The Fresh Loaf

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What's the differece between more water % in a starter and more % percentage in the final dough

ramat123's picture

What's the differece between more water % in a starter and more % percentage in the final dough

Hi All,

I have read many thread about starter % hyderation and I'm now trying to understand the relation between the starter % to the sourdough %.

What I'm trying to do is to have a more fluffy/airy crumb in my 1.5 cup rye / 1.5 cup whole / 1.5 cup bread wheat / 200 gr 65% (mix of the three) starter / 2 cups water recipe.

I will try a higher hyderation today but what is the differece between more water % in a starter and more % percentage in the final dough?

subfuscpersona's picture

Giving ingredients by volume is difficult to analyze since volume measurements for flour can vary widely.

If at all possible, please give the *weight* equivalents of your ingredients (in ounces OR grams)

This will help members of TFL to address your problem(s).

davidg618's picture

You are mixing volume measurements and weight measurements, and you have not given us a clear statement of the problem. Do you weigh your ingredients? If so tell us the weight, if not I highly recommend you switch. If you can weigh your starter, i.e., 200g, you must have a scale. Volume measurements are inaccurate.

A simple answer to what I think your question is:

In baker's math the weight of the total flour is always 100% and is the reference that everything else is compared to.

Therefore the Water's Total Weight divided by the Flour's Total Weight and multiplied by 100 is the Hydration %


200g of starter, @ 100% hydration contains 100g of water, and 100g of flour.

1500g of dough @ 68% hydration contain 878g of flour, 600g of water, and 22g of salt  (2.5%), and if made with the above 200g of starter 100g of the total flour and 100g of the total water are contributed by the starter. That's the relationship.

David G


SallyBR's picture

You've got some replies about how to express hydration levels - which have to be expressed in the baker's percentage, so that issue is hopefully clear.

If I understood your question correctly, I think you are also concerned with the difference between water ration in the starter versus the final dough.

The starter can have a huge variation in water level, from very stiff to very liquid, and that will not have much impact on the structure of the final dough, because your final goal is to get the final dough at a specific hydration level - say 68%.    So, the exact same bread can be made from different starters that are at 100% hydration,  60% hydration, 125% hydration - you will adjust your flour and water in the final dough to give you what you want:  68% hydration.

There will be a difference in taste - from what I read here, if you use a liquid starter your bread tends to have a less sour tone than if you use a very firm starter.  But, as far as the structure of the bread, how tight, or open the crumb will be, the hydration in the final dough is the important parameter.    Obviously, how you handle it too.    My first loaves of bread were hockey pucks even if the hydration was approaching 75%  :-)

Personally, I like to have my starter at 75% hydration - but I think I'm in a minority, most folks here like a liquid starter.    


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

"I have read many thread about starter % hyderation and I'm now trying to understand the relation between the starter % to the sourdough %."

There are many ways to mix up a sourdough.  Are you asking if the hydration should be similar or opposite?  I have read where the choice of low hydration starter is prefered for high hydration dough and the converse... high hydration starter used for low hydration dough. Then again there are starters that mimic the dough % of flour and water.  And there are some where the entire hydration of the dough is in the starter.

Water is involved in the overall timing of fermentation.  Without it, the fermentation goes very slowly.  With water, the flour becomes wet and starts to feed the micro organisms there.  With more water (within reason) the fermentation can be sped along.  It also has a pH value.  There is interesting pH action when combining an active starter with water and flour.  The raised pH stimulates the yeasts to multiply, eat and expel gas, the trick being not to overwhelm them or underfeed them (raise the pH too high or not enough.)  Starter ratios and dough formulas are based within these and other parameters.  Other parameters include temperature, time,  type(s) of flour, additives and air pressure.

The balance of liquid in the starter and the dough is also carefully taken into consideration when writing or adjusting a recipe to meet special needs and conditions.  It is important not to get a dough too wet, just as it is important not to have a dry dough if the main goal is to trap the gas produced by the microorganisms.   Wheat recipes exist generally along the line from 55% to 75% dough hydration.  Starters are more extreme... 40% to  250% as their purpose is to grow yeasts.  Their maturing times vary greatly.  More absorbent flours have higher dough hydration levels.

Does that help?



ramat123's picture

What I understand now is that the % hyderation in a starter has two separate roles: the first is adding some water to the final dough hyderation. The second is the effectiveness of the starter.