The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Starter... Tap water, filtered water, or bottled water??

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Byounghusband's picture

Sourdough Starter... Tap water, filtered water, or bottled water??

I have some starter going, from Carl's...  I used two different directions form their website and the first time - NOTHING...  :-(

I tried again with a different set of instructions and it went crazy!!  Success  :-)

I have been told to use NON-Chlorinated water.  Others use tap water..  So which is best?  I have filtered water from the fridge as well...  Which is best to use?

I did get quite a crusty layer on top of the liquor when I fed the starter the 2nd time.  Any idea what that ws? 

It now has a nice sour smell to it and I plan on baking some bread this weekend...



logdrum's picture

but let it sit out uncovered (actually uncapped, as it is in a 1 gl jug) to dispel the chlorine. Never had a problem. I believe the maxim is: "If it's good enough to drink, it's good enough to make bread".



thomaschacon75's picture

...let some tap water sit out overnight.

If it's any consolation, I've worked at environmental labs that have used this technique for actual lab tests. Granted, the lab should have been using distilled water, but our manager was a spendthrift.

Yumarama's picture

Some municipalities water plants use chlorine to treat the water, which can dissipate by letting the water stand in the open for a day or so.

Others use chloramine which does NOT dissipate quite so easily and can be a problem for your new culture since it's purpose is to kill organisms. Look up your town's website and see if they use chloramines in the water. If so, you can use bottled spring water. Filtered water from the fridge won't remove the chloramine.

I'm not sure how you're getting a "crust" on your starter unless you aren't covering it. If that's the case, cover it loosely with the jar's lid or some plastic wrap. It shouldn't be drying up.


Jahosacat's picture

I have multiple aquariums and live in a city that treats its' water with chloramine. Fish do not do well with chlorinated water. When I only had 1 or 2 aquariums I let the water sit at least 24 hours before using it in the aquariums and had no problems. As I've added more aquariums that has become impractical and I now buy, by the gallon, a chemical to treat the water. (One gal lasts me at least 9 months) If water left to sit works for tropical fish, it should work for bread. I hope I don't need to go to the extreme of using the chemicals for bread. (The chemical I use needs 5 drops to treat 2 1/2 gal).

rprata's picture

I tried 3-4 times to get a starter going with tap water and it never got going.. several people told me to use bottled water, so I picked up a gallon of distilled water and used that, and the starter started much better... now I am just using bottled / spring water to feed the starter and also to make bread with.  It's 30 cents a gallon and I can make several loaves with a gallon of water, so 30 cents goes a LONG way.  Of course your mileage may vary with regards to tap water; a lot of folks have ok luck with tap water.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Actually, it's the Brita water filter system and it works well for me. I use it with my starter, for baking, and I drink the water as well. The pitcher isn't a sealed unit so I suspect that if any chlorine is left after going through the filter there's a good chance it will have off-gassed before I use the water.

flournwater's picture

Do you know the Ph and mineral content of your tap water?  Water with a low PH will be more acidic and will weaken the gluten structure in your bread dough.

I'm fortunate enough to have tap water with a moderate Ph and a well balanced mineral content which eliminates my having to rely on alternative water sources.

althetrainer's picture

I know our city water is chlorinated also supplemented with chloramines but I don't seem to have problems using just tap water to keep my SD starter going.  Unlike my SD starter, my water kefir grains don't do well at all in city water.  On the other hand, they do only a bit better even with bottled/minerals water.  So I guess my water kefir grains are just fussy!  :-)


Byounghusband's picture

Wow!!  Thanks for all the responses.  I will try to check to see if the water is CloriMated.  If not, I will use the tap water and let it sit a day or so ahead of time....


As for the cruton the starter, it was covered, a damp towel loosely over the bowl, but not touching the starter. It was in the oven with a light on.  the towel was dry, so I guess the starter started to dry as well.

KosherSalt's picture

I can't imagine that chlorinated water is good for starter.  Water filters that have carbon will absorb the cholirne  for sure.  I think carbon will remove the chloramines also, but I am not sure.  How much other than H 2 O do you want in your water?

Jahosacat's picture

Brita's website says it removes chlorine, it doesn't say anything about chloramines and I think these days most municipal water systems treat with chloramines. That said, I have multiple aquariums and the carbon in the filters does not remove chlorine/chloramines; I buy a chemical which does that. You can't get perfectly pure water anywhere; even well water has minerals and whatever else gets in the water. If you're serious about what's in your water, call your city and get a water quality report; my city sends them out yearly.

When I first started baking bread and then again when I started making sourdough bread I'd treat my water with the same drops I use for my aquariums. I never saw any difference in taste.

BTW, if all you're trying to remove from water is chlorine, just let it sit for 24hrs - I've done that for my aquariums when I've run out of water treatment.  I'm sure this is safe as tropical fish don't handle chlorine well; it tends to kill them.

Chuck's picture

Usually the level of chlorine in your tap water won't kill yeast. The problem is the powers that control water supplies in the U.S. are quite likely to change the level of chlorine in your tap water quite drastically fairly frequently, and not tell you when they do! Your bread will work fine, and work fine, and work fine, and then all of a sudden not rise at all. Humans are not very good meters of the chlorine level in tap water  ...after all it "looks" the same.

The easiest way to avoid going nutso is to pick a method (bottled water, filtered water if non-chloramine, setting out overnight if non-chloramine) for removing the chlorine from your baking water and stick with it all the time. Even though it's not really necessary most of the time, it's a cheap insurance policy.

If you buy bottled water, do note the difference between mineral water and distilled water. It's arguable whether or not it makes much difference for bread, but for sourdough starter it clearly does matter. Don't use distilled water to refresh a starter; sooner or later the complete lack of minerals will starve the culture (sorta like people getting scurvy from no trace vitamins  ...except it's yeast).

rossnroller's picture

...I use a simple Brita filter jug to filter the 'taste' out of chlorinated tap water. Doubtless there remains some sort of residue of treatment chemicals or minerals or whatever, but I am mostly interested in taking appropriate practical measures to optimise the quality of my bread. I figure that water that tastes pure - even if it's not - is better than tap water that tastes...well, you know.

An interesting little addendum:
I set out a few clean glass containers to catch some rain water for breadmaking a couple of days back. I was bemused to observe tiny fragments of blackish material in the water that had collected. I could have picked or strained them out, but was concerned that they might have come from a sipping rat's whiskers, or something. When this contamination recurred on three occasions and in every container, I realised that the miniscule alien fragments were probably from the South American volcanic ash cloud that has been grounding flights across Australia. Bad timing!

Best of baking all.

G-man's picture

I use water filtered through a Brita pitcher as well for my starter.

The only problem is I made a huge mistake and also used the water to fill my cats' water bowls once. Now the beasts turn up their noses at tap water.