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Storage Starter and Rising Issues

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Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Storage Starter and Rising Issues

I am experimenting with starters this week.


I have conducted several 'experiments' with the kamut starter I store in my refrigerator.


Both have been fed at 75% hydration.  1oz starter - 3oz kamut flour - 2.25oz water.


One I left sitting out at room temp. for about 2 hours after feeding. In that time period it did show signs of growth.


The second starter was fed and immediately put into my refrigerator.


What I am seeing is that the one left out at room temp. for a couple of hours has continued to rise even while in the refrig.  Which is what I expected.


The second starter has show no growth since being refrig.  It has been about 5 days now.  This is not what I expected to see.  I expected it to rise while refrigerated too.


So does anybody have an explanation as to why I am getting the results I am getting?


(Both starters  had the same 'mother' culture.  Both were fed and were doubling prior to their final feed.)


 


Thanks


jc


 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Any starter that goes directly in the fridge after feeding will likely move VERY slowly. Considering that it went right in the fridge, the yeast probably went back to a more dormant state before getting a chance to start eating. 


The usual practice for feeding a starter is to let it rest at room temp at least 1 hour before putting back in the fridge. This allows the yeast to start feeding and reach a certain level of productivity before eventually slowing down due to the cooler temps. 


 


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I have been reading lots on starter maintenance this past week.


Two primary schools of thought that jumped out at me were:




  • Leave out for a bit - as you suggested or

  • Place immediately into the refrig.



I knew growth would be at a much slower rate for the starter that did not sit out.I just expected to see at least a bit of something happening growth wise after 5 days.  It has changed aroma so I know something is happening...Just not that I expected.


Perhaps I am being impatient.


The reason for my experimenting is that when I use to let my starters sit out after a feed - within a weeks time they began to exude quite a strong alcohol smell. I know alcohol is a by-product of fermentation but, being very new to all of this, mine seemed a bit strong.  I decided to try a different method and see if it made a difference or not.


I have found out that the alcohol vapors are indeed less in the starter stored immediately in the refrigerator which does make sense to me due to growth being slowed way down...I just expected to see height changes too....

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi Janet,


The alcohol smell is related to how fast your starter is working.


The next questions are :



  1. how often do you feed your starter?

  2. what is your room temperature where you store your starter?


If you don't feed often enough (standard when baking is 2x per day at room temp, but no less than 1x per day at room temp), it will certainly get "hootchy" and smell of alcohol. The alcohol only happens when your starter has eaten up all its food, and there's almost nothing left! 


Likewise, if your room temp is too high, then your starter will eat through its food too quickly, and again, generate a lot of alcohol once the food is gone. 


My guess is that if you try feeding more often, you should notice the alcohol smell go away.


Another option is to lower the hydration of your starter, esp. if you don't feed it often. 60% would be fine too; it will feed more slowly this way, and can keep longer at room temp without generating as much alcohol. 


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Makes sense! I guess I let it sit out too long before refrigerating it.  I love it when that happens because now I know how to respond.


I have 2 starters. 1 kamut and 1 rye. Both are stored in the refrigerator since I do not use them daily.  Each gets used once or maybe 2x a week.


I will take a portion - usually 15g - and feed it the day before I plan to use it in a recipe. I let it ripen and then feed again at a 1:3:2.25 ratio.(starter:flour:water)  This gives me a 75% hydration level which is what i use in most of my recipes.


 I let it ripen again.  Out of that batch I take what I need to inoculate the flour and water that will be the leaven in my final dough.  The remainder gets fed at 75% hydration and put back into the refrigerator if my storage starter is on the low side or used in another recipe or it gets tossed...


My mistake was in the past I was letting it ripen, stirring it down and putting it into the refrig without another feed.  Poor guys. No wonder they were throwing up such a stink!


Your answer also explains why when I did my builds the odor went away and I got the heavenly yeasty sour aroma.


I know that the optimum way to tend sourdough is keep it out and treat it like a pet.  Feedings in the morning and the evening....just like my dogs! My schedule is such that I have taken the route of refrigerating my starters....but I may start leaving them out and tending them daily since they are getting used more frequently as I get more adept at using them and as my family adjusts to the flavor they add to breads.  THink in the long run it would save time and I wouldn't have to plan so much in advance... 


BUT then that veers off into a whole new set research questions like:




  • How much do i leave out?  

  • Do I take a small amount from my jar and feed it once to build and then add to a recipe?

  •  Or use it directly from the jar?  (I generally use about 200g of starter per recipe...If I kept 200g out that would mean I would be tossing approx. 400g a day if I am not using the starter on a particular day...waste would be quite a bit over time compared to what I am doing now....



Does this ever end???  My poor brain!  :-)


jc

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi again Janet,


YMMV, but I usually maintain a micro-amount of starter: leave about a tablespoon, feed about 1/3 to 1/2 cup flour, and a few tablespoons of water (I tend to keep a firm starter)


I think the trick is to build the final starter that you need at the last minute. 


So if you need 200g of starter for your final recipe, then on your last feed (i.e., 4-6 hours before you plan to use it, etc), build it so that it's about 220g total. Then you'll use all of it, and you have about 20g leftover to maintain your starter. At every other time (ie., when not baking, when your maintaining it, or when it's in the fridge), you want to probably keep 100g of starter or less. 


This approach is the most efficient and leads to the least waste. 


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I have never seen 'YMMV' before and neither have my children.  Can you please translate?  :-)


What you are describing I think is how i am currently feeding/building my starter.


I learned it from WGB by PR.  Now I am trying to gain some understanding as to why I am doing what I am doing so that I can troubleshoot and be more flexible in other recipes I try.


If I were to keep my starter out as you do and only keep the quantity you do would I then take a small portion of that and feed it the amount needed to equal my 200g - let it peak then add to my final dough?  (ie use approx. 40g starter feed it with 120g flour and 90g water) The extra would then become my new 'sitting - out - on - the - counter' starter after another small feed?


jc

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Your Mileage May Vary


You experience of a given situation may be different than mine.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Never though I would be learning a new language at my age!  Thanks for the translation.  I will pass it along to my children too!


jc

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Thanks mrfrost for the YMMV translation, and sorry for the jargon, saves on typing.


If you need 200g of starter, and you need to keep 20g for your next starter feeding, you need 220g total starter. Therefore, to maintain a 75% hydration starter, you would do the following: 


to 20g starter,




  • add 86g water

  • add 114g flour




Let this starter rise til it peaks. 


Then use 200g of that starter in your recipe, and use the reserved 20g to refresh and maintain your starter.


Does this make sense? 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Thanks for your patience with me on this..


I am trying to change gears from what I have been doing with Reinhart's proportions and switching gears is sometimes harder for me to do than learning something new.


According to what I have been doing if I were to take 20g of starter I would only add 60g of flour to it (20 x 3) and then add 45g of water (75% of 60).  A ratio of 1:3:2.25.  (starter,flour,water)


What is throwing me is that you are adding 114g of flour to 20g of starter. That would be a ratio of 1:5.7:4.3...


So my mind thinks that 114g of flour is way to large of a 'meal' for a mere 20g of starter....


So then my brain is thinking that I can add as much flour as I want to as much starter as I want and then what will happen is that if I add more flour the peak time will change - be longer due to more food for the critters to eat so time between feeds will lengthen.  If less flour is added, as i have been doing, the 'peaking' time will be less and, hence, they will have to be fed or used in a recipe sooner....


Am I anywhere near close to getting this????


Then, by leaving my starter out rather than refrigerating it as i have been doing, I can take out the amount I want to take out and feed that portion according to my schedule. For instance, if I want a faster peak time i simply take out more starter and add a smaller proportion of flour and water to it. If, on the other hand, I want a longer peak time I would then use less starter and larger proportion of flour and water...


Or am I hopelessly lost???


jc

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi Janet,


My suggestions will help you maintain a 75% hydration starter and provide you with 200g of active starter to work with, and not waste any during maintenance phases.


First, you said that you usually use 200g of starter in your recipes, that's why I suggested 114g:86g for the flour:water ratio. 


Second, 114:86 is nearly exactly the same ratio as 3:2.25 flour-to-water ratio you use in your starter: both generate a 75% hydration starter. 


Third, the starter part of the ratio does not matter, as long as it's at least 1 tbsp


Don't ever worry about how much old starter you keep. You only need about 1 tablespoon of starter to keep an active starter going!


If you're just feeding and not baking:



  • save 1 tbsp of starter

  • feed it flour and water at 75% hydration. However much you want to keep is up to you. For example, 50g of flour + 37.5g water (that's 75% hydration). That works out to be about 1/3 cup of flour and a few tablespoons of water. 


If you're ready to bake and need 200g of starter:
  • save 20g of your 75% hydration starter (could be less, could be just 1 tbsp, doesn't matter, I don't know how much 1 tbsp of 75% hydration starter weighs, but 20g should be plenty)
  • feed it 114g flour and 86g water (this again will generate a 75% hydration starter)
  • let it activate for 4-6 hours, then use the 200g in your recipe, then feed the remaining 20g following the "feeding and not baking" instructions above.
That's it.
For instance, if I want a faster peak time i simply take out more starter and add a smaller proportion of flour and water to it. If, on the other hand, I want a longer peak time I would then use less starter and larger proportion of flour and water...
No, starter doesn't really work that way. You won't affect the peak time by using less or more starter and feeding in this way. What matters most is how often you feed and what temperature you store your starter. 
Does this make sense?

 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

YES!!!  Now it all makes much more sense to me.


