13 Reasons Why My Bread Didn’t Rise – Let’s Fix It FAST

In this article we are going to cover the 13 reasons why bread doesn’t rise so you can make fantastic bread at home every time.

I’ve been there…

You put all your passion and time into making the (what you think) perfect loaf and sadly discover that it doesn’t rise. Disaster. Sometimes you can give a dough all the proof time you can, but it simply will not rise.

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Well have no fear, we’ve all had a few stinkers!

After reading this article you will know the most common reasons why bread doesn’t rise and also discover many ways to improve your rise.

When I first started baking I went straight into a commercial bakery. The recipes were laid out for me, the equipment was amazing, the water tank forced me to probe the flour before it would release the water, the proofer was set at a constant temperature…

It was pretty easy really.

The reason was there were very few variables. The ingredients were the same, the recipe’s were measured out, the environment was controlled and the equipment was the always constant. 

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When we bake at home it’s not that easy!

We have to adjust our recipes so we can make bread that’s the same as the recipe’s photo. It’s a challenge which many novice bakers put on themselves and some hit a home run at the first occasion, some suffer defeat time and time again before they succeed. 

By expanding your knowledge you can learn how to eradicate the issues in your bread so that you can start hitting those grand slams!

It doesn’t matter about cheese stuffings, einkorn flour or stretch and folds if the bread simply won’t rise, so let’s go through the most common reasons why your bread is not coming up to the top of the tin.

Didn’t put the yeast in

Let’s start with the basics. Back as a bakery manager I had many bakers insist that they had put the yeast in the mixing bowl to later find it weighed on the table behind.

It’s a silly mistake but it happens more than you might think.

How do you tell?

If the yeast is in the dough you should feel some gassiness in it. If not, give it a smell, the yeasts aroma should be noticeable

If you are still not sure tear a piece of dough and put it in a jug of water and place it in the microwave. As it warms the dough should rise to the surface. If the dough doesn’t then the yeast has been forgotten or is out of date.

Testing if the yeast rises

If it’s a short ferment you will need to restart it, you could reuse a portion of the dough to the fresh mix. It’ll aid the doughs maturity and give a better gluten structure.

If the bread has a long fermentation time ahead of it (over 8 hours) you’ll probably be ok chucking it in afterwards.

The yeast is out of date

Yeast does have an expiry date. If you follow the guidelines on the packet, most brands of dried yeast should be used within 3 days of opening.

I know, it’s silly right? Dried yeast will keep for months if kept in the fridge and the fresh version lasts around a week. This depends on how fresh the yeast was when you got it and how much you have of it. A large block keeps fresh for longer than a a handful of crumbs.

The yeast is out of date

How to tell if your yeast is passed it’s best

Fresh yeast will start to dry out and you will see it turning a dark, nearly charcoal colour in places. You can still use it when it gets to this stage, but it’s not as effective. It’s worth adding a little more or allowing more time for the dough to ferment. 

After the yeast arrives at the dark charcoal colour it will start to dry out and harden. At this point it should not be used.

If you are unsure if your dried yeast is still usable, take a small bowl of warm water and add a teaspoon of yeast to it. If it froths up after 5-10 minutes it’s good.

If not then it’s best to get another packet.

The water was too warm and killed the yeast

Many recipes request warm water to be used for activating the yeast. The temperature of this warm water should be 30-35 C (86-95F).

If the water temperature is above this, the yeast activity reduces until it hits around 60C (140F) where the yeast is permanently deactivated.

Sourdough wasn’t active enough

A sourdough starter should have nice strong bubbles running through it and fed at 12 hour intervals. You can get around the twice a day feedings by leaving it in the fridge, google the shavings technique. However if using the fridge method the starter should still be strong and often fed to keep it active. 

If this is not the case it will take a long time for the bread to rise which will most likely cause high amounts of lactic acid to develop during fermentation. Excessive lactic acid destroys the doughs ability to hold its shape.

This is also the main cause of Frisbee style bread.

Relying on the oven spring to do too much of the rise

Oven spring gives the bread a lift of around 10-20% of it’s pre-oven size. Oven spring is not responsible for rising the bread. The bread should be almost, if not at full size when it goes into the oven.

