The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

starter question

Terpflan's picture
Terpflan

starter question

I've started my first starter and I wanted to make sure I was on the right track. I started simple: one cup unbleached King Arthur bread flour and filtered well water. The mixture looks like pancake batter. Its in a plastic container covered with a damp paper towel (with a small hole ripped in the center).

There were bubbles in less than 12 hours. Within three days it was frothy. However, after four days, there is no more froth. Also, all along there hasn't seemed to be any expansion/contraction going on. Maybe I'm missing it, but the sides of the container don't show any evidence of streaking.

During this time, I've fed it every 24 hours and kept it in an area that is always approx. 75 degrees with no direct sunlight. The smell is pleasantly "beery" and the liquid (hooch?) separates daily.

I guess the crux of my question is does the frothing stop at some point and does the expansion/contraction necessarily take place if the ratio of flour to water is equal?

Thanks

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Hi Terpflan,
I will try to explain a few things and hopefully help you get that starter going. The first bubbles that came aren't yeast, but bacteria. As the mixture ferments it becomes more acidic and these bacteria die off. That is why you see bubbles and then--nothing. As your mixture ferments and becomes more acidic the yeast will wake up and begin to grow. Wild yeast needs a low pH to start growing. Once the yeast is growing well it will tolerate a wider pH range.

Are you dumping out at least half of your starter daily and then feeding with more flour/water? If you haven't been doing this, then it probably has exhausted all the nutrients in the flour and is starving. You might also try adding a tablespoon or two of very fresh whole wheat or rye flour. The yeasts are on the grains, and whole grains have more of it beacuse the outer layers haven't been removed. I buy whole grain flour in bulk at the health food store and they sell it by the pound so you can buy very small quantities.

For more information, see the article I wrote about making a wild yeast starter in my bread blog.

Good luck, and keep me posted!

Terpflan's picture
Terpflan

SourdoLady, thanks for the quick response. I have been removing half and feeding daily. However, I'm curious, does the frothing stop at some point or should it continue while its at room temp? I guess the only way to find out is to try out a batch this weekend.

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

The frothing will continue until the yeast has consumed all the available nutrients in the flour. Then the hooch will appear. After feeding it, you should see it actively bubbling for several hours. The bubbling should start to be visible within 15 minutes or less if you have good yeast activity. If you are not seeing any bubbles at all now, I would try adding a couple of spoonfuls of whole grain flour in with your next feeding. Don't worry about it if you aren't interested in baking whole grain breads. Once you give it a few feedings with white flour you will never know it had whole grain in it in the beginning.

Did you read my blog page about making a wild yeast starter? Try adding the 1/4 tsp. of vinegar and see what happens. That usually gets the pH level down so that the yeast can start to multiply. Be patient, you'll get it going!