Making fruit yeast water from grapes

Make natural/wild yeast water at home from grapes and bake a naturally leavened bread that is gut friendly with mild fruity fermented flavour

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If you love baking bread at home, I am sure making your own sourdough bread has tempted you just too many times. And if for whatever reason, the traditional flour + water starter didn’t work for you, maybe you could try baking bread from the natural yeast cultivated from fruits as most fruits have a natural layer of yeast on their surface.

Wild yeast is all around us and besides fruit, it can also be cultivated from edible flowers (hibiscus, jasmine etc) grains/legumes (barley, chickpeas etc) herbs (mint, lemongrass etc) and even vegetables (beetroot, tomatoes etc). However, I am going to keep this page dedicated to the fruits/dry fruit as I have had most experience with cultivating as well as baking bread with it. If you are keen to know more, pls check the notes section for links to some wonderful pages on wild/fruit yeast water.

Ever since I have started baking with wild/fresh yeast water, I find the entire process magical and best of all, it gave me a naturally leavened bread with a crispy crackly crust and an open crumb when I made the Walnut and cheese bread and a soft pillowy Double chocolate and sesame babka knots.

Walnut and cheese bread with fruit yeast water
Walnut and cheese bread with fruit yeast water

Making your own live fermented culture is fairly easy and requires few basic ingredients. I have made the wild yeast water from dried figs, raisins and grapes and have had the most success with grapes. Grapes have a large amount of naturally occurring yeast on their surface, making them well suited for natural fermentation of yeast.

Double chocolate and sesame babka knots with fruit yeast water
Double chocolate and sesame babka knots with fruit yeast water

Based on my trials, experiments as well as research, here are some notes for you to ponder as you start the journey of cultivating yeast out of fruits.

Pros of making the wild/fruit yeast water:

  1. Wild water yeast requires few ingredients and you can use any fruit/dry fruit and change the flavour profile of the bread that you are baking. It is easy to customize with the choice of the fruit/dry fruit as well as quantity. You can make as much or as little yeast as you need.
  2. The walnut and cheese bread that I baked with this yeast has a mild sweet flavour, thin crackly crust with an airy soft crumb. It has almost no tang making it perfectly suitable for those who prefer to bake a naturally leavened bread but don’t like the distinctive tang of the sourdough.
  3. This yeast can be made in 3-4 days and does not require regular feeding making it a low maintenance wild yeast.
  4. No regular feeding = no discard unlike the flour + water sourdough starter
  5. Fruit water yeast works beautifully with plain as well as enriched yeasted dough as you can see in my Double chocolate and sesame babka knots

    Double chocolate and sesame babka knots with fruit yeast water
    Double chocolate and sesame babka knots with fruit yeast water

Cons of making wild/fruit yeast water:

  1. The development of the yeast depends on the factors like the amount of yeast present on the skin of the fruit as well as environmental factors like heat, humidity among others.
  2. The strength of the yeast water varies from ingredient to ingredient and trial and error is the only way to find out as minimal information is out there. For example, when I fermented dry fig, it took over 7 days for it to ferment as against grapes which fermented in 3 days. Also, when I made preferment with the respective yeast waters, the grape yeast water poolish doubled in 2-3 hours as against dry fig yeast water which took about 8-9 hours.
  3. Making wild/fruit water yeast needs a planning ahead
  4. Wild yeast baking is unique with its own set of difficulties. And given that very little information is out there, it is a challenge to bake a bread with it.

What can I use this wild/fruit water yeast for?

  1. The most obvious choice – bake my Walnut and cheddar cheese bread with fruit yeast water and/or Double chocolate and sesame babka knots. Two more exciting recipes coming up soon. Subscribe to get it in your mail box as soon as I publish and/or follow me on social media for the updates.Walnut and cheese bread with fruit yeast water
  2. Basically, you can use this yeast to bake any bread. Calculate the ratios and use yeast water as a substitute for yeast and part of the liquid that the recipe calls for. Make a preferment to speed things along though.
  3. It makes a great drink and therefore can be enjoyed on its own as well. To make a drink, dilute the yeast water with ice/water and add some flavouring like honey, mint leaves, lemon juice and salt. Enjoy it cold on a hot summer day.
  4. You could also top it up with a different fruit and thereby creating a hybrid wild/fruit water yeast.
  5. You can add ¼ cup of the yeast water to the fresh batch of wild water yeast to speed up the process.
  6. You can add flour to the yeast water (equal amount 1:1) to make a preferment. This preferment when fed and discarded on a continued basis, eventually will become a sourdough starter.

