The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Refreshment ratios

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GregS's picture
GregS

Refreshment ratios

My standard starter refreshment (grams) is : 20 (starter) 35 (water) 35 (flour). This works OK, but I've been wondering about the effect of altering the starter amount up or down. I think that at present I have a "100 %" starter containing 29% of old starter.

Is my math right? Could I speed up or slow down the volume doubling by changing the starter amount? What is a starter ratio slanted towards a more sour outcome (or does the ratio matter)?

Thanks for any insights.

GSchultz

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I'd suggest trying a lower percentage of starter.  My current refresh rate is closer to 20g starter, 100g flour, 100g water.  

My first starter I did at a ratio similar to yours and my starter always seemed weak.  I believe now that I was starving it, because as soon as I cut back on the percentage of starter, it perked way up. It does, however, take longer for things to reproduce, like overnight rather than 3-4 hours.

This is purely my impression, not anything I have hard data to back up.  Other folks here with more experience than me may have better quantified information than I do.

Good luck!

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

I agree you could try a smaller seed amount, for instance if you take 15g of seed and feed it 30g each flour and water, you'll be using a 1:2:2 ratio.  Basically, you want to feed it enough so that it peaks and then falls back just a bit by the next time you want to feed it.  

For controlling acidity in bread, I find feed ratios less important than where the starter is in its fermentation cycle.  If you are feeding the starter and it takes something like 8 hours at room temp to reach maturity (peak and fall back), putting it into the bread at maturity is one factor that can increase acid.  Similarly, putting the starter into bread earlier in the cycle, when it has begun to rise but is not yet fully mature, can be one factor in limiting acid content of the bread.  

If you choose to take a little starter earlier in the cycle, be sure to let the ongoing culture finish fermenting before feeding again.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

 levains over (3) 4 hour periods and increasing the flour for each step.  We might start with 10 g of 100% starter and add 10g each if flour and water to it and let it do its thing for 4 hours - using twice as much flour and water than was in the seed .  Then we would would add twice the flour and water again.  After the first build we would have 15 g each of flour and water, so in this case we would 30 g each of flour and water for the 2nd build making 90 g total - 45g each flour and water.  After 4 hours we would then add 90 g each of flour and water making a total of 270 g of levain.  This mix should double in volume in the final 4 hours.

If I want more sour I will refrigerate the levain after 1 hour into its last 4 hour stint for up to 3 days.   When i am ready to use it I just take it out of the fridge and let it finish doubling,

A rough rule of thumb is that you want the levain to be 10% to 20% of the total flour and water weight of the dough so a 1,250 g lump of flour and water would need between 125 g and 250 g of  levain.  I have found that the smaller the levain the longer the time and the longer the time the more sour you get - because you can retard longer and long cold spell makes more sour than shorter cold spells.

If you want to speed things up I just double the seed amount for 10 to 20 g and then the refreshments go from (3) 4 hour builds to (3) 2 hour builds and you end up with 280 g of levain keeping the feeding amounts the same.

Happy baking

GregS's picture
GregS

Esteemed "dabrownman":

Your post about building levain was very enlightening. I'd like to tack on another question raised by your answer.

Can I assume that you keep back some fully "built" starter to save for the same cycle of refreshment when you want to bake the next time? Do you go through the refreshment of 3 4-hour periods prior to each time you make a new batch of dough? Does your retained starter from each batch change its properties (i.e. get more sour or mild) as you repeatedly refresh it for baking?

I guess I'm just trying to carry  your refreshment cycle through the loop from bake to bake.

Thanks again.

GregS

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

and usually only bake 1 loaf at a time.

Starter maintenance is made for maximum sour and no waste of any kind and I keep 100 grams of 66% hydration seed of it in the fridge right after refreshment.  If I bake 2 loaves of bread a week I try to use an average of 20 g per bake. This uses up 80 g or the seed leaving 20 g left over.  I use 10 g of this to make some rolls or bagels and 10 g  to rebuild the seed.  Rebuild the seed at 85 F by taking it and mixing it with 10 g of water and 10 g of flour and letting it sit at 85 F until it doubles.  Then add 34 g of flour and 26 g of water and let it sit at 85 F till it doubles.   Then add 10 g of flour let it sit for 15 minutes at 85 F and refrigerate it. 

