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Help I think my starter is not well

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coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

Help I think my starter is not well

So Its been 12 days since I started my Pineapple SD starter. After about 9 days I thought I had a good starter going. It would double and collapse in 12 hours. It smelled pretty decent. On Friday morning I fed it a 1:2:2 feeding and it really looks like my starter has really stagnated. After 12 hours I barley had 50% growth and almost no bubbles in the top. I then went back to my 2:1:1 starter and I cant get an explosive growth out of my starter. Lots of forums are saying 3 to 4 hours to get a good double. My Sunday feeding did not grow in the first 12 hours so I did not feed it last night. This morning there is a stench that was there in the first couple of days. I feed it again this morning with a 2:1:1 feeding. Can I get some advice to tell if I damaged the starter. Here are some facts I do know


My Counter top/Oven temp is 71F. This is pretty constant but I have been trying to get it to 75 with boiling water


I am using King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flower


I use water from a filter system under the sink. I dont know the quality of the filter but the water tastes good.


 


On a side note using these same supplies I have made 2 successful loaf's the last two weekend so I dont suspect any thing wrong with the environment or water.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That is every 12 hours?


How did your experiment come out with 1:4:4 ratio? 


Debra gave you some good answers at your posted Q here: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2#comment-140795


Either you are underfeeding or overfeeding and your test with 2:1:1 (underfeeding)  or 1:4:4 (overfeeding) will lead you to answers.   71°F is not too bad, it should work.


My guess is that by underfeeding the starter, it will go to sleep prodded by the high amount of acids present (it's a normal defence mechanism) and then you have to overfeed (and give it 24hrs) to awaken and get active again, as long as the starter contains high amounts of waste products, the starter will remain comatose.  So taste the 12 hr old starter and determine if it is sour (you can spit it out.)  If it is sour, then the feeds have been too small and a higher flour ratio is needed.  If it tastes more like flour and water with little change, then the starter is overfed and it should stand another 12 to 24 hours until there is more activity. 


I have clicked on your page and then tracked your comments/questions.  It is an easy way to get back to a page that can so easily get lost.  (Go to your "my account" in upper left corner of this page.  Go to the top of your account and click on "track" and there is a listing of replies added since you posted.) 


Mini

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I will try and taste it tonight. See what it does in about an hour. So since I fed it a 2:1:1 this morning and its X2 bigger and all bubbly should I stay with the 2:1:1. I guess the answer is I need to find what ratio is working and learn to read the starter.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It depends on how fast it goes thru the feeding.  2:1:1 is under feeding.  That said, I would go to 1:1:1 and see how fast it eats thru the flour in 12 hours.  You want to notice when it peaks and also when it smells or tastes stronger.  Peaking indicates the yeast levels, sour indicates the bacteria level.  There is a little sour from yeast but not like that from the lactobacteria.  You want both, first the yeast timing, then the lacto timing.  Got it?  :)

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I would stick with being consistent and patient.  The only sourdough starters that I've seen fail were those where the baker gave up ...all of those where the baker stayed the course have succeeded.  That said, what has always worked for me is to start and feed with a 50/50 mixture of water/starter plus enough unbleached all-purpose flour to make the consistency like a thick lumpy pancake batter.  Mix well to break up the lumps and incorporate a lot of air into it, cover, then wait 12 hours.  If activity is low, I may wait as long as 24 hours before re-feeding it.  Even with a vibrant healthy starter, I sometimes let it ferment for another 3 or 4 hours after peak activity before I put it back in the refridgerator.  I believe this is a safer route than risking a continual under-feeding that ends up diluting the culture a bit more each time.  BTW, when starting a new starter, sometimes "signs of activity" may be nothing more than a few bubbles followed by some hooch forming.  That's OK.  Let it ferment for the 12+ hours, then feed and continue.  I've also seen some starters get to a point where they weren't bubbling much and had formed a gelatenous texture ...but again, it's not a problem.  Wait the 12+ hours and feed again.  Eventually the culture will achieve an optimum symbiotic ratio of yeast and (lacto bacillus) bacteria and you'll be on the way.  I also do not worry about things like color, color of the hooch, and the smell until long after the starter has stabilized and become active.  The transitory steps really don't matter much in the long run.  Stay the course!


 


Brian


 

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

So When I got home last night my starter was a nice double in size. I could start to smell a little sour and not stinky although a little stink. I then decided to do a small test. I did a 1:1:1 and a 1:2:2. I also found that with the microwave door open I got a nice 81F. So after 5 hours the 1:1:1 was double in size and nice and frothy. So I re-fed the starter again and in the morning the 1:1:1 was nice and double. Now the 1:2:2 was double after 12 hours but that starter was more stinky then the other. I tried tasting each and the 1:1:1 was now a little smother and not a sharp taste. I decided to scrap the 1:2:2 and go with the 1:1:1 in a 81 degree microwave today. Lets see what happens tonight. Thanks for the input yesterday.