    Making Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes
    Making Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes

How do I store the yeast water? 

  1. This yeast can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Though there have been suggestions of storing it for longer by adding additional fruit, sugar and salt, my personal preference is to make in small batches to enjoy its subtle taste and unique aroma.
  2. However, if you wish to store this yeast for longer, here are few things you can do:
    • Store the yeast in bottle that is only half full, that way it has enough space as well as it is easier to put additional fruit and water.
    • Once a week, refresh the yeast by adding 1 tsp of sugar (for two weeks). Do shake the bottle and release the pressure every few days from the bottle.
    • To keep it going further than 2 weeks, add water, grapes (or any other fruit if you want create a hybrid), sugar and repeat the process of shaking and releasing the air pressure every few days from the bottle.
    • Adding citrus peel to the yeast water acts as a preservative and keeps it fresh for longer.
  3. It is important to check pH levels (pH levels determine acidic/basic quality in the water) in the yeast water that has been kept for longer periods before putting it to use in baking the bread. A desirable pH level levels recommended are between 4.2-3.5 (more information in the links provided in the notes)

Few other factors to consider:

  1. Use water that has been boiled and cooled completely before putting it to use for the best results. Chlorine as well as other additives in the water can hinder the activation of the yeast.
  2. Use local and pesticide free fruits as far as possible. If you are using grapes, avoid soaking them in the water for too long as it can wash off the natural yeast present on them. Also, avoid using overripe or not ripe enough grapes.
  3. Fermented grapes/dry fig (whole or squeezed out in a pulp) can be used in the dough instead of discarding them. However, take care to adjust the liquid ratio in the dough as fermented fruits can add to the hydration of the dough. And using fermented fruit can also bring that distinctive sourdough tang to the dough. My personal preference is to discard the grapes/figs after straining the yeast water so that I can play around with the flavours.
  4. Most of my experiments with the fruit yeast water were with red grapes as they tend to be sweeter than the green grapes. Yeast feeds on sugar and the antioxidant rich red grapes gave me an active yeast water.
  5. Grapes yeast water shows visible and vivid signs of activity but not all yeast water shows such signs of fermentation. When I made my dry fig yeast water, it took over 7 days for it to ferment. I could see bubbles and popping only on shaking the jar but the smell was a giveaway. It smelled ‘fermented’ and I was able to put it to use successfully.
  6. As the yeast water fizzes, it is recommended to use fermenter lids over the jar for safety reasons. These lids vent gas automatically and thus pressure is released. However, I did not use the lid nor did I close the jar completely during cultivating my yeast.
  7. Adding sugar is quite essential to cultivating this yeast. Sugar not only helps to speed things along but it provides food for the yeast to grow. Refined white sugar or raw cane sugar can be used to cultivate the yeast.
  8. The best way to know whether the fruit yeast water is active is to mix it with flour (1:1 ratio) and wait to see if it shows signs of activity. If after 10 hours of mixing, it doesn’t double, it is best to start the process again.

Having ventured in this wild journey of cultivating wild yeast, I have tried my best to compile information here from various sources (see notes) as well as put in my own two bits after series of experiments. I would recommend reading and researching further to understand this wonderful process.

And lastly, trust your instinct while cultivating this yeast. When it is ready, all your senses will know it. You will be able to smell it, hear the popping of the bubbles and of course see the increased activity of the yeast. Baking the bread with wild/fruit yeast water is a multi-sensory process that you will thoroughly enjoy!

Making Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes
Making Wild/fruit yeast water from grapes

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Let me know how this recipe turned out for you by writing to me in the comments below. And if you take a picture, please tag me on my instagram handle @acookwithin to share your creation😊 It would make my day!

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4 thoughts on “Making fruit yeast water from grapes”

  1. Neelam SharmaNe

    I have come across such an interesting way of getting natural yeast.I would definitely try it.What should be the ratio with flour.And what recipe are you following

    1. Thank you! I will be publishing the bread recipe on Friday. You can subscribe to the blog and/or follow me on social media for updates. Two more recipes with this yeast will be published after the walnut and cheese bread. Both the recipes will be with grape yeast and they are recipes created by me.

    1. Yes it can be stored. All the details are in the post. I would recommend you reading through it before starting the process.