The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration and wholemeal flours v white

Andy Baker's picture
Andy Baker

Hydration and wholemeal flours v white

So I have been playing around with a basic, everyday loaf recipe based upon 500g white organic flour with 350g water.

This is very successful. I just use yeast (5g), autolyse (20 mins) and then three or four folds (30 rest between) before shaping and proofing for an hour.

I have tried the flour combination of 300g white, 150 wholemeal and 50g rye with the same amount of water. The bread turned out a bit dense (not overly so) but I would like to improve the crumb a bit. If I up the water to 370g or higher should this help?

Any help appreciated.


barryvabeach's picture

Yes, when you substitute whole wheat, you generally increase the hydration.  If I was taking a white flour recipe and converting it,  I would try to make it with white flour once, and then repeat all the steps for whole wheat, add some additional water and wait 5 minutes to see how the whole wheat feels, compared to when you made the white flour version, and if it seems drier, add a little more and wait 5 minutes, to let it absorb and test the wheat version again. 

love's picture

I have been wondering if anyone has developed a numerical rule of thumb for this, i.e. "for each X grams of AP flour replaced by WW flour, increase hydration by X grams," or similar.

IPlayWithFood's picture

It depends wholly on the type of flour you use (no wholewheat is created equal) so no, I would reckon such a rule doesn't exist beyond "wholewheat generally needs more water, add as desired".

barryvabeach's picture

I think Reinhart had a rule of thumb in one of his books, though I can't recall what it was, but as Spam says, it really varies - my guess is a lot of the variation is because there are many varieties of whole wheat. 

bikeprof's picture

whole grain flours generally not only absorb more water, but require a bit more work to develop the gluten network to the same level as a white flour dough would... so you might also try mixing longer/more vigorously, and/or add additional folds as well.


dabrownman's picture

is 3% more water for each 25% in whole flour for someone who is new to baking bread and starting to make 70% hydration white bread - that gets you to 82% hydration for a whole grain wheat bread.  For me I up the hydration 4% every 25% increase in whole grain and I start at 72% for white bread.    which gets me to 88% for a whole grain bread.  But it depends on the flour,  A whole grain rye bread I would make at 98 to 102% hydration but a spelt one or a durum one would be at 82%.  That is why it takes some experience to know what different flours should feel like at different hydration to know when the dough feels right for each one.

The kind of bread makes a difference too.  Cibatta is way more hydrated than a white sandwich loaf in a tin.  The hydration answers change depending on the kind flours used and the style of bread being made Plus there are all kinds of flour whole wheat isn't who;e grain and white wheat isn't the same as red wheat and high extraction wheat of both are also different.  Rules of thumb are good though to get you in the right city if not the right neighborhood.

HannahBufton's picture

Hi your comments made a lot of sense .

have just upped the hydration for wholemeal spelt sourdough & it feels more like white dough  .

Fingers crossed will be less dense !


louiscohen's picture

How do you keep your high hydration whole grain breads from spreading like pancake batter (slight exaggeration) on the stone?

Abe's picture
Abe (not verified)

Then something is not right and i'm not talking about the shaping. Yes, a dough which isn't shaped properly will spread more than expected but not to the extent you have inferred. Something else must be contributing to this. Some things to consider are...

1: the dough is simply too hydrated.

2: the gluten formation has not been sufficient. 

3: it's over fermented. 

Either one or more of these will be contributing to this so you'll need to eliminate. 

louiscohen's picture

Pancake batter is a big exaggeration.  But even after some reasonable shaping (including tension pulls)  and proofing in a banneton, the dough spreads almost into a ciabatta. 

Today's no-knead spread as usual but got better oven spring in the dutch oven than I am used to.