Chlorine in water - Dough

Is there a definitive answer about the effect of chlorine in water used to make dough?

Tom, I saw a comment from you back in 2009 I think, saying that it didn’t have any effect on dough. Is that still your opinion?

Anyone here using a water filter of any kind because you saw a difference in your dough?

If you believe that chlorine does effect the dough, at what level do you believe this happens?

Residual chlorine is not present in potable water at a level to impact the yeast in your dough, however, since chlorine acidifies the water it must be buffered back to something close to neutral before it is sent out through the water system, this is where we do see some issues. What we see is the water treatment facility over buffers the water making it some what alkaline (as high as pH 8 or slightly more), this can/will impact the yeast by slowing down the fermentation process since yeast is an acid loving organism. The one place where we see issues with water having a decided chlorine taste is when the water is used in making drinks and ice, but fortunately this is easily corrected through the use of an activated charcoal filter.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Definitely. One of my stores we get water in buckets from one of the grocery store filtration machines. If we use the tap water, the dough comes out flat, is drier and doesn’t taste as good. It cost me a couple bucks a day but makes a world of difference. You can smell the chlorine and sulfur in the water. I have tried filters in the store but nothing seems that effective. I can make a batch at any of my stores and it will be different and the only real variable is the water.

I think you may have answered your own question when you said that you can smell the sulfur in the water which is a different animal from chlorine. When you have sulfur in your water it is almost always very alkaline and yeast being an acid loving organism doesn’t do very well in an alkaline dough. As a result, it puts the skids on fermentation which can impact the way the dough handles, the flavor of the finished crust, as well as the amount of oven spring exhibited during the early stages of baking, additionally, the finished crusts usually tend to either have more color or color up faster when alkaline/sulfur water is used in the dough. You could use your tap water in the dough IF you acidify the dough at the time of mixing. This can be accomplished through the addition of any food grade acid such as MCP (monocalcium phosphate), acetic acid (think vinegar) lactic acid, or citric acid are commonly used in this application. One trick that I have successfully used over the years to address this problem is to add some dry, sourdough flavor to the dough. This is a free flowing powder that you add to the dough to impart the sourdough flavor notes without going through the steps of maintaining your own active culture. These are available from just about any bakery ingredient supplier. The other alternative that you may want to consider as your water, as in its present state cannot be used in drinks or to make ice, it to look into going with a RO (reverse osmosis) water treatment system. Pricy but very effective.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

The water doesn’t change my dough but it does my sauce. I own a store in the city and there is another one in a country town and the sauce tastes completely different but the ingredients are the same.

There is another thing that we did not discuss yet with regard to water, when it comes to water delivery systems there are two basic types employed, closed loop and manifold type distribution. The closed loop has continually circulating water in the water main while the manifold type only provides water to the main as it is called for, hence, if you are located farthest or further away from the from the water main there is little fresh water flow at your location, this is why some people complain of a “swamp water” like taste to their water this is due to nothing more than stagnant water entering your tap. With a continuous closed loop system this problem is eliminated. The best way to address the stagnant water issue is through the use of an activated charcoal filter.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor