Calcium acetate in Sourdough

Joined Jul 1, 2011
So I'm a bit of a scientist, who enjoys a bit of cooking and baking. My favorite bread is sourdough, but no place in my area sells it. So recently I've started a sourdough starter, and I'm waiting for it to mature before baking a loaf.

Now my biggest complaint about sourdough is how fast it loses flavor after baking, generally within a couple days. This is because the acids present in the bread (mainly acetic acid, or vinegar) start to break down, causing the bread to lose its sour flavor.

Science time! When you take calcium carbonate (which is found naturally as the main ingredient of egg shells, or of the common rocks limestone or marble) and dissolve it in vinegar (acetic acid) the carbonate breaks into water and carbon dioxide, and the calcium and vinegar bond to form calcium acetate. When the water evaporates away you're left with soft white crystals that are very hygroscopic (absorb water readily) and have a sharp, vinegary taste. This substance is perfectly safe, since it's just calcium (which is good for you) and vinegar (which is good for you and tasty).

Calcium acetate is used as a "buffer" in a variety of foods, mainly sour candies and breads. As a buffer, it helps to preserve the pH level of the food; as acids present in the food break down, the calcium acetate breaks into calcium and acetic acid, and the acid lowers the pH back to its previous levels. The calcium, of course, is good for your bones.

Thus adding calcium acetate to sourdough bread should keep the pH level low, thus keeping the bread sour longer.

Here's the problem--I've never added Ca-acetate to anything before and I'm not sure how much to add or when in the baking process to add it! I'd also like to add calcium propionate, a similar substance which inhibits mold growth (this you have to buy, it's far too difficult to make on your own the way you can make Ca-acetate).

So what's the process? Do you add it in when kneading it? Sprinkle it on after it rises? Or should it be added to the starter? If anyone has any experience please share! Also, if you're feeling adventurous you could try experimenting to find out. I'll be experimenting myself once I have enough starter to make a few loaves.

Help and comments would be greatly appreciated!
Joined Jun 14, 2002
I dunno man. I think it's more likely a fault in the starter or in technique, if you're losing sour flavor. or not having enough to begin with.

Any way

The acidity in sourdough is mostly due to lactic acid. Using acetic acid to pump it up could monkey with the taste.

I'd probably pick sodium acetate, since I could also use that to make salt and vinegar flavored chips/crisps.

Sounds like a lot of trouble to synthesize and recover worthwhile amounts of calcium acetate.

It would be mixed in with the flour.
Joined Jul 1, 2011
Well, this will be the first time I've made sourdough. I've had store-bought "San Francisco" style sourdough before, and it's been passable. When I got two loaves of sourdough from an "Organic Bakery" though, it tasted great the first two days... then got weaker and weaker, and the second loaf just tasted funky. Family members who've had sourdough, including my brother-in-law and his time in Germany, agree that the flavor usually goes down fast with fresh baked sourdough. So I want to prevent that from happening.

As for making calcium acetate, I already have about 3tbsp, and it's very easy to make; it just takes a while. But so does bread.

I think I'm going to do four mini loaves, one with no Ca-acetate, one with 1/2tbsp, one with 1tbsp, and one with 2tbsp. And see how well they hold up. The winner becomes my new recipe, the losers are destined to be croutons.

(By the way, starter is whole wheat and rye flour and pineapple juice method. For baking I'm going to use 3/4 whole wheat and 1/4 rye)
Joined Mar 7, 2016
Hello there, 

I might be a few years late, but still, your post is the first (and only so far) able to tell me how calcium acetate actually "tastes". 

What i can add to the topic is that in mid-europe there are well-documented ways of professional sour dough cultivation techniques:ührung  (you might want to put this into google translate since seems to be a local german science; however please dont blame me for the results).

It is true that besides yeast(s) the main microorganisms present in the sour dough are lactobacilli and therefore the most important chemical component is lactic acid. however you also can have and want acetobacter or other MOs capable of biologically synthesizing acetic acid. these are regarded as the "hardness" component of bread, regarding structure as well as flavor.

what you do to maintain and cultivate a characteristic dough is to vary temperature and moisture content  by adding rye flour and water in calculated amounts and ratios in a number of cultivation steps. depending on the characteristic temperature and moisture level, you can more or less specifically boost alcohol, lactic and acetic acid production, as well as their esterification by giving the dough more time at the conditions favored by the specific MO or flour enzymes.

In general, you will need to have more acetic acidic, hard breads to deliver to mountain cottages where hikers have their break than if you want to supply hospitals or institutions for elderly people.

The my boss might have kicked me out for a reason after a year of my bakers apprenticeship, however now, as a student of  biotechnology at the university of life sciences i would say you should mix the solid salts into the dough only shortly before baking, since you will  first have to well mix the salts with everything else, but secondly should not suppress flavor synthesis by overly acidifying the dough too early.

Please note these are just my vague assumptions, dont put them against suggestions of experienced professionals!
Joined Jun 23, 2015
I try not to eat breads that last over a day or three.  If you are adding all the chemicals and preservatives why not eat white bread off the shelf?  I had a chemistry professor tell me cooking and chemistry were the same stuff in + - heat = different stuff out.

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