a long time and you’re not sure if it’s alive or not before you embark on your baking project.

  4. The owner of my pizzeria and I are starting to make our own dough. We are debating using warm water to soften the compressed yeast. Does it help the do rise, hurt the dough’s rise, or have no effect at all?

  5. My mother always used the cake yeast. I assume 50 years ago there wasn’t active dry yeast. I use the dry yeast, buy it in bulk and keep it in a jar in the freezer. Just remove what I need and back into the freezer it goes. I think the last batch of yeast was over two years old by the time I needed more, and it was still working fine.

    • Hi Paul,
      We don’t sell compressed yeast at our Whole Grain Store, but we hope you’ll come by for a visit anyway!
      Amanda C.

  6. I found this great Mennonite cookbook this summer but all of the bread recipes call for yeast cake (compressed mostly). I’m confused….does one 1/4 oz packet of active dry yeast equal 1 yeast cake? I’d really love to make some of these recipes but I don’t know what to do….HELP!!!

    • Erinn,
      Which Winco have you found yeast cakes at? The one in McMinnville has never carried it…according to the bakery manager.


  7. Kay Diekemper

    I’m making authentic german bread and it calls for 1 ounce compressed fresh yeast. I live in a very rural area and our local stores do not carry the fresh yeast. How much dry yeast would I use. Do I need extra water or can I use the water from the recipe?

  8. I’d like to make a recipe for brioche that requires 28oz fresh yeast cake. How many cubes of compressed yeast would that be?

  9. Rosemarie Perenic

    Cake yeast comes in two sizes small and large! All my Moms recipes of the past used cake yeast can dry yeast be used and how much per large cake yeast?

  10. Rosemarie Perenic

    Recipes of the past that I have of my Moms is from years ago where cake yeast was used. Some are large size yeast cakes others small size yeast cake size. Can dry yeast be used instead? if so how many packs of dry yeast per large cakes used and how many packs of dry yeast per small yeast cakes used? What is the procedure to use dry yeast?

  11. So where can I find Compressed Yeast in stores, everywhere Ive checked that do not have any, some carry around christmas. Thanks, Lars

    PS Were is So. California

  12. I have tried to by cake yeast in Columbus, Ohio with no luck. Yesterday I went to my favorite Italian bakery, got my bread, was ready to leave, and just happen to ask if he knew where I could buy cake yeast. Walk out with 1 pound for two dollars. So go to a bakery and ask. If you live in Columbus 1490 Claire Street.

  13. I have a recipe that calls for one cube of cake yeast. I bought a jar of it but cannot figure out the measurement. Please help!

  14. Walmart (at least the one in Bozeman, Mt.) Carries compressed 1# packages and both jars and packets of active and instant yeasts.

  15. Hi! I have a 2 pound block of fresh yeast. My recipe (from an ancient cookbook) calls for 2 cakes of compressed yeast. Do you have any idea how many ounces a cake of yeast is, or have another idea how to divvy up the block of years into what would be two cakes of compressed yeast? Thank you!

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