The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Diagnose my starter?

CeraMom's picture

Diagnose my starter?

Pictures will be better than words, I think.

Side view

" Growth Mark "

Top View


All those bubbles make me think it's alive and well on its way, but I can't shake the fear that it will never rise! As you can see, it rose about a millimeter. It is a 100% hydration starter, fed about 12 hours ago. I don't know if i should feed it again or not.


I started it with AP flour and bottled water at 100% hydration. Day 1 had bacteria bubbles. Day 3-6 it looked dead, and I fed it with rye flour on day 6 and day 7.

Today is day 8. I'm aware that it was off to a VERY slow start because of the AP flour and water ( rather than rye and pineapple juice ).

Any thoughts? Is Yost my Yeast on its way?

Matt H's picture
Matt H

Give it some time. If you've got bubbles, there's something going on. It will grow slowly if your house is cold like mine. There is a huge difference in growth rate between 65 and 75 degrees in terms of growth rate.

Keep feeding it, and it if you don't get the kind of action you're looking for, send away for a seed culture.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

I think you should start it again using an organic rye or organic whole wheat flour to get the yeasties going...  AP doesn't have much natural yeast present...  It took my starter about 10 days to get going having started it with rye...  Yours may just take longer...

Ho Dough's picture
Ho Dough

I'm a few days ahead of you with an OJ/Rye starter that I moved to a 100% hydration water/flour starter at day 4. At about day 5 or 6, it had a similar bubble pattern as you have and it went "frothy"....a light fluffy sponge like it had egg whites beaten into it, but like you, didn't rise and expand in volume. It just chugged away in place. What little rise there was would come and go in the first 12 hours, so at that time, I upped the feeding schedule to 12 hours (vs. 24 at the start).

It also did something I seem to recall reading about in one of Debra Wink's started to "liquify". That is to say that what appeared to be a stiff mix thinned out considerably. It appears the gluten in the flour broke down to more soup than something that would puff up.

I contrast that to a milk/flour starter I've been maintaining that traps bubbles in the mix and rises....holds for several hours, then eventually, falls back. So similar, yet so different. I attribute this to a different mix of livestock swimming around in there, but that's all part of the fun. The other thing that's different about the milk/flour starter is after a day or so, not only does it quickly form a layer of hooch,  it tastes sour and also has the distinct tingle of carbonation you can feel on the tongue. Have never heard anyone mention that before. And even after days in the fridge, doesn't go thin like the OJ/rye base start does.

So again, I'm no help, other than to say I'm in the same neighborhood.

clazar123's picture

I concur with  Matt H- there is a world of difference in room temp's effects on the culture.

Keep discarding/feeding and keep it on top of the refrigerator. That is the warmest spot in many a kitchen as the hot air from the coils on the back of the refrig rise.Also, I have found that vigorous stirring once or twice a day seems to help.Perhaps stirring in more airborne yeast?

If it is forming hootch, you need to feed it more often.I also found if I start with just a few tbsp of flour and constantly discard half, it seems to be much easier to work with and activates more consistently.Once you have a starter that starts rising its level, you can increase the volume.

Another trick is to hold it in a warm place in a basement. Basements have more ambient mold-it doesn't all come from the flour, you know.

Janknitz's picture

I figured out it was too cold.  Our house at its warmest is only about 65 degrees except in summer.  I started using the microwave for an incubator--boil a cup of water in the microwave and then set the starter in the microwave next to the cup of hot water.  Close the door.  This creates an environment that is close to 80 degrees.  If you need the microwave for other uses, simply reheat the water when you put your starter back in. 

Once I got the temperature up, my starter took off.  Remember you will need to feed it more often as soon as it gets going--which will probably be within 8 to 12 hours of warming it up. 

Yumarama's picture

Continue as you have been going. And remember that the most important ingredient in this process is...


Keep Yost warm (21-24ºC or 70-75ºF preferably), keep on your feeding schedule as per the formula and he'll get there when he's good and ready. Fretting about it won't speed anything up one tiny bit.

TRUST that he'll get there soon. Because he will.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to it as is, a heaping tablespoon of flour to thicken it up and just observe for another 12 hours.  It is very hard to tell how much starter is in the bowl.


Yumarama's picture

which is here:

How fast can a starter um... start?

I believe that CeraMom started with a vast quantity but has since trimmed back, possibly to about a half cup total which is about what the Debra Wink formula gives you. 

I think the container it's in now may be a bit too big, giving a wide but shallow pool of starter, and Yost could do with something smaller so the bubbles aren't all immediately at the surface and escaping. Something like a pint sized jar might help make any rise more obvious.

12 os mason jar

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

No need to start over.  I think it was on day 7 or 8 that I was wondering the same about my brand new starter a few months ago.  It was MiniOven's advice, and rainbowz' and Wink's posts that saved mine.  Adding the rye flour was a good move.  I still use about 10% organic rye when feeding mine.  Also, taking Mini's advice to thicken the starter will probably make a difference.

Mine is 100% hydration, but I use either bread flour or KAF AP, both of which make a thicker starter than other AP flours.   I thought it was the higher protein content that made a stronger starter, but maybe it's just that the higher protein flour absorbs more water, so it's just thicker.  I never get hooch, even tho I may go a week or two between feedings.

I also found that the warmer temperature helped at first.  I think I kept mine at 80 degrees (under a desk lamp) the first 2 weeks.  Now I keep it in the fridge.


Faith in Virginia's picture
Faith in Virginia

I keep 3 starters going one white one whole wheat and one rye.   My rye is very healthy and I will tell you it dose not react like the other two starters.  First I feed my rye a 50 water 40 flour 40 rye starter.  After it's fed and you give it a mix it acts more like tooth paste with no spring or binding.  If you have doubts about the health of your starter give it a test.  Take your discard from a feeding and mix in the flour weight (of your starter discard) with the same amount of white flour ...set it out and ckeck for any rise.  

LA Baker's picture
LA Baker

I know this is like cheating a bit.  But when I first rec'd the BBA I tried to make the barm.  It always appeared to be working, but when I tried any recipes, my bread never rose.  It was very frustrating.  I really didn't know what a really GOOD starter should act like, smell like, taste like.  So I sent away for some starter recommended on this blog:

There were instructions on the site on how to revive the starter and it has worked perfectly ever since.  Best thing: I now knew what I was supposed to look for.  So when I tried the BBA Culture/Barm again, I could tell right away when it was right. 

This saved me a lot of frustration...just a thought : )