The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

will weather affect countertop starter?

Experimental Baker's picture
Experimental Baker

will weather affect countertop starter?

i recently moved to a cooler location and fall has set in.  i know that putting the starter in the fridge will cause it to retard, but i use it constantly, and i dont want to retard it if i can help it, but with this weather...

my question is this: what is the degree to which colder (60 to 70 and hopefully no colder *burrr*) degree weather affects the effectiveness/yeast growth of the starter, and how will this affect bread when i go to make it?  is there something i should change or alter due to weather?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Here is a post with a rise time table.   At first it may overwhelm, but after noticing the temps and times, you may find it interesting that just a few degrees makes such a difference!  

If you can avoid the fridge, do so!  Your starter will improve in flavor.

With a little experimentation you will find out if you need to add a little extra flour to keep feeding the increasing yeast. 

First, time the starter with your normal feeding (flour weight the same or more than the starter weight) to see how long it takes it to peak. 

Second,  adjust the feedings to meet your schedule.  If the kitchen is really cool, one daily feeding may be enough.  Warmer... then two feedings.  Setting the jar in a draft like near a window, will also "slow down" the starter and can play havoc on rise times esp. if the sun shines in the window for the starter will warm up and fermentation will speed up.  (This can also be used to an advantage just be aware of it happening. One cloudy day could mess up your baking schedule!) 

It may be a good idea to reduce the amount of starter you feed if you don't plan on baking every day.  That way the discard can be minimum. 


Daisy_A's picture

Hi Experimental Baker,

As Mini has indicated, yeast activity will slow down with lower temperatures.

This means also that bread will take longer to proof. You can address the proofing issue, though.  

You could gauge the increased time needed to proof (going by the table or by observation of how long it takes your starter to double at a particular temperature), and then allow the required time. Straight bulk fermentation can be 5 hours or more for some starters at cooler temperatures. 

Alternatively you could speed up fermentation time by increasing the dough temperature during bulk or second fermentation. I do this by placing the dough on a lidded pyrex dish filled with hot water.

Don't do what I do sometimes, though - warm up the dough then go away and get totally engrossed in something else and risk over-fermentation!

Either way a good probe thermometer is a good investment if you do not yet have one!

Wishing you happy baking in your new place,  Kind regards, Daisy_A

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL loaf of bread didn't rise as beautifully as it normally does on Friday.  We had a nor'easter that day, and it just occurred to me that that may have had something to do with it.  Barometric pressure, possibly?

Experimental Baker's picture
Experimental Baker

any help is really welcome! 

mini:  i like the chart (when i decipher it i will probably adore it), and thanks for the reminder about the window.  i was thinking about moving my flour and that made me realize that i would chill the flour, not to mention the starter!  i know for a fact that last week when it was warmer, my starter wouldnt last with a 1:3:3 feeding.  it hit peak and receeded, so i think sticking with the twice a day feeding should work.  i might attempt a 1:4:4 just to see if i can get away with it if im not home overnight and reattempt the 1:3:3 feeding once it gets just a little cooler.

daisy: thanks for the help concerning the proofing. ive been following the trend of sticking hot water in a bowl and then placing it in the microwave with the dough on top of the bowl inside.  i was a little worried at first but it had no skin and proofed okay.  i took some baking classes (only one of them on bread almost a year ago) and kept leaving them in my coat, so ive got 3 of them, one in my purse, one in the kitchen, and one in my kit.  i also have a loud obnoxious timer on my phone that i set so when i DO go off i know to get my butt back in the kitchen. 

paddy: no idea.  im still working on my ddt numbers (the mixer speed using hand mixing is completely confusing) never mind the weather.  i just knew that it was as cool outside as it was in my fridge and that wasnt good.

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Experimental Baker,

Thanks for the message. Sounds like things are going well. I forgot to say if proofing I put a plastic bag which I've dampened inside over the dough to stop the skin forming. Sounds like yours is going okay. Perhaps the microwave holds moisture well?

If it is any help to have a comparison on the yeast front, I have yeasts that produce very tasty bread but which are very sensitive to the cold.

I tend to keep a firmer dough but regularly feed 4 or even 6 times flour to starter to keep the creatures in food.

I only feed small amounts though, keeping only 10,15 or 20 grams of starter each time. So a typical feed would be 10g starter/30g water/40g flour or 10g starter/30g water/60g flour.

I do keep it in the fridge now but have to feed twice rather than once a week.

When I need to build up to a bake I take a small amount from the 'mother' and build it up on the bench for 2 or 3 feeds, often over 2 days or more. 

Re the mixing - do you have Susan's chart for judging the water temperature for ddt?  It is on

Wishing you continued good baking.  Kind regards, Daisy_A

Dillbert's picture

>>Barometric pressure, possibly?

hmmm. stormy weather is generally associated with a low pressure area - the loaf should have expanded/risen more . . .

humidity is another aspect - but higher humidity like steaming in the oven is supposed to keep the crust from forming too soon and inhibiting oven spring....

might have just been temperature.

Experimental Baker's picture
Experimental Baker

daisy: okay that was MUCH quicker to understand than the table.  im going to use both once i get the table figured out but for the moment, that helps a lot. 

if i had known some of this beforehand i probably wouldnt have had such an obnoxious time with the whole wheat bread i made, but thats why i asked the forums.  im really glad there is a place i can come to for answers, tips, thoughts, recipes, and ideas all in one place.  thank you bread gods, wherever you are!