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Dead Starter?

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mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Dead Starter?

Ok here is my story:

I have done the many successful Tartine bakes in the past, but I lost my starter for those particular bakes. So I decided to start fresh and went and bought flour which I thought was good. Arrowhead Mills stone ground whole wheat and same brand of white flour organic. I started my starter the way Chad states in the book to make a thick paste cover it and in 2-3 days will be all bubbly and good for first feeding. Ok got that did that and so on. After first feeding of discarding the 80% and feeding same amount back in I have not scene any action at all for 9-10 days. I was feeding it every 24 hours like he said. Some days I would not feed it at all to see if maybe the starter would starve and react, but nothing happened. I started a new one while still maintaining the other one, but same thing happened. Could this be a flour issue? With my successful starters in the past I was using KAAp and KAWW.

Today I dumped all but 30g of starter from both and added 30gWater and 30g of my ww/organic mix. I plan on feeding every 12 hours now to see if that sparks something.

Any suggestions?

                                                                                                                                                           Mike

placebo's picture
placebo

Don't feed it so much. You're diluting it way too much and too often. If you keep 30 grams of starter, feed it only 15 grams of flour and 15 grams of water, and only feed it once a day until it wakes up.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I wasnt keeping so little, I was keeping  a total of 150g.

placebo's picture
placebo

You've repeatedly said you discard 80% and then feed to get back to the original amount, which means you're feeding using a ratio of 1:4:4. You want to feed using a ratio of 2:1:1. The starter should be the largest amount.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Can you explain what those ratios represent?

placebo's picture
placebo

2:1:1 would mean 2 parts starter, 1 part water, and 1 part flour, by weight.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

So I Kept 80 grams of starter and added 40g water and 40g flour. Is that correct?

 

placebo's picture
placebo

Yup. Relatively small feedings to allow the pH to drop and wake up the yeast.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I have been doing the feeding as 2:1:1 and still not seeing any action. Do I continue this or let it starve a bit?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I know there are all kinds of instructions out there but here's some simple ideas to try and it may be helpful to think about the concept of what you are doing.

When you mix the flour and water together, you are giving the yeasts (naturally present in the flour)a chance to "wake up" and eat and multiply (if the temperature is agreeable and it is a nice place to raise a family). There are not that many yeasty beasties, yet. So for a day or so, just stir it up, keep it covered so a crust doesn't form- but with a breathable cover or mold will form. A coffee filter and rubberband or a paper towel work fine.Don't feed it yet!! Just stir several times a day! So after a day or so, if you keep it at 75-80F, you will start to see some bubbles along the edge. This tells you that the yeasts are multiplying and...well...farting CO2. It may be starting to look thinner and taste a little sour. That means the lactobacillus is eating and....well...you know...giving off acid. Now its a race. The lactos give off acid, which helps prevent other nasty smelling bactieria from growing and gives the yeasts a chance to really multiply.At the same time, they are both competing for the same food. SO you see a few more bubble around the edge after it sat for a few hours. NOW is the time to start with a 50% discard and feeding! Discarding is like hauling the garbage away (all that... you know... is waste) and clearing space for more yeasties and lactos to grow.If you discard and feed it too soon, you are reducing the yeast population by too much. It will eventually develop but it will take 3-4 weeks. SO now, you have an active population and for a while the lactos will grow faster than the yeasties. You will see a sudden dramatic rise after a feed. Lactos can raise bread but you really want the yeasties to do that job so keep going. Keep the culture at 75-85F if possible (top of the fridge where the heat from the back coils rises).

Soon the dramatic rise after a feed will become a little more sedate but reliable. Now it is ready for using in bread! It will just get better with time and use.

Have fun!

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Hi and thanks for the reply. I have tried not feeding for a day or two and have not seen any action at all. I will do what you said and hopefully it works out.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Ok I did the 2:1:1 after seeing some bubbles, but now still seems pretty dormant. My home is 72 degrees, should I try a warmer place?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

As bakers, we are all used to using a recipe that  clearly states amounts,technique and time. With  a living culture like sourdough and  the subsequent bread dough, you have to shift gears a bit. The feeding schedule is a guideline. Sometimes, the culture is hungrier than at other times. If it is even only 2 degrees warmer, to this micoscopic population that is a big environmental change and they will multiply terrifically faster and need a feeding much sooner.

So get used to observing the culture and responding to it's needs. It is impossible to see what is happening at the microscopic level but there are signs at the mAcrospic level we can observe and respond to.

At the beginning, if the slight increase in bubbles around the edge appear after 12,16 or 18 hours (whatever timing), then that is when you start the feedings.Don't just wait 1-2 days because that is what the directions say (even if they were my directions :) )-they may have starved to death already. After you establish feedings and when the culture is devloping, it may have growth spurts and need food between schedule feedings. It is a living thing and after all, aren't you hungry before dinner sometimes? If a layer of hootch ever appears on top (a clear/light gray liquid that burns your nose if you sniff deeply)-feed the culture immediately. It can smell like nail polish remover or acetone. That is the byproduct of starvation. Some people stir it into the culture before discard, some people dump the hootch. This can happen at the beginning of growing a culture and occasionally later when living conditions are different (winter to summer).

Eventually you can get your culture onto a feeding schedule and they will multiply at a given rate and fit into a daily feed. That is a little later in the process of building a culture.

Have delicious fun!

