Understanding pizza dough hydration, and how it affects the dough, is fundamental knowledge you need to make great pizza. By understanding baker’s percentages and hydration, you will make much more consistent pizza dough, and be able to adjust it exactly to your liking! This article will present everything you need to know to master pizza dough hydration.
What is Pizza Dough Hydration?
The hydration of the pizza dough is the amount of water in relation to the amount of flour, expressed as percentages. If a dough contains 1000g of flour and 600g of water, it has a hydration of 60%. The hydration will affect the properties of the dough, such as elasticity, stickiness, and rise.
Hydration is expressed using baker’s percentages, so to fully understand what dough hydration is, you should be familiar with baker’s percentages.
Baker’s percentages might sound complicated, and a lot of explanations I’ve seen are overcomplicating the concept. Therefore a lot of people find it hard to grasp baker’s percentages. But it’s actually pretty simple!
Baker’s percentage is a notation for the portion of an ingredient in the dough, compared to flour. Ingredients are expressed as a percentage of the amount of flour in the dough.
This can be expressed as a mathematical formula:
If we want to calculate how much of an ingredient we need, the formula is:
Let’s look at a practical example. If a recipe states 2% salt, it means that the amount of salt you want to add is 2% of the amount of flour. So if you have 1000g of flour, you need 20g of salt.
The reason you want to use baker’s percentages instead of pure weight is that it makes it a lot easier to scale a recipe.
It’s also important to use a kitchen scale when you measure ingredients, because measuring by volume (using a measuring cup, for example), is much less accurate. And to just be a few percentages off, can result in a vastly different end result.
Hydration is simply the amount of water in relation to the amount of flour, expressed as a baker’s percentage.
How to Calculate Pizza Dough Hydration
You calculate hydration the same way you calculate any other baker’s percentages. If you have a dough that’s 60% hydration, it means that the amount of water is 60% of the amount of flour. For 1000g of flour, 600g of water will result in a dough that has 60% hydration.
How Pizza Dough Hydration Affects the Dough
The hydration level is perhaps the single factor that affects dough and crust the most. By adjusting the hydration of the dough you get a completely different result. Some of the properties of dough hydration effects are:
- How elastic the dough will be
- How sticky the dough will be
- How fast and how much the dough will rise
- How much the edge will puff up in the oven
- How soft and airy the crust will be
- How crispy the crust will be
Elasticity – How Stretchy the Dough Is
When you increase the hydration of the dough, it will get more extensible and stretchy. It will also get softer, which can make it harder to open and form the pizza.
When you increase the hydration of the dough, it will also get stickier and harder to handle. A pizza dough scraper can be a useful tool when you’re working with sticky doughs.
One thing to be aware of is that it can be challenging to move high hydration, sticky dough from your working surface to the oven because it easily sticks to the peel.
Higher hydration will make the dough rise faster and more because the extra water will speed up the biochemical reactions of the yeast. In simpler words, the extra water lets the yeast move more freely throughout the dough, something that results in a faster rise.
High hydration will also soften the gluten strands, the network of gluten within the dough. This allows larger air pockets to form, something that gives more rise because the dough can hold more gas from the fermentation process. Check out my in-depth gluten article, if you want to know more about how gluten affects the dough.
These larger air pockets will form bubbles, which results in a more open, lighter, softer, and airier pizza crust (cornicione), which will puff up in the oven.
A lower hydrated dough will rise less, and you’ll end up with a more dense pizza crust.
Factors That Will Affect Hydration
There are also a few things you need to take into consideration when working with hydration. Inaccurate measurements, adding additional flour or water during kneading, humidity and altitude are factors that will affect the hydration of the dough.
I’ve already briefly mentioned this, but I can’t emphasize the importance of measuring your ingredients accurately!
Measuring your ingredient by weight using a kitchen scale is much more accurate than measuring by volume, e.g. using cups. The reason is that it’s extremely hard to level ingredients like flour, precisely in a measuring cup. In addition, the volume of flour can vary several percentage points, depending on how the single motes of flour are positioned in the cup. This is not the case when you measure by weight, then you know you’ll have the exact same amount of flour every time.
When you’re looking for a kitchen scale, you want something that supports grams, because the smaller units will give less room for error than measuring for example ounces. In addition to that, grams are the most used unit of measurement in baking and what you’ll find in most professional recipes. So I recommend just getting used to measuring ingredients in grams.
Adding Additional Flour During Kneading
One thing worth mentioning is that the hydration of your dough is the total amount of water compared to flour at the end of the baking process. So if you use a lot of flour during kneading, you will effectively reduce hydration. The reason is that the amount of flour in the dough has increased, making the percentage of water lower. I, therefore, recommend measuring all the flour you plan to use beforehand, and not adding any additional flour. This will result in a more consistent dough.