Third, the starter part of the ratio does not matter, as long as it's at least 1 tbsp


What had me stumped was not knowing that the amount of starer initially used doesn't matter in the equation.  That wasn't explained in WGB.  Up to this point I had assumed that the amount of flour added was related to the starter amount.  It is amazing to me that it doesn't make any difference.


What you have given me today is enough information so that I can begin to leave my starters out on the counter instead of refrigerating them.  I am sure more will reveal itself as I get more comfortable doing what you have suggested above. It will be nice to have fresh starter on hand to work with so I can be more flexible when the need arises....like when I forget to begin building my stored starter up the day before I plan to use it!


Thank you for hanging in here with me!


jc

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven


 




For instance, if I want a faster peak time i simply take out more starter and add a smaller proportion of flour and water to it. If, on the other hand, I want a longer peak time I would then use less starter and larger proportion of flour and water...



No, starter doesn't really work that way. You won't affect the peak time by using less or more starter and feeding in this way. What matters most is how often you feed and what temperature you store your starter. 




I don't agree and we have to be clear about what we're talking about here.  Peaking time or the time it takes to peak.  But the amount of starter does influence the fermenting time along with temp and food amounts.  Later....  

cranbo's picture
cranbo

well, Mini is right here, I was oversimplifying to make a point. If you're dealing with small quantities (like 200g of starter) for a loaf or two of bread, then it probably won't matter much if you use only 1 tbsp to build your final starter. 


Of course, if you needed a lot of starter (500g, 1kg of starter, etc) and you tried refreshing from 1 tbsp, it would take a longer for the starter to fully develop.


 


 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

My brain feels like an over ripe starter looks....I was feeling so elated thinking I had finally been able to make sense of what people are telling me here and now the old brain cells feel askew once again...


But there is hope in that I do usually only need 200g of starter so I can do the tablespoon deal.  I will work with that for awhile and leave this more challenging stuff for later when I have a more grounded feel for what I am doing now.


Thanks for the input.


jc

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

up a lot of info by playing with them.  Get too many going at a time and they will drive you crazy too.  I once had 14 going in an experiment and burned out.   Take notes and watch 2 or 3 at a time, not more.  Comparisons are always fun and keep the amounts small so waste is minimal.  


Starters can be mashed into pancake batters easily.


Mini

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I have never been good at juggling too many balls at a time.  My oldest son got quite good at it when he was younger....I never managed more than 2....


Keeping in that vein - I am limiting my experiments to 2 also...one kamut and one rye.  


I am saving the extras for maybe english muffins or waffles....not quite sure yet.


jc

varda's picture
varda

I have been studying this chart and all of a sudden many things became clear.  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5381/sourdough-rise-time-table (click on link to table as well as reading his explanations.)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Yes, his table does fit with what I was thinking would happen if more or less starter was used in a recipe or build.  


jc

Chuck's picture
Chuck

A tip for next time: I typed  jargon YMMV  into Google, and the very first hit that came up immediately explained both what it stood for and where it originated  ...with the web there's no need for things like this to be a big mystery.


 


(BTW, the translation of "Usenet" is "before your children were born". No wonder they'd never heard of it:-)

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

I usually feed my starters and put them immediately in the fridge if I'm not going to use them for a week. They are almost the consistency of mashed potatoes when I put them in but become like yogurt with a few bubbles within 24 hrs.


Have you taken the slow starter back out to see how it reacts to warmth?

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Have you taken the slow starter back out to see how it reacts to warmth?


I took a bit out this morning and it softened up and showed signs of growth...Not clear on how long I should have let it sit before I fed it but after about 3 hours I began to feed it.  It had flattened out a bit and was softer and had a bit of a yeasty aroma. It is on it's second feed as I type this.


jc


 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Is why your starter smells strong of yogurt.  The yeast levels are also dropping off if the starter portion being fed is small.  If half the starter is being fed there is a better chance of yeast growth but normally this pattern of feeding and chilling immediately leads to steady decline in yeast population and most importantly leaves the starter in a weak condition for a week long to defend itself from invading mold and bacteria.  If the yeast is allowed to grow a little before being chilled, the pH can drop (acid will increase) to where the starter can defend itself. Then the chances of the starter going bad are reduced.  


Again, depending on the amount of fed starter, the chilling will have various effects.   If a starter is fed (starter/water/flour)  50g/50g/50g  it will survive immediate chilling better than 20g/50g/50g.  So the amount of inoculation does make a difference. 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Thanks for this excellent, lucid explanation of why a recently-fed starter should rise at room temp before going into the fridge. It's one thing to know intuitively that it's necessary, it's another thing to have the reasons why it's important explained in this clear kind of way. 


Much better than I could have explained at this point, so thanks again! :)

3 Olives's picture
3 Olives

Mini-It doesn't smell like yogurt - it looks like thick yogurt.