The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A question about soakers

breadbaby's picture

A question about soakers

Hi everyone.  I have a question about soakers.  How do I decide how much water to add to a particular soaker?  The Bread Baker's Apprentice gives instructions for specfic soakers for specific recipes, but I have not seen an overall formula for deciding how much water to use.  I like to vary the amounts and kinds of soakers I use to make everyday bread baking more interesting, so it would really help if I could use a formula instead of just guess-work for the water, although I've become really pretty good at guessing.  

gaaarp's picture

It depends to some extent on how much soaker you are making, what grain(s) you use (i.e., how much water they absorb), and how long it will be allowed to soak. As a general rule of thumb, I tend to add enough water to just cover the grains.

The important thing to remember is that whatever water you use has to be accounted for in your formula. So, for example, if the recipe calls for 12-14 ounces of water, and you use 5 ounces in your soaker, you will use 7-9 ounces in your final dough.

breadbaby's picture

I think I worded my question badly.  What I meant was:  how do I know how much water to use in a soaker that I am adding to a recipe that does not call for a soaker?  For instance, if I have a recipe for plain white bread, how do I tell how much water to add to the cup of oatmeal or the cup of cracked wheat or the cup of wheat germ or wheat bran (or perhaps all of the preceeding) that I might want to add to it?  What I want to do is use the plain white bread recipe as a "base" and then be able to change the soakers I add to it for variety.  I do not see why I should not be able to this, especially if I use high-gluten flour for part of the recipe, allowing for additional water for the high-gluten flour, of course.  I have had pretty good success so far just guessing how much water to put the in the soakers, but I'd like to do more than just would be nice to have a formula or ratio I could use.  I like soaking the additional grains because it really brings out the flavors.

breadbaby's picture

p.s.  I did what you suggested, gaaarp, but then there was not enough water left over to hydrate all of the flour in the recipe, so I had to add lots more water to compensate when I was mixing/kneading the dough.  The bread from that baking turned out very good even though I had to work in alot of extra water to compensate for what the soaker took up, but it rose nice and high and had a really good flavor and texture.  So I am doing something right...I just don't know what it is, though!

p.s.  I did not measure the water I added, I just added it until the dough felt right.

jpchisari's picture

In general whole grains should be considered as part of the flour % in any bread formula using any combination of types of flour, along with other grains such as; Semolina, Oats, Barley, Cornmeal,  Flax Seed,  Millet, Spelt, etc...  They must all be calculated together to = 100%! If you add 10% rolled oats or oat flour you need to deduct 10% of the flour. By adding whole grains to an otherwise balanced formula is sure to produced an imbalanced one.  I hope this helps!


breadbaby's picture

Yes it helps, because this the first time I have ever seen it specifically stated that grains should be considered part of the flour...especially because I am adding grains (like rolled oats and such) TO an existing recipe.*  I think it was assumed that I was using a recipe that already had rolled grains in it, but that is not the case.  As I said, I want to vary the grains to suit my whims, so your answer helps alot, because while everyone talks about the grains/water and flour/water this is the first time I have seen grains/flour mentioned.  So I am wondering if I can use the same formula in reverse...if I add a total of, say, 25% grains to a recipe (increase the recipe by 25% using grains instead of flour), then perhaps I simply soak the grains overnight in 25% more water than the recipe would calls for?**

*I already knew about concidering other kinds of flours as part of the 100% flour percentage.

**I like to play with my food ;)

jpchisari's picture

Rather than increasing by 25% grains, replace 25% of flour with same of grains. Likewise, I would generally consider soaker water as part of total water in original formula. Without knowing the specific formula you are using

Here is an example of a 7 grain bread I've made a few times.

62%-----Water---1lb 10oz

2.4%---Fresh Yeast---1oz

57%----Bread Flour----1lb 8oz

14%---Rye Flour----6oz

5%----Barley Flour----2oz


7%----Rolled Oats----3oz

5%----Flax Seed----2oz



Straight Dough Method

Sift together Flour, rye flour,barley flour, and cornmeal: add oats flax sed and millet and mix well. Add rest of ingredients and mix 10 minutes on first or slow speed. Depending on your mixer this will vary. I have a Cuisinart 7qt mixer and I use Speed 2. Same when I had my KA.

