How to Calculate Dough Hydration

Dough hydration. Yes, it’s paramount to a successful loaf of bread, whether baking sourdough in a dutch oven or making breakfast bagels. While calculating dough hydration isn’t critical to succeed, you’ll get more accurate results you’re proud of if you do.

Calculating dough hydration isn’t as complicated as it sounds. All you need to do is divide the weight of the water (in grams) by the weight of the flour (also in grams). Then, multiply it by 100. Knowing the actual percentage of hydration can uncover what type of crumb your bread will end up with.

Hello! My name’s Michelle, and I’ve been on a ten-year-long baking journey. I’ve spent time crafting bread loaves of all kinds, from simple white sandwich bread to more fun brioche and cinnamon raisin varieties. 

I’ve learned the importance of dough hydration and, more importantly, how to calculate it correctly.

Let’s discover how to calculate dough hydration (it’s easier than you think; no math degree necessary).

How to Calculate Dough Hydration

Calculating dough hydration is the only way to know exactly what percentage of hydration your bread dough will end up with. With the statistics, you can learn how many crumbs your bread will have (more on this later – stay tuned!).

Calculating dough hydration is easy. Trust me – I hate – nay, despise – math. It was my least favorite subject in school, and honestly, I’m just frankly not that great at it. So if I can calculate dough hydration, you can too.

Here’s how: divide the weight of the water (grams) by the weight of the flour (grams). Then multiply the final amount by 100. To make it easy, just plug your numbers into this equation: 

Water (grams) ÷ Flour (grams) x 100 = Hydration Percentage

Example:

Okay, I get it. That might look like some gibberish. Let me help put it into perspective.

We will start with a basic bread loaf recipe with 640 grams of water, 24 grams of yeast, 1,000 grams of bread flour, and 16 grams of salt. 

To calculate the hydration, simply plug in the numbers: 640 grams water ÷ 1,000 grams flour x 100 = 64. Therefore, the dough hydration for this particular loaf of bread is 64%.

How to Calculate Dough Hydration – Backwards

Calculate hydration backward? But why, Michelle? No, I’m not trying to be snazzy. Some bakers want a specific percentage of hydration. In this case, they’ll need to find out how much water to add to their flour.

This is just as simple. You will simply need to divide the desired percentage of hydration by 100. Then, multiply it by the amount of flour used in the recipe (in grams). That will give you the exact amount of water (in grams) you need to reach that hydration percentage.

Let me make it easy on you:

(Desired Hydration Percentage ÷ 100) x Flour (grams) = Required Water (grams)

Example:

Let’s say you’re making a loaf using 600 grams of flour, and your desired dough hydration percentage is 64%. You will need to divide 64 by 100, then multiply it by 600. This leaves you with 384 grams of water. 

Why is Calculating Dough Hydration Important?

Baking bread is already challenging enough. The kneading, proofing, and shaping – yeah, it’s a process. Why would you want to dedicate even more time to baking bread by calculating the dough’s hydration? What’s the purpose behind it?

The dough hydration percentage affects the final result of your loaf of bread. Those with higher dough hydration percentages have an airier, open crumb, while those with less hydration yield a denser crumb.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Dough HydrationResult
50-57%A dense crumb; perfect for bagels and soft pretzels
58-65%Tight crumb; ideal for most bread types, including white sandwich bread and rolls
65-80%Open, airy crumb with many holes; reserved for artisan bread like focaccia and ciabatta

How can this help you?

Well, if you’re planning to make a batch of sandwich bread for the upcoming school year (I’m right there with you, mommas!), then you will need to reach a dough hydration of 58% to 65%. So, using the “backward calculating technique,” you can know the right amount of water to add to your recipe.

FAQs

Calculating your dough hydration can seem excessive, but it’s the gateway to perfect results every time – and it’s not that difficult or time-consuming! You’ve already learned a lot, but I thought I’d add a few more frequently asked questions to help you out.

What is 60% hydration dough?

If you have 60% hydration in your dough, it means that you have 60% water relative to the amount of flour in your recipe. For instance, if you use 1,000 grams of flour in your recipe, you will have 600 grams of water (or other liquids).

What percentage is high hydration dough?

Many people want to bake high-hydration bread, such as sourdough. But what does high hydration dough actually mean? High hydration dough typically describes dough with at least 80% hydration, but some people include 70% and up.

Does oil count as hydration in the dough?

While oil is technically a wet ingredient, it does not count in dough hydration. So, while you should include water, milk, etc., do not include oil in your calculation. 

How do you make a 100% hydration starter?

Making sourdough starter for your next batch of sourdough bread? To create a 100% hydration starter, you will want to combine ½ cup of water with ½ cup of starter and one cup of water. That should be enough to get your starter to rise

Calculating Dough Hydration is Easy and Makes Incredible Bread!

Calculating dough hydration is a simple three-step process. Simply divide the weight of the water (in grams) by the weight of the flour (also in grams). Then, multiply it by 100. You will have your percentage and know precisely what type of crumb your bread will end up with.

Do you calculate your dough hydration, or do you prefer to “wing it?” Share in the comments below!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Randy B

    What if your recipe calls for sourdough starter and it is 100% hydration. For example:
    375g water and 500g flour equals 75% hydration. The last ingredient is 100g of sourdough starter, Should you disregard the starter in the calculation?

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Hi Randy,
      No, don’t disregard it. Follow your recipe and add the sourdough starter.
      Happy baking,
      Michelle

      Reply