The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Am I creating a low hydration starter or underfeeding?

avatrx1's picture

Am I creating a low hydration starter or underfeeding?

I have a starter going, but I think I'm going to goof it up so here's my question.

All the discussions on firm starters and 100 hydration starters etc got me thinking....

In order to create enough starter to do something with, I added equal grams of water/flour to the starter, but I didn't weigh the starter that I was adding to before I fed it.

I have lots of bubbles and it's quite obvious that it's working  well, but I just added 100g of water and 100g of flour to it to increase the quantity.  Having not weighed the original starter (which I believe to be at least 2x the amount of added flour/water - what am I doing to the life expectancy ond/or hydration - if anything?

I believe I understand that if I had 100g of starter and then added 100g flour/100gwater - I would have 200g of a 100% hydration starter.  But if I had 100g of starter and added 200g of flour/water - it might be too much and have a negative effect or change the hydration?.

Conversely  by adding to the starter at a  ratio of 100g(starter) to 50g water and 50g flour - will I be starving the starter?

I guess my question - in summary is - to get more starter at 100% - do I always need to be adding a minimum of 1:1:1 which if beginning with  100 grams, then feeding with 100g would then be 200 to which I would then again add 1:1:1 resulting in 400g?

Am I on the right track or am I overthinking this again?

Aside from this - my starter looks good and smells good.  I'd like to use it but now I have to research out how to determine at what point I can do that and what hydration I have.  If it's not the 100% - how do I fix it?  Just measure out the total amount of starter and add equal parts of flour/water to that..

I'm leaving it out on the counter.  At what point can I refrigerate it so I don't have to feed it twice a day?

I've divided it into 2 containers so that I can experiment with them.  I'm feeding them both.

The topic has been discussed about how often to feed starters,(refrigerated or not)  but I hadn't seen anything on the minimum amount required to feed them.  It's probably here somewhere, but so far I haven't found it.

I really appreciate all of you putting up with my never ending questions. 



wally's picture


You say you started with equal weights flour and water.  So, you started with a 100% hydration starter (a 1:1 ratio).  Had you started with, say 100g flour and 60g water, you would have created a 60% hydration starter (60:100).  Had you started with 100g flour and 125g water, you would have created a 125% hydration starter (125:100). Notice that the weight of the flour is always represented as 100%, so that the percentage of other ingredients is based off of this depending on their weight.

It's up to you whether you want to maintain a stiff or a liquid starter (moreover, you can convert one to the other. (That involves a little more math than we're going to cover here).

If you want to maintain a liquid starter (at 125% hydration) try this measure:

1- 100g starter

2- 100g flour

3- 125g water

If you want to maintain a firm starter (at 60% hydration) try this measure:

1- 100g starter

2- 100g flour

3- 60g water

If  you want to maintain a starter that has a hydration of 100%, try this:

1- 100g starter

2- 100g flour

3- 100g water

Any of these total weights (260g - 325g) should be sufficient for home baking needs (I'm assuming two loaves of bread per day at about 1lb each).  If you are producing more than this in your baking, then just do the math and up the total weight of the starter.

As I wrote earlier, James MacGuire discourages keeping starters in the refrigerator unless you are planning to be away for a length of time, or are using it only infrequently. He and Jeffrey Hamelman recommend twice daily feedings.

If you are in a very warm environment during the summer, and you notice that your starter rises well, but then falls before its next feeding, you can try adding 1% - 2% of its total weight in salt.  The effect of the salt is to slow down the rate at which it metabolizes the starch in the flour (in other words, you're putting your yeast on a diet).

How sour your starter should be is largely up to your taste.  If you want to increase sourness (acidity), substitute some whole wheat flour for the white flour you add).

Hope this helps.



avatrx1's picture


Thanks for that.  It makes perfect sense.

One more question>  Converting a 100% to say 60% or whatever a "firm" starter might be would require how many feedings of a mixture of 100g flour to 60g water?

Would you just use a very small amount of starter and then add the low hydration feeding to that enabling you to use it within a day or so?  What would be the smallest amount of starter required in order to change the hydration rate?

I'm hoping that as I start experimenting with recipes - they tell you the hydration rate.

Since some starter recipes say to discard all but 1 T of starter and add to that, I'm assuming that I could create a firm starter using only 1 T?

I, like most on this site, hate to throw away anything - that is what prompted me to refrigerate my starter and then probably remove it mid-week.  I usually bake one to two loaves on Thursday or Friday for the weekend.  I'll give the salt addition a try.  I've been adding a little rye flour to mine, but I wasn't thrilled with the flavor of the first loaf I made.  I haven't toasted it yet, which is what the recipe author suggested was the best use for that particular recipe.  Maybe it wasn't the rye, but was the 2 cups of starter required?



Yumarama's picture

This has been discussed before, so here's info already available:

could someone post the "changing starter hydration instructions" again?

