The Fresh Loaf

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Why isn't my starter doubling any more?

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verve's picture
verve

Why isn't my starter doubling any more?

hello everyone and thanks for the help.

 

I've been baking with sourdough starters for about 6 months now. my starter used to double within 5-8 hours before but now it stopped doing it and im not sure why?

I feed my starter (thats in the fridge) once a week with equal water and flour weights.

 

When I want to make bread I tend to take the starter out of the fridge in the morning, dump half of it away, and then feed it double the amount that's left of the starter after dumping half. I then wait for it to double before making my dough.

The porblem is that not only it doesnt double like it used to but the bubbles are TINY. I get lots and lots of them but they are very small.  The top becomes very forthy which I assume is good? When I check people's starters online they all seem to have such massive holes in it, why are mine so microscopic?

 

It usually rises about 25% of its content in 2-3 hours and then immidiatey begins to recede and go down...?

 

Im in london so temperatures aren't hot at all... around 18 celcius in the room but I've tried putting it in hotter places without any luck, it just rises quicker and recedes quicker. Everywhere I read people say about 8 hours for doubling but if I leave it alone for 8 hours the starter almost looks dead...

 

I have also tried putting more flour and water in (instead of double the amount) and that hasn't really worked either...

Olof's picture
Olof

You starter need more time and feeding to revive after being in the fridge. I keep mine in the fridge, 45gr of starter. If I'm not baking I take it out once a week, discard 2/3 so I have 15gr left. I feed that with 15gr rye and 15gr water, let it rest on the kitchen counter for 30-60 minutes and then put it back in the fridge.

If I intend to bake, I take the starter out two days before, so that it gets 3 feedings minimum before I make the dough. It depends on the recipe whether I discard some of the starter and refresh just a portion each time or if I build it to a bigger volume. Before I make the dough, I feed 15gr of the starter with 15gr rye and 15gr water, let it rest 30-60 minutes and the back in the fridge.

The big bubbles ususally show up at the second feeding. I feed my starter twice a day (every 12 hours) when I keep it at room temperature or when I intent to bake. Don't worry too much about the size of the bubbles, your starter will not grow until it is ripe to do so and that takes more than one feeding after a cold treatment.

verve's picture
verve

thanks for that, it clarifies a lot!! I got impatient and discarded half the starter again. and added flour and water at 1.5 flour to 1 water. It seems to rise much more and much quicker now. I think it might be that the 100% hydration doesnt allow it to rise a lot?

Also, am I correct to say that the way I measure my feeding cycles is to keep marking the rise in the jar until i see it stop rising and start droping? is that when i feed again? because at the moment it seems to rise veyr very fast now that I made the starter thicker... Should I be timing how long it takes it to stop rising and make that the feeding cycle time?

 

 

thanks again.

 

David

Ford's picture
Ford

In the morning, I take the starter out of the refrigerator, where it has resided for anywhere from a week to a month, and feed it in the ratios of 1:1:1 = starter:flour:chlorine-free water.  I let it sit at room temperature ( 70 - 80°F,  i. e. 21 - 27°C) until evening then feed it again in the same ratios.  The next morning it is ready for dough preparation.  This works for me.

Ford

 

verve's picture
verve

hi ford,

thats what im attempting to do, but my problem is if i wait for 6-10 hours it will look destroyed. forthy at the top, hardly any bubbles left, and back to its original level (from almost doubling to nothing).

 

Is that what happens to you or in the evening is it still risen and bubbly??

Ford's picture
Ford

My starter has risen by time I feed it again I don't worry about whether it has doubled..  With 100% hydration, it is like pancake batter in consistency so the rise is not as high as with a dough of 75% hydration.

What flour are you using?  If it is rye, the low gluten will not allow much rising.  I use all-purpose, white, unbleached, wheat flour for the starter, medium level of protein.

Ford

 

verve's picture
verve

 I might be asking the question using the wrong words or confusing you guys, but I'm really trying to understand what is the correct starter behaviour I should be looking for.

Everyone says the starter doubles in around 6-8 hours, this is NEVER the case with mine. As I said before, if I leave it for that long, it will rise, and then come back to its original level. Am I correct that this is wrong? because once its come back down the starter is weak again and you need to refeed it?

 

I just want someone to clarify at which state the starter is actually ready to be making dough with...? Do you wait for it to get to maximum rise and as soon as it starts to deflate you use it in the dough OR do you just wait 6-8 hours (after however many feeds) and use it for dough regardless if its still on a rise or deflated back to the starting point?

 

I'm really really confused about this. The internet is full of information about this that contradicts other information so I dont get what's right and wrong anymore...?

 

My starter stops rising after abou 3-4 hours. If I leave it any longer without feeding again it will just deflate...

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Here's a photo posted by professional baker Dan DiMuzio which may be helpful to you, verve. You want to use the starter at its peak.

Not everyone's starter doubles in six to eight hours. Hydration, room temperature, and water temperature all have an effect.

I keep a 55-60% hydration starter, use cold water in the refreshment, and it domes about every 12 hours. I prefer not to refrigerate my starter so on hot days, I'll tuck it in a corner of my utility room on the cold tile floor (it's kept in lidded Cambro container). If I need a higher hydration for a build, I'll use warmer water, keep it in a warmer temperature and it will dome much more quickly.

There's no "one size fits all" when dealing with a living entity - which is what a sourdough starter is.

You never mentioned the hydration of your starter - try adding more flour - but not more water - and keep it out of the refrigerator. Might be helpful to keep notes so you can keep track of the amounts of water and flour you're using for refreshments.

verve's picture
verve

thanks again :)

 

that image plus the entire thread is very helpful!!! :)

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... It usually rises about 25% of its content in 2-3 hours and then immidiatey begins to recede and go down...?

