Why Does Bread Smell Like Alcohol?

Bread is a staple in most kitchens, whether you use it for your morning toast or are a religious tuna sandwich eater (we’re looking at you, Jim Halpert). But if you’re attempting to bake bread at home, you might notice an alcohol scent, begging the question – “Why?”

Bread can smell like alcohol due to the fermentation of yeast, an essential ingredient that allows the bread to rise. While the smell is typically baked out, some bread will retain the scent for two reasons. It was either over fermented, or the water was too warm.

Hey! My name is Michelle, and bread-baking is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. There are so many interesting aspects of bread-baking, from the initial knead to the second rise. 

I’ve found my bread has smelled like alcohol from time to time, and I wanted to learn why. I’m here to share my findings.

Let’s discover why bread smells like alcohol.

Why Does Bread Smell Like Alcohol?

Bread smells like alcohol because of one main ingredient: yeast. Yeast is the rising agent used in most loaves of bread (although you can successfully make bread without yeast using another leavening agent like baking powder).

But why?

When yeast is added to bread dough, it starts to ferment the sugar. This produces carbon dioxide, which is essential for your bread to rise. However, fermentation also produces alcohol, which is what you smell.

This is unsurprising, considering most beer recipes and some wines contain yeast. 

4 Ways to Stop Bread Smelling Like Alcohol

Even though the smell is normal, that doesn’t mean it’s appealing – especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like the smell of beer, wine, and other yeast-containing beverages. The good news is that there are many ways to stop, or at least reduce the scent.

1. Bake It!

Most of the time, the smell of alcohol will go away once the bread is baked. So, go ahead and bake your bread as normal. The smell should dissipate, and you can enjoy your delicious loaf without the awful scent.

2. Reduce the Amount of Yeast

It’s always best to follow your bread recipe word for word. But if you’ve made the same bread a couple of times and continue to end up with alcohol-smelling bread, there may be a flaw in the ingredients. 

Try reducing the amount of yeast by about 10%. Don’t worry – your bread will still rise as expected. The only difference is that you will reduce or potentially eliminate the undesirable alcoholic smell.

3. Use Cooler Water

Most of the time, I won’t tell you to use cooler water for your yeast. That’s because yeast works best with warm temperatures. But warm water may be causing your yeast to work too quickly, causing an alcohol smell.

With that in mind, consider changing the temperature. Around 80 F will be warm enough to activate your yeast without causing it to overwork, which may reduce the smell of alcohol. Keep in mind that your dough may need longer to rise, though.

4. Don’t Over-Ferment Your Dough

You don’t want your bread to rise too much, either, as this will allow the yeast to overmultiply, causing a prominent alcohol scent. Again, it comes down to following the directions of your recipe and knowing when your dough is done rising. 

Most bread is done within one to three hours, but many variables exist. You can tell it’s done by poking it. If it springs back slowly and leaves an indent, you’re good to go. If it bounces back quickly, it needs more time. Bread that’s successfully proofed will double in size.

If you find that your dough has over-proofed, you’re not entirely out of luck. Fix it by “punching” it down to remove the gluten structure. Knead it and allow it to prove once more, ensuring it does not overproof.

Can You Eat Bread That Smells Like Alcohol?

Although you might not find the smell pleasant, bread that smells like alcohol is perfectly safe to eat. You likely won’t notice a change in flavor. However, if the loaf of bread smells intensely of alcohol, it may have a slightly bitter taste. 

FAQs

Alcohol smell? Totally normal and nothing to worry about. Your bread isn’t ruined! Want to learn more? I’ve pinpointed a few commonly asked questions to which people have been dying to know the answers. Let’s dive in!

Does moldy bread smell like alcohol?

Moldy bread typically does not smell like alcohol, but it’s best to check for other signs your bread has molded. Sniffing mold can be dangerous, especially if you are allergic to it. It can cause a runny nose, rash, and more. 

Does bread contain alcohol?

When yeast ferments the sugar, it creates carbon dioxide and alcohol (which is why bread dough tends to have a faint alcohol smell). Most of the alcohol evaporates during the baking process, leaving bread with minute amounts of alcohol.

What does spoiled bread smell like?

Essentially, bad bread will have an “off” smell that it didn’t have before. Sometimes, the scent presents itself as a vinegar-type smell. Other times, it’s simply an unpleasant odor. It’s better to rely on other signs of spoilage, such as discoloration and change in texture.

Can you eat over fermented dough?

You can safely consume bread that has been over-fermented. However, it is vital to keep in mind that over-fermented bread dough has a higher chance of an off-putting and noticeable alcohol smell. It may even have a bitter, unpleasant taste. 

Final Words

Bread smells like alcohol due to the yeast. When yeast ferments the sugar, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. Most of the time, the alcohol is baked out, but over-fermenting and too much yeast can create a lingering alcohol smell. It’s still 100% safe to consume, though, so don’t toss it!

Does your bread tend to have an alcohol smell? Have you figured out a way to get rid of it, aside from the ways I mentioned above? Share in the comments!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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