Could hard water be ruining your baking? The best places in the UK to make the perfect loaf, revealed

From irritable dry skin to limescale damage in your home, the detrimental impact of hard water is well documented.

But, it has now been revealed water hardness also has a considerable effect on baking, too.

Using our 2020 Hard Water Index we can reveal the areas best placed to make the perfect loaf of bread.

It’s bad news for budding bakers in Ipswich – the area with the hardest water. However, for people living in Cardiff, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Stoke you’re in a great position to make that perfect homemade loaf.

Research has previously found water of a medium hardness (50 to 100 parts per million of calcium carbonate per litre of water) is optimum for allowing dough to rise perfectly.

Our Hard Water Index shows water in Cardiff has a calcium concentration of 60ppm while in Liverpool it’s 65ppm. Residents in Middlesbrough and Stoke have slightly harder water, 80ppm and 96ppm respectively but that’s still within the 100ppm threshold.

Best places in the UK to make bread

Rank City
1 Cardiff
1 Liverpool
1 Middlesbrough
1 Stoke
5 Newcastle
6 Sheffield
7 Birmingham
8 Coventry
9 Gloucester
10 Manchester
11 Nottingham
11 Glasgow
13 Plymouth
14 Edinburgh
15 Bristol
16 Northampton
17 Bath
18 Derby
19 Brighton
20 Bournemouth
21 Southend
21 Salisbury
23 Milton Keynes
24 Peterborough
25 Southampton
26 Oxford
26 Swindon
28 Portsmouth
29 Hemel Hempstead
30 Bedford
30 Guildford
32 Slough
33 Luton
34 Cambridge
35 Watford
36 Canterbury
37 Chelmsford
38 Reading
39 Stevenage
40 St Albans
41 Ipswich

Water in Ipswich has a concentration of 368ppm and is the hardest in the UK, closely followed by St Albans, 342ppm and Stevenage, 334ppm.

Hard water has a detrimental impact on the fermentation process when making bread which results in the dough not rising as well as it should. The fermentation process is a crucial aspect of making both bread and pizza ensuring the gluten of the dough strengthens as it should.

Culinary expert and co-founder of The Daring Kitchen, Chris Riley, described the issues people making bread with hard water face. He said: “Very hard water can make mixing the ingredients difficult and delay the fermentation process. Ensuring dough rises is a very important aspect of making bread because it helps to blend the ingredients and permits the growth of yeast.”

Despite the research revealing Cardiff as one of the best areas in the UK to make bread in, analysis of Google search trend data shows residents in the Welsh capital have baked the least during lockdown. In contrast, the search data reveals people in Bristol have been baking the most in lockdown followed by residents in Salisbury and Watford. On the whole, searches for ‘how to make bread’, ‘bread recipe’ and ‘pizza recipe’ increased by 535% during lockdown compared with the same four month period last year.

The areas baking the most during lockdown

Rank City Residents per baking related search
1 Bristol 29
2 Salisbury 32
3 Watford 33
3 Cambridge 33
3 Reading 33
6 Bedford 41
7 Peterborough 42
8 Oxford 43
8 Hemel Hempstead 43
10 Edinburgh 47
10 Newcastle 47

If you’re having problems perfecting your loaf, Chris has these two top tips:

Be precise – While it can be tempting to stray from the measurements, make sure you stick to the recipe once you’ve found one that works for you. Sticking to timings is also crucially important – if this is something you struggle with Chris recommends using a timer.

Allow enough time for proofing – A lot of recipes will call for a second rising process so make sure you allow time for that. To check you’ve proofed your dough for the right amount of time, poke your dough with your finger – it should leave a small indentation and spring back slowly.


To rank the best places to make bread in the UK we used the data from our 2020 Hard Water index alongside research from Bakers Journal which has highlighted water with a calcium concentration of 50 to 100ppm is optimum for dough to rise. To work out the areas which had been baking the most during lockdown we analysed data from April to July 2020 for the search terms ‘how to make bread’, ‘bread recipe’ and ‘pizza recipe’ and compared this to population data.

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Winchester, Hampshire

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Eastbury, Berkshire

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Camberley, Surrey

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Southampton, Hampshire

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