Questions about hydration

Auntie Maim

Hi, all :)


Been following this forum for a few days and LOVE IT!  What a terrific site!  Please keep it up.

Have some questions about hydration.  I'm really not sure how it works.  Can someone explain hydration to me please?  I understand only so much as it affects how soft (or not) one's dough will turn out but not much more than that.  How does one compute it?  What's it for?

Hoping to hear your wisdom on this :)  Thank you so much -- in advance -- for your help!


Be well,

-- Maim

300 users have voted.


Trapper valley 2012 May 14

Hi Maim,

Hydration can sound alot trickyer than it actually is.

Hydration is simply the percentage of water within a dough. Do you know of Bakers percentages?

If not ill try to explain.

when bakers make a dough they use the flour weight as the measurement for all the other ingredients.

eg. If i were to make a simple dough of 1kg of flour, 700 ml water, 20gm salt and 300gm of my levain, the bakers percentage recipe would look like this.

100% flour

70% water

2% salt

30% levain

from here I can double the recipe

2kg flour (still 100%)

1.4 ltr water (still 70% of 2kg)

40gm salt (still 2% of 2kg)

600gm Levain (still 30% of 2kg.)

So getting back to your intitial question about hydration. This dough in the recipe above would have a hydration of 70%. Meaning 70% of the flour weight. The amount of water in the dough will dramatically change a dough as will flour. Some flours, eg rye, can absorb alot more water than say a standard white flour and need a higher hydration as to not end up with a brick in your oven.

Also different breads have different hydrations to achieve different results, eg an unbleached white freeform batard might have a hyration of around 70% as to be able to hold its shape in the oven, and a chiabatta can have as much as 85% (sometimes more) hydration which helps give it it's large holes and chewy texture.


Ok now that I have confused you to no end, I will stop.

I hope it helps a little.



Auntie Maim 2012 May 16

Thank you so much!  That's terrific -- and really helps :)  I've been familiar with baker's percentages for a while, but (doh!) never made the connection with hydration there.  (Yep, I'm a goober.)


Now let me ask you this: if I wanted to play with exchanging one flour for another in a recipe, then, if I know what an appropriate hydration for, say, rye flour is compared to white flour, then by rights I should be able to adjust my recipe to account for the differences in hydration and achieve (hopefully) suitable results, yes?  (This also assumes, of course, that I'm not playing games with gluten content at the same time....)

farinam's picture
farinam 2012 May 16

Hello Auntie Maim,

I hope the name is figurative and not literal :-)

All flours are different, even the same type and brand at different times of the year and so forth.

Your best bet is to experiment and vary the hydration with the different flours (and proportions of flours) until you get a consistency that you are comfortable with.  As a general rule, the more wholemeal you have the higher hydration you need to get the same consistency.  The downside is that the bran etc in the wholemeal interferes with the continuity of the gluten strands/sheets and rise and oven spring can suffer as a result.

Just be warned that if you go for all rye that it will be very soft and will not develop like a bread flour loaf.  It would best be tinned unless you want a pancake.  Have a look at the rye bake-off blog for some of the recent efforts with rye on this site.

Good luck with your projects.


Auntie Maim 2012 May 17

@ Farinam (love your name, btw!):  Me?  Literal?  Certainly not ;)  Actually, it's my gaming name; I've used it for years and truth be told, there are times I think I may be doing the same to my doughs! ;p

Good point on the rye.  Been there with my last rye experiments -- I've ended up proofing them in bowls so they don't go completely flat.  (I like pancakes, but, um, not like that...)  I had wondered if I'd simply underdeveloped them but gee, guess not.  The loaves I've proofed in bowls have turned out beautifully, so perhaps the inherent looseness of the grain (because of the differences in gluten development) was someting I should have taken into account.  Nevertheless, I'm still going to continue to mump around with it and see what I can do; the starter turned out beautifully and there is NO WAY after an 11-day development I'm going to trash it, lol!

One of the things I'd like to try, though, is a take-off on the Beetroot Sourdough we've seen on here the last few weeks.  I adore beets, and in combination with rye bread (and some red cabbage and maybe a wurst or three.....guess my heritage, lol) they're food fit for gods.  Now: beets are a fairly watery vegetable, we all know that.  Furthermore, we're all familiar with the fact that beets (like onions and garlic) are also loaded with fructose and other naturally occurring sugars, which yeast-beasts love to feast on.  I anticipate a significant amount of CO2 offgassing during my rising and proofing periods because of this.

Is there any way to "prove" the hydration in a root stock (not just beets, but starchy roots like potatoes, yams, onions, garlic and other like foods) to avoid greater pitfalls in my breadmaking?  Or is this just a test-it-and-see thing?  Given the level of professionalism on this board, I'd hate to think so.

Please let me know :)  I am really looking forward to hearing your opinions and experiences!

Thanks in advance to everyone :D

-- Maim



Polenta 2012 May 24

 One of the best things about baking is the experimantation. If this is in your nature to do so.

Some people are just happy to use one 'safe' recipie and method that they use that for years and never deviate.

By you wanting to try different flour combos and ideas tells me you would like to experriment. Fantastic !

Every 'baker' of some form will tell you that your flour over there will be different to mine here. Your ambient outside and inside  room temps will be different too. Not to mention your mixing methods and yes, even what type of water is being used. What are your proofing methods and what kind of oven are you baking in.

It all comes down to how and what conditions are best suited to you.

If it's too dry - your next bake will have more water in it for sure. 

Try and try again and again. You will eventually have these various, wonderful breads that you can bake with ease.

Sometimes you will amaze yourself.

Even a loaf with 50% hydration and the same recipie with 70% hydration will look and tase different. 

I'm sure you are going to have lots of fun.


BTW  farinam... great link. Thanks.

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