The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hydration

  • Pin It
JIP's picture
JIP

Hydration

I have recently purchased a KAF starter and was wondering something.  I have been following the instructions to turn what looks like 2 tablespoons of snot to an active starter.  The thing I was wondering is this the amout of flour and water that is called for in the instructions to maintain the starter seems to give me a very thick mix and I was wondering what the effect was of adding more water than is called for in the KAF instructions for feeding.  Also I have posted something in another thread about pancakes but it has dropped off the fromt page so I thought I would put it hre as well to see if anyone can answer it.    It is the last 2 posts on this thread

 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7860/sourdough-pancakes

wadam's picture
wadam

I don't claim a whole lot of expertise, but I keep my starter (not a KAF starter) at more than 100% hydration (1 cup of flour to 1 cup of water) with fine results.  48 hours before I plan to bake, I use a cup of it to make a sponge that is a bit thicker than that (about 100% hydration), which produces a very sour bread.

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

100% hydration means that your starter is equal amounts of water and flour by weight not by volume. 100% hydration starter is indeed somewhat thick batter - but I have found is "loosens up" somewhat as the yeasties much through it.

Hopefully you have a good kitchen scale at your disposal so you can get the feel of what your starter should be like when you're mixing it up. You didn't specify what water and flour measures the KAF directions required so it's difficult to comment on what the resulting mix is possibly like.

Generally, you'll find a 100% hydration starter is made by using a 1:2:2 ratio, meaning 1 part previous starter to 2 parts water to 2 parts flour. So starting with 30g starter, you'd add 60g water, whisk it up then add 60g flour and stir. This gives you about 150 grams of starter which is plenty for basic maintenance. Some people use half as much (15g starter, 30g water, 30g flour = 75 g total) and have fine starter cultures.

These amounts may seem small but you simply increase them when you need to get ready for bread baking. For normal maintenance/daily feeds or refrigeration, even that 75g starter should do well, you do not need a large amount of starter unless you're baking a lot regularly and end up using all that starter (saving a bit for your next batch of course). Maintaining 2 cups of starter is no better than a half cup. It just takes more flour to feed and uses more space in your fridge. Keep in mind that keeping 2 cups of starter requires a container big enough to hold the 4 to 6 cups of bubbly starter it could expand to.

There are other hydration levels for starter such as a wetter or solid starter which you should do a search for on the boards; they have their own pros and cons and you may find these are more suited for you or for some specific bread you want to make.

Hope this helps out some.

--------
Paul

JIP's picture
JIP

O.k. to start with the instructions call for 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour to the starter I already have.  My starter has been pretty gloppy so I am concerned that it might be too dry.  I finished the "startup procedures" outlined in the KAF directions and am to the point tonight that I gave it a pre-bake feeding.  As I said the feeding was 1/2 cup water to 1 cup flour after this feeding I am more concerned I get nothing but total GLOP I mean it is thick and pasty and will not pour.  The instructions said to pour off 1 cup and do the feeding and there was no pouring involved I had to scoop it with a bowl scraperand then I could only estimate.  Now if this is the way things should be that's fine I can adjust but really should things be this gloppy? is my kitchen mabye too dry? any suggestions?.  I have had so much trouble with starters in the past I don't want to fail with a purchased starter too.  Also, anyone on the pancake thing???.

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

This is why it's best to use weight. As Mike Avery has posted here often and on his website, there was a casual experiment on a bread newsgroup not that long ago where a bunch of people went and measured out "a cup" of flour and then weighed what they had. The differences went from about 100g to 200g - that's TWICE AS MUCH! Even when one person measured a few of their own cups, there was a fair amount of difference between each cup. So although you're adding "a cup of flour" it could be a whole lot more than what someone else would add and far off the mark from what the recipe expects.

A US cup of flour, according to the flour manufacturers, is 120 grams. A cup of water, on the other hand, is 238 grams. So your required half cup of water (119 grams) to 1 cup flour (120 grams) is pretty much a 100% hydration level - no one will quibble about the missing gram of water.

I sort of asked before if you had a kitchen scale you can do some measuring with. This will help you determine if your 'cup' is too full - making the starter much too thick. If you do have scales but they're not in grams, that's OK, not the end of the world. A cup of water is 8 oz, so a half cup is 4 oz. You therefore want to weigh out 2 oz of your old starter, 4 oz of water, mix these, then add 4 oz of flour. THAT consistency, whatever it is, is what you want your starter to be. It's not liquid batter, it is a little goopy. But it might be less gloopy than you've been making it. This isn't a terrible thing, as noted before, there is a ratio for starter that is VERY heavy on flour and makes a ball of "stiff starter" which works well too. So don't panic about it, you're still fine. As long as your KAF starter had plenty of food, it's happy and doing it's thing.

And yes, someone did respond to your pancake question ;)

--------
Paul

JIP's picture
JIP

I do have a scale and a fairly decent Salter that will measure Grams and Ounces (I prefer Grams) will zero and is digital. And for Background's sake I am pretty much a noob to a working starter but a pretty seasoned baker (an old post here http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2645/very-busy-day ). I think I can agree with you when you put it that way I have been a little sloppy when it comes to measurement. Usually I will use weight instead of volume but since the KAF sheet went by volume so did I I thiunyou are right though as sloppy and innacurate as I have been I would not be surprised that this is my problem I think when I refresh the leftover after I make my bread tomorrow I will use your weights and see what happens. I will probably be posting all of this later (I have been taking pictures) since it seems like I only got a couple of answers when I aske about the KAF starter I thought I would start something charting my hopeful sucess (I have sort of been waiting on this till I know the little guy is not dead.

Yumarma's picture
Yumarma

 since the issue is (most likely) excess flour which translates for the yeasties to "ALL YOU CAN EAT GIANT BUFFET!!" The only drawback, really, is that the texture was not what you expected. Who knows, maybe when you do mix up a weighted batch, the texture will be nearly identical and you had the right texture all along, just the wrong impression from their "pour off" instructions.

It's not rocket science, when it comes down to it, remember that people have been making sourdough for thousands of years, long before grams and fancy kitchen scales and processed flour and filtered water and recipe books came to be. They would have learned from the senior bread maker to take about this much water and add this much flour until it's about this thick, no grams or cups involved. And they managed to work it out just fine. 

You will too. 

--------
Paul

gavinc's picture
gavinc

JIP,

In Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread, he suggests 125% hydration.  Equal weights of flour and water is 100% hydration.  I find that Hamelman's is the easiest to manage.  I suggest you learn about baker's percentages so you can end up with the correct final dough hydration for the recipes you favor.

When first exploring sourdoughs I was going by Ed Woods book.  When I calculated the actual hydration of the culture ingredients, it was 108%.  

There's plenty of tutorials on the net about these subjects.

Happy baking,

Gavin. 

ClimbHi's picture
ClimbHi

I too started with the KA starter. It was a bit too dry for my liking, but I followed the instructions to the end to get it going, later adding more water to bring it to a 100% hydration. It's been going strong for about 6 months now in its new form.

ClimbHi
Pittsburgh, PA