Putting the bread in too early will cause the bread to shoot up more than 20% but this often creates unwanted holes, ripped crusts and tunnelling in the crumb. 

The dough was too cold

Yeast doesn’t need oxygen to ferment the dough but it does need a bit of warmth. Cold kitchens and cold ingredients slow the rate in which the dough fermentation occurs, causing bread to rise very slowly.

To remedy this, use a proofer such as this one:

Check price at Brod & Taylor or Amazon

And control your final dough temperature using a thermometer so that you can get a grip on your rising. 

Here’s an article that explains how to do this:

Further reading: Desired Dough Temperature

The dough needed to rise for longer

Sometimes the dough just needs longer than the recipe states to rise. With any bread recipe, it is best to watch the dough more than the time.

Different ingredients and environments create different results, it’s the magic of bread making, whilst also the challenge.

Learning how the dough should feel and look like at the end of each stage of bread making is the most powerful skill in baking bread.

Too much salt was added

Salt inhibits the yeast which slows dough the production of gas. This is great for supporting the gluten structure though too much salt can stop the dough from rising.

How to tell if you are using too much salt

Most recipes call for the amount of salt to be at around 2% of the weight of the flour. The 2% also includes any other salted additions such as butter and olives. Sometimes by accident, the salt gets added twice or misread the recipe. 

The only way to tell if too much salt is first to check the recipe has a maximum of 2.5% (pizza recipes can go up to 3%) salt. If that looks OK, taste a piece of the raw dough.

The salt should be available to the palette but not overpowering.

There was too much fat added to the dough

Fats lubricate the gluten found in the flour and prevents the development of strong, flexible strands of gluten. The addition of large amounts of fat at the start of mixing creates a tighter and more ridged gluten structure which fails to expand during proofing. 

Adding fat during mixing often leads to dense bread. It is best to delay the addition of fats to near the end of mixing, after the gluten has developed a little bit.

It is a challenge to do this as fats contain liquid which is needed to hydrate the flour but try and include as much fat as possible after the gluten has had time to develop.

The water contains too much chlorine

Sometimes chlorine or other agents used to clean the water are at high levels which destroys yeast or sourdough activity. It is uncommon but a switch to bottled water may improve the rise of your bread. 

You can check with your local water board to see if they can give you any information on the quality of your water, they are expected to provide these details if requested.

Bulk fermentation was not effective

For a good rise, the flour must be mature. This is created by the action of the levain and the conditioning of the flour. Organics and lactic acids mature the dough while hydrated flour breaks down to present starches and gluten to the dough.

Bread needs long, strong and elastic gluten to be able to retain gas as it rises. Without a good gluten stricture, the bread will not rise to its full potential.

Dough showing good gluten development before the first rise

Bread made at a warm fermentation temperature will rise fast and therefore lose out on a bit of dough maturity.

Further reading: dough fermentation process 

For the best rise, a long bulk ferment or an autolyse should be conducted to develop the flour. To do this small amounts of yeast, cool temperatures and a bit of time are needed. 

Prefermented flour

Alternatively to autolyse and long bulk fermentation, the use of prefermented flour in the form of biga, poolish, pâte fermentée or a sourdough levain can be used. Instead of maturing the flour in the dough, preferments introduce previously mature flour to the mix. 

These additions create different properties to long bulk fermentation in the breads. They must be ripe when added for the dough to gain the maximum benefit of their inclusion. 

Further to this, you might want to read the what is a levain post.

The dough became hard during final proofing

As dough comes into contact with air it dries up which builds a strong, dry layer on the outside of the dough. This barrier is called a skin. It becomes so strong that the dough cannot rise up anymore. We prevent the dough “skining up” by covering the dough with a bag or sealed container.

Commercial bakery’s often have proofers which add humidity as well as heat but for the majority of home bakers a bag, box or overturned mixing bowl are commonly used.

The oven set up

Improve the oven set up for baking bread will help turbo charge your baking. It’s not likely to cure flat bread issuse on it’s own but it will help to give your bread a more proffessional appearance.

