Collapsing starter - not feeding enough? Double in bulk before or after deflation?
I have a question about the look-and-feel of a well-maintained sourdough starter. To summarise, at the end of a feed cycle, my starter collapses back to original volume when deflated. I am wondering if I'm doing something wrong. Details follow.
I am a newbie to sourdough, baking and lurking here for the past month, learning heaps and heaps. I hope this is the right way to post the question. Please feel free to correct any gaffes I might make.
About 3 weeks ago I got my 1847 Oregon Sourdough starter in the mail, and revived it as per instructions on their website. My yeasties revived quickly and beautifully, and proceeded to grow voraciously. Especially during the spell of hot weather we had in Boston a week ago.
I keep a colony living in a mason jar on top of the fridge (henceforth to be called the Beasties), and another batch in a plastic container in the fridge (henceforth called the Fridge-batch). The Beasties colony gets fed regularly and any excess starter goes into the Fridge-batch. I use the Fridge-batch warmed to room temperature in my bread. The reason I am doing this is because I want to observe, and practise keeping my Beasties healthy at room temp. Once I get to know my Beasties well, I intend to move to a fridge-storage-and-refresh routine.
I made 2 loaves since: a 100% whole wheat (well except for my white flour starter) and a bohemian rye. My husband said the whole wheat was one of the best breads he's ever eaten (yes, I took it with a pinch of wifely salt, but he did wolf the loaf down in 2 days). The rye was very pleasant although a bit flat, probably because I added too much salt. So I know my starter is working and to my liking.
Since then, I've been feeding the Beasties every 12 hours. I do 1/4 c starter, 1/8 c water, 1/4 c unbleached AP flour. (I am waiting for my scales to arrive, so volume will have to do till then.) I believe this approximates the 1:1:1 ratio. In the warmth of my kitchen, the Beasties seem to double in volume within about 4-5 hours! At the end of the 12 hours, the Beasties have collapsed (naturally). So I think I need to feed them more and have moved to 1:2:2 today.
In the jar I use, I've been easily getting double, sometimes even 3 or 4 expansion as measured by how high the starter has grown in the jar. HOWEVER! When i gently deflate the bubbling mass with a chopstick, it invariably collapses, and in the situation I've described above, it collapses back to the exact volume I measured after feeding. So for example, after feeding as described above, I get 3 oz of stuff in the jar. At the end of the 12 hour cycle, it might look like 5 oz (coz it collapsed) but if I poke it, the Beastie will go back down to 3 oz. Essentially I end up with the same stuff at the start and the end of the feed cycle. Please note that I know it has grown in the meanwhile. So it isn't dead.
So here are my questions:
(1) In everything I've read, it says that feeding should double the bulk of the starter. Is that BEFORE or AFTER you inflate it?
(2) If I end up with the same bulk as I started with (but I know that it has grown to more than double and collapsed during the cycle), is it just a matter of feeding more, or is there something else I'm doing wrong?
I'm trying to figure out the effect I'm looking for in deciding how much to feed the Beasties.
Thank you muchly for your help and attention!
P.S. FYI, here are the recipes I used: