The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What's the difference - starter vs poolish?

somegeek's picture

What's the difference - starter vs poolish?

What's the difference between a sourdough starter and a sourdough poolish?

Appreciate any input.  :)


arzajac's picture

None, but that's not typical usage.


"Sourdough Starter" usually refers to a preferment that only contains wild yeast and bacteria (sourdough).

"Poolish" usually refers to a preferment that only contains commercial yeast.


pjaj's picture

OK, then what's the difference between a Poolish and a Biga?

LindyD's picture

From the Handbook at the top of the screen:

Biga: a term used variously as a very stiff (~50% hydration preferment), or as a generic term for preferment.

There's a wealth of information in the Handbook, including a good glossary of terms.


LydiaC's picture

To my understanding, a poolish is has a batterlike consistency, a large amount of yeast, as well as some flavorings which may be added to the bread.  It can be used after only an hour as it turns quite bubbly in that time.

A biga is an Italian starter that contains a very small amount of yeast and much less water.  It should be like a sticky dough and needs to sit covered for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours before using.  After a day, it gets quite bubbly.


fthec's picture

'Starter' is a generic term to describe prefermented flour.  It can be either wild yeasted (i.e. sourdough:  levain, chef, and various other terms) or can be made with commercial yeast. 

Starters made with commercial yeast typically fall into two groups:  poolish type(liquid/ batter-like consistency) or biga type (lower hydration; typically the consistency of regular bread dough).  Yeast addition is usually minimal so that the rise takes 6-18 hours, depending on method used.  Wild yeasted starters can also be similarly other words, liquid type or very dense with minimal water.


somegeek's picture

Thanks for the replies all.  I am the wiser.  :)