The Best Temperature for Water in a Bread Machine Recipe

Sneak Preview: What is the best temperature for water (or other liquids like milk, eggs, butter, and juice) in a bread machine recipe? Do I need to warm all liquids when using a bread machine? Read my detailed answer below.

bread machine pan on scales next to liquids including eggs, butter, and fruit juice.Pin

A reader recently asked me a question about the temperature of “warm” water. Nearly all bread recipes specify warm or room temperature water, milk, fruit juice, butter, or eggs.

Since “warm” is not a technical term, most people would say it’s anywhere from 90-110˚F. King Arthur defines “lukewarm” in their recipes as 105˚F (40.5˚C) according to The All-Purpose Baker’s Companion(paid link).

Grandma used to say the water should feel appropriate for a baby’s bath. Mayo clinic says that would be around 100˚F.

As a “questioner” (as determined by Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz), I questioned if heating liquids is even necessary when using a bread machine.

The answer? It depends. Keep reading for more details.

NOTE: If you are making your bread by hand or a stand mixer, this information does not apply to you. Follow the directions listed in your recipe.

Happy Bakers Speak Up

“Hmmmm…..well, well, well. As a baker who has always probed the temperature of my liquids, I must admit I was skeptical…bake me silly, room temperature water for making bread dough in the bread maker works great!! Thanks Paula for another brilliant tip!!”–VANESSA F.

How Do You Plan To Bake Your Bread?

1. Are you using a bread machine to mix and bake your bread?

Bread machine manufacturers claim you will get the best results when all ingredients start at room temperature before mixing. Of course, this refers to using the machine to mix, knead, and bake your bread.

That is the reason many bread machines have a “PREHEAT” phase.

If you are like me and prefer to bake your bread in your conventional oven instead of the bread machine, go to question #2.

2. Are you using the machine on the DOUGH cycle only?

Do you plan to shape the dough yourself and bake it in the oven? If so, then heating the liquid ingredients is not necessary. Straight out of the fridge is fine. As long as nothing is icy cold, dump them into the pan with the other ingredients.

Wait. There’s another consideration.

What Kind of Yeast Are You Using?

packages of instant and active dry yeastPin
  • Warm liquids help the yeast dissolve quickly and spring into action when using active dry yeast. Red Star recommends you use water at 80˚F when using a bread machine. That’s not very warm.
  • With instant yeast (my favorite), there is no need to warm the liquids to dissolve the yeast.

When using instant yeast and the DOUGH cycle in a bread machine, it is unnecessary to warm the liquids.

However, the yeast needs to be warmed at some point to do its job. So…

taking a temperature reading of dough at the beginning of the DOUGH cycle.Pin
BEFORE: This temperature reading was taken in the first minute of mixing the dough. No ingredients were heated. The flour was taken directly from the fridge.

How Will the Yeast Warm Up If the Ingredients are Cold?

When using a bread machine to mix the dough, the heat generated by the friction of the bread machine blades will heat the dough quite nicely. This heat will cause the yeasty bodies to work up an appetite and start belching carbon dioxide.

taking a temperature reading of dough at the end of the DOUGH cycle.Pin
AFTER: This temperature reading was taken at the end of the kneading phase on a cold winter day.

Not convinced?

Try sticking a quick-read digital thermometer into the dough when it finishes kneading. Without heating anything, my dough usually registers at least 85˚F. It will often go over 90˚F in the summertime.

What Is the Best Way To Add Butter to a Bread Machine?

1. Is it OK if I melt my butter in the microwave?

Melted butter acts like a liquid and may trick you into thinking you need to add more flour. Too much flour is a common cause of dense bread.

I would put that melted butter back into the fridge and go to step three below.

2. Can I add frozen butter to a bread machine pan?

Never add frozen chunks of butter (or anything else frozen). Doing so may harm your machine.

3. My favorite way to add butter to a bread machine pan:

chopping butter on the wrapper with a table knife.Pin

I like to chop refrigerator-cold butter up quickly with a table knife right there on the wrapper. It saves time and produces no dirty plates or cutting boards.

The heat of the bread machine blades will soften the butter chips in no time. Since the butter is not liquid, the flour has time to absorb it before the yeast is coated with fat.

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Do I Need To Bring Yeast to Room Temperature?

The directions on the back of many yeast packages tell you to bring the yeast to room temperature. I never do, and the yeast still works great.

In fact, I usually use less yeast than bread recipes specify. The reason? I want my bread to rise slower than faster so that my bread develops maximum flavor.

Does this go against everything you’ve ever heard about making bread? Me, too.

But cold water or milk will work fine in a bread machine for most recipes. Not heating the liquids saves time and trouble.

p.s. The same principle applies to food processors. You can make good pizza dough quickly, but the dough will become very warm due to the blade action. Start with cold water.

pizza dough in a food processorPin
Mixing pizza dough in a food processor with the dough blade takes less than a minute.

Parting thoughts: I hope you were able to find the answer to your question. Once you decide whether you are going to let the bread machine bake your bread or bake it in a conventional oven as I do, then you will know whether

More Bread Machine Secrets

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at Hope to see you again soon! 

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  1. Maxine Gravit says:

    I have looked whole wheat bread recipes that call for cold water. what temp is the water in your bread machine whole wheat recipe?

    1. I use cold water straight out of the tap in all of my bread recipes because the friction of the paddles heats up the dough quickly.

      If it is really cold where you live, and your water is frigid, you might want to warm it a little. But here in Texas, where I test recipes, it’s not necessary. If you aren’t too sure about this, stick a quick-read digital thermometer in your dough when it has finished kneading and see what the temperature is. If it’s below 75˚F, then you know to warm your water a bit. However, even if the dough is colder than 70˚F, it’s not bad for the dough. It just takes longer to double in size. That’s not a bad thing unless you are on a tight schedule. The longer it takes your dough to rise, the better the flavor of your bread.

  2. So, Paula, since Tangzhong is my favorite ever technique, should I be letting that cool to room temp before using it? It usually melts my butter (but has never cooked the egg!). I’m about yo make some rolls.

  3. Kathy Castleberry says:

    I like to use my bread machine for kneading only and then bake in the oven. You are the one who taught me this and I thank you. I like to have my ingredients room temperature at least.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Baking in the oven changes everything. Thank you for taking the time to write. Keep doing whatever works best for you.

  4. Vanessa Faukner says:

    Hmmmm…..well, well, well. As a baker who has always probed the temperature of my liquids, I must admit I was skeptical…bake me silly, room temperature water for making bread dough in the bread maker works great!! Thanks Paula for another brilliant tip!!

    1. You’re welcome, Vanessa. Hope it saves you a little bit of time.