The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Decreasing bulk fermentation times...

BackdoorBakery's picture

Decreasing bulk fermentation times...


I have been experimenting with naturally leavened breads for a few years and really have no complaints other than my bulk fermentation seems to DRAG and DRAG at times. Most of them take anywhere from 5-8 hours (country pain leavin) to 12! (with whole wheat desem styles) before i get any increase in dough volume, and not double - MAYBE 1.5 or 1.25x. Is there a way i can gauge when bulk ferm is done by touch instead of size?

so whats your safest way to hasten bulk fermentation times? maybe add more starter (I do about 20-30 % levain), warmer waters, less s+f and more vigorous kneading? what is the highest temp the water can be without causing enzyme problems, my house is a cold concrete slab and I NEED to ferment in 4 hours, not 8! any bright ideas? would love to hear what you do

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or start the fermenting earlier so it has plenty of time to ferment and rise.   You can also add salt later, say an hour into the bulk fermenting time.  

If you push natural yeast ferment times shorter, you might as well not use sourdough.  Try adding some yeast to the dough with high amounts of peaking starter to speed things up.  A little rye flour also helps.   I feel one of the worst bread sins is to push short fermentation, a major downfall of industial bread baking.  There is a big difference not only in taste but digestion as well.    


Yerffej's picture

Time (long) is your friend when it comes to flavor and nutritional value.    Take away the long fermentation and the final product will suffer. 

Knowing that, you can mix with warm water, ferment in a warmer spot, and/or use more starter.  Test bulk fermentation for ripeness the same way you do the final proof, that is, by way of pushing on the dough and gauging its response.



proth5's picture

and dough temperature.

Two vital things.  Is your starter well fed and well maintained?  (Too many posts on that topic for me to repeat - use the search function)

What is your dough temperature?  Usually we shoot for something around 75-76F.  If your environment is cold you may want to shoot a little higher.  It is well worth the time to take air temperature, pre ferment tempearture, and flour temperature and calculate the temperature that your water should be to hit the desired dough temperature.

You may have to find a cozy spot for the dough during the bulk ferment, but if you start at the right temperature, it will be easier to maintain the right temperature.

Also, how long doubling will take depends on how well your dough is developed at the beginning of the fermentation period.  If it is well developed, it will hold gases better and rise faster.  So while not saying more vigorous kneading, I would say you need to pay attention to proper dough development.  If it is relatively undeveloped at the end of the mix period, you may wish to do a few stretch and folds at short intervals in the beginning of the bulk ferment to get the dough developed more quickly.

My pure levain based breads get (barely) through the bulk ferment in 4 hours (with one fold at 2 hours) at a DDT of 75F in a 70-75F environment. You may be asking just a bit too much for 4 hours - but you might get it.

Hope this helps.


Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

is an oldie but goodie.

I'll bet temperature is your culprit.




Davo's picture

I think it's a mistake to require doubling during the bulk ferment. I'm happy if it's got a bit of puffiness and some small holes starting to be evident when you cut into the dough. This way there is still some oomph left for the proof after shaping loaves, and you don't want the dough totally spent in the proof either or you will get no oven spring.