baked baguettes stacked
Bread dough is made from very few ingredients, and each one counts. This includes the most basic, likely least-considered ingredient: water. The rule of thumb here is that if you enjoy drinking it, you can use it for baking bread. However, there are three important ways water quality can affect your bread quality. The pH…

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Best Water for Bread Making

Bread dough is made from very few ingredients, and each one counts. This includes the most basic, likely least-considered ingredient: water. The rule of thumb here is that if you enjoy drinking it, you can use it for baking bread. However, there are three important ways water quality can affect your bread quality. The pH level, mineral content and degree of chlorination all play roles.
  1. Chlorine. Too much chlorine can inhibit or halt the growth of yeast and therefore fermentation. A chlorine level of one part per million is about as high as you can go without detecting chlorine, and at this measure, it will not affect yeast activity. If your tap water has a discernible “swimming pool” odor, though, you don’t necessarily need to use bottled water. You could portion out what you need for baking the night before, loosely cover it to keep the dust off, and let the chlorine in it dissipate. You could also try using a water filter designed to remove chlorine.
  2. pH level. Yeast likes to grow in a slightly acidic environment. If it’s been a while since you’ve thought about the pH scale, it runs from 0–14, with 7 considered neutral, anything below 7 acidic, and anything above 7 alkaline. Alkaline water can weaken gluten structure and slow fermentation. Water that is too acidic can have a similar effect. How do you know what kind of water you have without performing a litmus test? If your bread is not rising the way you’d like it to, you could try using bottled water (not distilled, however, because it is lacking minerals ) and see whether that helps.
  3. Mineral content. Soft water, which has a very low mineral content, will hinder the growth of yeast and slow down fermentation. It will also weaken gluten during the mixing stage. It’s not hard to tell if you have soft water: Just drink a glass and if it feels slippery in your mouth, then it is soft. If you can taste the minerals, it is hard water. Again, if you think your water mineral content is off, you should try using bottled water, but not distilled water.
When you take all of the above into consideration, the best water for bread making is hard water that is slightly acidic and lacks off odors or flavors (such as sulfur). Some areas of the country are known for their naturally superior bread-making water. New York’s Hudson Valley and the Catskills, the Great Lakes region and Colorado have excellent water. If you’re not sure about your own water, your taste buds can be your guide.

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3 Comments

  1. morlando@tsbrass.com

    How should one go about testing their water to get the most out of fermentation? Also, is a “spring water” that is sold commercially at your local grocery going to be better than your tap water?

    • laura.monroe@culinary.edu

      Yes, you can ask your water company for more info, and there are private companies that do it, as well. Bottled water can be a good idea if your water is “difficult,” but isn’t usually necessary.

  2. blueskytravel@hotmail.com

    YOU CAN GET A FULL ANALYSIS OF YOUR WAATE. FROM YOU LOCAL WATER COMPANY. ALSO, FROM THE COMPANY THAT SELLS “SPRING WATER.
    YOUR TASTE IS A BIG DECIDER.

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