The Effects of Hard Water and Soft Water on Baked Goods . . .
As published by Bakers Journal, September, 2001
Question: When producing bread, is it better to use soft or hard water to achieve the best loaf qualities?
Answer: : Hardness of water is attributable almost totally to the presence of calcium and magnesium ions. These ions are primarily responsible for the destruction of the lathering capacity of soap and this property is used in testing for water hardness. Hardness is generally reported as the amount in parts per million (ppm) of calcium carbonate. Closely related to water hardness is pH of the water, i.e. its degree of acidity. Soft water can be slightly acid, but not always. Hard water is likely to be alkaline, but not always.

Both mineral content (degree of hardness) and acidity of the water used in baking may greatly affect the finished baked product. In breads, water represents about 40% of the total dough mass. Therefore, if even minor amounts of minerals are dissolved in the water, they may exert a measurable effect on dough characteristics and bread quality. Both the mineral content and acidity of the water used in baking may greatly affect the finished baked product. A water of medium hardness (50-100 ppm calcium carbonate) is considered to be the most suitable for baking purposes since some of the mineral salts have a strengthening effect on the gluten of the dough.

Excessively hard waters (above 200 ppm calcium carbonate) are undesirable because they retard fermentation by tightening or toughening the gluten structure too much. The minerals present apparently prevent the proteins from absorbing water. Corrective steps include an increase in the yeast level, a decrease in the amount of yeast food used since these contain minerals, the addition of acid, or a reduction in the amount of added dough improver since these also contain minerals). Malt supplementation is also recommended.

The somewhat high pH of hard water is undesirable because the high content of alkaline salts tends to neutralize the normal acidity developed during yeast fermentation. Since the functions of enzymes in dough are significantly affected by the pH of the medium (enzymes act at their optimum at pH levels between 4 and 5) it is evident that excessively alkaline waters, which raise the pH of the dough above the optimum range for enzyme activity, have a detrimental effect on the direction and quality of the fermentation. The alkaline pH can be adjusted by adding acetic acid, lactic acid or monocalcium phosphate.

Hard water has other disadvantages in that it can leave scale on boilers, water heaters, heat exchanges, hot water lines and other processing equipment.

On the other hand, soft waters (10-50 ppm calcium carbonate) are objectionable because they lack the gluten-strengthening minerals and tend to yield soft, sticky dough. Also, the somewhat low pH of soft waters has an accelerating effect on fermentation, requiring some reduction in fermentation time. While soft water may yield bread with fairly good volume and very even grain, its texture and colour are likely to be poor. Corrective steps include an increase in the use of yeast food and dough salt.


As published by The Baker's Exchange, September, 2000:
How to keep water in its proper place in bakery products ...

"Mineral content, or water hardness, is measured in parts per million, or ppm. Soft water - water with fewer than 40 ppm of dissolved minerals . . . will soften the gluten in dough. Using soft water yields soft, sticky doughs that don’t machine well.

So, a certain degree of hardness—or mineral content—in water is desirable. In fact, mineral yeast food was developed to correct the problem of dough weakness and stickiness caused by water that is too soft because it lacks enough dissolved minerals.

On the other hand, water that is too hard—water that contains more than 150 ppm of dissolved minerals—toughens gluten excessively, making it hard on mixers and retarding fermentation. In addition, hard water is tough on water-handling equipment. The minerals in excessively hard water can build up as scale in boiler pipes and steam generators, as well as in proof boxes. Eventually, the scale that builds up inside pipes and nozzles can prevent the water from running through at all."

End of article excerpts


There is little or no need to introduce sodium from softeners or chemicals from other treatment methods when the safe, cost-effective alternative is non-chemical TWT Deposit Control.  TWT Deposit Control allows your baked goods to obtain the benefits of hard water and at the same time avoid the negative effects, something softeners, chemicals, and even corrective measures in ingredients adjustments cannot do.


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