Adding Additional Water During Kneading
When dealing with high hydration doughs, such as 70% and beyond, it’s easier to dip your hands in water rather than flour to prevent sticking during kneading. But be aware that using a lot of water when you’re kneading the dough will increase the hydration of the dough. The reason is that the total amount of water will get higher compared to flour.
Another factor that will directly impact the hydration of the dough is the humidity in the environment you’re baking pizza. The higher the humidity, the more water the flour will absorb from the air, thus increasing the hydration. You may therefore have to lower the hydration if you live in a very humid place. Likewise, low humidity will decrease hydration, so you may want to add more water to the dough if you live in a dry place.
If you’re baking pizza dough at a high altitude, you may also take into consideration that flour generally is drier at higher altitudes. This means that it will absorb more water. You, therefore, need to increase the hydration at a higher altitude to get the same result, as at sea level.
What Is the Best Hydration for Pizza Dough?
What the best hydration is, depends on what properties you’re looking for in your dough, how you want to bake it, and what flour you’re using. There are many factors that affect the dough, so these suggestions are just just a starting point. You have to experiment to find the optimal hydration level for your dough.
Best Hydration for Neapolitan Pizza Dough Percentage
According to The True Neopolitan Pizza Association’s (AVPN) International Regulation, an authentic Neapolitan pizza should have a dough hydration between 55.5-62.5%.
The reason you want fairly low hydration for Neopolitan pizza dough is that you bake it in a wood-fired oven. In a wood-fired oven, the pizza will bake very quickly at a high temperature, and there isn’t much time for the moisture to evaporate from the dough. The high heat will also contribute to a better oven spring.
A lower hydration dough is also easier to open and shape compared to a very high hydration dough. And it’s also less sticky, making it easier to transfer from your working surface to the oven without sticking.
Best Hydration for Neapolitan Pizza in a Home Oven
To get the best possible crust in a home oven, I recommend hydration of 65-70%.
The reason you want higher hydration for dough baked in a home oven is that at a lower temperature, the pizza needs to stay in the oven for a longer period of time. That means more water will evaporate from the dough during baking, compared to a piping hot wood-fired oven. If you use a low hydration dough, the crust will dry out, making it hard. A good pizza should have a crispy crust, not a hard, dry crust!
Dough in the 65-70% hydration range is also okay to work with, it shouldn’t get too sticky. It will result in an extensible, stretchy dough, that’s easy to work with. In addition to that, it will also make a soft, airy, and crispy pizza crust when you bake it.
I strongly recommend baking your pizza at the highest setting, using a pizza stone or pizza steel. And if you have a broiler, use that too, to make the oven and baking surface even hotter. The closer you can get to a wood-fired oven, the better your pizzas will be!
You can of course experiment with higher and lower hydration, but 65-70% is a good starting point.
Different Hydration Requires Different Types of Flour
Unfortunately, pizza dough hydration is not universal, it depends on the type of flour you use. Or to be precise, it depends on the flour’s ability to absorb water. This means that not every dough will be the same at the same level of hydration. You, therefore, need to know the absorption of the flour you’re using, to know which hydration level you should be aiming for to get the right dough properties.
What Is Water Absorption?
Water absorption of flour should not be confused with hydration. It is also given in percentages, but it says something about the flour’s ability to absorb moisture. Water absorption is defined as the amount of water needed to attain the standard of viscosity (500 B.U), which simply means standardized dough consistency.
Because flours are different, they all need a different amount of water to attain the same consistency. This is what we call absorption, how much water is needed to get a certain consistency.
To get to the desired hydration, you, therefore, need to know the absorption ability of the flour you’re going to use. The reason is that flours with different absorption abilities will have different properties at the same hydration.
A flour that has an absorption of 55% will have the same properties at 55% hydration as flour with 65% absorption at 65% hydration. In other words, the doughs will be equal when it comes to consistency at different levels of hydration.
The absorption of the flour depends on several factors, but the most important when comparing pizza flour is the gluten content and strength of the flour.
Tipo 00 flours can also differ hugely when it comes to water absorption because Tipo 00 is a category of flours, not a specific flour. And the absorption of the flour depends on what grain it’s made of, and what part of the grain it’s made of. In addition to how dry the flour is. The absorption is defined by the starch and gluten content, amongst other factors, which may vary a lot between different pizza flours.
Absorption and Recommended Hydration for Different Types of Pizza Flour
In the table below, you can see the flour absorption of some common pizza flours.
|Pizza Flour||Water Absorption|
|le 5 Stagioni Pizza Napolitana||55%|
|Caputo Chef’s Flour||55-57%|
|le 5 Stagioni Manitoba||60%|
|Caputo Farina di Grano Tenero||61-63%|
Pizza Flour Absorption Example
As you can see from the table above, e.g. Caputo Pizzeria and Caputo Nuvola have different water absorption. This means that if you make two pizza doughs, with the same hydration, one with each of these flours, the result will not be the same. To get the same dough using these two flours, we need to adjust the hydration level.