Reasons Why My Bread Didn't Rise

Using a preheated baking stone is pretty much a must if you are baking bread. It will help your bread to spring up in the oven which is called oven spring

For crusty bread and a higher rise in the oven, adding water is required. The how to add steam to an oven for bread article explains how to do this correctly. The addition of steam delays the setting of the crust to allow the bread to rise further. 

Solving the issue

The reason that a bread might not rise can be down to many things and often a combination of the errors shown above. The way I eradicate issues in my bread is starting with the dough.

The two questions I ask first are:

  • Is the levain active?
  • Is the dough matured with a nice gluten structure?

Then I can look at whether the dough is proofed correctly before it goes into the oven. The oven side of things comes last. The oven won’t stop a bread coming out flat but getting the conditions correct to gain a nice oven spring will make a difference in the rise.

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  1. I’ve been making the same bread recipe for years, yeast is in date as are all the other ingredients but it’s not rising as it should. I’m baffled. The only thing I can think of is, do I have a bad batch of bread flour ?

  2. It’s possible. Have you tried checking your yeast is bubbling in water to check it’s active? Is your kitchen colder than usual? If not then try another flour and see if you get success. Email me some pictures at: gareth @ busbysbakery.com if you wish.

  3. I did not check, I assumed new packets of yeast should be fine but after another failure yesterday, I will do that next. Thanks Gareth.

  4. It’s less common these days but can happen occasionally. If that doesn’t work, send over (on here or to the email address I sent you) your processes and ingredients (as much info as possible) and I’ll troubleshoot it with you.

  5. My dough doubles beautifully in my oven (in proofing setting), but then I punch it down and put it in the bread pan, and then it won’t rise much again. I’ve left it for 1-2 hours, and still it won’t rise enough. It also sinks slightly when baked. This last time I bought a $25 specialty bread pan (Pullman, 8 x 4 x 4) so make sure my pan wasn’t too wide for a good rise. Still, a big fail! I’ve made the same recipe 10 times, and each change gives me the exact same thing — great rise first time, lousy rise second time. Help!

    What I’m doing or have tried:
    -using thermometer to make sure water/milk is between 110-115 degrees before adding yeast
    -mixing the dough on low/med low with my Kitchenaid mixer using dough hook
    – always use Gold Medal white flour (all-purpose) and King Arthur wheat
    – tried weighing the flour or measuring it
    – bought new yeast
    – ingredients are at room temp when I start
    – tried adding 1 Tbsp gluten (tried 2 Tbsp another time) … no change

    I’m at a loss! 🙁

  6. The yeast is consuming all the available sugars during the first rise and cannot produce enough gas after it has been deflated.

    The first thing I would do is to end the first rise once as dough reaches a 30-50% rise.

    Consider doing the first rise on the counter as cooler temperatures will slow dough yeast activity whilst allowing the gluten structure to naturally develop. Once risen, shape and rise in the tin on the proof setting.

    Another point is to aim for a dough temperature between 77-83 at the end of mixing (any higher and the first rise will be too quick). If the temperature of the dough is outside of this, the ingredients were too warm so change the temperature of the water/milk.

    I notice that you are warming your water/milk too high. I should be 93F. Any higher than 100 and you’ll kill the yeast. You don’t state what type of yeast you are using, so I’m assuming it’s active dried?

    If so, I recommend separating a portion of the water to bloom the yeast (you’ll need 3 times the weight of the yeast used). This way you can bloom the yeast at the correct temperature and adjust the temperature of the main liquid so the final dough temperature is in the 77-83 range.

    -Or use instant yeast instead of active dried and skip the blooming of the yeast entirely.

    For more see: https://www.busbysbakery.com/desired-dough-temperature/

    If this fails, skip the first rise completely. For tin bread, it’s often not used. You may wish to get some ascorbic acid and add a tiny pinch to the dough to improve its structure.

    Let me know how you get on.

  7. I’ve made the same recipe for years with success. Now, I’m having problems with the bread rising. I know the yeast is good because I add it to the wet ingredients, at a temp of 95° and wait to make sure it is active by seeing it foam. I’m using the same flour from the same bag I’ve had success with (it’s not expired) and it kneads in the mixer for 12 minutes, as I’ve always done with success. However, it now refuses to rise. I’ve tried different brands of instant yeast without success. This is a recipe from King Arthur and made with King Arthur flour. The room temp is the same and I always put it in the microwave to rise. I’m stumped.

  8. No wonder! A few questions so I can help you further: Does it rise at all? Is it gassy when you take it out of the mixer? Is all the water at 95, or do you separate some to bloom the yeast? Are you using instant yeast or active dried yeast?

  9. It rises a little, after about 3-4 hours (it used to take 45 minutes to rise). I do not separate the yeast, I put the entire amount (2 tsp) into the liquid. I also weigh my ingredients as opposed to measuring. I’m not sure what you mean by “gassy” but it feels tougher/denser/not as stretchy now when I remove it from the mixer, maybe less moist, definitely more difficult to knead.

  10. Thanks for that, let me just eliminate a few other things:
    What type of yeast are you using? And what is the temperature of your room (roughly)?

  11. This is unusual Janice, I’m thinking the yeast cannot ferment as the dough is either too dense, or the water is causing issues. If you can try these steps we can eliminate these issues:

    – Change mixing time to 8 minutes
    – Use bottled water
    – Add more water so the dough is softer -30 grams extra should do it

    This should work, it might not be the perfect loaf but it can be tweaked if it rises which is the most important thing! Take some photos of the dough at each stage and if you can, email them to me.

  12. Actually, it’s milk I’m using, not water. The recipe calls for 227g milk, 361g flour, 1.25 tsp salt, 28g butter, 2 tsp yeast and 25g sugar. Is it possible to over knead the dough? I’ll make the changes you suggested and report the results. I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me on this issue.

  13. Potentially possible yes, some home mixers aren’t great at kneading the dough and can damage the gluten a little. This might not be the case here, but 8 minutes should be plenty to make a decent dough.

    25 grams of sugar is almost 7%. Inclusions of over 5% will slow down yeast activity by reducing the water available for the yeast in osmosis. Instead of 25, if you can try 15-18 grams, it should help quite a lot. I believe this, combined with a dry dough is the reason why the yeast is working slowly.

  14. I added more moisture and the dough became much softer and manageable. However, after 17 hours, it did not rise, although i tested the yeast again on this next attempt and it became foamy. The dough developed a hard skin on top. I covered it while waiting for it to rise so it’s not the air that caused the skin to form. I took a picture for you but there is no way to attach it here. I will purchase new flour and yeast today and see what happens.

  15. I got the pictures, thank you. It looks like it rose a little, and then collapsed?

    The skin on top forms when the air dries it. 17 hours is a long time and could cause it to dry up. Be sure that the cover is securely airtight. Use plastic wrap or a bag and not the lid of the pan. If you see a skin appear in the future you can give the surface a brush water with some water. The skin will prevent the dough from rising so it’s best to check on it every hour.

    Other than the points we’ve mentioned, keep an eye on dough temperature if you have a probe. You’ll want the dough to be 25-28C when it comes out of the mixer.

  16. A new day, new flour and new yeast. It rose and baked up beautifully. I have to assume it was either the flour, the yeast or a combination of both. During this process I learned to cut the kneading time down to 8 minutes, add more liquid if it’s difficult to knead, to test the temperature of the dough when it comes out of the mixer and make sure the cover is airtight. Thank you for all your time spent with me. ~ Janice

  17. Hi,

    I am a beginner/intermediate bread baker, and I find that my bread doesn’t rise as much as I’d like. I use the Broad & Taylor proofer box, and although my dough rises, I’m not sure it’s enough. At what temp should I be setting the box? I use 91 degrees. Also, the last couple of loaves have come out more dense than normal, although I haven’t done anything different. Not sure what is happening. Could it be the kneading?

  18. Hi Suzanne. 32 degrees is good, you can push the proofing temp up to 100 if you want. This will raise most types of bread in 90 minutes or so. If your bread is dense though it could be kneading. Is your dough reaching the windowpane stage before shaping? It could be down to many things, here’s a post that may help: Why is my bread so dense?

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