Home Bread-Bakers v108.n041.1

Re: Distilled water

Mike Avery <mavery@mail.otherwhen.com>
Sat, 01 Nov 2008 08:22:44 -0500
Andy Nguyen commented:
>I feel that using distilled water for bread is _probably_ like using 
>distilled water for making coffee.  I did try using distilled water 
>at one time, thinking that maybe my tap water is over-chlorinated 
>and that is making my yeast less active than it should be.  I have 
>since decided that the reason I wasn't seeing as much yeast action 
>(crumb was too dense) not because of the water or because I was not 
>getting enough gluten development, but rather it was because, 
>well..., I just wasn't using enough yeast!

 From what I've read, using distilled water to make bread isn't a 
good idea.  The mineral content of water is important to the growth 
of yeast, and distilled water is mineral free.  So is reverse osmosis 
treated water.

For a long time I felt that as long as your water tasted fine, it was 
probably OK to make bread with.  That was up until my recent move to 
Sanger, Texas.  I've baked in nine different cities in Texas and 
Colorado with no problems.  And then, I moved to number ten.

After the move, the dough didn't come together, it was as though it 
had way to little flour.  I started using flour I'd moved here from 
the previous city and I weigh my ingredients so I was sure it wasn't 
a flour issue or a measuring problem.  A helpful friend suggested 
that maybe the water was  wetter here.  Except that adding more flour 
didn't really help.  The dough was still goo.

Here in Sanger they use chloramines instead of chlorine.  This makes 
chlorine more persistent - and gives the water a nasty 
taste.  However, my yeast and sourdough were both working.  This 
makes me wonder about the stories I've heard about chloramines 
killing yeast and sourdough.

The water is amazingly soft here.  But no softer than the water 
coming out of the softener in another home in another city where I 
had no problems baking.

In desperation, I bought a water test kit like those used for spas 
and swimming pools.  And I found the water was very alkaline.  In all 
the other cities I've been in, the water was somewhere between 
neutral and somewhat acidic.

Some folks suggested treating the water to harden it.  I played with 
that and got some inconsistent results.  I called the local water 
company and they confirmed the softness and alkalinity of the 
water.  They also told me that the water varied a LOT seasonally but 
couldn't tell me when the changes occurred.  I didn't really want to 
play with the tap water every time I baked and still have 
inconsistent results so I went out and got some Ozarka spring water.

And my bread problems went away.  I haven't tried other brands, or 
even the Ozarka drinking water.  I'm sure the other products are 
fine, but I had been so frustrated by the baking problems that once I 
found something that worked, I was ready to stay with it.