I've never tried this with a soaker first. Try using a small amount of the water to use for a soaker added to cornmeal, flax & millet and eliminate from final dough mix.



breadbaby's picture

Yes, I understood you the first time, but you are still not understanding what I am asking, but never mind...and thanks for trying :), but I think I'll keep on with my "guessing" method.  I must be doing something right because the loaves rise well and have a very good flavor and texture and I am happy with them. 

Btw, this is my recipe for 3 loaves, which I mix/knead by hand.  I bake them in 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.

Soaker (varies with my whims, but this what I usually put in):

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup rolled wheat
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup cracked wheat
  • ? cups water---seems to vary with the weather.  I just put in water until the soaker ingredients seem like they will be moistened enough come morning.


  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds
  • about 10 cups bread flour or 2 cups whole wheat flour/8 cups bread flour, or more, depending on the weather
  • 9 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, more if using part whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup honey or molasses, or a mix of the two
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons salt (less in winter because the kitchen is cold)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • about 3 1/4 cups of water (or milk), or more until the dough feels right

That is what I use, and the bread comes out real nice, with a good grain/wheat taste, a little sweet from the honey/molasses.  If I remember correctly, the last time I baked the dough weighed just over 2lb 12oz per loaf before baking and just under 2lb 12oz per loaf after baking.  Also, I bought some KAF Sir Lancelot flour to try next time in place of adding gluten to the recipe.  At any rate, this was a recipe that called for no soaker or added grains, and I have been adding more and more soaker grains, and getting bigger and bigger loaves as time goes on, with success.  I do not want to replace flour with grains because I want those great, big loaves I get by adding stuff to the recipe.  We use alot of bread at our house, and I don't want to have to bake every other day, and so I like those great big loaves.

Rake_Rocko's picture

While I have not had experience with soakers (yet!), I think that I do understand what you are asking. Based off of whatbthe other poster said about including the grains that you use as part of the total flour you could probably go about it 2 ways, the first is the way that he/she described and the second would be the way you want to go about doing it. Here are a couple examples with the arbitrary 25% just to make things easy.

First way: if your recipe calls for say 1000g of total flour and your hydration is at say 60%, your total water would be 600g. So if you want to add a soaker and NOT change your original overall flour, the soaker grains would way 250g (because 25% of 1000 is 250) and your water would that you would add to the soaker would be 150g (Just simply take 60% of 250 and you arrive at 150. Or do 0.6 times 250 or whatever other way you feel like going to arrive at 60% hydration.) so this increases your total overall flour now to 1250g and your total water to 750g, which is still 60% hydration.

So the second way is what (I think) you were originally talking about. If you want to change the original overall flour total and include your soaker grains, you would still have to do a bit of math, but really instead of adding, you would subtract. So 25% of your original 1000g is 250g and 25% of your 600g of water is 150g, we would subract those amounts from your overall totals. So your soaker would be the same weights but now your flour that youre using would be 750g and the water you add in your final dough would be 450g. When all of this is added together, you still end up with 1000g of flour and 600g of water, which is still your 60% hydration you aimed for. 

Bare in mind, all these numbers are arbitrary for ease of explanation. Also, you can always do the exact same process but increase the grain weight, which in turn increases the soaker water based off of that percentage you use. Because we are using percentages, these wieghts we are using are actually proportionate, meaning, if you want to set it up like this:

(total water weight)/(total flour weight)=(soaker water weight)/(soaker grain weight)

the two should always be equal since we are trying to keep the same hydration Throughout.

like I said this is based off of what the other poster said so i am doing this off of math-ness and my inexperience with soakers but experience with bread. So hopefully I am not way off based here and hopefully this all made sense!! Oh well I tried lol!

bake on!

jpchisari's picture

I'm glad what you are doing works well for you. Sometimes you shouldn't mess with success. Sorry I couldn't help. I do advocate the use of weight measurements for any type of baking as opposed to volume measurements. You'll find that it is much more accurate and takes out all of the guesswork! There is loads of info on this site if you decide to go that route.