The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I have two, do I need another one?

SallyBR's picture

I have two, do I need another one?

I have two sourdough starters.... my very own, made according to Dan Lepard, that goes with me wherever I go (the starter, not Mr. Lepard), and one bought from King Arthur about a year ago.

Because we are living in California, my beloved husband is trying to convince me to buy the "authentic" San Francisco sourdough starter to give it a try and see how the taste compares with my regular bread. 

Would be fun, I guess...  should I go for it?    Or am I setting myself for trouble (you know, try a sourdough from Vietnam, then one from Germany.....  etc etc etc)


Anyone here taking care of multiple starters?

LindyD's picture

however, from what I've read, it will quickly take on the characteristics of your flour and your particular environment.

James MacGuire noted this in his article on Pain au Levain, writing that every time he's been given a starter, no matter its origin or age, within two or three days on his regiment of feedings it produces bread that tastes exactly like his usual one.

Pat reported similar statements made by Craig Ponsford and Jeffrey Yankellow during their sourdough presentation at IBIE.  Her blog on that day can be read here.

I recall David Snyder wrote about a similar experiment and believe he commented that his purchased starter didn't retain its original flavor.

On the other hand, you're in CA, so why not have some fun and go for it?

dmsnyder's picture

What I'm waiting for is to see how Glenn's starter changes after a few months living and growing in San Francisco. It started as a KAF starter from Vermont but was fed for about 2 years in Fresno before moving to San Francisco via Fort Bragg.

Hmmm ... with Glenn coming to the ancestral village (Fresno) for Thanksgiving, I should ask him to bring some starter. We could do a side-by-side test, using the same formula, with only the starters being different.


csimmo64's picture

I read a very interesting article that the wild yeast found in San Fransisco starters and also the lacto-fermentative bacteria are said to be found ONLY in San Fransisco and can only stay there. However, the article continued, saying that these two bacteria are found in many sourdough starters from many different regions, and the reason they change over time is not ingredients used or location but rather feeding/timing/temperature that promotes the certain bacteria from forming. That being said, I want to find out how people in SF have grown accustomed to feeding their starters and mimic that here in Indiana and observe the result rather than attempting to buy their starter. 

I seen the article on this website and it had something to do with someone putting her culture under the microscope to view it on a different level.

Keep baking :]

SallyBR's picture

THanks for all your input, folks....


as to the microscopic observation, I would really like to know if anyone investigated the population by PCR, to see if there are indeed changes in the species present in the starter. 

heck, I could probably do it here in the lab if i knew exactly the species present in each starter from the get go, but don't feel it's right to spend research money on "bread issues"   :-)


still, I imagine this type of analysis is available and maybe people developing new strains for commercial purposes do it all the time


I decided to wait and get the starter once we are moving back home - it's too hard for me to keep things going here, plus bread baking is tricky.   I will reward myself with an authentic SF sourdough starter and keep it going in Oklahoma - maybe I'll get a couple of loaves from it with the characteristic flavor...



GAPOMA's picture

As an aside for those of you that don't know, PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction.  It's a method to amplify small amounts of DNA/RNA so that you can look at the genes of the organism.

When it first came out, there were a few of us "skeptics" that said it stood for Pre-Conceived Results because it seemed like everyone that was using it to look for an obscure gene would run 20 cycles (not find the gene), 30 cycles (not find the gene), 35 cycles (FIND the gene!).  We always figured they would run enough cycles to find what they were looking for whether it actually existed or not!  (Thus, pre-conceived results.)  Just a little science humor (if such a thing exists). :)

SallyBR's picture

Thanks, I should have clarified a little the issue, but was in a hurry (as usual)


funny the "pre conceived results"   :-)

Oldcampcook's picture



I have about 20 different dried starters that people have sent me, if you want to REALLY experiment.


Some I have revived and use and others I still have some of the original starter.  Could be a basis for a good experiment.



South of Tulsa

GSnyde's picture

The starter I got from David has been living in SF for a little over two months now.  I can't say I taste a difference between my breads baked with it in early September and those baked last week.  I can say that it is much more active.  I fed it last night with 70% AP, 20% WW and 10% whole rye and its practically volcanic this morning.  I'm getting much faster rise out of the doughs lately.

David, I'd be happy to bring some of "our" starter to Fresno.  After all, Thanksgiving is the traditional time for Homecoming.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi Sally,

I maintain 4 different starters for purely sentimental reasons, and though they all behave differently -- in terms of their doubling rate, for instance -- I can't really tell any difference in taste.  


kmrice's picture

My starter is reputed to be over 100 years old. I can vouch for the last 40 years, since I've maintained it since I got it from my sister in about 1970. She lives in Alaska, and the starter was supposed to date back to the gold rush in the late 1890s. As I said, I can only vouch for the last 40 years.

Anyway, I read Reinharts ABED last winter, and was fascinated by the use of pineapple juice to control the bacteria which developes in a new starter. Out of curiosity, I followed his instructions to the letter and successfully caught a brand new starter using rye flour.

Bottom line - it's just about the same as my old one. I don't notice any difference in behavior or taste beyond the usual fluctuations.

Could be the old one has been taken over by local flora over the years so that it is now a local starter.

Could be that 40 years of frequent use of the old starter have infused my kitchen with the spores of the old starter, and that's all you can catch there.

Could be they are all about the same.


csimmo64's picture

From what I've read, most of the yeasts present in the starter come from the flour that you use to grow it. I read somewhere about how rye flour compared to all-purpose white flour on the level of numbers of living bacteria in the flour. The numbers for rye [of wild yeast and lactobacteria] were amazingly higher than white flour. I think it was around 40x more numbers overall or something like that.


I'm sorry for all of my responses folks, I'm too lazy to look up the links and I'm at work, haha!

leucadian's picture

If every starter no matter what its origins eventually will have a flora dependent only on the flour and refresh habits of its owner, then there should be no difference between multiple starters in the same kitchen. Is this your experience, Sally?

I had a couple of starters from Sourdough International that were indistinguishable and I eventually combined them. After a while I tossed the combination in favor of a starter that I grew from rye, but now refresh with AP. The rye-to-wheat starter (now two years old) is more vigorous than the SI ones which I had for about a year. I think the sourness has not changed since I first stabilized it.



SallyBR's picture

Well, I suspect there's a lot more difference in taste depending on how I do the bulk fermentation, than depending on which starter I use.


THe last sourdough I baked was kept at almost exactly 70F for 18 hours and the level of sourness was pretty high, excellent flavor (I had issues with the baking though, but that's a sad and long story that won't be told... :-)


ANYWAY, I realize it's probably futile to keep several starters, and would do so more for sentimental reasons -  "this is the starter I grew  while living in Los Angeles, back in 2010.....:"