The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Varying feeding when changing flour?

lacuna's picture

Varying feeding when changing flour?

Hi there,

I "captured" some yeasties using the pineapple solution method (substituting orange juice instead) a few weeks ago.  I'm very happy with my beastie whom I've been feeding white flour on a 1:2:2 ratio by weight.  I bake using recipes that use 100% hydration sourdough starter.

But I actually bake whole wheat bread almost exclusively, so when my white AP flour ran out, I bought some King Arthur white whole wheat instead.

Now I find that my resulting starter after feeding is a lot thicker than before.  When i was feeding the beast white flour, it would yield a really thick. gummy liquid.  But now it is more like soft bubble gum rather than stiff liquid. 

Should I be changing the weight of flour on feeding now that I'm using different flour?  I don't mind having a thicker starter, but it confuses me how a thicker starter can still be used in recipes as a 100% hydration starter with the same amount of added water.  Also, I prefer less sour bread, so I liked having a slightly more runny starter.  Maybe I should cut back to 90% hydration, and use as if it is still 100%.

Does anyone have any advice?



flournwater's picture

There are differences in the formulation of the flours you describe which will cause each to react differently in a formula.  For example:

King Arthur White Whole Wheat                   AP White (typical)

1% fat                                                              0% fat

6% carbohydrates                                           8% carbohydrates

8% protein                                                       6% protein

The difference in protein alone (25%) would make a significant difference in how your starter handles it.

lacuna's picture

Thanks for your reply flournwater.

I guess what I'm really trying to understand is the how to vary the amount or hydration of a starter depending on the kind of bread being made.  Let me try and explain.

Say there is a multigrain sourdough loaf recipe that specifies the use of a 100% hydration starter.  The amount of starter specified is 45% of flour weight.

Well, whenever I read about what kind of starter to use, people talk about interchangeably using a 100% hydration white starter or 100% hydration rye starter or 100% hydration whole wheat starter in the same recipe.  But I don't notice anyone discussing having to wary the amount of flour or water used to compensate for the kind of starter being used.

Now that I think about it, and thanks to flournwater's explanation, of course it makes sense a 100% hydration whole wheat starter's going to be dryer than a 100% hydration white starter.  in fact, that's precisely what I observed.

So it seems to me, that if a recipe specifies a 100% hydration white starter, and I wanted to substitute a 100% hydration whole wheat starter, I need to either add a bit more water, or use a higher hidraytion starter.

But I am puzzled how come the recipes I see actually just say starter, don't say what kind.  And why no one ever mentions having to vary the recipe slightly based on the kind of starter used.  For me the difference was actually quite significant.  Maybe everyone just took it for granted as implicit knowledge and I just didn't know.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Lacuna, don't you mean the opposite when you write:

Also, I prefer less sour bread, so I liked having a slightly more runny starter.  Maybe I should cut back to 90% hydration, and use as if it is still 100%.

My starter takes advantage and gets more sour fermenting faster when it has more hydration, just checking, starters do vary. 

Increase hydration (water weight divided by flour weight)  110% - 125% to get a more liquid starter. 


lacuna's picture

Hi Mini,

I'm not sure.  I haven't been able to do a side by side comparison, and there are so many variables.  I just noticed that a higher hydration starter gives me faster rising times on my dough.  Which I think seemed to give me less sourness.  I'll keep playing.


Thanks for the reply!