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How to measure fermentation accurately without errors

In this article, you will discover how to manage the proofing times of your dough to achieve perfect results even at home. Learn to visually assess the dough's growth using appropriate containers and simple yet effective solutions that adapt to any condition.




 6 September
Come misurare la lievitazione senza errori

How long does it take for the dough to double or triple in size?


One of the most frequently asked questions I receive when I publish a recipe on the blog or when you get your hands on the manuals of my BOX is precisely this one: “ “How long does the dough take to double or triple?“, but it would be more accurate to ask “How can I measure the dough’s fermentation accurately?

I always try to provide a rough estimate based on our laboratory tests at 20/22°C, but often this information is misinterpreted.


When we let dough rise, it can be challenging to determine in advance how long it will take to reach the desired volume.

We may find ourselves working with a new recipe, or the season has changed along with the temperatures in our homes.

Or perhaps the yeast is not in perfect condition; you may not believe it, but even brewer’s yeast does not always behave the same way. Maybe you want to try a different type of flour: a type 1 instead of a 00, or a blend that you absolutely want to try.

These are all factors that can affect the timing you have noted in your recipe book, often resulting in dough that is either over- or under-leavened, whether in the refrigerator or at room temperature.


What you should do is cover all the clocks, silence timers and alarms, and use your dough like an hourglass.

I know it may sound trivial, and you’re well aware that the dough’s proofing time is influenced by numerous factors. However, it’s easy to fall into the temptation of relying solely on the annotated times.


How many times, for example, have you prepared a dough for Neapolitan pizza, left it at room temperature for two hours just like the previous time, put it in the refrigerator, and found it the next day in the same state, unmoved, unchanged… Unfortunately, it happens to you as it happens to me!


Or, on the other hand, the temperatures have risen, and the next day it has leavened much more than expected!


You can’t expect to have control over everything, and the room temperature is one of those variables that is impossible to control. In this case, we have to learn to use it to our advantage or adapt to it.


How do I manage fluctuating temperatures correctly?

The solutions to the problem exist and are very simple to implement:


  • you can use more yeast in winter and less in summer;
  • alternatively, you can increase or decrease the salt percentage based on the temperature in your kitchen;
  • and furthermore, you can lengthen or shorten the proofing time at room temperature.


This temperature is often indicated in recipes as if it were a constant value, when in reality, each of us works with different temperatures, and it is the least constant factor we have to deal with.


“In everyday usage, the term ‘room temperature’ refers to a temperature around 20°C. However, in chemistry and generally in all sciences, ‘room temperature’ refers to a temperature of 25°C, but considered at a pressure of 1 atmosphere.”
[source: Google search]


Which roughly translates to the fact that each of us interprets “room temperature” based on how we are accustomed to kneading dough in our own kitchens during the 9 months of relatively consistent temperatures.


Closing the parenthesis on room temperature, there’s nothing stopping us from combining different solutions. However, the crucial point remains that we should always be able to visually assess when the dough starts to move, when it reaches 20%, 50%, 100%, or 200% of its volume.


How do I measure the dough’s proofing without making mistakes?

The only way for you to quickly measure the dough’s proofing with near-zero margin of error is to use containers specifically designed for this purpose.


This is something I had read even before attempting my first dough, but unfortunately, no one had ever explained to me which were the “right containers” As a result, I bought and tested an unimaginable quantity of them.


And guess what? Almost none of them fulfilled their task satisfactorily! After countless trials and attempts, I naturally found the solution, and today I want to share it with you.


You only need 3 sizes of containers at home

Naturally, they must all be transparent so you can see what’s happening inside.


They must have perpendicular walls and a flat bottom to allow you to measure the increase in volume with a regular ruler. Measure the initial height, which could be, for example, 5 cm, and you know in advance that when the dough reaches 10 cm, it will have doubled.


They must have the right capacity because if you place the dough in a container that is too large, it will only occupy a small part of the internal volume, making it difficult to assess its growth.


Let me explain further

If the dough in the container occupies a height of 1 cm and needs to increase by, for example, 20%, you will need to reach a height of 1.2 cm. Two millimeters of difference are imperceptible or difficult to measure with a minimum level of precision.


On the other hand, if you start with a dough that occupies enough space to be “tall” at 4-5 cm, the height to reach will be 6 cm. Much more convenient to measure, don’t you think?


Needless to say, if the container is too small, you may find the dough happily wandering around your refrigerator.


The ratio between the size of the base and the height is also crucial. If the container is too wide, the dough mass won’t rise properly, and visually, it will be difficult to determine how much it has grown, for the same reasons we discussed earlier.


Which containers should you use?

Now let’s see what dimensions the containers should have to make your breadmaking day much more relaxing.


  1. The first one is a container of about 6 liters with a height of 16-17 cm for dough weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 kg in total weight:
    6-liter container
  2. The second one is a 4-liter container, always with the same height, for doughs weighing from 1 to 1.5 kg:
    4-liter container
  3. The third one is a 3-liter container for dough balls weighing from 400g to 1 kg:
    3-liter container


For simplicity, I have provided the links so you can take your time to look at them and potentially purchase the sizes you need.


In conclusion

If you want to always have control over your doughs, it is essential to use containers that make your work easier. This is a general rule that you should always follow, and whenever possible, find ways to make your work simpler and more streamlined.


Thank you for reading the article so far. I bid you farewell and look forward to seeing you in the next episode here on the Giochi di Gusto blog!


If you enjoyed the article, I’ve also created a video on my YouTube channel. You can watch it by clicking here.



…And now knead, enjoy and taste!



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