 


PS This emphesises that I need a proofing box. I have a nanny 3 days a week and a wife who does not understand so I need to put the box in an area where I can control it (Butlers pantry or garage).

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

So I am not sure if finding a nice 81F area is what is helping me but I fed my starter at 6 and it is now double at 9:30. So 3.5 hours and a nice double. The smell does not stink but cant tell if its sour or not. So since I want to bake on Saturday and today is Tuesday what can I do. Do I keep feeding it 1:1:1 or do I change my feeding pattern to build more sour (I need help to establish this). Now on how to bake with it:


 


I think the 1,2,3 is the easiest method. What kind of loaf can I bake with it. I want to make a loaf in my Lodge Cast Iron pan for sandwiches and I want to make a boule. Can I use the same dough for each or is there a different hydration level for each. I guess I will keep reading but now I can start making sourdough since my starter seems to be started.


 


PS My ultimate goals is to impress my Mother IN Law for Thanksgiving. I want to experiment this weekend one more time but then I want to practice what I want to make for thanksgiving dinner. Can someone suggest a bread that works well for that style of dinner and is impressive and sourdough.

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

A couple of points to keep in mind: 


You don't have a lot of time to be practicing before Impression Day so it would be wise to pick one specific bread and make a few batches of this one type as often as possible over the next while. I'll suggest a basic sourdough such as Norwich Sourdough which many people here have done and can therefore give specific help with if you run into issues.


More accurately I'm suggesting that you don't hop and skip from one recipe to another to another. Pick one and work it a bunch of times until you have it under control. The Norwich, which is a variation on Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, is one that's proven dependable yet "simple" enough to start out with. And it also happens to be very nice bread too.


Another issue you may find is that your starter is still very young and won't have developed much character yet so the bread you get in the next couple of weeks will be rather 'pale' in flavour compared to what this same starter will give in a few months as it's maturing. But if it's good and active, it should still be able to give you a decent loaf.


As for feeding, if it's doubling or better in just three or four hours, it will likely peak and start to recede as well rather soon thereafter. As you've now found a warm spot for it, it will probably be a good, active pet so would benefit from more food to get through before it ends up hungry. You might want to go with a 1:2:2 ratio at a twice-a-day feed schedule. This will give you a 100% hydration starter.


A while before you're ready to make your new batch of bread, take what you'd normally discard and use this to build up to your required starter amount (for the Norwich, that's 360 grams). This may take two ro three feeds to build up to that amount so plan accordingly, also accounting for the time needed in mixing and proofing the bread. Sourdough breads often have a long, overnight proof of 12-16 hours.


With your "discard" now in production for the bread, feed the remainder of the starter as usual and set this aside to continue being your "mother" starter.


Try to get in three or four batches of bread under your belt before you have to present your loaves at the dinner table. There's a few things you need to get used to and a few tries ahead of time will, hopefully, get you to a decent spot. If the MIL isn't used to home made bread, she should be rightly impressed with even a "nice" loaf.

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I was planning on practicing but do agree I should start now. I read the recipie and the only confusion I have is salt after the autolis. Do you just sprinkle it on the do and then kneed it?

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

That's exactly what you do: let the dough (made up at this point of just flour and water plus starter) rest or autolyse for the proscribed amount of time then sprinkle the salt over and mix it in.

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I just checked on the starter for a feeding before bed. The starter was almost 3.5 times the size. This was 5 hours after feeding. I still did a 1:1:1 this time and will do a 1:2:2 in the morning.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

yes, sounds good.  Tomorrow you want it to have enough food for a 12 hours stretch.  Important not to push the starter too fast as you have witnessed.  Each starter has its own pace. 


I'm also thinking about your cool kitchen and after a few days while on the 1:2:2 ratio, it might be a good idea to lower the temperature slowly down from 81° F so that the low temp yeasts have a chance to develop.  It would be an advantage to not always be looking for a hot spot.


Rainbowz had very good suggestions among them, save the discards (put them in a container in the fridge until needed) while the starter is getting stronger.


Mini

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

It was a 200% increase (1" tall to start and 3" after). The smell is rounding out. I also bought a gram scale today and found out that 100 grams is more then I thought. I need to think about how much I wan tto feed. I think the 100 gram feeding is right since I need grams of ripe starter. The question I have now is when I decided to make bread in 48 hours do I want my starter to be ripe after a 1:1:1 feeding or is there an ideal feeding to get the most sour and levin out of it.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you are feeding 1:2:2 and it peaks and starts to fall before the 12 hour period. Don't change to a 1:1:1 ratio.  In a few feedings of (1:2:2) the yeasts may be faster causing the starter to fall before the end of 12 hours so stick with it for the next feedings.


You do need at least an 8 hour old starter (at 75°F +) to have an ample supply of lactobacteria to sour your dough for flavor. 


