The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter yeast must be wild?

darksprite's picture

Starter yeast must be wild?

Hi all!

First time poster from Los Angeles who is so impressed with the amount of knowledge contained and shared on TFL. I've been searching the site for the past two weeks, and it's been inspirational!

I have been making bread with preferments to develop more complex taste--even in recipes not calling for preferments. This, and the many posts saying that sourdough starter doesn't mean sour bread, has made me interested in building a sourdough starter.

I was wondering if building a starter using commercial yeast was possible, along the lines of making a preferment with commercial yeast and then "feeding" it to keep it alive. My thoughts are that my native yeast would out-compete the commercial yeast and eventually dominate the starter.

Am I way off base?



**EDIT: 3 Nov 2010**

My attempt to make a starter with the pineapple juice method failed; After reading around on here and on sourdough-specific sites, I think the starter was too wet. I kept having to stir in liquid pooling on top, and eventually it molded.

The "Sourdough 101" method worked beautifully, and I now have a healthy, vigorous starter. My commercial yeast "starter" (better put "levain"?) is also doing well. I am making bread with the commercial starter tonight and will make bread with the sourdough starter over the weekend.


subfuscpersona's picture

You can make your sourdough starter from flour (organic rye OR organic wheat flour are recommended in the initial stages; once the yeast organisms are established you can switch to unbleached (white) bread flour if you want a white flour sourdough starter). Look at the TFL handbook for how to make your own sourdough starter.

For the price of two stamps you can get about 1/2 teaspoon of dried sourdough starter. This shortcuts the initial stage of creating a starter. See

darksprite's picture

@subfuscpersona: Thanks for the quick response! I wanted to bother with commercial yeast to build a starter that hopefully local wild yeast would take over. This would take 1-3 days rather than 5-10 days that other starter methods take.

Unless someone warns me regarding continuing to feed a preferment as though it were a sourdough starter, I will start that method tonight. I will also try capturing my own wild yeast with the flour/water or flour/pineapple juice method. I will report back (with photos!).

Should both fail, I will buck up and send an SASE to Carl's Friends or purchase live stuff from Breadtopia.

Thanks again!

yozzause's picture

Hi Darksprite and welcome to TFL

I think that you will just be propogating the original strain of yeast rather than  a sour dough culture and it will take some time before that is outbred by ANY wild strains, but it isn't just yeast that we are promoting in our sough dough cultures it is also good bacteria.

I have used my sour dough culture as a pre ferment to work on the flour for some time before building a dough and then added commercial yeast to the mix for A SHORTER bulk fermentation period.

i also like doing preferments in my bread making.

There is quite a difference in a good active culture that allows you to retard and still have activity that you just dont get with commercial yeast.

regards Yozza

darksprite's picture

Hi Yozza,

Thanks for the info. Would you say wild yeast cultures are more active than standard commercial yeast in general, or just at lower temperatures?

Tonight I've begun three attempts to build a starter: the pineapple juice method, the "Sourdough 101" post method, and commercial yeast + 1:1 flour:water.

If nothing else, it will be fun to see how each compares...


Serge's picture

Hi Jason,

Good luck with your experiments. I"m sure you will have a blast. I also did tried quite a few different things a few months back. I had lots of fun in the process, but one thing I didn"t have was any luck starting my own starter. After try #4, I gave up and asked an aquaintance to provide me with a bit of her "Chef" and have been propagating it since. I am now at the stage of playing with different sourdough formula to try to find the perfect "Pain au levain".

To build on what Yozza indicated, Wild Yeasts excel in a different environment than commercial yeast. Wild yeasts flourish in an acidier environment. This acidity is created by both acetic acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria. Both bacteria also play a huge role in developing the complexe flavours that differentiates Sourdough breads from commercial yeast breads. It is because of the lack of this acidic environment that I suspect it will be difficult for the wild yeast to take over if you add commercial yeast to the initial starter - essentially, they don"t have ideal growing conditions wihile the commercial stands do. It might work, but I suspect it will take a while. That being said, I am far from being a food scientist, so you will be better positioned to confirm all of this in the next little while.

Also, I would suggest putting only a pinch of commercial yeast. If you put too much (as I had done) all the sugars risk being consumed by the yeast way before the scheduled next feeding and you might end up with a nice goopy mess.

All that being said: Have fun in your kitchen! The more you experiment, the better you will understand how things work and it will inevitably make you a better home baker.

Keep me posted on your various trials.


yozzause's picture

Hi Jason

Thats a great start with your sour dough cultures but they do take a little while to develop and mature into reliable friends, I would suggest that you keep your parent culture pure and not add commercial yeast to that, as it will become a bit of a mongrel.

I am sure there will be a TFL member reasonably close to you that will gladly give you a daughter to nurture (i am still refering to cultures here) which will speed up your endeavours somewhat.

I would gladly let you have some of mine, but unless you are coming over with a free ticket and OPHRA soon its a long way to come , although my son inlaw may well be heading for the states soon on business. 

I have recently taken an interest in some of the brewing yeasts as their are quite a variety that have differing working temperatures and although primarily developed for their alcohol producing abilities rather than gas production they are proving quite interesting.

kind regards Yozza

Davo's picture

I'm not exactly certain of this, but what I've read is that wild yeasts by and large don't eat maltose (which I think is what the amylase enzymes make from damaged starch). Commercial yeast east it happily, as do lactobacilli.

This means lactobacilli (which break the maltose - a disaccharide - into monosaccharides which wild yeasts do eat) and wild yeasts do not compete and therefore reach a stable partnership. Commercial yeasts and lactobacilli do compete, and therefore will be less liable to form that stable symbiosis.

No doubt eventually it will convert over as wild yeasts come into the mix and lactobacilli at some stage gain a foothold despite the commercial yeast competition. But why bother with a handicap?

darksprite's picture

It appears you have reason to be certain:

Thanks for that info. It makes this experiment even more interesting!