The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter one hydration and dough another is ok?

Bread Head's picture
Bread Head

Starter one hydration and dough another is ok?

I have kept a 100% hydration starter for almost two years.

It is usually 10g starter to 20g water to 20g flour (50/50 Whole Wheat and All Purpose mix)

Four days ago I just started to make it thicker, I read on here 1:2:3 ratio some people use.  So I have be doing 10g starter to 20g water to 30g flour.  It is definitely thicker.........I'm not used to it being harder to mix and so much more sticky.

My questions are;

-What is the hydration % of my starter now and how do I figure that out?

-Being that this starter is a lower hydration can I still mix my levain like a normally do at 100% hydration and then my final bread dough at 75% hydration?  

-Do you have to keep the hydrations the same? and what effect will it have if you don't?


Thanks for your time!



mrfrost's picture

Hydration = 20g water ÷ 30g flour = .67 x 100 = 67%

Yes, you can continue mixing the levain at 100%. Just add whatever amount of water is needed to the quantity of starter so as to bring the hydration up to 100%, then mix in the equal parts of flour and water needed to continue building the levain.

Don't really know quite what you're looking for on that last question. But as long as the recipe ends up with the precise water and flour amounts called for, all other tings being equal, you probably won't notice much difference.

dmsnyder just recently posted a reference/link to his starter conversion tutorial:

dosco's picture

Hydration is the ratio of water to flour, so as mrfrost mentioned:

20g water:30g flour = 67%

20g water:20g flour = 100%


Now, the hard part is to know *with precision* the bit of starter that you feed. If you've been keeping track from day 1 you might be able to ensure *complete* accuracy.

I don't keep track.

However, if you start feeding at something like 1:4:5 (s:w:f) the relative hydration of the little bitty piece of starter will become less relevant once the entire mess is mixed together.

Something nice about stiff starter is that it is very clear when it has doubled in volume. For me, it's a bit harder to tell when the more liquidy starters have doubled.



Bread Head's picture
Bread Head

That was one thing I wasn't sure about is how do you calculate the percentage of hydration of the seed starter that you are using.  I guess you have to keep track from the beginning.

dosco's picture

I wouldn't worry too much about it.

One way to deal with it would be to feed at the same hydration *every time.* After awhile the starter's hydration will get very very close to the feeding hydration.

Another way to deal with it is to make larger feedings when preparing the preferment for baking. Something high (I think I've seen 1:10:10 mentioned here ... not sure) would really make the starter hydration less relevant.


MostlySD's picture

I have a somewhat different way of working with my starter.

Depending on what I am baking (bread, brioche, pizza, ...), the percentage of starter that goes into the dough changes. I also want to be able to vary the level of hydration of the starter. Hence, each baking session starts with the calculation step.

At that point, the things I need to know are: the total dough weight I am aiming at - the percentage of starter I want to use for that particular dough - the final hydration I want the starter to have - the weight of the levain chef I want to start with -  all of which are under my control since I am the one who decides what those amounts will be, that is unless I am trying somebody else's recipe when the latter will determine the amounts I will have to work with.

Once I enter those data in my spreadsheet, it will tell me how much flour(s) to add and how much water in order to reach my hydration goal. In other words, I am not depending on the hydration of my starter in order to begin the process. The only constant is the stiff levain chef that always remains at 50% hydration. From thereon, I can do whatever I want with it.

It took me a while to reach this point in my bread baking. I have not encountered any major setback with that way of doing things ... yet. I must add though that as far as sourdough bread goes, I only bake simple ones, with unbleached bread flour, occasionally with whole wheat added, I am currently experimenting with sourdoughs that include oat bran and wheat bran, without much success yet. Still, nothing complicated.