Let’s say you have a great experience with the Caputo Pizzeria at 65% hydration, and you want to try the same dough with Caputo Nuvola. Then we need to adjust the hydration based on the absorption.
Caputo Pizzeria has an average absorption of 59%. 65% hydration is a 10.2% increase in viscosity.
Caputo Nuvola, on the other hand, has an average of 61% absorption. To get the same viscosity as Caputo Pizzeria at 65% hydration, we need to increase Nuvola’s viscosity by the same factor: 10.2%. Then we will get 67.2% hydration ( 61×1.102 = 67.2%).
That means Caputo Nuvola will have the same consistency at 67.2% hydration as Caputo Pizzeria at 65% hydration.
To fully master pizza dough hydration, may take time, but it’s important to understand. When you have this knowledge you’ll be able to understand why your dough turns out as it does, and how you should adjust it to get the perfect pizza dough!
39 thoughts on “Pizza Dough Hydration Explained – the Best Hydration Level for Pizza”
I make pizza almost one a week at home and i mix the dough by hand on the board and i always use a 60-62 percent hydration to the flour weight plus 2percent oil mix to the flour weight and my pizza dough is always excellent….Also add 2 percent salt plus yeast.
Great article… Using a traditional bread flour (like King Arthur), and baking at home on a steel in a 550 degree oven, what do you recommend for hydration percentage?
Hi! The optimal hydration depends on what kind of dough you’re looking for, but I would suggest starting at 65% and experiment from there.
Thanks for the reply! I settled on about 66%, been working out pretty well!
What is the formula for calculating viscosity using the hydration and absorbtion information?
Where from did you get the water absorption percentages for different flours?
Caputo and other flour producers publish information sheets about their products that include absorption. These documents are however not easily available from the producers themselves. But I have been able to find a few after by doing some googling. I don’t have the links available right now, but if there are any specific flours you’re interested in, I can try to dig up some links for you.
Can you find out for Molino Dallagiovanna La Napoletana Pizza Flour 00?
Around 58%, it seems. Check out page 54 here: brunofinefoods.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Flour-2021.pdf
Great article thanks!
Any chance you’d share your recipe in detail?
I appreciate it😬🍕
Hi, I’m happy to hear that you appreciate it. I’m currently experimenting with dough formulations to make some more detailed articles that will be coming in the future. But the dough I used here was a pretty basic 12 hours Neapolitan-style dough.
For 4 dough balls of 250g:
* 606g flour (100%)
* 394g water (65%)
* 15g salt (2.5%)
* 0.3g instant dry yeast (0.05%)
Dissolve salt and yeast in the water, add the flour and form a shaggy dough. Leave the dough for 30 minutes to hydrate the gluten, and knead the dough by hand for around 5 minutes. Then ferment in bulk at room temp (around 24°C for me, if your fermentation temp differs you have to adjust the yeast slightly) for 8 hours + in balls for 4 hours.
How does room temp affect yeast?
I heard a general rule of thumb is that for a 4°C decrease you need to double the amount of yeast, and for a 4°C increase you need to divide the amount of yeast by two.
Thank you for this. Learning much from you having shared all of this. I’m going to try it in sourdough- so, studying diligently.
I’m a beginner when it comes to making my pizza dough, so thanks for a great article! One thing that confuses me is the yeast factors (instant, etc). Do you have any guidance with regard to the percentage of yeast one should use in relation to the flour?
Yeast is a complicated topic. There are so many factors affecting the fermentation process. But the most important ones are the type of yeast you’re using, time, and temperature. It also depends on the type of pizza you want to make.
I often make an overnight Neapolitan-style pizza, 16 hours of fermentation at room temperature (around 24°C/75°C) with 0.03% active dry yeast, or an 8-hour ferment at room temperature with 0.07% active dry yeast. Other types of pizza typically use more yeast and shorter leaving times.
I recommend checking out the mobile app called PizzApp+, with can be found both for Apple and Android phones. Just fill in flour, hydration, salt content type of yeast, leaving time and temperature. This will give you a good starting point. You may have to adjust the yeast a bit though. I always have to use a bit more yeast than the app suggests, probably because it’s a bit dry in my house.
Wonderful article. Having trouble with 1 thing and want to make sure it’s me & my understanding and not a typo.
In the hydration example, it seems like sometimes Caputo’s Chef’s flour is stated when Caputo’s Pizzaria flour is contextually what should be meant.
Ultimately, it doesn’t change the upshot in the final comparison between Chefs vs. Nuvola, but I’m just trying to test my knowledge based on your wonderful instructuon.