100g is a lot to feed, you will end up with 500g starter after one feed and 12 hours.  Use 450g for a recipe and 50g to feed the ratio (1:2:2)  and stay on a 12 hour schedule. 


If you need less for the recipe, discard more and feed less.  Feeding 80g starter  with 160g water and 160g flour will result in 400g total, 360g for a recipe and 40g to feed.  


Feed your starter 12 hours before mixing up the dough recipe. Feed the amount of starter (1:2:2) that will give you the correct amount of starter for your recipe plus starter to feed.  Use the correct amount of starter for the recipe and whatever remains will be fed (1:2:2) and stay on a 12 hour schedule.  Congrats on the scale! :)


Which recipe did you decide on?

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I am using a 1:1.5:1.5 So I started with 100g and ended up with 400g after it was all said and done. When I got home it was 200% bigger but had not fallen after about 10 hours. I know its important to get a peak and fall. Should adding more food tommorow morning be the trick. I will go to 1:2:2 and see what happens after 10 to 12 hours. Thanks for all the feedback

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Not fallen in the 12 hours, ok got that. 


Stick to 1.5 until it starts to fall in 12 hours period.  What's the temp?

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I put it in the oven today and it sits in a nice 71F. I can either get a nice 85 or 71. I am contemplating getting a nice proofing box going. I might do a little wood working this weekend to just see what happens.I want to be able to hold a nice 75


 


OK so this is the problem I struggle with: Temp and feeding amounts. The lower temp gives more flavor but less levin. What does the increase in feeding do. Does it add more flavor or acid.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Simply stated... it gives it more food when it needs it.  Better said, it makes sure all the varieties of yeast growing in your culture get some food.  The yeasties haven't sorted this mess out yet.  I would try to get to 75°F and not go over for two reasons.  If you make the conditions benefit the warmer thriving yeasts, then you may get stuck with warmer thriving yeasts and thus have to always keep your starter warm.   The yeasts are battling for position.  Generally your kitchen is cool, so with time and patience, making sure the yeasts that like cool temps have everything they need, they will soon increase in numbers enough to dominate the culture then you won't have to be so stressed out waiting for them.  There are lots of changes going on in the starter.  The right bacteria types to help the wanted yeasts and so on. 


Now the starter is rising, yep, this is good.  And the starter at peak can easily be used into a recipe.  It will most likely be mild in flavor, just an educated guess.  This means that at this moment in time you need lots of starter to raise a loaf of bread at 71°F. 


While you're waiting... 


If you are saving the discards, and I'm betting you are, it is easy to make a sour little loaf from them.  It will take up 4 hours.  Take some discards and make a small loaf...  say 200g of discard, (that would include 100g flour) and start with 70g water and 200g fresh flour and a teaspoon of yeast.  We need 1.8% salt or 5.4 g and mix it all up with your fingers.  That is 57% hydration dough with AP flour.  How does it feel?  Place your cute little dough ball into a lightly oiled dish (use just a few drops) roll to coat the top and cover letting it rise near your starter (we're giving it something to emulate) until double (we're treating this like a instant yeast formula) and handle like you would a non-sourdough dough.  Degas shape and cover, giving it a final rise, score and bake at 430°F with steam for the first 10 minutes.


Now try it without the added yeast and get into folds and such.   It should rise about the same as your starter does, maybe a tad slower without all that moisture.


 

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

I fed 100g of starter with 150g of water and flour (I bought a cheap gram scale yesterday). After 5 hour it was 2X bigger but had not fallen. I let it sit for the full 14 hours. In the morning it had risen to 3X bigger but had fallen back to the 2X height. Since this rises and falls in a 12 hour period should I still experiment with ratio or is my 1.5 ratio the correct.


 


This morning I started with 50 grams and 75 of water and flour. It does not look like it will exceed the size of my canister.

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

So with my starter now getting a 3X increase in volume after 12 hours I almost put my starter for tonight Norwich Sourdough into too small of a container. After I mised 120 grams of starter and 180 grams of water and flour. I then put the canister in then oven. WHile cleaning up I went ohh NO. The canister was already 50% full instead of 25% on a normal day. I then transfered to a much bigger container. Lets hope things go well tonight.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It's own schedule that is.  This is good!  Stick to the 1:1.5:1.5 for a few 12 hour feeds so you can make comparisons.  :)  Each time the rise time will shorten, when it peaks and falls before 8 hours, then you can increase to 1:2:2 ratio. 


Before increasing the flour (to a higher ratio) when the 1:2:2 ratio peaks and falls before 8 hours, leave the starter out at room temp or the 71°F location (if the room is cooler) and see if it peaks and falls in 12 hours.  (if not give it a little more time or go back to 1:1.5:1.5 for 71°F feeds) 


Good luck and lots of patience with the loaf!  :)

coffeetester's picture
coffeetester

My starter must have peaked 4 hours ago. it is has lost 50% of its growth. Can I start the starter tonight.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

yes, it will work   Go for it!