That to me means one thing - it can't do any more rising because it's clean out of food.  Out of interest, what temperature is your fridge? It can make a huge difference if your fridge is not running particularly cold.  A very cold fridge will slow the rate at which the yeast yomps through the flour starches to a huge extent. But a warmer fridge will only marginally slow the yeast. Therefore, you can expect a starter kept very cold to eke out its food supply far longer than a warmer fridge.  So should your fridge temp is on the high side, your starter will race through its last refreshment feed and be hungry and weak by the time you next need to take it out of the fridge and bake.

I would also recommend revising your feeding schedule. Take a very small helping of starter (1 teaspoon max) and feed it with 75 grams of flour and, say, 50-60 grams of water. You can play with the hydration to suit your preferences, but a lower hydration will ferment out slower than a very high one.

You can use a healthy, refreshed starter when it is at its peak doming.  Or alternatively - and this is my preference because I don't want a strong sour tang, nor do I want to run the risk of an over-ripe starter and undesirable enzyme action that can cause problems with gluten formation and health - use your starter when it is clearly still on the rise.  If you add it when it is not fully ripe (but is, say, 50-75% risen), it will still raise your bread beautifully. It will just need more time to do so.  What you don't want to do, in my opinion, is to use a starter that has begun to sink back down to any great degree.  Catch it on the rise, or at the peak of its rise. The idea is to never let the yeast run out of food during the breadmaking process.

All at Sea

 

 

 

 

verve's picture
verve

thank you so much :) this is exactly the information I needed and the clarification... I guess now that my logic was correct that I shouldnt wait for the starter to stop rising, but simply use it while its done most of the rising but is STILL rising a bit :)

 

I will try to revive my starter like you said, that's the best way I guess. Am I correct to assume that when you want to revive or feed a starter, a general rule of thumbs is that it should have MORE floud and water than the content of the actual starter? Is there a limit to this? what i mean is, if i take one teaspoon of starter, will it die if I feed it TOO MUCH flour and water? is that why most people do it over 3 days by increasing the amounts with every feed?

 

 

oh and yes!!! you're absolutely right about my fridge. i was wondering why in the world my starter that I just fed 2 days ago is already frothing and getting that seperation layer at the top while I never took it out of the fridge. the answer is obviously that my fridge isnt cold enough :(  But I guess Ill deal with that by feeding twice a week instead of once...

 

thank you!!

All at Sea's picture
All at Sea

... glad to be of help. I hope you won't mind if I copy and paste your questions, then reply beneath them. Here goes ...

I shouldnt wait for the starter to stop rising, but simply use it while its done most of the rising but is STILL rising a bit :)

Yep. Spot on.

Am I correct to assume that when you want to revive or feed a starter, a general rule of thumbs is that it should have MORE floud and water than the content of the actual starter?

Yes and no. Yes - because if you take a small portion of starter and then give it a decent meal (more flour by weight than the portion of starter) - it will have plenty to dine on, and won't run out of food so quickly. And No - because if you give it only its own weight in flour, that's fine, but you will have to re-feed it again far sooner. I prefer to play safe and give it plenty to nosh on, rather than risk forgetting to feed it  - which it will need more often.

Is there a limit to this?

Not really. All the yeast cares about is feeding. But there would be no point in taking things to extremes.

i mean is, if i take one teaspoon of starter, will it die if I feed it TOO MUCH flour and water? is that why most people do it over 3 days by increasing the amounts with every feed?

I can't guarantee that some bright spark hasn't managed to kill yeast by overfeeding it with one gargantuan over-indulgence of flour, but I think it unlikely.  Certainly, the only yeast I've totally murdered was a batch I tried freezing. Yeast is a survivor. It's got a gold-starred, first-class brass-buttoned 'ology in survival. It's way smarter than it looks and a thousand times tougher than you or I. :o)

Because of high temperatures here, where I live, I use tiny amounts of yeast and feed it with many times its own weight in flour. For example, if my starter is looking healthy and chipper when I retrieve it from the fridge - I often only use a teaspoon, or even half-a-teaspoon of it to make a pre-ferment. That pre-ferment usually  consists of 250 grams of flour (and 200 grams of water or water and yoghurt combined).  Yet that tiny little blip of wild yeast is in its element! Mixed very last thing at night, and left at room temperature (about 75 df) by 6.00 am in the morning, it's had itself a night-long munch party and left me a fully risen bubble-fest of dough as proof. That preferment is then added to the remaining 500 grams of flour and 325 grams of water, 15 grams salt, 60 grams oil, and 5 x tablespoons of dried milk powder, and eventually, after all the usual processes, out of the oven will pop 2 blooming batards. All that rise and hearty goodness from just 1/2 teaspoon of wild yeast!

oh and yes!!! you're absolutely right about my fridge. i was wondering why in the world my starter that I just fed 2 days ago is already frothing and getting that seperation layer at the top while I never took it out of the fridge. the answer is obviously that my fridge isnt cold enough :(  But I guess Ill deal with that by feeding twice a week instead of once...

Yes, feed twice a week if your fridge really isn't very cold. But also feed more at each sitting, too. Can you test the true temperature of your fridge - it would be useful to know.  I'm lucky here on the boat in that my oven may be crap, but I have two fridges. One that runs nice and cold (<5*C) and one that is warmer (around 8*-10*C). I only ever keep my starter in the former and it stays sweet without any fuss.

thank you!!

You're more than welcome :o)

All at Sea