I’m using a Gozney Roccbox. Propane. Been making 57% hydration pizzas using King Arthur bread flour. My crust is still not as crispy as I would like. I’m not going for Neapolitan more like NY style. Dough has evo, salt, instant yeast & sugar in it. Any suggestions?
Hi, dough hydration will affect crispiness, but I think the baking time and temperatures are more important. What temperature do you bake your pizza at? And for how long?
In the chapter about absorption;
I do not understand how it is possible that at 65% hydration, the caputo Nuvola is the more hydrated one, because you have to add more water to the caputo pizzeria to get it to 65% as the absorption of this flour is 59% and the nuvola 61%. To get it to 65% the nuvola wil be less hydrated and shall therefore rise less not more??
Please explain more clearly because I do not understand
Thank You for your response
You are right, there is something wrong with this section. Since Nuvola is less hydrated, it should, as you say, rise less, not more. I think I mislabeled the doughs, so I’ve removed it and plan to redo the experiment because the result doesn’t make sense.
Baker by trade ,24hr cold fermentation, 70% hydration, 2%salt,0.5% yeast
There is an error in the begining stating that 600g of water is 60% hydration in 100g of flour i guess the 600g should be 60
Thank you for the feedback!
Hi, When making pizza balls to freeze, do you let them proof first and then freeze or do you freeze right away and proof later since they sit around for a few hours?
I usually freeze dough balls after proofing. The main reason is that I mostly freeze the leftover dough, after baking pizza. But you can also freeze them right away. Just keep in mind that the yeast will not start working until the dough balls have reached room temperature (or at least around 15°C/60°F), so make sure the dough balls get enough time to proof.
Is it a must to pre bake the high hydration dough prior to putting the toppings and baking the 2nd time?
No, not at all! 🙂
Hi! Love your site. I have a Ferrari countertop pizza oven that I absolutely love, but I’m often disappointed with my dough. I use a cold-ferment recipe. But it bakes very thin and crackly, sometimes almost cracker-like.
I live at high altitude (5700 feet, similar to Denver) and the climate is VERY dry, typically 20% humidity. I read you’re supposed to reduce the yeast due to the altitude, but how much? And also that you may need to add water, but sometimes my dough feels much too sticky. Maybe I’m not kneading enough? What do you think?
PS my husband is named Andreas 🙂
Hi, I’m happy to hear that you like the website!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a formula for adjusting yeast at high altitude, nor much experience, but I would try to adjust it 10% at a time and see how the dough reacts. I would however try to adjust one thing at a time to see how it works out, E.g. not both yeast and water in the same dough.
What kind of pizza dough are you making? And what baking temperature and time? The most common reason for dry pizza crust is too long baking time. Unless you make thick pizza crust a hot and fast bake is usually better.
Kneading more can help if the dough is too sticky. The amount of salt and the absorption of the flour also matter.
I suspect the dry curst issue is related to baking rather than hydration if your dough has high enough hydration to make it sticky. So I would try to lower the hydration (start et 60%-65%) and bak the pizza fast at a higher temperature.
Good luck with your pizza baking! 🙂
Absolutely beautiful article….. this is extremely helpful for all the pizza basics one needs to know to master their pizza pie!
Thanks for being so generous!
I really appreciate your kind words! Comments like yours are what keep me going.
Wow, this is a rabbit hole for my accounting brain. Will never look at pizza dough again. Thank you for explaining all of the details. Hopefully everything I learned in the last 2.5 hours of reading will be reflected in my pizza dough tomorrow. I am still a beginner pizza baker but hopefully will advance quickly with this new enlightenment! I am finding it difficult to find a “regular” dough recipe using .00 pizza flour (King Aurthur) for home baking. Hopefully I can just make the Neapolitan style a little thicker… fingers crossed.
Wow! Somehow I stumbled upon this site, and I am so glad I did. We have been making wood fired and oven baked pizza dough for almost three years. This site has some great in depth explanations on gluten, hydration, flour types, etc. Thank you for providing and sharing the information here!
Chris in CA
Wow!! Great article… thank you for sharing 🙂
I use a poolish I start the day before I make the dough. When calculating the hydration do I figure in the water and flour that’s in the poolish or do you do the math with the water and flour I’m using to make the dough the next day? Example: poolish W=300ml F=300g plus honey and yeast, next day dough W=1200ml F=2100. If I figure just next day dough I get 57.14% if I add 300 to each I get 62.5% Either way it comes out perfect I’m just curious for making larger batches of dough.
To calculate the hydration of the dough you have to include the flour and water in the poolish in addition to the main dough (that you create the next day).
In your example the hydration of your pizza dough would be:
Total flour: 300g + 2100g = 2400g
Total water: 300ml + 1200ml = 1500ml
Hydration: 1500ml water / 2400g flour = 62.5%
Again, thank you much! Hope you are still well. 😊