The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration Levels

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Country Girl's picture
Country Girl

Hydration Levels

Hi everyone,

I'm a bit of a blonde when it comes to chemistry and working out things like hydration levels.  Probably as simple as anything once you know how.  Anyone got a laymans way of explaining it to me?

Much appreciated.

Country Girl.

mrfrost's picture

Simply a matter of the weight of the water in a recipe compared to the weight of the flour in the recipe.

Weight of the water divided by the weight of the flour is the hydration ratio. Multiply the ratio by 100 and you have the hydration percentage(or level).

If a recipe calls for a pound(16 ounces by weight) of flour and 8 ounces(by weight) of water:

8 / 16 = .5

.5 x 100 = 50%

So your recipe has a hydration level of 50 %. Half as much water as flour(by weight).

This 50% hydration dough is pretty firm. Almost a stiff dough(depending on what other ingredients are used).

Fresh Loaf Handbook for Baker's Math:

For other basic fundamentals of breadmaking, click on the "handbook" tab at the top of any page.

Good luck!

toyman's picture

The flour is your constant (100%), so all your other ingredients are based off of it.  So, if you are starting with 1000 grams of flour and want 65% hydration, you simply multiply .65 (hydration percentage) by 1000 grams (weight of flour), or 650 grams of water.  You do the same for all your other ingredients. 

Salt - 1.5%  (1000x.015 = 15 grams of salt)

So, simply:

Flour Weight x Other Ingredient % = Grams of other ingredient.

Country Girl's picture
Country Girl

Thanks Heaps,

Really simple when you look at it from a step or two back.  Or in terms of grams and mils.


Beth1's picture

Great information!  I'm wondering about recipes that call for a starter with a certain hydration percentage.  After so many partial discards and flour/water additions over weeks and months, how can one determine the hydration of a starter?

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Consistency in refreshing your starter is usually the best way to avoid the conundrum. However, some of us aren't always as exacting as we could be due to time restraints or deadlines.

If you plan on baking tomorrow, then you can always take some of the existing starter and build a starter specifically for your bake. Whether you need a 100% or 67% hydration level, a good sense of timing is really all you need. Well, that and a reliable scale is all that's called for. 

A single stage build will get you close enough and a two stage will get you very close for home baking. You'll also have a very active supply of yeast ready to go to work and sacrifice themselves for you in the baking of your loaves regardless of your choice in building.

YMMV, but I find keeping my main starter at around 70-75% has worked out very well this summer. I've used a 100% level in the past and that has worked too. Lower hydration levels are usually less prone to forming hootch and can go longer without refreshment. They're great for vacation time. Try different hydration levels until you find one that works for you. As long as you understand and apply bakers' math to your formula, you'll be fine.