Every once in a while I will make a double batch to include a loaf of bread and then thicken up the remainder to 66% hydration and refrigerate that.   The thing to remember is to do everything at 85 F or 36 F to maximize sour and minimize yeast reproduction.

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

After reading your post on levain builds, it reminds me of what I had been doing with my levain when I was experimenting with yeast water.  Now that I have a sourdough starter, courtesy of my wonderful baker, I am no longer using yeast water for my breads. I've been  using  only a small amt of starter at approx 10- 15% of flour weight when I bake.  I've read that it would be ideal to refresh the starter a couple of times before baking but with the small amt of starter that I need, multiple builds with double flour and water at each subequent feed would eventually result in too much starter for me.  I've been refreshing wilh the same amt each time, e.g. 20 40: 40:, throw out 80  and repeat the same feeding pattern again, very similar to what I would do with my storage starter except that it stays in room temp longer before going back in the fridge.  Have I been going about my builds in the wrong way throughout?  Is it imperative to double the amt at each feed  or is discarding some each time also  permissible? I do find that repeating the same feeding pattern does not make my starter rise any faster, it still doubles at around the same time span but it does have a better gluten formation and most importantly, it floats.  I've also noticed that you build your levain at a range of 2-4 hrs intervals, there is no need to double before each feed?But, thanks to RonRay's recipe for SD crackers,  I am now able to use up the excess in future if I'm obliged to double at each build  :-D

Thank you for yr advice as always.

Judy

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Your feeding pattern looks great- 20:40:40 sounds like it is working fine for you. The frequent feeds with no discards is just one way to do it, especially helpful if you are trying to boost yeast, limit acid, and reduce discards.  But I'm with you, it is too much work for me, I'm happy to do one feed that will last longer and take a little levain out before the end of the feeding/fermentation cycle.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Your feeding would work fine.  It just depends what you are trying to do and your schedule.  There aren't any hard and fast rules.  Sometimes I take 1 g of starter and feed it 50 each flour and water for on build - let that double and then use it.  Sometimes I do this and then add 50 g of flour and 25 g of water to it and then refrigerate it for 3 days before making  2 loaves of bread.

I do like to double the flour when doing multi stage levain builds.  The key to not ending up with too much levain is to start with a small seed.  10 g of starter at 66% hydration has 6 g of flour and 4 g of water.  Feeding it 10 of flour and water each and then 30 g of flour and water each and then 90 g each of flour and water each will get you to 270 g of levain to make a large loaf of bread or 2 small ones,  Or just start with 5 g and ens up with 135 g of levain .

I do let the levains double between builds it takes 2 hours in the summer and 4 hours in the winter in Phoenix so 2-4 hours works but i don't watch the clock - I watch the rubber band.  Here are 2 pictures the fist one is a straight sided container where the rubber band was placed at the level of the levain right after the 3rd feeding .  It rose 25% in 30 minutes - picture 1, and then i refrigerated it for 24 hours.

Picture 2 is when I took it out of the fridge this morning to finish the 3rd stage build while we autolysed the dough flour.   It had risen another 25% to the 50% level over 24 hours.  But over that time the Labs had reproduced at 3 times the rate of the yeast which equals more labs than yeast in the bread and more sour results.  This levain happens to be a 68% hydration one. Through the first 2 stages it was 100% hydration and then knocked back to 68% hydration since yeast like higher hydration and reproduce faster when wet and we are trying to limit yeast reproduction while being retarded.

One it warms up and finishes doubling this morning into the autolyse it goes.

Happy baking

jyslouey's picture
jyslouey

Thanks, I see what you mean now.  1:2:2 or higher should work better for me if I were to bake in the morning. The starter can sit in room temp while I sleep and one more feed first thing in the morning would suffice, I would hope.  

Judy