The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to strengthen my starter?

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mrsfetterman's picture

How to strengthen my starter?

My starter "Louise Levain" was born six days ago.  I followed the instructions from the Bread Bible.  The first few days things were going swell, but by now it says it should be doubling after each feed?  It is not.  Not even close.  It is bubbling, but not nearly as much as other pictures I have seen online of what a starter should look like. 

How can I perk it up?

And no, I have not tried baking with it yet. 

Also, I'm a (very enthusiastic) amateur amateur.


golgi70's picture

What is the feeding ratio you are using?  What is the temperature of the starter and your room?  How long are waiting between feedings?  With some of this info help will be on the way.  Bubbles are good if that makes you feel better.



mrsfetterman's picture

I've been feeding each afternoon, 1/2 cup bread flour and a 1/4 cup tap water.  Temps in my house range between 68 and 72 degrees...

Janetcook's picture

Lower temps. make starting a starter take longer.  Yeast and bacteria like to be about 75°-78° depending on the type of flour you are using.

Also, tap water - is it municipal or well water?  Municipal water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals that can kill what you are trying to grow.  Most methods for starting a starter that I have read recommend using bottled water when making a starter.

Think gold fish.  If you use water straight out of your tap to clean their bowls it will kill them.  Letting the water sit out overnight will allow the chlorine to evaporate and what remains won't kill them….


Bakingmadtoo's picture

If it is bubbling and rising, even if not double, it must be healthy.  I can tell you from personal experience that temperature has an enormous effect on the activity of your starter. At this time of year, in my very cold house, the only way to get mine to rise at all is in the oven with a jug of hot water. You could try moving your starter to a slightly warmer spot. Many people recommend the top of the fridge, or an airing cupboard. The top of a computer tower is good - but very expensive if your starter bubbles over! Anywhere, where you might get just a few degrees of extra warmth.

If you are so enthusiastic that you can't wait to start baking, you could always add a tiny bit if commercial yeast to your dough, until you are confident in your baby starter.

Bakingmadtoo's picture

I meant to say, to give you an idea, my kitchen was probably about 55 degrees when I began my starter and it took about ten weeks to get going! It spent weeks bubbling but not rising! I think it actually only really got going when the weather warmed up! I had not found this forum back then, with all its helpful advice.

mrsfetterman's picture

Thank you guys for the tips!  I will try a warmer spot, and start using filtered water.  (No wonder my gold fish always died ;)...

dabrownman's picture

give it a boost is some whole grain flour to feed on.  Once it is started then you can add some into the mix. Like Janet said, tap water is fine, as long as it sits out uncovered for the chlorine dissipates - your starter will like the extra minerals that aren't filtered out.


adri's picture

On your ratio there is one thing you do not write: How much starter do you take?

When I refresh my starter I take a ratio of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water) by weight. This might be about the same hydration you use with your cup measurements.

On a refreshed starter it just needs 4 hours to peak. On a weak starter it might take up to 8 hours. Then I repeat the refreshment or put it back to the fridge.
But after a few more hours on the shelf without new food, the micro organisms do not have enough food.
My guess is: you don't feed enough (or have too much starter for the flour) and your starter is starving.

Happy holidays