The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Stored Flour Moisture Content

BetsyMePoocho's picture

Stored Flour Moisture Content

Hey Folks,

My flours are stored in Cambro plastic 6 qt. tubs with proper lids.  Recently I started checking my flour's moisture content with my woodworking moisture meter.  I'm finding percentages ranging from 12% to 16% depending on the time of year, never any lower.

I live in a hot humid area in Florida and I've learned to adjust my dough's hydration based on this information. Example; my French Baguette is hydrated an 59% not the 62% to 63% levels I've read.  And my high hydration doughs such as Ciabatta is at 75%.  All bake up nicely, color, crust, and crumb.

This is not a big issue for me, but it would be interesting to know what the moisture content of flour in various areas might be.

(Last photo is today's reading of 13%)


jimbtv's picture

Interesting perspective on this!

In 1,000 g. of flour with a 13% moisture content the water weight would be 130 g. A 3% increase in moisture to 16% would net an increase of 30 g. of water. All things equal, if we were shooting for a 70% hydration level and using a 13% moisture content as a baseline, we'd add 700 g. of water. If the flour had a moisture content of 16% and we added 700 g. of water, we'd have water weight from the baseline of 730 g. or a 73% hydration. My experience has shown that a 3% change in the hydration will certainly affect the performance of the dough so this probably accounts for some of the issues I've been chasing.

With that said I have watched some of the most renowned bakers simply feel the dough in the early mix stage and determine if more water is needed. They start by adding less than called for in the formula, mix for a while, then add a bit at a time to achieve the desired "feel". In this way I'd assume they are adjusting the hydration to the day's particular set of circumstances i.e., more or less humidity in the air, more or less moisture content in the flour(s), and who knows what other factors that come into play. We might assume that they can dial-in the hydration to within 3% but I could not guarantee it.

My sense is that the baker is creating a dough that is within a range of hydration with which they are familiar, and a 3% differential doesn't matter to them all that much. Yes, timing might be a little different and shaping might be more or less challenging, but that is what sets a really good baker above folks like me. They have learned to adjust their senses and adapt to small changes.



BetsyMePoocho's picture


Your comments are right in line with what I've been thinking.  I would add that I think the larger batches of dough that the big-guys mix up it is easier to add in additional water.  Most of my small formulas are based on 500g of total flour.  So adding even 5g more water to the mix takes forever to incorporate.  (I use a Hobart N50 with a spiral hook.)

Thank you for your comment and as I continue to climb this almost vertical learning curve I also have learned to adjust.  Just hope that I reach the top and get to the other side.



AndyPanda's picture

I just posted a similar question and then noticed your post.   I mill my own flour from wheat berries and have always just gone by feel and texture of the dough --- since joining the forum here, I've been reading about high hydration dough and have been really mystified by how low hydration my dough works out to be when I go by the formula or hydration calculator when I know that my dough is quite wet and any more liquid would make it too wet to work with.    I'm pretty convinced that the moisture content of my wheat berries (I live near San Francisco and it's always 70-80% RH here) plays a roll.

I just returned from Montana with some bags of wheat berries --- I made a loaf of bread with flour I ground the wheat berries I've been buying locally and used the usual proportions that work out to 68% hydration but seems really wet - then I ground some wheat that I just brought back from Montana and I had to use more water to get the same texture dough - about 80% hydration.  

That's very cool that you have a tool for measuring humidity.  I wonder if I could take my small hydrometer (from a cigar humidor) and sink it into the wheat berries and get a reading?


MidwestDoc's picture

So labs use an oven drying process to determine moisture content.  Does anyone have a comparison to wood meters vs more traditional measurements?