The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How much to feed your starter?

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

How much to feed your starter?

How much do you feed your starter?  When I started off with Blarf, I had a 100% hydration starter that was fed 2:1:1 (starter:flour:water).  This worked well for me with twice a day feedings, but I was able to get away with once a day as well.  When Dulce was born, I kept her on a 1:1:1 once a day schedule, which seemed to stay more active longer (more food).

I now have a 125% hydration that is fed 4:4:5 one a day, and a 60% that is fed 5:5:3 once a day.  The firmer starter seems to be ok with this, but the liquid Blarf loses a lot of activity towards the end of the day (as it approaches its new feeding).

Eventually I think it would be nice to develop a schedule that uses a lot more flour and water, but only has to be fed once a week.  For example, what if we were to do something like 1:10:10 once a week?  What is the least you could feed your starter and keep it active? I imagine it would have to be fed fairly often; twice a day at 4:1:1 might work. I would be interested to see how the activity levels change from the moment of feeding up until it is about to be fed again.

Things to think about with feeding schedules:

- How different does your starter behave when used 4 hours, 8 hours, or right before its next feeding?
- What percentage of your overall dough does your starter usually occupy?
- How much energy does it take to keep your starter at the schedule?
- How do you adjust when the schedule needs to change?

Thanks for any input on the matter.

Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

and for the first several days of their actual starter activity (past the waking up stage) I was feeding them on a 1:1:1 ratio but found they were peaking rather quickly and even on a 12 hour feed cycle, they collapsed far too early. They probably could have done with an 8 hour feed cycle, possibly less. These were, of course, 100% hydration.

You can check the progress as I blogged their development here:

http://yumarama.com/blog/2009/08/starter-from-scratch-intro/

When I bumped them up to a 1:2:2 ratio, they were much better able to get through the whole 12 hours. What I did notice, however, was that they didn't peak at, say, 3 hours on 1:1:1 and 6 hours on 1:2:2 but that they peaked more towards 4 or 5 hours. So doubling their food did not double their peak time.

I'm guessing there's some mathematical formula that can be applied here but the food ratio to peak time is more of an exponential than straight multiplication thing.

They were countertop only for the three week project so there was no issue about refrigerator to counter temp changes. As for room temp, these guys were birthed during a bit of rather warm spell in our area and the kitchen was pretty steady in the 80-85ºF/26-30ºC range.

Does any of that help? 

Oh, and my normal starter is refrigerated and fed once a week again at 1:2:2, the "discard" is used to make the bread so that gets a feed or three to get up to whatever quantity is needed for the recipe. Typically though, I do Hamelman's Vermont which only needs 28g, so that's easy gotten out of the 40g excess.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

Thanks rainbowz.  I was so confused reading about your starters running out of food so quickly, but then I saw that you are in quite a warmer area from me (usually 65F).

I'm curious about your formula using only 28g starter.  I have been using much higher starter percentages (500g starter for 1500g dough or so), but would like to start experimenting with much smaller percentages.  What is the formula for the Hamelman's Vermont?

Thanks again,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Hamelman builds a Levain for "12 to 16 hours at about 70º" prior to making the bread so that 28g gets parlayed into 306g of levain before it is made into bread dough. That 28g of 100% gets 136g flour + 170g water - a 125% hydration levain, in other words. But that also means you don't need to keep 330g of starter at the ready. The final dough is at 65% hydration once everything is mixed in.

rick.c's picture
rick.c

Hello,

I have a starter that I started ub march or so.  I was on a weekly feeding schedule, keeping it in the fridge.  Then, it was summer.  I literally have not fed it since early june, yeah.  It's summer and I haven't ben baking much.

So, I noticed it in the back of the fridge last week and wondered if it would do anything for me.  It had about 1/4" of hooch sitting on top and when stirred was about the consistency of water, NOTHING left for the flour to give.  So, I took about 2 Tbs out and mixed it into 1/2 cup of flour and water to get a good consistency, then left at room temp.  Sure enough, it came to life and bubbled & doubled within 18 hrs.

So, I don't worry too much about regular feedings.  My thought process is if I feed it enough to maintain life every couple months, it will be alive.  Don't worry, I don't treat my dog the same way.

But really, if I am doing something so horrible that will ruin (or even change) the flavor of my breads, I would love to have an intelligent answer as to what is going on.

Thx

Rick

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog

I feed my starter once a week with course ground flour. The hydration is 50% and I leave the starter out on the counter. I use 10 grams of the old starter with 10 grams of water and the 20 grams of flour. I have been doing this experiment for 8 months and like it so far. One week I forgot to feed the starter and almost killed it.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I like this approach.  When you bake your breads from it, what is your normal technique? Do you go straight from starter to a mixed dough, or do you create a higher hydrated pre-ferment first?

Thanks,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

LeadDog's picture
LeadDog

When I make bread I take 14 grams of my 40 gram storage starter and mix it with 28 grams of flour and 14 grams of water. I let this ferment for 8 to 12 hours. I then take all of that and mix it with 119 grams of flour and 59 grams of water. When that has fermented 8 to 12 hours I place all of it into the dough that I am making. It is 25% of the flour that is in the dough. I normally make one or two breads a week and at the end of the week I feed my starter again.

I have changed the hydration of the builds for the breads that I make but the one I'm talking about about I make once a week.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

The starter feeding regimin you decide to establish will be specific to the results you're trying to obtain.  From my experience and from all that I have read, the more force applied to the process the more the flavor suffers.  If you want a fully developed, full flavor bread dough you have to allow it the time necessary to achieve its peak potential.  Squeezing grapes and putting the juice in a bottle for tomorrow night's dinner does not make good wine.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I'm not necessarily trying to rush the process.  In fact, letting the starter take more time between feedings would have many benefits.  All I am trying to do is understand the factors involved to achieve that peak potential depending on how you are feeding your starter.

Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org