Generally, if a recipe does NOT indicate what hydration level it needs, it's a good guess to assume 100%. However, if the recipe requires 30g of starter and forgets to mention they want 60%, the difference in that small an amount isn't likely to make a huge difference in a 1400g dough big enough for two loaves.

When it comes to 2c of starter (what, not by weight?) then definitely the recipe needs to say what hydration it expects. Or at least somewhere in the book the author needs to state what they use in their recipes.


  • 30g of 100% starter is 15g water to 15g flour
  • 30g of 60% starter is 11g water, 19g flour, so you're up/down just 5g
  • 480g (about 2c) starter at 100% is 240g water to 240g flour
  • 480g of 60% starter is 180g water to 300g flour; now there's a fairly substantial difference in extra/missing ingredients if you use the wrong hydration


If the recipe or book doesn't say what % the starter should be, you're left playing a guessing game. In that case, move on to a better recipe, and preferably one that uses weights, not volumes.

apprentice's picture

Thanks for mentioning James MacGuire's views, and Hamelman's quoting Calvel, on the impact of refrigeration. You're referring to page 355, Bread, right? It was good for me to review that.

Actually, Calvel was not anti-refrigeration. He just specified that the temperature of the refrigeration chamber should stay between 8C and 10C, if you retard the mature culture for 48 hours or more. It's a moot point, however, since food-safe guidelines specify a fridge temp below 4C to keep all our other provisions out of the danger zone.

I guess I fall into MacGuire's category of a person who uses her starter infrequently. I get seduced in so many baking directions in the bread world, and then there's patisserie beckoning! But I've had great success in perpetuating the starter I brought home from baking school two years ago.

My starter's kept in the fridge. I feed it once a week, maintaining it quite stiff. Had to bring it back from near-dead once, but only because I went away on holidays. It's still going strong. I get gorgeous flavour and a great rise using it as the mother. I take an ounce and do 2 or 3 builds at room temperature to bring that up to the quantity I need for a particular recipe. Of course, I always save an ounce to be the "mother" for the next batch of sourdough bread -- which might not be for awhile!

It works. Here's the proof -- one of Chef Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough breads made last month. The size is small but not from lack of yeast activity. I find it more convenient to have three small loaves of 17 oz. each rather than two large ones.


wally's picture


The following formula is taken from Jeffrey Hamelman's wonderful book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes.

To convert a starter with a hydration of 125% to one that is 60%:

1- Start with the weights that create your 125% starter: flour = 100g, water = 125g, total weight = 100g + 125g = 225g.

2- Divide the weight of your water (125g) by the the hydration ratio you wish to convert to (in this case, 60).  125/60 = 2.08.  This is your conversion factor for determining the new ratio of flour and water to yield a 60% hydrated starter

3- Multiply your flour weight (100g) by 2.08 = 208g.  This represents the total weight of flour in your new 60% starter.  Since your current starter already has 100g flour, all you need to add is 108g flour to achieve the desired weight of 208g flour.

4- Your 60% hydration starter now has the following weights: flour = 208g, water = 125g, total weight = 333g.

5- In subsequent feedings, you can maintain this hydration by adding 50g starter to 50g flour and 30g water (for different amounts, keep the starter equivalent to the flour weight, and multiply the flour weight by 60% to determine how much water to add).

That's it.


bassopotamus's picture

If it is bubbling and smells sour with what you are doing, that is ok. Even a starter that has been neglected can usually be revived.

bergmef's picture

it's just tiny bubbles, I have my fingers crossed.

wally's picture

Hi apprentice,

Actually, both were mildly appalled when I told them I refrigerated my starter and only fed it about once every 5 days.  If I remember correctly, when I told Jeffrey about my feeding schedule, his remark was "Well, I could probably get by with one meal a week, but I'd be pretty cranky."  This discussion came up, by the way, when I mentioned that my starter was very active, but lacked any sourness.

Since then I've taken their advice and gone to twice daily feedings at room temp - I keep a firm starter that in total only weighs 130 g, so I'm not pitching out flour in great quantities (I'm replenishing with 50 g starter, 50 g flour, and 30 g water).  What I've noticed is that the starter now has a nice sourness to it that was previously lacking.

I guess we could debate the optimal ways to feed and keep starter forever (at least that's my conclusion having read account after account).  Perhaps the best summation I've received was from Mark Furstenberg who said that you really have to work to kill one. 

In any event, the picture of your loaf of Vermont sourdough has me salivating!


Mylissa20's picture

Larry, I know this thread is old, but I had a question about your old method for keeping your starter. When you fed it only weekly in the fridge, how much did you feed it? Did you feed it 1:1:1? I keep my starter in the fridge, and prefer the mild flavor because I use my starter in all my baking (muffins, cakes, etc). I'm just curious how other people have regimented their refrigerator starter feeding schedules to maintain mild flavor.