The Fresh Loaf

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Starter went slack and won't get up!

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Mike E's picture
Mike E

Starter went slack and won't get up!

Man, have you heard this one beore, or what? :)


The same starter I've been using for months just up and failed. It was nice and airy, frothy and bubbly.. and then all of a sudden, psshhtt! It's more like yoghurt than starter. It's just flat. It consumes some flour, I believe, cause it smells funky.. but it ain't doing the job of levitating my breads anymore. So, I chucked it. I started another one up and after about a week, I had good looking results.. and now, just as I'm building up my first batch to bread making proportions, this one goes flat too! Seems to have coincided with the warm weather.. I've done some archive searching, but I'm not seeing what might be the cause of all this. Ahh.. yeast!

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

How do you feed your starter and what do you feed it with?  If you give us more details maybe some of us can help?


Al


Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

What is your feeding proportion [S:W:F] what type of flour, what is your feeding schedule, is it fresh out of the fridge or does it live on the counter...


Such info is important in order to figure out what is going on. 


And it's a shame you tossed the old one. It may just have needed a tweak to get going again.


So drown us in details and we'll be better able to try and figure what happened.

Mike E's picture
Mike E

Well, from January 1st (when I got it) till it expired a couple months later, I had been feeding it 1:1:1 and keeping it in fairly small amounts.. like, anywhere from 10-100 grams and growing it up over the course of a day or two when I needed a bit to work with. I fed it with either KA bread or Gold Medal all purpose flour, occasionally giving it a few gram shot of either rye or whole wheat just for fun at feeding time. I fed once a day, unless I was growing it up, at noon and kept it at room temp, which here during the winter is about 65 degrees. I did not fridge my starter. This starter was given to me by a friend in Maine, and was a truly awesome buch of beasties to work with. It was very reliable and nice to work with. For this new one, I grew up a new batch and got bubbles and frothy good looking stuff ust like my old faithful, and suddenly, like the bees and their Colony Collapse Disorder, my starter collapsed. I've tried the rye and whole wheat trick.. and it sometimes looks like it's on the road to recovery (like it did last night.. ) but now this morning, it's just like a paste again.. 10 hours later.. with no bubbles at all. It doesn't smell 'bad', but it doesn't smell fresh yeasty like the old, good starter did. 

copyu's picture
copyu

you have some of the 'basics' correct.


Are you patient enough to see that it doubles or more before the second feeding, to make sure it is really active?


How much do you discard before feeding again?


1:1:1 is a bit light on the flour, regardless of how much you are keeping...your only problem MAY be impatience. (The rye or WW is a good move, but you could be starving and/or trying to 'rush' your starter.)


The true experts here will straighten you out, I'm sure. (I am sorry, too, that you discarded your first starter...I'm almost sure it was salvageable!)


 

Mike E's picture
Mike E

It always at least doubled.. it was very reliable like that. I discard random amounts.. I always used a scale to do my measuring, so no matter how much I had left, I would weight it for 1:1:1 feedings. this worked for months solid.. so I'm just baffled as to the sudden change. 

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

If you keep your high hydration starter in room temperature and feed it once a day, it may not get enough food.  Try feeding it with more flour especially WW or rye flour to make a lower hydration starter to see if it will look happier.  You can also try taking out a small amount of your starter and feed it more often, 2 - 3 times a day, to see if that approach will work better. 


On a side note, what type of water do you use?  Our city water is chlorinated but it doesn't seem to affect my starter.  But I've heard some bakers complain about chlorinated water significantly slows down the activity in their starter.  Also, do you wash the utensils used to handle your starter with soap?  Make sure they are free of soap residue.  Some say soap can hinder sourdough growth. 


Unless your starter begins to develope a strange color and/or a foul smell, I would not discard it.  Just keep feeding it with patience and care.  Our starters are like friends, the longer we spend time with the more we get to know them.  Your starter won't behave exactly like mine, but I know once you get to know your starter better, you will feel very comfortable in taking care ot it.  Don't give up!


Al


Mike E's picture
Mike E

I took this advise and went to a 1:2:2 feeding once a day, and this morning, it looks great! Why the heck is this, do you think? When it went for so long on a 1:1:1, suddenly it needs TWICE the food? Seems odd... my water is well water, from out here in the country. No chemicals that I know of in there... I do wash with soap, but keep it in the same container some times for day on end.. and I rinse real well. I just don't get the sudden change from one thing to another seemingly without reason.. but like I said, it looks good now, but I'll have to see if it holds up. 

blaargh's picture
blaargh

I'm no expert (far from it), but it seems to me the temperature change now that it's getting warmer is your biggest culprit. The yeast is getting way more active as the temp goes up. Either stick it in the fridge between uses, or feed more.

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Honestly, I don't have an answer to your question.  There are many factors that affect yeast growth, both directly and indirectly.   Room temperature, humidity, acidity, water/flour ratio, feeding pattern, a switch of flour i.e. different types, different brands, sometimes just different batch... these are just a few... will cause a significant change.


After my starter matured, I moved it into the fridge... a lot easier that way.  I feed it once or twice a week and it's usually very happy.  When I take it out to make a sponge the night before baking, I feed it with flour and water using 1:2:2: (stater:flour:water) ratio.  After 12 hour the sponge is ready and very active.  Now this is how I make the sponge, not to maintain the starter.  If I let it sit out any longer i.e. 24 hours as what you are doing, the sponge will go flat due to a lack of food.  So I can imagine your starter went flat after 24 hours because that's what mine would do.  Once my 12 hours up, I scoop up a cup of the sponge, feed it with some flour, let it sit in room temperature for about 1/2 hour then put it back into the fridge.  That becomes my starter for the following week.  The rest of the sponge, I use it to make bread.


Have you checked out sourdolady's blog about building and maintaining SD starter?  She's vey knowledgeable and her blog has a wealth of information that is beneficial to newbies,  even experienced sourdough bread bakers.  Here's a link to her blog:



http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233/wild-yeast-sourdough-starter


She helped me build my sourdough starter two years ago and my little friend has been producing hundreds of loaves since. 


You're right.  it's a good idea to keep an eye on your starter.  Hope it will continue to do well.  Happy baking!


Al