The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter "problem?"

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cmkrause's picture

Starter "problem?"

I am on the last day of initiating a first one ever!  The problem is:  from the very first day I have found separation of the flour and the water.  I stir it each day, and it comes together well, and there are definite bubbles.  I feed it, and it comes together well, but when I open the container the next day it has separated once again.  I can't believe this is normal, but I have not been able to find any info on this.

LindyD's picture


I think it would be helpful if you listed the type of flour you are using and your flour/water ratio for the refreshments.

Are you discarding a portion of the culture before feeding it?

How about the water?  City, well, bottled?


cmkrause's picture

Great!  I have been using AP flour and bottled water as per the following:

Any suggestions?

dulke's picture

The liquid is called hooch - it's an alcohol that forms when the yeast has consumed all of the food value of the yeast. You should be discarding part of the starter and adding twice the quantity of flour and water for optimal development of your starter. So if you are staring with 1/4 cup starter, add 1/2 cup each of flour and water. Nothing wrong with hooch, but some feel that if your starter develops a lot of hooch, it will have more tang, but potentially also be a bit weaker, meaning it will not be as strong a yeast - so longer to rise when you make your dough. I've not tested this.

LindyD's picture

Hooch is the waste product of the bacteria and yeast in the culture.  Think of it as the excrement of the yeast-beasties.  It's a sign your SD culture is hungry, so you could try feeding it every 12 hours or increase the amount of flour you are using.  

You are discarding a portion with each refreshment, right?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

  • You do not yet have hootch, it is too young.

  • You have separation of water and flour, try using more flour.

  • The more whole grain ground into the flour you are using, the better the chances.

And before you begin read also this:

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

Your recipe lists 1/2 cup flour as 4 oz.  But I think it's more like 2 oz.  A recipe calling for 4 oz each of flour and water would have more flour by volume than the water.  Mini or the others can tell you what the better proportions would be.  I found that when I went to all AP flour, the starter was too thin/watery.  Adding a little whole wheat and rye improved the starter immensely.  Even switching from AP to bread flour was noticeably better.  After 3 weeks of mixed results, I now have a well-behaved starter.