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Thank you so much for this response. I will and keep an eye on this like it is my 3rd child haha.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I wanted to post 2 pics of 2 separate starters I have. Both were made over a week ago Both are being fed 2:1:1 and being fed once a day.

placebo's picture
placebo

The bubbles in your second starter look promising to me. How long after a feeding did you take those pictures? 

The hardest thing about making a starter is having patience while nothing appears to be happening. Keep up the feedings and see what happens. A warm spot can help things along as well. If you still don't see development after a few days of the 2:1:1 feedings, you might have to toss it and start over.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

That pic was taken around 24 hours after a feeding. Sticking with the 2:1:1.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

From the residue on the jar it looks like it rose and fell.Is that the case or is that residue from stirring? If it did rise then keep on going-if it DIDN'T rise-still keep on going.Any bubbles are a great sign.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

That's just from stirring and pouring starter out. I'm still feeding but never had this go like this. My last starter was beautiful.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Dear mivigliotti,

In answer to your original question, yes, every now and then flour is the issue. For whatever reason, sometimes there just aren't enough viable yeast present, in which case, switching brands of whole grain flour does the trick. But the question to answer first is, how sour is your starter at this point? Taste it. Is it just tangy, or is it so tart that it makes you pucker (like lemon juice)? Is the gluten intact or is the starter thinning and turning more liquid between feedings. If puckery and thinning, then switch brands and see what happens. If it's not sour enough yet, skip a feeding and see if it will get more sour (but stir it and scrape down the sides so that it doesn't invite mold).

Best wishes,
dw

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

It is just a little tangy and not liquidy. I skipped feeding one of them for 2 days and just stirred it up. No action. The other I fed 2:1:1 and just gets a bubble not much else.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Mike,

If I understand, you've been at this about two weeks now, and it's just not getting sour for you even in 48 hours at 72 degrees. If you have another brand of whole wheat or a whole rye flour on hand, I'd switch and see what happens. Hopefully it will turn around soon.

Best,
dw

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Thanks Debrah for the time to comment. I already started it last night. I am at around 24 hours, so far some air bubbles on sides and bottom, but not much else, hope it starts soon.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

You may want to try a warmer place, somewhere above 72F, perhaps in the 86-98F range (beneficial to lactobacillus, yeast production, and fermentation). 

A good place might be a sealed box, like your oven with just the light on.

72F is reasonably warm, but it appears that kick-starting yeast and lactic acid bacteria production will happen better at higher temps

From http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e10.htm :

Most lactic acid bacteria work best at temperatures of 18 to 22ºC [64 - 72F]. The Leuconostoc species which initiate fermentation have an optimum of 18 to 22ºC [64 - 72F]. Temperatures above 22ºC [72F], favour the lactobacillus species.

 

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I started over 3 days ago with a different flour. I got great activity after 36 hours had a rise and great bubbly fo\roth. I discarded about 50% kept 50 grams of starter added 25g water and 25g or flour. I am at around 13 hours after first feeding and it is pretty loose and very tiny bubbles. Should i see a rise and bubbly froth in another 12 pr so hours? Am I on the right track?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Did you change to a different flour food on the older attempt?  Try it now if you still have the older starter.  The few days standing will not have hurt it.

As to the new starter, what' the temp?  I think you will still have a few days to see some rise.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I was on more than 2and half weeks with that old starter and had 2 of them going. I tossed them and started over with new flour and right away i had better froth and fermentation with it. Mt\y issue usually started after that first feeding. I remember that in my past attempts I had no issues with rising and falling right away. Maybe it was summer time I do not remember, but I went back to that flour brand.  I am at 73 degrees.

 

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I was on more than 2and half weeks with that old starter and had 2 of them going. I tossed them and started over with new flour and right away i had better froth and fermentation with it. Mt\y issue usually started after that first feeding. I remember that in my past attempts I had no issues with rising and falling right away. Maybe it was summer time I do not remember, but I went back to that flour brand.  I am at 73 degrees.

 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

If you started over and saw good rise after 36 hours, then no rise at this point is pretty normal. I'm sorry that my post wasn't clear, I was recommending continuing with your 2-week one, but switching the flour that you were feeding it because it was already half-way there. It had just stalled for some reason, and reseeding with a different flour often does the trick to get things going again and turn it around very quickly. Your way will work too, it's just starting back at the beginning. Hopefully this one will go more smoothly for you.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

So it is slightly more liquidy like it can pour out even though I used equal parts flour water by weight (100% hydration) I fed it with same. Continue feeding every 24 hours?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

The looser consistency could just be the difference in the flours. The kind of liquifying that indicates progress is the gluten degrading, so that rather than sheeting off your spoon, the starter drips instead. Yes, feed once a day for now, to reduce inhibiting substances left behind in the initial rise. But make them small feeds and with whole grain flour.

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Ok all ww and a feeding say like this: 30g starter 15g ww 15g water?

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

yes  :-)

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

I am obsessed with this haha I am losing sleep thinking about it.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Don't worry, you'll get there  :-)

placebo's picture
placebo

That first rise wasn't due to yeast. It was bacteria. As they fall out of favor, you're going to see a lull for a few days. Read the following to understand what's going on.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

mivigliotti's picture
mivigliotti

Ok read it very good info. I used bottled water and 50/50 blend ww and bread flour. I am at 72-74 degrees. Do I continue feeding everyday once a day?

In your study did you feed and discard or just feed with no discard?