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feeding too often doesn't allow for proper ph??

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aryaya's picture
aryaya

feeding too often doesn't allow for proper ph??

I hate to post another question on here so soon but have exhausted my bread books for answers...


I read a lot of conflicting thoughts on how often to feed. I read to feed when it has doubled, I read to never let it start to die/deflate from the doubling point, I read to let it go 2-3 days then refeed it (and that its harmless to let it go), in order to insure the bacteria has caught up to speed with the yeast and brought it down to the proper ph to keep other bad guys out.


I am wondering if someone can explain to me how to keep it healthy and not allow other 'bad guys' into it? Right now, when I have the starter out on the counter, it doubles within 6 - 8 hours. I then re-feed it atleast double or quadruple the amount. Someone mentioned that this was too often. I'm worried I'm not letting it get acidic enough to give it a healthy protecting ph? But wouldn't feeding a starter every 3 days not be enough if its just sitting on the counter? I'm not sure how to simplify or word this question, hopefully this makes sense! I have been feeding some of my other starters in the fridge once a week, but was suprised to find hooch on all of them today after just 5 days in the fridge. Isn't this quite soon for hooch? I thought they could last for atleast a week or two in the fridge between feedings. Thank you!

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I find that if I just stir down the starter, stirring the liquid on top back into it, then refrigerating it, it's just fine.  I think you're worrying too much. 

Glass-Weaver's picture
Glass-Weaver

I know what you mean, there is so much information about how to maintain a starter, so many "facts" that conflict.  I found a thread here on The Fresh Loaf  that's been a help to me, and you'll notice when you read the whole entry that even the author of the thread has evolved in his starter management.  I trust that as our experience accumulates we'll be able to have the worry-free approach that PaddyL enjoys.


(I didn't have success with embeding a link, so go to The Fresh Loaf Home / Highest Rated Stories / Maintaining a 100% Hydration White Flour Starter...kind of lower-right on the page.)

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I have come to believe that much of the conflict has to do with how it's stored after feeding.  Frankly, I feed mine once a week with a Tbsp. of flour and a Tbsp. of water.  That is about 166% hydration.  But I made the mathematical adjustments when I use it because some recipes require more or less hydration over-all than others.


My starter never leaves the refrigerator unless I'm feeding it or measuring out an amount for immediate use.  If I fed it and kept it on the counter I would feed it daily because it's more active  (which I translate in having an insatiable appetite) at room temperature.


I also take time to lift and stir when feeding to incorporate as much air as possible into the mix because I've found that, without oxygen, even wild yeast can't survive.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

As far as "keeping the bad guys out", I think you have little to worry about.  I've let starters go several months without feeding, clear until they've become a solid lump of dense clay-like goop under a thick layer of hooch and they STILL didn't mold and I was able to restore that starter back into a usable pleasant sourdough starter again as well.  Just in case you don't know, but I suspect you do, mold is a sign of bacteria being lost and vice versa.  If your lacto bacillus culture is there at all, and I mean as in "hardly any at all", it'll still keep the "bad guys" out.  (NOTE: I've been baking with sourdough for 35+ years and the starter mentioned above occurred during a period where I'd lost interest for awhile ...but then decided to get back into it.  I don't really treat my starters like that!)


As for feeding and how long to run the ferment, and at what temperature, I'd say the temperature has the most impact on how long to run the ferment, and hydration is the second biggest factor ...although not nearly to the level that temperature is.  I've always allowed the ferment to run around 12 hours at 80-85 F at about 90% hydration.  Normally the ferment peaks in volume at about 7 or 8 hours into it and then subsides 10-15% by the time 12 hours is up.  Seems to work, but my current starter, which I started here in Fox, Alaska (15 miles N. of Fairbanks) is running mildly sour (not much at all) and raises bread wonderfully.  I'm currently experimenting to find out how to encourage the 'sour' in the starter so I can come up with a hydration/temperature/ferment time combination that maximizes the sour ...and that applies to the bread as well, i.e. temperature/hydration/ferment time for the dough.  I even bought an apartment-sized refrigerator and am designing a heating/cooling system for it so I can experiment in a very controlled environment.  Should be fun.  If I find the silver bullet that kills my lack of sour problem, I'll post here!


 


Brian


 

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Looking forward to a report on your experiment.  My "sourdough" starter is now about two months old and very healthy, but it isn't as sour as I had hoped it might be by this time.  In fact, it would be hard to detect any "sourness" in it at all.  But it works VERY well as a contributing element to my batards and boules and I couldn't bear to toss it out and start over.


Like you, I'm making a few adjustments (one at a time) in how I handle it to see if I can tweek a more sour flavor out of it.


 

aryaya's picture
aryaya

It seems like I don't have much to worry about. I do find it fascinating how it all works even on the more scientific side of it all. Thanks for the link that helped me understand some things!


I guess if I'm keeping my starter in the fridge and feeding once a week, I should up the ratio a tad, and then maybe let it go through a cycle or two on the counter every 7 days or so just to keep it healthy?

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Most of the time, I feed just once a week.  Many times however, I will feed once every 2 weeks.  The starter is always refrigerated in between feedings and it's always full of life and performing great when I use it.  I think that once a starter has matured, that this is what you can expect ...solid performance in spite of imperfect upkeep. Young starters, those that have only been around for a few months or less, are more finicky.


 


Brian


 

aryaya's picture
aryaya

When you feed it, do you just stick in some flour and water and right back into the fridge? Or do you let it come up to speed on the counter for a bit?

arzajac's picture
arzajac


in order to insure the bacteria has caught up to speed with the yeast and brought it down to the proper ph to keep other bad guys out.


 



 


As far as I know, the only time you need to worry about keeping the pH low enough and keeping away "the bad guys" is when you are first starting your starter.  Once it is established, it's somewhat difficult to kill; the microorganisms are there and as long as you keep enough of them around (innoculation), your starter will come alive and behave normally.


But when you start from just water and flour, the correct yeasts will not flourish without the pH being low enough.  Fortunately, lactobacilli will eventually cause the pH to drop down enough for this to happen.  All you need to do is keep feeding it.