The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Ratios

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meem's picture
meem

Starter Ratios

Regarding the procedure for feeding/maintaining a starter, some of you refer to the ratios of starter/flour/water as for example 1:2:2.  What does that mean?  is it starter/flour/water in that order?  

I had a starter going about a month ago but it started smelling like wall paint, soon advice of someone baking bread on youtube, I dumped it and started over.  My new starter is a week old today.  On day 4 it got reallyl bubbly and increased in volume.  Then by day 5 it started to smell funny again, only this time it was more like nail polish remover.  I did find something on that on this site so I'm not giving up quite so easily this time.  But I would like to get the ratios right.  I was feeding equal parts of water and flour without discarding anything.  Is that wrong?

ndechenne's picture
ndechenne

Meem,

Question, if you're going 5 days between feedings, is it in the fridge or left out? Also, it should get active within the first 8hrs at room temp, is it taking 4 days to ferment?

I'd say ratios were off but I have varied mine at times and it made little difference in activity. (1:1:1) ratios bubble quick and loose, I tend to feed those often and get to baking quick. The (1:1:2) "biga" style I can keep at room temp for a couple of days but I also tend to fridge them after no longer than that if I'm baking on the weekend. others with more experience than I can chime in. The thing positively won't die... I'm an advocate for experimenting...

meem's picture
meem

Ok, see?  I don't know what you are talking about.  Waht is 1:1:2 "biga" ?  Where did you learn about that?  Can you point me  to a website or something?  1:1:1 means equal parts of starter flour and water?  I started my starter with 1/4 cup of WW, 1/4 cup of AP and a little less than 1/2 cup of spring water, so I guess you'd say it was almost 1:1 to start.  I also fed this one every 12 hours instead of every 24 like I did with the first "paint" starter.  Im feeding it the same thing every day.  I've used ti twice already too.  I made the King Arthur Extra Tangy bread recipe and got it baked today. Came out great!  But I still am confused about the ratios for starting/maintaining.  Can you clarify that or point me in the direction of where I can learn about those ratios?  Math has never been my strongsuit. 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I usually read 1:2:2 as starter:water:flour simply because that is the order in which I mix the ingredients.

When making a new starter I generally do not toss any of the starter until about day 4 then I toss all but 1/4 of what I have and, like ndechenne, I keep mine a bit stiffer to slow the growth down so that it only needs feedings 2x per day. I continue to toss at each feeding so I don't have so much volume on hand.  Once things settle I do not toss but all gets used.  A bit wasteful in the beginning but it seems to work.  When first starting up a starter I don't refrigerate it for quite some time to make sure all is as it should be.

Good Luck,

Janet

meem's picture
meem

So if 1: equals 1/4 cup, what is the 2:2 in the form of a measure?  This is why i never could learn to play the piano.  

phaz's picture
phaz

 most use grams and some use scales.  problem using like cups is there can be a huge variation (50% or more) depending on a lot of factors. 

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

This was confusing to me too in the beginning.  

First of all it is easier using a scale to measure weights.  Makes the math much easier and allows you to converse with others plus a cup of flour can have many different weights depending on how packed your cup is.  I had to go out and buy one and it has made a huge difference.  This is the one I got: SCALE.  It wasn't really expensive and it measures in grams and ounces.  It has held up well with multiple daily use for over 2 years.

So if using weights and the ratio of 1:2:2 lets say you start with 10g of starter which is represented by the first digit in 1:2:2.  To find out how much water to add you just multiply 10g by 2 (the second digit in the ratio) and that gives you 20g for your water amount.

 You then move on to figuring the flour amount (the 3rd digit in the ratio) out by multiplying the 10g (always going back to your starter amount.) by 2 and you know you add 20g of flour too.  Plug those figures in and you now know how much to use.

If it was a ratio of 1:2:3 and starting with 10g starter again you would have:

10X2= 20g water

10X3= 30g flour

and your ingredients can now be written as 10:20:30

A third example but this time starter amount is 20g

1:3:5

20X3= 60g water

20X5= 100g flour

and your ingredients can now be written as 20:60:100

[To answer your question using 1/4 you would simply multiply 1/4 by 2 to get water amount and 1/4 by 2 to get flour amount but that is where it gets tricky because 1/2 c. water weighs more than 1/2 c. flour which would not give you the consistency you are after.]

Hope this makes sense....Once it clicks it will click and it took me awhile and I am not very good at putting it into words so I hope I am not confusing you...

'Biga' in the above response refers to a thicker starter and is an Italian term.  Just means more flour and less water to the same amount of starter.

Take Care,

Janet

 

 

phaz's picture
phaz

 don't worry about the paint, or any other off odors at this stage of development.  this is normal for a developing starter.  you're on the right track.  also at this point, don't worry too much about ratios. I had the paint smell shortly before my starter took off. then it was bubbling and doubling our tripling in volume like crazy. a general rule, remove about half of the current starter, and add water and flour to get to the original volume again, and keep it on the thick side, like a very thick pancake batter. feed every 12 hours, then double feeding, or more, once it takes off. you're almost there!

 almost forgot,  stir it up 2 or 3 times a day to distribute the food around.  you may get another doubling in size, or 2, after stirring

meem's picture
meem

Oh you guys are wonderful!!!  Thank you so muh!  Now I understand!  Today I made a reipe that used grams.  It is a recipe by a guy named Chris Reitke on Youtube.  He's so funny!  Eats his dough!  lolol.  Anyway, the recipe called for 200 g starter, 750 water, 23 g, salt and 1000 total of flour (100 ww and 900 ap).  I just got the digital scale so I pushed the button twice and started measuring.  Somehow I ended up with a very small ball of dough.  Something wasn't right.  I figured maybe it would grow so I waited and waited.  Finally I went back to the scale.  It has 3 settings.  OZ, LB&Oz & G.  Don't ask me how I didn't have a kitchen ful of bread dough, but in the trash it went and I started again.  The doughs are fermenting in the fridge right now.  I'll bake in the morning and report on my results.  YOU GUYS ROCK!  Isn't this fun???

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Meem,

Glad to know this clicked for you :- ).  I agree it is fun and there is more to come.  I think you will like having the scale.  Sounds like you already had your first lesson with it :^ }.  Hope your loaf turns out well.

Take Care,

Janet

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a most important factor!  

If your starter temp is below 75°F it will take longer to ferment.  If it is warmer in the beginning up to 85°F even just for the first 24 hrs it will help a lot to speed up the process.  Then reduce the temp to around 75°F for the rest of the process.  Make sure your starter is covered with water, this also helps. It will separate out but when the starter begins to smell yeasty, you are on track.  Then when the starter smells more beery, remove a portion and feed equal or more weights of water and flour.  Give it time to rise, after it has peaked or reached maximum growth and smells fermented, remove a portion and feed again.  Wait for it to peak and smell yeasty before feeding again.  Depending on temperature it can take from 5 days to 14 to see that first rise that indicates you are headed in the right direction.  Another few days or week to establish and set a pattern.   Any temp under 65°F can take a month or more.

About ratios, you will find they vary from book to book and site to site, even here there are two basic "codes."

Starter : Water : Flour  (s:w:f)    and    Starter : Flour : Water  (s:f:w)    

Establish what the poster/author/blogger is referring to so you don't get mixed up.  

Very wet starters will not rise, bubbles will pop on the surface not raising anything (but that is not important.)  Patience is the key.  Not much flour is needed to make a starter.