The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

What is your typical hydration range?

Loafletts's picture

What is your typical hydration range?

So I’ve been baking sourdough for a few years now and one thing that I still don’t quite understand is how there are so many recipes out there achieving hydrations ranging from 75-85%. Even “beginer” recipes have this.

The highest I’ve ever got my loafs to go, before coming out of the oven with little or very lackluster oven spring, is 70%. I’ve checked a lot of different recipes from varying regions, most being US and UK, and the typical hydration seems to be around 80%.

I appreciate that there are a multitude of factors dictating this but I’m just looking at it from a broad spectrum and can’t help but wonder if I’m missing something about hydration?

I’ve seen a lot of info advising that a difference in 2-5% is quite a lot in terms of hydration but to achieve the desired result a lot of my versions of recipes differ between 10-20% from the original; which seems a lot compared to 2-5%.

What are everyone’s typical hydrations? 


tpassin's picture

70 - 80% would be fairly typical for me.  Something to get clear about is that I mean the total hydration including the flour and water in the starter or levain.

The hydration needed also will vary depending on the flour used.  80% in a white All-purpose flour will act very differently than 80% in a dough that is, say, 60% whole wheat.  And "ancient grains" like spelt and emmer will act very differently too.

If you have been holding back salt during mixing, the dough will feel much softer and more sticky than if you add it at the beginning with the other ingredients.

The good news is that a good loaf of bread can be made with 65% hydration.  It takes some practice to develop the knack for handling high-hydration doughs, so if they give you trouble for now, reduce the hydration and slowly work your way up.

Or look up recipes and look at videos on "glass bread".  Once you've made glass bread, nothing else will bother you very much.


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I most commonly use 68%-74% in my sourdough baking.  I tend to bake just what we like, and don't range far afield from that, so I'm only talking about 100% AP flour, ranging to 20%-30% whole wheat substituted in.  I get good oven spring in dutch ovens, good (to us: thin, crisp) crust, and tender crumb.  


Davey1's picture

Whatever it needs. Not too much - not too little - depending on the flour. Enjoy! 

Sabina's picture

I don't think I've successfully made bread with 80% hydration. The dough always feels too wet, and it always bakes up gluey and underrisen. Now when I see a recipe and it looks like there's too much liquid in it, I add less than the recipe calls for and add a little extra as I'm kneading/mixing just until it feels right. I am much happier this way.

fredsbread's picture

If I'm using white flour (Gold Medal Harvest King, since it's the only unbleached flour I can get in 50lb bags locally), I've settled on 70% hydration. If I'm using 100% freshly milled whole wheat flour, it takes about 85% hydration. If I sift the stoneground flour to 85% extraction through a 50 mesh screen, I knock it down to 80% hydration. If I mix white and whole wheat, I put the hydration somewhere in between, depending on the ratio.

Of course, all of this is referring to a typical sourdough batard. If I'm making bagels it's much lower, and for ciabatta or pan de cristal it's much higher.