The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Changing a firm starter to liquid - when is it ready?

hullaf's picture

Changing a firm starter to liquid - when is it ready?

It's been a while since I've written here but it's always nice to come back for answers to my questions. I've been reading Debra Wink's blog to learn about sourdough "mechanics" and love it! It makes my brain work harder. 

I know that a firm starter is less "sour" than a liquid one from what I've read. I understand it is "suppressing the bacterial (sour) and enhancing the yeast (lift.)" This is what I have wanted in the past baking months - a yeast from a sourdough starter that will rise my breads, without having to use commercial yeast, and is not so sour tasting. My starter has done very well as a firm one in these situations; it is maintained regularly, well fed and active, but is a whole wheat starter.  

I have been experimenting with a Hamelman recipe (the Five-Grain Levain) that says to use a liquid starter. I have been using my firm one for this particular recipe (just changing the hydration with the levain build up 12-16 hours before using it in the final dough) but it doesn't come out quite as sour as I thought it would, even with the retarding overnight in the refrigerator.  And really, shouldn't we use the liquid one if he says so?

Thus, I'm going to take a portion of my firm whole wheat starter and change it to a liquid one at 100% hydration (no problema here, I have done this process before.) So, when can I use the liquid starter, when is it ready or "sour" enough, how long does it take for the populations of LAB and yeast to change ?  . . . after 2 or 3 or X number of feedings?  More experimentation? 

Thanks, Anet  

flournwater's picture

I would use it when it shows evidence of active life, perhaps after the first feeding.  As long as the yeast is active (wild or commercial) it should work.  Whether it's sour enough at that point is another question.

Janknitz's picture

I have a liquid starter that is not sour. I'm happy with that--I don't really like the sour flavor.  It is used weekly and stored in the fridge.  Even when I do slow builds it stays pretty mild, though it has a nice, clean sour smell. 

My understanding is that t may just depend on the mix of bacteria and yeast your starter happens to have. 

osx-addict's picture

My understanding is that a 50% starter is more sour than a wet one.. I read that here on this forum in another post (link below):


flournwater's picture

I've read it both ways.  Some claim that a wet starter tends to be more sour than the firmer starters, others say just the opposite.  I've found that the firmer starter is actually a bit more sour than the wetter more liquid starter and it improves with the addition of rye flour.