Optimizing Baked Goods Quality with the Characterization of Wheat Flour Water Absorption Properties Using SRC

Food manufacturers generate their success by providing high-quality products to consumers on a consistent basis, and baked goods are no exception. Due to the variety of baked goods available, different flours with various properties and quality standards are required.

Water absorption is one such property key to specifying and verifying the overall quality assurance but does not forecast properties of the dough and final product.

The Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) is a test that indicates the functional contribution of the significant flour components to the total water absorption of the flour and its possible influence on the properties of the final product.

SRC Method History

Water absorption is the quantity of water added to the flour to produce the desired dough handling properties (firmness, extensibility, elasticity) and is typically measured directly by devices such as the Mixolab. If too little water is added to the flour, the dough is brittle, dry, and hard; too much, it becomes sticky, wet, and soft.

There are three different flour components relative to water absorption, and each one has considerable and specific physical effects on the flour. Therefore, flours with equal water absorption value can act very differently during machining, mixing, and baking.

During the mid-1990s, Louise Slade and Harry Levine (Nabisco company (now Mondelez), USA) developed a distinct method to complement the information offered by pre-existing rheological tools. This gave them the ability to better understand the individual contribution of each polymer on the final behavior of the dough paste and quality of the baked goods.

This technique, dubbed Solvent Retention Capacity, is predicated on the increased swelling behavior of principal flour polymer networks in selected single diagnostic solvents – deionized water, 5% w/w lactic acid in water (for glutenin), 50% w/w sucrose in water (for pentosans) and 5% w/w sodium carbonate in water (for damaged starch).

Image Credit: CHOPIN Technologies


The SRC data can reveal why a particular flour acts the way it does throughout production. Both millers and bakers can utilize the SRC data to make sure that the flour used is the perfect choice for the desired quality of the final product. The available data can be used to troubleshoot and modify any processes if necessary.

For example, in the biscuit industry, minimum water absorption with the lowest possible absorption contribution associated with damaged starch or pentosans is what the manufacturer desires.

The below table outlines the individual SRC tests, relative flour components, associated physical properties, and elements of the milling and baking processes that influence each value.

Table 1. Source: CHOPIN Technologies

SRC Test Solvent Flour Component Physical Effect Contributing Factors to SRC Value
Lactic acid 5% lactic acid Glutenins Elasticity and extensibility of the dough Correlated to variety of wheat, growing conditions, flour extraction rate.
Sodium carbonate 5% NaCO3 Damaged starch Stickiness of the dough Wheat type, feed rate, tempering conditions, grinding pressure.
Sucrose 50% sucrose Pentosans Viscosity of the dough Wheat type, growing conditions, tempering conditions, flour extraction rate.
Water Deionized water All of the above Reference  


Another parameter often reported is GPI (gluten performance index). GPI is determined to be the value of lactic acid test divided by the sum of sodium carbonate and sucrose values and corresponds to bread loaf volume.

Recommended SRC values for selected products with reference to both soft and hard wheats have been published by the U.S Wheat Associates. The below table has standard ranges for some soft wheat products:

Table 2. Source:  U. S Wheat Associates, “Solvent Retention Capacity Recommendations”

SRC Solvent Cracker Flour (%) Cookie Flour (%) Wafer Flour (%)
100% Water 50 to 70 50 to 70 50 to 70
50% Sucrose 80 to 110 80 to 110 80 to 100
5% Sodium Carbonate 60 to 85 60 to 85 60 to 85
5% Lactic Acid 100 to 120 85 to 100 60 to 100


The SRC profile differs significantly in relation to pan bread flour:

Table 3. Source:  U. S Wheat Associates, “Solvent Retention Capacity Recommendations”

SRC Solvent Bakers Flour (%)
100% Water 65 to 70
50% Sucrose 105 to 115
5% Sodium Carbonate 80 to 90
5% Lactic Acid >140
Gluten Performance Index (GPI) * Minimum 0.75


*GPI = (Lactic Acid/ (Sucros + Sodium Carbonate)

In practical terms, bakers will typically indicate a limited target range of SRC values for each baked goods produced predicated on their experience to ensure there is consistency in the quality of the final product.

SRC Standards

In general, the SRC technique consists of suspending 5g of flour with 25 g of each of the four solvents simultaneously, followed by centrifuging the sample and then eliminating the supernatant to measure the amount of solvent held in the flour sample.  

Approved by the AACC in 2009 as AACC 56-11.02, this technique contains numerous successive steps (weighing, shaking, centrifugation, draining). For the most part, these steps are conducted manually using a variety of non-standardized equipment.

In practice, this technique depends somewhat on the operator and the equipment. Reproducibility can be subpar, making it complicated to standardize across locations or easily integrate into product specifications.

Subsequent to the adoption of the AACC 56-11.02, CHOPIN Technologies developed an automated method based on a new device, the  SRC-CHOPIN, to limit operator impact and human-based errors and enhance the performance of the test.  

Studies show that the SRC-CHOPIN reduces errors in reproducibility and repeatability by up to 50%, making it possible to coordinate and standardize the whole analysis process.

This new device ushered in two new standards specifically created for the SRC test and published as AACC 56-15.01 and as ICC 186 (draft) in 2019.  

The improved standards provide the baking industry with confidence that the SRC results (SRC-CHOPIN) can be utilized effectively to ensure the quality of flour and determine specifications based on the functionalities required to produce a specific finished product.


Water absorption is an important parameter when evaluating the quality of flour, but it does not identify the underlying composition which determine characteristics of the dough and the quality of the final product.

The SRC test provides millers and bakers with the data necessary to predict and guarantee the dough and final product quality by characterizing the primary flour components' contribution to the overall flour quality.

This method was standardized and approved as AACC 56-15.01 and ICC 186 in 2019, enabling enhanced repeatability and reproducibility to the milling and baking industries.


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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by CHOPIN Technologies.

For more information on this source, please visit CHOPIN Technologies.


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