The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lilacs, sourdough, and chlorine

edh's picture

Lilacs, sourdough, and chlorine

Hi all,

Browndog; I loved your blog entry of lilacs etc! We must be about 2 weeks behind everyone else; the lilacs are still just the tiniest buds here.

On a bread-ier note, some one wrote in a while ago asking if using the water from a Britta filter would be ok for a sourdough starter. I don't remember who it was, but if you're reading this, NO!

I've been whining on and off for a couple of months that I couldn't make a starter do more than get started, and I only just figured out why. I'd seen Bill's warnings about chlorinated water, but figured my filter would take care of that. Not. After watching the wonderful epic starter blog, I finally started yet another attempt, but this time used bottled water after the 3 days of juice. Surprise! I now have two bouncing baby starters (I revived the most recent victim of chlorination as well) waiting to mature another week or so before baking.

Now, admittedly we have crazy-high chlorine levels in our tap water here. The source of the town's water, well, I prefer not to think about it too much, let's just say there are a lot of dubious septic systems within reach of it. In the winter (when I briefly had a viable starter) the unwanted critters can't grow, and the chlorine levels are lower. As the weather warms, however, the water company has to keep us all from getting sick, soo... My son came into the kitchen recently and asked why it smelled like a swimming pool.

So, don't trust a filter to take the chlorine out, and thanks to all of you for all the help and advice on starters!!


Susan's picture

We're looking forward to seeing photos.


Rosalie's picture

I have a reverse osmosis system.  Early on I saw that the purified water just didn't seem to be working in yeast breads.  I assumed that it was because the water was too pure, not because there were still residues of chlorine.

Anyway, I noticed that many of the recipes specified spring water.  So now I keep a 2.5 gallon container of Arrowhead spring water on top of my refrigerator just to use for baking.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In general, if your water tastes good, it will allow you to start and maintain starters.

However, if you do have chlorine issues, it is worth noting that most filters don't remove chlorine. Allowing the water to sit overnight, or boiling it and letting it cool do better. Except for persistent forms of chlorine, such as chloramine. Your water department can tell you what sort of chlorine they use, and how much. And that in turn will let you check the documentation for your water filter to see if it removes the variety of chlorine you have in your water.

A big issue with any form of treated water, such as filtered, reverse osmosis, distilled, and so on is that you can lose minerals that make yeast and bacteria happy, and some systems such as water softeners add small amounts of salt to the water which may not help yeast or sourdough bacteria.

If you use bottled water, try to avoid distilled or reverse osmosis water as they are a bit too pure.




Squid's picture

If you use bottled water, try to avoid distilled or reverse osmosis water as they are a bit too pure.

I'll have to switch over to spring water. I've been using distilled water for my starters.

xlperro's picture

you're right, chloramines are the tough one.

As a homebrewer I also try to get rid of any chlorine when brewing. It's easiest to use spring water, but if you want to work with tap water, there are some things you can do. I'm not sure how it would affect your baking results, but this link has a few tips related to removing it from your brewing water.

An exerpt:

Although many reducing agents can be used to dechlorinate water, the ones that are most accessible to homebrewers are sodium metabisulfite or its cousin, potassium metabisulfite (commonly found in the Campden tablets used by winemakers). These compounds will remove chlorine from both sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and chloramine treated waters. The reaction converts chlorine into chloride and the sulfite is converted to sulfate. Chloride has no affect on aroma, is found in most water and is added by many brewers in the form of calcium chloride. Likewise, sulfate is a normal constituent of water and is added in the form of calcium sulfate by brewers. When this reaction occurs with chloramines, there are also ammonium ions released into the water. Again, this is no big deal because ammonium ions are found in a brewers mash and come from the malt. Keep in mind, we are talking about very low concentrations of all of these reaction products due to the low concentrations of chlorine and metabisulfite involved in the reaction.